When I think about MartinLogan’s Motion Series loudspeakers, I can’t help but compare them to the indie harpist and freak-folk songstress Joanna Newsom, as much for the contrasts as the similarities.
Just as Newsom’s first album, Milk-Eyed Mender, garnered critical praise for its unique tunes and captivating lyrics, while audiences were divided over Newsom’s raw, untrained, Björk-meets- Minnie Pearl vocals, reviewers went gaga over MartinLogan’s first Motion Series speakers for their incredible distortion-free high end and ridiculous bang for the buck, while consumers were divided down the middle by the speakers’ unusual, non-traditional curvilinear aesthetics.
The MartinLogan LX16 takes all of the sparkling, penetrating high-end audio performance of the earlier, quirkier Motion speakers and wraps it all up in a gorgeous, more traditional wooden speaker cabinet that’s anything but divisive.
Fast-forward through an epic second effort from Joanna in the form of Ys, with its Van Dyke Parks orchestral arrangements and sprawling 10-minute opuses (and a detour through the slightly more upscale ElectroMotion line for MartinLogan’s Folded Motion driver technology), and MartinLogan’s new LX16 bookshelf really sort of strikes me as the Have One On Me of Motion Series. Just as Miss Newsom’s latest triple album retains all of the critically acclaimed musicianship and lyricism of her earlier efforts, but with more refined–even angelic–vocals and more bite-sized song lengths, the LX16 takes all of the sparkling, penetrating high-end audio performance of the earlier, quirkier Motion speakers and wraps it all up in a gorgeous, more traditional wooden speaker cabinet that’s anything but divisive.
The cabinet isn’t the only thing setting the LX16 apart from its Motion Series forebears, though. In addition to a magnetic, perforated steel grille that positively (but politely) screams “MartinLogan,” its low-distortion, 5.25-inch black-aluminum woofer vastly improves on the one area in which the Motion 2 and Motion 4 came up slightly lacking: bottom end. Despite being dubbed “bookshelf speakers,” the 2 and 4–for all they did well–really needed a boost from a subwoofer to be truly musically satisfying, whereas the LX16 works quite well on its own–at least in the near field–as a bookshelf speaker should.
Not that it’s going to blow your hair back with bass, especially in the lowest octaves, but in terms of bottom end, on its own, the LX16 falls somewhere closer to the Motion 12 than the Motion 4 that it best approximates in size. (Reading the specs, I have to assume it’s closest to the medium-sized Motion 10 tower in terms of bass capabilities, but the 10 just so happens to be the one Motion Series speaker I don’t have kicking around the house for comparison.)
Really, though, for the differences in bass handling, it’s the similarities in sound that stand out the most. Like the older, funkier looking Motion 4, the LX16 absolutely bathes the room in a lusciously wide, deep, penetrating aural image that you simply can’t help but want to crawl into and curl up in. What’s even more amazing is how well that image holds together no matter how near or far you are. Granted, bass is more effective the closer you are, but with something like–what else?–“Good Intentions Paving Company” from Newsom’s Have One on Me, I find myself more in awe with every note at how incredibly spacious the recording is via the LX16s. Want to hear all of the “air” that audiophiles go on about? Cue up this track on these speakers and be prepared for the atmosphere in your listening space to be completely replaced. And whether I kick back across the room or violate the LX16s’ personal space, Newsom’s vocals remain rock-solid and centered. The stability and verisimilitude of the image is downright startling; you have to ask how much more expansive an aural image you could possibly get from a speaker this size. And the answer is: none. None more expansive.
Granted, that was true of the original Motion 4, as well, and when you integrate a subwoofer, the sonic differences between the speakers become even less of an issue. I will say, though, that the LX16’s lower frequency extension does make it a little easier to integrate with a sub. I found the subwoofer crossover frequency sweet spot with the LX16 and both of the subs I tested it with (a MartinLogan Dynamo and a pair of Paradigm SUB 12s) to be the magical THX ideal of 80 Hz, whereas the Motion 4 blends best at about 120 Hz, at which point the Dynamo especially starts to get a little more directional by comparison.
The LX16 also works incredibly well as a surround speaker, owing to its ultra-wide dispersion and incredibly layered imaging capabilities, delivering a wonderfully enveloping surround soundstage without the un-musicality (if I can coin a phrase) and loss of definition that you get with dipoles. A quintet or septet of these beauties would make a gorgeous–and gorgeoussounding– surround system for a smaller media room, and if prototypes on display at recent trade shows are any indication, there should be a tower counterpart to the LX16 on its way for larger systems. I’m ready for that to happen now.
The LX16 encapsulates everything that previous Motion Series bookshelves did well with better bass and a beautiful, more traditional cabinet.
My heart absolutely aches for matching tower speakers and a center channel with this cabinet in these finishes. On its own, the LX16 seems rather lonely.
• Frequency Response (+/- 3dB): 60-25kHz
• Dispersion: 80 x 80 degrees
• Sensitivity: 92 dB @ 2.83 V/m
• Nominal Impedance: 5 ohms. Compatible with 4, 6, or 8 ohm rated amplifiers
• Crossover Frequency: 2.7 kHz
• Recommended Amplifier Power: 20-200 watts per channel