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MartinLogan Purity Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 March 2008
Article Index
MartinLogan Purity Loudspeakers
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I kicked things off with Coldplay’s latest album X&Y (Capitol). I utilized both the CD via my Denon universal player and my iPod with the same track(s) ripped in lossless compression via iTunes. Starting with the track “Swallowed in the Sea” on CD, the Puritys presented a very intimate, precise and airy presentation. Since there is no “box” to speak of to color the midrange and treble, the overall sound through the CLS panel was natural and, ahem, pure. The treble extended wonderfully out into my room and blossomed naturally, without a hint of metallic sizzle that you’d find in traditional tweeters at the Purity’s price point. The lower midrange and bass held their own against the speed of the panel. Once I achieved the optimal placement in my room, the Purity’s coherence was staggering. I think the old adage surrounding the idea of a hybrid electrostatic being fast in the midrange and treble and tubby in the bass is now completely unfounded, for the Puritys sound more like good, full range electrostatics than a hybrid design. The bass was taut, tuneful and could go rather deep for such a compact design. Keep in mind that, because of the constraints of my room, I had to dial the bass back a bit via the switch on the rear of the unit, and I didn’t add a sub to the mix at any time. Again, proper placement is key. You should expect to play with it a bit, but once you get the Puritys dialed in, they are an absolute delight and better than their place in the MartinLogan lineup would have you believe.

Playing the same track through the Puritys (minus all the audiophile gear) while using a simple iPod, a stereo cable adapter and a pair of two-meter lengths of UltraLink cable produced results I was not prepared for. It’s important to point out that I am going from a system that retails for well over $15,000 to one that can be had for well under $3,500, and at the heart of it all are the Puritys. From the bass on up, there was a difference. However, it was not as large as one would expect; at least, not one audiophiles would be comfortable admitting. The sweetness and palpability brought to the party by the tubes in the Hovland were gone, but the speed and naturalness the Bel Canto’s brought was still present. The digital amps inside the Puritys are damn good and, while not 1,000-watt monsters like the Bel Canto amps, they drive them perfectly. While there were differences, there weren’t major omissions and the essence of the music – the emotion – remained intact. Dynamics were relatively the same, while soundstage width and depth were compressed a bit, but not by much. On their own, the Puritys are rather remarkable; given something as simple as an iPod, they can work wonders almost any consumer could happily live with as a high-end system for years on end. That said, if you’re willing to feed the Puritys a bit more, they can and do get a bit better, but don’t think you have to go crazy. For instance, I wouldn’t run off and get a couple of high-end amplifiers; I’d start with a quality pre-amp or source with a variable output first.

I was so impressed with the Puritys’ sound with just an iPod at the helm that I decided to carry out the rest of my listening tests using only that. Enjoy. I cued up Alien Ant Farm and the track “Movies” from their album ANThology (Dreamworks). With the volume pegged at insane, I rocked out. The dynamics were slammin’ and the speed of the woofers was quite impressive. The raucous drumming against the electric bass is a challenge for any speaker and the Puritys passed the test with flying colors, keeping each instrument separate yet allowing them to compliment each other. The kick drum was natural and quick, with enough detail and air that I could hear the mallet striking the skin. The subsequent snare hits were a sharp accent to the otherwise bass-heavy song. Vocals were clear, natural and planted firmly in the soundstage, as well as in my listening room, projecting out into my space instead of hiding behind the speakers. The whole presentation simply rocked, sacrificing only that last bit of “audiophileness” that some crave so much. Personally, I just turn the volume up and forget about it all, for the Puritys, while pure to the music and the source, are loads more fun than any so-called audiophile loudspeaker.

For instance, what audiophile would serve up Baby Bash’s “What Is It” (Arista) in a review? None. Well, since I’m not an audiophile, I did and loved it. Again, the bass prowess of the Puritys was pretty well established. However, it became cemented once listening to the thumping hip-hop track. This wasn’t some trunk-rattling Honda Civic sound; no, it was quite composed and, while completely synthetic in its origins, possessed incredible speed, agility, depth and extension. There was so much output that I honestly don’t think most consumers would need to use a subwoofer with the Puritys. I know MartinLogan makes some terrific subs, but unless your room has its own climate, you’re not going to need one. The vocals were clear, well-defined and, while not the most beautiful, had a terrific in-room presence. There are some bell-like sounds throughout the track that sparkled beautifully, with great air and decay, showcasing not only the Puritys’ high-frequency prowess, but also their ability to balance the entire musical spectrum without sounding like a hybrid mashing of sorts. This is one coherent speaker.

I ended my time with Puritys with something a bit more subdued – dare I say traditional? – Alanis Morissette’s “Doth I Protest Too Much” from her album So-Called Chaos (Maverick). Female vocals have always been one of MartinLogan’s strengths and the same holds true for the Puritys. Alanis’ vocals were vividly real and hung in space with such dimensionality you could almost reach out and touch her. While I’ve grown fond of Beryllium tweeters and carbon fiber woofers, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a MartinLogan CLS panel when it comes to reproducing vocals – they’re just so spot on. The accompanying guitar was equally impressive and natural. The cymbal crashes shimmered with the appropriate amount of air and decay, while the bass drum added the appropriate weight to the performance without overpowering it. There was a delicacy to the entire performance that showed the Puritys’ softer side, which I almost missed out on. But what was even more shocking was that, with a lowly iPod at the helm, there was a softer side, there was subtlety, there was musicality, there was emotion. That’s what the Puritys offer: emotion, pure and simple. You don’t have to coax them or coddle them, aside from placement; you don’t need fancy or expensive electronics; all you need is the music you love and the source you prefer and the Puritys do the rest. While not perfect, they may just be right for today’s modern audio enthusiast.


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