Like many others, Ihave long associated Martin Logan with extremely pricy electrostatic speakers. The very name evokes visions of statuesque electrostats with prohibitive price tags and a sense of longing that I will probably never be able to satiate. Sometimes it sucks to be a speaker geek on a tight budget.
Or does it? Plenty of speaker manufacturers have decided to bark up the bang-for-your-buck tree, and it would appear that their efforts are getting a warm reception, since the number of offerings in this category is expanding at a quick clip. Martin Logan is one of those companies that seems to see the value in trickling down its trademarked technology to a thoughtfully designed, high-performance line of (shall we say) more accessible speakers.
Motion is the name Martin Logan gave to this series of speakers. One of the latest additions to the series is the LX16, Martin Logan’s first bookshelf speaker which is also a bit of a departure from the Motion line in general. It’s got fancier woofers, a premium finish and some impressive specs; all at what seems like a pretty reasonable price. The question that has been lingering in my mind since I first saw the LX16 at CEDIA 2011 and again at CES 2012 is: Do they deliver the wow factor I’ve come to associate with the company’s premium electrostatic speakers?
In this Motion LX16 bookshelf speaker review, I dig into some of the design points that are meant to make these speakers sound great, describe my experience evaluating them and reveal whether or not I think Martin Logan hits the price: performance sweet spot.
Out of the box
There just isn’t a whole lot to the LX16 de-boxing process. The speakers were adequately packaged with EPS foam caps on the top and bottom of the speaker. To protect the finish (and oh, what a finish it is!), the speakers were wrapped in a thin cloth sack followed by a thicker plastic bag. The grills for the speakers are wrapped separately, probably to prevent potential breakage in transit.
Along with the speakers were some brief pieces of product literature and a card of self-adhering rubber feet for the bottom of the speaker.
The LX16 measure 11 x 6.5 x 9.5 (H x W x D in inches) and weigh 12 lbs. each.
Features and design
At the heart of the Motion series’ design is Martin Logan’s “Folded Motion Tweeter.” Rather than use a dome of silk, aluminum or titanium, Martin Logan uses a sheet of material that is folded up like an accordion. Now, imagine that accordion being compressed and released. As it does so, air is moved out from between the folds, thus producing sound.
This tweeter design is an example of that “trickle-down technology” idea I referred to earlier. Essentially, Martin Logan has taken the scientific principles and sonic benefits of its electrostatic speakers and altered it to work in a more compact environment. According to Martin Logan, this tweeter has roughly eight times the surface area of a 1-inch dome tweeter, is more efficient, and much faster to respond. The end result is supposed to be very clear and dynamic high-frequency response with exceptional imaging properties.
Sitting just below the tweeter is one 5.25-inch black-aluminum “high-excursion” woofer. This differs from previous Motion series speakers that used paper cones. (As a side note, some prefer aluminum cones for their combination of high rigidity and low weight while others swear by treated paper. In our experience, it isn’t the material that is used, but how you use it that matters.)
The drivers are set into an attractive brushed black-aluminum baffle that sits flush with the speaker’s cabinet. Sitting over the drivers (should you choose to cover them up) is a perforated metal grill that attaches to the speaker’s baffle via four small magnetic posts. In our experience, magnets hold up much better to repeated grill removal and replacement than plastic posts do. On the rear of the cabinet we found the speaker’s “low-turbulence” bass port and a recessed panel with five-way binding posts. They use some sweet twist-on lugs that made using bare wire a lot easier for me when it was necessary.
The finish on theLX16 is impeccable. Martin Logan offers two finish options: high-gloss dark cherry wood and high-gloss black. Our review samples came in the dark cherry option and boy did they ever feel luxurious. You can’t fake this kind of finish with vinyl. Martin Logan takes real wood veneer and lays it over ¾-inch thick MDF to give the speaker’s cabinet the right balance of acoustical inertness and furniture-grade appeal. We’ve seen similar high-gloss black finishes from other manufacturers, but the deep, dark cherry color is a welcome break from the medium-tint stuff we’ve been seeing for the past 10 years.