Upgrading from Martin Logan SL3s



I am thinking of maybe replacing my Martin Logan SL3s. I have had them since 1997 and wondering if it is time to upgrade. If you had Martin Logan speakers and upgraded, to what did you upgrade? Maggie's and Vandersteen's are not really an option for me. The rest of my system is

ARC Ref 110
ARC LS25 mk2
ARC Ref CD7

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went to Von Schweikert db99 after owning the Logans 9 years....nice to have deep, defined and solid bass to go with logan like top end and ambience
If you have had the SL3's since 1997 and have never replaced the panels, a new set of panels will really bring the sparkle back to the speakers. The SL3's are one of my favorite Martin Logans. I think the new panels are around $600-$800 and will really renew them. A pretty inexpensive upgrade and very easy to replace.

I have not replaced the panels though I have washed them. I have pretty much replaced everything else in my system since I purchased the SL3s. So I am wondering if I should consider upgrading my speakers also. I agree that the SL3s are one of Martin Logan's best and I am not unhappy with sound. But I would like to see how they compare to some current offerings.

Larryken, Have you heard the VR-4SR MK3 and if so how do you think they compare to the DB-99? I can find very little on the DB-99s other that one review. One the other hand the VR-4SR MK3s are current and maybe I can find a local dealer for an audition. I have read a couple of reviews on the VR-4SR and they sound interesting.
I OWNED MARTIN-LOGAN QUEST Z'S FOR YEARS AND DROVE THEM WITH BOTH KRELL, AND AUDIO RESEARCH. THE AUDIO RESEARCH WAS NOT TUBED, IT WAS SOLID STATE. LS3 PREAMP AND D400 AMP. THE SOUND WAS VERY ARTICULATE AND A BIT BRIGHT WITH CERTIAN RECORDINGS. PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE TRIED OUT TUBED A.R. BUT I NEVER DID. INSTEAD I SOLD IT OFF AND BOUGHT KRELL AMPS ,MDA 300'S, AND A (TUBED) B.A.T. VK51SE PREAMP. NOW THAT WAS A GREAT COMBINATION AND WORKED WELL WITH MY M.L.'S. THE 6H30'S IN THE B.A.T. PREAMP REALLY SMOOTHED OUT THE "EDGE" OF MY SOUND, MAKING THE WHOLE ENTIRE PRESENTATION MUCH EASIER TO LISTEN TO LOUD. LESS FATIGUE. SMOOTHER HIGHS, YET STILL VERY WELL DEFINED. THE KRELL MONOBLOCKS MATED WELL WITH THE B.A.T.PREAMP. I SOLD THE KRELLS AFTER A FEW YEARS AND BOUGHT B.A.T.VK600SE MONOBLOCKS, THEN UPGRADED MY INTERCONNECTS TO BALANCED XLR TRANSPARENT. THE SOUND WAS SPOOKY GOOD. I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT THE MAGGIES AND VANDERSTEENS. GREAT STUFF IF THAT'S YOUR CUP OF TEA. I HAVE FRIENDS WHO OWN BOTH BRANDS AND THE SOUND IS LUSH, AND LIFELIKE. THEY RUN TUBED ELECTRONICS TOO. I MYSELF DO NOT THINK MAGGIES OR VANDERSTEENS WOULD MAKE ME HAPPY IN THE LONG RUN. I LIKE MY SOUND MORE "FORWARD", NOT "IN YOUR FACE" FORWARD, NOT AGRESSIVE, BUT A LOT MORE LIVELY AND EXCITING. I ALSO PLAY ALOT OF JAZZ FUSION, CLASSIC ROCK, JAZZ, AND ELECTRIC BLUES. AND I TEND TO PLAY IT LOUD. (LOUDER THAN THE WIFE WOULD HAVE ME PLAY IT, BUT THANK GOD FOR A DEDICATED LISTENING ROOM!!). IF YOU HAVE OWNED M.L.SL3'S FOR AS LONG AS YOU HAVE,(AND BEEN HAPPY WITH THE SOUND), MY GUESS IS THAT YOU PREFER A BIT MORE OF AN "IMMEDIATE", SOMEWHAT FORWARD SOUND?? I DID NOT FIND MY M.L.QUEST Z'S TO BE "ETCHED" OR "BRIGHT", BUT THEY COULD BE DEPENDING ON YOUR ROOM FURNISHINGS AND THE TYPE OF GEAR USED. WITH YOUR A.R.C. GEAR I WOULD SAY VON SCHWEIKERT WOULD BE A GREAT MATCH. LIKE A PAIR OF VR4'S. MAYBE A SMALLER PAIR OF MBL'S, SUCH A THE 111F'S. I THINK YOU WOULD REALLY DIG THAT SOUND AND THEY DON'T REQUIRE AS MUCH HORSEPOWER TO RUN AS MANY WOULD BELIEVE. YOUR ARC REF.110 WOULD DO NICELY. AFTER I SOLD MY QUESTS, I GOT A PAIR OF MBL111E'S AND LOVED THAT COMBINATION. PLAYED LOUD AS HELL TOO, WHICH IS GREAT FOR A "ROCKER" LIKE ME! AFTER ABOUT 2 YEARS I UPGRADED TO MBL 101E MK2'S AND THAT IS SMOKIN' GOOD. AND IT ROCKS LIKE A BIG DOG! YOUR ARC IS GREAT STUFF LOSTBEARS, I WOULDN'T DUMP ANY OF IT SO SOON. MAYBE DO SOME NEW ELECTROSTATIC PANELS LIKE MOFIMADNESS SUGGESTED. PRICE OF ADMISSION IS CERTIANLY REASONABLE. BUT VON SCHWEIKERT, MAYBE EVEN JM LAB/FOCAL "UTOPIAS' WOULD BE A KILLER COMBO WITH YOUR CURRENT GEAR, AND YOU CAN PICK THAT STUFF UP RIGHT HERE ON A-GON FOR A FRACTION OF WHAT IT SOLD FOR NEW, (OF COURSE YOU ALREADY KNEW THAT). FOR ME, THE ULTIMATE (AT THE MOMENT) IS MBL. IT'S ROCKIN' MY WORLD THESE DAYS. NO COMPLAINTS.
Please do not use all capitals. Very hard to read
Yeah, what's up with the all capitals?... makes my eyes all tired and hurt, then I lose interest.
Sorry for the trouble I may have caused you Ahendler, my bad. Won't happen again. All critisisms aside, may I also suggest Usher speakers as a possible option for you Lostbears. I cannot recommend a specific model as I don't know their line well, however, I have always been very impressed with the sound of them. Every year when I am at C.E.S. in Las Vegas their room sounds GREAT! granted, they are running all of their own gear which I believe makes for a synergistic match up, but Usher speakers are a great value and a big performer. The price point makes them big bang for the buck,(in my humble opinion),and I would own a pair in a heartbeat if not for my recent MBL purchase. Definately worth some research and an audition if you can.
Alright, alright, alright!! I got it. Give it a rest will ya? My eyes are old and I can't see so well either. I vow not to contribute anything else in ALL CAPITALS. Are we good now? Can we all just get along...and move along to more important matters...like talking about this wonderful hobby we are all so passionate about. All this wasted pissing and moaning over something so petty is making me loose interest too! Jeez.
Yes I have heard the SR. Like the VR4 on steroids...better everything but similiar in many ways to what I have now.....very deep bass, expansive soundstaging and ribbon tweeter open top end....don't know the power requirements of the SR but like the 99 since it takes only a few watts to power allowing me to avoid beefy SS amps which I needed to make the SL3's go....I'd sell them and move on...you have good gear.

