Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity - Thumbs Up Awards
The latest single-enclosure speaker solution from MartinLogan comes in the form of Motion Vision X soundbar, which combines the elegant appearance of its predecessor (Motion Vision soundbar) and the convenience of wireless connectivity.

With the glowing reviews that its predecessor received (including from this very magazine), the current iteration of the product apparently has some big shoes to fill. This can only be accomplished when the added convenience is accompanied by solid no-compromise performance for music and home theater applications. This review should shed some light on whether this Motion Vision X is up to the challenge.

The MartinLogan Motion Vision X soundbar features more versatile connectivity than its predecessor, accepting both wired (digital optical/coaxial and analog) and Ethernet or Wi-Fi (DTS Play-Fi) connections. The soundbar appearance is elegant, featuring a sculpturally curvy shape with first-rate build quality and high-gloss black finish. The Vision X is more than just your average soundbar, as it can also serve as a whole-house music-playback device with its Wi-Fi connectivity. With its well-balanced high-quality sound across the whole frequency spectrum, the Vision X is an excellent all-around performer.

Highlights

MartinLogan Motion Vision X Soundbar

  • Built-in 802.11g/n Wi-Fi (dual band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) for high-resolution DTS Play-Fi wireless streaming (Play-Fi can playback files up to 24 bit/192 kHz with up to 24 bit/96 kHz down-sampling)
  • Seven drivers (three 1″ × 1.4″ Folded Motion tweeters and four 4″ cone drivers) with 100 watts total amplification across the seven amplifiers
  • DSP-based preamplification with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding capability
  • Versatile input ports: 1x optical, 1x coaxial, 1x 3.5-mm stereo plug, 1x Ethernet
  • RCA subwoofer output port and wireless SWT-2 subwoofer transmitter
  • Sculpturally aesthetic ported cabinet design
  • High-fidelity sound for music and home theater
Introduction

The MartinLogan name has been synonymous with high-fidelity sound reproduction systems. This is an achievement that is made possible by the company’s philosophy of offering solutions without making any compromises. Of course, this no-compromise philosophy has to be interpreted within the many constraints that the solutions have to adhere, including the laws of physics, budget, and aesthetics. Adhering to these constraints can often be a challenging task, especially because they often contradict one another.

MARTINLOGAN SOUNDBAR REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
MFR:

43 Hz –23 kHz ±3 dB

Amplifier Power:

100 Watts (200 Watts Peak) Combined Total Output Across 7 Amplifiers

Crossover Frequency:

3 kHz

Components and Decoding:

DSP Based Preamplifier, Dolby® Digital, DTS Digital Surround™

High Frequency Transducers:

Three 1″ × 1.4″ (2.6cm × 3.6cm) Folded Motion Transducers with 5.25″ × 1.75″ (13.3cm × 4.4cm) Diaphragm

Low Frequency Drivers:

Four 4″ (10.2cm) Fiber Cones with Extended Throw Drive Assembly; Non-resonant Asymmetrical Chamber Format

Enclosure:

Ported

Controls:

Top-mounted Controls and Included Remote Control

Inputs:

(1x) Optical SPDIF (Digital Optical), (1x) Coax SPDIF (Digital Coaxial), (1x) Analog 3.5 mm, (1x) Ethernet

Outputs:

(1x) Subwoofer Out via Analog RCA

Wireless Connectivity:

DTS Play-Fi® – 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz; 802.11 g/n

Wireless Subwoofer Option:

Built-in SWT-2 Subwoofer Wireless Transmitter Compatible with Select MartinLogan Subwoofers

Power Draw:

Max: 120 Watts Idle: 9 Watts Standby: < 0.3 Watts

Dimensions:

5″ H x 39.9″ W x 5.85″ D (12.7cm x 101.3cm x 14.8cm)

Weight:

20.5 Pounds (9.3 kg)/each

MSRP:

$1,699.95 USD

Company:

MartinLogan

SECRETS Tags:

MartinLogan, MartinLogan Motion, MartinLogan Soundbar, Soundbar Reviews

The Motion Vision X is the latest MartinLogan no-compromise solution for a single-enclosure speaker (soundbar) to serve multiple purposes. The demand for soundbars is definitely there, initially driven by the need to enhance the television-watching experience through the improvement in the television sound. Later, the soundbar convenience draws a lot of interest from the crowd of home theater enthusiasts. Thus, many soundbars are equipped with multiple drivers to create a surround-sound experience.

Apparently, the convenience of having a single enclosure to handle the sound reproduction need in a house also attracts the music enthusiasts, who need a high-quality music playback system to stream music from their mobile phones or computers conveniently. Many single-enclosure speaker solutions currently out there are designed only to address either music playback or home theater surround application.

