While we’re on the subject of bass… the Ethos is a bass bully. This is fun, fat bass that rocks. And that bass dial is there to give you more if you want it, up to 10dB more… which is heaps. Stick on a percussion or acoustic bass track, such as any on Mino Cinelu’s self-titled CD and be prepared to be walloped with bass drums that are big and bold that, although not the last word in transient attack, have surprising depth and power. Ditto with the Renaud Garcia-Fons Trio’s Arcoluz CD. Garcia-Fons is a virtuosic bass maestro who bows, plucks and pulls on strings to create soundscapes that could pass for a number of instruments other than the acoustic bass. The Ethos delivered bass aplenty in a textured and muscular way that had my room shaking. But the bass lagged just a tad in terms of overall speed and definition when compared to that glorious electrostatic panel—albeit to a far lesser extent than in the previous generations I’ve heard. Especially in the lower bass where there was plenty of oomph belying the 37Hz spec (it felt far deeper) but utter detail and resolution was a rung or two below the upper bass… never mind the electrostat.
And oh yes, that electrostatic panel is a cracker. Put on a vocal track, be it the Waifs’ splendid sisters’ ethereal voices or Chris Jones’ cigarette and whisky-stained tone and the Ethos rewards with a life-like presence that stuns. And not just voices but also instruments sound incredibly real, which I put down to the MartinLogan panels’ utterly accurate timbre, overall balanced tonality and exact resolution. There is a silence between the notes and a lightningfast reaction to musical signals that starkly defines transients and carries musical ebb and flow. And this also translates to an ease and effortlessness that is always enjoyable and never, ever, brash or bright. The Ethos is smooth and natural to a fault.
Notably, the soundstage the speakers can throw is well outside the speakers laterally, is cavernously deep, and with a wide sweet spot, all correlating to the intelligent curvilinear design. Even more surprising however is the Ethos’s ability to focus quite competently—if not extraordinarily—images within the large soundstage; a trait that electrostatic designs haven’t been traditionally strong at.
Bells, cymbals and all manner of top-end musical content were beautifully rendered. To varying degrees, some speakers tend to exaggerate the extension of the top octaves to create a slightly artificial sense of ambience and ‘air’; not the Ethos. High frequencies are delicate, fast and utterly natural.
MartinLogan’s concerted efforts in introducing novel technologies have paid off in terms of addressing the electrostatic design’s various inherent Achilles’ heels. For starters, the speaker certainly excels at explosive bass crescendos; the ample in-built power and high-quality dynamic drivers (and passive radiators) see to that. The panel is not the equal of the bass section in explosiveness but it is par with dynamic-design speakers in its price range. My impression is that great looks, advanced engineering, beautiful fabrication by craftspeople in the US, reasonably priced and musically beguiling would be an accurate description of MartinLogan’s Ethos speakers. Over what felt like an all-too-short stay in my listening room (deadlines were pressing) the Ethos had me listening to a hell-of-a-lot of music. And frankly, that’s what this is all about, right? Enthusiastically endorsed.
MARTINLOGAN ETHOS Loudspeakers
Category: Floorstanding Electrostatic Hybrid Loudspeakers
Warranty: One Year
- Superb sound
- Extremely pleasing looks
- Outstanding design
- Brilliant build
- Bass can be tailored
- Low bass not the ultimate in definition