Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Martin Logan Mosaic
- A liquid and non-fatiguing sound suitable for a wide range of program material, great looks
- Can be too relaxed and distant-sounding
The Mosaics represent a compelling alternative to similarly priced conventional loudspeakers
Price$ 4,395.00 (AUD)
While Martin Logan's hybrid electrostatic speakers have long enjoyed a reputation for great sound, they also have a reputation for being somewhat, er, difficult to live with. How so? For starters, electrostatic panels are a dipole design--that is, they radiate sound to the rear as well as the front, necessitating placement farther into the room and away from corners than is the case with most conventional speakers. While that may not be a problem in a larger room, it is generally frowned upon in smaller rooms. What's more, electrostatic speakers tend to have a narrow listening sweet spot: they sound great when you're in "the zone" but their poor off-axis response means that treble output droops noticeably when you move outside the plane of the speakers.
Despite these peccadilloes, electrostatic speakers have some characteristics that--once heard--many can't live without. Chief amongst these are a lightning-fast transient response (due to the extremely low-mass electrostatic diaphragm), holographic soundstaging and phenomenal detail retrieval.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the new Mosaic speaker. Like other models in the ML range, the Mosaic is a hybrid speaker that uses a conventional dynamic bass driver to cover low frequencies (in this case an 8" high-excursion, aluminium cone woofer that operates below 450Hz). But in a surprise move, the Mosaic dispenses with electrostatic drivers altogether--the very technology upon which ML has forged its name.
Gone are the trademark see-through electrostatic panels. In their place each speaker uses two ATF (advanced thin film) transducers employed in a dipole configuration. These sit in a curved plastic housing that sits some 20cm proud of the top of the main teardrop-shaped body of the speakers.
The rear of each speaker features a single pair of speaker binding posts down low, with a reflex port immediately above. The speakers sit on four small non-adjustable feet; however, to guarantee a more secure connection between speaker and floor, Martin Logan offers the ETC (Energy Transfer Coupler) speaker spikes as an optional extra. As well as looking really cool, the two-piece ETCs promise an appreciable improvement in sound quality. ML claims they deliver tighter, better defined bass, cleaner, more dynamic highs and improved imaging and focus.
Available in cherry, mahogany or black, the Mosaics offer a refreshing take on loudspeaker aesthetics. While in my listening room, a number of visitors--of both the audio zealot and secular persuasion--commented favourably on the Mosaic's looks.
As mentioned earlier, ML speakers have a reputation for being tricky to position. Maybe I just got lucky, but I plonked the Mosaic's down 90cm from the front wall and 65cm from the side wall (measured from the front centre of the ATF panel) with a slight toe-in and was greeted by a beautifully well-balanced sound. Later, I read the superbly written instruction manual (quite the best I've ever read--it offers really useful, practical advice that helps make set-up a breeze) and discovered that the speaker position I had chosen for the Mosaics was in keeping with ML's own recommendations.
Those who favour an in-yer-lap musical presentation are unlikely to be won over by the Mosaics. Music is presented in a wide, deep arc that extends backwards from the plane of the speakers; the overall effect is akin to a mid-hall rather than front-row seat perspective. The soundstage cast by the Mosaics is phenomenally deep and finely layered, easily allowing the listener to pinpoint individual instruments and performers in a piece of music.
The aluminium dome woofer works a treat. Bass is deep, punchy and well timed, with an in-room response that extends cleanly into the low 30Hz range. However, integration between the woofer and the mid-range ATF driver is a little suspect, with a mild suck-out in the 350Hz to 450Hz region. The ATF technology--in this implementation at least--is a resounding success. The larger of the ATF drivers delivers an articulate mid-range performance, while the smaller treble unit is sweet and vice-free. Detail is abundant yet the high frequencies never slip into stridency. The ATF drivers also contributed to a better off-axis listening response than ML's hybrid-electrostatic designs, with a larger listening sweet spot to boot.
From Bill Evans to the Spencer Davis Group, from Stevie Wonder to Zero 7, the Mosaics courted no favour with any particular genre. Music was always presented in an involving and thoroughly enjoyable manner, and while they may not be the last word in tonal accuracy, the Mosaics are the sort of speakers that encourage you to spend more time listening to the musical whole and less time obsessing over its component parts. In addition, their forgiving, non-fatiguing demeanour makes them particularly kind to older or non-audiophile recordings.
The Mosaics represent a compelling alternative to similarly priced conventional loudspeakers. The baby Martin Logans offer many of the attributes of their hybrid electrostatic siblings, all at a fraction of the price. And as an added bonus, their decor-friendly face and relatively flexible positioning requirements mean they will fit into a wide variety of real-world living situations--something you can't always say about the Mosaics' more illustrious big brothers.
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