Martin Logan vs. Everything

I have a pair of Martin Logan 13a. to me they sound incredible. The thing is I also like to spend time at hi-fi shops , whether they be brick and mortar or or online and it seems like those dealers think the Martin Logan are the weak Link in my system…


I’ve listened to Speakers twice and even three times the price and they don’t sound any better to me but I do have my room treated and everything is tuned just in my liking. my personal opinion is that Martin Logan has spent years perfecting what they do with the electrostatic speaker, and that it’s just not financially feasible for some of these smaller companies to try and do the same so they have traditional box speakers, which are great, but to me not as great as the Martin Logan .


so how wrong am I ? Fight me. 



I heard these playing a Roger Waters album at a show and they sounded amazing. Mostly. I noticed some odd effects best described as phasing –like the channels were reversed or holes in the frequency response. Could have been the setup. Either way, if you like them, that's all that matters. A home demo of alternatives is the only way you can really be sure. 

"Any better" is very subjective!  Over time our ears get used to the speakers we listen to.  More expensive definitely doesn't mean better 90% of the time.  Modern speakers are overpriced in my opinion.  Every now and then a gem pops up that is truly worth their price but not very often at all.  I know of a highly respected audio engineer that has been using Meyer Sound speakers all his life at live venues. Although Meyer sound is not considered "hi fi" equipment, but professional equipment, this engineer uses bookshelf Meyer Sound in his recording studio because he is used to the brand's/ designer's sound signature and not because he can't use better ones.  He's just used to their sound.  

I think there are people who like or get the electrostatic or planar sound and others who don't. If you really like or love that sound, don't worry about what others think or tell you. 

From a listener's perspective MLs often come out on top.

In terms of being able to ignore the room and provide life-sized imaging it's rare to find other speakers that do as well.  Perhaps the Sonus Faber Stradivari can compete there.

Where the MLs can lose points on is overall frequency response and dynamic range.  The SF Stradivari are the only speakers I know that can best them in both imaging and frequency).

It's quite possible once you get used to the ML's you really can't hear anything else as neutral, and that's fine, but it may also be hard for others to come and love the ML's for the same reason. 


@dz13 +1

I have had my ESL X’s for a couple of years now and while I was a bit cautious about going with electrostatic after years of dynamic speakers. I am absolutely pleased with them. I worked with Crutchfield because they are very good about returns. I returned a set of Wharfdales, I wasn’t quite pleased with the vocals. Now I am considering moving up to the ML 13a.

As others have said, it matters what pleases your ears.

Getting a speaker to play well in your room is always a huge part of the equation, as are the upstream components.  It sounds like you've got yours dialed in to your liking.  Anything different probably sounds a little foreign to you, and would likely take some time to adjust to.

FWIW, I almost bought ML's based on an audition of a pair in a SOTA system/setup/room. Wow stuff!

But before buying them I listened to them again in another store (same owner) in a nearby city. Small room, less than optimum set up. Sounded lousy. Opted out as at that time I had neither the room, nor the stuff, that could make them shine. 

Most of us are attracted to a kind of sound. If you are lucky enough to have found speakers that really appeal to you, then different house sounds are not likely to sound better, only different or not as good. So, upgrading is easy, get a better Martin Logan speaker if you want to upgrade.

Sometimes our values change as a part of the learning process. For instance, I used to have a set of ribbon speakers with a bass driver. The comments were that this kind of design does not have great coherency across the audio spectrum. I couldn’t hear it. I was really happy.

Over time I attended hundreds of acoustic concerts and I started realizing the sound I liked wasn’t very real and they sounded great with only a couple genre of music. So I switched. The lack of coherence became obvious of my old speakers and other shortcomings. Now I am on my third set of this brand. If I want better speakers, I just go up a couple levels.


So, for now and maybe forever you are good.

Could it also be that those dealers sell brands other than Martin Logans??


