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Friday, April 19, 2013

2013 NY Audio Show: MartinLogan and Krell Rock the Palace

Not even torrential rains could keep the crowds away on Day One of the 2013 NY Audio Show at the New York Palace Hotel and what better room to find some clarity on a cloudy dark day but the suite hosted by MartinLogan and Krell Industries. If you've ever wondered why audiophiles are willing to spend a tremendous amount of money on a pair of electrostatic loudspeakers, the MartinLogan CLX art ($25,500/pair and up depending on finish) are the best place way to inhale for the first time.

The flagship CLX art are enormous full-range panels measuring 70"H x 25"W x 14"D and require two people to set them up because they weigh more than 110 pounds each. The depth measurement is actually misleading because the panels themselves are barely a few inches deep. The base of the panels contains the power supply, crossover, and binding posts.

The CLX art have a quoted frequency range of 56Hz - 23 kHz +/- 3dB, and while that may not seem all that extraordinary for a pair of $25,000 loudspeakers, it is for a pair of electrostatic panels without a dynamic cone driver.

Electrostatic loudspeakers are capable of startling transparency, but they have always suffered from coherency and timing issues when you crossover from the midrange into the bass region; panels are just too fast for conventional drivers to keep up with. MartinLogan has done a better job with each new generation of products bridging that gap, but with the CLX art, they've abandoned the cone driver for a much larger panel and the results have been a revelation.



The mid and upper bass reproduction of these panels is a major step-forward; notes have greater texture and visceral impact and the coherency of the sound makes them one of the finest loudspeakers in the world if you crave the illusion of a live vocalist in your listening space. The sense of scale and detail is really without rival with certain types of music.

But what about that bone crunching bass that a full-range system like this really should deliver for such a high asking price?

MartinLogan has a number of really powerful subwoofer models to integrate with the CLX art, but none of them have ever really delivered on the same level as the reference panels. That's about to change with the forthcoming release of the BalancedForce 210 powered subwoofers which were in use at the show.

The BalancedForce 210 can be easily blended with any MartinLogan loudspeaker because the company has come up with a method of installing plug-in filters which tailor the subwoofer to your existing loudspeakers. Customers can download the filter and install it via a USB connection taking a lot of the work involved in properly setting up a subwoofer out of the equation.

The BalancedForce 210 will be available this summer. No word yet on price but it's unlikely that they will cost less than $3,500.

Driving the CLX art requires some power, and the new Krell Evolution series monoblocks barely broke a sweat energizing the large suite with glorious sound. Krell had a full suite of equipment on display in New York, including the brand new Foundation 7.1 A/V Processor which we have been waiting to try since it was introduced at CES 2103.

The Foundation offers support for 3D, Ultra HD 4K, and was designed to compete with the best products from Meridian, Anthem, and SimAudio. It is available now for $6,500.

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