MartinLogan Motion Vision Soundbar Reviewed

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MartinLogan Motion Vision Soundbar Reviewed

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MartinLogan_Motion_Vision_Soundbar_review_front.jpgAs for the Motion Vision's midrange, at first I felt it was a little woolly, but that initial conclusion was drawn against the performance of my Panasonic's stock speakers, which are completely anemic. I reset my ears, came back for a second listen and found that my initial thoughts regarding the Motion Vision's midrange were unfounded. The midrange was full-bodied, articulate and largely neutral. There was a solid sense of scale and weight throughout, not to mention stellar focus that aided in dialogue intelligibility. There was some very slight audible separation between the dynamic drivers and the Motion Vision's Folded Motion tweeters, but not too much as to become distracting.

Speaking of the Motion Vision's tweeters, they proved to be smoother than many Folded Motion tweeters I've encountered, as they didn't sound shrill or two-dimensional at higher volumes. The added textural and high-frequency detail the Folded Motion tweeters provided was superb, and shown off brilliantly in the film's many bullet ricochets, as well as body hits.

Dynamics were excellent, as was the Motion Vision's ability to create a nearly three-dimensional soundstage from the Dolby Digital soundtrack. While I was never able to get the Motion Vision's faux surrounds to completely envelop me (this has more to do with my room's side walls being more than eighteen feet apart than anything), it came very close, and at no point was I ever dissatisfied with the soundbar's surround sound presentation.

Next up was Poseidon, the Warner Bros. remake of the Poseidon Adventure, on Blu-ray disc (Warner Bros.). I chaptered ahead to the scene involving the rogue wave that ultimately capsizes the Poseidon and gave the Motion Vision a little more to chew on in terms of volume. In my larger reference room, the Motion Vision was easily able to hit peaks of 100dB and maintain volumes in the high 80s and low 90s in terms of SPL without breaking a sweat. Again, the bass was wholly satisfying and the scale and breadth of the performance overall were intoxicating, not to mention completely surprising from a soundbar. The high frequencies were smooth and fatigue-free, and nested nicely with the soundbar's dynamic drivers, even better than with my demo of Lockout. The few lines of dialogue uttered during the chaotic scene were clearly and cleanly rendered via the Motion Vision, as were all of the surrounding sound effects that existed alongside each syllable. I was amazed by the Motion Vision's performance during this sequence, even more so when I realized I had left my JL subwoofers disengaged. Oops.

I went ahead and popped a CD into my Dune player just to see how the Motion Vision handled music, you know, with MartinLogan being an audiophile company and all. I went with Moby's Play (V2) and the track "Everloving," which has been a longstanding demo of mine for many, many years. I had to make a few adjustments to the Motion Vision's settings from how I had it set for movies, on account of it being a strict two-channel signal versus a multi-channel one. I actually lowered the Motion Vision's bass by -4dB and added surround processing, as well as stereo "voice" processing. These changes allowed the Motion Vision to sound more like a discrete pair of stereo loudspeakers than with leaving all DSP enhancements off. With the adjustments made, the resulting sound was pleasing, though I would say that the Motion Vision excels at being a cinema speaker, whereas as a strictly audiophile loudspeaker, it's merely good. In a pinch or for background listening, the Motion Vision is more than adequate, but it won't replace a dedicated two-channel rig for diehard music lovers any time soon. Then again, if you're contemplating a soundbar, I have to imagine it's because you watch and listen to a lot more television and movies than you do music, making you the target listener for the Motion Vision.

Still, for two-channel listening, the Motion Vision proved once again surprising in many respects, the biggest being its ability to recreate a rather convincing soundstage. With a width narrower than my 50-inch HDTV, the Motion Vision managed to sound as if it was comprised of speakers placed near the edge of where my Tekton Design Pendragon reference speakers stood. Impressive. I had to tailor the bass a touch, for it was a little "boomy" in my movie-time configuration, but nothing that couldn't be dealt with on the fly. With the bass reigned in a bit, the sound was largely seamless from top to bottom. I was again impressed with the Folded Motion tweeters. In the past, I've criticized them as being harsh, which wasn't the case here. The midrange, with music, did have a little more resonance than what I noticed with movies but, again, nothing too bad.