They make some nice stuff and if you like them, then that is the most important part.

I have been using a pair of 11As (Impressions) for about eight years now. I am in the same boat; I can appreciate and definitely enjoy dynamic driver speakers from many other manufacturers, but I just don't feel the same need to continue listening to music the way I do with ESLs. It might very well be a situation where I've "trained" my ears to prefer them, but frankly I figure as long as I'm happy that's what it's all about, right? That and the hokey pokey?

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I've owned ML speakers and loved them.  My sole complaint would be the extremely limited seating to get the full stereo sound stage.   Move six inches off centre and the sound was compromised.  Now running a pair of SoundLab panels.  They give me the sound I love and are not at all fussy about where you are seated. 

Did you expect the dealer to say "Yes your speakers are wonderful - I have nothing to sell you!"?

I have the lowly ML ESLs and whenever I walk into a store all the other speakers sound boxy and have less image and soundstage quality.  In 7 years I have not found another speaker that could replace mine.  And, by the way, I heard Revels at a store in New Jersey and the salesman asked what I thought of them and I said I liked mine better.  He asked what I had and I said Martin Logan.  He replied "Ahhh...'nuff said".

Sounds like you landed in your sweet spot. I had a pair of 13a’s  in my one system and a pair of 15a’s in my other listening room with matching ML Force 212 subs. I liked them so much I even had the Illusion C34a center channel on both systems.   I loved this for about 4 years; however,  when listening to 2 channel my ears got fatigued to the point I couldn’t listen to them anymore during listening sessions.   So, I ended up going in another direction. Just goes to show how crazy this “music” stuff really is.  Continue to enjoy you ML’s. 

ML and any open baffle/dipole/planar speaker are a different animal.   Not better or worse, just different.   Some people love them, others don’t.    It’s your ears, don’t let other’s opinions influence yours, particularly if they are biased against open baffle/dipole/planar speakers.

I own a pair of ML Prodigy. They sounded good until I heard what appeared to be a middle C disconnect between ESL panel and cone driver (which @ghdprentice alludes to). Then I tried the Quad 2905 - much improved.

Best of all, the Quad ESL’s can be hot-rodded way up with a better power supply (you may laugh, but it’s demonstrable) and better high voltage caps, and better step up transformers. I’ve done the experiments and every upgrade is significant, not at all subtle. To me. YMMV

You're absolutely not wrong so don't let a salesman's goal to sell you different speakers influence you. Also, don't let some self-important person who knows nothing about you influence you with talk about a "weak link" in your system. They only look at price which isn't even close to the only factor. e,g. Schiit.

If YOU think they are good, then why should we fight you? Personally they are not for me. However De gustibus non est disputandum.

Modern speakers are overpriced in my opinion. 


So you've heard all "modern" speakers at every price point in your system...?


Wow! It’s great to see all this love for the Logans @erik_squires  mentioned dynamics.. I added a pair of rel s/812 a year ago and it definitely took everything to the next level.  @newbee the Logan’s are very particular what you feed them.I basically Taylor’s my whole system around them. They need absolute quiet power.. (I once had a bug zapper bulb in  garage and you could hear it coming through the panels. I now have dedicated lines, and grounding ) they also need lots of watts and love high voltage amps so I use the sanders magtech

@bigtwin  the sweet spot is very sweet but small I’ll agree. I have been able to broaden it with my room treatments though 

I owned them and even modded the Xovers to better parts ,they don’t have the dynamic impact and imaging is a bit diffuse ,soundstage is though very big 

,sound labs are a much better speaker ,much bigger but has its own section 

for highs,mids,and Bass ,and separate box for transformers they are by far the best electrostatic speaker made , at the time I traded the ML13A for Big Sonus Faber Sarafino speakers which I though much more uniform as a whole ,their new G2 

are much better still but more $$ costly as is theSound labs.. to each their own 

they are still a good speaker ,the ML prefer a powerfull SS amp to sound their best .

