MartinLogan originated in 1983 out of Lawrence, Kansas. I was fresh out of college at the time and remember hearing a pair of their electrostatic speakers at the local Hi-Fi shop in South Carolina and being amazed at their transparent and detailed sound. Today, they are well known in audio circles for their electrostatic speaker designs, however, they also make more conventional “box” speakers. In this review, I will be taking their newly designed Motion XT F100 towers for a test drive. Will they live up to the MartinLogan heritage?
MartinLogan Motion XT F100 Tower Speaker Highlights
- Improved and redesigned Folded Motion XT Obsidian 2 tweeter.
- One 6.5-inch Nomex-reinforced Kevlar mid-range cone.
- Three 6.5-inch aluminum woofers designed to leverage “floor bounce” to improve bass response.
- Fully adjustable F.A.S.T anti-vibration outrigger feet.
I’ll not go into detail about MartinLogan’s electrostatic speakers, but their design is quite distinctive. Usually tall, the panels have a clear, curved membrane that is tightly stretched across a frame which is often attached to a box base that contains a woofer. They radiate sound from the front and back, giving them an amazingly open and un-colored sound quality. There are some trade-offs with this concept, though. Placement in a room can be tricky. They tend to not play loudly (you can’t get them to 11 on the volume dial) and they can’t play deep without a conventional woofer getting involved.
The Motion XT series tries to achieve a middle ground with the electrostatic and acoustic suspension designs. The Motion and Motion XT series have both received a fresh redesign with updated cabinets, crossovers, and drivers. Within minutes after firing the XT F100s up, I knew I was going to be treated to some amazing stuff. I was immediately struck by their dynamic capabilities and their razor-sharp imaging and expansive sound staging.
1x folded motion ribbon (1.25”x2.4”)
1x 6.5” Kevlar
3x 6.5” aluminum
31Hz – 25kHz
Both the Motion and Motion XT series have been given a complete ground-up redesign. The Motion XT gets a larger tweeter and Nomex-reinforced Kevlar midrange/bass drivers while the Motion uses woven fiberglass. The Folded Motion Obsidian Tweeter has substantial improvements in its motor structure to reduce distortion and achieve a more linear response. It has a lower crossover point and has the surface area equivalence of eight one-inch dome tweeters. It produces sound waves by squeezing sound from the folds, like an accordion. With the help of the newly designed waveguide, its dispersion pattern is about 90 degrees horizontal, so the higher frequencies have far less side wall reflection than a typical dome.
The midrange and woofers have an almost 180-degree horizontal spread. They can handle higher output with greater efficiency and less distortion. The sweet spot is wide, so all the people on the couch can benefit from the increased clarity wherever they sit. Imaging was also some of the very best I have heard from any speaker from any manufacturer I have listened to over the years. The soundstage was wide and deep with excellent front-to-back layering. More about this later.
The 6.5-inch midrange cone is made from a Nomex-reinforced Kevlar composite that provides stiffness and reduced mass. The sensitivity of the towers is about the same as the bookshelf version. MartinLogan decided that 92dB was a high enough number that they would leave it alone and use the added headroom to work on flattening out the frequency response curve. They succeeded in making the F100 very neutral in its sound signature. The speakers can play loud while staying super clean. I could not get them to clip even at painfully loud levels. At very low volumes, they maintained detail and the same razor-sharp imaging.
The three 6.5-inch woofers are made from aluminum and as you can see, they sit closer to the floor than most other tower speakers (my Sonus faber Sonetto Vs, for example). This allows them to use some floor bounce to reinforce the low end. Underneath the cabinet are two tuned ports that utilize the full vertical interior space to add an extended bass response.
Because of this, the XT F100s are not as particular about placement from the front wall as a rear-ported design would be. My review set came in walnut, which includes gold outer rings on the mid/woofer drivers. Each cone has a snap-on grille and the MartinLogan logo adds a very stylish flair to the front. These really are handsome speakers. On the back are bi-amp capable binding posts that have a wingnut design that is easy to use.
The F.A.S.T (Fully Adjustable Spiked Toolless) feet are some of the nicest I have ever used. You can easily adjust them by hand and the tip is interchangeable with a metal point or a hardwood floor safe rubber tip. Sorry, don’t try to order these feet for your other brand speakers, as they are designed only for the MartinLogan XT speakers. The towers weigh 76 pounds each, but the rubber feet still slid well on my rug for easy placement.