There are a few multi-function single-enclosure speaker solutions in the current market, but usually with the performance emphasis on one side of the functions: music or home theater. The Motion Vision X soundbar is one of the multi-function single-enclosure speakers that is designed to excel in both music and home theater performances. In that sense, it is a rather ambitious product. But for a company like MartinLogan, this ambition is backed up by many years of experience and success in sound-technology development. Hence, it is not a far-fetched ambition to fill.

Design, Features, and Setup

The Motion Vision X is packaged neatly in a slender-shaped rectangular box. The speaker itself is very well protected inside the box with custom-fit padding. At its MSRP of $1,699.95, the Motion Vision X is definitely not cheap. If there is a soundbar pyramid based on the price, this product should be in the top block of the pyramid, near its tip. During the unpacking, I noticed that the care reflected in the packaging was commensurate with the class of the product. Included in the package is also the wall-mounting bracket for the Vision X. Wall anchors or screws, however, are not included. If you just plan to put the Vision X on the table or shelf, none of this hardware is needed.

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The Motion Vision X has about the same width as a 40-inch flat-screen television. Therefore, appearance wise, I think it matches better with larger-screen televisions. When put under or above your television, it is very unobtrusive and will not call attention to itself. When viewed straight from the front, where mostly its grill is visible, the Vision X appears just like a regular rectangular-shaped slender soundbar.

Viewed from above or from its side, however, the Vision X sports a curvy shape, which gives an impression of a sculptural object. There are a few convenient control buttons on the brushed aluminum panel on the middle-top of the soundbar, which can be used to power the soundbar on or off, adjust the volume, change the input source, and control the wireless connection.

To me the Vision X geometrical appearance is very appealing. The glossy black finish enhances its elegance. I suspect some users might want other finishes to match their room décor, but at the moment, glossy black is the only finish available. The soundbar scored a very high aesthetic mark in my book. It is the type of product that I would proudly display for my guests to see and perhaps, admire.

Under its sculpturally elegant appearance, the Motion Vision X packs an advanced sound engine. It is equipped with three 1″ × 1.4″ folded motion tweeters for the high frequency sound and four 4″ fiber cone drivers for the mid to low frequency sound. Each of these drivers has its own amplification, capable of producing 100 Watts RMS of output power over the seven drivers. The cabinet of the Vision X is ported on the back as can be seen from the rear-view figure of the product.

The Vision X has an ample set of inputs on its back panel. The sound from the television or other conventional sources can be channeled to the Vision X using digital (coaxial or optical) or RCA analogue connection. That means you can use the Vision X as playback speakers for three different sources. Although the Vision X is capable of being used as a stand-alone speaker, an analog sub-out port is provided to connect it to a wired subwoofer for extra bass foundation.

Also, this soundbar has a built-in transmitter to connect wirelessly to a subwoofer equipped with SWT-2 technology, such as some of the MartinLogan’s own subwoofers. The soundbar can also be connected to a local area network (LAN) to access DTS Play-Fi (a multi-platform streaming technology) via an Ethernet cable.

The versatility of the Vision X does not stop there. It is equipped with wireless connectivity, which is a feature not available on its predecessor. The soundbar can connect to DTS Play-Fi via the local Wi-Fi network, which enhances its convenience as an alternative to the wired Ethernet connection. Through the Play-Fi, you can use the Vision X to playback your music collection in your mobile phone or to stream music from various streaming services, such as Pandora and Spotify.

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The supplied remote control has nicely laid-out buttons and can be used to handle input switching, power on/off, volume adjustment, menu setting, and some mode selection. Clearly, MartinLogan does not treat this remote control as just an afterthought. The remote’s body is extruded from aluminum and feels sturdy. It felt rather cool (literally) to the touch in normal room temperature; a different feel than the common plastic-body remote control. The brushed finish adds elegance to the appearance of the remote, matching the elegance of the product it controls. I do have a little quibble about this remote; not about its functionality, but about the rather sharp top and bottom edges of the body of the remote. On a few occasions during the review, I almost got my skin scratched by it.

During the review, I placed the Motion Vision X soundbar on the top-most shelf of my TV stand, just below my 60″ LED television. It faced towards the main seating area, slightly below ear level of seated listeners. To channel the sound of television programs and video streaming movies, I connected the Vision X to the digital out of my television. For music evaluation, the digital coaxial connection from my Shanling CD-S100 and wireless Play-Fi connection from my mobile phone were utilized. An external subwoofer was used only during a small portion of my evaluation for comparison purposes.