I had a pair of ML e-stat's - loved them except three nit-picks:

  1. Small sweet-spot
  2. Demanding current (1.8 ohm)
  3. 'Hybrid' bass was "slow" compared to panels

I replaced them with Linkwitz LX-mini + Linkwitz Phoenix (alt) OB-subs (x2). This resulted in same virtues of e-stats plus; sounds great everywhere in the room (no room treatments), easily driven with pair of Hypex FA-123, and articulate bass that keeps-up. Actually, that open-baffle bass was the biggest surprise - last thing I'd give up. Those little LX-mini's replaced Tekton DI (upgraded), B&W, and ML's. And I know exactly what you mean about ML e-stats - they were the last to go.

Still a big fan of ML and use them in the HT system for center/side/surround/atmos - where GoldenEar Triton One's are the mains there.

So to answer your question... what contenders are there with similar attributes...

Linkwitz LX-mini or LX521.4, Magnepan (never owned, but there is quite a following - likely good reason), Spatial Audio, Pure Audio PrProject, GR-Research, Kii and Dutch&Dutch will all likely provide similar sound attributes.


I have heard this debate before. Here is my 40 year experience with high end audio. It doesnt matter !!!! A well setup system with a box or a electrostatic, dipole design will sound great. I have heard both sound just phenomenal when setup properly with that synergy which is hard to get sometimes. Do your homework, and enjoy. I currently have Quad S2 a class B, and a brand-new pair of Marzipans LRS+ What my wife calls them, and I am running tube gear. I could not be happier.

  I put off trying Martin Logans for most of my life thinking they were not a real speaker, or a gimmick, I could not have been more wrong. Now I have a pair of Theos in my main HT and they sound amazing. I have not noticed the negatives many have mentioned. They simply sound different from other speakers and I like that. Just utterly clear vocals, huge sound stage, details I have never heard before, and they make my HT come alive . I am pairing these with a Stage center, Dual SVS SB3000's and some Def Tec surrounds.   I thought I would like the Montis more but I was wrong, I guess they were too big for my room or something but I like the way the Theos integrate in my system much more. I am powering these with a Bryston 4B3, so there are no power issues. But you have to remember how highly subjective this is to one's own tastes. 

  I thought there could not be a box speaker that could do what the ML does at a price I could afford and I was wrong about that also. Luckily there was a hi fi shop that would let you take stuff home near me and try stuff out in your own home for 15 days.  I went through 6 pairs and eventually got some used Audio Physic Avanti III. To me they are in a league of their own and simply disappear while throwing up a huge immersive sound stage with every nuance and detail coming through. FWIW, these are not new but were 11k 20 years ago.  These were Michael Fremer's reference speakers for a while and he did a glowing review of them for Sterophile.

  If you have the right space and proper set up, Martin Logan's are hard to beat, IMO.

Note to self : never type anything like this first thing in the morning again. 


I’m a proud owner of ML Classic 9’s setup in a small bedroom, max size speaker for the space but with some properly placed acoustic panels to control reflections the sound is immersive and clear, a B&W sub makes sure the bass is deep and tight enough to be felt in your chest…I can’t imagine another speaker that could accomplish this in that room (I’m sure there….but I’m not seeking them out!).  Now I’m trying to re-explore vinyl as my diversion as I’m completely happy with my overall sound. 

In my experience, people who like electrostatics very rarely switch to cone based drivers. (I know most MLs are hybrid) but they are fundamentally electrostatics.

I have heard many people say that the closest sound to electrostats are open baffle speakers. Have you listened to any?

I have owned many dynamic type speakers throughout my life. But I do like the open Planar/Electrostatic sound. I like very much the Martin Logan or even the Magnepan sound, but there always seemed to be tradeoffs, especially in the bass. Never heard an open baffle design though.

