|MartinLogan Ascent and Theater Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Sunday, 01 July 2001|
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The MartinLogan Ascent ($4,195 per pair) and Theater ($2,595) loudspeakers are part of the latest lineup from veteran electrostatic speaker manufacturer MartinLogan. The Ascent replaces the older SL3 in the MartinLogan product line and incorporates trickle-down technology found on the ungodly expensive $70,000 per pair MartinLogan Statement E2 and the more sensible $11,000 per pair MartinLogan Prodigy speakers.
The Theater is MartinLogan’s top-of-the-line center channel speaker. The Theater is the replacement for the Logos center channel and accompanies the Cinema to complete MartinLogan’s center channel speaker lineup.
The Ascent shares the new aesthetic design of the Prodigy speakers. The ESL portion of the speaker is detached from the woofer and slightly forward from the cabinet. There is also a small red led light visible through the bottom of the panel’s grille. The bottom border of the grille features a small, attractive stylized silver M. Other than the above, the Ascent is aesthetically similar to past MartinLogan speakers and comes with a wide variety of trim panel options to suit nearly every interior.
The Ascent is fairly large at 64 inches tall, 13 inches wide and 22 inches deep, weighing in at 72 pounds. The driver array simply consists of a 48-inch visually transparent line source electrostatic panel and one 10-inch dynamic bass driver. The given frequency range is 35 Hz to 22 kHz. The speaker is bi-wireable.
The Theater has a convex horizontal design, featuring an electrostatic midrange panel flanked by two six-and-a-half-inch drivers, one on each side. The high end is augmented by a center-mounted vertical pod of three one-inch tweeters. This center-mounted pod is directly in front of the apex of the midrange panels and has the M logo on its bottom. This tweeter design is said to control high-frequency dispersion over a wide horizontal axis.
The Theater is also quite large, compared to many other high-performance center speakers, measuring 43 inches wide, 10.5 inches high and 11.5 inches deep, weighing 57 pounds. This is a very serious center channel speaker. The Theater speaker comes with thoughtfully designed mounts, which allow the speaker to be wall-mounted or placed on the floor or other horizontal surfaces. I utilized the floor/television set top mount. This also has the sexy "M" logo, which here is actually cut into the steel bottom of the mount.
I listened to the Ascents in a two-channel music system, as well as in conjunction with the Theater speaker in my multi-channel home theater system. My music system includes a Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW digital front end, driving one of several power and preamplifier combinations used in this review. While listening to the Ascents, I used the Conrad Johnson Premier 17LS preamplifier driving the Conrad Johnson MF2500 amplifier or the B&K Components ST1400II amplifier. I also tried listening to the Ascents using various integrated amplifiers. I found the subwoofer often unnecessary for music listening, as the Ascents frequency range extended fairly low.
I experimented with ASC’s tube and studio traps during my review of the MartinLogan speakers. The traps are often placed at the point of first reflection to control side reflections and improve imaging. I have noticed that the side reflections are fairly minimal in my room, so I used the traps a bit differently. I placed the studio traps behind the Ascents with the reflective side forward. The tube traps were placed flanking the speakers to form a horn type effect.
I noticed that the studio traps allowed more flexibility with placement of the speakers, which has long been a point of concern for electrostatic speakers. The studio traps control the dispersion of the rearward emanating energy and help to provide a deep and wide image that is less dependent on room characteristics. The tube traps are normally utilized to control reflections or bass loading. The traps also have another use with electrostatic speakers: horn loading. Electrostatic speakers have long been criticized for lack for their lack of dynamics. I found that the new Ascents do not suffer from this malady nearly as much as their predecessors, but I nonetheless experimented with horn loading the speakers. With the tube traps placed in a horn-loaded configuration, I found that the speakers became slightly more dynamic, almost as if the amplifier was switched for a more powerful unit. I think that this setup will be particularly useful for those with large rooms and or lower-powered amplifiers.
I moved the Ascents around a bit and ended up with them positioned approximately eight feet apart, two feet from the back wall and slightly toed in. I found this position gave me the best blend of bass and imaging.