New Speakers raise the bar

Discussion in 'High End Audio' started by Sonnova, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    Just spent several hours auditioning a pair of the new Martin Logan CLX full
    range electrostatics. At around $20K, they are a revelation. I have never
    heard as accurate a pair of speakers in my life ­ and not by a small margin,
    either. They simply disappear. Everything sounds absolutely real. Played the
    Zampf "re-performance" of Glenn Gould's 1955 Bach 'Goldberg Variations' (this
    is where a computer program "listens" to Gould's original 1955 master tape
    and "extracts" a midi file from it that can be played back on a Yamaha
    DisKlavier system) and the piano is right there in the room. Listening to
    Professor K.O. Johnson's recent recording of the Rachmaninoff 'Symphonic
    Dances' was like hearing it for the first time. Such a soundstage,
    unbelievable imaging and unlike many ES speakers a "sweet spot" that extends
    more than 60 degrees from the center position. For the first time in my life,
    I have heard a stereo system that sounds like real, live music being played
    in real space. The only place where the speakers fall down a bit is in
    bottom-end extension. In most rooms they are good down to perhaps 40 Hz (and
    they are spec'd only to 56 Hz +/- 3dB in an anechoic chamber), but as the M-L
    rep said, "Bass is cheap" and indeed, after spending that much money for a
    pair of speakers, what's another 2K or so for a pair of subs? The bass that
    is there is the fastest, tightest, most articulate bottom I've ever
    experienced. The drum solo of Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five' has never revealed
    such detail, such realism. At the same time, these speakers mercilessly
    expose the Brubeck disc for the three-channel mono affair that it is. These
    speakers require a large room. Not only are they physically imposing at more
    than 2 ft wide and almost 6-ft tall but they can easily overload smaller
    rooms as I heard last night.

    You owe it to yourself to give these speakers a listen. They will leave you
    both flabbergasted and wondering "where can I find the $20K to buy these and
    how do I convince the wife..." If I ever saw a product worth selling one's
    soul to the devil to own, this is it.

    The usual disclaimer: I have no financial interest in, or affiliation with,
    Martin Logan other than I own a pair of their (more modest) speakers. I am
    simply enthusiastic about what I heard and wanted to pass it along to the
    rest of you on this forum.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 8, 2008
    #1
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  2. Sonnova

    Harry Lavo Guest

    Thanks for the review. One question; what was the associated equipment
    driving these speakers? Since you say they are highly revealing and
    accurate, did you have a chance to hear them with a $295 receiver and $100
    CD player while you were at it, to make sure what you heard was all due to
    the speakers?
     
    Harry Lavo, Aug 9, 2008
    #2
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  3. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    They were using a Levinson amp and a Classe preamp when I got there. After
    about an hour, they replaced the Classe with a Levinson preamp. As soon as
    they turned on the Levinson and music began to play, the store "guy" sighed
    and said, "That's better". There was no difference that I could detect. The
    source was a Wadia combo SACD/CD player. What I heard was the speakers. No
    electronics could make any speakers that were less than stellar sound THAT
    magnificent.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 9, 2008
    #3
  4. Sonnova

    C. Leeds Guest

    Perhaps this is true. Perhaps your observations are the result of
    expectation bias.

    Objectivists are quick to point out that there are real differences
    between some types of components - such as speakers and microphones - so
    blind testing to establish differences is less useful. Indeed, blind
    testing of speaker systems is especially tricky. Still, expectation bias
    is just as likely to intrude when evaluating a speaker system as it is
    with an amplifier, for example. And, given the imposing nature of some
    speaker systems, it's possible that expectation bias is especially
    likely to be a factor.

    This is why many subjectivist audiophiles prefer to evaluate components
    using long term listening. Over time, the genuine qualities of a
    component tend to emerge.
     
    C. Leeds, Aug 9, 2008
    #4
  5. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    Whatever. Speakers aren't amps or interconnects and vary wildly in both
    their approach to recreating sound and the sound that they produce. A pair of
    Magneplanars do not sound like a pair of Wilson Watt/Puppies and only a fool
    would expect them to as they use wildly different technologies and
    methodologies to produce their individual sound . Speakers are one component
    where listening is the only practical way to evaluate them. One could use D-B
    methodologies, but in this case, I do not see the point. With amps,
    interconnects, green pens and myrtlewood blocks we are D-B testing to
    ascertain WHETHER there is really a difference between before and after
    (applying these dubious tweaks), or between A and B. With speakers, we
    already KNOW that there is a difference as no speaker is perfect nor does any
    one speaker brand or model do all things well. Simple physics tells us that
    this has to be true. The same physics that tells us that Interconnects and
    speaker cable can have no "sound" and that all modern amplifiers will sound
    alike. With speakers we are merely listening to hear which set of
    reproduction compromises with which we are willing to live.

