With the advent of the HD age and lifestyle-based products like plasma and LCD TVs and the iPod, a renaissance has take place among AV manufacturers and enthusiasts. Flat panel TVs gave way to flat speakers and re-energized the in-wall speaker marketplace, where the iPod brought about the reemergence of portable hi-fi and, finally, a future filled with convergence.
MartinLogan, the top manufacturer when it comes to electrostatic technology, is in the midst of a renaissance as well. For years, they've been known for their larger than life loudspeakers mated to large bass drivers, dressed up a bit by lacquered wooden rails. For diehard audiophiles and enthusiasts, the speakers' size and visual appeal did little to distract them, but for the average consumer, their girth and power needs were simply impractical.
Today, however, MartinLogan is different. Their quality, sound reproduction and commitment to excellence is the same, yet their products are more compact, more accessible and, for the first time, designed for you and your lifestyle, as opposed to for the manufacturer. The Summit heralded the new era and the barrage of products that have followed have showcased the shift in thinking, but it's MartinLogan's Purity loudspeaker, reviewed here, that really showcases all that the future holds.
The Purity isn't a flagship product in price (it costs $2,995 per pair), but I consider it one in ideology. MartinLogan pioneered the hybrid electrostatic loudspeaker some 25 years ago and one of the caveats has always been their power-hungry nature. To combat the issue, the Purity is the world's first fully-powered hybrid electrostatic. That's right, the amplifier, all 200 watts of it, is built to negate the need for costlier amps, allowing the Purity to be run off something as simple and common as an iPod. The internal amp is a bit nontraditional in that it's a fully switching digital amplifier rather than Class A or AB amps, which have size and heat constraints that would make a powered MartinLogan an impossibility. The Purity can still be powered by traditional means via its binding posts. The Purity features two six-and-a-half-inch aluminum drivers mated to its CLS panel, crossed over at 450Hz via its Vojkto crossover, giving it a frequency response of 41-23,000Hz. The Purity also features adjustable bass controls on the speakers themselves, allowing them to be better tuned to your room and listening needs for a more seamless presentation between panel, woofer, room and listener. Using the Purity's binding posts, the speaker boasts 93dB sensitivity. With the Purity's line level inputs employed, it has a reported sensitivity of 95dB at 0.1 volts/meter, making it hugely efficient and easy enough to drive to reference levels off an iPod.
The simple fact that the Purity can be driven by either a processor's preamp outputs and/or variable source components is a huge step toward what I believe the future will hold for audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike.
Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.
• Despite being a powered design and of budget price, the essence of what makes a MartinLogan speaker special is apparent in spades with the Purity, which provides a rich natural midrange and remarkable bass from smallish woofers.
• The ability to run the Purity off an iPod or other portable device makes it a cost-effective way to get into the hi-fi game where the speakers become the only piece of "kit" in the system.
• The ability to run the Purity via a line level input or by outboard amplification gives consumers a clear upgrade or downgrade (if you so choose) path, so that the speaker can truly evolve with the needs of the user.
• The Purity's compact size and bass controls make it a very stylish and room-friendly speaker for audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike.
• The Purity is by far one of the most effective and proper-sounding high-end lifestyle loudspeakers on the market today. It does not compete with the likes of B&W or Paradigm or higher-end MartinLogan models in terms of traditional thought about high-performance speakers, but it should be considered an alternative to Bang & Olufsen and other style-first speaker products. Unlike the competition, the Purity packs a double punch, as it is both stylish and fantastic-sounding.
• While the internal 200-watt amplifier is more than sufficient for powering the Purity to concert levels, you can hear the difference when mating it to a higher-quality amp.
• The bass controls help, but the rear-ported design and di-pole factor means placement is still a concern for the Purity.
• In order to keep costs low, MartinLogan only offers the Purity in two finishes, both dark (dark cherry and black), which may not be suitable for all environments.
• The Purity, like all MartinLogan hybrid speakers, needs to be located near an outlet or two in order to work at all.
Costing just shy of $3,000 per pair and available at retail stores and online through Amazon, the Purity is more than just another electrostatic loudspeaker from MartinLogan - it's a statement. As a statement and as a product, the Purity says that the future of home audio is headed toward the iPod, convergence and lifestyle, but instead of sacrificing sound quality for looks, you can have your cake and eat it, too. The Purity has all the hallmarks of a MartinLogan product, but has the added benefit of not needing costlier components in order to achieve its unique and special sound. I consider this to be a true breakthrough and a sign of things to come. My only hope is that MartinLogan doesn't abandon this approach on behalf of the purists out there, who would have you believe that the Purity isn't audiophile-grade because of its innovation. Rest assured, it is.
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