Why Do Martin Logan Speakers Lack Dynamic Energy?

Martin Logan speakers have a huge open soundstage, vivid midrange and excellent detail, better than some of the best speakers in the world.

The only thing that most Martin Logan speakers lack in their respective price range is dynamic energy. What I mean by dynamic energy is sonic weight, mid-bass slam and movement of air that only cone drivers seem to produce (unless you're talking about the Martin Logan Statements). Speakers like Wilson, Revel or Aerial Acoustics have great dynamic energy, so why can't Martin Logan build a speaker cheaper than $80,000 that has it too?
You sure it isnt the amplifier?
I would really like to hear the answers to this one.

I would say that some of the models lack mibass slam. I have also noticed that this is a function of amp. Even the CLS which is a pure Electrostatic has bass slam but only under very limited conditions. My experience is that they energize the room but one doesn't feel the impact in the same way as a cone.

I personally use mine with a sub most of the time, but often I think the pure electrostat in cleaner and purer sounding than the cone sub.

I also own old Maggie Tympanis and cone speakers.

You should also ask this question on the ML owners sight.
It is common with the electrostats for the glue that holds the sonic weights to the polyester film to come loose. Martin logan can fix this for a price.

I like the way they sound. I don't think they sound lean in the mid-bass region. Your mileage might vary. So might your amp,preamp, room, and source components.
I would say that lack of dynamic energy, impact and weight is something I have noticed with most electrostatic/hybrid speakers, regardless of components and room acoustics when compared to a comparably priced, traditional cone speaker. The Martin Logan Statements sound incredible, but use multiple, midrange dynamic drivers and are VERY, VERY expensive.

The lack of dynamic punch can really be noticed when not listening to anything but the most perfectly recorded music. Acoustic (strings, etc.) and vocal music sounds wonderful, but most rock music sounds forward, grating and almost intolerable. The problem becomes that you find yourself only being able to listen to perfect recordings, or certain types of music. Do people really want speakers that forces them to only listen to well recorded CDs and certain types of music?
Electrostatics are highly, highly placement and room sensitive. Don't assume there is something wrong with the speaker until you have exhausted every placement possibility (or your patience, whichever comes first). Having said that, no planar is going to "energize" the room in the same way as a cone/box speaker, simply because its dipolar radiation cancels itself out at lower frequencies. The initial transient is there, but the gut-thumping wallop that comes from pressurizing the entire room isn't, and never will be. It's the nature of the beast and something you either can live with or can't (I personally can't). That's the curse of the electrostat: it does some things so well that you end up eternally frustrated because it won't give you everything you want. You keep thinking, if only it had bass to match the rest of the speaker..... but it doesn't, because it can't.
Electrostatics, planars and ribbons drivers have much less mass than cone/piston drivers and as a result electrostatics can respond to the input signal much more quickly than piston speakers. In general stats also don't exhibit the same level of dynamic compression as piston drivers. It's actually easy to see how some people might interpret stats' quick transient response and the lack of dynamic compression as a flaw. If you want to add more dynamic punch to a stat then simply add an outboard compressor/limiter to gently squash the signal's transients to mimic the behavoir of a typical cone based speaker.

he said piston

Several possibilities come to mind that might have a bearing on what you're experiencing.

First, the differing radiation characteristics of point-source woofers and line-source panels means that their integration is somewhat distance-dependent. The sound pressure level from the panels rolls off more slowly with distance than it does for the woofers. So if the room is too large for that particular pair of Martin Logans, the bass and midbass energy will be lacking.

Second, some earlier model Martin Logans had a response dip in the crossover region (ballpark 200-300 Hz) that would result in a lack of lower midrange energy.

Third, electrostats in general are extremely demanding of associated amplification, and the Martin Logans are no exception. From my own experience with Sound Lab electrostats, I can tell you that choice of amplification makes a huge difference in dynamic contrast and liveliness.

Fourth, it is possible that the dynamic compression characteristics of the woofer and panel are very different. The primary source of woofer compression is thermal compression, while the primary source of compression in the panels is probaly transformer saturation, which does not set in until you reach a very high input level. So what may happen is the woofer compresses more than the panel does up until the point where the panel compresses severely. I frankly do not know if this situation applies to the Martin Logans - I'm only mentioning it as a possibility in a dynamic/electrostatic hybrid.

Ahem... also, ah... at the risk of coming across as somewhat self-serving, I can think of at least one large, full-range electrostat that has good weight and body in the midbass region...


because they are not Dynamic speaker. Dah!
Dynamics is a function of moving air rapidly. Your perception is correct. I too had the same concern--I also own a pair of Monoliths that have been modified (a lot).

First, a large planar such as a monolith can absolutely move a lot of air rapidly, however, you have to look at how it's focused to the listener. Fact is--it's not. The room can be designed to specifically account for this and focus the back wave kinetic energy towards the listener--thereby increasing the dynamics. However, what happens to the bass--nothing in that scenario. This has been one of the main difficulties with hybrids. They have the so called promise of "dynamics of a full dynamic speaker transparency of an electrostatic", but in general don't deliver.

One of the problems is cost. The basic issue can be overcome and has been proven with the Statement--but $80k--well it better do just about everything perfect and paint my house too.

