Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MartinLogan Purity loudspeakers

(This was another sidebar. This was my first time with MartinLogan speakers in my own system. Since Jeff is a big MartinLogan guy, I've heard practically every model they make at the TONEAudio office.)

When it comes to my system, I like simplicity. If it wasn't for my love of vinyl, I'd be one of those guys with a matching CD player and integrated amp mated to a pair of mini-monitors. I also enjoy how my smallish listening room can really make high quality stand-mounted speakers really sing. So when it comes to big panel speakers, I'm always a little hesitant. Will they overpower or overload my room? Will they need giant amplifiers? Is everything going to suddenly get really complicated?

With its relatively small 9.5” by 13” footprint, the new MartinLogan Purity immediately sounded promising. First of all, when it comes to MartinLogan, I totally get it. I'm hooked on the expansive sound and incredible detail. I've just always wondered if any of their models would be right for my room as well as my audio sensibilities.

But the Purity is even more remarkable for another reason--MartinLogan has placed a 200 watt per channel switching amplifier in the base of each speaker. That means one (or two) less boxes in your system. So while Jeff may tell you about all the wonderful ways the Purity works with digital music players, flat-screen TVs or even your computer, I'm here to tell you it's an excellent solution for traditional two-channel guys as well..

I connected the M-Ls to the both the Red Wine Audio Isabella and the conrad-johnson Classic preamplifiers and listened to LPs, CDs and FM radio. On first listen, I was ecstatic that I was actually hearing the traditional MartinLogan sound in my listening room—authoritative, effortless and unlimited. I'd just spent a couple of afternoons listening to the flagship CLXs at the TONE studio, and I definitely recognized a strong family resemblance. The Purity system didn't just make the soundstage float gently beyond the walls of my room, it took a wrecking ball and smashed my house to bits. Mini-monitors definitely can't do that.

Low bass performance was also impressive, especially considering that this speaker features two 6.5” woofers per side. The Purity is rated down to 41 Hz, plus or minus 3 dB, which seems extremely conservative. I had another pair of medium-sized monitors on hand that were rated down to 40 Hz, and there was simply no comparison. The MartinLogans reached much further into the depths of the music and pulled out more texture, more realism and more impact from the lowest frequencies. For the first time in many years, I actually felt the deepest bass notes thumping my chest like a playground bully. I threw on a test record with a 30 Hz tone and found there was significant output. While my room may have come into play here, I think that the 41 Hz specification reeks of modesty.

I did detect a slight dry quality throughout the mids and treble, however, which may have been related to the switching amplifiers. If you already have a warmer-sounding tube amp that you're not willing to sacrifice to the gods of simplicity, there's a simple solution. The Purity is also available in a passive version, known as the Source, for less money. If you're looking to combine the speed and detail of electrostatics with a warmer, tube-like presentation, this may be the hottest game in town. But if you're looking for a way to streamline your system without compromising scale, dynamics and authoritative bass response, the Purity should be at the top of your list. The Purity offers so much for so little, I can't even think of any direct competition it may have.

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