Nothing screams “audiophile” quite like a towering pair of electrostatic speakers sitting in a living room. While still considered a niche class of speakers, the electrostatic design produces a remarkably thin, sheet-like transducer that’s unmistakably different from the cones people are used to seeing. Even Uncle Mike, who bought his last pair of speakers out of an unmarked van, will want to know what they are.We’re just teasing of course.
For the uninitiated, electrostatic speakers use a thin membrane sandwiched between two solid metal conductors, known as stators, to produce sound. The stators produce an electrostatic field that pushes the diaphragm back and forth, generating sound in much the same way a more traditional speaker cone would.
In the tiny world of electrostatics, no company is quite as big as MartinLogan. The name is near synonymous with electrostatics (Google results will prove it), and has a reputation for producing some of the finest, and priciest, in the industry. Its latest new floorspeaker, the Spire, slides into the higher end of its well-established electrostatic line.
Visually, the Spire borrows most of its styling cues from existing MartinLogan electrostatics. A blocky wooden base serves as the foundation for a gigantic see-through transducer that climbs up its front, the company’s hallmark. The perforated steel of the transducer, along with its slightly curved profile, almost makes it look fit to zest lemons and grate parmesan cheese when it’s not wailing music.
Image Courtesy of Martin Logan
That unique shape isn’t without engineering justification – MartinLogan claims the curved shape of its XStat transducer panels helps improve high-frequency dispersion, and the surrounding billet-aluminum AirFrame helps cut down on vibration and resonance, improving imaging, low-level sonic detail, accuracy, and efficiency. As for the perforations in the steel, they’re exceptionally small to boost surface area without compromising structural integrity, and MartinLogan’s ClearSpar horizontal members ensure tensioning on the panels is as uniform as possible. We’re guessing its best to keep lemons and parmesan away from these things.
To balance the output from using electrostatic transducers, which notoriously lack low-end grunt, MartinLogan uses 10-inch PoweredForce aluminum cone woofers coupled with a 200-watt internal amps to lend the Spires some kick. The company claims the woofer, one tucked into the base of the speaker, provides usable bass extension down to an impressive 29Hz, and that using an active woofer provides better bass dynamics and precision than cheaper passive equivalents.
Image Courtesy of Martin Logan
MartinLogan’s Votjko crossover handles the task of splitting up input signals between the woofer and electrostatic transducer. These are the same crossovers used in the company’s top-of-the-line Summit loudspeakers, and MartinLogan still hand builds them using polypropylene capacitors and air-core coils at its factory in Kansas.
Whether you buy them for their unique aesthetic appeal or the distinct “holographic” imaging that electrostatic panels are famous for, the MartinLogan Spire does not come cheap, priced at $8,495 for the pair. All the similarities with the company’s $10,995 Summit and the relatively rare nature of electrostatic speakers to begin with do help explain the price, but they’re still firmly planted in enthusiast-only territory. The Spires will be available through MartinLogan distributors when they debut in May, but in the meantime, more information can be found in the company’s press release.