Tag Archives: Martin Logan

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I don’t think Martin Logan makes transmission line boxes and not sure that Zu or Audio Physic use transmission lines either, although PMC is famous for that.

Lots of ways to skin the bass cat. For instance, Daedalus loudspeakers uses aperiodic loading and this technique, which is basically resistive venting, works great with extended bass for a relatively compact enclosure, which maintaining very high sensitivity, which most TL’s do not have.

My own Altec 604 based speakers are vented, but only to let the driver do what its designed to do, which is breathe freely and not designed to extend bass response.

Battle of the boxes

In my post about Dr. Suess and HiFi, I mentioned the work on loudspeaker enclosures by British engineer Leslie Bucknell while at the company my father worked for, Stromberg Carlson.

Bucknell’s approach to loudspeaker design was to create a speaker enclosure that would eliminate distortions that occur because of cancellations and additions due to standing waves internal to the cabinet. By carefully controlling the way that the sound waves travel through the speaker enclosure—routing them through a complex maze of tuned baffles—he felt that his Labyrinth design was the cat’s meow.

During this same time period, another British-born engineer, Arthur Bailey, was taking a slightly different tack to speaker design called the Transmission Line.

The transmission line uses a long narrow folded duct behind the woofer. The woofer’s output travels through this unimpeded maze until it exits out of the port. This technique differs from the traditional port (basically, a tuned hole in the speaker enclosure) because it is carefully calculated to arrive in phase and add to the low frequency performance of the speaker. In addition, as sound waves travel through the transmission line, they are gradually damped and absorbed, which helps to eliminate resonances and other distortions.

Of the two approaches, it is the work of Arthur Bailey that lives on today in speaker designs like those of PMC, Martin Logan, Audio Physics, and Zu Audio, who all (best I can tell) still use the transmission line approach to making better bass.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I owned a pair of re-built, double stacked Quad 57’s, from the apparently late  Wayne Piquet, known to us as PK. In looking up PK, in preparation of my comments to Paul’s great post, I understand that he passed away, apparently homeless and leaving a lot of people in Quad limbo and out significant amounts of money. I must say that knowing him, he did nothing to intentionally to hurt people. This wasn’t in his DNA and just a victim of life. I now he left behind a child and he was indeed passionate about all things Quad. Too bad. RIP PK

I agree with Paul’s post, except he’s referring to Martin Logan’s CLS and CLX’s and past and future descendants of this speaker. Their current line of  hybrid and all dynamic speakers don’t have the problems Paul is referring to.

My Quads were great, except dynamically, the tweeters distorted when I cranked it up, so always had to crank it down. I kept them for 3 years and when playing the right things at the right sound level, they were the best, but still a compromise I couldn’t live with.

Fail and succeed

I was inundated with questions when I mentioned Martin Logan’s lack of dynamics.

To be clear, I am not picking on Martin Logan.

am picking on all panel types of speakers with limited dynamic range. Electrostat’s are simply the best example among many.

Over the years I have owned multiple types of panel speakers: Quads, Acoustats, Martin Logans, Magneplanars. Every one of those loudspeakers had their good points—great points in some cases—yet all had one chief drawback. They struggled to reproduce big dynamics.

There was a reason I owned so many of these speakers. What they did right was amazing. Their speed and transparency in the midrange and treble regions was simply unbeatable. Nothing came close.

But then as the frequency range lowered into the mid bass area below the midrange, the area of music where dynamics lurk, they fall flat on their faces.

They fail because of why they succeed.

Ribbons, planars, and electrostatic panels succeed because their ultra-thin membranes haven’t much mass. In fact, for most ribbons and all electrostats, the mass of their moving diaphragm is less than the air they are pushing and pulling on. It’s why they sound so quick and transparent. It’s why I am addicted to their effortless sound.

And, it’s why they fail to move enough air to produce dynamics. The nature of thin-film technology excludes a lot of motion.

They are quick but incapable of moving much air. Hence, at lower frequencies where we need to move great volumes of air to have dynamics, they are simply inadequate.

So, my many purchases of the various panel speakers were all an attempt at somehow having it all: speed, transparency, dynamics, bass.

Each one had great promise. Each one let me down.

