HomeTheaterHifi.com
X

MartinLogan Crescendo X Networked Speaker Review

Combining MartinLogan’s reputation for pristine sound quality with a clean, modern design that would be agreeable in a variety of décor scenarios, the Crescendo X makes for a bold looking, and sounding, entry into the powered networked speaker market.

Highlights

MartinLogan Crescendo X Networked Speaker

  • Uses two MartinLogan Folded Motion Tweeters for smooth, airy-sounding highs.
  • Single 5 x 7” woofer in a dual ported enclosure produces admirable bass when positioned well.
  • Has an optional subwoofer output with bass management.
  • Has both analog and optical digital inputs.
  • DTS: Play-Fi and Apple AirPlay certified.
  • Striking design. Not just another “plastic blob.”
  • Last couple of DTS: Play-Fi updates have sorted out any connectivity issues I may have experienced.
Introduction

Connectivity. We came to grips with it a good while ago and are now to the point where we expect it in everything, and everywhere. As an average fellow in my late-forties, I am somewhat dubious of the notion of networked kitchen and laundry appliances, and why I would need such things. On the other hand, our home video and audio systems being network enabled is of far more obvious and proven benefit. Having access to our favorite music, wherever we want, without long runs of wire has been easily available for some time now. And the breadth of choices in wireless speakers is huge, ranging from basic, single point usage affairs to more elaborate multiples of speakers that talk to each other and can have the music follow you from room to room. MartinLogan’s Crescendo X falls into the former category, but I assure you that it is anything but basic. Using similar driver technologies found in their Electromotion series of speakers, combined with abundant amplification and smart network control via the DTS: Play-Fi mobile app, MartinLogan puts a lot of flexibility, and very good sound quality in the elegant looking Crescendo X.

MARTINLOGAN SPEAKER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Design:

Network enabled, powered speaker in ported enclusure.

Drivers:

Two- 0.94” x 1” Folded Motion Tweeters, One- 5” x 7” extended throw woofer.

Amplifier power:

1 x 50 watt (Class D) for woofer and 2 x 25 watt (Class D) for tweeters.

Preamplifier Section:

24bit 48kHz DSP based.

Frequency Response (manufacturer):

50Hz – 23,000Hz +/- 3dB.

Inputs:

Aux In (combination 3.5mm stereo analog/mini-toslink digital), RJ45 Ethernet.

Wireless Inputs:

Apple AirPlay, DTS:Play-Fi, Bluetooth (v3.0).

Wireless Connectivity:

802.1 b/g (2.4GHz).

Supported Wireless Codecs:

AAC, aptX, MP3, SBC.

Outputs:

Subwoofer output via analog RCA, USB for charging only (up to 2.4 Amps).

Accessories:

Remote control, optical digital cable, mini-Toslink adapter.

Colors:

Gloss Black with chrome base, Walnut Finish with black aluminum base.

Dimensions:

8.1” H x 25.7” W x 6.9” D.

Weight:

15 pounds.

MartinLogan Crescendo X MSRP:

$999.95.

Company:

MartinLogan

SECRETS Tags:

MartinLogan, Crescendo, Wireless, WiFi, Network, Streaming, Speaker Reviews 2017

Design

The MartinLogan Crescendo X is a standalone speaker with network streaming capabilities. It is AirPlay certified so if you already live in an all-Apple ecosystem, the Crescendo X will fit right in. If you don’t, then to take the utmost advantage of the hardware capabilities of the Crescendo X, you need to download the DTS: Play-Fi app for your smartphone or tablet.

It is the Play-Fi app that allows you to get the speaker to connect to a network drive or other source containing music, or stream music from a variety of commercial services such as Pandora, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify, Internet Radio, etc. The app, however, is not nescessary to connect or control a source with the Crescendo X via Bluetooth. The Play-Fi app also is responsible for downloading and applying any “driver updates” to the Crescendo X which it scans for and does automatically whenever the app is launched.

The Crescendo X’s “half-moon” design is quite unique and attractive. My review sample was finished in the Walnut trim which added a nice warm feel to the striking modern design. The drivers are remeniscent of what we see in MartinLogan’s Motion series of speakers. The Crescendo X is outfitted with two 0.94” x 1” Folded Motion Tweeters (crossed over at 3600 Hz) to a single 5” x 7” long-throw woofer. The woofer is also coupled to a pair of small ports on the bottom side of the speaker.