Once the connection has been made, the next order of business is to enter the setup menu and select the correct settings. This can be done relatively easily by going through the menu layers of the soundbar that are displayed on the small blue LED display. The display is behind the soundbar grill, but it is bright enough to be seen through it. This display has two levels of brightness. I prefer to dim it to the lower of the two levels to make it less obtrusive to my television-watching experience. I also set the display to ‘auto-off’, so it is only on for a few seconds after receiving a new command. That way, the soundbar does not draw attention to itself during most of its operation. The overall setup process is rather intuitive and explained well in the manual. The whole process can be completed in less than five minutes….that’s how easy it is!

During my review, I kept the soundbar on all the time and automatically channeled the sound of my television when I turned it on. In fact, if it was just for watching television, I could put aside the Vision X remote and just use the television or cable-box remote for changing volume if I use the variable audio-out feature of my television. The Vision X remote was only needed if I wanted to change the playback mode, bass level, or source input of the soundbar. However, using it this way may reduce the bit depth and S/N ratio. A better method would be to use fixed audio-out from the source and program the remote to control volume in the soundbar.

Connecting the Vision X through the Wi-Fi network requires some initial work, but it is also relatively easy. First, the Vision X needs to be registered to the network. The steps to do this are clearly explained in the manual. Second, the Play-Fi app needs to be downloaded and installed on the mobile phones and/or computers that will be used as the source device. This last step can be skipped if you have already the Play-Fi app installed to operate other Play-Fi-compatible devices. Once registered to the network, the Vision X should be visible as one of the playback devices to select once the Play-Fi app is launched. If the Vision X is selected, the music and streaming playback will be handled by the soundbar. The selection of the soundbar as the playback device will overwrite any other wired analog or digital connection.

Listening Impressions

After the Vision X soundbar had been installed and set up for both wired and wireless connections, I played many hours of program materials (various kinds) through it in the effort to break in the speaker. I tried not to wear my critical ears during the break-in period, but the wonderful sound coming from the speaker often grabbed my attention. It did not take too much break in for the soundbar to settle well into its steady performance.

For enhancing the sound from the television, the Vision X easily met the expectation and more. The built-in speakers on most flat-screen televisions are small in size and driven by low-powered amplifiers, and hence they mostly produce compressed sound with almost no bass. With the Vision X taking over the television-sound duty, the whole watching experience heightened significantly. Going from the television speakers to the Vision X is like gaining a new vision after cleaning a dirty pair of glasses. There is no more compressed and muffled sound. Dialogues were produced with great clarity, even at relatively low volume levels. Even when I pushed it to a high volume, much louder than my comfortable level, the Vision X was able to maintain clarity without becoming harsh. The soundbar has sufficient dynamics to separate dialogue and background music well, so the music can stay in the appropriate layer of the sound without cluttering the ongoing dialogue.

I kept the simulated surround feature mostly on during my evaluation. In that setting, the simulated surround is activated when it detects a 5.1 digital signal through its optical or coaxial connection. In my opinion, this simulated surround works well within the context of a soundbar. You cannot, of course, expect an accurate side and back surround localization as in a full-blown multi-speaker surround sound system. With a soundbar, what you can expect is a sound envelopment to enhance the atmosphere of the displayed scenes. The Vision X was able to provide the necessary sound envelopment without changing the tonal character of the overall sound. This means that the simulated surround feature of the soundbar, which is usually done by changing the relative phase of the sound waves, does not create unnecessary artifacts that affect the integrity of the sound. I think MartinLogan strikes the balance right in this regard.

The Vision X has no problem in conveying television or movie soundtracks with a high degree of believability. Based on what I have described above, you can deduce that this soundbar should be able to handle dialogue-dominant program materials. But I am also glad to report that it has sufficient authority to convey the impact from action movies as well. This is partially because the soundbar is not bass-shy. It is capable of producing thunderous bass that belies its size. It may not reach the lowest octave, but the bass produced is quite impactful. Overall, the speaker sounds bigger than what its size indicates.

The Vision X is quite at home for stereo music playback too, which has three levels of bass modes: Night, Normal, and Bass+. The Night mode is the typical reduced-dynamic music playback suitable for night listening to not disturbing the other house members. The Normal mode produces the most pleasing sound with good balance of bass, treble, and midrange. For critical evaluation, this was the mode I used. The Vision X is capable of conveying vocal or musical instruments from good recordings through its digital wired connection with a high degree of realism. Details are produced with good clarity without being bright. Vocals sounds natural with no over-emphasis on sibilance.