Before I get into methods to overcome, you should probably just consider the very basic issue here first. Dynamics are perceived by kinetic air movement focused at the listener--it's that simple. What focuses energy at the listener best? A horn. What focuses energy the least? A planar, and particularly one that is curvilinear spreading out the energy to all directions.

Let's say both a horn and a planar can deliver the same amount of air movement for 1 watt of power, but the horn is focused, where as the planar is not. Let's say the room has no losses--all energy gets to the listener (eventually). What is the perception--it hasn't changed. The direct energy of the horn is very dynamic. The indirect and more diffuse sound field of the planar is far less dynamic, but to a large degree more etherial. Many of us like this room interaction that gives us a sense of space and imagery. I personally like it, and although I've owned horns--I am willing to sacrifice the dynamics for the transparency and imaging.

Now on to what can be done. ML uses woofers that integrate will with their speakers and don't cost obscene amounts of money. As I said previously--I modified mine. The panel was fabulous--the bass wasn't. It was slow and undefined and did not give me the dynamics I wanted in the lower octaves. So I changed it--it's not so simple. I had to bi-amp with an active cross over that was pretty flexible and bipass the internal cross over. The engineers at ML were kind enough to help me with the loading of the new woofers which were Focal Audiom. The results were spectacular--but as the saying goes "don't try this at home".
This excellent explanation was emailed to me by "lrsky".

"As former Director of Sales for a competing line of Martin Logan, and
previous owner, 20 year industry veteran, I believe I can answer your
Dynamic drivers punch a small (relatively) diameter of air a great
(relative to Electrostatics) distance. Example, the midrange driver slaps
the air forward the greater part of an inch (the actual distance the
driver travels is very speaker dependant). This abrupt slam, creates sound
and a percussive, resulting, dynamic moment. (Think air rushing back
into the void after a lightning strike) Conversely, when an electrostatic
is called on to make the same tonal sound, a large panel, many times
larger than the dynamic drivers, moves forward, fractionally as far as
the dynamic driver. This Electrostatic displacement creates the same
tone, and set of harmonic information, but the lack of that dramatic slam
of air displacement gives it an overall, more polite sound.
Imagine, cupping your hand, against the water in a pool, and pushing
down. The result is that you displace the amount of water proportionate
to the size of your hand. Now do the same thing, smacking the same
amount of water, simply raising your hand a few inches away. There is a
whack which is loud and startling, verses very little sound, even though
you have displaced the same amount of water. (This is really simplistic,
but ok for a quick look)
On the plus side, some people ask, "How can a small tweeter, midrange
and woofer can create the lifelike size of a piano, compared to a three
feet by five foot, panel, which is certainly more nearly the actual
size of that piano.
This is an example of almost oppostite approaches to accomplish the
same thing. Finesse, versus raw energy. Which one is better, is wholly a
function of your tastes and sometimes, unfortunately your reference. I
say unfortunately, since many people think that their current speakers,
however poor they may be, sound correct, since it has been their
reference point for so long.
I owned the Prodigys, which are the $11K ML speakers, and thought them
to be very good. Fast smooth, and with the two conventional woofers,
ofered good bass, with nice blending of the two disparate technologies.
Plus, Gayle Sanders is an acquaintence of mine, and I have been to his
home. He gives a good honest value for the price. Listen carefully to
those speakers which you narrow your choices down to. Any flaws you hear
in q quick demonstration, become multiplied, and exagerrated,
exponentially over time. If you're an audio nut like me, the flaws are all you
CAN hear once you've identified them! HA!"
You already post this at the Martinloganowners.com forum page just recently isn't it?


I am glad you finally found your answer. That thread is loonnnnggg!
I have used the original Quad, Acoustat 2+2, and Martin Logan CLS as midrange reference transducers over the past 27 years. I like their lack of cabinet resonance and single-driver coherence; however, they all exhibit tremendous dynamic compression from a mechanical standpoint. At Cal Tech, we used a laser interferometry setup to measure the dynamic range as referenced to excursion potential vs. voltage. As the electrostatic diaphragms are stretched very tightly and have no elastic edge surround, they have a finite limitation on excursion potential, no matter how much more voltage you input. Initially, the diaphragm will move on a 1:1 scale, but rapidly, the excursion does not follow the input voltage, resulting in a very high degree of compression of the signal. This is the source of "lack" of dynamic range that most listeners pick up on. Most cone systems do not compress until very high volume levels are reached.
Albert Von Schweikert
Albertvonn, thanks for the very informative post. At what volume levels did the compression start to set occur?
Get serious and buy yourself an active crossover and perhaps another pair of amps. Believe me, you haven't heard your Martin Logans if you haven't tried this set-up. You wil definitely get more air/volume/sound. Please be open-minded, try it out,you got nothing to loose except maybe a few hundreds there or another electronic paper weight. And besides, you can tweak the esl panel and bass woofer at the same time. And just perhaps reach your sonic nirvana!
I've also owned M-L, ribbons etc. But you cannot break the laws of physics. To get deep uncompressed bass you must move air. Stats just cannot give the excursion required to do this unless they are huge.