Secrets Sponsor

The front face of the Crescendo X is stark and minimalist, featuring only four small round buttons for Standby/Mute, Input Selection, Volme and a LED indicator light that changes color depending on the input selected or system status. The following light colors corespond to the listed function: Red- Standby, Flashing Red- Mute, Purple- Network connection is active, Flashing Purple- No network connection, Green- Auxillary Input, Blue- Bluetooth Input.

Turning to the rear of the unit we are presented with (from left to right) the main power button, an ethernet connector for connecting to a wired network and a USB jack that is strictly used for charging devices. We then have an unusual hybrid digital/analog Auxillary In connector. This connector will accept both a 3.5mm, headphone style, stereo analog connector or a mini-toslink optical digital connector. A mini-toslink adapter is included with the Crescendo X, which is a good thing as I had neither seen nor heard about such a connector before. This is followed by an RCA Subwoofer Out jack and a push button, labelled “Sub Out.” Pressing the “Sub Out” button engages the bass management system, thereby filtering and redirecting the low frequency information (from approx 70Hz and down) from the Crescendo X to a connected subwoofer. Otherwise, you’d leave this button in the OFF position when using the speaker on it’s own. After these there is a Wi-Fi setup button and status light and a small System reset button.

The included wireless remote control is a non-learning unit that is simple but nicely weighted. It’s made entirely of metal and can control most of the main functions of the Crescendo X once it is connected to a source.

Setup

We tried the MartinLogan Crescendo X out in various locations around our house and quickly settled on the kitchen as being the place where it would see the most use. We live in a ranch style house with a main floor, a loft area and a full length basement. Our wireless network router is located in my basement art studio with the kitchen area being on the main floor. All listening was conducted by streaming content (mostly FLAC files) over Wi-fi from a network drive or via Bluetooth.

Performance

The Crescendo X comes with a large, one sheet, “Quick Start” guide to help you get the speaker connected to your network (under various scenarios) and recognized by your smartphone or tablet. After this initial setup phase, which was easy enough, I experienced a few issues where the Crescendo X would lose connection to the network or hang on a song after switching tracks. This was despite having a strong Wi-Fi signal that was available, and that the speaker was connected to. The DTS:Play-Fi app was not helping matters much as I found it not to be the most intuitive app to use. The experience may be different on a tablet where all the icons are bigger. On a phone however, the control interface feels crammed and not well laid out and it became easy to get frustrated with. I soon discovered that it wasn’t a hardware issue with the speaker or my network equipment at all. Over the course of a month, the DTS:Play-Fi app downloaded a number of updates, both for itself and updated drivers for the Crescendo X and with each successive update, operational stability improved. It is at the point now where I have no longer experienced a single drop out or hang in the music for at least a couple of months. So kudos to both MartinLogan and DTS for constantly working to improve the user experience. It would have been great if this was the experience out-of-the-box but I get that the whole DTS:Play-Fi thing was new at the time and, as it has to work with a variety of equipment from a number of different manufacturers, there will inevitably be kinks that need working out. Once those initial hiccups were out of the way, the Crescendo X was easily able to lock onto our NAS drive that is loaded with music, mostly encoded in FLAC, and stream all the files I had without issue. I don’t listen to Spotify or any commercial streaming services like that so I didn’t test those out. Inernet radio and podcasts were plentiful and easy to access once I got used to the PlayFi app’s somewhat wonky layout. Bluetooth streaming from my iPhone was solid and clean, although the sound quality was noticably inferior to streaming from the NAS drive.

Secrets Sponsor

From a sound quality perspective the MartinLogan Crescendo X has a lot to like about it. Overall the sound seems full and well balanced and it definitely was easily able to fill our good sized kitchen with music. Imaging, or what there can be expected of it from something of this size and nature, was solid with the sound quality shifting admirably little as we walked around the room. The highs are smooth and fairly detailed for something of its class without getting overly abraisive when the volume gets pushed. The twin Folded Motion Tweeters, which flank the woofer, are positioned and angled similarly to a surround speaker. I’m guessing that this helps with achieving a wide and even spread of sound within the room. The midrange and vocals were very clear and not overly lean sounding with a good weight to them. It did occasionally veer into sounding chesty when the speaker was positioned in a corner or right up against a wall. There is also a surprising amount of bass that comes from the dual underside ports. It’s punchy sounding and the output is of good quantity. It can sound a little loose at times but, again as with any ported speaker, if you can pull it out a little from being right up against a wall, that will help.

