You are reading the older HTML site

Positive Feedback ISSUE 8
august/september 2003


marten design

Monk loudspeakers (a follow-up)

as reviewed by Victor Chavira


monkll.jpg (27296 bytes)





Marten Design Monks.

Magnum Dynalab MD-208.

NAD T541 CD/DVD player. LINN Axiss turntable with the K9 cartridge.

Nordost Quattro-Fil interconnects, Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables, and El Dorado power cords.

Audio Magic Stealth Power Purifier, Vibrapods, Townshend 3D sink, and  Echo Busters.


Within hours of returning the Marten Monk loudspeakers to their U.S. distributor, my long-time reference Magneplanar 1.6s went up for sale, and as soon as that transaction was completed, I ordered a new pair of Monks. I wanted to purchase the review pair, but they had to be delivered to Clip Stern in New York for his review (see I assumed that the Monks would be shipped immediately from some Scandinavian warehouse, but Marten was between production cycles, and a new pair of speakers would have to be manufactured, then shipped, requiring several weeks. Meanwhile, audio anxiety began to take root in my mind. Was I really about to spend an entire paycheck on stand-mounted speakers from Sweden? What was going to happen to my audio self-image? I’ve always prided myself as being a big planar listener. For goodness sake, I didn’t even own a pair of stands! What was I going to place the Monks on when they arrived—cinder blocks?

First things first. Fortunately, I did not have to look far (or spend more money) for a good pair of stands. Fellow reviewer Francisco Duran gladly gave me a sturdy pair that he was not using. These 21-inch, four-pillar stands were custom made for Frank out of heavy-duty steel and filled with sand. Each one weighs over 80 pounds. Thanks, Frank!

Patience. A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

After several long weeks, the two cardboard boxes finally arrived. Fortunately, the speakers had not suffered at the hands of some deranged delivery person. The Monk is the only speaker in the Marten line with an exposed soft-dome tweeter. The other models feature Accuton’s ceramic tweeters, or (in the top-of-the-line Coltranes) their artificial diamond tweeters, and all have protective honeycomb zinc grills. The humbler Monks, however, have no protective elements over their soft domes. Some care is required when lifting the speakers out of their boxes. Four WBT binding posts protrude from the back of the speaker. Do not use these to lift or maneuver these forty-pound speakers! The posts will snap off in your hand faster than you can say "Oops!" and because the posts are set into the cabinet with epoxy, they are not easily replaceable. Finally, unless you already own two pairs of speaker cables or single-run bi-wire, you will need to locate a set of high-quality jumpers, as none are included.

Setting up and listening to the Monks for the first time was one of the most satisfying audio moments of my life. All of the midrange speed, clarity, and articulation I had come to expect from their Accuton drivers was immediately apparent. The bass was firm and deep, but the highs sounded somewhat zippy and forward. For several days, I left the speakers continuously playing thumping hip-hop on FM while I was at work. Marten recommends a minimum of 100 hours break-in time, but in reality, 400 hours is closer to the mark. Only then does the system sing with one harmonious voice. For a casual listener who can devote perhaps eight to sixteen hours to music on weekends, 400 hours equals 25 weekends or roughly half a year. Six months is a long time to wait for payoff on a $3500 investment, though there are rewards along the way. Somewhere around 100 hours, the tweeter becomes considerably more tamed, and the bass becomes more relaxed and extended. Between two and three hundred hours, the crossover network begins to gel and music becomes more alive and focused. I can’t tell you what happens beyond 400 hours because I haven’t gotten there yet.

Their extended break-in period aside, the Marten Monks are the most satisfying dynamic loudspeaker I know of in this price range. The midrange clarity and precision that these speakers possess is superb, yet they never sound etched or hyper-detailed. For the first time in my experience, I feel limited only by my source components, not my speakers. It is difficult to describe the sound of the Monks, as there simply aren’t enough speakers using Accuton drivers to make a meaningful comparison. Suffice it to say that companies such as Talon and Avalon reserve these drivers for their insanely expensive, top-of-the-line models. Though the implementation and sound of the speakers using Accuton drivers varies considerably, one thing is true for all—they transfer musical impulses with vanishingly low levels of distortion and coloration.

I am currently in the process of procuring tube amps to pair with the Monks. Early experiments have led me to conclude that medium powered push/pull amps are bettered suited to the Monks than low powered single-ended amps. In the future, I plan to install Bybee filters such as those used inside Marten’s $40,000 Coltranes. For now, however, enjoying music is in order. A stack of LPs and CDs awaits my attention, and I will not disappoint them. Neither will the Marten Monks. Victor Chavira

Read Victor's review at




Monk loudspeakers
Retail: $3500/pr.

US Importer:
E.A.R. USA/Sound Advice

TEL: 562. 422. 4747
web address:
email address:

Marten Design
web address: