Martin Logan Motion F10 £2995/pr
The Martin Logan F10 is not just a striking-looking speaker design, but also a real riot of a listen, with high sensitivity to make the most of your amplifier’s power, massive bass from two big aluminium drivers, and uncompromising styling that leaves you in no doubt it means business
Kansas-based company Martin Logan launched its first speaker 40 years ago, and is probably best-known for the descendants of the Monolith, that original design – electrostatic speakers, delivering sound from large flat diaphragms. But it makes conventional speakers, too, the Motion and Motion XT ranges being the latest arrivals – and the F10, while the smallest of the Motion floorstanders, still has a pretty imposing presence in the room.
Just under a metre tall and weighing a substantial 22.9kg apiece, the F10s are easy to set up thanks to outrigger feet which bolt to the bass of the cabinet, lifting it a little to allow the downward-venting bass port to do its thing, and also increasing the speaker’s footprint for extra stability.
And while I’m not one to get excited about feet, those supplied for the F10 are particularly impressive: they have a choice of rubber feet for hard surfaces or spikes, have built-in anti-vibration measures and can be adjusted from above using the big chromed caps of Martin Logan’s F.A.S.T. Feet system – so much more convenient than trying to balance the speaker with one hand while spannering from below.
That downward-firing port makes the speakers much easier to place than conventional rear vents, as it’s much less affected by walls close by, the company suggesting about 60cm of space around them should be fine. And that’s a good thing because the twin 14cm aluminium cone drivers sitting low in the front baffle certainly deliver plenty of bass, playing a major part in the big, powerful sound of these speakers.
Further up, above the swish of the company logo, is another of these drivers, this one dedicated to the midrange and in its own sealed enclosure within the cabinet, while high frequencies are handled by the company’s ‘Gen2 Obsidian Folded Motion Tweeter’, set deep within a waveguide to control its dispersion for better stereo imaging and integration with the midrange driver.
As the name suggests, this uses a folded-up diaphragm – it’s actually a shade less than 60cm2 – packed into a very small space, and acting like a bellows to squeeze out the sound, rather than a vibrating dome as you’ll find in most speakers. In this latest form it has an upgraded ‘motor’ – the magnets and coils driving it – for higher output and lower distortion.
The midrange and bass drivers are highlighted with metallic rings in the version supplied for review, which combines a walnut-finished enclosure with a matt black baffle, giving the speaker a decidedly purposeful, rather macho look that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. If you like your speakers to make a visual statement you probably won’t mind, and individual round grilles are provided for each of these drivers but the white and black versions of the speakers are somewhat more understated.
What isn’t a matter of taste is the sensitivity of the F10s, which is a handy 92dB/W/m, meaning they’ll have your amps working less hard than much of the price-competition. In fact, Martin Logan states a minimum amp requirement of just 20W, though they’ll probably work best with a bit more power than that, making them ideal for use even with relatively modest amps, or indeed all-in-one streaming systems. Dual sets of terminals are provided for biwire/biamp hook-up, with jumper bars for single-wire use, and the standard of fit and finish is excellent throughout – even if, as I keep being reminded by my partner, ‘those wood ones look a bit vulgar’. I wouldn’t go that far: I’ve seen a lot of speakers in my time that would more readily fail the ‘wouldn’t give them house-room’ test!
Around 72 hours of use is suggested for the F10s, but the pair I got for review had already been used a bit – the boxes still had the shipping labels on them from the Bristol Sound & Vision show! – and so were good to go almost immediately. And the instant impression was somewhat startling, not just for the levels that high sensitivity delivers even with modest volume levels, but also for the big, bold, room-filling sound on offer.
Whether with orchestral music or rock, there’s no way these speakers are ever going to sound shy or retiring, making them a whole heap of fun, but all that bass is delivered as part of a sound also having excellent detail and a solid stereo image between the speakers, with voices especially well presented and focused.
Even those less than enamoured with the somewhat ‘sudden’ looks, once I’d partially placated them by the replacement of those grilles, had to admit that the F10s don’t just sound pretty exciting, but also do a good job of revealing the detail in the recordings being played. And that was the case both with a very modest Cambridge Audio amp I had to hand, which wasn’t capable of much over that 20W minimum power requirement, or the much gutsier and refined Naim NSC 222/NAP 250 combination.
