Test Report: Martin Logan Motion Series Speakers

If Porsche made a front-engine, water-cooled delivery van, would it still be a "real" Porsche? Car nuts could argue such a question 'til doomsday — and indeed have, beginning in 1978 when Porsche debuted its muchdebated water-cooled, front-engine Model 928. Audio buffs no doubt are ready to do likewise regarding the new Motion speaker range from MartinLogan.

Much like Porsche, the Kansas-based MartinLogan is an engineering-centric firm that made its bones on a particular combination of technologies, in this case electrostatic, flat-panel speakers hybridized with conventional moving-coil (cone) woofer sections. So when MartinLogan introduces a speaker family with nary an electrostatic driver in sight, an eyebrow or two is sure to elevate.

Fortunately, my job is to assay speakers on their own merits, regardless of the technologies they employ - to put 'em behind a mental black curtain. Nonetheless, a few words on MartinLogan's new designs are very much in order. The Motion models, which were "inspired by MartinLogan's ultra-high-end electrostatic loudspeakers,¨ are presumably built using lower-cost means. Specifically, the Motion 12 tower's midrange section works as a partial dipole, directing sound both forward and rearward thanks to a cabinet that, rather than being either sealed or vented, is in fact perforated with scores of 3/8-inch holes. This design allows at least some of the conventional cone midrange driver's "back wave" to radiate to the rear and sides. (The remaining Motions use conventionally solid enclosures, sealed or vented according to the model.)

Found throughout the series is MartinLogan's new "Folded Motion" transducer, which appears to be an update of the Heil "air-motion" tweeter first seen in the late 1970s. This employs an accordion-pleat diaphragm arrangement that offers high efficiency with very low excursions (and thus, it is claimed, inherently low distortion) and controlled dispersion, particularly in the vertical axis.

Such unusual designs deserve unusual looks, and MartinLogan delivered. The Motion 12 tower is strikingly formed, while the Motion 8 and 4 (and Motion 2, not used here) are if anything even more visually interesting. I like 'em.