When it comes US based high-end speaker manufacturers, Martin Logan is a name that stands out. Renowned for their electrostatic loudspeakers, Martin Logan has consistently pushed the boundaries of audio reproduction. The Martin Logan Impression ESL 11A speakers are a testament to their commitment to excellence. In this review, we will delve into the features, performance, and overall experience of these excellent speakers.
Design and Build Quality: The Impression ESL 11A speakers are a sight to behold. Standing tall at 59 inches, they exude elegance and modernity. The sleek, black aluminum frames combined with the high-gloss finish on the speaker panels make them visually stunning and versatile enough to blend well with any interior decor. The build quality is top-notch, exhibiting meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail. These speakers are designed to be the centerpiece of any audiophile’s listening room.
Electrostatic Panel Technology: What sets the Impression ESL 11A speakers apart from conventional speakers is the implementation of electrostatic panel technology. The use of electrostatic panels allows for exceptionally accurate and detailed sound reproduction. The panels are capable of producing an incredibly thin and light diaphragm that vibrates between two stators, generating sound with unmatched precision and speed. This technology results in a soundstage that is expansive, immersive, and remarkably transparent.
Integration of Electrostatic Panel and Powered Bass in the Martin Logan Impression ESL 11A Speakers: The Martin Logan Impression ESL 11A speakers are a prime example of how a well-integrated electrostatic panel and a powered bass system can work harmoniously to deliver an extraordinary listening experience. Martin Logan has managed to strike a balance between the strengths of electrostatic technology and the need for a robust bass response, resulting in a speaker system that excels in both areas.
The heart of the Impression ESL 11A speakers lies in the electrostatic panels, which handle the midrange and treble frequencies. These panels are known for their ability to reproduce sound with unparalleled detail and transparency. The thin, lightweight diaphragm of the electrostatic panel moves rapidly between two stators, producing sound with incredible accuracy. This technology ensures that every subtle nuance, instrument detail, and vocal inflection is faithfully reproduced, creating a level of realism that is hard to match.
However, electrostatic panels typically struggle with reproducing deep bass frequencies due to their inherent design limitations. Recognizing this, Martin Logan has ingeniously integrated a powered bass system into the Impression ESL 11A speakers. This integration not only addresses the bass deficiency but also ensures a seamless transition between the electrostatic panels and the bass drivers, resulting in a cohesive and immersive sonic experience.
The Impression ESL 11A speakers incorporate a dual 8-inch woofer system, powered by a built-in amplifier. These woofers are specifically designed to complement the electrostatic panels and deliver a powerful, controlled, and articulate bass response. The bass drivers work in unison with the electrostatic panels, blending seamlessly to provide a full-range sound that is rich, dynamic, and engaging.
The integration of the electrostatic panel with the powered bass system is achieved through careful engineering and fine-tuning. Martin Logan has taken into account factors such as crossover design, phase alignment, and driver matching to ensure that the transition from the electrostatic panel to the bass drivers is smooth and cohesive. The result is a sound signature that remains consistent across the frequency range, allowing for a coherent presentation of music without any noticeable gaps or disparities.
Moreover, the built-in amplifier for the bass drivers offers several advantages. It ensures that the woofers receive ample power to deliver impactful bass, eliminating the need for an external amplifier or additional equipment. This integration simplifies the setup process and ensures optimal performance without compromising on quality.
PLACEMENT AND LISTENING IMPRESSIONS
Amplification and Room Placement: The Impression ESL 11A speakers are highly efficient and can be driven by a wide range of amplifiers. However, to fully unleash their potential, a high-quality amplifier with sufficient power is recommended. The speakers do not offer bi-wire or bi-amp capabilities. All of my listening to date has been via the Veloce Audio Saetta Hybrid monoblocks, which are more than capable of handling the Martin Logan’s load.
Room placement is crucial for maximizing the performance of the Impression ESL 11A speakers. Due to their dipole design, they require careful positioning away from walls and corners to prevent unwanted reflections and phase cancellation. A dedicated listening room or a well-treated space will yield the best results, but with some experimentation, satisfying results can be achieved in a regular living room as well. In my system, I found the best position to be around 56″ from the front wall to the front of the electrostatic panels. Remember, these are deep speakers, extending out from the back to accommodate their dual-powered woofers, so this design factor will require the panels to be at least 24″ from the front wall.
The Martin Logan Impression ESL 11A speakers offer a distinct sonic presentation that may not appeal to everyone. While they have their strengths, it’s important to provide an objective assessment of their sound.
The most notable aspect of the Impression ESL 11A speakers is their midrange performance. The electrostatic panels excel in reproducing midrange frequencies with exceptional clarity and detail. Vocals and instruments are presented with a level of accuracy that can be impressive, allowing listeners to appreciate the subtleties in the music. The midrange reproduction is clean and transparent, offering a good sense of realism to the sound.
However, it’s worth noting that the sound signature of these speakers may come across as somewhat lean and lacking warmth to some listeners. The emphasis on detail and accuracy in the midrange can result in a slightly clinical and analytical sound that may not suit those who prefer a more natural and organic tonal balance. The emphasis on precision can sometimes come at the expense of musicality and emotional engagement. This aspect of the sound can be mitigated by careful placement and carefully selected support electronics. In moving the speakers closer together, the sound took on a more ‘full’ presentation, but at the expense of some soundstage width. Moving them closer to the front wall also helped increase the solidity of the sound but at the expense of some soundstage depth. Experimentation is critical to get the right balance in your room.
