MartinLogan Dynamo 800X powered subwoofer Page 2

All of this took some time, but after I'd replaced the defective wireless receiver, it went smoothly. The only inconvenience was that I had to switch one app off before running the other, so that the two apps wouldn't interfere with each other. Otherwise, the apps would inevitably fail to discover both subs.

Comparing wired vs wireless signal connection, I could hear no differences in levels of background noise or bass power, or in pace, rhythm, pitch definition, solidity, or tightness. Nor did I ever have any problems with dropouts because of interference with the wireless signal. Once all was set up, I checked the 800Xes with the lowest frequency bands of the half-step-spaced chromatic scale on Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2, track 16). I could clearly hear that these were sharply defined, as were the 40 and 31Hz 1/3-octave warble tones on that disc. The 25 and 20Hz bands were not audible.

In previous listening sessions for equipment reviews conducted in my 650-square-foot former listening room in New York, either two JL Audio Fathom f212v2s or a single SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofer delivered deep bass extension, force, and realism. Tannoy's much-smaller TS2.12 couldn't produce much musical content below 40Hz. I now live in a California condo with a listening room of only 143 square feet. Still, I wondered: Would even two Dynamo 800X subwoofers be enough?

The answer came quickly. The two Dynamo 800Xes expanded the apparent space around the pipe organ in a 24-bit/88.2kHz AIFF file of the Toccata of Widor's Organ Symphony 5, performed by Jonas Nordwall in an unreleased recording by JA. Similarly, the deepest organ-pedal notes in Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony's recording of Saint-Saëns's Symphony 3 (LP, RCA Living Stereo LSC-2341)—the 36.7Hz low D-flats at the end of the first movement, and the 32.6Hz low C's at the end of the second—were clearly distinguished from each other, showing good pitch definition for the 800X subs, and pressurizing my room with thunderous chords. Two 800Xes playing in stereo provided more than enough power and extension.

In fact, I had to reduce the 800Xes' output to preserve good pitch definition during the final, 25Hz pedal note of organist James Busby's performance of Howells's Master Tallis's Testament, from the compilation Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago CD-101). Otherwise, the bass from these organ recordings seemed to overdrive the subs. Even at lowered output, they continued to pressurize my room, making the air shudder and rattling the picture frames. But when little bass content was present the Dynamos fell silent, allowing the Quads' translucent upper midrange and sense of space to emerge—as in Andrew Galuska's performance of Bossi's Intermezzo, from the same album. The tenor and soprano ranks of pipes were translucent and pure.


Sustained organ-pedal chords were evenly balanced with the choral voices in Piè Jesu, from John Rutter's Requiem, performed by the Turtle Creek Chorale under Timothy Seelig (CD, Reference RR-57CD)—the full weight of the organ didn't overwhelm the sopranos, or my sense of the venue's ambience. Christopher Herrick playing the 1918 Skinner/Hutchings organ of St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, conveyed the full power of the explosively fortissimo ending of Shostakovich's Passacaglia, from Herrick's collection Organ Fireworks IV (CD, Hyperion CDA66605). Similarly, Scott Dettra performing Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man on the great pipe organ of the Washington National Cathedral showed that the 800Xes could reproduce this recording's large dynamic swings and massive pedal-note pressure (CD, Loft LRCD-1114) .

Protected by a high-pass filter, the Quads were able to play explosive percussion notes without overloading their bass panels or triggering their protection systems. The bass drum in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, performed by the Minnesota Orchestra under Eiji Oue (24/176 file, Reference HRx-70), was heavy, punchy, sharply defined, and harmonically correct. The two bass-drum notes that end the Chaconne of Holst's Suite 1 for Military Band, with Howard Dunn leading the Dallas Wind Symphony (CD, Reference RR-39CD), were massive and stunning. The bass-drum beats in Owen Reed's La Fiesta Mexicana, performed by the same forces (CD, Reference RR-38CD), were powerful, tuneful, and clear. The 800Xes reproduced the dense power and drive of the plucked double bass and kick drum in "Use Me," from Patricia Barber's Companion (CD, Premonition/Blue Note 229 6323), so well that the bass notes seemed to emanate from under the floor.

