I'll start by saying I had a ton of fun with the Cadence system, and what better compliment can you pay a home theater setup? That's the goal ... well, that and maybe some escapism. But I digress. I began with Straight Outta Compton (Universal), as I knew it would give me a sense of both the system's movie prowess and its musicality. I was rewarded in spades with coherence, highly intelligible dialog, and a ton of truly deep, palpable bass. Not to brag, but my listening room is of ample size, so I did have some concern over the Dynamo sub's ability to provide ample low frequency. My first critical listening test assuaged this concern and then some. I'm not sure if this sub has won any awards, but it should.
I actually watched the film in its entirety before running Anthem Room Correction, then watched some it again after running ARC. While the difference wasn't earth shattering, ARC most certainly improved coherence, bass response, and the overall presentation. After running ARC, I spent much less time changing the bass level on the sub; actually, I only changed it once while watching my seven-year-old son's favorite cartoon, the aptly named Loud House (I blame this on the bass-happy Loud House sound engineer, not the room correction).
Next, I cued up a film rife with action: Lionsgate's Deepwater Horizon. It's pretty far into the film when the rig starts to tragically come apart, and the sound was so visceral, with so much low-frequency thump and well-engineered surround sound action, that I called my wife into the room to sit with me for a few minutes. Admittedly, I typically save critical-listening sessions for those times when she and my son are out of the house, but I was happy to share my enthusiasm with someone. Anyway, this sequence is an absolute audible assault on a speaker system, yet the Cadence, the Dynamo, and the Bravados held up exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that I commented to my wife that it was outperforming dedicated 5.1 and 7.1 systems I've heard. In several scenes, the soundstage was so enveloping, it sounded like the characters were in the room with me. It truly was a jaw-dropping moment, as I realized how quickly I'd gone from the speakers being in their boxes to epic surround sound with so little hassle.
Moving on to some Pandora music streamed through the DTS Play-Fi app--which I found to be well designed, simple to use, and truly flexible in terms of playback options. I played Timmy Curran's "Comatose" from his album Word of Mouth (Adeline Records) and was struck by the resolution. I'm speaking both of the vocals and the instrumentation, as I could close my eyes and hear the decay. This is a highly musical soundbar and would most certainly fit the bill as your music playback system, should your budget and or living space not allow for a dedicated music system.
Sticking with the Play-Fi app but moving on to SiriusXM's Alt Nation, I played Cold War Kids' "Love is Mystical" from their album La Divine (Capitol Records). Instrumentally speaking, this is a busy track, yet the MartinLogan system maintained coherence, resolution, and transparency. Just as it had been in previous listening sessions, the bass was fantastic. With The Man's wildly popular "Feel It Still" from their album Woodstock (produced by Beastie Boy Mike D), I noted that, while the midrange was a tad muddy, the high-pitched vocals were simply stunning.
For my last listening session, I played the concert film Fleetwood Mac: Live from Boston (Warner Bros.), a 2004 release not to be confused with the 1970 album of the same name. The song "Never Going Back Again" was an audible treat. From the brilliant guitar play to the lyrics of Buckingham and Nicks, it was something I ended up playing three or four times. I've heard soundbars that cost twice what the Cadence does that didn't provide this level of detail and resolve vocals this well. It made me feel bad for anyone watching this concert using a subpar system or, God forbid, his or her television speakers.
Some years go, I remember using Anthem Room Correction software to configure an Anthem receiver and cursing the fact that I had to dust off my old, rickety Dell laptop in order to use it, since it doesn't play nice with Mac. Fast-forward to today, and ARC still doesn't play nice with Mac, despite the popularity of Macs amongst audiophiles. I can't complain too much, though, since MartinLogan has bridged the gap quite well by building an iPhone-friendly app.
Another gripe--and this is something I'd say to all high-end soundbar manufacturers--is that the omission of an onscreen display is a glaring one. As soundbars become more sophisticated and their feature sets expand, trying to configure them, tweak the sound, switch to different sound modes, etc., is cumbersome without an OSD. I had to get up multiple times to check settings and figure out what mode I was in. I'm lazy, I don't want to get up. In all seriousness, though, soundbars need onscreen menus, period.
Beyond those two quibbles, I'll say it's fairly difficult to find fault with this system.
Comparison and Competition
One of the main competitors to the Cadence system comes from MartinLogan's sister company, Paradigm. The PW Soundbar carries the same $1,299 price tag and has a very similar feature set. You can read Dennis Burger's recent review here.
French manufacturer Focal brings some heat with regard to sound quality and price point with its Focal Dimension ($1,399), which I reviewed back in 2015. While I'd give a slight edge to the Focal sonically, its feature set and frustratingly small input bay make for a difficult setup.
Integra's $1,200 DLB-5 is a 3.1.2 soundbar system that offers two up-firing speakers and supports both Atmos and DTS:X through a discreet slim-line receiver. A subwoofer is also included.
If these soundbars are simply too far out of your budget, then I'd suggest taking a look at the Sonos PLAYBAR. While it is most certainly not the sonic equal of the Cadence, it can be had for a more modest $699 and does have flexible playback and connection options.
Is the Cadence worth $1,299 as a standalone soundbar? Yes. Should you also get the wireless sub? Yes, unequivocally. If budgetary requirements force you to opt out of one element, I'd say to get the Cadence and Dynamo sub now, then save for the Bravado surrounds. The complete system performs exceedingly well and has a bleeding-edge feature set, and thus it is priced appropriately. Yes, $3,100 is a lot of money and can buy you a lot of things. But in my opinion, this is a high-end product that is well engineered and performs exceedingly well. It's a no-brainer for someone who wants to take their home theater to the next level without adding the hassle of a dedicated surround sound system. The bottom line is that this is an epic, game-changing home theater solution that's simple to set up, will play back just about anything you want, and will do so brilliantly.
• Visit MartinLogan's website for more product information.
• Check out our Soundbar category page to read similar reviews.
• MartinLogan Bravado Wireless Speaker Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.