In a recent conversation with Home Theater Review's publisher, Jerry Del Colliano, I concluded that in today's economy two thousand dollars is the new twenty thousand. I came to my conclusion following a recent barrage of affordable loudspeakers that I've had in for review these past few months. It started with GoldenEar's Triton Two loudspeaker ($2,500/pair), and then later included Aperion Audio's Grand Verus Tower loudspeaker ($1,798/pair), Zu Audio's OMEN DEF loudspeaker ($3,100/pair) and finally MartinLogan's new ElectroMotion loudspeaker, which retails for $1,995 a pair and is the subject of this review. All of the above mentioned speakers, including the ElectroMotions, are geared towards providing a high-end experience at an affordable price, which sounds like the aim of any budget loudspeaker ever designed. However, unlike previous efforts, I believe these loudspeakers, especially the ElectroMotions, have gotten the mixture of performance and affordability so right, that I honestly question the need to spend more. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.
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The ElectroMotion loudspeaker is an all-new design for MartinLogan, one that doesn't fall into their other loudspeaker categories such as the Reserve ESL, ESL and even Motion. In fact, the ElectroMotion loudspeaker exists in a category all its own, for it takes the best of what MartinLogan has to offer across all of its lines and makes that its own. As I mentioned earlier the ElectroMotion retails for $1,995 a pair and is joined by the EM-C2, a center channel loudspeaker for $799.95 and the EM-FX2 surround sound speaker for $649.95 each, both of which are based around MartinLogan's Folded Motion XT tweeter technology. Obviously the ElectroMotion does not employ the Folded Motion technology; instead it utilizes MartinLogan's famous curvilinear XStat electrostatic transducer mated to an eight inch, high excursion woofer - making it the most affordable full-range XStat based loudspeaker MartinLogan has ever produced.
It's been said that ElectroMotion's appearance (and price) harkens back to the days of the original Aerius and Scenario in terms of its compact size and somewhat uniform, no-frills finish. I've owned both the Aerius and Scenario loudspeakers in the past and while I find the comparisons between the two former greats and the ElectroMotion to be somewhat warranted, I must admit the ElectroMotion is far better looking, not to mention far more modern in its design and construction. In fact, at first glance the ElectroMotion looks more like its ESL brethren the Theos ($4,995/pair) than the affordable ESL that it is. I'm not saying the two are equal; I'm just making a point regarding the ElectroMotion's build quality and appearance.
The ElectroMotion measures 52 inches tall by nine inches wide and 16 inches deep. It tips the scales at 35 pounds and comes in two finishes, satin black and gloss black. The ElectroMotion has a reported frequency response of 42 -22,000 Hz thanks to its hybrid design, which uses a 34 by eight and a half inch (292 square inch) XStat CLS electrostatic transducer mated to an eight inch woofer, which is crossed over at 500 Hz. The ElectroMotion has a stated sensitivity of 91dB into a six Ohm load, which makes it surprisingly efficient for an electrostatic design and one that should mate well with a wider variety of components including many of today's mass market home theater receivers or integrated amplifiers.
In terms of connection options the ElectroMotion has a single pair of what at first appear to be five way binding posts but on closer inspection prove to be a very elegant push-pin design - so spade lugs are out. Happily, the ElectroMotion can accept banana terminated speaker cable by removing the rubber tabs on the posts themselves. Like all electrostatic loudspeakers the ElectroMotion needs to be plugged into a wall in order to "charge" the panel and produce sound. Past MartinLogan designs have done this via a standard detachable power cord; however with the ElectroMotion they've pared things down a bit and gone with a power cord reminiscent of, say, a smart phone power cable making it far more manageable. The ElectroMotion ships with spikes already installed, hidden under rubber caps, which are easily removed should you wish to use them on carpeted floors or area rugs.
My review pair of ElectroMotion loudspeakers arrived hot on the heels of their public announcement, which was exciting to say the least for it had been awhile since I'd reviewed a MartinLogan product and even longer since I'd owned one. I should mention before I go any further that I am a bit of a MartinLogan fan. I've owned numerous MartinLogan products over the years including CLS II, CLS IIzs, SL3s, Aerius, Scenarios and Aeons. I'm always excited when MartinLogan brings a new product to market and have followed the rumors of the ElectroMotion's existence for months leading up to its release.
Unpacking the ElectroMotions was easy enough for me to handle solo for it was as simple as opening the side of the box and simply pulling them out. Once out, all that was left was to remove the foam supports and the custom black "sock" that is designed to protect the XStat panel and the ElectroMotion itself from dust and debris when not in use - a nice touch and something few companies, especially at this price point, do.
Placing the ElectroMotion loudspeakers in my room was easy enough for they're not very heavy nor their shape too cumbersome. I placed the ElectroMotions in roughly the same place that I do all my loudspeakers, be they a review pair or my reference Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamonds, which is approximately four feet from my front wall with three and a half feet between the outer edges of the loudspeakers and my side walls. The ElectroMotions sat roughly seven and a half feet apart and were toed in using MartinLogan's now infamous flashlight technique.
To augment the ElectroMotion's bottom end I employed the use of two JL Audio Fathom F110 subwoofers ($2,100/each), placed in line with the ElectroMotion's woofers and resting along the outside edges of the ElectroMotion's cabinet. For the purposes of the review I started by setting the crossover point between the ElectroMotion and the Fathom subwoofers at 50Hz so that there was some overlap but not a lot. From there I set the crossover point to 80Hz as specified by my AV preamp, Integra's DHC 80.2. I also ran the ElectroMotion's full range too, bypassing my Integra processor and going straight into my Decware tubed line stage.
The ElectroMotion's were powered primarily via Parasound's new 5250v2 multi-channel amp, though I did experiment with using my Decware SE84C single ended triode tube amp just for fun. The rest of my system was comprised of a Sony universal Blu-ray player, Apple TV and Cambridge Audio DACMagic. Since the ElectroMotions can only accept bare wire or banana terminated speaker cables I went ahead and disconnected all my Transparent cable and went with Mapleshade Clearview interconnects and speaker cables throughout, which proved to be a good match.
I didn't engage any of the Integra's Audyssey room correction EQs during my time with the ElectroMotions for I find that for some reason auto EQs and electrostatic loudspeakers don't really mix. My room is treated using GIK Acoustic products so I don't really rely on a lot of EQ anyway, which suits loudspeakers such as the ElectroMotions just fine. I let the speakers play for a good two weeks before beginning any critical evaluation, though I must say that out of the box the ElectroMotions showed clear signs of greatness.
To get things started I began with Dixie Chicks' album Taking the Long Way Home (Columbia Nashville) and the track "Easy Silence." The opening guitar appeared from the darkness as if from nowhere and accompanied the vocals, which hung effortlessly in space, beautifully. To say that MartinLogan loudspeakers have a way with vocals, especially female vocals, is an understatement for there may be no better transducer for conveying the tone and nuance of the human voice than an electrostatic panel - evident in the ElectroMotion's performance on "Easy Silence." Furthermore, the ElectroMotion's ability to resolve the minutest of differences between lead singer, Natalie Maines' vocals and those of sister duo, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, was impressive. The ElectroMotion presented more distinction and separation between the three vocal tracks than even a few, so-called, reference loudspeakers I had on hand. The organic quality that comes from listening to the human voice being reproduced sans a cabinet, no matter how inert, is something not easily lived without once you've experienced it first hand, a feat the MartinLogan ElectroMotions pull off brilliantly.
Read more about the performance of the ElectroMotion loudspeaker on Page 2.