The bass response of the Impression ESL 11A speakers is very good indeed – finally, a Martin Logan hybrid that doesn’t come with sluggish bass! The integration of the powered bass system helps in providing very good depth and impact to the low-end frequencies. Since these are powered bass modules, it’s easy to adjust levels to your liking. My pair have the option ‘Perfect Bass Kit’, comprising a mic, stand, and connecting cable. This can be used to tune the lower frequencies to the bass response of your room, but at the time of writing, I have not used the kit.
In terms of imaging and soundstage, the Impression ESL 11A speakers perform well. The dipole design of the electrostatic panels creates an expansive soundstage that can provide a good sense of space and separation between instruments. The imaging is generally accurate, allowing listeners to pinpoint the location of different elements within the soundstage. However, the precise placement of the speakers and careful room treatment is necessary to achieve the best results, and the overall performance in this regard can be highly dependent on the listening environment. The curved panel design will never provide quite the precision of image placement that you’d achieve from a good stand-mounted speaker, for example. But they still image quite impressively nevertheless.
Another consideration is the power requirements of the Impression ESL 11A speakers. While they are relatively efficient for electrostatic speakers, they still benefit from being paired with high-quality amplification that offers some power. Personally, I get a sense that low-wattage tube amps need not apply here, you’ll need at least a good 25 watts per channel from an amp with a robust power supply.
The Martin Logan Impression ESL 11A speakers offer a unique sonic experience with their emphasis on midrange clarity and detail. While the electrostatic panels excel in reproducing vocals and instruments with precision, the overall sound signature tends a little toward the analytical side, a signature that can be minimized by careful room placement, but at the expense of other sonic attributes. Ultimately, the sonic characteristics of these speakers are a matter of personal preference, and it’s important for potential buyers to audition them to determine if they align with their sonic tastes and preferences. This can and should be said of any loudspeaker system since loudspeakers are the core component around which the rest of your system should be built. With that said, I should point out that my particular system has NOT been built up around the use of planars, panels, or electrostatics, so my observations are offered here for entertainment value only.
– The Martin Logan ESL 11A speakers are a pair of electrostatic speakers that deliver high-fidelity sound with minimal distortion and noise.
– The speakers feature a curved panel design that creates a wide soundstage and realistic imaging of the music source.
– The speakers also have a powered woofer section that provides a deep and tight bass response, as well as an Anthem Room Correction (ARC) system that optimizes the sound for any room acoustics.
– The speakers are easy to set up and connect, and they have a sleek and elegant appearance that blends well with any decor.
– The Martin Logan ESL 11A speakers are ideal for audiophiles who appreciate clarity, detail, and accuracy in their sound reproduction.
Comparitive cost analysis with pros and cons, versus several competitor offerings (prices may not be the most current):
– Martin Logan ESL 11A: $11,000 per pair, hybrid electrostatic speakers with 11-inch XStat CLS transducer and dual 8-inch powered woofers, 24-bit Vojtko DSP and ARC room correction, frequency response 29-23,000 Hz ±3dB
– Pros: transparent and realistic sound, deep and powerful bass, room correction technology, elegant design
– Cons: expensive, power-hungry, placement-sensitive.
– GoldenEar Triton One.R: $5,998 per pair, hybrid dynamic/magnetostatic speakers with folded ribbon tweeter and three 5×9-inch powered woofers, frequency response 13-35,000 Hz
– Pros: affordable, wide soundstage, dynamic and detailed sound, impressive bass extension
– Cons: less transparent than electrostatics, may need subwoofer level adjustment, limited finish options
– Magnepan MG 3.7i: $6,495 per pair, full-range planar magnetic speakers with quasi-ribbon drivers, frequency response 35-40,000 Hz
– Pros: natural and coherent sound, excellent imaging and depth, high sensitivity, customizable trim options
– Cons: large and heavy, require high-quality amplification, lack deep bass impact, may need acoustic treatment
– Focal Kanta No.2: $9,999 per pair, dynamic speakers with beryllium tweeter and flax cone woofers, frequency response 35-40,000 Hz
– Pros: smooth and refined sound, fast and accurate bass, high-end build quality and finish, easy to drive
– Cons: expensive, bright sounding for some tastes, may need toe-in adjustment, narrow sweet spot
– Revel Performa F228Be: $10,000 per pair, dynamic speakers with beryllium tweeter and ceramic-aluminum woofers, frequency response 27-44,000 Hz
– Pros: neutral and balanced sound, tight and articulate bass, low distortion and high resolution, solid construction
– Cons: expensive, heavy and bulky, require bi-wiring or bi-amping, may need careful matching
– KEF Reference 1: $9,000 per pair, dynamic speakers with Uni-Q driver array and aluminum woofer, frequency response 40-35,000 Hz
– Pros: clear and detailed sound, wide dispersion and sweet spot, elegant and compact design
– Cons: expensive for a standmount speaker (stands not included), lack bass extension and dynamics of floorstanders
CAH June 23
- Lumin U1 Mini
- PS Audio Directstream Junior DAC / Mytek Brooklyn DAC+
- Oppo SACD player
- Marantz CD 6006
- Basis Audio Debut Vacuum / Graham Phanton B44 / Walker Precision Controller / Audioquest AQ7000fe
- Manley Steelhead
- VPI TNT MKI / ET2 / Soundsmith Zephyr
- Veloce Audio LS-1 Lithio – Battery Powered Linestage
- Veloce Audio Saetta Hybrid – Battery Powered Monoblocks (2 x 6H30 tubes per side)
- PS Audio P10
- PS Audio P12
- Iconoclast Speaker Cables