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MartinLogan Vision Listening Tests

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I used the analogue outputs from my Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player for music tests and the optical output for movie tests. Once I had the soundbar setup properly, learned commands from my Oppo for control, and had given it substantial break-in time, I was ready to conduct critical listening tests.

CD: The XX - CoexistThe XX: Coexist

Coexist is The XX’s newest album, actually, it’s their second album total. They are a young band, but their sound is clean and refined. One of the key parts of this album is the extended bass, a perfect test for the Vision. And it passed with flying colors, for the most part. During track 2 I literally had to get up out of my seat and go check to make sure no subwoofers were turned on, it was that convincing! The vocal harmonies were clear when listening in normal mode, but were slightly more pronounced in vocal + mode. At times they were a little too bright in vocal + mode. On track 3 the vocals floated at ear level, about 8” above the soundbar. The musicians were planted firmly in the middle of the soundstage, which was great, but I did miss the wide soundstage of my normal stereo setup. Occasionally the soundstage would appear to clearly expand beyond the left side of the soundbar, but that was partially thanks to reflection off a nearby wall. Still, don’t think for a second that the vision presents some tiny sound experience, because it doesn’t. It sounded much more like a closely spaced high-end 2.1 system than any soundbar I have ever heard.

Despite all of the good things, I did have two problems when listening to this CD. First, there was a noticeable humming that would slowly increase and decrease in volume and in cycle rate. I could affect it by adjusting the brightness of the LED display, so I assumed it was some interference issue related to the LED display. I called up MarinLogan and asked them about it. They confirmed that it was an issue with the first run of the product, but it has since been fixed. In short, if you have this issue just contact MartinLogan and they will get you taken care of. This is, according to them at least, not an issue with the current production models and should not be a concern when purchasing the Vision.

The second issue I had was a noticeable mechanical buzz when listening to track 6. This track starts out with really heavy 50Hz bass notes that were a little much for the Vision. I never had the issue with any other tracks I tested, even tracks with just as much bass or at higher volume levels. I contacted MartinLogan about the issue and they had me stop over to their headquarters (only a few blocks from my house) and try out the same track on a Vision setup in their main listening room (after which, I had to ask to listen to their flagship CLX speakers as well, after all, it's my job to be well informed. I queued up the track, and sure enough there was a mechanical rattle. However, I also brought along a few other CDs that had tracks with even heavier bass, and we had no issues. I also talked to a few fellow writers from other publications that have reviewed the Vision, and they never had any issues either. It seems that I found the magical track. As such, it is my obligation to report this issue, but I wouldn’t let it deter you from purchasing the Vision. That is, unless you are a huge fan of track 6 of The XX’s newest CD and absolutely can’t live without it.

CD: The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars are one of the greatest folk duos to come onto the scene in recent memory, with powerful vocal harmonies and an honest feel. I focused on tracks 5 and 7. Track 5, "Poison & Wine", starts out with a simple piano, bass guitar, and acoustic guitar, and then John Paul White comes in at about 15 seconds and Joy Williams at 27 seconds. The bass guitar was a little overpowering compared to the rest of the mix, but I was able to attenuate it by switching the soundbar to on-wall installation in the internal menu. Each instrument had a clear place on the soundstage, as opposed to being shoved together in a tight pattern right in the middle. I could hear the guitar pick hit every individual string as it was strummed up and down.

Track 7, "Barton Hollow", starts out with a powerful guitar lick and continues with strong vocals and instrumentation through the rest of the song. Vocals rested right in the middle of the soundstage with what sounded like an acoustic guitar off to the left and an electric guitar to the right. The Vision played back this track with every bit of the authority of a much larger system. Actually, at times it seemed like too much authority. The vocals and bass were a little more forward than I am used to with this track.

PS3 Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

After surprisingly great results with music test, I moved onto a completely different type of material, a PS3 game. I rarely use video games to test equipment, but I found that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the perfect test for the Vision. The soundtracks and effects in a video game are played over and over every round, so you become used to how they are supposed to sound much more quickly than with a CD or Blu-ray (I also needed an excuse to play Call of Duty). The Vision did a good job with Call of Duty, but the sound stage wasn’t as huge as I was used to, the bass wasn’t as deep or clean, and the surround effects that alerted me when an enemy was behind me were mostly gone. Then I realized that I needed to set my expectations properly. I was going from a full surround sound, where the center channel alone costs more than the soundbar, down to a system where the largest driver is 4”. After I reset my expectations I still wasn’t satisfied, which puzzled me because I was so impressed during my music listening tests. It almost sounded like something was wired out of phase, which it was, sort of. Dolby Virtual Surround manipulates the phase of certain sounds to change where the sound appears to come from. I disabled Dolby Virtual Surround and the Vision performed perfectly, but the soundstage wasn’t nearly as large as before. I re-enabled the surround effects after a day or two and oddly enough never had an issue with speakers sounding out of phase again. I can’t tell you why the issue was fixed, so we’ll just have to call it a fluke. Throughout the rest of my listening tests with Modern Warfare, the Vision produced some sound effects that seemed to come from beside me, but not often. Sometimes large dynamic swings that required a lot of bass, like a bombing run from an airplane, would cause compression. By backing off the bass, the soundbar could handle higher volume levels before giving out. All in all, my experience with Call of Duty was a mixed bag, but the next listening test made up for it. 

Blu-ray: Cars

Disney Cars

Cars, like most other Pixar movies, is a benchmark test disc for both audio and video. Pixar uses surround effects to truly add to the film and give off little auditory queues that place you right in the middle of the action. Most salespeople demo the opening scene, which I was going to do as well. Unfortunately, as so often happens, I lacked the will power to stop watching after the particular scene I was trying to demo. So, I watched the entire movie. The Vision consistently produced rich, full sound. There was clear separation among the left, center, and right sound effects, but the Vision also held a smooth presentation during pans across the entire soundstage. Although I enjoyed every scene in the movie, the Vision particularly came to life with the musical score. From Rascal Flatts’ rendition of “Life Is A Highway” to unknown techno music blasted by souped-up import cars, the Vision handled every kick of a drum and pluck of a guitar with aplomb. The only inconsistency was the Vision’s ability to reproduce surround effects. During really quick scenes, like when Lightning McQueen drives into a group of cacti at full throttle, I swear that I could hear sound beside me. Never during any of my listening tests did sound come from behind me, but often times it sounded like it was coming from my actual main speakers, which sat about a foot off each side of the Vision.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Epsonfan posts on October 08, 2019 11:57
Don't understand why a SB review from 2013 is appearing Oct 8 2019
William Sommerwerck posts on May 09, 2018 14:03
A sound bar has two basic functions – to fit where conventional speakers won't fit, or to provide a center channel. So most of the criticism makes no sense.

By the way, the correct term is “switching amplifier”, not “digital amplifier”. All digital amplifiers are switching, but switching amplifiers can be either.
Mikado463 posts on February 17, 2018 09:31
Cygnus, post: 975781, member: 8777
Likewise, Hocky.

There's no way that a little bar will ever be able to replace some high quality bookshelves and a sub. Just ain't gonna happen.

I get the whole ‘bar thing’, but $1400 can easily buy you a better ‘separate scenario’ ……
Calvert posts on February 17, 2018 01:25
I am disappointed this seemingly great soundbar does not have neither HDMI inputs or an output. This, of course, limits the sound fields supported.
PcPopcorn posts on February 06, 2017 16:11
I need a center channel speaker the size of one of these soundbars.
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