Thanks to everyone that replied.

Martinmobile, I really like what ARC has done with the 6H30 tube. I heard the Ref 110 and knew that was the amp for me. I had both an ARC V70 and VT100 MK3 but the Ref 110 was just better in every way. In the past few years I have sold all my extra gear and really upgraded my system. The SL3s are really the only thing left from my old system. I believe my Audio Research dealer also carries Usher speakers so I will definitely give them a listen. The MBL speakers are just gorgeous but way out of my price range even used.


Larryken, I like the idea of a ribbon tweeter. I owned Apogee Slant 6's for a while. I found a couple of reviews on the web and the recommended power for the VR 4SR is between 50 an 300 watts. That should not be a problem for the Ref 110. I sent their distributor an email to see if their is a dealer near me.
I went from ReQuests to Summits.

It was a nice step up with improved and deeper bass as well improved intergration. The Summits will still give you that wonderful stat stage and detail.

At some of the used prices I feel they would be a real score.
Having owned virtually every ML speaker during the time frame you've owned the SL3's, 1995-present, I'd suggest you're so accustomed to the ML signature sound it's tough leaving ML and finding pleasing performance in a traditional 3 way design. I've tried it for years, and the closest I've come to that lush electrostatic heaven was delivered via a single driver design matched to a small 300 B SET amp.

I'd heartily 2nd the earlier suggestion of moving on to newer Logans. Vista's, Vantages, and Summits will bring you a fresh performance and be a step up from the SL3's.

To those who've not experienced integrated bass with ML's that's never been an issue with my CLS's, Requests, or SL3's. Any decent sub properly dialed in at the right crossover point has never had me longing for something different from a traditional speaker design...in fact the trade off to be had by leaving the ML sound completely is too large a trade off, for as I suggested, once electrostatic never back...although I always have several different types of speakers and amplifiers on hand, therefore I choose not to have to live without them...bottom line, once that lush midrange is in your ears it's an uphill battle for a traditional speaker to compete with...but certainly if one has enough money they can in theory perhaps find something better...but at the price point for a pair of SL3's upgraded w/fresh new panels, or used Vantages commonly found now at $2500, I don't personally know of anything that will deliver the sonic goods at that price point that will be nearly as satisfying.
Your last post was long-winded causing me to lose interest.
Actually Coltrane's post was well articulated and should be read by Lostbears with interest.

