Martin Logan - wow

I heard my first electrostatic speakers yesterday, ML Ascent at a very helpful dealer. These are clearly my cup of tea -- I liked better than the B&W N802s I listened to at the same time. Vocals are amazingly present. So of course I have some questions:

1. The bass wasn't great. Better than a monitor (I listened to B&W N805) but not much punch, and more important, sounded a little sloppy. Are there adjustments that one makes to the crossover, some little magic knob, that might improve this?

2. Are most users combining with a sub for stereo use (I'm not doing HT)?

3. We listened in a small room (about 8x8) at the store. My room is about 25 x 14 x 8', with speakers along the 14' wall. What model of Martin Logan would do the best job in this room? Bigger, smaller? I mostly listen at low-ish volumes, but would like to crank it ocassionally?

4. My amp is a Classe CA-200 (the newer style, same as current CA-201). Will this amp do justice to the speakers?

5. Other speakers I should listen to? I hear "maggies" and "innersound" -- are there others to consider?

Thank you!
InnerSound Eros rules. You owe it to yourself to hear them before you buy the MLs...

The bass is better (certainly better integrated) than any of the ML models but you can still use a sub if you think you need greater weight and impact. I used a Paradigm Servo-15 very successfully with the Eros. And, a good buy on one of the earlier models (the original or Mk-II) could be a very cost-effective way to go if you don't have the bucks for the latest Mk-III model.

I wouldn't count on the Classe amp being the best match. The Monarchy Audio SE-160s are the best match I know of and the Monarchy SE-100s are a pretty good second choice.

Happy Listening!
All electrostatic speakers have a distinct sound that for some is an acquired taste or a lifelong fascination. The things you would notice about them is their fast, transient, and very holographic presentation that gives you a very realistic illusion of the real thing. If you want a lot of deep, chest thumping bass you may not find them with ESL speakers, unlike box speakers. However this is not a problem at all if you get a subwoofer- there are many out there that can do a very proficient job and mates well with Martin Logan speakers. Basically the bass in ML is fast, and tight (very accurate)- not bloated. The integration between ESL panel and bass is quite seamless.

Proper placement is also important in obtaining the best sound out of ML speakers. Unfortunately, many dealers are not very good at setting up Martin Logans and so the sound is less than optimal. They need at least 3-4 feet out from the wall with a slight toe-in (10-15 degrees). A slight forward tilt will help the clarity a bit as well. The Ascents would do quite well for a room of your size. Classe is not a bad match for MLs. Usually a good tube pre-amp will be a perfect balance for the system.

I have heard the Innersound speakers in some audio shows and they are quite good. However Martin Logans have always been rather special- their midrange magic is something I feel that even the Eros cannot quite match.

If you want to learn more about Martin Logan, you can check out the official Fan Club site:

Certainly if you have a specific question on ML speakers, you can post it directly on the site's forum. Check out the various member system set-ups (with photos) and they should give you a fair idea of how they should be set-up.

Good Luck!

Jason Liu
i tryed to love the mls. i still really like them. a friend of mine and i picked up a pair of prodigys and were really hopeing they would be the winner. we compared them to sound lab a3s and jm lab micro utopias. the mls were cold sounding, lean .the micros sounded more real and warm especially on vocals the mid bass on the prodigy was also very lacking. the low bass was very good though. it seemed never to fully intergrate the panel with the bass. the sound labs killed them as well. the sound labs are just downright eerie.
For electrostats, Innersound is the way to go...either the Isis or the Eros will sound better than the ML in their price range...I doubt the Classe will match them well, unless you don't listen to lots of big orchestral pieces...otherwise, try to go with the Monarchy or with the Innersound ESL amp...i had an all Innersound system that I was forced to sell so if you want to talk more about Innersound electrostats, email me...
Martin Logans are sexy but have a narrow dispersion. Sound Labs are not as pretty, but will out perform the ML's. If you want bass, the bigger the better. I have not heard the Innersounds.

If space is an issue and you want some bottom end, consider some Gallo Reference speakers. The sweet spot is much larger given the 320 degree dispersion mylar tweeter. Bass comes from two Dynaudio 6.5" drivers weight damped to match the natural roll off of the tweeter. There is no crossover, and integration is quite good. Space Invader looks you either love or hate.
Snap-Blurr! I've never heard electrostatics not sound
marvelous the first 20 minutes and seriously lacking thereafter. It's hard to believe that serious audiophiles will spend $$$$$ without a fairly lengthy audition to see
if the speakers are going to fatigue the senses.
Greetings Ehart -

And welcome to the wonderful world of electrostats!

There are several different flavors out there. Let me describe four of them for you, and you can see what direction makes the most sense for you.