Speaking of bass, I had some fun experimenting with the Crescendo X connected to a subwoofer. I was fortunate enough to have the GoldenEar SuperSub X in house for an extended period and it’s size seemed a perfect match for the Crescendo X so hook it up I did. Once I made the connections and engaged the “Sub Out” button, I put on some familiar music with a good amout of bass and adjusted the subwoofer’s positioning and level. The sub ultimately was positioned within a couple of feet to the right of the Crescendo X and about 8-inches from the back wall. It turned out to be a really enjoyable matchup. With the Crescendo X now freed from having to reproduce bass from about 70Hz down, it became a little more dynamic sounding and the overall blending with the GoldenEar sub seemed to work quite well with the tighter and deeper bass adding to the overall merriment. It was nice and well thought out touch for Martin-Logan to include the “Sub Out” feature on this speaker. It adds to the unit’s flexibility and it could make a genuine, one box (plus small sub) solution for a small apartment dweller. As a whole, it is a really easy system to listen to for an extended period and not get fatigued by the sound.

Some of the more memorable music selections that I experienced with the MartinLogan Crescendo X:

Various Artists “Audiophile Jazz Prologue 3”

A beautifully recorded selection of jazz tunes with plenty of presence and room ambience. Beyond using these selected tracks to analyze the Crescendo X’s sound quality, I also wanted to see how it handled being fed a large high-resolution file over the ether.

Operationally, it handled them without a hitch. There were no hang ups in playback when switching between tracks on this album or from it to any other compatible hi-res tracks. The Crescendo X will not play any DSD file formats so don’t even bother with them. From a sonic standpoint, this wireless speaker did really well. These tracks all sounded appropriately full and lush, with Marcia Seebaran’s vocals on “You’ve Got A Friend” and “My One and Only Love” being particularly sweet and clear. Surely as good as they had any right to be on a speaker of this size. The double bass lines on “Freddie” sounded nice and meaty and were easy to follow. The twin saxophones on this track sounded forward and lively but very smooth overall and with a good deal of image spread. The piano solo also had nice and natural quality to its tone with a decent ring and decay to the notes. On the track “Barbados” the saxophone and double bass are the louder of the three main instruments, but there is also a gentle guitar track that accompanies them. It could very easily get swamped and lost on a single speaker solution but the Crescendo X keeps it well defined and easy to follow. Overall, a very good performance from a single speaker of this kind.

Gaelic Storm “What’s The Rumpus”

The Irish know how to have fun and this band shows it because this is great music to have on when you’re having a party or even just a gathering of friends. Lively, with a sense of humor and great vocals and instrumentals, I had a few of our guests ask me to crank up the volume for a few of the tracks.

The Crescendo X was only too happy to oblige and soon we had the kitchen, adjoining living room and deck area just bopping with the Irish party tunes from this one speaker. The violin playing was particularly well reproduced and sweet sounding from tracks like “Slim Jim and the Seven Eleven Girl,” “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story” and “Samurai Set.” Its melody remained clean and non-fatiguing even with the volume turned up a good bit. All the songs on this album use an extensive array of small percussive instruments in the background. Things like maracas, finger cymbals, wooden clappers, spoons, chimes and shakers are all used to varying degrees and the Crescendo X is quite capable of successfully rendering them clearly, along with everything else. The little clappers, playing in the background, that wind through the entirety of “Darcy’s Donkey” are clearly discernable and have their distinct wooden sound. Even when all the main instruments and vocals join in for the chorus, those little clappers are still audible and don’t become overwhelmed by everything else. The bass lines and bass drum sound very solid and punchy, especially on songs like “The Night I Punched Russel Crowe.” Like I said, really fun stuff to listen to on this speaker.

Sergio Mendez & Brazil 66 “Herb Alpert Presents”

The seminal album that introduced Sergio Mendez and the rhythms of Brazil to the North American audience. Lani Hall’s distinctive vocals are treated very well by the Crescendo X, sounding particularly rich and full on songs like “Going Out of My Head” and “Slow Hot Wind.”