Tomorrow let’s look at some solutions.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Nostalgic audio

At times I find myself nostalgic about some of the past equipment I’ve owned. My old Audio Research gear and my Tympani Magneplanar system in particular.

I don’t miss so much their sound quality. My present gear is far, far better.

I think what I sometimes miss is the emotional attachment that kit brought to me. Kind of like missing a long ago pet, or friend (sans all the trouble and pain they might have caused).

Some folks I know take their fond memories of past glories a bit too far. How many times have I heard about missing this or that they just cannot seem to get back again?

I suspect with time our memories grow fonder. The bad parts fade while we cling to the good ones.

I surely don’t miss my pains in the butt equipment: my Oracle turntable, my Acoustats, my Martin Logans, my RS1s.

Nostalgia has its place.

It warms our memories.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

It’s ok to be different

I sense a growing aversion to being different and that concerns me.

Of course, it’s nothing new to seek acceptance. We all want to be part of the group of people others trust and respect. But, what about different?

Is it alright to speak differently? To act differently? To think differently?

Are we afraid to celebrate our differences?

Being careful about how we act and what we say makes sense. If our words or actions stray from being constructive, generous, supportive, and helpful, then perhaps they’re going in the wrong direction.

But different? I think it’s good to be different, like the first time I saw Martin Logan defy convention by integrating a subwoofer and an electrostatic panel I was thrilled. Thrilled because it was different, brave, and bold.

We are each different.

We should celebrate those differences.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

On a carousel

Remember the old Hollie’s hit, On a Carousel? They were one of my favorite groups and, when Graham Nash left the Hollies to join Steven Stills and David Crosby, I was at first bummed but later fell in love with CS&N.

Being on a carousel, or as we Yanks might call it, a merry-go-round, can be frustrating. It sometimes takes a lot of energy to get off the rut we find ourselves in and make a change, but change is typically better than going round and round without forward motion.

I remember well when I was first hooked on electrostatic speakers. Man, I was on an electrostatic merry-go-round and for years no one could get me off of it. It had all started with my first listen to a pair of Quads. Holy crap! The transparency and window-like qualities of those speakers were magical. The fact they were extremely directional, had no bass, no volume, nor dynamics didn’t phase me in the least. I was hooked. If they didn’t have what I wanted, I could just go bigger.

Jim Stricker’s Acoustat electrostatic loudspeakers were my next acquisition and they solved the loudness problem because of their enormous size. Still, they had the head-in-a-vice directionality problem, no bass nor dynamics—but volume, clarity, and transparency were abundant. I even tried to add a subwoofer to these tall panels but back then, the subs were awful: slow, sluggish, and did not blend.

For me, the electrostatic merry-go-round was slowing down but it hadn’t yet stopped. After meeting Martin Logan founder, Gayle Sanders, I had to give it one more spin. Gayle’s electrostats were big, curved, and augmented with a built-in dynamic woofer. Nirvana! They could play loud, they had a bigger sweet spot, and by God, they had bass from that subwoofer. Still no dynamics. Still had to hold my head in a vice when listening, but….

Then the merry-go-round stopped and I stepped off into the magic of planars and lightning-fast dynamic woofers compliments of both Magnepan and Infinity.

I haven’t gotten back on the electrostatic carousel since. But, this isn’t a post about electrostats. It’s a post about being stuck on carousels.

If you’re stuck on a merry-go-round and everything you try doesn’t get you where you’d hope to be, consider hitting the emergency stop button and regaining your balance.

It’s better to go forward than in circles.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.


What drives Audiophiles to do dumb things, when the people doing these dumb things are otherwise intelligent human beings?

It’s something of a phonomena and here is a great example. “Bob” is a young MD that is in practice locally. So, obviously, an intelligent person and a very nice guy.

Bob purchased a Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III Integrated Amplifier from me, maybe the best deal in all of high end audio, based on what he read. He said he couldn’t believe that there was a Rogue Audio dealer in our small community, but here I was and I offered him a demo at a customers house, as this customer is happy to do this and his listening area is a much better representation of most folks listening area than my special purpose listening room. Bob was happy to accept.

