MartinLogan Aerius loudspeaker Tellig part 3

In the past, I've criticized speaker manufacturers for not making their models easier to drive. But an electrostatic/cone speaker hybrid is a special case. You can't expect that such a speaker will present an easy amplifier load. All in all, I think MartinLogan is to be commended for making the Aerius i as easy to drive as it is. This speaker, while fairly demanding, is not a current hog.

While a 25Wpc Musical Fidelity A2 was not quite up to the job (hardly surprising), a 50Wpc Musical Fidelity A220 was. So was a Bryston B60 integrated, which is driving the pair of Aerius i's in my living room now. Does the Bryston run out of power? Sure it does. But the Aerius i isn't a speaker that's meant to be played very loud. There's only so much volume—as Wes Phillips uses the term, meaning to fill a room with sound—that you can get out of this relatively small speaker, especially in larger rooms.

Keep in mind that a 60Wpc tube amp will probably put about the same 60Wpc into 4 ohms that it does into 8 ohms—but the 60Wpc Bryston solid-state integrated is said to put out 100Wpc into 4 ohms. This is likely the reason why the Bryston B-60 could drive the Aerius i's with a reasonable sense of ease and why the tubed Conrad-Johnson MV55 could not.

Those who listen in small rooms—particularly those who live in apartments—may find that the MartinLogan Aerius i is a godsend. Big speakers tend to overload and overwhelm small rooms, both sonically and visually. The Aerius i won't.

A person with a relatively small listening room could put together a truly high-end system on the cheap: two grand and change for the Aerius i, $1500 for the basic Bryston B-60 integrated without remote control, $1550 for a Micromega Stage 6 CD player. Well, five grand is not so cheap, but when you hear the sound of these components—exactly the system that's playing in my living room right now—you'll know you've got a bargain.

Plus, the Aerius is elegant. Your nonaudiophile friends will ooh and aah over it, as will your audiophile cronies. And they, too, will immediately hear that the sound is as transparent as the look: see-through, hear-through.

Those who have big rooms and who want big sound will best be served by other, larger, more expensive MartinLogan hybrids, such as the SL3 or the reQuest. My own living room measures 17' by 27', with low 71/2' ceilings. This is just about the Aerius i's room-size limit, I'd say. If my room were any larger, the speakers would be too small.

Placement of speakers in the room is relatively fussy, I found. You want to bring them at least 3' out from the rear wall to get a spacious image—I settled on 5'. If I positioned the speakers more or less equidistant from the rear and side walls, I got boomy bass—no surprise. I ended up with the speakers not quite 3' in from the side walls.

You need to play with toe-in. I was able to get a superb soundstage. But I was also able to compromise the soundstaging with poor speaker placement. Be prepared to experiment. Thoughtfully, MartinLogan has supplied rounded floor supports that you can thread into the bottom of each speaker in lieu of spikes—until the speakers are exactly where you want them.

The sound has the virtues traditionally associated with electrostatics: openness, speed, freedom from coloration. Remarkably, these qualities are preserved below 450Hz, where the sealed-box bass enclosure takes over. The downside is that the Aerius i is now slightly more difficult to drive than before. And the speakers will probably not fill a large room with big sound.

Sorry. In hi-fi, you can't have everything.

Also, speaker cables. I find that with electrostatics—Quads as well as MartinLogans—I prefer solid-core speaker cables. They sound...well, less wiry. Kimber power cords also helped smooth out the sound (footnote 3).

"Zhees speekers, zhey are Amerrrican?" Slava wanted to know.

"Da," I replied. "About as American as you can get—made in Lawrence, Kansas."

I'll have these speakers around for a while. Before I could buy them for the living room, Marina did.—Sam Tellig



Footnote 3: The speakers must be plugged into the electrical mains to energize the electrostatic panels.—ST
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