The Summit’s designers must have examined almost every shortcoming of their own previous designs and of other manufacturers’ efforts to take electrostatic hybrids into the high-performance realm. One problem remains: the Summit’s limited vertical dispersion. Its horizontal dispersion is good across the entire audio spectrum—none of the head-in-a-vice syndrome I had with my old Sound Lab R1’s—but the Summit doesn’t deliver much in the vertical plane, particularly in the upper frequencies. (Old Accustats solved this problem by being almost 8 feet tall.) The result is that the speaker’s tonal characteristic changes drastically when you go from standing to sitting. (I’m 5' 10".) While not exactly pillow-over-the-face muffled, the soundfield lacks detail if you listen standing up. As you sink into your seat, it brightens noticeably and the soundstage comes into focus. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for any potential buyer, but it might be something to consider if you are tall or like to groove to the music while standing.
That is my only criticism. During the review period, I got to hear Summits from the same production run in two very different environments—in the first, driven by Halo gear like mine in a large space with slate floors, glass doors, and high ceilings; in the other, driven by Halo JC1’s with a Fosgate tube surround processor in the loop, in a large room in an older wood-and-plaster home. In both cases the Summits revealed both previously unnoticed details in familiar recordings and the character of the electronics driving them. While they harmonize well with tube gear like the BAT VK- 31SE, they were more to my liking with good solid-state like the Halo products. (The synergy is no accident. At trade shows, MartinLogan has long demo’d its products with Parasound electronics.) With the Halo gear, inserting a Musical Fidelity 10XD tube buffer in the signal path rendered the best of both worlds—tube warmth and harmonics with solid-state speed and detail.
The line between work and play can get very murky for audio reviewers who work at home. While the Summits were here, I couldn’t just cue up some tunes and go sit down at my computer. They compelled, commanded me to sit down and really listen, so much so that the choice became one of music or no music—either listen or don’t, but don’t pretend there’s any inbetween. That’s as it should be. Music is inarguably the highest art form. It bypasses the rational mind and connects directly to emotions and the imagination. It deserves undivided attention. The Summits make you sit and listen. They connect you to the heart and soul of the music in a way that few other loudspeakers can.
The MartinLogan Summit is a fantastically beautiful and seductive product. For music lovers shopping in its price range, it should be at the top of a very short list. The long-term happiness potential is excellent.