REVIEW: Martin Logan Motion 4 Speakers

Category: Speakers

Martin Logan Motion 4 Mini Monitors

Happy Holidays!

Gee, I have a heck of a good stereo! It's Merlin TSM-MXr Speakers fed by a Manley Stingray and quite a few other nice toys. But we didn't have a reasonable stereo in the living room, which features a good size fireplace. The only place to put speakers was on either side and space was tight. I flirted with using Focal Domes, Mirage towers, baby Paradigm and Totems along with the usual suspects and then I took a quick look at the Martin Logan lineup.

What's this? A rather small plastic speaker which looks like a big computer speaker for 250.00 each? Is Martin Logan on drugs? I can buy quite a few nice mini monitors for that or even those little Maggies, so form factor be damned. But my wife decided to make an early holiday gift of the Martin Logan Motion 4's (on sale for 219 each) which come shipped in what looks like big shoe boxes!

The speakers are small, just over 12 inches tall. The plastic feels dense and heavy. They only take bare wire and are ported in the back via a folded motion cascading bass port! Say that ten times fast or how about once? The mainstay of the design is the folded motion tweeter. The bases are 5.5 wide, so I had some trouble finding stands for them. I finally bought Pangea stands and they are a near perfect fit. I filled the stands with sand and used blue tack under the speakers. Inexpensive AQ wire was connected to the Manley Stingray amp and the source was a Oppo BD83. The round things out I connected a MJ Acoustics 150 MKII subwoofer set to 80hz. I did virtually no tweaking beyond letting them break in for a day.

Rather than wax on about what the tweeter technology may or may not mean I'll get right down to it. These are very good speakers. Using some of my favorite reference discs I was shocked at how transparent these are, almost ribbon-like in their presentation and with a large area of coverage. The sweetspot was there, but listing well away was still very pleasing. The blended beautifully with the MJ sub with no adjustments, though I'll get busy in a few days to get things done right.

I currently have three other speaker systems in my house, so I'll compare to all three and hope that gives the reader some idea of what the speaker's performance range.

Motion 4 vs. Totem The One (Special Anniversary) monitor
Okay, let's get this straight. The Totem is a world class mini monitor that creates a soundstage to write home about. But get this, folks! The tiny Martin Logan's tweeter opened up more detail to my ears and were not more fatiguing. Midrange accuracy was certainly below that of the Totems, occasionally imparting a bit constriction around vocals, but this was a minor issue. With the sub left OFF the Totems sailed past the Martin Logans, presenting a more coherent and ultimately more satisfying stand-alone performance. With the sub back on the match was much close. I think an experienced listener would be shocked at how good a 250 dollar Motion 4 stood against the Totem pair.

Motion 4 vs. Merlin TSM-MXr monitor
The Merlins are aptly named as they vanish from the room when set up correctly. This is an act the Martin Logan's could not match. Nor could they touch the detail of Merlins without producing fatigue. The Merlin is a more accurate instrument than the Totems so this made the Martin Logans sound even more different. But they still stood their ground by being so small and still tackling complex passages better than I had any right to expect.

Motion 4 vs. Definitive Technology 7004 Towers
These towers sell for around 1500 a pair and feature a built in 10" powered sub. Most people never hear them powered by anything better than a Denon at Best Buy. Hook them up to a serious amp and you'll know why some many audiophiles see them as a great value. This was a tougher battle for the Martin Logan pair as this is a true full range speaker that's easy to like. But the folded motion tweeter must be doing something right because it made the Def Tech's sound slightly veiled. With the single 10" sub working I actually ended up preferring the Martin Logan pair.

Playing fair.....
Okay, so the little Martin Logan Motion 4's sounded good. But I also had them connected to a 3000 dollar amp and a 1700 dollar sub. So I took them upstairs again and plugged in the 500 dollar Denon amp and Sony PS3. Guess what? They still made beautiful music, though the tweeter was robbed of some of it's smoothness and some recordings went from 3D to a more shallow presentation. But this was what I was after; a very small yet musical speaker that could blend with a room and good sub and didn't need much more than...say a 700 dollar Jolida to get good results. And that's probably what I'll end up with to run them.

There are a lot of good small speaker systems out there. Focal domes are great for extreme wall mount worries and the Mirage series are also problem solvers in some rooms. In situations where the room limits your choices the "best" speaker will often not work better than a speaker that fits the room better. If you're facing such limitations in your main , 2nd or 3rd listening room, I'd suggest trying the Martin Logan Motion 4's. They're the real deal.


Update: I've been informed that the ML tweeter is in the realm of ribbon designs, which explains the speaker's better than expected high end response.


I've been looking for some monitors to go on the selves in my living room and ran across these yesterday at BB Magnolia. You're review is spot on. They had them hooked to a Pioneer Elite receiver and I don't even know what the source was, but they were amazing. Transparent as speakers costing many times their price. I was blown away by the amount of "good" bass that came from such a small speaker. Just that last bit in mid and upper end detail was missing, but like you noted, you're going to have to pay to get this. BTW, a REL 10" sub was used, which was a really good match and that little REL was a find too.

I'm putting together a 5.1 system in this room and the Motion's all around are definitely under consideration.

BTW, I've seen these listed @ 4 and 8 Ohms on different sites, could you confirm which they are? Also, is the sensitivity decent? I'll be pairing these with an Integra receiver. I have a 3 channel Acurus amp with more juice, but to be honest, I actually like the Integra's sound. Go figure.
Hi, Jack....

They are 8 ohm and are driven easily. My Manley Stingray tube amp with 18 watts in triode mode had no issue playing them quite loud. An older Denon with just 85 watts of "receiver quality" power also does fine. I think for music 20-30 watts of good tube power will be perfect. They are better by far than a lot of micro speakers systems for home theater. I think they're on par with Focal's beautifully engineered Dome system which is 100% dependent on a sub.
My pair has broken it completely now and integration with the MJ sub is near perfect. It's a tiny 1700 dollar sub, but I bet a Martin Logan Dynamo for 500-600 dollars would also do the trick. This is a VERY small speaker, barely bigger than some large computer speakers out there. But the quality is there and it's well suited to space-starved situations.