|MartinLogan Scenario Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Michael Fuschi|
|Saturday, 01 January 2000|
The Scenario is the latest offering from Martin-Logan, the electrostatic technology speaker company, as the company refers to itself. The design goal for the Scenario was to position it just below the Aerius, which is now available only in bi-wire guise, in price and sonics. With feedback from dealers, interior designers and the like, some felt the Aerius was just a little too tall for certain applications, so with a mating of the electrostatic panel from the wall-mount Script model and the woofer from the bi-wire Aerius model, the $1,995 per pair Scenario was born. Measuring in at 48 inches high with a very small 10 by 14-inch footprint, the Scenario is about ten inches shorter than the Aerius and gives up a little to bass response as the cabinet, which houses an 8 inch woofer, is smaller, as well. Martin-Logan has big plans for the Scenario as use with an all Martin-Logan 5 channel speaker system.
My use of the Scenarios was limited to 2-channel listening in my main music system. However, the system that can be built around the Scenarios would include the Cinema center channel and the diminutive Scripts for the rears, surely an impressive system having experience with all of these loudspeakers. The Scenarios are available only in a black finish, which is a combination of gloss for the front woofer grill and stat panel and matte for the side rails and rear cabinet. It’s a very attractive package with the stat panel seemingly "floating" in front of the woofer cabinet. All Scenario owners will benefit from Martin-Logans ingenious new binding post design as well as one of the best carpet spike designs I have ever used (the spikes are also available as an option, for $50 per pair, for other loudspeakers from your Martin-Logan retailer). Congratulations to the Martin-Logan design team for incorporating such little details to finish off what proved to be an extraordinary product.
Magic happens! The first thing I jotted down during my initial listening notes for this review was "magic happens". Only I left out the "immediately" part. As with all Martin-Logan loudspeakers, placement from the rear wall is critical. In my case I moved the Scenarios out 30 inches from the rear wall. This distance gave me the best combination of center imaging, sound stage size and bass response. The spikes easily served to level match the speakers to ensure the front edge of the panels were equidistant from the rear wall and from my ear. A tape measure and laser thing proved invaluable in my set-up task.
My listening palette is very familiar with the magic of electrostatic speakers. Having owned electrostatic loudspeaker systems from Quad, Acoustat, Beveridge, Stax and the Martin-Logan CLS, I have a unique perspective on the mysterious world of electrostatic loudspeakers. Starting with the Monolith of the 1980’s, Gayle Martin Sanders and his design team brought to, and successfully marketed the first truly viable hybrid electrostatic loudspeaker system. Incorporating the attributes of the electrostatic diaphragm with a conventional piston driver, the Monolith was an immediate success and helped launch the Martin-Logan company as we know it today. Why am I talking about Martin-Logans’ first product? Because it’s important to never forget where you came from and without lessons hard learned with the design of the Monolith, the Scenario would surely not have the sonic signature it has. That sonic signature represents the qualities of the electrostatic and piston driver working together in concert to form a realistic, lifelike and alluring musical presentation.
There I sit listening to the cut "Song of the Stars" from Dead Can Dance’s Spiritchaser (Warner Bros.) gazing into the darkness of my unlit fireplace and wondering just how the percussion and bird songs and chants happened to get in there. Really, the imaging characteristics are quite scary and make for a sort of rediscovery with your music collection with recordings as good as this one. Soundstage presentation was correct, not too tall as can be the case with some other larger electrostatic panels and bass was correct and free from fatigue. A really marvelous piece of music for not only evaluating equipment but to just get lost with your emotions and forget about the equipment and focus on the music. With the Scenario, I was able to do just that.
On "Budapest By Blimp" by Thomas Dolby’s Aliens Ate My Buick (EMI, Import ), I turned the volume way down and listened to what the speaker can do at whisper levels. As low level detail is something I think all good speaker designs excel at, this is somewhat of a difficult task for lesser designs. I was able to hear all the layering in the synthesizers, the overdubbing of the opera singer standing behind the bass player and Thomas’ lead vocal coming out of, you guessed it, my fireplace. Put a smile on my face, and made listening in low light conditions fun again.
Up goes the volume while listening to Prodigy and Tom Morello doing the smash hit "One Man Army" from the Spawn Soundtrack (Sony Music). A serious techno/hard core industrial tune with pounding bass, layered synthesized rhythms and all kinds of vocal panning. Not a track for the faint of heart. It was hard not to get up and turn on my strobe light and dance in cage like I was at some South Beach techno club, but I restrained myself and just sat there and let it rip and the Scenarios never hiccuped once. Electrostatics never used to be this good.
Turn out the lights, turn up the volume put your feet up and listen to Ayub Ogada doing "Obiero" from the CD En Mana Kuoyo (Real World). The uncanny imaging and soundstage characteristics of the Scenario will shine through as clearly as a spotlight shone through its translucent electrostatic element. Magic defined. Everything as it should be. Totally at ease. Life is good.
The Scenarios do so many things well with a few faults. The most major of them is the lack of really deep bass response. In fairness to the speaker design, one can’t expect an 8 inch woofer in such a slim cabinet to perform miracles. The bass is tight, defined, correct in amplitude with regards to real music and the electrostatic panel it is mated to, though.
Martin-Logan expects if one is going to use the Scenario’s in a 5.1 theater system, one would be using a woofer in the system anyway to augment the bass response. I used the Scenario’s with the excellent and reasonably priced SW2Pi from NHT with satisfactory results. The other drawback for some listeners is the speaker really needs to be away from the back wall to image properly and give you the magic that I’ve spoken of. With this in mind it becomes a difficult speaker to build in a cabinet or place close to the back wall. However, those with enough space behind the speakers (I would recommend about 24 inches, minimum for optimum soundstage) will be rewarded with all the speaker has to give.
Martin-Logan has come up with yet another winner with the Scenario. With so many speaker companies churning out different sized speakers with varying degrees of designs, the folks at Martin-Logan continue to focus on what they do best. The company has made it’s reputation by allowing us to share their vision with regards to an intense love for music and film, second to none client support, reliability and gorgeous industrial design. In this case any of us can share these attributes for just $1,995 per pair and be bathed in real music by driving the Scenarios with a good quality receiver or, in my case, a 200 watt per channel Classe’ amplifier. And as an added bonus the Scenario can serve to be the foundation of an all Martin-Logan 5.1 theater speaker system, now or in the future. From a company who didn’t forget where they came from they offer you the Scenario. A leading edge product that will enrich your life, put a smile on your face and give you a little magic at the same time. Life really is good.