MartinLogan Motion 40 Speaker System Page 2

Repeat Attraction
I checked out the Motion 40 towers for a Perfect Focus quick look in the October 2012 issue. Much as I liked them then, I found them even more engaging and delightful this time around. No, they don’t have quite the same expansive reach and three-dimensionality to the soundstage as do the more expensive MartinLogan speakers, such as the ElectroMotion ESL towers, which incorporate full-sized electrostatic transducers. Nor do they have that same “In your face, dude, I’ve got flippin’ electrostatic speakers! What’s in your home theater?” domination of whatever room they’re in. On the other hand, they’re so frickin’ amazing at how close they do get to the light and airy sonic character of an electrostatic speaker that it’s hard to believe.

Take, for instance, the strangely compelling, ethereal-yet-grounded song, “Islands,” from The xx’s 2009 self-titled release, during which every aspect of the Motion 40s came together perfectly. A steady, firm bass beat pervades the entire song over which are layered slow-moving, drowsy male and female vocals. The voices hung in the air in much the same open way you would expect from an electrostatic speaker. The sound was extremely clean and transparent with great snap and energy in the high end. Likewise, The Blind Boys of Alabama’s heartfelt “People Get Ready” (Higher Ground) was absolutely marvelous with a soundstage that was incredibly wide and filled with such pinpoint detail that the individual voices in the chorus were readily distinguishable. Finally, the Motion 40s were simply sublime in their ability to simultaneously portray the individual light and heavy tones of the clarinet and piano on Gerard Satamian’s Dry Fig Trees release. Both instruments were fully formed and rich with the individual character of their internal and distinct overtones.

The Circle of Liveliness
Match the Motion 40s with a Motion 30 center channel, a pair of Motion 15 monitors for the surrounds, and the Dynamo 1000 subwoofer, and you have the makings for one of the most phenomenally cohesive, startlingly immersive home theater systems you can buy for under $4,500. Partly due to the character of the Folded Motion tweeters and partly because MartinLogan uses the same tweeter in all the speakers, there was a clarity and immediacy to the soundfield the system created that was especially revealing. Iron Man 2 absolutely sizzled (and not just because of Gwyneth Paltrow) when Ivan Vanko appears at the racetrack in Monaco and begins his rampage of arc-reactor-powered, whip-snapping mayhem. In addition to the Dynamo 1000’s extremely powerful bass output that shook with great authority and heft without being boomy whenever Vanko slapped his energized whips against the pavement—or as race cars slammed into one another—what most stood out during the scene was how you could distinctly hear (and virtually feel) the far-reaching, rapid kinetics of the lightning-encrusted cables as the tips moved throughout the soundfield side to side and front to back. Seamless is a description that doesn’t do the system justice. This particular combination of MartinLogan Motion Series speakers was more akin to an inextricable, intertwining mind-meld of sound.

Because it was in the cheap Blu-ray bin (I may call myself super-premium, but I’m also super-cheap), I picked up a copy of the gray-and-grayer motion-captured movie, Renaissance, with Daniel Craig and a bunch of other actors whose names I didn’t recognize. This Blade Runner-meets-A Scanner Darkly flick was more entertaining than I’d had any reason to expect, partly because the lack of color and detail in the image onscreen served to highlight the movie’s audio, but more so because the film’s sound designers did such an excellent job using the audio to create various moods as well as an intimate feel for the acoustic space in which each scene—and the multiple aspects within those spaces—takes place. (There’s also a good line or two, such as when the questionable CEO of the ominous Avalon corporation defends his integrity with the following: “I sleep with my wife. I sleep with my secretary. I even sleep with my sister-in-law, but I would never sleep with one of my researchers.”) In chapter 4, for example, when Karas (Daniel Craig) questions Dr. Muller at the clinic’s morgue, there is a glass wall separating the two characters; and each one’s voice takes on a clear-and-direct or slightly muffled aspect depending on who is talking and which side of the glass the camera is shooting from. Throughout, the Motion 40s and Motion 30 performed as one unit. At the same time, whenever the perspective is from inside the morgue, there was a constant low, foreboding rumble that the Dynamo 1000 maintained impeccably.

There’s nothing much to say about the MartinLogan Motion 15 monitors as surround speakers in the system other than OMG. In the same way that the Motion 30 performed as a magical extension connecting the two Motion 40 towers, the Motion 15s were absolutely perfect in completing the arc of the soundfield from the sides to the back of the room. Later in Renaissance, as a voice calls out to Karas from behind, the Motion 15s placed it as a clear and fully formed voice dead center behind my head. Further into the movie, during a futuristic car chase involving a special Citroen-designed car of 2054, the flawless blend of the Motion 15s with the Motion 40s was dramatically emphasized as the cars approached from the rear, flew through the center of the room, and then disappeared into the front. During the entire scene, the film score emanated from all channels so contiguously that it was as if the music were a part of the room beyond the action rather than an incidental part of the soundtrack. As with Iron Man 2, the Motion 40/30/15/Dynamo 1000 system created such a wonderful, self-contained soundfield throughout Renaissance that more than once I had to remind myself of the fact that this was coming from a system selling for under $4,500.

