Time then to step back a little and take stock. What we have here is a two-way speaker of compact dimensions that works in smaller rooms and delivers a sound of tremendous precision and insight; sounds like a classic mini-monitor. It even suffers from the classic mini-monitor trade-off of dynamic against harmonic resolution; the laws of physics pretty much dictate that you can have one, the other but not both, with the Marten sacrificing warmth and richness for transparency and micro-dynamic definition. But to less of an extent than you might think, especially if you really dial in the set-up and sit a little closer than you might expect – on the points of an equilateral triangle is about right. And that’s an important point because in many ways it sums up this speaker.
Yes, appearances can be deceptive; the Soprano looks like the bigger Coltrane but isn’t. Nor does it look like what it is, which is one of the best (and most expensive) mini-monitors in the world. Actually, let’s make that mini-ish – because the beauty of the Coltrane Soprano is that it delivers all the strengths of the best mini-monitors with significantly less compromise. It images with the best of them – but delivers a significantly larger and more defined acoustic space. That’s because it’s got more bandwidth and tons more dynamic range – a performance that it delivers with gusto, resulting in real musical impact, drama and dynamic contrast, without needing a direct connection to the National Grid. It takes up no more space than the high-zoot stand-mounts and leaves them all – without exception from what I’ve heard – comfortably in its wake; Transparency AND scale, rather than one at the expense of the other.
The rub – and there’s always a rub – is the price. That’s ameliorated to some extent by the Soprano’s more modest power demands. 100 really good Watts will do it – 200 and they fly! A quality integrated and a decent, well weighted front-end and you’ll be away. I had a high old time with the VPI Classic running into the Burmester 032 amplifier, whilst the fluid grace of the Crystal Dreamline was the icing on the cake. That’s not exactly a heavy bill given the ticket on the speakers but it is a system that sings – and goes staggeringly load with considerable grace in a smaller to medium sized room; should circumstances and the Devil demand, of course.
At this price, with a little more space you could run the Avalon Indra. A little more again and you might get away with the Crystal Arabesque, both speakers which can do the bandwidth, dynamics and harmonics thing better and bigger (or at least with even greater subtlety) than the Coltrane Soprano. But both need more system as well as more room and I don’t know anything that comes close in performance terms to the Marten once the walls close in. Expensive yes, but for the listener who demands and will cherish its unique blend of strengths then I suspect that price will become secondary. Despite appearances, is this the best mini-monitor in the world? Probably…
Marten Coltrane Soprano Loudspeaker
Type: Two-way reflex loaded loudspeaker
Driver Complement: 1x 26mm Jantzen diamond dome, 2x 180mm ceramic cone bass/mid
Crossover: 1st/2nd order
Bandwidth: 27Hz – 55kHz ±2dB
Impedance: 5 Ohms nominal
Dimensions (WxHxD): 310 x 1120 x 400mm
Weight: 36kg ea.
Finishes: Gloss black with baffle in Oak, Cherry, Maple, Walnut or Piano Black
Price: 40,000 Euros
Tel. (46)(0)31 20 72 00