I admit it, I've always been more of a traditional AV enthusiast who appreciates the value and performance of using traditional floorstanding loudspeakers for my front channels, as opposed to the super-thin on-wall speakers that are all the rage these days. Sure, like most others, I was stunned by the sound quality of Wisdom Audio's LS4 speakers when I first heard them and saw them displayed, flush mounted on a wall. But I always felt that better value could be had in a number of traditional floorstanding speakers. I constantly wondered why any serious AV enthusiast wouldn't be willing to give up a little floor space to get far better sound at a far better price. It wasn't until recently, when my wife and I discussed the idea of selling our home, that I began to understand the importance of keeping your living-room floor space clean. Having a traditional home theater setup can destroy the intent of an open floor plan by cluttering that open feel. For those who want better-sounding speakers but also want to minimize the clutter that large speakers can bring, on-wall speakers are a great solution.
On-wall speakers are a new focus for MartinLogan, a company that has traditionally have been famous for its electrostatic speaker designs. From a technical standpoint, electrostatic designs are not ideal for in-wall or on-wall use. As dipole speakers, electrostats will radiate equal energy to the front and rear of the speakers, so it is usually best to allow an electrostatic speaker sufficient space behind it. The recent introduction of MartinLogan's entry-level Motion Series speakers combined a folded-motion tweeter with traditional cone midrange and woofer drivers. With the success of this new speaker design, MartinLogan decided to purpose it for on-wall usage with the new Motion SLM (which stands for slim) and SLM-XL speakers. For review today are the Motion SLM-XL speakers, the larger of the two, priced at $699.95 each.
When the speakers got here, it was a bit of a surprise. I thought MartinLogan had forgotten to send me one of the speakers, as the package was much smaller than what I'm used to getting for one standard floorstanding speaker. And what about the pedestal stands I requested, since it wasn't feasible for me to tack these onto a wall based on my living-room configuration? As it turned out, the package had two slim compartments and everything was neatly packed inside: two speakers, two pedestal stands, wall brackets, etc.
Each speaker measures 34.1 inches tall by 6.4 inches wide by 1.45 inches deep. The speaker has a rated frequency response down to 100 Hz, which is no small feat of engineering given how thin the speaker is and how small the drivers are (in general, the easiest way a speaker designer can provide big bass is to have big drivers in a big box -- just look at how big the really great subwoofers tend to be). Driving the midrange and bass sounds are dual four-inch paper cone drivers with four equal-sized passive radiators to further reduce the amount of energy released to the back of the speaker so that they can be wall mounted (where there is no space in back to release any energy). The high frequencies are taken care of by the one-inch by 1.4-inch folded motion tweeter, which is the pride and joy of the Motion Series line.
The setup instructions were easy and self-explanatory, and it was a breeze to maneuver the nine-pound speakers into the pedestal stands provided. The one thing I noted was the included drywall screws. Unlike many heavier wall-mounted speakers that need to be securely mounted to studs, the MartinLogan SLM-XLs are so light that you can safely place them wherever you like, not limited by where the strongest weight-bearable studs are. If you find a stud, great; if not, just punch a hole in the drywall and use one of the provided drywall screws.
For amplification, I used my Crown XLS-2500 amplifiers, driven by my Parasound Halo JC2BP preamp with the Oppo BDP-105 running all music and movie source material. Handling the bass was my SVS PB-13 Ultra reference subwoofer.
Click on over to page 2 for the Performance, the Downside, Comparison and Competition and the Conclusion . . .