You Complete Me
I consider anything over five bucks to be real money, and $4,500 is certainly significantly real money. When it comes to speakers, I’d say that kind of sticker price puts the MartinLogan Motion 40/30/15/Dynamo 1000 system firmly in the premium range. But performance doesn’t always strictly correlate with price. This system is so sublime and so thoroughly enthralling that it feels miserly to limit the description to super-premium. The MartinLogan Motion 40 system is one of those rare products that comes along in which every aspect construction, physical appearance, emotional appeal, etc. is so ideally matched in its expression to one another that the finished whole transcends the category that the parts would have normally put it in. This system has that special essence of completeness that’s extremely difficult to find at any price. Marvelous, MartinLogan. Absolutely marvelous.

(785) 749-0133

COMMENTS's picture

I bought Renaissance on DVD before it became available on bluray enticed by a trailer for the movie, followed by the rental of the DVD, then the purchase of the movie. I found the movie much better than I anticipated, like you, and eventually bought the bluray for $5.99. For those who like action movies or the animation genre, this is a pretty decent movie.

Regarding the review of the Martin Logan speakers, the speakers sound like they perform well. Not sure about the price in general terms. $4,500 is a lot of money. If the speakers can be had for less than retail, they would be more enticing. For $4,500 I can buy a 60" Sharp Elite. I would prefer the Sharp Elite over these speakers, simply because I already own a 5.0 set up of good speakers. While a great TV makes for a memorable viewing experience, so do good speakers. Matching 5.0 speakers of high fidelity makes watching a movie much more enjoyable.

kent harrison's picture

Great review,Martin logans speaker would be 2nd choice for speakers,BW's speakers are my favorites,but you can't go wrong with this set up.

john hunter's picture

Excellent review which I read with great interest as having to consider downsizing from my exisiting elderly Aerius/Cinema to the M 40'S.
1.Did you have any problems positioning them. I'm having to change because in my new home, the speakers will need to go in the corner.
2. Why did you use the M15 as surround and not the aclaimed FX2? Personal preference?
Thanks again from a regular reader in the old fashioned print media.

JayhawkLaw's picture

As always, great review. I love this site/magazine.

Given that if a Goldenear Triton 2 setup with the inclusion of a ML Dynamo 1000 subwoofer is the same price as this Martin Logan set, and the two use the same (or at least very similar) Heil-type tweeter technology, the obvious question is , "which do you think is better?" If it's too close to call, how do they compare? I'd be particularly interested in how the center speakers compare since the Goldenear center has been described as a slightly (only slightly) weak link. I'd also be curious to know if the Martin Logans can fill a larger room than can the Goldenears.

Thanks for a consistently great read

ikarius's picture

My impression of the Goldenear Tritons- Awesome speakers if you have the right room and invest the effort in setting them up properly (placement, treatment, etc). The MartinLogans don't seem to reach the same point, but are more forgiving of setup/room- they tend to sound excellent without a lot of fuss. Also, last I knew, GoldenEar didn't have center/surround options, which nixed them for me.

ikarius's picture

I've got a 5.1 ML setup, though a few differences; Motion 15s (actually LX-16- same speaker, slightly different styling) for L/R, ElectroMotion C2 center, and FX surrounds. I'm using a PSA XS-15 subwoofer, which absolutely outperforms the Dynamo 1000, hands down.

Overall, the system is absolutely sublime, for both music and for Home Theater. This is a system that never feels like you're missing out or compromised on anything aurally.

First- The motion 40 towers are awesome. If you're planning on listening to stereo music content with just two speakers running, you want the motion 40s. I've listened to them in person.

If, however you like multi-channel stereo when listening to your music, for that "envelope" of sound, The Motion 15's will get the job done as L/R.

I bought the EM C2 center, as the Motion 30 center hadn't been released when I bought my system. I haven't heard the Motion 30, but their specs are very close, I'd be very surprised if the Motion 30 was anything but superlative.

As far as the surrounds go, the Motion 2/4s are good but not great to my ears. Depending on your room and the style of surround speakers you prefer, either the Motion 15s or FXs are excellent choices.

There are a lot of great choices at this price point, but the MartinLogan "Folded Motion" tweeters sound really sweet to my ears.

aagastya's picture

So, which receiver did you end up using? That adds in to the cost, and I'd like to know. It's very strange that this is the exact set up that I want to, except for the subwoofer. Maybe I'll get the next one down. Thank you for the great review!