I set them up in my usual space about eight feet apart, nine feet from my seated sweet spot and a foot and a half off the front wall with over six feet to the nearest side wall. I avoided using room correction and my dual subwoofers for the first few weeks of my listening (adding them in later tightened the bass, but I could have been happy with them unassisted). These speakers have amazing impact and punch. If you don’t use subs with your music, you will not miss out on much.
My initial impressions of the MartinLogan XT F100s were sweet treble (Folded Motion tweeters are my personal fav), clear and full midrange, and excellent bass (pipe organ deep). The imaging was so good, I initially had to place my ears to my surround speakers to make sure I had not inadvertently left them on. I have only had a few other speakers create this kind of effect before and it took a few days of serious listening to get used to this 3D sound. Stereo should sound this way, but in reality, speaker placement, room acoustics, furniture, etc. all work against this effect. I was able to achieve excellent imaging with minimal setup fuss.
The Moody Blues “Question of Balance”
For music, I’ll give you some impressions and thoughts on some SACD remasters from a few bands of the 70s. A Question of Balance, by The Moody Blues, was mixed into Quadrophonic and hi-res 5.1, but the original stereo mix was also cleaned up in this 2006 remaster. The sonics are excellent on this recording with great acoustical guitars and electronic synthesizers that paint a broad, lush musical soundscape that tested both the bass drivers (Melancholy Man) and the sparkle of that Folded Motion tweeter reproducing a mandolin (And the Tide Rushes In). Vocals were clean and centered with the soundstage extending off to the right and left of the F100s and the depth extended well through the front wall. With eyes closed, the overall sound and spatial effects were magical.
Pushing the 70’s sonic envelope a bit more was the Prog Rock classic Fragile, by Yes. Steve Wilson oversaw the remastering of this class album with new (2015) stereo mixes but also includes several bonus tracks, a 5.1 hi-res mix, the original stereo mixes, the original DVD Audio surround mix from Rhino, and instrumental mixes. Also, because more is better, included is the entire album from a vinyl transfer from the UK in LPCM 24/96 stereo. Last of all, a bonus track mixed in surround of the band playing their rendition of America by Simon and Garfunkel which is simply mind-blowing.
This music just ascends to a higher plain in surround and the mixes are a sonic tour-de-force. The F100s could play this music at concert levels and never sounded strained, compressed, or strident. From top to bottom, the F100s conveyed the music without coloration or and sonic degradation that I could hear. They were well-balanced and maintained their poise even through the most complex musical passages.
The London Philarmonic Orchestra “The London Philarmonic Orchestra Plays Pink Floyd”
Somewhat of a cheat from my 70s kick, I offer you Us and Them, Symphonic Pink Floyd. Arranged by Jazz Coleman and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (with a cover by Roger Dean, who did the cover of Fragile, and others). I always love playing this at work and occasionally having someone comment on the classical music I have playing in the background when they suddenly stop and say, “Isn’t that Comfortably Numb, or isn’t that The Gig in the Sky?” In any case, the F100s can handle full-scale orchestral work with a satisfying realistic weight. In a home theater setting, whether in movies or TV shows, the XT F100s took the flat-screen action into an aural 3D space. Not quite as good as a 7.2 system, but if I had to downsize to a two-channel system again, the F100s would be at the top of my list for their razor-sharp imaging and classy, good looks.
The MartinLogan Motion XT F100 Tower Speakers deliver fantastic performance for far less than the competition. They punch far above their price class.
- Wide and precise imaging
- Excellent bass extension
- Balanced and musical
- Premium fit and finish
- No flaws of consequence
With their high style and wonderful sonic performance, I was very impressed with the MartinLogan XT F100 towers and highly recommend them to anyone that is ready to take their music experience to the next level without sacrificing their kid’s college tuition.
It is not hyperbole to say that companies that make speakers that cost more than an automobile should be concerned that MartinLogan had designed a speaker that is sonically excellent yet costs thousands of dollars less. I know a few $10K pairs of speakers that don’t perform as well as the XT F100s. These speakers are an amazing bargain from a cost/performance ratio. I loved them. Highly recommended.