[img]http://hometheaterreview.com/images/MartinLogan-Motion-Review.gif[/img]MartinLogan Motion Speaker System Review
By: Dr. Ken Taraszka
MartinLogan has been making some big steps lately. First they re-introduced their famed CLX speakers as the new top of the line product, but what surprised me more was what they showed at CEDIA in September of 2009. A small, no - tiny speaker that wasn't named yet, but all who heard it left impressed. The small size and incredible dynamics of these speakers seemed an impossible mating. Fast forward several months and the new speakers are not only named but being released as the Motion line. Covering everything from small bookshelf speakers to moderately sized floor standing models, all the speakers in this line are voiced to each other and the bigger and more costly MartinLogan electrostats, allowing them to be a complete home theater on their own or expandable by adding smaller options for center and surround speakers for owners of larger speaker systems. For this review I was sent a pair of the Motion 2's ($199.95 each), a pair of Motion 4's (249.95 each), a Motion 8 center channel ($399.95), a pair of Motion 12 floor standing speakers ($1,499.95 a pair) and a Dynamo 1000 subwoofer ($995) with the optional, wireless SWT-1 subwoofer transmitter ($119.95) for a total system price of $3,914.65.
Every speaker in the Motion line utilizes the same Folded Motion(tm) tweeter. This 1x1.4-inch transducer is a 1.75x5.25-inch folded diaphragm that actually compresses and moves (thus the name) the air between the folds and propels it forward, allowing for much higher output from lower excursion than a conventional dome tweeter. These driers are unique in that they offer excellent dispersion as well as allow for very high output with low distortion.
The smallest model in the lineup is the Motion 2 at just over 11 inches tall, five inches wide and four and a half inches deep and weighing just four pounds. They are rated to handle 50 Watts of power into their four-Ohm load and have an 86 dB efficiency at 2.83 Volts/meter. A three and a half inch cone driver covers the low end. The Motion 2 can reproduce from 110-25,000 Hz +/- 3 dB. The Motion 4 is larger at 12 and a half inches tall by five and a half inches wide and five and a quarter inches deep and weighs six pounds. The Motion 4 uses a four inch cone driver and can handle 75 Watts and sports a 90 dB at 2.83 Volts/meter sensitivity into it's four Ohm load. Frequency response is from 70-25,000 Hz +/- 3 dB with the bottom end helped by a MartinLogan designed Folded-Motion™ bass reflex port. The Motion 8 center channel measures five and a half inches tall by five and a quarter inches deep and 22 and a quarter inches wide. The frequency response is the same as the Motion 4, but it is 89 dB efficient. The Motion 8 utilizes two four-inch paper drivers for the low end. The Motion 12's are the biggest speakers in the lineup and stand just less than 43 inches tall by seven inches wide by 14 inches deep and weigh 36 pounds apiece. The same tweeter is used here too, as well as a five and a quarter inch dipole midrange driver and two six and a half inch bass drivers. The 12's add a rear port for the bass drivers as well allowing low frequency extension to 40 Hz.
The Dynamo 1000 subwoofer reports a frequency response from 22 to 200 Hz +/- 3dB from its 12 inch, high excursion poly cone drive assembly in a sealed cabinet design with a 500-Watt internal amplifier. Weighing in at roughly 34 pounds while measuring 14 inches square, you can mount the subwoofer vertically or remove the feet and horizontally install it into a rack or wall to free up floor space. It accepts stereo or mono single ended line level feeds or can receive wireless transmission with the optional SWT-1 transmitter.
The SWT-1 wireless subwoofer transmitter kit allows you to place the subwoofer anywhere within a reasonable distance in the room, up to 40 feet. The SWT-1 worked very well for me, but once I had the subwoofer placed in my room I hard wired it, as I was able to do so.
MartinLogan was kind enough to run all my speakers through 100 hours of use so they were ready to go out of the box. They were all well packed and covered in cloth sleeves. The look is unique as the bookshelf speakers have a curved front and rear panel that allows them to be wall mounted level or with 20 degrees offset to adapt to your room. All the bookshelf Motion speakers and center channels share the same smooth composite construction with high gloss black and flowing lines. The curved shape seems to flow onto the grill organically. The grill covers the entire front of all the Motion speakers from the model 2 to 8, being flat with a moderate bowing to conform to the cabinet's shape. In the deeper recess of the rear are mounting sites for the included wall mounts and the large spring loaded binding posts.
The floorstanding Motion 12s and sub come with metal spikes as well as rubber feet to work with either carpeted or tiled/wood flooring. I carefully unboxed the speakers and set about placing them into my room. The Motion series all use spring loaded binding posts, which are great for wall mounted speakers as they never loosen up, so unless you pull the wires out, they will always be held in place. The binding posts are set into deep gouges and each post has a large button to depress, to compress the spring inside. The gouge is set up to align the holes for the wire end and worked quite well making connecting the speaker wires quick and easy. For those wanting to use upgraded cables, the caps of each post can be removed to use banana plugs.
