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MartinLogan Motion 35XTi Bookshelf Speaker Conclusion

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35XTi outdoor testingS.jpg

The MartinLogan Motion 35XTi was measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 1-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at an 11-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/12 octave resolution.

35XTi Spin-O-Rama.jpg 

The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the speakers’ amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Understanding Loudspeaker Measurements Part 1. The most prominent feature of these responses is the elevated region from 800 Hz to about 2 kHz. If it weren’t for that bumped-up region, the 35XTi speakers would have a pretty flat response. The question is, how does that affect the sound? That is an upper midrange region, and I would guess that its effect would be to emphasize the harmonics of vocals and many instruments. This is a heavily-used frequency region, and a plateau like this is sure to color the sound. In my listening to these speakers, I didn’t notice anything particularly unusual in this region, but that could have been due to the recordings I was listening to which may not have highlighted this trait. It might not be obvious listening to the speaker’s sound by itself, but against a totally neutral response, it would be audible. One aspect about it that could hide the audibility is the shape; it is like a high-Q shelf filter, and the abruptness of the Q of this resonance keeps it tightly contained to this frequency band. If I had to guess, I would say this is a deliberate voicing of this speaker.  MartinLogan says that a flat response is not ideal for real-world use. Such a voicing will essentially accentuate any lead instruments, especially vocals and human voices. This might make these speakers a good choice for those who have trouble with dialogue intelligibility. The problem is if there is already an excess of energy in this range within the recording, that could end up making that recording sound ‘shouty’ in vocals and give some ‘glare’ to instrumentals. 

35XTi waterfall response 3D.jpg

35XTi waterfall response 2D.jpg 

The above graphs depict the speaker’s lateral responses out to 100 degrees in five-degree increments. More information about how to interpret these graphs can be read in this article: Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. One thing we can see more clearly from this graph is that the 800-2000 Hz resonance seems to be composed of two different components: one that is angle dependent and another that isn’t. We can see that the crossover frequency occurs right around 2 kHz, and that the crossover circuit is not perfectly blending the woofer and tweeter. It results in a dip that is pretty mild out to 20-degrees, but does turn into a bit more significant of a dip outside of a 20 degree angle. The fullest and most neutral sound from the 35XTi will occur on-axis. One thing we can see is that the AMT tweeter is pretty well-behaved. Some of the AMT tweeters that we have come across in other loudspeakers proved to be a bit erratic, but this is one of the better AMTs that we have seen.

35XTi Polar Map.jpg 

The above polar map graphs show the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s behavior more easily. For more information about the meaning of these graphs, we again refer the reader to Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. In this graph, we get a better look at the crossover issue. If it weren’t for that crossover incongruity, the 35XTis would have very nice directivity control. Again, the tweeter seems to be doing its job well. And also, again, we can see that the most even response occurs within 20 degrees of the on-axis angle.

 35XTi vertical waterfall response.jpg

The above graph shows the 35XTi speaker’s response behavior along its vertical axis where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter.  It should be said here that the vertical response isn’t nearly as critical as the horizontal response, so an imperfect vertical dispersion is much less of a problem. As always in non-coaxial two-way speakers, we see a slight null occur off-axis. This null is quite a bit less severe than in many other loudspeakers of this type. What is far more significant is how much the tweeter narrows in dispersion on the vertical axis. Above 5 kHz, the off-axis dispersion rapidly collapses. As is so often the case, this speaker is best listened to with the listener’s ears roughly level with the tweeter. The response keeps a pretty even keel out to 10 degrees, so there is a little bit of vertical angle in which the sound should stay consistent.

35XTI low frequency response.jpg 

The above graphs show the MartinLogan 35XTi speaker’s low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide-open area). MartinLogan specifies this speaker with a 50Hz-25kHz response with a +/-3dB window. By my measurements, that does not seem to be the case. I would say that the 35XTi is down by 10dB at 50 Hz and that its +/-3dB window starts a bit above 60 Hz. This speaker is not cut out for deep bass, and that is just fine with me. This is what subwoofers are for. I don’t normally expect bookshelf speakers to tackle deep bass, and there are significant compromises that must be made when they attempt that. We do see a slight amount of extra energy produced by the port, but it shouldn’t be enough to color the sound much. MartinLogan’s overly-optimistic extension rating for the 35XTi notwithstanding, this is not a bad low-frequency response. Boundary reinforcement might be able to extend the bass to get usable output to below 60 Hz, so users who don’t have a subwoofer handy can experiment with placement near room surfaces to increase the bass response.

35XTi Impedance.jpg 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the MartinLogan 35XTi speakers. MartinLogan characterizes these as 4-ohm speakers, and I find that to be a very conservative rating. They could easily have specified these to have a 6-ohm nominal load, and I would not have argued. The minima occur at 180 Hz at just a hair under 5 ohms, but that is with a not-terrible phase angle. Most amplifiers, even cheap ones, should be able to drive these speakers just fine. This might be a tough load for a cheap amp to push at a high drive level for a long time, but other than that, it’s not something to worry about (not that anyone is going to use a $1,300 speaker set with an entry-level amplifier). Port tuning looks to be a bit above 60 Hz. I measured the 35XTi speaker’s sensitivity at 88.2 dB for 2.83v at 1 meter which is lower than MartinLogan’s spec of 92 dB for 2.83v at 1 meter. That is a fairly significant difference, but 88.2 is still a bit above average for bookshelf speakers in this class.

