|MartinLogan Summit Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Wednesday, 01 November 2006|
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MartinLogan, a well-known name in the audio enthusiast community, is undergoing a radical change. The entire line is being revamped. The Summit retails for $10,000 per pair, which is slightly less than its award-winning predecessor, the Prodigy. In staying true to its history, the Summit is a hybrid design with an electrostatic panel mated with a dynamic woofer, but it features a host of new technology and sports a completely new industrial design.
Visually, I find the Summit to be the most attractive MartinLogan I have seen to date. It is more reminiscent of the Scenario than the Prodigy it replaces, in that its panels are not surrounded by visually imposing frames. The panels on the Summit are surrounded by frames featuring MartinLogan’s AirFrame technology and made from aerospace-grade aluminum. The panels feature a whole slew of technological and design innovations that have a bunch of catchy names, such as MicroPerf Stator, CLS, Generation 2 Diaphragm, ClearSpars and Vacuum Bonding. What all this means is that these are the most advanced MartinLogan panels to date. Like MartinLogan panels of yore, they are a curved linear source (CLS), which provides a larger sweet spot. Other technological advances ensure higher tolerances, consistent response across the panel, increased physical capabilities and more playable area in a given panel size.
The bottom half of the speaker is just as revolutionary as the top. The woofer cabinet is tiny when compared to past models. MartinLogan co-founder Gayle Sanders likes to say the cabinets are about the size of a case of wine. The overall dimensions are 59 inches high by 20-and-a-half inches deep and 12-and-a-half inches wide. The woofer cabinet itself is about a foot high in the front and angles up to a nearly vertical rear panel a few inches higher. The cabinet comes in a variety of wood finishes, with my review sample finished in a maple veneer. The top panel features an aluminum accent with a thin blue light down the middle, which is dimmable/defeatable via a small knob on the back of the woofer’s enclosure. In a darkened room, the blue light is easily to see through the panels, which I found to be visually pleasing, making the speaker even less imposing and more of an artistic statement. The rear panel features two other knobs, which let you tune the bass +/- 10dB at 25Hz & 50Hz, MartinLogan’s unique bi-wireable binding posts, and an IEC power cord receptacle underneath a small LED status light. Finally, the entire cabinet sits on new and unique feet. These feet are height-adjustable and can be configured with the spike inserts reversed for floors that would be damaged by spikes.
It is not only the design of the cabinet that makes the bottom half of the Summit unique, but also what the cabinet houses. The cabinet features 10-inch aluminum cone woofers, one firing downward and one forward, each powered by its own internal 200-watt amplifier. This is the first MartinLogan ESL that features powered woofers. The Summit can reach way down to 24 Hz and do it with authority despite its small cabinet. Of course, this system also has a nifty name, PoweredForce.
The Summit utilizes the Vojtko crossover, derived from the Statement E2, to blend the woofers and panel at 270 Hz. MartinLogan specifically chose this point and crossover assembly, as it minimizes aberrations in the crucial midrange area. One of the major benefits of any wide-range driver, such as the Summit’s electrostatic panel is the reduction in the number of crossover points that could potentially interfere with the transparent reproduction of the sound signal.
The Summits weigh 75 pounds each, with a nominal impedance of four ohms. Frequency response is 24Hz to 23,000 kHz, with the crossover between the panel and woofers set at 270 Hz. The Summit is capable of handling 100-300 watts per channel, for which I recommend leaning towards the higher end of the spectrum.
Setting up dipole speakers such as the Summits requires careful room placement to get the most from such significant instruments. Thankfully, the Summit’s tunable controls at 25Hz or 50Hz allows for some flexibility in its placement. This is as good a place as any to give kudos to the owner’s manual of the Summits. The manual provides extensive information about the technologies utilized in the speakers, so that the end user has a better understanding of how the speakers work. The manual also provides extensive yet easy to follow instructions and tips for setting up the speakers. I ended up with the speakers’ panels being approximately two feet from the front wall, with their inside edges seven feet apart with slight toe-in.
This is the first MartinLogan speaker (other than a subwoofer) for which I recommend the use of a quality power conditioner. I used the Monster Power HTS 5100 MKII and found it to be beneficial, especially with the powered subwoofer portion of the speaker, and all my listening notes are with the power conditioner in the system. The Summit, like all MartinLogans I have had the opportunity to review, is extremely revealing and benefits from a high powered amplifier. Accordingly, a high-quality source and stout amplification are recommended. During my listening, I used Classe’s CDP-202 (review forthcoming) as my source and either Krell’s FBI integrated amplifier (review also forthcoming) or McIntosh Laboratories’ C220 tube preamplifier (review pending) driving Halcro’s MC50 amps. I received the McIntosh C220 toward the end of my listening session, so most listening was done with the Krell, unless otherwise noted.
I was fortunate enough to receive some new high-quality cables from Cardas and Monster Cable’s Sigma line, which I used with this review. The interconnects were balanced cables from the Cardas Golden Presence line and the speaker cables used were the Cardas Golden Presence bi-wires. The Monster Cable Sigma speaker cables, as noted later in the review, each had their own signatures, which were easily revealed by the Summits.