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The Bass Control knob adjusts the under-100Hz level plus or minus10dB. I initially left the setting 0 dB and made adjustments from there. The Ethos also has an excellent feature, which puts the speaker in standby mode if there is no audio signal for fifteen minutes. An LED light on the back of the speaker indicates status.
I used two amplifiers with the Ethos. First the Onkyo M-5000R solid state that that is rated 80 wpc into 8 ohms. I also used my Audio Research VS55 tubed amp rated at 50 wpc. Both worked well, but certainly sounded different. With the Onkyo, I ended setting the Bass Control at -2 dB and, with the VS55, I ended up at -4 dB.
My first few days with the Ethos were quite interesting. We had a few unusually humid days here in Southern California and it is well noted that humidity levels affect ESLs. In the manual, MartinLogan mentions there should be no performance differences with their current line, but I felt the sound was a bit dark overall. I ran the air conditioning for an hour to rid the house of any moisture, and the difference in sound was astounding.
Thankfully, the humid conditions soon disappeared and we had our normal dry, temperate weather. The sound went from dark overall to exactly what I know superbly engineered ESL panels can do. My first few album demos transported me back to my childhood, listening to my father’s Quads as he spun records and cued up reel-to-reel tape. All of the ESL's virtues were here in spades. Transparency, speed, dimensionality, natural dynamics, and total freedom from any enclosure colorations. I knew this was going a very pleasurable journey.
The Ethos, however, is not your father’s ESL, as they say. It is a retooled, hyper engineered, modern version of a groundbreaking design. Where my father’s speakers would easily overload, and lacked any deep bass, the Ethos could easily be played at incredible volumes with no trace of strain, compression, or break up. Bear in mind this in my smallish listening room. Secondly, the bottom end was superb, with the active sub module perfectly integrating with the rest of the frequencies once I dialed in my settings with each amp, as noted above.
The first album I put on effectively spotlighted the many strengths of the Ethos. It was the late Tim Buckley’s sublime third album, Blue Afternoon. Several tracks feature vibes, acoustic bass, twelve string guitar, and of course Buckley’s utterly incomparable voice. On "I Must Have Been Blind" the vibes, bass, and percussion seem to hang in space, totally free of any boundaries, as if appearing out of thin air. Each mallet strike of the vibes was distinct, not only in regards to each note, but in how heavy each strike was. In regards to the stand up bass, I could literally "see" in my mind the strings vibrating when plucked.