The MartinLogan ElectroMotion is a speaker system unlike any other. The two front speakers use electrostatic panels to produce their sound, as opposed to the cone-based drivers used by most others. The company has been building speakers like these since the 1980s, and although expensive the company reckons the technology knocks traditional speaker designs into a cocked hat in terms of sound quality.
The front speakers in question are the new EM-ESLs floorstanders, which may sound expensive at £2,400 but they are in fact the most affordable electrostatic speakers the company has produced.
Also included in this 5.1-channel system are the £790 EM-C2 centre speaker; a pair of EM-FX2 surround speakers (£645 each); and the Dynamo 700w subwoofer (£698). As you can see, it’s a system aimed at affluent audiophiles, yet the tech is so intriguing we couldn’t help but have a listen.
Front Speakers Design
So how do electrostatic panels work? Well, a light plastic film diaphragm is stretched tightly between two perforated steel sheets (called stators), which are charged by signals of opposing polarity. Altering these charges causes the diaphragm to move and create sound.
This method of producing sound does have a downside though, namely its inability to produce the levels of bass expected from home cinema speakers. That’s why MartinLogan incorporates a 8in doped fibre cone woofer into the design, housed inside the large black base.
The electrostatic technology gives the front speakers a unique appearance that will polarise opinion more than the subject of England’s chances of winning Euro 2012. For the record, we love the radical design because it completely rewrites the rulebook. The speakers look imposing and industrial, which makes them perfect for rooms with minimal, modern décor. You can almost see right through them too, which again is bizarre but very snazzy. In fact you might not even realise they’re speakers unless someone told you – they look more like fancy pieces of furniture.
And naturally at this price build quality is fabulous. The 34in tall XStat electrostatic panel is attached to the robust black box, and slopes backwards slightly. It features an aluminium/composite AirFrame structure that you’ll also find on the company’s flagship speakers, and its ‘curvilinear’ shape helps with high-frequency dispersion.
The MicroPerf stators used by these panels are thinner than previous incarnations, and because more of the diaphragm is exposed it’s said to improve the dynamics of the sound.
One of the key features of the design is that they’re true dipoles, which mean they disperse sound from the front and back, potentially creating a rich, diffuse soundstage – although that does mean they shouldn’t be installed too close to the wall.
Each EM-ESL requires its own power supply, which means you need to plug them into the mains using the supplied adapters and charge them for a while to build up the necessary electrostatic field. On the back of each speaker is a pair of push-clip terminals, which are surprisingly easy to hook up and provide a satisfyingly firm connection for bare wire or banana plugs.