The only area where the speaker might fall short in satisfying discerning audiophiles is the portrayal of the musical soundstage. Such a limitation, however, is not unique to the Vision X. It plaques all of the single-enclosure speaker system out there due to the limitation of their physical configuration, mostly due to the distance between the drivers. If the soundstage is of concern, the Vision X has the Stereo Wide setting that can be engaged to produce expansive sound and portray larger soundstage. The processing done in this setting slightly changes the overall character of the sound, which is obvious from A-B comparison. Some listeners might be put off by the perceived reduced sound purity of the Wide setting, but I found that I could easily adapt to it if I wanted a larger portrayal of the soundstage. Reproduction of wireless music streaming through the Play-Fi yields similarly high levels of fidelity, which is a testament to the Vision X’s high-resolution processing capability.

To my taste, the bass produced by the Vision X was sufficient for most of my listening needs. Only with some music with very-low-frequency bass content, I felt the need for more bass extension than what this soundbar can provide. Note that the Vision X will just omit the bass outside its frequency response and does not try to pretend that it can produce the low bass by bumping the mid-bass. I consider this as a good thing as the higher frequency spectrum is not cluttered by the fake bass. But being versatile, if you like your bass loud, you can engage the Bass+ mode, which will emphasize the bass spectrum of the sound. This mode makes the overall sound a bit boomy to my taste, although your mileage may vary. A better solution for enhancing the bass response is to augment the soundbar with a subwoofer. With proper crossover setting and subwoofer volume level adjustment, a nice full-spectrum sound rivaling a larger full-range speaker can be obtained.

My rather detail description of the music performance of the Vision X above is mostly relevant for people who listen to their music sitting dead-center in front of the soundbar. But to be fair, that is probably not the type of crowd addressed by this product. There are other speakers in the MartinLogan Motion line-up that are better suited for that purpose. This particular speaker is more for the people who want to have their music played back with high quality in the desired area of the house conveniently through the wireless network. More often than not, I envision that the listening would be done while reading the paper, relaxing on the sofa, or doing other chores. In that regard, the Vision X can be considered as one of the best in its class as it has more than enough fidelity to fill such need.

Conclusions

THE MARTINLOGAN MOTION VISION X is Elegant-looking and a Versatile Wireless-capable Soundbar that Delivers Solid Stereo Music and Home-theater Surround Performances.

Likes
  • Wonderful cabinet design, build quality, and finish
  • Versatile wired and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Balanced and detailed sound across its frequency spectrum
  • Solid stereo and surround performance
Would Like To See
  • Bluetooth connectivity to enhance its wireless capability
  • Remote control with smoother top/bottom edges
  • Other color/finish options

The $1,699.95 MartinLogan Motion Vison X soundbar is not cheap, but it is one of the best soundbars that I have a chance to listen to in terms of versatility and sound peformance. Many soundbars fall short in delivering respectable music-playback performance, but the Vision X excels in both music and home-theater applications. This multi-function excellence is what makes this soundbar ahead of its pack.

Not only that, the Vision X has a sculpturally aesthetic cabinet design, which will instill a sense of proud of ownership. All these points, combined with the wireless Play-Fi connectivity convenience, make the Vision X soundbar a winning product worthy of a MartinLogan heritage.

  • joe wy

    Great review. I changed from an excellent surround sound system and simplified to this sound bar. I agree with this review in every way. I have a Velodyne subwoofer, so the lower end is more than taken care of.

    One note, because I have 3 different inputs (DirecTv, Apple TV, and a DVD Player). Unfortunately, my Panasonic ST 60″ plasma’s optical output was in stereo only. So I had to purchase a switch box, which works perfectly with my Harmony remote. Perhaps when I upgrade to an OLED I can have my inputs into the television’s HDMI ports and simply have one optical out to the sound bar, bypassing the switch box.

  • DelsFan

    I’m looking for a “superior” (powered) sound bar for music, and television, for “just” a 3.1 system, for now. I “really” don’t want to have to purchase an A/V receiver. I thought I would not purchase any speakers or system or soundbar that didn’t utilize the Folded Motion tweeters, no matter what, but… Room correction makes such a huge improvement when one’s “system” is located in an open floor plan living/family room – and I will not spend $1500+ on a product that doesn’t feature it. The Verse is supposedly very nice, but has nine drivers and no tweeters, FM or otherwise. But it has ARC! Back to the drawing board, since the top-shelf Motion Vision X doesn’t offer ARC. Focal? Golden Ear? Neither of which, obviously, offer the FM tweeter. Maybe I’ll just wait yet another year to make a change from my surprisingly three-dimensional 24″ wide, analog, one pair of RCA inputs only, Boston Acoustics Soundbar, purchased 100 years ago (in computer/electronics years).