MartinLogan XT F100 Floorstanding Speaker Review
- Frequency Response: 31 Hz - 25 kHz ± 3 dB
- Sensitivity: 92 dB
- Impedance: 4 ohms
- High Frequency Driver: 1.25” x 2.4” Gen2 Obsidian Folded Motion XT Tweeter with 12.4 in2 diaphragm
- Crossover Frequency: 280 Hz, 2600 Hz (3-way)
- Mid-Frequency Drivers: 6.5” Nomex Reinforced Kevlar® cone with cast aluminum basket. Non-resonant sealed chamber format. Unibody cone construction.
- Low Frequency Driver: 3x 6.5” aluminum cones with cast aluminum baskets. Non-resonant asymmetrical chamber format. Unibody cone construction.
- Dimensions (H x W x D, with feet): 47-3/4” x 12-1/2” x 15”
- Weight: 76lbs
- Great build quality and looks
- A good value for what you get
- Good bass and dynamics
- They sound neutral
- They don’t measure as pristinely as the best speakers on the market
- They may be a difficult load for lower end receivers
The MartinLogan XT F100, no longer a newcomer in the audio landscape, proves to be an excellent addition to their already comprehensive lineup of quality speakers. Representing a significant step up from their previous models, the XT F100 boasts impressive aesthetics, reasonable pricing, and a rich feature set. While past encounters with MartinLogan speakers have consistently left me content with the overall sound for the money, they have never quite evoked a sense of profound admiration. Among my friends and colleagues, I've developed a reputation for often labeling commendable products as merely "fine." To clarify, "fine" doesn't mean just okay; it implies that there's nothing inherently wrong with it—it just doesn't captivate me as something truly exceptional or unique within its class. The XT F100 speakers, with their promised upgrades and changes, raised my expectations, leading to the question: have these alterations succeeded in winning over this somewhat jaded reviewer?
MartinLogan XT F100 Packing and Appearance
Unpacking the MartinLogan XT F100 speakers is a relatively straightforward task. With ample experience in handling large speakers, I've mastered the routine. Lay the speaker on its side or head, cut open the bottom, fold the flaps away, flip the speaker back over, pull the box up and off, and remove the foam and packing materials. To minimize physical strain, I enlisted the help of Don Dunn to move the speakers from their unpacking location. The speakers exhibit a reassuring weight that hints at their quality without being overly cumbersome; most individuals of average strength can easily set them up.
The speakers arrived in a glossy black finish. I must admit, I had requested a color other than black, as glossy black is quite common. My initial disappointment upon seeing "black" listed on the boxes quickly dissipated once I unpacked them. The finish and design of the F100 speakers were impeccable. The round grills complemented the satin black baffle seamlessly, snapping into place with a slick, dome-shaped design that didn't protrude noticeably. The gloss black enclosure boasted a flawless, machine-applied finish, surpassing the hand-applied piano lacquer finish on recently acquired home theater chairs. Unlike the lacquer, the F100 speakers exhibited no swirl marks or imperfections; it was a stunning piano black finish that enhanced the aesthetics in various rooms. Initially set up in my family room, I was so enamored with their appearance that I wanted to keep them there, but my wife had different plans, leading to the absence of tower speakers in our family room.
Beyond the impressive fit and finish, noteworthy details include the enclosure shape and feet. The non-flat top of the enclosure introduces an appealing design element, breaking up the monotony of a typical box shape and creating the illusion of a smaller speaker. This thoughtful design choice enhances the overall visual appeal. The outrigger feet, finished in a refined black chrome, further contribute to the speaker's aesthetic prowess.
The build quality, on par with more expensive products, stood out, impressing me with MartinLogan's ability to deliver such quality at this price point. While differences may exist in less noticeable details compared to higher-end speakers—such as potentially lower-quality ports and binding posts—the F100s didn't feel thin or cheap. Upon knocking on the enclosures, they felt solid, a sentiment corroborated by the impedance graphs in the measurement section, showing no discernible signs of enclosure resonance.