1. InnerSound - These are probably the best-imaging and have the best dynamic impact of all the electrostats. The bass is very adjustable, which is important to get a good blend between panel and woofer. The downside is a very small sweet spot - but this may not matter to you, depending on your listening habits.

2. Martin Logan - The Martins give you a wider sweet spot than the InnerSounds, and are generally very elegant in appearance. Rather than build one or two models with lots of adjustments, Martin Logan builds a wide variety of models. It's important to match up the right size speaker for your room, to get the woofer/panel balance correct (I'll talk a bit more about the challenges of woofer/panel integration a bit later on). In a fairly large room like yours, the Prodigy would probably be the best choice, but the Odyssey still would work well.

3. Quad makes a couple of full-range electrostats. While they don't play as loud as the Martins and InnerSounds, they have a lovely coherence that isn't possible to get from a hybrid. I've owned several earlier model Quads.

4. Sound Lab makes some rather large full-range electrostats. They are the least efficient and probably most difficult to drive of them all. The have a rich, lush presentation and an extremely wide sweet spot (unique among current production electrostats). I own and sell Sound Labs.

Note that if you choose to go with electrostats, you must give them plenty of room behind the speaker. You may have to treat the backwave a bit - I like to use diffusion, and avoid absorption except as a last result.

Also, amplifier matching is much more critical with electrostats than with dynamic speakers. Fortunately, you're starting out with a very nice amplifier, and it may well suit your needs (I have no first-hand experience pairing up that amp with electrostats).

Let me describe one of the challenges of integrating an electrostatic panel with a dynamic woofer (there are many challenges involved, but I'm only going to focus on one here). The panel approximates a line source (sound radiating cylindrically from an infinitely tall, thin line), while the woofer approximates a point source (sound radiating omnidirectionally from a tiny point). Sound pressure level falls off with the square of distance from a point source, but linearly with distance from a line source. Let me use an illustration to explain:

Suppose your woofer is putting out 90 dB at one meter in an anechoic chamber. Move back to 10 meters, and the sound pressure level is now 70 dB. But for a line-source panel that's putting out 90 dB at one meter, the sound pressure level will only fall off to 80 dB at 10 meters! So what the designer has to do is voice the speaker for correct tonal balance at the anticipated listening distance. Too close and the woofer is too loud; too far back and the panel is too loud.

In a real-world room this discrepancy isn't quite as bad as the theory predicts, but it's still there. I once measured a hybrid electrostat in my room at 1 meter, 3 meters (the listening position), and back at 8 meters (maximum practical distance). At one meter, the woofer was up by 1 dB. At 3 meters, the output measured the same for both woofer and panel (no joke - and they had been adjusted by ear). Back at 8 meters, the panel was 4 dB louder than the woofer. So, at large listening distances, this speaker would sound a bit bright and forward. So I hope you can see the importance of matching the right size speaker to the room, or of dialing in the right level setting for the woofer (depending on which brand you end up with).

Finally, you asked about Maggies. Maggies are full-range planar magnetic speakers, not electrostats, though they have much in common with them. Maggies are an easier load to drive than electrostats (though their efficiency is still low and they also like lots of power). Electrostats are often a bit more articulate than Maggies, especially at low volume levels, but Maggies are very nicely voiced and since they don't use dynamic woofers, they are generally more coherent than a hybrid electrostat.

Between these five manufacturers, chances are there's a speaker that you will fall in love with and perhaps never desire to replace. Without knowing more about your personal preferences I can't make a reliable recommendation, but the more different planars you can listen to, the better-informed your final decision will be.

Best of luck to you in your quest!

Please let's not forget that there is a break-in period for MLs and most planar type systems. They will sound better and better once they're properly broken in. I've also heard MLs at a dealers that sounded harsh. Unlike alot of us fanatics, some of these dealers don't always know how to set up everything perfectly and may not be matching the best equipment with the loudspeakers.

With any dipolar loudspeaker, room placement is SUPER critical. Moving the speaker a few inches can make a HUGE difference.

I am a ML owner. Love Maggies too. Haven't heard Innersound or Soundlabs, but I'm sure they're fine products too.

Welcome to the world of ESLs!!

Duke makes some excellent points - and he is right on when he says that the most important thing is to correctly match your amplifier with panel speakers. I have no idea whether or not your amp will match well with Martin Logans, but Ascents are not overly difficult to drive so you should be okay.

I have heard Ascents in a room almost exactly the same dimensions as yours, and they will sound just fine. Odysseys and Prodigys probably need a little more breathing room than 14' of width, and you will need to move your listening postion forwards and backwards a bit to find the sweet spot, but this won't take too long to accomplish.

