MartinLogan meets Bryston

Asked to name the top three drawbacks of electrostatic loudspeakers, the knowledgeable audiophile will list—not necessarily in this order—restricted listening area, inability to play loud, and limited bass extension. Although the last criticism can still be applied to the new MartinLogan CLX (its claimed bass –3dB point is 56Hz), the speaker's design has gone a major way toward addressing the other two criticisms.

Introduced as the successor to the famed CLS (or CLZ), the CLX strikes me more like an altogether different speaker. It's quite a bit wider than the old CLS, but it's not as big as I thought it would be based on pictures I've seen. It follows the curvilinear driver design of the original CLS, the consequent wider dispersion creating a wider sweet spot.

The CLX certainly delivers on the promise of being more than a one-listener-in-the-sweet-spot speaker, but what but what really blew me away were the dynamics. Aided and abetted by a pair of Descent 1 subwoofers ($3000 each), the rest of the system made up of Bryston components (BCD-1 CD player, BD-A1 DAC, BP26 preamp, 28B SST2 power amps), this system kicked ass in a way that was difficult to credit to electrostatics. I suspect the Bryston amps (1000W!) were a major contributor here. I understand that, in typical electrostatic fashion, the impedance of the CLX goes very low in the treble, a characteristics that many amps have trouble dealing with—but not the Brystons. The sound was loud and clear, with a tremendous "punch."

Criticisms? Well, I would expect a speaker that costs CN$22,000/pair (about to be increased to $25,000) to be full-range, or, if not full-range, the price should be lower to allow budgeting for a pair of subwoofers.

Shawn's picture

I'm now forced to examine my preconceptions regarding the "Bryston" sound. This system really surprised me in that the 1000W 28SST^2 mated with the bryston pre, dac, and transport were able to sound delicate even timid and tremulous when the music called for it. Often times big power amps can't play the blushing virgin very well. The presentation was also not particularly forward, it was confident relaxed and the sound came effortlessly instead of with an under current of "need to impress". However, I wasn't particularly taken with the speakers. There were several parts in the music I had played which I've heard on many many speakers. On these ones every once in a while a certain note (midrange frequency) would "blurt" a little. Not sure how better to describe it. The mechanics behind the sound could be clearly heard to interfere with it. The bass in the room was not over done and integrated nicely.