The MartinLogan Rooms at AXPONA

When a brand that's rightly famous for world-class electrostatic panels wants to design a line of in-wall speakers, things can get pretty daunting. After all, electrostats are dipoles—sound flows from both the front and back. Installing a dipole in a wall is as useless as hanging a stained-glass window in a dark closet.

All the same, MartinLogan says it used its floorstanding hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers as the performance benchmark for its in-walls. That ultimately yielded the 7'-tall Statement 40XWs ($45,000/pair, above). The speakers are mounted in a sealed, acoustically-inert enclosure, to isolate and decouple the drivers from the wall. The 3.4" depth and 14.3" width allows the Statements to be installed between studs and then hidden behind paintable acoustic cloth, effectively making them invisible.

The configuration I heard wasn't built into the walls (the Schaumburg Renaissance hotel wouldn't have approved, I'm fairly sure!); the speakers stood flat against the rear of the room on hefty stands made for such demos. Each side sports 40 drivers placed in a line array: 16 folded motion tweeters, 16 3.5" midrange drivers, plus eight 6.5" woofers.

Driven via USB by a Qobuz-equipped MacBook into an Anthem STR integrated amplifier ($5000), the Statements didn't break a sweat distinguishing themselves from less-pedigreed in-walls. On blues titan Joe Bonamassa's "High Water Everywhere," the immediacy and snap of his pulled guitar strings commanded my swooning attention, and the cymbal-less drum part resonated and rumbled just as I imagine it did in the concert venue. This is as close as MartinLogan gets to bringing electrostatic sound to end users who don't want electrostats.

My admiration was real but a bit academic at this point, because I love me some curved MartinLogan panels, and still frequently use the wonderful ML Odyssey electrostats (ca 1999) as a cherished reference.

No wonder then that I got an extra spring in my step when I discovered that there was a second MartinLogan demo room, three floors down (see heading photo), where a Luxman L-509X integrated amplifier ($9995) was practically making sweet sweet love to a couple of hybrid ML Renaissance ESL-15As ($27,500/pair).

The single handclap on Cassandra Wilson's "Come On In My Kitchen," 4 minutes and 25 seconds into the song, startled me with its realness. On every recording MartinLogan's Russell Woolfolk threw at this rig, I heard clarity, speed, and low-end grunt. All the details were there, precise and beauteous; and in this room, for a while, all seemed somehow right with the world.

Metalhead's picture

15a's are extremely involving and it's hard to turn them off for this user.

bobsmith57's picture

I agree with your ML addiction. I have ML original Sequels, 1980's vintage that I am driving with Quicksilver mono EL34 amps and a Counterpoint 3.1 tube preamp. Using a Windows 10 PC for a streaming source into my Schiit Bifrost 2. Sounds super real. I love listening to 1950's, 60's jazz on my rig. I just can't give up those speakers. They are almost 40 years old and still kick butt.