MartinLogan XT F100 Design Analysis
The MartinLogan XT F100 boasts an intriguing 3-way speaker design, offering a unique combination of elements that contribute to its overall performance. Let's delve into the specifics, starting with the layout. Positioned at the bottom of the enclosure are three 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers, creating a foundation for the speaker. A noticeable gap separates these woofers from the 6.5-inch Nomex Reinforced Kevlar® cone midrange and the folded motion tweeter positioned above. This arrangement strategically places the tweeter closer to ear height, a choice made to mitigate floor bounce effects caused by the proximity of the woofers to the floor boundary. The concept of floor bounce reduction, while challenging to quantify in my testing, is not novel. Allison Acoustics pioneered this idea, often referred to as the Allison effect. Despite my attempts to measure and validate its effectiveness, room interactions persisted in my heavily treated space, making definitive conclusions elusive. Nevertheless, this design choice adds an interesting dimension to the speaker's acoustic performance.
Turning attention to the drivers, MartinLogan introduces all-new components. The midrange driver, constructed with nomex-reinforced Kevlar, boasts a lightweight yet robust design, contributing to precise sound reproduction. An inverted and narrow surround minimizes reflections, addressing a common issue in driver design.
The Gen2 Obsidian Folded Motion Tweeter XT, recognized as an Air Motion Transformer (AMT) from the original inventor, features a 40% increase in surface area and a redesigned structure for enhanced performance. While this tweeter design comes with both advantages and disadvantages, MartinLogan has made notable engineering efforts to minimize potential drawbacks. The addition of a folded motion-specific waveguide improves directivity, aligning it with the 6.5-inch midrange and enhancing efficiency in the low end. This innovation contributes to improved directivity control across the treble range.
The new aluminum bass drivers, designed as inverted dome units with oversized motor structures and aluminum cast baskets, deliver impressive bass performance. Despite my initial skepticism, the trio of 6.5-inch woofers produced bass that exceeded expectations. Even compared to my reference system, which includes a substantial array of midbass and subwoofer drivers, the MartinLogan's bass tuning and quality were commendable.
A unique feature worth noting is the floor-mounted ports. Although their proximity to the floor might not significantly impact floor bounce, it allows for long, straight ports and floor loading. Surprisingly, the MartinLogan XT F100 incorporates relatively short ports, possibly designed in conjunction with the tube-like shape of the enclosure to achieve a low tuning. These ports performed admirably, extending the bass response well into the sub-30Hz range without any audible port chuffing during normal use.
MartinLogan XT F100 Listening Sessions
I conducted listening sessions in two distinct environments with varying acoustics and room volumes. The first room, my family room, presented a challenging scenario with concrete floors, a marble wall feature, minimal soft materials, and only a few acoustic treatments. Despite these challenges, the MartinLogan XT F100 delivered an expansive soundstage, with well-defined, extended, and tight bass. The tower speakers outperformed in-wall speakers from Definitive Technology, showcasing improved tonal balance and dynamics.
Transitioning to my dedicated home theater, a more controlled acoustic environment, resulted in a different sonic experience. The shorter decay time in this space created a drier sound with tighter imaging. The MartinLogan XT F100 adapted well to both environments, demonstrating versatility in delivering satisfying sound quality.
In specific track evaluations, such as Tiesto's "Boom," the speakers impressed me with their ability to reproduce intense bass, maintaining cleanliness and tightness even at high volumes. Comparisons with higher-end systems, such as the Perlisten S7i's, revealed differences in output and tonal balance but emphasized the MartinLogan's surprisingly close performance.
Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Tin Pan Alley" further showcased the MartinLogan's capabilities in rendering bass, dynamics, and timbre. While the Perlistens exhibited slightly better delineation of notes at louder levels, the MartinLogans held their own, providing a satisfying listening experience. The forward sound signature, though not objectionable, pushed vocals and guitars to the forefront of the stage.
In conclusion, the MartinLogan XT F100 excelled in diverse listening environments, offering a balanced and dynamic sound signature. Its ability to adapt to different room acoustics, coupled with impressive bass performance and overall tonal neutrality, makes it a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking a versatile tower speaker.
