Marten Oscar Duo loudspeaker

At High End Mässan 2015—Stockholm, Sweden's big audio show—Marten planned to show off its finest loudspeaker to the hometown crowd. Marten took the hotel's largest demo room, located at the prime location at the top of the stairs, at the entry point to the 2nd floor exhibition space. There, Marten set up a super system (see photo below) featuring the Coltrane Supreme 2 loudspeaker, a towering monolith probably intended more for Asian consumption than for Swedes to bring home to their modest digs. In preshow demos, the Coltranes filled the large room with impressively transparent and effortless sound that was sure to impress show attendees.


But before that could happen—just before doors opened to the public—someone who shall not be named, who worked for another company participating in the room, decided it was a good time to play the Telarc Tchaikovsky: 1812 CD, with Erich Kunzel conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Margaret Graham's review of the LP and J. Gordon Holt's later CD coverage on the same page both warn of possible woofer damage. "If your power amp is capable of ripping your woofers apart, the cannonshots will give it the opportunity to do so," Holt warned. Telarc issues a similar warning in its notes.

Apparently, the individual who played this 1812 Overture at super-high SPLs hadn't read the booklet. When the cannons shot, they took out a few Coltrane 2 drivers—and not to dinner and a movie.

The catastrophe forced Marten to substitute one of its small, two-way stand-mounted speakers—I think it was the original "Duke"—which had been intended as a static display. They placed the standmounts adjacent to the Coltrane towers. That's what show attendees heard until, as I recall it, late Sunday when new SB Acoustics drivers arrived and were installed.

Surprise: Those small standmounts also filled the room with transparent sound. I'm not sure the Marten boys, unless asked, let on which speakers were playing. I bet most attendees assumed the Coltrane 2s were playing. That experience demonstrated to me that the company, which is best known for floorstanders, a few of which I've reviewed over the years, could also do high-performance standmounts.


Not the movies
Marten names its speakers for jazz greats. The Oscar Duo—there's also an Oscar Trio, a floorstanding three-way—is named for Peterson, not the movie statuette. The Duo has an MSRP of $6995/pair—add $995/pair for stands—making it the company's least costly loudspeaker by a margin of about $4000.

SB Acoustics manufactures the Duo's two drivers to designer Leif Olofsson's specifications. The 7" rear-vented, reinforced-ceramic mid/bass driver features a cast-aluminum basket and a vented, copper-sleeve pole-piece said to contribute to lower distortion. The driver is said to behave pistonically in its frequency range, with no breakup modes.

The "extremely rigid," "phase-optimized," "high-efficiency" ceramic-dome, copper-capped tweeter, featuring a neodymium magnet system, is said to exhibit a "high break up mode" (which I assume means its "break-up" frequency is further than usual above audibility) and "flat, even high-frequency response." "Perfect" rear-chamber coupling is said to be achieved via an optimized, vented pole-piece. I'll happily leave the crossover design's specific implementation and electrical characteristics to John Atkinson's measurements, but here are some basics: The crossover is said to be second-order (12dB/octave), to be centered at 2500Hz, and to use high-quality copper-foil air-core coils, polypropylene capacitors, and metal-foil noninductive resistors. Crossover design is Olofsson's enduring passion.


Frequency response is claimed to be 37Hz–20kHz ±3dB, which, for such a small box, sounds incredible. The specified sensitivity is relatively low, at 86dB/m/2.83V—there's no free lunch in speaker design—while the impedance is rated at 6 ohms nominal with a 3.1 ohm minimum.

Internal wiring is from Jorma, a Swedish company Marten has long been associated with and which it purchased after Jorma's founder passed. The speaker terminals are WBT Nextgen, a single pair, not biwirable.

The petite cabinet of 25mm "fiber laminate" is said to feature internal MDF bracing between the tweeter and mid/bass driver. The speaker weighs 29lb and measures approximately 8" W × 16" H × 12.5" D. It's available in Matte Walnut and Piano Black or White. It's small but handsome; I found it particularly attractive in Piano Black. Optional cloth grilles cost $79/pair. I preferred the "naked" look.

Marten Audio's American importer, VANA Ltd., supplied Marten's attractive triple-riser stands, which were designed specifically for this speaker. The speakers bolt on to the stand's top plate. That plus the large-footprint base produce not just acoustical stability but also child- and dog-proof stability, which for many is an important consideration.

The provided stands lined up the middle of the enclosure, halfway between the two drivers, approximately with my ears as I sat in my Norwegian Ekornes Stressless chair. That's the height the designer said produces the most balanced sound (and also the height at which measurements should be taken). The $995/pair price for the stands seems high, but the importer claims it's a break-even price.

You'd best believe that a period of adjustment is necessary when you roll a pair of $100,000+ full-range speakers out of your listening room and replace them with far-less-expensive two-ways. But as it turned out, the adjustment period was short: As incredible as this speaker's claimed low-frequency response was, at –3dB at 37Hz, the claim gained credibility when I put some music on. These speakers went deep. What's more, the midbass overhang typical of small two-ways was absent.