Bass-synthesizer effects became larger, more three-dimensional, more impactful with the 800Xes. The ML subs dramatically intensified the synth's percussive thuds in "The Attack on Ryan's House," from Horner's score for Patriot Games (CD, RCA 66051-2). The ominous synth in "Silk Road," from I Ching's Of the Marsh and the Moon (CD, Chesky WO144), pressurized the room. The 800Xes captured the full dynamics of the throbbing, churning, 50Hz synth note that opens "Deeper Well," from Emmylou Harris's Spyboy (CD, Eminent EM-25001-2), and captured the mounting power and solidity of the heartbeat that begins "Breathe," from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (SACD/CD, EMI 82136-2)—that single repeated sound built from an almost inaudible pulse to a thundering, solid, clean, pressurized thudding with no bloat or distortion. Similarly, David Hudson's digeridoo throbbed, pulsed, and rumbled without distortion in "Rainforest Wonder," from his Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia IA2003D).

I compared the MartinLogan Dynamo 800X, using the listening noteswith other subwoofers I'd reviewed using the JL Audio CR-1 crossover and Quad ESL-989s: JLA's own Fathom f212v2 (222 lb, $7000) and SVS's SB16-Ultra (92 lb, $2799). Both the JLA and SVS subs required wired connections, Super Sliders, and two people to safely carry them upstairs and unpack them, and both come with parametric equalizers and a calibration mike—unlike the far less expensive 800X, which has neither of those.


It's probably no surprise that the bigger, heavier, more expensive, more powerful JLA and SVS subs outperformed the little 800X, with better pitch definition, deeper bass extension, and greater dynamics. They also were able to pressurize the room more, and create wider, deeper soundstages. But the Fathom F212v2 is seven times the weight and 14 times the cost of the 800X, and the SB16-Ultra is twice the cost and three times the weight—and neither offers wireless connection.

What about that Velodyne ULD-18 I auditioned in 1989, now long discontinued? When I played Lowell Graham and the National Symphonic Winds' performance of John Williams's Liberty Fanfare, from the collection Winds of War and Peace (CD, Wilson Audiophile WCD-8823), the downfiring ULD-18 delivered a sudden, massive bass-drum note that flexed the floor and shook my old listening room. The 800Xes, in my new room, reproduced that same note with somewhat less power and impact, but with faster, cleaner, better-focused sound. The close-miked conga drum that begins "Hotel California," from the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over (CD, Geffen GEFD-24725), seemed less powerful through the 800Xes. Of course, the 800Xes were playing in a much smaller room.

MartinLogan's Dynamo 800X is the first subwoofer I've reviewed that combines digital control, signal connection, and room correction—all three wirelessly—in a small, powerful package. I heard no difference between the wireless and wired connections, and once I'd found good positions for the Dynamos, set their output level correctly, and identified their optimal crossover frequencies, their sound seamlessly blended with that of my Quad electrostatics, deepening the ESL-989s' soundstages and deep-bass extension and expanding their dynamic range, and enhancing their three-dimensionality, all at a price far below that of larger subwoofers I've reviewed.

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gcvanwinkle's picture

I found this information from Harman interesting:

I'm planning on implementing a two subwoofer setup with subs on opposites sides of the room as shown in the document

GC Van Winkle

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile 2008 article 'The science of subwoofing' by DO is also helpful ....... Everything you always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If the loudspeaker manufactures incorporate powered subwoofers like the GoldenEar Triton Reference (Stereophile Class-A full range), it would be a good idea :-) ........

larrylgreenhill's picture

Thanks to GC Van Winkle for alerting me to the excellent slide lecture from the Harman engineer.

avanti1960's picture

the feet attach to "another" surface? How about they attach to the rear surface- you know the ones with the power connections, wired audio connections and manual adjustments?
So then with a front firing setup, the controls and connections will be facing down, under the subwoofer. Are the feet tall enough to fit the power cable, banana plugs, etc? All the cables need to feed downward and exit under the feet to the rear of the unit?
What an absolutely horrible design. I sure hope it sounds good down firing.
If I were reviewing this subwoofer this aspect of the design would have certainly been mentioned and admonished.

avanti1960's picture

I just purchased a pair of these subwoofers based on this review and so far they have integrated really well and sound excellent. A little "dry" sounding but hopefully they will bloom just a little as they wear in. MartinLogan recommends at least 50 hours before any critical listening is done.
With respect to the front firing setup requiring the connection and control panel to face the floor- it turns out that there really aren't any issues with doing this.
The controls are app based and the power cable has a 90-degree connector which gives plenty of room for the cable to exit under the unit and out the back. Same with the banana plugs for high level connections.
It would have been nice to have this outlined in the review at least to calm any concerns but all is well with this particular design application.
Thank you for the review which was a key factor in purchasing them and I am very happy with the results.
Tony, Suburban Chicago area.