The first round of auditions is complete. As mentioned above, I auditioned all 4 sets of speakers in 2.0 only. I attempted to level match the dB output using my iPhone app and a pink noise track. I was getting a reading of 83-85 dB with the pink noise. This was moderately loud, and resulted in settings of -15.5 to -17 on the Yamaha. All speakers were tested using my Yamaha A3060 in Pure Direct mode. The audition material consisted of the following CD music:
- The Ultimate Demonstration Disc (Chesky Records) - all tracks
- Norah Jones— Come Away with Me: “Don’t Know Why”, “Come Away with Me” and “Cold Cold Heart”
- Dire Straits—Dire Straits: “Sultans of Swing” and “Down by the Waterline”
- Boston—Boston: “More than a Feeling” and Foreplay/Long Time”
- Pink Floyd—Dark Side of the Moon: “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”
- Nirvana—Unplugged: “About a Girl” and “The Man Who Sold the World”
- Eagles—Hotel California: “Hotel California”
I tested the speakers over a 2-day period in the following order: ML, Chane, SVS, Ascend.
I am certainly no audiophile, and haven’t had a serious hi-fi system in about 25 years, so take the following comments as coming from someone with an enthusiastic, but untrained ear. The only real speakers in my house are a set of NHT SuperOnes running as part of a AV system in our family room. I am definitely open to suggestions on how to modify my auditioning to find the right speakers for my new Media room. After the first round of testing, I would rank the speakers as follows:
SVS / ML (tied, but very different)
Martin Logan 35XT
The ML speakers were very balanced and well behaved, but I didn’t feel as if they did anything particularly well. They were the first set that I listened to, so perhaps my ears were still in a learning phase. I liked the way they handled most of the material on the Chesky disc, particularly “Spanish Harlem”, which was very warm and real, the airy cymbals on “Played Twice”, and the flute in the “Flute Concerto in D”. However, there were also some things I did not like, such as a slight harshness to the high piano notes on “Maiden Voyage” the lack of naturalness on “Correnteza” and the inability to resolve the size of the studio on “Ask me Now”. The ML’s handled the Bass Resonance and Dynamic Test without problems, even when I boosted the output by 4dB.
The ML speakers did well with Norah Jones, although some of the high notes were mildly harsh. The stage seemed very wide. The bass had a nice sense of fullness. The ML’s did not do nearly as well with the Dire Straits tracks. Mark Knopfler’s vocal are rather indistinct, and the bass is rather weak. The stage is very good, and the imaging on “Water of Love” is excellent. Sounds coming from all across the stage. The solo on “Sultans of Swing was slightly fatiguing. Both Boston tracks were rather forgettable. I am realizing that this is not a great recording, even though it is great music. Same thing with DSOTM. Kind of muddy and non-distinct imaging. Mostly the recording I think. The ML’s excelled on the 2 Nirvana tracks, which were recorded live. The stage is excellent, and I could imagine being in the club. The ML’s presented a very wide stage on “Hotel California”, but again, the music was rather non-distinct. It didn’t feel much different than listening in my car.
Given their price, I wasn’t overly impressed with the ML speakers. Further, I noticed the off-axis response was poor. I believe that this is a function of the tweeter design and is specific to the XT series. They may be better with home theater, but definitely do not excel with rock music.
Next up: Chane