Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.
MartinLogan's current, top of the line subwoofer is the Descent i, which replaces the Descent. The new model retails at $2,995, $200 more than its predecessor. The Descent i, is similar to its predecessor in overall design but features significant improvements in performance, design and features. Looking at the subwoofer, it is triangular in design with rounded off corners. The triangular design is telling as the Descent i, features three, 10 inch aluminum cone, servo controlled drivers firing horizontally and spaced at 120 degrees apart in a sealed, asymmetrical enclosure. This utilizes MartinLogan's "Balanced Force" design in which the drivers cancel out the forces of the opposing drivers to reduce distortion. Each driver has its own 250 watt RMS (2700 watt peak power) amplifier. Frequency response is stated at 18 - 120 Hz, +/- 3dB.
• Read a review of the MartinLogan CLX speakers by Andrew Robinson of HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Read about other high end, audiophile grade subwoofers from Wilson Audio, JL Audio, Sunfire, REL, Paradigm, Def Tech, Bowers & Wilkins and many others.
The Descent i, weighs in at a hefty 105 pounds, is 21 inches high, 20inches wide and 20 inches deep. Each driver is protected by its own perforated metal grill separated by a black side panel, the top panel is available in six standard finishes, with other optional finishes available through MartinLogan's custom shop. Overall, the aesthetics of the Descent i, are in the spirit of the original Descent but are fresher and generally appear more refined and upscale. The controls are conveniently hidden under a pop up brushed aluminum panel on the top of the unit which is inset within the wooden top panel. Controls include equalization at 25 and 50Hz, phase, high and low pass crossover settings and lighting. The back panel connections are improved over its predecessor and include speaker and line level stereo inputs, single ended and balanced LFE channel inputs. Also provided are single ended sub out and stereo outputs. The connections allowed me to easily integrate the Descent i, into both my two channel (with phase inverting preamplifier) and multi-channel systems simultaneously. The Descent i easily allows for multiple subwoofers to be integrated into onto the stereo or LFE channels or even both.
In using the Descent i in a combination stereo / multi-channel system I was able to hook up the subwoofer to the LFE output of my processor at the same time as my two channel amplifier. Each input can be calibrated separately to get optimum performance in both applications. I was able to get the Descent i to easily blend with several pairs of stereo speakers including Martin Logan Summits and Paradigm Studio 100 v.5's.
Playing a variety of music from several versions of Carmina Burana to modern hip hop, the Descent i extended the low end adding impact without calling attention to itself. In my 12 by 17 foot listening room the single Descent i was able to easily pressurize the space at reasonable levels even with the lowest octave notes. What the Descent i couldn't do was completely pressurize the room at higher listening levels, however when I connected a second unit the problem was solved. In addition to stereo music I also listed to multi-channel recordings and watched many movies.
Read about the high points and the low points of the Descent i on Page 2.
• The Descent i is extremely flexible with its connection and adjustment capabilities allow for a seamless integration with nearly every system.
• The unit is very well built and attractive, allowing it to be placed out in the open with a much higher "WAF" than the traditional black box subwoofer.
• The Descent i's sound quality is extremely good with quick and detailed bass.
• The Descent i lacks built in room correction which is including with many similarly priced subwoofers.
• The design and positioning of the drivers at 120 degree intervals limits placement options to get optimum sound.
The Descent i improves upon its formidable predecessor and is an excellent subwoofer. I was particularly impressed with its flexibility and musicality. The subwoofers connection options will allow easy integration of one or more subwoofers into either dedicated stereo systems, home theater systems or both. The setup options built into the Descent i, (and the other subwoofers in the MartinLogan line) allows the subwoofer to be independently tuned for both music and movies. This allows the user to get excellent performance with both applications rather than optimizing for one or compromising for both.
The MartinLogan Descent i, was quick and detailed allowing me to easily integrate it with a variety of speakers from electrostatics such as MartinLogan's Summits to stand mounted dynamic speakers such as Acoustic Zen's Adagio Jr.'s and Dynaudio's Contour 1.4's. While I would have liked to see an equalization option, the use of an outboard or processor with this feature and careful placement can address this concern. This is one of a few subwoofers that truly excels at both music and movie applications and deserves careful consideration, especially for those who are looking for one subwoofer for both home theater and stereo applications.