The song that everyone has heard in one form or another, “Mas Que Nada,” has a great driving rhythm with the piano and kick drum leading the charge. The Crescendo X does yeoman’s work making that kick drum sound and feel correct where it could just as easily become a monotone thudding noise. It seems like the “pointy-heads” at MartinLogan did their due diligence in getting the tuning of the drivers, enclosure and ports to be just right. As in other cases I’ve mentioned, piano sounds lovely and natural on the Crescendo X and Sergio Mendez’s effortless skill at the keys shines through on “One Note Samba/Spanish Flea,” “Tim Dom Dom” and “O Pato.” And just to re-iterate, when I turned the volume up on the speaker and walked around my kitchen, the sound changed very little at different parts of the room. The music stayed very consistent, which is ideal for a product like this.

Conclusions

With good looks and great sound quality, THE MARTINLOGAN CRESCENDO X walks-the-walk and talks-the-talk.

Likes
  • Enjoyable, room-filling sound.
  • Airy highs with good vocals and solid bass punch.
  • Attractive and stylish design.
  • Subwoofer output is a plus.
  • DTS: Play-Fi app can access a good variety of content.
Would Like To See
  • More intuitive design for the DTS: Play-Fi App.

There are a lot of choices out there if you want to get a network capable speaker that will allow you to access your music library in another part of your house. The MartinLogan Crescendo X is a legitimately great sounding networked speaker that is easy to use and also stands apart from the crowd because of its stylish design. The twin Folded Motion Tweeters help give the Crescendo X a smooth yet detailed sound and the 100-watts of onboard amplification provide plenty of power to help fill a good-sized room. The DTS:Play-Fi app allows you to access a wide variety of local or commercial music sources while giving you full control of the speaker from your smartphone or tablet. I only wish the app was a bit more intuitive to use. Perhaps it’ll be revised in a future update. The availability of a subwoofer output with bass management is a great option to extend the already good bass response of the Crescendo X and making it a viable choice for people with limited living space that can only have one audio system. And again, just to re-iterate, I really appreciate the general aesthetics of this product. As an artist in my day job, I’m very pleased that MartinLogan didn’t design another cylinder or blob or other generic shape that is the design equivalent of the color beige. The Crescendo X’s styling perfectly fits with the quality of its sound. It’s a product that begs to be shown off as well as listened to. An audio and visual win!

Categories: Wireless Speakers
Tags: CrescendoFeaturedMartinLogannetworkSpeaker Reviews 2017StreamingWiFiWireless
Carlo Lo Raso: A native of Toronto Canada, Carlo's interest in audio began at a young age when, unbeknownst to his mother, he started taking apart her transistor radios to see how they worked. This desire for knowledge-through-deconstruction continued through to the family’s 8-track tape player, turntable, headphones and speakers. Carlo subsequently spent a lot of time in his room…As he grew older, he would spend countless hours in downtown Toronto stereo shops, listening to all manner of gear and picking the brains of the various store owners. Through that formative experience, Carlo developed and appreciation for good music, and for good sound reproduction. The question of what makes one piece of equipment sound better (or worse) than another is something that he’s always found fascinating. Also, as a budding graphic artist, the aesthetic aspects of a given piece of gear became increasingly of interest to his eyes. It was at about that time as well that Carlo began purchasing “Audio Magazine” on a regular basis and came to appreciate, in particular, the writing and reviewing of the late Leonard Feldman. Carlo’s first audio equipment that he purchased with his hard earned part-time job money was a Luxman R-117 receiver and a pair of Image Concept 200 speakers which, in hindsight, he wishes he still owned. Career-wise, Carlo eventually graduated from Sheridan College with a degree in Classical Animation and was subsequently employed by Walt Disney Consumer Products for 10 years as a Character Artist and Art Director. Having become disenchanted with Los Angeles, he then decided strike out on his own. Carlo started his own company and has been freelancing artwork, from his home studio, for primarily the toy and publishing industries since 2001. A wide variety of music is often heard coming from Carlo’s studio while working on his latest project. Great music helps feed the soul and inspire creativity, and also provides for the occasional distraction. If he had a personal philosophy, it would be; always be open to learn something new and don’t take yourself too seriously. Specifically when it comes to audio reviewing; honesty and a good balance of objective and subjective observation is key. Ultimately, this is a hobby and it should be fun. Carlo currently lives in Granville, Ohio with his wife, two young sons and a pair of hyperactive dachshunds. Or is that two hyperactive sons and a pair of young dachshunds? He can never keep that straight….