With the Naims in harness, the F10s sound just magnificent: like much bigger speakers, but with all the information easy to follow. With the snarl of Thin Lizzy live from the band’s mid-70s gigs, the temptation’s always there to crank the level just a little more to deliver the full thunder of the sound, while the remastered Dark Side of The Moon sounds just like rose-tinted memory suggests it sounded the first time you heard it (but probably didn’t).
However, there’s so much more to these speakers than just easy-to-drive thunderboxes, even if that will be appeal enough for many listeners: it didn’t take more than a play of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ to get the silly grins going and stir memories of that distant cry of ‘Will you turn that row down!’. But the F10s do subtle, too: even when running at low level on a diet of Classic FM they proved a distractingly involving listen, while summoning up some vintage Ella Fitzgerald or Oscar Peterson showed how well they can do lush and warm without losing the detail of remarkable performances. Oh, and listening to the final section of Beethoven’s 9th, in the dramatic Gustavo Dudamel/Simon Bolivar Orchestra recording, gave rise to what was becoming a familiar response as the music finished – yes, these speakers will have you saying ‘wow’ quite a lot…
One of the best things about these speakers is that they’re just so easy to live with: provided you haven’t run screaming at the rather upfront looks, and you have the room to give them just a little breathing space, they’ll work with a wide range of electronics, and flatter as much as they reveal, even when running at very sensible listening levels. Use them with a modestly powered amp, and they’ll make it sound so much bigger; partner them with a high-quality system and you’ll unleash all that detail they can deliver, not to mention having some seriously fun ‘all the neighbours are out’ listening sessions.
True, the Martin Logan F10s are pitched into a highly competitive sector of the speaker market, and there’s no shortage of rivals at this kind of money. However, what these speakers achieve is that clever trick of being almost all things to everyone: they can do warm and rich even at tickover, making recordings old and new sound rewarding; they can deliver all the dynamics of a symphony orchestra at full chat or powering rock and dance music; and they’ll do all that without requiring an energy-guzzling amplifier to get them moving. Add in the build-quality, and neat thinking like those easily-adjusted feet, and this is really superb hi-fi simplified – giving you less need for faffing, and more time for listening.
Carmen Gomes Inc. Trainsong
A wonderfully vibrant and intimate recording of this standard from Ms Gomes and her ensemble, taken from the Torn album, which is full of fabulous-sounding instruments and performances. If you only buy one ‘audiophile’ album…
Thin Lizzy Don’t Believe A Word
The recent deluxe boxset release of Live and Dangerous has brought back memories of sweaty gigs in the mid 1970s, and via the Martin Logans all the power and unstoppable drive of the bass and those twin guitars is revealed all over again. Mad and magnificent.
Vein Trio Restless
Swiss jazz – mmm, niiice… Except the combination of the Arbenz twins on piano and drums, and bassist Thomas Lähns, is as tight as a tight thing on this new Our Roots album: all three are classically trained, and they dip into that heritage while also being effortlessly inventive
Powerful, but closely detailed sound thanks to fine integration of the drivers
Excellent stereo focus allied to massive bass ability
High sensitivity means they don’t need huge amplifiers
Downward-venting bass port makes them easy to position
Clever design makes set-up and adjustment simple
Solid build and excellent finish, with or without the grilles in place
Drive units: 2.6x3.6cm Folded Motion Tweeter, 14cm woven fibreglass midrange, two 14cm aluminium cone bass drivers
Frequency response 38 Hz - 25 kHz (±3dB)
Nominal impedance 4ohms
Recommended amplifier power 20-250W
Dimensions (HxWxD) 97.1 x 28.6 x 33.6cm
Accessories supplied Grilles, outrigger feet with spikes and rubber pads
Finishes Gloss Black, Walnut, and Satin White
Massive and weighty sound from not much amplifier power, thanks to high sensitivity. Easy to set up and get performing at their best, with downward venting port and clever feet.