It was with some apprehension that I entered the Martin Logan and Benchmark room at the 2019 Capital Audiofest. I took one look at the room set-up and said to myself,. “Uh oh…multi-channel system.” I’m a dedicated two-channel audio guy just as much as I’m a dedicated vinyl guy, and I’ve been railing (actually, modestly objecting is more like it) against multi-channel set-ups for nearly two decades. Over the years I’ve softened my stance–I once heard a remarkable multi-channel system from mbl that made me rethink how the rear channels could avoid mimicry, and the surround sound releases from 2L Recordings in Norway are simply stupendous in every way.
I had that same sense of reconsideration in the Martin Logan and Benchmark room. Instead of that gimmicky presentation where the imaging does not match what’s happening in the real world, this multi-channel system was convincing in the way it kept the music in front of the listener, where it belonged, with the 3-D aspects reserved for more of the “special effects” in the recording. For example, Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” offered a fairly conventional positioning for the band, with Sting’s ethereal voice floating around the room along with some of the synthesizer touches. It was a very satisfying approach to multi-channel sound.
Think about it this way: if you’re a fan of electronica, or indie rock, or any genre where the appearance of a natural, live performance isn’t the main priority, this Martin Logan and Benchmark system can offer you years of thrills and cheers. That mbl room impressed me so because the surround channels were merely adding to the 3-D presentation and clearly defining the boundaries of the original recording space. This room offered that same promise, taken to a much further degree–I heard nothing in the Martin Logan and Benchmark room that sounded strange or convoluted, just musical.
At RMAF the Martin Logan and Benchmark room had a much more conventional system in it that intrigued me so much that I now have a pair of Martin Logan 35XTi monitors and a Dynamo 800X subwoofer in the house for review for The Occasional. To me, that was a very different approach for a company that first garnered my respect through their electrostatic loudspeakers–a dynamic 2-way bookshelf speaker that sounds excellent and at an affordable price. This is yet another example of how Martin Logan keeps pushing forward with new ideas, and succeeding.