Whenever I reflect back on the CEDIA Expo 2009, one of my fondest memories is of the MartinLogan demonstration room, where the firm was inviting show attendees to compare its roughly $22,000/pair flagship CLX electrostatic loudspeakers versus a prototype version of an extremely affordable and compact surround system—one that, in some 5.1-channel configurations, was projected to sell at or even a bit below $2000. Now I won’t tell you that the little prototype system was truly the equal of the big CLX’s since that would be untrue, but I will say that it captured much of the overall flavor and “feel” of its flagship siblings (and for a small fraction of their price), so that it floored most of custom installation-minded listeners in the room. Indeed, the consensus among many of the dealers present was that tiny system did so much, so well, and for so little that—if successfully brought to market, it would likely “sell like free beer.”
That prototype system has since gone into production and has gotten a name; MartinLogan calls it the Motion Series and it is every bit as affordable as preliminary indications suggested it would be. The Motion range consists of two small bookshelf/standmount speakers (the Motion 2 and 4), two center-channel speakers (the Motion 6 and 8), and two floorstanders (the Motion 10 and 12), with all models in the range leveraging the hybrid combination of small piston-type mid-bass drivers used in conjunction with exotic Heil-type tweeters, which MartinLogan calls “Folded Motion” drivers. Where Heil-type drivers were once used only in costly higher-end speakers, MartinLogan has found a way to incorporate them in some of its lowest-priced systems. Motion speakers can be used in conjunction with any of several MartinLogan Dynamo powered subwoofers in surround applications.
Recognizing that, apart from sheer sound quality, compact size and affordable pricing are two of the Motion family’s greatest strengths, I decided to test a relatively compact and inexpensive version of the Motion system comprised of a pair of Motion 4 bookshelf speakers ($249.95 each) used as L/R mains, a pair of Motion 2 bookshelf speakers ($199.95 each) used as surrounds, a Motion 8 center channel speaker ($399.95 each), and a 300-watt Dynamo 700 powered sub ($695 each)—for a grand total system price of $1894.75. How does it sound? You’ll have to read this review for full details, but let’s just say that this is one of the most—if not the most—accomplished sub-$2000 surround rigs I’ve ever heard. It is good enough, in fact, that it is likely to trigger any number of “why spend more?” discussions, which is wonderful news for those of us who love great sound but are not made of money.
Consider this system if: you have an inclination toward the finer things in life, but are not blessed with the income to match your tastes. The Motion system gives you many (though of course not all) of the positive attributes of MartinLogan’s famous electrostatic speakers, but at a fraction of the price. This is a fine system for use in mid-sized listening spaces, and it can be used in bigger rooms, too, provided you listen at less than blow-your-socks-off volume levels. This is also one of the few inexpensive surround systems that can comfortably be used in critical two-channel listening applications.
Look further if: you are not willing to invest in good electronics and source components to use with the Motion rig. Don’t get me wrong: the Motion system is fairly easy to drive and is in no way finicky about electronics, but it is quite revealing in ways that can make mediocre system components, if any, stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Also look further if you require true blockbuster-grade dynamics. MartinLogan gets an awful lot of sound out of this very small system, but for sky’s-the-limit dynamics you will ultimately need a bigger, more potent system.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced surround speaker systems)