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MartinLogan Expression 13A Electrostatic Speaker Review with ARC
"The MartinLogan Expression 13A are the kind of speakers you can easily forget. That is a high compliment for a speaker review. Once in place and supported by proper room treatment, and perhaps a little room correction for ultimate smoothness and ideal SS&I - don't forget about the optional ARC correction built in - I predict most listeners will quickly become comfortable with the inability to find the 13A in the room - they can disappear that completely - and become completely sonically unobtrusive in their systems. The Expression 13A are another example of Electrostatic Magic from the Electrostatic Wizards at MartinLogan. I highly recommend them."
"MartinLogan has hit a home run with the Expression ESL 13A. This speaker improves upon the traditional MartinLogan strong points of transparency and detail and adds a much improved bass section to create a well-rounded, great-sounding speaker. The Expressions are capable of doing the illusive, transporting the listener to the performance."
"The MartinLogan Expression ESL13A is a game changer. I have heard better speakers but they are significantly more expensive than the Expression. I never thought I could afford a speaker with this level of performance. "
ARC Genesis requires an ARC or PBK Microphone, a Mac OS X (10.12+) or Windows (7/8/8.1/10) computer, and an ARC or PBK compatible audio product.
One USB port is required. If you are using a laptop computer, check power settings and battery meter before starting to ensure the procedure is not interrupted.
Two months ago I upgraded from Vista to the Expression. For many months I was trying to convince myself that I'd be happy with Impressions, but within 5 seconds of hearing the Expression demo at the dealer I was hooked! The amazement continues, and continues . . . .
These are better in every way! The sweet spot is larger and more forgiving at the boundaries, meaning the edges are a softer blending between sweet and not-as-sweet. The woofer integration is very good indeed! The ARC calibration works very well, simple to execute. I've very recently discovered that tweaking the bass stronger yields major dividends in dynamics, in addition to the expected fullness. This is a new experience for me with electrostatics as I'm used to having less impact from the panel in exchange for clarity, but now I don't feel that I'm lacking anything at all.
I've currently positioned the panels about 40" from the front wall, less than where the Vistas were, and they sound brilliant! I will say that the Expressions definitely benefit from wider and taller absorption, partly because they are taller, but also because the sound field is wider. So on the front wall behind the Expressions I've got floor to ceiling absorption panels which are 30" wide and positioned in the first reflection area (between the speakers) more than a foot beyond (towards center) an actual mirrored reflection. Once I did this all rear-wave problems went away! The sound is gorgeous and I simply can't get enough! Sorry for all the exclamation marks, but they are well deserved!!
I recently upgraded from the Summit X to the Expression ESL 13A in my media room (previously I had also updated from the Stage X to the Focus center channel several months earlier). This time around I got a custom color instead of a standard finish to closer match my Focus center channel. First let me comment on the quality of the finishing, packaging and workmanship. I saw all this and more first hand at a visit to the Canadian plant so I was not surprised but it was all very well done. Also now that I have purchased several ML products over the years (Summit X, Descent I’s, 212's, CLX Art, Focus, Vanquish) the packing is very good and they have all arrived in great condition. I know packaging is probably not the most talked about topic but we do want our product delivered in good condition. Believe me it’s no accident that they do it’s that good.
I must admit I was not an immediate fan of the new look compared to the Summit X's that I had at the time. I was not able to see anything in person until a couple of years ago at Axpona where a pair of 15A's were on display. What I saw on line the new ones just seemed to industrial looking. The much bigger boxy lower end seemed so much bigger then past designs so I was concerned that visually I would not like them as much as the Summit X's. Well let me tell you once I saw them in person I was much impressed with the new design, the much beefier frame and particularly the sound. Being familiar with ML speakers I came to love the clarity of the sound and the new 13A’s just make you smile so much more. The wider panel helps, the much sturdier frame helps but probably the biggest improvement is in the bass section. Yes it’s larger but its sooooo much better. Most likely a combination of the improved amp, the actual enclosure and the calibration software.
I was first introduced to the calibration software with my purchase of a couple of 212 subs. It made a tremendous difference in how the bass played in my room and I was not disappointed in how after calibration the bass on the 13A’s sounded – tight, deep and fast just how I like it. I also believe the integration with the top panel is even better with the 13A’s as compared to the Summit X’s. That is saying a lot as I thought the Summit X’s were very well integrated but the new ones are even better.
My setup is multichannel not two channel like my Summit X’s were before being moved into the media room. So I don’t have much experience on two channel performance but my gut tells me they will perform nicely and better then the Summit X’s. All I can say to the ML development team is you have hit it out of the park with the new lineup. It was a tough thing to accomplish but it’s nicely done – Visually and Sonically. Not just a small incremental improvement but justifying the new models as they are aptly named.
Martin Logan Trainer & Set-Up Expert Joel Lopez - "It's My Passion" My wife and I purchased Martin Logan Expression 13A loudspeakers from the Magnolia Audio & Design Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Nick Hufford the store manager put me in contact with Joel Lopez at Martin Logan regarding questions I had about rake angle and set up.
My first contact was in March of this year.
I had already seen several YouTube videos with Mr. Lopez about setting the speakers up.
