Monday, June 27, 2005

Mårten Design Duke speakers and Ellington subwoofers

Source: HiFi+ issue 39, Positive Feedback issue 19

In December 2003 review of Swedish Mårten Design's Mingus III speakers the conclusion was "Mark my words, this is one important company to keep under close scrutiny..."

Right on target. November 2004 Hifi+ review of company's Coltrane speakers resulted in HiFi+ Product of the year 2004 award. Same speakers were reviewed in February 2005 in Stereophile by Michael Fremer, and result was Class A rating.

Two reviews of Mårten Design's Duke speakers appeared almost at the same time in summer 2005. The Duke is a bookshelf-sized, two-way loudspeaker featuring the Accuton ceramic drivers from German Thiel Partners (not to be mixed up with the US Thiel Audio).

HiFi+'s editor Roy Gregory tested Dukes without and with the Ellington subwoofers. He noted that the Dukes sounded far more immediate, focussed and dynamic than their specified 87dB sensitivity: "There's crispness and liveliness to the music that you'd normally associate with far more efficient desings...". Furthermore, Gregory observed that the Dukes delivered "... a fantastic performance on smaller scale recordings ... combination of micro-dynamic discremination, energy and spatial definition ... makes the sound so convincing." The review mentioned Duke's lack of weight and substance at low-frequencies, but bringing the Ellington subs into play fixed this. "... you are left in no doubt that this is an extremely capable, full range speaker system." Conclusion: "This is one speaker system that anybody spending up to five-figures should definitely hear."

Positive Feedback's Danny Kaey echoed in his review. "... the first speakers to achieve headphone resolution in my room, and let me tell you, this is quite an experience. Never before have I heard such resolution of the details buried on CDs, LPs, or tapes." He quibbled over bass re-production, and like Roy Gregory found the Dukes nicely be complemented with a sub. Instead of a pair of Ellingtons, he used a single Velodyne DD-15. "Based on that experience, I concluded that the Marten Design Dukes could be upgraded from hyper-realistic performance to true world-class status by the addition of a modern subwoofer."

Viewpoint: It's tempting to conclude that the Accuton drivers are the ticket to high-end speaker design. The other renowned speaker manufacturers employing them are Kharma and Talon Audio. What is equally common for all these great sounding speakers is that the manufacturers use non-traditional materials and designs in cabinets and high-quality internal cabling.

For more information about Mårten Design's approach to speaker design and manufacturing see their US distributors site.

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