As is the case with many loudspeaker manufacturers, MartinLogan divides its product line into segments targeted toward various sales/distribution channels. In practice this means the firm’s famous high-end electrostatic loudspeakers (e.g., the roughly $20,000/pair CLX models and the like) are collectively know as the Reference-series models and are sold through specialty retailers. Less expensive, though still decidedly performance-oriented models are offered as separate product lines sold through more mass-market oriented retail chains (e.g., Best Buy/Magnolia stores, etc.).
But at CEDIA, MartinLogan threw us all a delightful “curve ball” in the form of a new, $1995/pair hybrid electrostatic speaker called the Electro Motion ESL. The ESL features trickle-down technology from its more costly brethren, including an XStat MicroPerf electrostatic panel married to an 8-inch piston-type woofer housed in an enclosure located at the bottom of the speaker. The ESL is slated to ship in March 2011.
Not only is the ESL the least expensive XStat model MartinLogan has ever produced, but it is also more than a little reminiscent of one of the best loved (and most affordable) MartinLogan models from the past; namely the late, lamented MartinLogan Aerius i. I had a chance to do a brief listening session with the ESL (and to compare it to the also new—but more than twice as expensive—MartinLogan Theos), and came away very impressed. I think the ESL will, in due course, earn a reputation as both a “giant killer” of sorts and as one of the very best values in the entire MartinLogan line up.
On paper, the Bronze series speakers have traditionally represent the “entry-level” offerings for Monitor Audio, but somehow that descriptor doesn’t quite do the speakers justice—especially in light of the fact that the entire range was revamped and rolled out at CEDIA as the new Bronze BX series.
Last year, Monitor Audio Technical Director Dean Hartley and his team surprised us all with a new series of Silver RX speakers that—in very many ways—took their design cues from the firm’s higher-tier Gold-series speakers. This year Hartley and team have repeated the process while moving it one step further down the range, by developing the Bronze BX line after the pattern established by the now critically acclaimed Silver RX models. There is real value in this approach and customers are the big winners because, over time, they get to enjoy previously quite exotic technologies at progressively more affordable price points.
If you take a casual glance at the new Bronze BX models (there are seven in all, ranging from small bookshelf monitors to floorstanders), you could easily mistake them for Silver RX models: the proportions and general layout of the models are quite similar, so that it’s only in relatively small detail areas that differences become apparent. Similarities include “dedicated driver chambers, rigid (cabinet) bracing, bolt-through drivers and hard-wired connections.” And the Bronze BX models now get treated to all-new C-CAM (ceramic-coated aluminum magnesium) tweeters. midrange drivers, and bass drivers that are similar—though not precisely identical—to their Silver RX counterparts.
I briefly heard the Bronze BX flagships, the BX 6 floorstanders ($989/pair), but noise spilling over into the Monitor booth prevented me from forming more than rough-cut initial impressions. Further listening is indicated. If Monitor’s Bronze BX range runs true to form, though, this should be a product line that will delight those seeking maximum "bang" for their hard-earned bucks.
Paradigm has practically made an art form of leveraging trickle-down technologies from its flagship lines of award-winning speakers to create new, and often more affordable, product families that appeal to new groups of customers. This is precisely what happened in the creation of the firm’s new MilleniaOne sat/sub system.