|MartinLogan Purity Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Saturday, 01 March 2008|
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I could bore you with a brief summery about the whos and whys surrounding the electrostatic loudspeaker manufacturer MartinLogan, but truthfully, if you consider yourself a fan of high-end audio, then the MartinLogan story is among the most well-known in the business. So instead I’ll lead with this: I have in my possession the coolest iPod speakers ever dreamed of. There has been a lot of to-do over the mighty MP3 player from Apple, as AV manufacturers clamor to jump aboard the train, manufacturing countless accessories and glorified clock radios in a relentless quest to cash in on the seemingly endless success of the iPod. After a recent visit to my local Apple Store, several high-end companies were displaying products that utilize or feature the iPod, hoping to squeeze an ounce of high fidelity out of the otherwise personal player. Some succeed, but many fail. I have my theories surrounding such failures, but I’m pleased to report that MartinLogan may have cracked it with their latest lifestyle-oriented electrostatic, the Purity. The best part of all is, MartinLogan may not even realize just how important their Purity loudspeaker is to the future of high-end audio.
I first learned of MartinLogan’s latest loudspeaker, the Purity, at last year’s CEDIA show in Denver, Colorado, as I toured their booth looking to drum up some inside info on the rumored CLX loudspeakers, a follow-up to MartinLogan’s stellar CLSs. While I was unable to pry any such info from the MartinLogan reps, I did stumble upon the Puritys, a smallish pair of electrostatics on live display at the show being fed by an Apple PowerBook. I won’t comment on their sound at the show, but their elegant appearance and compact size were enough for me to request a review. A few months and several phone calls later, a pair of Purity loudspeakers arrived. The Puritys are not unlike the rest of the speakers in MartinLogan’s arsenal, as they are a hybrid design mating a traditional woofer to an electrostatic panel. This has been MartinLogan’s forte for decades and has served them well, for no one does it better. The Purity is small for an electrostatic, measuring a little over 50 inches tall by nearly eight inches wide and 14-and-a-half inches deep, tipping the scales at 51 pounds. The Purity is little larger than, say, the Scenario from back in the day, but appears far more complete in design and style then the previous designs ever were. It’s attractive to say the least and not just for electrostatics. It comes in two finishes, black ash and cherry, and retails for $2,995 a pair. Unlike past MartinLogan offerings, the Purity is more readily available and can be purchased from stores such as Best Buy through its higher-end moniker Magnolia.
MartinLogan’s trademark CLS panel dominates the top half of the Purity, which is now in its second generation, sporting a new ultra-low-mass PET (polyethylene terathylate) diaphragm sandwiched in the middle of a new MicroPerf Stator design. The same semi-transparent look is there, but this new panel appears tighter, more condensed and ridged then ESLs of yore. The Purity boasts a reported frequency response of 41-23,000Hz, plus or minus 3dB, and has a horizontal dispersion of 30 degrees, due to the slight curve of the CLS panel. Vertical dispersion has always been a bit of an Achilles heel for MartinLogan, and the Purity is no exception, with a vertical dispersion of only 28 inches. However, the designers have employed a few tricks to help remedy this problem, which I’ll talk about later. The Purity is also rather efficient for an ESL, with a sensitivity of 93dB at the binding posts and 95dB efficient via its line level inputs.
That’s right, the Purity is a fully powered design from the panel to the woofer, eliminating the need for outboard high-powered amplification, a first for MartinLogan and possibly its coolest feature. The Purity’s internal power comes by way of a 200-watt high-resolution switching amplifier. The Purity can still be powered via a third-party amp connected via traditional means, but I urge you to read on, for the internal switching amp inside is rather impressive. Getting back to the hybrid aspect of the Purity design for a moment, its cabinet houses a pair of six-and-a-half-inch aluminum woofers, ported in the rear and crossed over with the CLS panel via a Vojtko Crossover and adjustable by plus or minus 3dB for better bass integration in a variety of room situations. Obviously, speaker placement is still going to play a large role in overall coherence and integration between the CLS panel and the dual woofers, but the adjustable bass controls do help in less than ideal room conditions.
The Purity also features an adjustable base or metal plate that is screwed onto the bottom of the cabinet that angles the speaker either directly ahead or at a slight 13 degree tilt to aide in vertical sound dispersion. You can add additional rake to the Purity by fine-tuning the MiniETC spikes that screw into the bottom plate, allowing you to further dial in your sound. The Purity still requires a nearby outlet or two, not only to charge the panel, but also to power the internal amplifier.
I kicked my time off with the MartinLogan Puritys by placing them in my two-channel reference system, swapping out my reference Paradigm Signature S8 v.2 loudspeakers as the top dog in my room for the time being. Because of the Puritys’ fully powered design, I was able to utilize them in a variety of ways. First, I drove them with a pair of Bel Canto Ref1000 mono blocks, with the preamp duties falling to my Hovland HP-100 tube line stage. My source for this set-up was a Denon 3910 universal player, with all cabling and power filtration coming by way of Transparent Cable.
The second set-up I utilized was running the Puritys directly from my Hovland’s power amp outputs via a pair of Transparent Cable interconnects. All other components remained the same.
The third set-up I tried was plugging my iPod dock directly to the Puritys via long runs of UltraLink interconnects and using my iPod as the primary source. While some audiophiles out there are sure to cringe at this last set-up, the results were a bit shocking … in a good way.
Regardless of the set-up, the Puritys did not fare well sitting in the same spot as my Paradigm Signature speakers. They needed to be pulled out from the front wall a bit more and toe-in was a bit more dramatic for better imaging. I connected the base plate so that the Puritys fired straight ahead at my listening position. To combat vertical dispersion, I used the ETC spikes to add a slight upward tilt to the speaker without having to adjust the base to the more aggressive 13-degree tilt. Before I move on, if you’re a listener for whom music is more or less background entertainment, you’re going to want to utilize the 13-degree upward tilt for more uniform sound dispersion when standing and moving about.