Two more points - first, Martin Logans are not the sound for everybody, but if they are your "cup of tea", don't waste too much time talking to people who don't like them because they hear music differently than you. This is not a slam at anyone, it is definitely a "different strokes for different folks" issue. Instead, spend lots of time listening to other speakers to try to find something you like better. If you keep coming back to the panels, then you will know that you are a Martin Logan guy. I am a Logan owner, and with my gear, in my room, Logans (CLS IIz) are the answer for me. If I were to move to another listening space, I might change my mind.

Second, a subwoofer is not necessary with Ascents, but if you are a real "bass hound", you may eventually want to go that route. Martin Logan makes a decent sub, but there are other brands that may do the job as well. If you decide on ML speakers, give them a few months of breaking in and getting used to before you get too worried about a sub.

Happy Hunting!
Hey Duke,

That's a nice turorial on electrostatic and panel speakers, and I find myself in general agreement with your insightful assessment. One thing you did neglect to mention, was that with large, full range electrostatics there is normally a sizeable bass resonance (typically 16 dB) somewhere between 50Hz and 100Hz, which is related to the mass of the air surrounding the diaphragm and the tension of the diaphragm. Maggies may not have this issue because their diaphragms are considerably more massive than that of an electrostat (but they have other shortfalls as you noted).

So, while hybrids have specific types of integration problems to overcome, full-range electrostatics have their own unique inherent problems. What it really comes down to is that ALL speakers (including dynamic types) are a blend of compromises and the audiophile must decide which particular set of flaws (and strengths) he can tolerate in the long term (based on his/her personal preferences).

BTW, Brauser, that was a cheap shot. And I noticed you failed to state which speakers you personally own... I'll chalk your comments up to your relative inexperience with electrostatic speakers.
Plato -

The low-frequency resonance phenomenon you mention can indeed produce a very significant response peak if it isn't adequately addressed.

Roger West of Sound Lab uses a patented technique called "distributed resonance", wherein he divides up each of the seven vertical facets into 12 cells. Each cell is the same width, but of a different height - hence each has a different drum-head resonance. By carefully staggering these resonances, not only is the overall response smoothed but it's extended a bit lower than it normally would go. The result is excellent pitch definition in the bottom octaves (one customer, a concert violinist, told me that the Sound Labs were the only speaker he'd ever heard properly reproduce both cello and double-bass).

Martin-Logan also used a version of distributed resonance on the CLS - that's the purpose of those divisions you see on the panel.

The concentric rings of the Quads probably also distributes the drumhead resonances a bit, though not as precisely as the Sound Lab technique does. To my ears, the bass of the 989 is less coherent than the bass of the smaller 988 - perhaps the additional bass radiating area of the 989 suffers from low-frequency diaphragm resonances?

If I'm not mistaken, Magnepan tunes their panels so that the resonant peak occurs below the normal dipole roll-off frequency, and thereby extends the bass deeper than it normally would have gone.

Obviously, hybrids don't have to worry about low-frequency diaphragm drumhead resonances, but they do have box colorations and radiation pattern incongruities to deal with. My vote is for full-range panels, where practical.

Esoxhntr, congrats on being a CLS owner! In my opinion, that's the most physically beautiful loudspeaker ever made. And they sound wonderful as well. The CLS was my favorite Martin Logan speaker, and I sure was sad to see it go. I spend some time talking with Gale Sanders a couple of nights ago, and tried to convince him to bring back something along the lines of the CLS.

I owned a pair of Martin Logan SL-3 speakers for 2 1/2 years and I sold them because of the lacking of bass. When I first heard them in the showroom I also fell in love with the midrange. There was so many times that I had to check to see if the woofers were working because the low frequencies were missing. So my point is that if you have all ready noticed the lacking of the bass it will only annoy you more so in the future.
Hi Ehart,
I hope you found my info helpful! I really enjoy my ML and Classe set up and I think you will too! has lot's of info and the good thing is everyone is ML owners and you will get good useful info and everyone is there to help in getting the best from your system. The info will be from ML owners and not from people hearing them once or in a poorly set up dealers room with tons of equipment jammed into a too small of room, etc...
I think ESL do things right and the same goes for box speakers but the ESL does more of it right and the most important things to boot! Happy Listening!
Thanks for all the great responses!

I should clarify that I'm not a real bass-hound. I listen mainly to blues, folk, vocal music (allison Kraus) some rock (Dire Straits), and the like. Not a heavy rock-and-roller. I want bass to be well-defined and tight, not chest-thumping.

Thanks again! I hope to find some of the stuff mentioned in my travels to cities, and listen to it...

- Eric