MartinLogan XT F100 Measurements and Analysis
Traditionally, measuring speaker responses involves relocating the speaker to an open outdoor space, away from buildings or boundaries, raising it 2 meters into the air, and employing gated impulse response measurements at 5-degree angles. These measurements are then combined with nearfield measurements of the woofers to generate Quasi-anechoic polar data. However, two challenges arose when attempting this methodology with the MartinLogan XT F100 towers. Firstly, the tower's bottom features ports, and the feet wouldn't sit securely on my stand, rendering this measurement approach unfeasible. Secondly, the substantial weight of the speaker made lifting it both cumbersome and potentially unsafe. Consequently, I opted for an alternative approach.
The speaker remained on the floor, and measurements were taken at a relatively short 1-meter distance, with nearfield measurements of each driver also conducted. These individual measurements were later integrated using VituixCAD to create the Quasi-anechoic response. It's worth noting that this method may introduce errors, particularly concerning the level of each spliced-in driver set. To address this potential concern, I sought additional verification from MartinLogan.
Acknowledging the limitations of my methodology, I reached out to MartinLogan to obtain their anechoic measurement data. While they provided the data, they requested that I refrain from publishing it. However, I can affirm that my collected data closely aligned with MartinLogan's measurements, reinforcing the reliability of the results obtained through my alternative approach.
Figure 1: MartinLogan F100 Power and DI
These measurements exclusively focused on horizontal data, making all reported measures reflective of the horizontal dispersion version. For instance, the listening window pertains to the horizontal dispersion listening window. Minor discrepancies observed between the on-axis and listening window measurements indicate slight off-axis response variations. Notably, the tweeter response exhibits signs of resonances and reflections, lacking the smoothness and flatness I ideally sought. Despite these imperfections, the errors do not seem to introduce significantly audible artifacts. The relatively smooth in-room response prediction might contribute to the perceived absence of strong issues during listening sessions.
It's important to highlight that the directivity index (DI) exhibits some irregularities, impacting its overall smoothness. Nevertheless, the DI's generally linear shape implies commendable directivity matching. A minor mismatch just above the crossover point is noticeable but doesn't significantly detract from the speaker's performance. The distinctive hump centered at 2kHz likely contributes to the slightly forward sound I perceived. While not overtly objectionable, the presence of this hump was audible, particularly in the on-axis response, and seems to diminish off-axis.
Turning attention to the bass response, an unexpected lumpiness emerged. While acknowledging that room-related issues can be more problematic, these lumps were traced back to some form of resonance. Initially suspected as a potential port resonance, closer inspection revealed extremely short ports, making them an unlikely source for the resonance centered around 150Hz. Considering the configuration, I speculate that a cabinet resonance, stemming from the short ports and the long cabinet length, might be the underlying cause. Further investigation is warranted to ascertain the precise origin and impact of this resonance on the overall bass performance.
Figure 2: Horizontal Dispersion
Focusing specifically on the 90 degrees of horizontal data provides a clearer understanding of the speaker's behavior. Notably, some of the on-axis errors diminish when transitioning off-axis. Additionally, an intriguing observation is the presence of a very high Q resonance evident on-axis. This resonance might be linked to the unique design of the tweeter. Air motion tweeters, known for low distortion and high SPL, can exhibit challenging reflections across their face, resulting in distinctive high-Q resonances. Fortunately, despite their presence, these resonances do not manifest audibly, alleviating concerns about potential sonic artifacts.
Detecting directivity mismatches in drivers can sometimes be challenging. Normalizing the data, however, proves to be a valuable technique, as it brings to light any issues in a more discernible manner. This approach aids in identifying potential discrepancies in driver performance, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the speaker's horizontal dispersion characteristics.
Figure 3: Normalized Horizontal Dispersion
Examining the normalized horizontal data unveils a discernible shift around 3800Hz, indicative of a slight directivity mismatch between drivers. This observation aligns with the earlier findings in the DI analysis. While not a severe concern, and unlikely to be highly audible, it falls short of the optimal performance expected from top-tier speakers. It's crucial for readers to exercise caution, as such behavior is prevalent in speakers of this type and within this price range. Achieving perfect directivity often entails trade-offs, potentially including higher costs. It's essential to emphasize that in the measurements section of a review, our role is to dissect both the positive and negative aspects, refraining from making subjective judgments about sound quality.
