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Positive Feedback ISSUE41
FormFloor and FormSub Loudspeakers from Marten
I recently spent two afternoons with Dan Meinwald, the US importer for Marten Design, at his home/studio in Long Beach, listening to Marten's latest loudspeaker creation. I have enjoyed their top designs, the Coltrane and the Coltrane Supreme, and have been an admirer of their smaller efforts. Using electronics I know well, I heard a loudspeaker/subwoofer combination dubbed “The Form" that rang my bell.
With unique triangular cabinet geometry, the nearly full-range floorstanders feature cutting edge drivers, and are mated with a sizzling-fast sub with which they blend perfectly. To my ears, they did more than make excellent music. They quite often recreated the performance right in front of my ears! Depth perspective was eerily authentic as well. When I hear this on mega-dollar systems, I am delighted. When I hear it on an $11,000 loudspeaker system, I am stunned.
I found some details about the speakers on the Marten website:
Why the unusual shape? The triangular configuration of the FormFloor and FormCentre models is acoustically optimized to allow the speakers to totally disappear within the soundstage.
The FormFloor and FormCentre models employ custom, pure ceramic midrange/bass drivers that give dynamic and powerful bass (from 36Hz) and a transparent and musical midrange. The ribbon tweeters, also custom-made, provide sweet, seductive sound all the way up to 40kHz.
The crossover components include air-core conductors, polypropylene capacitors, and metal film resistors. The cabinets are internally damped with washed and combed Swedish sheep wool. The feet are made of steel, and feature Resonance Damped Compound (RDC) cones. The FormSub contains a 10" extreme-long-throw driver that is powered by a very powerful 400W class D amp.
Here are the specs:
The electronics I heard with the Forms included the top-notch E.A.R. 868 preamp, the E.A.R. 509 Anniversary monoblock amplifiers, the Modwright Sony 777 SACD/CD player, and the E.A.R. Disc Master turntable with Dynavector's top cartridge. Everything was connected with Jorma No. 1 cables, another Swedish design, also used within the speakers. The single-wired speakers run full-range are single-wired, with the sub fed from the preamp. While variable settings are provided, Dan had the sub rolled in at 50HZ and set at 180 degrees for perfect blend in the environment. The Form towers, which are vented out the bottom, would not clip the 100-watt tube amps no matter how loudly we played them. The electronics were plugged into PS Audio's new Power Plant Premier.
On both occasions, we listened to a variety of LPs, CDs, and SACDs which never failed to entrance. Nothing in the system looked earth shatteringly new except for the unique and fascinating three sided floorstanders. They are beautiful to look at and exquisitely finished. However, that's not the story here. They sound almost like my Avalon Eidolons with Rel Studio 3 Sub, a combination which cost $25,000 when new in 1999! I have never said that before in any speaker review, but it's true with the Forms.
They are airy, open, and uncongested. You are not locked into any particular spot when listening as dispersion was very wide. I have no idea what the ribbon tweeters sound like, as I could not detect any colorations. Maybe, just maybe, they were a tiny bit on the sweet side, but for certain they were superbly and realistically detailed and had an almost diamond-tweeter-like openness.
Sophisticated, alive, sweeping, organic, involving, huge dispersion, superb depth, highly detailed, neutral, realistic… were the terms I used in my listening notes. Imaging was spot-on and well textured. The speakers did a convincing disappearing act, leaving only the performance to admire. Lots of micro- and macro-dynamic swing was apparent. Almost as dynamic as the Coltranes, the combination of towers and sub was both delicate and dynamic, with lots of swagger. Instruments floated in space. Musical colors and temperatures were literally right and often alive.
The sub blended beautifully without ever calling attention to itself, just like my Rel. It extended the mids to the center of the earth and gave the speaker system a foundation most audiophiles would envy. I liked it better than 8- or 9-inch woofers working very, very hard to do bass in other, integral designs. The 10-inch driver in the Form Sub
was unflappable. It just did its job and got out of the way. It made the system sound subjectively flat to the mid twenties with definition even below that. Someone worked very hard to voice this combo by ear.
Now with the E.A.R. 890
I spent a third afternoon with the Forms and my reference amp, the E.A.R. 890. This amp is more exciting and incisive than the lovely and venerable 509—you might say more modern-sounding overall. The Forms now had a stunning realism beyond my earlier comments. You never know what you are missing, and I had been missing that extra bit of excitement, textural vigor, tight focus, and pure magic I love from listening to this amp with my Avalons. WOW. The Forms and the 890 are a match for the audio gods. They more than made music. They created the illusion of artists and instruments in the room. I could live with the Form loudspeakers over the long term and not ask for more.
How can $11,000 be a deal! It can not be considered cheap, but more and more audiophiles are auditioning loudspeakers in this price range, and most are not getting a full-range speaker. I spent $22,000 and had to add a sub. The Marten FormFloors and FormSub are full range (about 20 to 40K), and will work well in any room I can imagine. They are beautiful to look at, stunningly realistic sounding, and don't lock you into a single listening position. They sound very nearly like the vaunted and highly renowned Avalon Eidolons. They also sound lifelike on many fine LPs and silver disks. When this happens, it is amazing to hear. The Marten FormFloors and FormSub, welcome to America. Highly recommended.
E.A.R. USA/Marten Design www.ear-usa.com/marten.htm