These speakers are designed to work with receivers so I set them up with the new Onkyo TX-NR5007 in a standard 5.1 system fed by an Oppo BDP-83SE and Scientific Atlanta 8300HD HD DVR and added the Motion 2s as front height channels for Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Audyssey DSX processing, with the 12s for fronts, the 8 for a center, the 4s as my surrounds and the Dynamo 1000 as the subwoofer. A quick run of my Onkyo receiver's Audyssey Multi EQ XT room correction and I was up and running in under an hour.
I was lucky enough to have MartinLogan burn these speakers in so once all the wiring was done and the speakers were positioned and leveled I was good to go. I initially used them for television viewing and was pleased with how they sounded. Both male and female voices were clear and concise, making spoken words easily discernable, while the system had plenty of dynamics for powerful events during viewing. The subwoofer helped fill in the low end well even when played back at insane levels.
I spun up an old favorite test disc, XXX (Columbia Pictures) on Blu-ray. I like to see how a system transitions the bolt shot into the locked back door of the club in Prague in the opening scene. Well, it has been a while since I watched this movie, and I wanted to see how the Motion speakers handled volume and dynamics, so I turned it up quite a bit during the early part of the scene. When the bolt was shot and ultimately hit the door - I jumped! It was so loud I feared I might have blown a driver, or risk blowing one. Once I realized I hadn't done any damage to the speakers, I turned it back up for Ramstein's performance and was impressed. The Motion speakers were very dynamic at high volumes and with the subwoofer, could output bass to extreme levels. The bass was a bit punchy, but to output bass into the 100 plus dB level for this price is impressive. The surrounds blended perfectly with the other speakers making for smooth transitions across the soundstage even at the extreme volume I initially witnessed, as well as at decent theater volumes. I found I liked these speakers at higher more so than at lower volumes as they seemed to open up a bit. They clearly could handle large dynamics and volume and no matter what part of the film I was in, the Motion system portrayed a very large soundstage with just a bit of forwardness that I really appreciate for movies.
For multichannel music I played the Allman Brothers Band, Eat a Peach (Island) on SACD. From the start of "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" it became clear I liked these speakers at higher volumes more than lower. When playing this track back at low levels it seemed somewhat constrained, even a bit muffled, but raising the volume opened up the music significantly making for a more enjoyable presentation. The cymbals and vocals were a bit forward but not to the point of being edgy. The bass lines in "Les Brers in A Minor" went deep and sounded solid if only a little blurred, though the Dynamo 1000 was able to keep up with the system even to very high listening levels. The Motion speakers again threw a huge soundstage that was impressive both in its depth and width, as well as its detail.
I took both the Motion 12s and 4s into my reference rig in a much larger room and with much higher end gear including the EMM Labs TSD1/DAC2 CD/SACD playback system, Classe' SSP800 AV preamp and Krell Evolution 403 amplifier and spun up the Allman brothers as well as Elvis Costello's My Aim is True (Hip-O-Records). The Motion 12s had surprisingly good bass output, though still a bit punchy. The midrange was smooth and the treble slightly forward but not overly bright, which wasn't such a big deal on the Allman brothers as this disc is recorded so well, but to smoothly portray an old Elvis Costello track like "Miracle Man" was impressive for a speaker of this price point. The space and definition of the instruments were not up to my reference but were enjoyable. During "Mystery Dance" the bottom end was significantly better with the Dynamo 1000 subwoofer added in with the Motion 12s and would be mandatory for those using the 4s as main speakers.
The Motion speakers are entirely four-Ohm resistance, so some smaller receivers may have trouble powering them. They offer only two angles for wall mounting, zero and 20 degrees off axis, and this could limit placement options, though with creative mounting I could see how one could easily expand this. The insert in the back of the MartinLogan Motion 2, 4, 6 and 8 are standardized as to accept many aftermarket mounting options.
The Motion speakers lacked the nth degree of separation and bass and will benefit from a subwoofer for true low-end extension. They seemed to open up more at higher volumes so those looking for low level listening might not get the most out of the speakers, while those looking for a rocking system on a budget will love them.
With Motion systems starting at under $1,600 and going up to just a tad over $4,000 MartinLogan has opened up an entirely new market. Having a line of speakers that sound as good as these do, they are sure to sell a ton of them. These are solid performing speakers, designed to work with a receiver-based system or to be used with the bigger MartinLogan systems allowing one to easily expand a two channel system into a full home theater on a budget. Their four-Ohm load could be problematic for some lower end receivers, but most these days will handle the lower impedance and offer owners increased power as a benefit.
I was impressed by just how comfortable these speakers were playing at high volumes, and in fact often sounded better at these levels. If you want a home theater and music system to rock on a budget, these are speakers to seriously check out. Their high efficiency and low impedance help them maximize output from receivers, allowing one to have the volume and dynamics found in truly great home theaters and music systems at a budget price. For those with higher end MartinLogan speakers in a two channel or even multichannel rig, this new line offers smaller, more economical models that are timber matched to the rest of the line, allowing you to easily add surrounds, or additional surround speakers for an even more engaging experience at a reasonable cost.