The Short Form
|$9,574 (as tested) / MARTINLOGAN.COM|
|A lively sound and attention-getting
industrial design make this the ideal
speaker for audiophiles who want an alternative to ordinary on-walls
|• Unusually clear treble
• Unusually intelligible dialogue
• Unusually potent small subwoofer
|• A little weird-looking
• A little bright-sounding at times
• A lot of AC cords to connect
|• Feature ($1,695 each):
1-inch tweeter, electrostatic midrange panel, two 5 1/4-inch woofers; 150-watt amplifier; 29 3/4in wide, 20 lb
• Abyss ($1,099):
12-inch woofer, 300-watt amplifier;
15 7⁄8 in high, 40 lb
What identifies an audiophile? A love of music and great sound? Sure. Questionable choices in menswear? Possibly. But mostly you can tell an audiophile by the kind of gear he has. Audiophiles are never content to own anything that looks like it might have been procured at Super Mart. They love tube amps and turntables - and quite a few of them are fans of electrostatic speakers.
Electrostatic speakers use a large polyester diaphragm in place of (or in addition to) the usual woofers and tweeters. These speakers are typically big, measuring at least 4 feet tall, with most bearing some resemblance to Japanese shoji screens. But Martin Logan - the company perhaps most associated with electrostatics - has been combating the stereotypical image of 'stats. A new industrial design team has reduced the speakers' size and added stylish touches.
The latest reflection of its efforts is the Feature. The fact that the Feature is an on-wall electrostatic speaker makes it a rare breed. On top of that, an internal amplifier powers all of its drivers. Martin Logan says it added the amp to reduce cable clutter, but I'm not buying it. After all, each speaker requires its own AC cord in addition to an audio cable. To me, the real advantage of the Feature's amp is that it's tailored to the needs of the speaker drivers - and electrostatic panels can present a demanding load to an amplifier.
The Feature's electrostatic panel measures about 15 by 6 inches, and covers frequencies from 450 Hz to 4.5 kHz. A 1-inch soft-dome tweeter handles the treble, while two 51⁄4-inch woofers pump out the bass.
Most electrostatic speakers don't use a tweeter, but the Feature needs it because it's intended for either horizontal or vertical positioning. At high frequencies, a curved electrostatic panel like the one in the Feature tends to disperse sound broadly across its curve, but narrowly at 90° and 270° angles to that curve. Thus, flipping the speaker 90° radically changes its dispersion characteristics. The Feature's tweeter assures that high frequencies disperse broadly no matter if it's mounted horizontally or vertically. Either way, this speaker's audacious mix of arcs and angles clearly advertises that you're serious about sound.
Because the Feature can't reproduce deep bass, my review system included one of Martin Logan's Abyss subwoofers. The Abyss employs a 12-inch aluminum-cone driver and a 300-watt internal amp. It sits on a stand with spiked feet, and you can place the stand so that the woofer fires either forward or down - a feature that will come in handy if you intend to place your Abyss in a cabinet or an entertainment center.
The Feature can be wall-mounted horizontally or vertically, or placed horizontally on a stand. Martin Logan supplies a couple of rubber feet that also allow the speaker to sit flat atop a stand or shelf. A switch on the back, marked simply On-Wall and Off-Wall, compensates for the acoustic effects of on-wall mounting.
Two keyhole mounting brackets come with each Feature, and a template makes it easy to position them. MartinLogan even throws in a right-angle RCA adapter so you don't have to worry about the RCA plug bumping into the wall behind the speaker.
The Feature offers line-level and speaker-level connections. I tried both, using a Denon AVR-2809CI A/V receiver and a Krell S-300i stereo integrated amp. I didn't hear a big difference between the two types of connections - the former had perhaps a touch more sparkle in the treble. But even though there's no need to have the receiver's amplifiers in the signal chain, terminating speaker cables is easier than terminating line-level interconnects, so I suspect many installers will use a speaker-level connection.
Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or a custom installer, the Abyss is one friendly little sub. It fits easily into tiny spaces. Once you've chosen the way you want to position its stand, installing it is just like installing any typical subwoofer. It has line-level and speaker-level inputs and outputs, as well as the usual volume, phase, and crossover-frequency controls.
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