MartinLogan is best known for its high-performance hybrid-electrostatic speakers, but those large panels generally command a premium price tag, to say nothing of their real-estate demands. For the past decade, though, the company's Motion lineup has served to deliver something akin to electrostatic performance in more traditional cabinets at a more affordable price. And, if the success of the first-generation Motion speakers is any metric to go by, it would seem that goal has been broadly met. Not a company to rest on its laurels, though, MartinLogan has continued to tinker with driver technology, cabinet design, and crossovers, resulting in a new Motion Series lineup, set apart from their forebears by the inclusion of an "i" suffix.
For this review, MartinLogan sent me a complete surround sound speaker system, including a pair of Motion 20i floorstanders ($899 each), a Motion 30i center channel ($849), and, for surround channel duties, a pair of Motion 15i bookshelves ($425 each).
MartinLogan offers the new Motion line in three finish options: matte white, gloss black, and red walnut. I'd requested a set finished in gloss black, but no review units were available in that finish for one of the models, so they sent me a set finished in red walnut instead to keep the system visually consistent. In hindsight, I'm glad this happened. The overall fit and finish of these speakers, especially in red walnut, is well beyond what you would expect for the asking price.
But the beauty of these cabinets is not just skin deep. The cabinets feature reinforced internal bracing, with 1.2-inch thick MDF baffles and 0.7-inch thick MDF walls, which help to reduce cabinet resonances that might otherwise color the sound. Doing the classic knuckle-wrap against the speakers revealed a surprisingly inert thud.
Aesthetically, the new Motion series speakers look much the same as the previous generation. All speakers feature a cabinet that is two-tone in color (matte black fascia and your cabinet finish of choice), a sloping top design, rear bass ports, and five-way toolless binding posts. The floorstanders feature two sets of binding posts for bi-amp or bi-wiring (if that's your thing).
The one obvious design choice that sets this generation apart from the previous one is a silver accent piece that stretches across the front of the cabinet and displays the MartinLogan logo. Subjectively, I think the silver accent piece adds a touch of elegance to the design that the previous generation was lacking.
For drivers, all current generation Motion series speakers feature a 1-inch by 1.4-inch "Folded Motion Transducer," known more commonly as an Air Motion Transformer (AMT). This type of tweeter uses an extremely low-mass piece of Polyamide, which is squeezed like an accordion by powerful magnets to produce high frequency sounds. MartinLogan claims their iteration of this type of tweeter is particularly fast, efficient, easily controlled for low distortion, and offers a high breakup point beyond the frequencies of human hearing. MartinLogan wanted a tweeter that could as closely mimic the type of sound signature their higher end electrostatic speakers produce, and, according to them, this AMT variant tweeter is the next best thing.
To handle the midrange and low frequencies on the floorstanding and center channel speakers, MartinLogan employs a pair of 5.5-inch aluminum cone woofers, while the bookshelves utilize a single 5.25-inch aluminum cone woofer. Aluminum was chosen because of its inherent rigidity, strength, low weight, and high damping factor, which allows their woofers to more seamlessly integrate with the tweeter. On the floorstanders, MartinLogan has placed the secondary woofer close to the ground to help alleviate issues with floor bounce.
In an effort to reduce distortion, the woofers now use a concave dust cap. MartinLogan claims this reinforces the strength and rigidity of the cone compared to the previous generation woofers. The surround and spider-backing material for the woofers has been further stiffened, which, according to MartinLogan, raises the driver's resonant frequency above the driver's crossover point. This means the output frequencies of the driver remain in its sweet spot.
Speaking of which, MartinLogan's design philosophy for the crossovers used in the Motion line can be classified as straightforward and not overly complex. The company claims this straightforward approach is possible due to their careful selection of drivers. The proprietary Vojtko crossover network used offers high quality capacitors, custom wound inductors, and features both thermal and over-current protection.
The speakers come with rubber feet pre-installed, which means they're ready out of the box if you plan on using them on a hardwood floor. Optional spikes for carpet installations are included in the box and can be easily swapped out during the unboxing process.
MartinLogan suggests at least 72 hours of break-in. All of the speakers sent for review went through a break-in period at the factory, so they were ready to rock out of the box.
I first set up the floorstanding 20is in my living room to see how they handled two-channel music before setting up the entire system in my dedicated theater. In my living room, the 20is replaced a pair of Monitor Audio Gold GX50 speakers, which, coincidentally, are priced the same as the 20is. While these two sets of speakers aren't exactly ideal candidates for comparison purposes (bookshelves vs. floorstanders), they still made for an interesting comparison. Powering the speakers was an Onkyo A-9010 integrated amplifier.
MartinLogan provides excellent setup tips in the user manual for these speakers and I suggest those new to speaker setup read the manual. In my case, I found that the 20is had a slightly narrower sweet spot than the GX50s, so I went back and adjusted the speaker's toe-in to get them to sound their best.
In the theater, all five Motion speakers were set up in a typical five-channel surround sound configuration. As in my living room, I adjusted the left and right channel 20is for toe-in, to get them to sound their best. MartinLogan was nice enough to send over a pair of their Dynamo X1100 subwoofers to serve bass frequencies in my theater. A review for these subwoofers will be coming soon, so I'll wait to make any comments on them. Powering the Motion speakers in my theater was Denon's AVR-X4500H.
Before doing any critical listening, I ran a pass of Audyssey MultEQ XT32 via my receiver. However, during the editing process for this review, Dennis Burger let me in on a little secret. There is a mobile app, MultEQ Editor, available for both Android and iOS meant to supplement Audyssey, which gives owners more granular control over the EQ and filtering process. From here on out, for best results, I'll be using this supplemental software and we advise our readers who own receivers supporting this software to do the same.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competion, and Conclusion...