    The CLXs have fewer compromises than any speakers I've ever heard at any
    price up to more than 5X their $20,000 asking price. I've never heard
    speakers that cost more than $100,000 pair, but they do exist. If they sound
    better than these Martin-Logans, I'd love to know how.

    But certainly, don't take my word for it. Arrange to hear them yourself. If
    you do, take along your favorite recordings. You're in for a treat!
     
    Sonnova, Aug 9, 2008
    #5
  6. Or, perhaps your observations are the result of expectation bias.

    "Long term listening" does not obviate the need for 'sighted' controls.
     
    Steven Sullivan, Aug 9, 2008
    #6
  7. Sonnova

    Harry Lavo Guest

    It is quite possible you were "expecting" no difference and the salesman was
    "expecting" a difference.
    I'd still be interested in what they sound like pushed, say, by an older
    Bryston, a Dynaco 416, or some other amp often claimed to sound "no
    different".
     
    Harry Lavo, Aug 10, 2008
    #7
  8. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    Actually, I wasn't expecting anything, but certainly the sales guy was,
    otherwise he wouldn't have swapped-out the Levinson for the Classe.
    So would I. I suspect that the difference would be how well the older amps
    tolerate an impedance of 0.7 ohms at 20 KHz.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 10, 2008
    #8
  9. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    I recall when M-L came out with the Prodigy model loudspeaker about 8 years
    ago. I hated them, thought the bass sounded terrible on them. What a
    disappointment they were.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 10, 2008
    #9
  10. Would the speakers tolerate any appreciable signal @ 20 KHz ? If they did,
    maybe newborns might capable of hearing it.
     
    Norman M. Schwartz, Aug 10, 2008
    #10
  11. Sonnova

    willbill Guest


    i know the zampf disc is SACD (both 2 channel and "surround" although
    the writeup included provides no detail (!) about what they did for
    mikes for the surround) with also a pretty decent 2nd layer (standard
    redbook CD)

    is the K.O. Johnson 'Symphonic Dances' also a SACD disc?

    anyway, nice to know that Johnson is still kickin' :) as i have
    the CD, dated 1990, titled "Eileen Farrell Sings Torch Songs" (RR-34CD)
    where he was the recording engineer (he already looked pretty old
    in the picture on the CD back cover (that happened to show him during
    the recording)

    if you didn't ID the preamp in one of your other responses(?)
    do you remember what is was? if not, was it a 2 channel pre,
    or a 5+ channel pre/pro?



    given what you've posted, even at $20k/pair (and current hard times),
    demand should be high for awhile

    bill
     
    willbill, Aug 11, 2008
    #11
  12. Sonnova

    Jenn Guest

    He sure is, and Reference is back with a vengeance. Notable recent
    releases include two stunning disks conducted by the great Jerry Judkin:
    one of wind band classics including Walton: Crown Imperial, and the
    other is music by one of the best contemporary classical composers
    around, David Maslanka, including perhaps his most popular work, A
    Child's Garden of Dreams.
     
    Jenn, Aug 11, 2008
    #12
  13. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    I'm sure that 20KHz signal is present in the passband of most CDs. Whether it
    is at any significant level, or whether or not You or I could hear it is
    pretty irrelevant to the point that the speaker's impedance is less than one
    ohm at that frequency.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 11, 2008
    #13
  14. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    No. it's HDCD, which is to say, on most modern players, its RedBook (Windows
    Media Player contains HDCD decoding (MS bought the company that developed it
    -Pacific Micro), but few CD players do today.).
    When I got there, they were using a Classe preamp. While I was there, they
    swapped it out for a Levinson. Don't know the model numbers, but I assume
    both were 2-channel only.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 11, 2008
    #14
  15. The point is that I would wish to protect my speaker and electronics by not
    allowing for its reproduction. Since probably only local bats hear it, I'd
    prefer to kill it before it kills my equipment. I'll take it for fact that
    you yourself record sound of that frequency every day in your work, that
    doesn't mean I'd like my equipment playing it for the pleasure of animals
    other than humans. Is it correct that a speaker impedance of less than one
    ohm (at any frequency) presents a severe stress to an amplifier?
     