I ended up buying the Clarisys Minute speakers. The first Planar speakers I have owned. It has been a learning experience with room/sound treatments (none) cables, speaker placement etc.

Today, after I have lived with these speakers a few months, I doubt if I could go back to another dynamic speaker. There is just something so natural and open in the sound quality that is so easy on the ears.


The thing is I also like to spend time at hi-fi shops , whether they be brick and mortar or or online and it seems like those dealers think the Martin Logan are the weak Link in my system

@andrewkelley , meh..sounds like the used car salesman's cousin tried to sell you sht because sales were weak that month...I actually live fairly close to Martin Logan's headquarters in Kansas. Pre-covid, you could go over there, talk to their folks, etc (great company). If you like the sound of electrostats, that's all there is to it. Forget other speakers and focus on the room and electronics.

ML speakers are great, but they can’t do what dynamic drivers can do.  I’ll take dipolar dynamic speakers from the likes of Nola, Spatial, etc. over ML any day because you get a lotta what electrostats offer along with the dynamics of traditional cone drivers that flat panels just can’t do.  And there’s the bass mismatch issue that’s always there with ML.  Pick your poison and just be happy.


Martin Logan Expression ESL 13A Electrostatic Speakers
Pass Labs 260.8 Mono Amplifiers
PS Audio BHK Preamplifier
Denefrips Terminator Dac

I occasionally go to audio shows with a thumb drive of 10 critical listening songs that I know well.

When it is allowed, I will listen to 1 or 2 songs chosen to hear the noticed superior assets of the auditioned speakers.  I will go home and compare my remembered results to my above system.  I have found expensive systems that give me a better "feel" of the music, but I have not found one that gives me a better "sound" of the music. 

I have had a love of the electrostatic sound for many decades.

I entered a high-end music store in the early 1980s in Oklahoma City, just to compare what they had to my great Altec Lansing Flamenco 848a horn and large woofer speakers.  These rocked and shook my walls with their 15" woofer.  I was in my early 30s with a limited budget.  I saw a pair of tall skinny screens in a frame with a large tubed amplifier attached.  I asked what they were and was told that they were electrostatic speakers.  I think they were Acoustat or Martin Logan, I do not remember which.  He turned them on and I was blown away.  I had never heard any speakers that were so realistic in the midrange and treble.  The instruments and vocals were so real I knew I had to get them.  I asked the price and was told I would have to get the amplifier and the speakers and the combination would cost somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000.  I was extremely disappointed because I knew I would never be able to afford them.  I left the store and dreamt about those speakers for years.  I eventually forgot about them.
In early 2017 I was in Best Buy with my wife and saw a section of the store that was labeled Magnolia.  It was a Hi-Fi and TV store.  We were thinking about getting a new TV so we went in.  After a while, I entered a separate room that had several speakers with McIntosh and other amplifiers.  They also had a pair of tall skinny screens in a frame.  I know that my heartbeat got faster, my face flushed, and I froze and stared at my fantasy speakers.  All the memories came back and I just stood and enjoyed the Deja Vu.  I asked the attendant to hook them up and they sounded as good as I remembered and/or fantasized about. The sharpness, clarity, musicality, and solid bass were marvelous.  I compared them to the Bowens Wilkins 800 D2 and other high-end speakers that were also in the listening rooms and there was no comparison.  The electrostatics were so much better in every category that was important to me. Even my wife, who wears hearing aids, also noticed the difference.  Her hearing has gotten progressively worse in the last 20 years.  She has been unable to enjoy most music in the last 10 years because the speakers she has listened to were not clear enough. These electrostats changed this.  We now listen to concerts and musical shows and she enjoys what she is hearing as well as I do. 

The above history lesson was posted in 2019 but I thought it was pertinent here. 

My advice is to look as much as you want.  Change the electronics but keep the speakers.