Hey if you like your Merlin box speakers more power to you, but Coltrane and I think alike. good luck leaving stats after living with them.

Steelhead, The Sl3s are about the perfect size for my room. I have thought about getting a newer Martin Logan speaker of similar size. I have now also thought about replacing the panels of My SL3s. But I was also looking for suggestions on other speakers to audition. So far I have borrowed a couple of dealer demo's and not found anything that I thought was worth upgrading too.

Coltrane1, I know what you mean about finding it hard to go from an electrostat to a regular box type speaker. Before the SL3s I owned both Apogee and Soundlab speakers. I have so far not really found any 3 way box speaker that I could live with long term. Maybe just rebuilding the SL3s is the way to go. I have also thought about upgrading to a newer pair of Martin Logan's. The problem with that though is that I really don't like the way the newer ones look. So maybe it is a fools errand. I should just redo the SL3s and maybe look into getting a sub.
A subwoofer is a great idea in my humble opinion. I found that using a good subwoofer to augment the bottom end of a Martin Logan set-up was well worth doing. Over the 14 years that I had my Quest Z's, I bought, (and sold), a bunch of different subs. Some I found worked better and blended seamlessly, while others were pieces of crap and only "muttled up" the sound. The good ones were: Velodyne, but NOT the big ones. 15" and 18" drivers can be too slow and plodding, did not mate well with a "fast" panel speaker such as M.L., so stay away from the BIG Velodynes, like the FSR18, F18, ULD15, ULD18. I've owned them all. Go for the smaller driver Velodynes if you must. IMHO. Von Schweikert used to make a pair of subs, each containing two rear firing active 10" drivers in a sealed cabinet. Called the Towers of Power. Those were killer with my M.L.'s., (they were a completely black fabric covered pair of subs and looked like Vandersteens). Had them for many years and loved them. I ultimately ended up with a JM Lab/Focal Sub Utopia which is an awesome match, and just seemed to fill in that bottom octave without imposing itself. Very smooth and natural, and it's a beautiful looking, furniture grade cabinet with a 1000watt amp built in. It's built like a battleship. I still have it today and use it in conjunction with my MBL 101e Mk2's. Other subs I've bought over the years, but didn't like with my M.L.'s, (and ended up selling off pretty quick)- ANYTHING Sunfire. Had 3 different sizes of those little Bob Carver designed "true subwoofers"...basically a little nuclear bomb in a box. I found them to be sloppy and loose, and boomy. Not worth the trouble. To hard to integrate, crappy sounding. They're really just good for lots of noise, but suck for music.
I've also had one of those BagEnd "infrasub" 18's. The thing was GIANT, produced big boomy sound, and was slow as MUD. It's much better if used in a home theater system with the LFE output. Great for explosions, car crashes, Sci-fi space battle scenes, and loud sound effects. But NOT with music. NOT with M.L.'s
I would stay away from those if I were you. Now Martin Logan makes some great subs,(the Depth, the Decent, the Abyss i think they are called??), and while I have never owned a M.L. sub, a friend of mine did and loaned it to me, it was clear that it was intended for use with "fast" speakers, and really worked wonders with my Quest Z's.
So there you go Lostbears, from my firsthand experience I would tell you to go for it! Buy a sub and you will not be disappointed. They add a whole new dimension to an already great speaker. Just stay away from the crappy ones I mentioned. I see M.L. subs all over this A-gon so I know you could snap one up for a pretty good deal. Better yet go for stereo subs...buy 2 M.L.'s!! That would be a beautiful thing!
I agree with many of the participants here. If you really like the ML sound, then stick with ML speakers and upgrade to higher level ML speakers. I was going to suggest upgrading to Request speakers with new panels. However, one poster suggested summit speakers. I have heard the request and summit and if you can find them used, grab them if they are in you budget. Quite honestly, the mid bass and upper levels on upper level ML speakers are amazing. Now that they have eliminated the bass/mid bass crossover issues, those upper level ML speaker are really nice. With clean electronics, you will fly and with your Audio Research electronics, you are there. I bi amped with AR mono block tube amps on my panels of my Monolith IIIXs and Mark Levinson ML3 on the base drivers. Wow! Then I got my hands on an excellent Mark Levinson 23.5 and use it on my upper panels. I've said it before, but the ML 23.5 is still one of the best amps ever. But I will stick with my Martin Logan speakers. I got new panels, new electronic crossover replacing my passive one and new power supplies from Martin Logan and again, wow! And I routinely go to my favorite store (Stereo Design in San Diego) and listen to the best. Mine is pretty good. Stick with ML if you like the ML sound and upgrade to Request or Summit.

Enjoy