CES 2011 – Marten

This is actually the first room we went to at the Venetian – but because the photo filenames rolled over from 9999 to 0001, the directory listing on Windows listed these at the bottom of the page. OK, yes, I also just plain forgot what order we went to room this Thursday morning – not the least reason is because we went back to most of these rooms several times.

Marten was debuting their new Coltrane 2 loudspeakers ($95K) and M-Amps ($45K pair). The source was the Emm Labs XDS1 and PRE2. Jorma Prime cabling except for some unknown-to-me power cords. So, except for the equipment racks (also by Marten) everything here was very familiar – so I should be able to figure out just what the speakers and amps sound like, right?


It was only by going back and forth between this room and the other Coltrane 2 room, the Engstrom & Engstrom, that I figured out the speakers, at least to the extent that we now forgive Marten for calling these the *COLTRANE* 2.

The Coltrane 1 is the best medium-sized box speaker made – and by a wide margin [specifically in terms of transparency to the upstream components. Think Ongaku, Fifth Element, your fave turntable, whatever – we personally really WANT TO HEAR what these kickass components reveal in the music]. When we heard about the ‘2’, we thought they were A) going to discontinue the ‘1’ [we now know they are keeping the ‘1’ around, at least for a year or so], and, well, B) $95K for the ‘2’ is a lot more than the $70K for the ‘1’ . So we considered how we would buy up all the Coltrane ‘1’s that came available – making sure we and our fellow audiophiles would always be able to get a pair.

Well, forget that.

Coltrane ‘1’s are great, but… here is what I heard the ‘2’ bringing to the party:

1) A greater sense of ease to the music – which usually takes a larger, more expensive amp to achieve

2) More separation – again, this usually requires better $$$ cables, an amp able to control the speakers better, or a better source [note that this is on the top end, with the 1″ diamond tweeter, and at the bottom, with the dual very large ceramic bass drivers]

3) Uber bass resolution. There was stuff going on in the bass that I previously have only thought could happen in the midrange. *Distinct* notes. *Distinct* notes in the bass octaves, people! For me, this opens a whole new world of music, new melodies that I can follow ‘down there’, and this is what I have been finding myself really enjoying about music lately – all these different melodies happening at once in living color.

So, one really gets a whole lot of sound with the Coltrane 2 speakers that would be hard, expensive, or impossible to get with the Coltrane 1, much less your average everyday $$$ speaker.

The black diamond racing cone feet are twice as tall as with the previous Marten speakers.

You can KIND OF see the 1″ diamond tweeter there. The Coltrane 1 has a 3/4″ diamond tweeter.

WBT Nextgen connectors. Not sure what we think about these, specifically about WBT Nextgen connectors in general.

In the end, I never quite figured out the M-Amps. They didn’t have much of a sound [a good thing for solid-state amps!], perhaps being, I would say, ‘smooth but with resolution’ – somewhat like the older top-end of the Edge amp family [Edge has been moving towards more dynamics, esp. in the lower octaves], or Vitus. They did not seem to grip the speaker as well as Sanders – but these are all very subtle differences here. Because of room bass issues [much better after the first day] it was somewhat hard to get a sense of what these amps do with bass at high volume [it is easiest for me, being the lazy bum I am, to hear how well an amp is controlling a speaker by focusing on the lower notes, although lower mids sometimes work for this purpose as well].

EAR turntable and phono stage. Emm Labs XDS1 CD player and PRE2 preamp.