    Norman M. Schwartz, Aug 12, 2008
    #15
  16. No, it's only a stress if there's any appreciable energy at that frequency,
    and the amplifier isn't designed to cope. A Krell will be quite happy, even
    with appreciable amounts of energy at 20kHz or any other frequency with a 1
    ohm load, lesser amps won't be.

    The problem with a load that drops to 1 ohm at 20 kHz is not what happens at
    20k, where there isn't a lot of energy about, but what happens at, say,
    10kHz where there is a lot more. Even if the impedance is 2 or 3 ohms at
    10kHz, that could still stress lesser amps.

    The answer with a 'speaker like this is to use an amp capable of driving 1
    ohm happily, which needn't be a Krell, a fair few pro audio amps can manage
    it quite well at a lot less money, or use a matching transformer, which,
    however, will be expensive, so a better amp could be cheaper.

    S.
     
    Serge Auckland, Aug 12, 2008
    #16
  17. Sonnova

    Rob Tweed Guest

    Rather than ending up with yet another endless and tedious theoretical
    thread about the wheres and whyfores of listening comparisons, AB
    tests, listener biases etc etc, I really do hope that someone will
    take up Sonnova's suggestion and actually listen to a pair of CKXs and
    report back on their impressions.

    I'm unlikely to ever be in a position to be able to justify spending
    that kind of money on a pair of speakers - but it's interesting to
    hear about what true high-end speakers can aspire to, from "real"
    high-end audio enthusiasts rather than salesmen and magazine
    reviewers. Yes, of course the impressions will be heavily subjective
    and inherently biased for all sorts of reasons, but let's hear them I
    say!

    Then it would be nice to know opinions on what would be considered
    pretty good second bests in more realistic budget ranges. For
    example, one of the more interesting recent postings brought the
    AudioEngine 2 to my attention, a speaker that, having read the various
    reports and opinions, sounds like something worth auditioning (though
    it is, of course, built to fulfill a very particular role).

    So...anyone else heard the CLX's yet?


    ---

    Rob Tweed
    Company: M/Gateway Developments Ltd
    Registered in England: No 3220901
    Registered Office: 58 Francis Road,Ashford, Kent TN23 7UR

    Web-site: http://www.mgateway.com

    Don't miss this year's Out of the Slipstream Conference
    Thursday 3rd July, Bletchley Park
    http://www.outoftheslipstream.com
     
    Rob Tweed, Aug 15, 2008
    #17
  18. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    I heard them at Future Sound in Burlingame CA.
    The room was smallish (too small, in my estimation for the speakers; I'd say
    it was 14 foot square). The speakers were about 8 foot apart on center and
    set square to the listening position which was about 4 ft from the back of
    the room. There was maybe 5 ft behind each speaker to the back wall. The
    walls had corner traps in the corners in front of the speakers and largish
    wall traps on the wall behind them (I'd say 4 X 4 ft). They had just been
    set-up that afternoon by Martin-Logan's International sales manager, Peter
    Soderberg and he admitted that the room wasn't ideal nor were the speaker
    positions optimized. It didn't matter. Even with the speakers occasionally
    overloading the room, they sounded so much more like real, unamplified music
    playing in real space, that all else was soon forgotten. The electronics (as
    if they would make any great difference) were a Mark Levinson power amp and
    initially a Classe pre-amp which was changed-out while I was there to a
    Levinson pre-amp. The source was a Wadia SACD/CD player (IIRC). I don't know
    the model numbers of any of the components.
    Sorry, I took no pictures - just listened.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 18, 2008
    #18
  19. Sonnova

    Robert Sink Guest

    [...]

    There's also another bitter argument to be had with speakers: time &
    phase accuracy.
     
    Robert Sink, Aug 18, 2008
    #19
  20. Sonnova

    Sonnova Guest

    A problem from which I doubt seriously that full range electrostatic speakers
    would suffer.
     
    Sonnova, Aug 19, 2008
    #20
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