He liked what he hear well enough to want to come to my house the next day and buy my demo amp, which was still in its sealed box. I was happy to oblige. While, here, we listened to my system for almost an hour and I’d say that Bob was really impressed, a feeling later confirmed by his lovely wife.

He’s also in the market for speakers, as well as a turntable and cartridge. Did he speak to me about this? Nope. He bought it all on-line and I’d say their is a very good chance he didn’t hear what he bought, but just winging it.

Why did he like what he heard enough to buy the amp and pick it up on a Sunday, yet when it came to these other components, one of which are in the the Martin Logan family of speakers that match beautifully with the Rogue and I was suggesting to him, he bought something he’d never heard with this amp? In fact the Dynaudio speakers he purchased really aren’t the best match with this amp and I sell them!!

So starts the audio merry-go-round for Bob and that’s strange to me, but for some reason commonplace in high end audio… Why is that?



Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The stories we tell

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have a dozen stories explaining everything they believe. From religion to politics to stereo systems, the stories we tell and believe explain the world to us. Until those stories change.

It’s easy to buy into the notion your stories represent truth—an obvious contradiction since opposing stories can’t both be valid.

Remember the stories you once believed as a kid? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. They were all true back when, and now you smile and call them cute.

I am not convinced the stories we’re telling ourselves now have a whole lot more validity than the color of Rudolph’s nose but, in fairness, at least our stories are backed up with personal experience.

I am riffing on this today because I have been writing to an awful lot of audiophiles lately. Perhaps more than normal. And the general theme that got my attention was this belief that we should sequester ourselves in like-minded camps: vinyl heads, tube lovers, solid-state aficionados, class D haters. Their logic is interesting. By collecting in groups their cause finds strength.

Strong causes get attention.

I would like to argue just the opposite. By being open and accepting of the wealth of diversity in design we have better products: tube and solid-state hybrid amplifiers and preamplifiers like that of BHK, class D and sweet FETs as in Stellar, electrostatic panel coupled with dynamic woofers as you find in Martin Logans.

Diversity leads to creation and opens new doors.

Clustering in like-minded packs moves us back into the caves.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The forever problem

It seems like we’ve been living with our reference audio or video system forever. The mighty Infinity IRSVs have dominated our lives, determined our sonic course, helped sort out performance standards for what seems like an eternity. Yet, forever has only been 6 years.

6 years ago, it seemed like we had lived with our Magneplanar reference system (including the Tympani 1 bass panels and Martin Logan Descent subs) forever.

2 weeks into my strict weight loss program and it seems like I’ve been doing this forever.

And so it goes.

Has your music system been there forever? Is it time to think about an upgrade?

When new things happen; when our settled in comfort levels have been disrupted; when our feathers have been ruffled, we work hard at getting back to forever.

Forever is comfortable, but it can get old.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I have two dedicated power lines and an 85 lb Furman It Ref 20i Balanced  Power/ surge protector for my system.  The Furman is much less sophisticated than what PS Audio is now offerent, but has served me well. I’ll try to upgrade to the PS Audio, but due to house repairs and a wedding, it will probably have to wait until next year.

The Furman is basically a very large isolation transformer that sends power factor corrected power to the source components and plenty of current to the amplifier receptacles. My whole system is now plugged into it and it is in turn plugged into one 20 amp dedicated circuit with audiophile grade duplexes.

The funny thing is while everything in my system is plugged into the Furman, a few years ago I added one Bryston power amp to power my subwoofers and plugged it into a 2nd 20 amp dedicated line I had installed.

All was fine until one day, my system started humming. This was maybe a year after I plugged the Bryston into the other line. Up until now, this had been fine. However, something changed and I started getting hum.

The secret to eliminating the noise was plugging the Bryston into the same line as the Furman. Now, its quiet…

Power noise can be weird and I even experienced this at an AV customers house with a Martin Logan Dynamo subwoofer.  For some reason two different subs started making cracking, popping noises and once plugged into the same line as the AV equipment, it worked perfectly. What’s really weird is usually this is a ground induced noise, but neither of the subs even had a grounded plug. Like I sid, weird.

Dedicated power lines

If you’re serious about building a high-performance audio system you have to pay attention to the AC power. It’s a constant theme with me because power is the foundation of our systems. There aren’t many great structures standing on weak foundations.