I sent to Mr. Lopez an email containing material from the Cardas website regarding speaker set up.
Their calculator was the most helpful.
Thank you for contacting Cardas Audio.
I recommend using the standard calculator to start. This will help to maximize bass performance. If you also mark the spot for the dipole calculator you could try any location between the two to improve imaging also.
Imagine my surprise when there was a message on my cell phone from Mr. Lopez offering to speak to me via telephone regarding my questions and concerns. In the course of that conversation Mr. Lopez offered to come to our home to personally set the speakers up and implement the Anthem Room Correction, a program built into these speakers designed to take the room out of the equation; identifying and removing room nodes and standing waves; essentially allowing the speakers to perform at their best without being compromised by interaction with anomalies caused by the room. Frankly, I was flabbergasted by his offer.
He wrote back after reviewing the numbers: When looking at the calculator it looks as though his calculations are correct and also what we would recommend as well.
The only downside with using technology for speaker placement is it doesn't take into account things like type of flooring, thickness of sheetrock, type of paint weather flat or gloss, and objects in your room that will absorb or diffuse sound waves. My personal suggestion would be to use the calculator as a starting point for placement but be aware that minor adjustments in placement and or toe in can have a big effect on your overall sound.
My offer still stands to come to your home and insure your speakers are performing to the reference level we intended.
I simply could not believe my ears. This was personalized service unlike anything I had read about in the industry other than knowing about Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio going to the home of a customer after a sale to set up speakers and of course dealer set up.
The set up team from Magnolia did an outstanding job using the results generated by the Cardas calculations.
Even before the speakers had 100 hours on them it was hard to imagine how much better the response could be even though I had read reviews which testified to the difference the ARC made.
Moreover Mr. Lopez sent instructions for achieving a rake angle of one degree (almost exactly perpendicular to the floor) something I desired, to improve imaging even further so I would have them to give to the install team.
He added “Once I get a chance to travel back to Madison, your speakers will have played for the recommended break in period and I can then lend my expertise by making adjustments in placement to squeeze out every ounce of performance as possible.”
Mr. Lopez came to our home on July 25th and I played for him 9 selections from vinyl, several from Redbook CD’s and two from an SACD so he would get a good feel for how our system sounded before he started.
I thought, somewhat pridefully, that the system sounded very good but was looking forward to witnessing to what degree it could be improved.
He felt the soundstage was too small and went to work knowing that my priority, if I had to choose between a large soundstage versus focus, I would choose focus.
There was a great deal of speaker movement before the ARC was implemented. He asked my wife to sit in what looked to me to be a very near field listening position and yet it was at the apex of an equilateral triangle. My wife could immediately discern that the new position was much better. Specifically, instruments appeared and sounded a great deal more present and alive than our previous listening position. My wife had to leave to go to the library and when she left I shared that I knew, despite the clear improvement, that she was unhappy about the set up because the seating position was too close, so Mr. Lopez had to start all over again; moving the speakers further apart so the sofa could be further back and still achieve an equilateral triangle.
Mr. Lopez started the ARC process and I could clearly see on his laptop the response caused by the room. To say that the frequency response was not linear would be a tremendous understatement.
There are degrees of knowing; for years I have read that the room really impacts the sound; take care of room interactions first. The graph on his laptop hardly looked like the frequency response curve of the speakers shown by testing in an anechoic chamber. It is generally taken for granted that it is almost impossible to replicate outstanding results in the real world but the deviation in our living room was not to be believed.
When Mr. Lopez was done he asked us to choose a selection from the original ones we played and it was IMMEDIATELY discernible, immediately, as in less than two minutes just how improved was the sound; specifically the entire sound spectrum was balanced! We had not heard the presentation like that before so of course we could not know what we were missing. Choral voices to my ears were even more individuated and defined and yet the presentation became, for lack of a better descriptor, relaxed. It was ironic to me how we could be hearing more information with greater definition and at the same time the presentation was relaxed; not laid back in any way; just relaxed; there was also an effortlessness to the presentation.
Mr. Lopez’s experience (he has been with Martin Logan since 2002) cannot be underestimated; the software did not do the work; it was Mr. Lopez’s implementation, that achieved such an accomplished result.
In that sense what took place can be described as art, assisted by technology; Mr. Lopez’s artistry was evident as was his craft, and make no mistake it was craft too. The speakers were tilted a bit to the right and left, meaning from side to side respectively for each speaker and he worked tirelessly to make the lack of perpendicularity disappear. I am guessing most people would have been content to leave them as they were.
Mr. Lopez said “we are seeking perfection.”
I said “I am sorry you are working so hard” and he immediately and yet casually replied “it’s my passion!”
What more could I have asked for “it’s my passion” says it all; how many people do you meet that can claim the work they do is their passion?
Martin Logan is lucky to have him because he is insuring customer allegiance one at a time; the old fashioned way, via unparalleled dedication to results.
In the interest of clarity I want to emphasize that Martin Logan speakers are not finicky or difficult to set up; they are great from the get go, but with the extra attention comes extra-ordinary, extraordinary results.
Since Mr. Lopez cannot be cloned, owners would do well to inquire regarding his availability, since his primary responsibility is training dealership personnel.