Additionally, a dip at 15kHz is noteworthy. However, closer examination reveals that at each angle, there is a distinct center point for the dip. This occurrence stems from a diffraction effect within the tweeter/waveguide system. The shifting center point results from the varying distance between the source of reflection or diffraction, changing with different angles. The angle error is most pronounced in the initial 30 degrees, but as the angles become more extreme, the difference in distance diminishes, causing the center points to converge. This issue is a common characteristic of this type of tweeter, and the relatively high Q and frequency contribute to its presence.
Electrical Impedance, Phase, and EPDR Analysis
To measure the electrical impedance, phase, and EPDR, the Dayton Audio DATS V3 was utilized at the highest power level. The red and green traces represent the actual impedance and phase of the system. It's a common discussion point how the phase at a specific frequency can impact the impedance, potentially making it a more challenging load for an amplifier. EPDR, in this context, is a calculated metric that portrays the impedance load as perceived by the amplifier, factoring in the effects of the phase angle. Consider it a visual representation of the actual difficulty the load poses on a typical amplifier.
Observing the results, while the impedance registers as a reasonable 4-ohm load, the EPDR indicates a load closer to 2 ohms. This suggests that the speaker may present a more demanding load to drive. Although MartinLogan specifies the speaker as a 4-ohm load, the lower EPDR value implies that the speaker could draw more current and potentially benefit from a more robust amplifier. It's noteworthy that, despite these considerations, the speaker was successfully driven with a modest Marantz integrated amplifier without encountering any issues. Beyond this, the only other area of concern is a slight wiggle in the impedance trace at the same 150hz area as the resonance was noted in the response.
MartinLogan XT F100 Competition
In this review, I didn’t have access to competing speakers, relying instead on memory and emotional impressions rather than objective, direct comparisons. Two potential contenders in a similar price range are the Definitive Technology Dymension DM70 and DM80. Despite hearing both models multiple times since their release, I found myself less enamored with their sound. The overly expansive soundstage resulting from their bipolar radiation and the pronounced treble balance make these speakers less appealing to my personal taste. In direct comparison, I distinctly prefer the more focused and natural sound of the MartinLogan XT F100.
Another speaker that recently had hands-on experience was the Kef R5 Meta, also falling within a comparable price range. The Kef speakers share many attributes with the MartinLogans, showcasing impressive build quality and industrial design for their price point. While I appreciate the superior binding posts on the Kef and favor their modern squared-off design and material choices, these differences are relatively minor. In terms of sound, the MartinLogan excels in bass reproduction, but overall, I find the Kef's sound profile more neutral. It's worth noting that I went into the listening session aware of the Kef's superior measurements, which could influence my perception. Despite my preference for the Kef, I believe both speakers are good options, and I believe one's choice should depend on personal preferences.
Other speakers from Klipsch, Bower and Wilkins, RBH Sound and Arendal Sound, while potentially cross-shopped, are either more expensive or possess distinct attributes that set them apart. These brands offer different products with unique sound characteristics, making direct comparisons challenging.
MartinLogan XT F100 Conclusions
In the grand symphony of speaker evaluations, the MartinLogan XT F100 took center stage in my auditory exploration. With a new waveguide and revamped drivers, I anticipated improvements over its predecessors. The measurements, showcasing enhanced directivity matching, had me nodding in approval—kudos for the waveguide inclusion!
While face reflections and tweeter quirks persisted, they seemed to vanish into thin air when I immersed myself in listening. The sins of resonance became inconspicuous, leaving behind a speaker that not only sounded really good but was also relatively neutral. The bass, oh, the bass was a sonic virtuoso, and the dynamics held their own in this price class. Add to the mix an aesthetically pleasing design and top-notch build quality, and you've got a speaker worth recommending. At $4,500 for the pair, these MartinLogans reign supreme in their realm. So, throw on your favorite tunes, give these a spin, and let them serenade their way into your shortlist—because, honestly, there isn't much competition for these audio maestros! This is why the MartinLogan XT F100s won our 2023 Mid-Price Tower Speaker of the Year!
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
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
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