@firstonetallguy  that’s a great story. I heard them when I was 16, and always wanted them. I was also in magnolia with my wife 25 years later in front of the dream speakers. My wife loved the sound and the look. We took them home and my system evolved around them.i moved my b&w’s to the garage system I originally powered them with a McIntosh integrated that was perfectly suited for the b&w’s… i wasn’t long until I knew i needed to ditch the mac and get a proper amp for the Logan’s.. i’m sure that a bigger Mac could’ve done the job, but a big Mac was not in My budget and I landed on the Sanders magtech… I’m glad I did!!! 

We should specify that the Martin Logan’s are only good if they are planar speakers.  I bought the 60XL’s before I knew what I was doing, and no one seems to think much of them.  

Agreed, auxiliary bass panels and a first class sub are even better. My sub is crossed over at 50Hz, 18 dB/octave, and is imperceptible most of the time.

"I have the big panels" ??

andrewkelley-Your ML's unquestionably are very good. I prefer the technology over conventional boxes.

I use an older generation of ML's to good effect with a pair of REL's as well.

But to compare them to  the Soundlab series in size/scale, the SoundLab's are in another league. 



The only answer to the dilemma of "what's best" is to have at least three main systems! Now that I'm single again, that's the goal. I have a hard time going to audio shows let alone an Audio Salon. I need to get it home and listen when I'm in the mood! I've recently discovered that I don't like basements. I want to walk in my house and see my system(s). That gets the juices flowing for me. I may be dead before it all happens. Right now, I'm enjoying the journey. Joe 

Ignore them. There are many good speakers around, and - in my extensive experience - Martin Logan's are right up there with the very best. They aren't cheap, but they aren't hand-crafted from unobtainium by vestal virgins, which seems to be the entry-level attention getter for some dealers. I've had ML's for 23 years, and the only reason that I haven't switched to 13As or 15As is that my current Spires are just so good that I don't feel the need. People (users and dealers) who don't have any experience with electrostatics tend to simply reject the very notion, from a profound level of ignorance. Like I said, ignore 'em…

The only answer to the dilemma of "what's best" is to have at least three main systems!

Indeed - and that's how many I have, as I am reluctant to dispose of gear that I really enjoy.

One of my systems is based on original Martin Logan CLS, and they are just magical for reproducing things like strings (but forget about using them for amplified rock music).

An earlier poster indicated that they had a narrow focus and that is true, but I don't keep my systems around for anyone else to listen to - you just set it up so that your chair is in the ideal place relative to the speakers and don't worry about anyone else in the room (except to let them sit in the listening chair for a bit)



Believe me, Martin Logan makes great sounding speakers. Brick and mortar like all businesses stay in business with sales. Sure they are going to weak link you. Your ears tell you all you need to know. They are unique to you, and no to people hear exactly alike. Enjoy those great MLs. I wish I could afford them.

Great post! A dream came true for me when I was able to afford my Primaluna EVO 100 integrated. Brought my system to a whole new level of enjoyment. I could imagine your thrill, getting the MLs. I wish I had a pair. But, my DIY speakers are very good, better than the B&W by a long shot. I heard at Best Buy at Magnolia when there was one. The Martin Logans out classed everything else with a superior delivery of dynamic accurate sound. The MLs sound better than my DYIs, but they should.

I’ve owned ML’s for 35 years. I’ve also owned Open Baffle speakers, which are a different type of dipole speaker. We all have our speaker preferences. We don’t need to attempt to justify why we choose what we do. Simply enjoy them, and allow others to enjoy their choices. It’s a big audio world with something for everyone. Be happy you found something that appeals to you. Case closed.

And @technomagus I also own Spires and have them in a smaller room. I feel zero need to upgrade. 

I never liked them that much. But their web site is probably in the top 3 of all audio web sites. Probably cost an arm an a leg. But it's a joy to browse. 

"I love Maggies, I dislike MLs."

This type of response is why I hate forums sometimes.

Why is their opinion so important to them, that they need to dump on someone else's joy?