Conclusion

Before bringing this review to a close, I w35XTi outside9.jpgill quickly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under review, and, as per my tradition, I will start with the weaknesses. From my perspective, the most significant drawback of the Motion 35XTi speakers is their elevated upper midrange response. Personally, I would have hoped for a more linear response from a speaker of this price point. This isn’t to say it is such a notable flaw since, in my listening, I didn’t even really catch it. I do think it would be apparent with certain content, so it is more than just an academic complaint, and, as I said before, will not sound like a totally neutral sound source. On most content, however, I don’t think it would be a big deal or that many listeners would object. In fact, as was said before, it could be advantageous for listeners who have historically had a problem with dialogue intelligibility. In my view, it is a flaw but not a major one.

One other aspect about the35XTi that could be seen as a disadvantage (although I do not regard it as such) is that they don’t really try for deeper bass and so should be used with a subwoofer for many types of content. That is the trade-off for their dynamic range, and you can’t really have a wide dynamic range along with deep bass extension in a bookshelf speaker form. The enclosure size does not allow for it, so some kind of compromise is inevitable. In this respect, MartinLogan chose to give up deep bass in favor of a wider dynamic range, and I think this was a wise decision.

35XTi pair16.jpgThat brings us to the discussion of the 35XTi’s strengths, the first of which is how powerful-sounding they are. They can reach blazing loud levels without losing composure. If I had a more powerful amplifier, I think I could have pushed them even harder than I did. If you need bookshelf speakers that can rock hard, these are a great choice. What’s more, despite my grousing about an imperfect frequency response, I found these speakers to sound very good, and I think most buyers would agree. In my listening, I thought they sounded relatively balanced, and not particularly aggressive. It may be that what gets me is when the response is higher at 3 kHz or above which can make a speaker sound sibilant and aggressive, but these don’t have that quality. I did find vocals to be detailed, and that may have been a consequence of the boosted upper midrange, and if so, it isn’t such a bad thing. Again, this could be recording-dependent. The sound quality overall was very good. Some people might take a look at the response chart and dismiss these out-of-hand for not having a ruler-flat response, but I would encourage them to actually give the 35XTi speakers an audition before making such a hasty decision.

Outside of their performance is their very easy-going appearance. The 35XTi speakers actually look very nice with the grille on, something I haven’t said of many speakers, and are, in fact, the first speaker I prefer with the grille, aesthetically speaking. They have a simple yet high-end look that could fit in with almost any decor. They will also not be picky about amplification since the electrical load is not very demanding, and most amplifiers should be up to task for these speakers.

35XTi pair14.jpg

If you need bookshelf speakers that can rock hard, these are a great choice.

In the end, I enjoyed my time with the 35XTi speakers, and I think that most buyers will like them as much as I have. They are good with music, so much so that picky audiophiles could enjoy them, but I think they shine in applications that call for a wide dynamic range like concerts and big movies. They are a great choice for those who want bookshelf speakers that can hit loud levels without problems and will also be using subwoofers. They look nice, they sound good, and they can handle larger rooms than many bookshelf speakers in their class. A couple of these plus a Dynamo 1600X sub would make for a hard-hitting system that won’t eat up a lot of space or be an eyesore.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarhalf-star
About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Schmenge posts on July 22, 2021 08:48
Since 2019 have owned KEF LS50's, Martin Logan 35 XTi's and now Goldenear BRX's. The BRX's sound more like music than the others and are a breath of fresh air.. Larson's midrange harshness critique of the ML's was understated. GE's are non-fatiguing and recreate accurate musical timbres.
ExoPolitics posts on November 13, 2020 23:36
shadyJ, post: 1433379, member: 20472
Any of those amps should suffice. The 35XTi speakers are not hard to drive, so they aren't partial to a particular amplifier type.
Yeah I have had a couple places tell me I should be getting something with 200-300W to match the speakers with headroom but it feels crazy. The Yamaha doesn't really fill the full living space downstairs the few times I really want it too, but it seems good nearfield.
shadyJ posts on November 13, 2020 22:32
ExoPolitics, post: 1433373, member: 93417
WHat amp did you use on a desk? I’m using them mostly nearfield with a Yamaha wxa-50 right now but need to move it back to the tv. I’m all over the place with smaller amps, NAD M10 and D3045, Peachtree Nova 150 or maybe a powernode 2i.
Any of those amps should suffice. The 35XTi speakers are not hard to drive, so they aren't partial to a particular amplifier type.
ExoPolitics posts on November 13, 2020 21:59
shadyJ, post: 1347076, member: 20472
The 35XTi has more presence in the midrange than a flat response, but given the context of the rest of the response, it didn't really stand out to me too much. I actually ended up using these as my desktop speakers for sometime after the review was finished. They didn't bother me at all, and I thought they sounded fine. It could be that they could sound harsh in a recording with a lot of energy in that range.
WHat amp did you use on a desk? I’m using them mostly nearfield with a Yamaha wxa-50 right now but need to move it back to the tv. I’m all over the place with smaller amps, NAD M10 and D3045, Peachtree Nova 150 or maybe a powernode 2i.
Rick330 posts on October 29, 2019 00:40
everettT, post: 1347238, member: 78951
From $899 to $1399 you have some very revealing speakers from Salk Sound.
Example
http://www.salksound.com/model.php?model=WOW1

But this conversation is probably for another thread..
Yeah. I have to stick with these two manufacturers. I figured someone would point out other brand. They always do when someone asks to compare two brands lol.
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