Like I said, I don't consider the Motion Vision to be an audiophile speaker as much as it is a home theater one, which is why I'm not holding its minor stereo foibles against it, for if you want true high-end two-channel sound, then you should buy a two-channel system.

The Downside
The biggest downside that I see with the Motion Vision has to do with its size. While it's capable of sonic output befitting today's larger HDTVs, including those in excess of 80 inches, it doesn't exactly match visually. Not that it looks bad, but for those a little more anal retentive, the Motion Vision's lack of width may be visually problematic. Even with my 50-inch display, the Motion Vision failed to span the entire bottom edge of the HDTV.

The Motion Vision doesn't require a subwoofer, though it isn't going to turn one away should it be available to help out here and there. That being said, pairing a subwoofer with the Motion Vision does increase the cost of ownership a bit beyond its near-$1,500 starting price. If you wish to take more advantage of the Motion Vision's feature set by going with one of MartinLogan's already configured wireless subwoofers, then the total system price will jump to as much as $2,500, thanks to the Dynamo 1000's $995 retail price. The lesser Dynamo 700 retails for $695. Of course, you can easily use a less expensive subwoofer like the Dynamo 300 ($295) and simply connect it to the Motion Vision via a single subwoofer cable.

Lastly, the Motion Vision's menu layout and setup procedure isn't entirely straightforward or intuitive. Thankfully, the factory default settings are going to be good enough for most users and, if they're not, the learning curve isn't too difficult to overcome.

Competition and Comparisons
When it comes to higher-end soundbars, there are few to choose from, though two that immediately come to mind are Bowers & Wilkins' Panorama Soundbar and Yamaha's YSP-4000. Both come sans subwoofer, which makes the comparison all the more fair, though the Panorama retails for $2,200, whereas the Yamaha comes in at $1,800; making the Motion Vision a relative bargain. All three sound amazing, though I would argue that, based on price ad performance, the Motion Vision could be viewed as the victor, for it possesses a very similar, if not the same, level of performance afforded you by the more expensive Yamaha and Bowers & Wilkins soundbars.

Of course, there are less expensive options, even ones that include a subwoofer. These options include Aperion's SLIMstage30 by Soundmatters Soundbar, Polk Audio SurroundBar 6000 and ZVOX Z-Base 580.

For more on these soundbars, as well as others like them, please visit Home Theater Review's Soundbar page.

Ten years ago, if you had said that MartinLogan was going to build anything other than an electrostatic speaker, I would have called you crazy. But they did. Five years ago, had you said they would begin building soundbars, I would've proclaimed you insane. And yet MartinLogan did. Not only has MartinLogan built a soundbar in the form of the Motion Vision, they've arguably built the best soundbar I have heard yet. While the Motion Vision isn't cheap at just a hair under $1,500, it more than packs the sonic goods to back up its premium price.

The Motion Vision's build quality is superb, looking every bit as high-end a product as anything MartinLogan has made to date. Its sonic capability is also unparalleled, as it possesses the scale and definition of a set of discrete loudspeakers, yet manages to confine that sound to a single cabinet. Its bass prowess without a subwoofer is staggering, though the ability to add one makes the Motion Vision all the more versatile in larger rooms. The Motion Vision is definitely a soundbar that doesn't have to be confined to bedroom or secondary system status. Even its ability to trick the mind into believing there are surround channels present is impressive. Does it equal the overall performance of a true, 5.1 channel system? No, but it comes closer than anything I've heard to date and when you factor in its single-chassis form factor, I wonder if I, like many others, wouldn't some days prefer its simplicity.

I like soundbars a lot and, because of this, I've had the opportunity to spend considerable time with some of the greats. I've even hung onto a few of them for long-term reference purposes, though all have eventually been returned to the manufacturer. I can say that the Motion Vision from MartinLogan is the first soundbar that I would personally consider buying. At the very least, it represents my new benchmark by which all others will be judged.

Additional Resources
• 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.

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HTR Product Rating for MartinLogan Motion Vision Soundbar

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