The test bench for our Martin Logan Motion LX16 bookshelf speaker review included an Anthem Integrated 225, Marantz PM6004 integrated amp, Marantz SR6005 A/V receiver, Oppo BDP-95 audiophile Universal Blu-ray player and Aperion Audio Verus Grand tower speakers.
It’s easy to get jaded by all the marketing-speak surrounding speaker technologies. To a certain extent, I can understand the use of high-tech jargon in order to make a product sound appealing. After all, fundamentally speaking, loudspeakers haven’t changed all that much in the last 50 years. This is the sort of tactic that has produced the six-blade disposable razor with aloe and built-in aftershave. It just gets old after a while.
Perhaps that is why I was so elated when I heard the LX16 emit their first notes. This folded-motion tweeter of Martin Logan’s is more than just nifty nomenclature; it is a distinct and downright sweet-sounding tweeter. What really did it for me? Transient response.
For those not down with the audiophile sickness, here’s a 101 breakdown on transients and transient response: In audio terms, a transient refers to a sudden and abrupt change in level. In music terms, we usually call this “attack”. Whatever you call it, it’s the snap of a stick hitting a cymbal or snare drum, the creak of a bow across a violin string or the ‘T’ , ‘S’, or ‘CH’ sounds of a person speaking or singing. It’s not a tone: You can’t assign a transient a note,it’s just the start of a sound. A speaker’s ability to reproduce these sounds is referred to as transient response.
So now that you know, let me just say that the LX16 have really fantastic transient response, which means they produce well articulated, highly textural, engaging and realistic sound. I often end up complaining about spitty, harsh and unrealistically bright treble coming from the speakers and headphones I review. I think this is because so many manufacturers are trying to achieve a certain sound without having the right materials or technology to make it happen. In their effort to fake it, we end up with crappy treble. Simply put, the LX16 do right what so many other speakers get wrong.
Fortunately, the accolades don’t stop with the tweeter. The midrange response of this speaker is remarkably natural, easy-going and big, too. I listened to some live bootleg tracks of Marc Broussard and his band that were ripped right off the soundboard at the gig. With no post-processing getting in the way, the sound of the track is as close as we’re likely to get to listening directly to a microphone’s output. Broussard’s husky vocals came through the LX16 with stunning purity and clarity. We kept listening for a bit of a hump in the upper midbass, but it never came.
We were listening for that midbass hump because of the LX16’s bass response. Now, before I get into the LX16’s bass response, I should mention that I ended up testing the LX16 in two distinctly different environments. About half of my evaluation time took place at my home testing lab with the balance of listening done in my office at Digital Trends HQ.
In my dedicated testing space, I have some basic acoustical treatments to control room resonances and early reflections off the walls. I also have the benefit of using sand-filled speaker stands and the luxury of achieving precise speaker placement.
In my office, on the other hand, I contend with about as uncontrolled an environment as you could imagine. Huge panes of glass line one wall while long, flat sheets of drywall occupy the balance. I’ve got no speaker stands–just a desk– and the only “acoustical treatments” to speak of come in the form of some strategically placed office chairs. In short: It’s not an ideal space for testing quality audio gear. Oh, did I mention the jackhammer we’ve been dealing with this week?
I digress. The reason I mention the two drastically different environments is because each had a noticeable effect on the LX16’s bass response. In my dedicated listening space, I was able to maximize the LX16’s bass output and the result was pretty impressive. In fact, I placed the LX16 next to a set of large floor-standing speakers and kept inviting people down to guess which speaker was playing. 8 out of 10 guesses were for the towers; the other two just thought they were smart. My point is the LX16’s sound on the whole was big enough to fool people into thinking it could have come from large, floor-standing speakers.
In my office, some of that bass presence was lost. I actually found myself adjusting the bass control knob on my Marantz PM6004 to coax a little more bottom end out of the LX16’s; and this from a purist who never touches the tone controls! What I gathered from my experience is that the LX16 put out a respectable amount of bass for a bookshelf speaker, but, unless precise placement can be had, a subwoofer may be desired for those who really crave big, room-moving bass.
One final story: I cranked up (and I mean I really cranked up) a solo electric bass track off of Marcus Miller’s The Sun Don’t Lie record. It’s a go-to test track for me. Within a few seconds, passersby were opening the door to see if someone was actually playing bass in the office (it’s been known to happen, actually). The consensus amongst my office mates was that the LX16 were producing some extremely realistic, dynamic sound. I think that describes these speakers perfectly.
While other speaker companies such as NHT and Aperion Audio do offer beautifully finished high-performance bookshelf speakers at slightly lower price points, what they don’t offer is Martin Logan’s folded-motion tweeter and the distinct sound that comes with it. Is it worth the extra bills? I’ll leave that to individual listeners, but I will say that I have become somewhat addicted the sound of the LX16 and find my mind referencing back to that sound with every speaker I listen to now.
Earlier, I questioned whether the LX16 delivered enough wow-factor to justify their $800 a pair. For me, they most certainly did. The LX16 are absolutely worth a listen. In a market already flooded with over-achieving bookshelf speakers, the LX16 manage to stand apart from the rest and for that, we recommend them.
- Outstanding treble and transient response
- Lush, open mid-range
- Adequate bass
- Gorgeous finish
- No threaded insert for securing to speaker stand
- Optimal bass response requires precise positioning