My love of MartinLogan goes way back, though it has more to do with their history of making hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers than it does their current crop of dynamic driver loudspeakers. Not that there is anything wrong with MartinLogan's new approach to the loudspeaker market; in fact, I believe it to be a smart move, for electrostatic loudspeakers have unique needs, not to mention that many listeners find their sound to be, shall I say, an acquired taste. Home Theater Review has reviewed more than a few of MartinLogan's newer dynamic designs, but the Motion Vision Soundbar reviewed here is a first on many levels. The Motion Vision is MartinLogan's first (and only) soundbar and, though it is a dynamic design, it does have more than a few electrostatic characteristics. Is it any good? Well, that's what I wanted to find out.
• Read more soundbar reviews from Home Theater Review's staff of writers.
• Explore subwoofers to pair with the MartinLogan Motion Vision.
• Find LED HDTVs and Plasma HDTVs in our review sections.
Retailing for $1,499.95, the Motion Vision isn't the least expensive soundbar on the market, but it isn't the most expensive, either. The Motion Vision itself is beautiful in its industrial design, with a sort of compound bow-like shape, finished in a high-gloss piano black. The soundbar itself measures five inches tall by forty inches wide and nearly six inches deep at the roundest part of the Motion Vision's cabinet. The Motion Vision's 20.5 pound weight isn't as much as I expected from such a solidly-built piece.
Behind the Motion Vision's non-removable grille rest three roughly one-inch Folded Motion transducers, each with a five-and-one-quarter-inch by one-and-three-quarter-inch diaphragm (remember, they're folded). The tweeters are crossed over with the soundbar's other dynamic drivers at 3,000Hz. The three Folded Motion tweeters are accompanied by four four-inch fiber cones. The center-mounted Folded Motion tweeter is flanked by two of the four-inch low-frequency drivers, while the outer tweeters each partner with a single low-frequency driver. The Motion Vision's driver complement and ported cabinet design and its internal 100-watt amplifier are good for a reported frequency response of 43 - 23,000Hz. The frequency response is solid, but definitely able to be improved upon with the use of a subwoofer, which brings me to the Motion Vision's rear panel.
The Motion Vision's back panel plays host to a variety of in and outputs. Among these are three digital audio inputs, one coaxial and two optical. There is also a single pair of analog (RCA) audio inputs. As for the output I spoke about, well, that is reserved for an outboard subwoofer. However, you don't necessarily have to hardwire your sub to the Motion Vision in order to get a little more oomph, for it features MartinLogan's own SWT-2 wireless subwoofer transmitter built-in. The inclusion of the SWT-2 transmitter means wireless subwoofer integration is possible, so long as you keep your choice of subwoofer within the MartinLogan family, specifically ones already equipped with the SWT-2 system. Still, the inclusion of the SWT-2 system is a nice touch and one I can imagine many will wish to take advantage of, if for no other reason than to cut down on cable clutter.
Getting back to the Motion Vision, it has the ability to decode and play back both Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround sound formats, though you will not find support for Dolby TrueHD or DTS Master Audio. These aren't deal breakers, as few (if any) soundbars can play back the lossless audio codecs at this time. The Motion Vision's internal DSP also has the ability to take multi-channel source material and play it back in a simulated surround mode, not to mention an enhanced stereo mode that endeavors to create a stronger center image by using the soundbar's center channel, if you will.
This brings me to the remote. The Motion Vision's remote is a small, credit card-like piece of plastic that features direct control over functions such as power, menu, mute, night, surround and bass modes, as well as volume and source selection. The remote is functional, but not up to the same design or build quality of the Motion Vision itself - thankfully, its functions can be translated to another, more universal remote, should you fear losing them.
The Motion Vision arrived neatly packed in a very well-designed and well-constructed box, allowing everything to enter the home safe and sound. The Motion Vision ships with all the necessary accessories and cables needed to get up and running in a flash. To test the Motion Vision's complete ownership experience, I only used the hardware and/or cables supplied in the box, with the exception of a subwoofer cable, which came from my stash.
I always install soundbars in my reference system first, just to see what they're made of, though most end up residing in my bedroom, since the sheer size of my reference room often proves to be too much for many soundbars to overcome. This was not the case with the Motion Vision, which I found out very quickly.
I positioned the soundbar in front of my 50-inch Panasonic plasma, with both resting atop my Omni+ Vent cabinet. Ideally, I would have connected the Motion Vision to my Panasonic's optical audio output, but I wasn't able to make a secure connection. This had nothing to do with the Motion Vision and everything to do with my Panasonic's optical output configuration. I therefore ended up connecting my Dish Network DVR to the Motion Vision via the included RCA cables, and my Dune HD Max Blu-ray/media player via the single optical cable provided in the box.
Since I don't own a compatible MartinLogan subwoofer, I was unable to test the Motion Vision's wireless subwoofer feature. However, I did test its hardwired subwoofer connectivity with JL Fathom f110s. It should be noted that my JL subwoofers are EQ'ed using a combination Room EQ Wizard/Behringer Feedback Destroyer, which I then simply connected to the rear of the Motion Vision. You can easily connect a single subwoofer to the Motion Vision via more conventional means.
Making my way through the Motion Vision's setup menus wasn't difficult, although it wasn't wholly intuitive, either. It initially required a quick consult with the manual. However, once I understood the menu layout and command methodology, I was able to make changes quickly and easily. Furthermore, once the Motion Vision is properly set up, you'll rely on the remote for little more than volume control.
Lastly, I should also mention that the Motion Vision does come standard with a bracket, enabling it to be wall-mounted out of the box. While I chose not to permanently mar my walls, it is nice that MartinLogan does include the requisite mount and hardware for a truly slick and modern installation.
I started things off with producer Luc Besson's latest, Lockout, starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace on Blu-ray (Sony). Lockout is a bass-head's dream, for seemingly every word, gesture and action carries with it a satisfying thud. Via the Motion Vision without a subwoofer, the bass track of Lockout didn't disappoint. In fact, I was impressed, for the Motion Vision not only kept pace, it shone. While the addition of a subwoofer definitely added more weight, the bass coming from the Motion Vision solo was nothing if not completely satisfying. Impact was tremendous, as was texture and detail - hell, there was even organic decay. I will say this: the low-frequency performance was better when seated closer to on-axis as opposed to off, but the optimal sonic window was wide enough to encompass an entire three-seat sofa.
Read more about the performance of the MartinLogan Motion Vision on Page 2.