MartinLogan enjoys a place at the mantle occupied by a relatively small group of state of the art speaker companies enduring the test of time. Nearing its third decade, the Lawrence, Kansas company first impressed critics, audiophiles, and industry professionals at the 1983 Consumer Electronics Show, and now have a devoted following.
Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland started MartinLogan (the company name a combination of middle names) with a very specific goal in mind: perfect the electrostatic design loudspeaker (ESL). I admit having a particularly soft spot in my heart for electrostatics as I grew up listening to my father’s Quad 57s. The immediacy, and total lack of enclosure colorations have seduced many audiophiles for decades.
MartinLogan has released many groundbreaking products since its inception, and has an impressive legacy of previous models. ShoreView Industries, who also owns Paradigm and Anthem, purchased the company was in 2005. Paradigm is another brand I have written about very enthusiastically over the last several years. MartinLogan products are still designed in Kansas, but are mostly manufactured in the same state of the art facility in Canada as the Paradigm products.
I happily received in for review a pair of the Ethos, from their Reserve ESL Series. The Ethos is priced at $6795 per pair. There are three other speakers above the Ethos in the Reserve, line including the Montis, Summit, and their flagship, the mighty CLX ART. Additionally, MartinLogan offers the more affordable ESL Series, the ElectroMotion™ Series, and several unique solutions for home theater and in wall use. They also developed the Motion™ Series, which consists of hybrid speakers in traditional enclosures.
Allow me a very brief history of Electrostatic loudspeakers. Believe it or not, Bell Telephone Laboratories produced the first ESL in the 1920s. Arthur Janzen, a young Naval engineer in the late 1940s, further explored and advanced the technology. And the 1950s, Peter Walker developed the Quad ESL, which for many, set the standard going forward. Through the decades, many companies developed their version of the technology, including KLH, Sound Lab, Acoustat, Stax, and even to this day, we have Sanders Sound Systems, King Sound, and others.
All the gifted designers and engineers involved in the development of ESLs all had one common mission: to overcome the inherent performance issues -- the inability to play at very loud volumes, limited deep bass, and overall reliability. These limitations are due to the way ESLs work. Instead of cones, diaphragms, ribbons, or domes, ESLs produce sound using an electrically charged panel consisting of a diaphragm, stator, and spacers. ESLs are also dipoles, which means they produce sound equally from the front and back. Lastly, ESLs need to be plugged into a power source to maintain a constant charge.