What's still more, these small speakers didn't produce a "window effect," wherein the music appears to be entering the room from the other side of a pair of open windows. With eyes closed, they might as well have been good-sized floorstanders.

A surprisingly satisfactory spatial picture and smooth timbral balance resulted from aligning the baffle fronts with the blue tape that marks where my reference Wilson Audio Specialties Alexxes go and the Oscars squared with the room. These lightweight speakers were easy to move in tiny increments.

Tony Minasian's Drums & Bells CD (no catalog number), with its several tracks of metallic and drum percussion, was a useful tool for tweaking the loudspeaker position for bottom-end evenness and toe-in for high-end balance (footnote 1).

The balance was too mellow with the speakers squared up, so I toed them in. Aiming the tweeters to intersect behind my head, the inside wall of the cabinets just visible, produced more air and better high-frequency response, but aiming the tweeters directly at the listening position produced the best central-image focus and high-frequency response, with no perceptible beaming or speaker localization. The only trade-off was a small reduction in soundstage width—a worthwhile compromise, I decided. The Duos, to my surprise (considering that the 7" mid/woof had to handle frequencies up to 2500Hz) sounded smooth and spacious in any of the three toe-in positions; which position is best is a matter of taste.

The baffle front ended up back about two inches from where the Alexxes go. Further back produced more but not better bass, at the expense of higher frequency getting swallowed up in excess warmth. (If your only speaker moves are on the gross side, you may not know what you are missing: Tiny changes in loudspeaker placement can yield big changes in sound.)

About halfway through this review, the importer sent over a pair of Jorma Duality speaker cables, which made sense for two reasons: 1. the speakers' internal wiring is Jorma, so why not match it up? and 2. my reference speaker cables cost more than the speakers do. At $4395 for a 3m pair, the Duality are still pricey, but at least they cost less than the speakers.

The biggest differences I heard when switching out the cables were more midband bloom and air with the Jormas at the expense of image focus and solidity. For these speakers, that was an okay trade-off.

Footnote 1: I discussed this recording in my VAC 452 iQ amplifier review.
US distributor: VANA Ltd.
Nesconset, New York
(631) 960-5242

Anton's picture

So, you are the guy who blew up the Coltranes!

I have a trip down memory lane for you:

The last Stereophile Show in NYC, I think it was, and whatever new company Mark Levinson had invented was in a big room with windows demonstrating a big big big black box speaker.....with chrome accents. (It looked like it should have been called "The Nagel.")

I was sitting in the room as you had him play a piece that I was familiar with, but now forget then name of, and I don't think he knew the piece. He cued it up at a rather healthy level and I recall thinking, "Well, this is is certainly going to be something!"

When the huge bass transient hit, it really was something, but something bad. The woofer gave the biggest painful clunk of despair I have ever heard from a woofer and I honestly thought you broke his speakers.

An awkward silence followed. (I can still picture his frown.)

Thanks for prying loose that old memory.

Perhaps 2004?

I think it was the Daniel Hertz M1 speaker?

To bring it all back home, the Daniel Hertz looks a lot (!) like the recently reviewed Göbel High End Divin Marquis.

End of ramble.

Ortofan's picture

... the 24" Hartley woofers, in massive cabinets, that were part of the HQD system.

MhtLion's picture

My title (subject) tells all. It will be truly impressive to see a head-to-head with speakers like LS 50 Meta. So, please don't return these tiny Martens yet.

Charles E Flynn's picture

It would also be interesting to see how these speakers and the KEF LS50 Metas compare with the B&W 805 D3. In my view, these three speakers are among the best-looking small standmounts.

MhtLion's picture

Definitely B&W 803 D3 is one of the best looking bookshelves. LS 50 and Marten Oscar Duo are great looking too.

John Atkinson's picture
MhtLion wrote:
My title (subject) tells all. It will be truly impressive to see a head-to-head with speakers like LS 50 Meta.

My review of the LS50 Meta in the January 2021 issue will include a comparison with the Marten Oscar Duo.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

MhtLion's picture

Awesome! You are the man, sir!


Ortofan's picture

... at the bottom of the 'measurements' page should be
rather than
" index.html"
as it is presently posted.'s picture

Maybe you would like to check out the NEW Marten Parker Duo monitor, apparently $11,000 plus, depending on ceramic or diamond tweeter, etc. One of three models in Parker series. As a longtime user of the Marten Miles speakers, I predict Duo is superb. And it's gorgeous.

remlab's picture

Even in the big guns? Wow! That's pretty high praise!

John Werner's picture

I'd guess there's others like me who read about the stuff I'd never rationally spend for. Usually it leaves me mostly empty not adding to my audiophile pursuits. This one was different as it actually delivered a surprise. A small stand mount box that could be called a full-range loudspeaker with few caveats. It already appears to be a kind of benchmark type of speaker proving what can be achieved in a fairly compact format. I do get quiet tired of super expensive stuff and I get the analogy of car rags that cover exotics. Still I find more interest in modestly priced gear that far over-achieves. At $5K with stands this misses price-wise but the excellent review found me genuinely engaged with interest. Great review on a relatively affordable piece of the true high-end.