2013 New York Audio Show: MartinLogan CLX art loudspeakers pull vanishing act

MartinLoganCLXElectrostatic loudspeakers such as the CLX art from MartinLogan always draw a big crowd. The see-through (literally) panels reproduce music with a level of transparency that really has to be heard to be believed. If you have ever closed your eyes during a really good vocal performance and just sat there as the voice penetrates you, making you feel as if you are alone with the singer – you’ve experienced what these loudspeakers are capable of. It’s almost too good to be true. 

The CLX art are full-range electrostatic transducers that cover the frequency range between 56 HZ – 23 kHz +/- 3dB. One of the drawbacks with these types of loudspeakers has been that they sound really convincing right up until the point at which you start crossing over from the lower midrange into the bass region. The bass loses its potency, and while it’s incredibly quick and detailed, it doesn’t sound totally coherent with the rest of the speaker’s output.

MartinLogan’s products are not alone with this issue, but they were the first to do something about it by integrating cone drivers into their panels. Unfortunately, the move didn’t eliminate the issue overnight. Though the last few generations have come really close to eliminating that coherency issue, bit took the advent of the CLX art to make it a moot point. Such a major step forward comes with a steep price, though: $25,500 for the pair.

The CLX art is made up of two separate panels per loudspeaker, each handling a different part of the frequency range. The larger panel is 57 x 11.5 (HxW – in inches) and bears the responsibility of covering the low frequencies. It does a good enough job, in fact, that you can use the speakers without a subwoofer. The smaller panel measures 57 x 8.6 (HxW – in inches) and handles everything above 360 Hz. Put together, each enormous loudspeaker sizes up at 70 x 25 x 14 (HxWxD – in inches) and weighs more than 110 pounds. Don’t be thrown off by that depth dimension. The panels themselves are barely a few inches deep. It’s the base and crossover unit that make up the majority of the speaker’s depth.

Electrostatic loudspeakers are powered up all the time (they are plugged into the wall), but they still need a lot of power to really function properly. The CLX art‘s high sensitivity rating is misleading because its impedance drops like a stone, so it’s not uncommon to see them driven by 200-400 watt amplifiers that can keep their cool below 4 ohms. They absolutely love being driven by big tube amps, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that doing so will surely drive up your monthly power bill. For the New York Audio Show, MartinLogan demonstrated the CLX art with a pair of Krell solid-state monoblocks, and it was hard not to be impressed.

The panels are without rival when it comes to reproducing the human voice , and their ability to make a string quartet, jazz trio, or Led Zeppelin magically appear in your listening space is most impressive. If you ask us, the MartinLogan CLX art are one of the finest loudspeakers money can buy.