Thursday, June 30, 2005

Martin Logan Summit revisited

I got so curious by ML Summit I wrote last week that I had to organize some face time with them.

Luckily, Noir et Blanc, a ML dealer in Brussels, had them on demo and agreed to set me for a listening session. BTW, the other nice high-end dealership in Brussels is New Music. Same goes for both of them: if you approach them with a typical "tyre kicking" mentality, you get what you deserve. But if you present yourself as a knowledgeable audiophile, clearly presenting your agenda and budget, they respond positively.

Gentleman in Noir et Blanc had set-up the Summits nicely. Sources were CEC TL 51 transport + North Star Design Model 24/192 DAC for CD playback and Esoteric DV-50S universal player for SACD and DVD-A playback, amplifier was a T&A V10 integrated hybrid (with tubes) amplifier. BTW, T+A stands for "Theory and Application", not for "Tits and Ass" as some wiseguys have guessed... Noir et Blanc's reference speakers Dunlavy IVAs, by the way, were in this occasion serving the role of diffusors some 80cm behind the Summits ;)

Sound? An enigma, honestly. The Summits were not fully burned-in (some 50 hours) and I expected to hear excessively bright presentation. Instead of that, I heard more resolution than in my Revel Studios, yet at the same time less transparency. My Studios sound brighter, more analytical, more lay-back, and if I dare to say, more high-end. And yet, the Summits were more natural, soundstaging was bigger than life, imaging was more real. With the qualification that you get Summit's low bass controls properly set-up. Initially there were too much low bass for my taste and I fiddled between 0dB and -2dB settings at 20Hz and 50Hz, and almost adjusted overall bass level to minimum. Yes, the Summit offer three level of bass adjustments and I was a tad puzzled how much the overall tonal balance changed by different level of bass adjustments. With just a little of reduced energy in low bass the sound got bright, but never as aggressive and listening fatigue producing as with ML Prodigy. BTW, I'm not a new-born not to recognize how a good sub-woofer can change the tonal palette of HE-speakers, so give me a break here...

The bass controls are a great asset of Summit: you can individually set-up left/right speaker to produce the optimal room/speaker interaction in your listening room. Personally, possessing an asymmetrical listening room, this is one feature I would be ready to pay top money.

Might be my imagination but I felt that T&A V10 integrated hybrid was never in full control of Summits, my vote for an amplifier would be something producing more current/authority/control. I suspect that the challenging impedance magnitude of Summits (drops below 4ohms at 4kHz, and after that continues to decrease in almost linear fashion to 2ohm at 10kHz, and approximately 0.5ohm around 17kHz) would be better served by amps like Krell, Mark Levinson (not the latest offerings) and a like.

The ultimate question: am I going to "upgrade" from Revel Studios to Summit? Well, I'm not entirely virgin for Martin Logan designs, having owned both ML Aeon i and Ascent i speakers. With the Summit I heard the same pros and cons. State-of-the-art resolving capabilities and bogglingly transparent are only half the story, you might find that there is a bit of restricted dynamic drive. In particular for somebody like myself who predominatly listens to acoustic jazz, the choice is difficult. The Summits were uncannily accurate at expressing Partica Barber's Barber Companion, but yet that residual, Martin Logan house sound (sorry, I just cannot put it better) left me wondering. Better than Revel Studios? I would say qualified yes, but I'm not yet entirely convinced. Taking into account the current retail prices, I have to confess that the Summit at €12.000 is an outstanding value. In this light it's no wonder that Revel is is announcing revised Salon/Studio speakers in coming next 3 months.

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