Marten Django XL loudspeaker Page 2
Djescribing and Djudging
The Django XL's tweeter is one of the finer ones I've heard. It sounded far more extended and airy than the tweeter in my Revel Performa F30s ($3500/pair when last available), and exhibited all the signs of being wide in dispersion and low in distortion, grain, and hardness. With naturally recorded music, the Djangos presented one of the most revealing, open, and uncolored trebles especially with the Audio Research Ref150 in the mix. When I listened to Trio Mediaeval's Folk Songs (CD, ECM New Series 2003), each of the singers' sibilants and upper formants were in perfect balance with the core of her tone. The Djangos presented the music with an extra amount of air around each voice, as well as rendering the full shimmer of the surrounding acoustic. Sibilants lacked any hint of the grain or hardness that many tweeters add, while still presenting an honest window on the recorded event. On Ferndorf, Hauschka's prepared piano tinkled all over the stereo soundfield with frightening immediacy and extension (CD, Fat Cat CD1308). I wouldn't be surprised if JA's measurements reveal that the Django's tweeter is dialed in a bit hot. However, the tweeter's lack of grain and hardness, coupled with the rest of the speaker's neutral voicing, never made the Django sound bright or fatiguing.
On a recent guest-conducting trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, my wife and I rented a car and spent most of our days driving around that incredible city. I hadn't brought any CDs along, so we listened to the radio and quickly fell under the spell of "Somebody That I Used to Know," from Gotye's Making Mirrors (CD, Samples 'N' Seconds B0016449)a song whose content, performance, and production made me believe in pop music again. Of course, when I got home I bought the CD and listened to it on the big rig through the Django XLs. Most pop music isn't recorded very well; usually, too much compression ruins any real chance of its sounding great through a revealing hi-fi. Gotye's song sounds better than most, but the telltale sound of compression and slightly hashy treble are still vaguely present. But through the Djangos, overcompressed, grainy, aggressive-sounding recordings were far more listenable than through any other speaker I've lived with.
Javelin's superfun No Más (CD, Luaka Bop 8089 90074 2) ranges from 8-bit pop to layered sampling to cinematic moodiness. Through the Djangos I couldn't get enough of this record, which I normally play only in the car because of its lack of an audiophile pedigree. I believe that the combo of the Bel Canto DAC 3.5 VB D/A converter, Audio Research Ref150, Sain Line Systems cables, and Marten Django XLs was so free of grain, hash, and hardness that recordings such as No Más didn't make me cringe, as I usually do when listening to badly recorded music on a good system. It's a rare thing to hear treble this revealing and this forgiving.
The Django's midrange was superb, marked by an openness, speed, and evenness rarely heard even in a $15,000/pair speaker. In fact, the only other speaker that has offered my ears as open and neutral a midrange is the Revel Ultima Salon2 ($22,000/pair), which I find unparalleled in neutrality and coherence. The Django wasn't as coherent as the Salon2, but it was pretty darn close. The sound of pianist Robert Silverman playing works by Brahms and Schumann, from the high-resolution, 24/88.2k files of my final edits of his forthcoming album, for Stereophile, had all the tonal color, dynamic impact, and solidity you could want from a recording of a concert grand. The Djangos were remarkably free of boxy cabinet colorations in both the midrange and the bass. If the Django's cabinet was vibrating, then the folks at Marten have done a fine job of controlling and dissipating those vibrations to ensure that they don't mess with the music.
In fact, the Django's bass was excellent, striking the right balance of fullness, clarity, speed, weight, and texture. I got good bass extension in my room well down into the 20Hz decade. As noted above, there was a slight fullness when the Djangos were driven by the tubed Rogue M-180s and the ARC Ref150, this centered around the 60Hz region. Sounds containing those frequencies were both a little too prominent and lasted a little too long compared to the rest of the audioband. This was merely a characteristic of these speakers with these electronics in my room, and rarely got in the way of the music. Again, with the Simaudio 880Ms, I had to turn the bass level control up to "+" to get the same degrees of musical fullness and weight as I'd heard with the tube amps. Recordings of pipe organ, such as Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus's disc of Duruflé's Requiem (CD, Telarc CD-80135), sounded so right via the Djangos, the pedal notes locking to my room acoustic with authority. The bass in Kraftwerk's The Man-Machine (LP, Astralwerks STUMM 306) was propulsive and finely nuancedeach drum or bass note on this album had a completely different attack, texture, and timbre, all of which really humanized this incredible music. Pantha du Prince's bass workout, This Bliss (CD, Dial CD09), was as good as I've ever heard it, the bass providing enormous scale and weight while still sounding tuneful and controlled.
If I have a criticism of some models in Marten's Coltrane and Heritage lines, it might be that their bass, while accurate, could be described as quick, lean, and slightly overdamped. Some folks find speakers with that kind of bass a little too cool and calculated. The Django XL retained much of the speed, accuracy, and extension of those other Martens, but to my ear had slightly warmer, more full-bodied bass. The Django's generous yet well-controlled upper and midbass gave great solidity, soul, and satisfaction to my listening.
The Djangos were soundstage champions, and, as JA noted in his review of the Lansche Audio 5.1 speaker in July, the ARC Ref150 is an imaging machine. Driving the Djangos, it produced stereo images that were darned close to lifelike. The depth I heard from the Beach Boys' Smile Sessions (CD, Capitol T2580), in glorious mono, was engaging and varied. The Djangos also threw a wide image that was remarkable in its stability and accuracy. The xylophone in Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" was an unmistakable point source, even as the rest of the mix swirled around Gotye's voice (which sounds to me like a cross between those of Peter Gabriel and Sting). The made-up soundscapes of the Javelin and Pantha du Prince albums were tangible, of the sort I wish I could visit in real life. Recordings of music for chorus and orchestra, such as Eriks Esenvalds's Passion and Resurrection, with Stephen Layton conducting Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia (CD, Hyperion CDA67796), were about as three-dimensional as electronically reproduced music gets.
$15,000 is a lot of money for a pair of speakers, but it's a sane amountespecially when you consider the Django XL's build quality. The Django actually represents a very good value in today's audio worldmost speakers don't sound this good no matter what they cost. Paired with the electronics I had on hand, Marten's Django XLs gave me the best sound I have ever heard in my room. Highly recommended.