Power Plants solve many problems but they need a head start. One of the best ways of ensuring system performance is through the use of a dedicated AC line. A dedicated line simply means a separate wire feeding an AC receptacle. Stereophile editor John Atkinson wrote about his experience with dedicated lines:

“The sonic effect was nothing short of stunning. Within the context of a power amplifier’s characteristic sound quality, bass fundamentals relatively dropped away to minus infinity, such was the increase in their weight, while the Wilson WATT/Puppy’s “hump” in the upper bass became considerably less bothersome. Yes, the characteristic sounds of components were not changed-black was not rendered white-but the differences between those characters was heightened, the overall quality of each enhanced. The sonic contrast knob was turned up a notch, if you will, the blacks becoming a deeper black, the whites becoming more brilliant.”

Most of the AC receptacles in our homes share the same wire. This means the wires feeding your system might also serve kitchen appliances, or living room lights. To be clear, sharing power isn’t all that bad, depending on what you’re sharing it with, but what is bad is that shared ground. Imagine if your high-end audio system shares a ground with your noisy computer. Why is that not a good idea? Because grounds and power wiring aren’t directional.

By directional, I am referring to an often misunderstood concept that stems from our picture of electricity as water in a pipe. We imagine that our pipe—in this case, the ground wire—is angled down to Earth ground in such a way that all the unwanted noise never runs “uphill” to other components sharing the ground. Of course, this is not true. A shared wire is more like a crowded room.

The best way to deal with shared power is to be selfish and run a dedicated line. Often, it’s a simple task you call an electrician for and in a day or two you’re all set. Plug your Power Plant or system into the new dedicated line and instantly you’re the recipient of better sound. In Music Room One I run multiple dedicated lines. But then, I am an avowed purist. We have a great DIY article in our How To Section, or an easier to watch video I’ll tell you about next.

My son Scott, who owns PS Audio along with Terri and me, and manages our sales, has a great system at home that he wants to make better. He’s in the process of adding a P20 Power Plant but before he does he’s going to do the right thing. Add a dedicated line to feed that regenerator.

We asked him to video the experience of the electrician’s initial visit and he did. Here’s Part One of Installing a Dedicated Line.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Paul is asking if the reproduction of dynamics is important in a high end stereo system and the obvious answer is oh yeah… I can write a lot on this, but its one of the main reasons I use a horn based  speaker system.

How important are dynamics?

My very first pair of high-performance loudspeakers were Magneplanars but the marriage didn’t last long. I soon found myself enamored with a different kind of panel speaker, an electrostat which was so much more revealing than the planar that I made the switch. This added window-like clarity was a result of a lighter membrane able to move quicker in response to transients. Instead of dragging the planar’s heavy copper-laden sheets of plastic back and forth with powerful magnets—struggling to keep up with the demands of musical transients—the ultra-thin electrostatic membrane snapped back and forth to the push and pull of electrostatic forces with the speed of Hermes. But while both were fast and clear, they weren’t perfect.

Neither the Magnepans nor the electrostats (first the Acoustat brand and later Martin Logans) had adequate bass and even fewer dynamics, though the Maggies certainly outdid the Acoustats on both accounts. The lack of bass was ameliorated on the Maggies with a subwoofer, the MLs had their own hybrid woofer. Their lack of dynamics was simply unsolvable—a trade-off I was apparently willing to make until one fateful meeting with my dear friend, Harry Pearson, founder of the magazine, TAS.

“What do you have against dynamics?” he would ask me in his deepest, most authoritative voice. “What had they ever done to you to ignore them so?”

His needlings were constant and it didn’t take more than a few outings to live symphonic concerts with my ears attuned to the investigation of dynamic contrasts to convince me HP was right. I sold my panel speakers and moved to Infinity products that had plenty of all I had been missing.

Harry was a man that wanted it all: speed, clarity, transparency, tonal correctness, and dynamics. If I had to guess which of these qualities of reproduced sound he might forego in exchange for the others, dynamics would be the last to go.

And over all these many years I too have come to rearrange the order of importance for my own tastes—and effortless dynamics are highest on my list (though not high enough to sacrifice the tonal imbalance of horns).