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MartinLogan reQuest Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 August 1999
Image The Martin Logan Re-Quest is a hybrid electrostatic - dynamic loudspeaker system that uses a 30 degree curved electrostatic panel mounted to a dynamic subwoofer enclosure featuring a 12 inch, cast mounted driver crossed over at 280 Hz. Re-Quests are quite large, standing a little under 6 feet tall, 18 inches wide and about a foot deep. The panel's diaphragm is made of a super light proprietary vapor deposited polyester film and housed in a perforated, insulated steel frame. This diaphragm moves back and forth in small increments when fed an audio signal, thus creating Martin Logan's signature mid and high frequency sound.

While the dynamic low frequency driver is not rear ported, the electrostatic panel does fire both ways making the Re-Quest quite room and placement sensitive. Re-Quests come with bass equalization, which proves to be very useful in tuning them to your listening environment however room treatments and speaker placement come first in making the Re-Quest sound best. Slight adjustments of the loudspeakers in your listening room make huge improvements to the sound. Adjusting the height of the spikes for the height of your ears in your listening position is critical in maximizing your musical experience. Ultimately, Re-Quest determine how your room is to be setup in that they use the room as a sort of enclosure for the mids and highs via the bi-polar nature of the electrostatic panel. Know ahead of time, you will need a medium to large sized, well treated room to elicit the ultimate performance from your Re-Quest.

The Sound
Martin Logan Re-Quests have about the best mid range I have ever heard in a loudspeaker. For low level, late night listening sessions the Re-Quests excel above all dynamic speakers I have heard in that they can resolve details in the highs and mids that only can be heard from the world's most revered loudspeakers costing many thousands of dollars more than these Martin Logans.

On Lyle Lovitt's duet "North Dakota" featuring Rickie Lee Jones from the record Joshua Judges Ruth (MCA), the vocals are centered, layered and beautifully positioned in space on top of the accompaniment. Who knows (and, honestly, who cares) if this is the absolute most accurate reproduction of the actual musical performance... it was simply fascinating to audition. Re-Quests are like un-speakers. They really define transparency for the industry.

"Blue Rondo a'la Turk" from Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia re-issue) provided a completely different listening experience on the Re-Quests as opposed to a dynamic loudspeaker system. Imaging was tight as was the low end on the stand up bass, which took a little work to EQ properly on the back of the Re-Quests. The cymbals sounded hot and sizzled on the ultra high frequencies. This was not a plus, however the rest of the instrumentation floated in mid air providing, again, a better-than-life musical experience.

I ran into a little trouble when I started increasing the volume on more produced, multi-track cuts. While the bass and presence improved when increasing the level on Biggie Smalls' "Hypnotize" from Life After Death (BadBoy/Arista) the high frequencies became somewhat brittle and thin. Not the mids, just the highs.

I assumed that it was just "that damn rap music" being poorly recorded thus I dropped in Barry White's "Practice What You Preach" from The Icon Is Love (A&M;) and just like on Biggie, the presence was all there as was the bass, but the very high frequencies remained a bit thin. I then tried one of my favorite reference cuts "Mannish Boy" from Muddy Water's Hard Again (CBS/BlueSky) to find, once again great midrange presence but a snare that sounded thin. I inserted my Sonic Frontiers Line II, tube preamp with a nice improvement however the problem is not entirely in the electronics or the cables. Compared to very efficient (and more expensive) dynamic speaker like Cello Stradivari Legends and Wilson CUBs, Re-Quests don't resolve the very high frequencies at extreme levels quite as well. My audio instincts tell me adding to my $250 in room treatments and use of the highest caliber, all tube electronics (Sonic, VTL, Audio Research, BAT...) could reduce this effect.

Re-Quests are like a Ferrari. They are super high performance transducers that reproduce perhaps the single best mid range sound in all of high end audio. But like a great Italian car they need lots of attention to elicit maximum performance. Tweaking your speakers can take some time and necessitate the advice of your dealer but this fine tuning is part of the fun of owning Martin Logans. Each improvement prolongs the buzz of owning great, new loudspeakers.

Re-Quests do demand powerful electronics. While my Sunfire Signature Amp ($3000) could clearly power the Re-Quests with juice left over, it was my Mark Levinson No. 333 ($8500) that was used for most of my listening tests in that the Re-Quests seemed to really enjoy all of the current and finesse that the No. 333 could give.

Off axis listening with the Re-Quests is the about the best I have heard from a planar or electrostatic genre although the speakers design makes it tough to beat a dynamic speaker for off axis performance. I tend to listen to music all over my home including in my office, while I cook and while I lay in bed. Re-Quests sound great in the hot spot however if you stand up or move your head, you loose a good percentage of that airy sound. If you are a patient listener with a determined listening spot and you will be rewarded with a wonderful sound.

It is hard to beat Re-Quests for what they do well. Phenomenal midrange playback, airy, non-speaker like performance, better than expected bass from the dynamic cabinet and impressive low level listening characteristics make Re-Quests hard to beat. Priced at $4500 a pair, Re-Quests are the pinnacle of hybrid electrostatic design and can, under the right circumstances, provide you the highest level of musical enjoyment.


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