MartinLogan offers five subwoofers in the Dynamo line, with the $1,299 Dynamo 1100X subwoofer featured in this review sitting second from the top in terms of pricing and performance. The 1100X is a sealed-cabinet design and features a single 12-inch inverted-surround poly cone woofer. The 1100X measures in at 17.2-inches by 15-inches by 16.2-inches, weighs 46 pounds, and is offered solely in a satin black finish, with specified frequency response of 22 to 200Hz (±3 dB).
Aesthetically, the 1100X is simple and straightforward, but I think this design ethic is what MartinLogan was going for. By keeping the cabinet small and minimalistic in appearance, it allows it to fit into a wider range of setup locations and décors. In my own theater, this meant I could fit the subs below my projection screen, whereas I'm often forced to corner-load larger sized subs. The latter isn't always the ideal location for optimal sound, so having a subwoofer with greater installation flexibility was a big plus for me.
MartinLogan designed this subwoofer so it can be configured in either a front- or downward-firing orientation. If you choose downward-firing, you'll need to leave the feet installed to allow enough clearance for driver excursion. The included feet are a two-in-one design (rubber and spike), making the subwoofer compatible with both hardwood and carpet installations. If you choose the more traditional front-firing orientation, you aren't forced to use the feet, but I would still advise owners to utilize them to help de-couple the cabinet from the floor.
Compared to previous generation subwoofer models, MartinLogan says the magnet structure for the 1100X has been redesigned to enhance the excursion capabilities of the driver, which, in turn, allows for greater low frequency response. Additionally, MartinLogan says their low-mass poly cone driver has exceptional damping qualities, which gives precise control over the cone, helping it achieve low levels of distortion.
Powering the 1100X is a 650-watt (1,300 peak) high-efficiency class D amplifier. According to MartinLogan, a custom-made switching power supply was designed for the amplifier, which includes a noise suppression network and control circuitry, to combat issues with the inherent noise typically associated with switch-mode power supplies.
The 1100X offers a competitive set of input options, including line level left, right, and LFE RCAs, as well as balanced XLR LFE and stereo speaker-level inputs. For an additional $199, you can equip the subwoofer with a "zero compression" low-latency SWT-X wireless kit. I wasn't sent this wireless kit to test out, so for this review, I connected the subwoofers to the dedicated subwoofer outputs on the back of my Denon AVR-X4500H receiver with a pair of Blue Jeans Cable LC-1 subwoofer cables.
MartinLogan offers an impressive level of control over the subwoofer. However, to gain access to most of these controls, you'll need to download the mobile iOS or Android MartinLogan Sub Control app. Once you connect to the subwoofer via Bluetooth, it lets you set things such as gain, phase (in one-degree increments), polarity, low-pass filter order, and the subwoofer's low pass filter frequency. You'll also find niceties like a 20 to 120Hz tone sweep, a targeted 20 to 30Hz output adjustment of up to ±10dB, and dedicated Music, Movie, and Late Night preset EQ modes to choose from.
More importantly, the 1100X is compatible with Anthem Room Correction (ARC) software. ARC is one of the better automated EQ programs and is an easy way to get superb bass performance out of your subwoofer with minimal effort. To use this software, you'll either need an external microphone and a computer or the free ARC Mobile app for iOS and Android. MartinLogan was kind enough to supply me with their optional Perfect Bass Kit ($119), which includes a high-quality microphone and tripod intended to be used with ARC. This software analyzes the acoustic abnormalities of subwoofer placement and issues with bass response in your specific room and filters them out.
I found the software to be intuitive and it generated proper EQ results quickly. Especially for those who aren't familiar with subwoofer setup and EQ, ARC can be used to automate the process and give near-perfect results with minimal knowledge and effort.
When setting up the pair of 1100Xs, I played around with their placement in my theater to find where they sounded best. I ended up placing a single subwoofer at the center of both my front and rear walls in my theater. Setting them up like this seemed to offer the most even bass response seat-to-seat in my 24- by 14-foot theater.
A high-performance subwoofer needs to provide flat bass response and do so with impressive low-end extension, but the better ones do this while seamlessly integrating with your speakers and room. You'd be surprised by the number of subwoofers out there that fail to achieve this. A great subwoofer will give you the impression that your loudspeakers possess this level of bass extension on their own, which is especially important for two-channel music listening. And it's in this area where the 1100Xs impressed me the most.
Pairing the 1100Xs with either my reference JTR surround sound system or the MartinLogan Motion series system I recently reviewed, the results were the same. Bass frequencies from the subwoofers blended with both loudspeaker systems surprisingly well. For instance, if I closed my eyes when listening to bass heavy tracks like "The Wilhelm Scream" by James Blake or "Altered State" by Grum, the respective synthetic bass drum kicks and hard-hitting bass line were delivered convincingly from the speaker's location, not elsewhere in the room. My left and right channel JTR Triple 8s, which only go down to about 70hz, now had considerable bass extension that sounded every bit their own.
While proper EQ and bass management (provided through ARC) are part of the equation, you also need a subwoofer that offers vanishingly low levels of distortion so the subwoofer doesn't have a sound of its own to audibly place it within a room. It seems MartinLogan has thought of nearly every aspect of subwoofer design and has implemented solutions to achieve this, including a heavily braced sealed cabinet made from inert materials, a driver with exceptional damping characteristics, and a low-noise power source to provide low distortion bass output from the 1100X. They're even using an inverse surround for the driver to reduce airflow turbulence for people like me who use these subwoofers in a downward firing orientation.
Switching over to movie performance, I think a true test for any subwoofer is the film Interstellar on Ultra HD Blu-ray. If a subwoofer can handle this film, you can place a fair bet that it will perform well with pretty much any other bass heavy film currently available.
As the astronauts blast off from earth, the amount of bass required to faithfully reproduce this scene is absurd. In fact, during the film's theatrical run, it was reported that certain scenes of the film, including this one, had a habit of destroying bass drivers in commercial theaters. Luckily, this didn't happen with the 1100Xs despite the sustained high-volume, low-frequency bass. The 1100Xs remained composed, delivering clean, deep, audibly distortion-free bass with satisfying room-shaking impact. This level of impressive performance carried over to the other bass heavy movies I tested, such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 and 2.
Comparisons and Competition
There are literally dozens of subwoofers near the 1100X's asking price, so picking the right ones to discuss here is a bit challenging. In terms of similar sound quality, I would recommend looking into the REL T/9i ($1,299). REL has always focused on sound quality and puts a lot of effort into making subwoofers that blend well with loudspeakers, just like these 1100Xs did in my system.
Alternatively, the SVS SB-3000 ($999) could be another subwoofer to look into. It's priced a bit cheaper and seems to offer even lower bass extension compared to the 1100X. Remember, though: MartinLogan gives you access to automated room correction software, which for many is a worthwhile justification to pay a little more.
When reviewing A/V gear, it's not often that I find real-world performance to meet claims made by the manufacturer. While I wouldn't say the MartinLogan Dynamo 1100X completely lives up to the marketing hype, it definitely comes closer to achieving that level of performance compared to most of the other hardware I get to test out.
The 1100X seriously impressed me for the price, offering exceptional build quality, seamless sound quality, impressive bass extension, and feature-rich software control. If you're shopping for a subwoofer near the 1100X's price point, it should be high up on your list of subwoofers to consider.
• Check out our Subwoofer category page to read similar reviews.
• MartinLogan Motion 20i, 15i, and 30i Speakers Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Visit the MartinLogan website for more product information.