In fact, this more than anything else sums up the character of the Martens. They might seem, conceptually speaking, like a downsized Wilson WAMM or Nola Exotica Grand Reference, but actually they are more like a beefed up WATT/ Puppy. They don’t have the awesome power and massive stage delivered by the true monsters of the hi-fi-world. Instead they offer a more modest and in many ways more physically realistic perspective on the musical event, combined with the microscopic levels of instrumental analysis and insight that go with the best mini-monitors. These speakers tell you exactly who is doing what, where and when. They take you inside the performance, into the studio, onto the stage. Their musical power comes from their speed and immediacy, rather than the ability to move massive amounts of air. If you want to be lifted out of your seat by sheer musical wallop, then there’s no denying the power and majesty of a speaker like Nola’s EGR, or the impressive expanse of its walk in and stroll around soundstage. But that speaker doesn’t match the tonal and dynamic continuity of the Martens, the evenness of their resolution or their freedom from intrusive excess.
Time then finally, to talk about resolution. Having already said that it’s not just about detail, but that it’s what you do with that detail that turns it into information, you still need the raw material to work with. The first thing that strikes you about the Martens, particularly before they warm up and integrate properly, is the sheer quantity of raw detail they throw out. In this respect they exceed such stellar performers as the Martin Logan CLS and Summit. And they do so across a far wider bandwidth – indeed, across their entire bandwidth. They deliver texture and shape to notes from the bottom to the very top of their range, and tellingly, their bass notes are never earthbound, never roll along the listening room floor. Instead they’re always floated within the acoustic. Use a high-resolution source like the Lyra Titan i and the sheer surface detail and dynamic discrimination is astonishing – but because the Coltrane Supremes extend that quality across the entire range it underpins and enhances the performance, rather than spot-lighting a specific frequency band which ultimately becomes distracting. Examples are legion and I’ll not bore you with the specifics. Transparency and detail freaks are going to go nuts over this speaker. Those who have never placed themselves in that category will start to understand why others do. The secret of speaker design is to achieve balanced performance, so that neither your strengths nor your weaknesses draw attention to themselves. The Marten Coltrane Supreme is a balanced design – which given the degree of resolution it possesses is a truly remarkable feat.
There’s a new generation of top-flight contenders in the speaker wars. Wilson’s Alexandria marks a significant sonic departure from earlier designs like the Grand Slamm and is, on limited acquaintance, a far more balanced and believable performer. The Isis I’ve discussed in depth, marvelling at its musical coherence and natural presentation, inclusive acoustic and ability to recreate the feeling and frisson of the live event. Now, arguably we have the speaker that defines the opposite edge of this performance envelope. If the Isis is about what is being played and where, the Coltrane Supreme is about the who and the how. And in that regard, nobody does it better.