Q&A: The Marten Coltrane Momento speakers (versus Kharma speakers)

[These Marten versus Kharma questions are very popular. I try to answer each one of these a little differently, to hopefully allow people, over the course of all these answers, to paste together a more accurate picture of the two ‘house sounds’.]


I’m curious to know how the Coltrane Momento’s have worked out? I have only seen one review of them (which was very positive), but they seem to have been brought to market rather quietly – as compared to the hoopla of the Supreme several years earlier. Have you had any in your shop for audition? If so, how do you like them? Anything glaringly right or wrong?

Finally, in general terms what kind of soundstage do Marten speakers tend/aspire to create? Small focused or expansive?? (for lack of any better descriptors at this moment…)

I like the look of these speakers – simple to hook up, simple footprint….but apparently with some great components and considerable thought all on board.


Yeah, I guess statement products [the Supremes] do receive a lot more hoopla than the penultimate [the Momentos] – and perhaps because the Momentos are comparably priced to so many other speakers these days, they just don’t stand out like the Coltrane Supreme speakers do? All just speculation on my part – but I do agree the buzz has been rather muted (undeservedly so, IMHO).

No, unfortunately we have not had the Momentos in the shop. We heard them extensively at CES last year, loved them [sounded just like we expected them to], and we were actually interested in purchasing that particular pair, but another line [no, I’m not telling which one :-)] we carry had a hiccup and we decided we just could not swing it at that time. And, now, of course, we are planning on moving the shop, so getting another big speaker just does not seem like the prudent thing to do at this time. [We periodically try to actively sell the Coltrane Supreme speakers so that we can get a pair of Coltrane Momento speakers for awhile – as you may have seen on this blog – only to later think this would be nuts and we can’t live without the Supremes. Kind of an emotional issue here at Audio Federation.]

The Momentos sound similar to the Coltrane Supreme speakers – which we love – and in some instances may be more convenient [2 speakers instead of 4, no external crossover box, and like if, say, you wanted to use an integrated amp like the Audio Note Ongaku to drive them – the absence of an outboard amp (which the Supremes have and the Momentos do not) simplifies things a bit]. Let’s get to your next question, which allows us to talk about these speakers in context, the context being another great set of speakers 🙂

>> Hello again – I also wanted to ask about the Marten’s: generally speaking how are they voiced relative to Kharma (a brand that I’ve some experience with)??

* The Marten sound is more determined by upstream equipment and setup than is the Kharma sound. (i.e. the Marten is capable of having more different kinds of sounds than the Kharma)
* The Kharma sound typically creates a larger soundstage and bigger sound, all else being equal [although this is changing with the new Coltrane 2 and maybe the Momento as well]
* The Kharma sound is typically more overtly detailed in the midrange and lower treble [though I think this is changing with the newer Kharma black label drivers] than the Marten sound
* The Marten sound has a blacker background and is more revealing of subtleties than the Kharma sound

One way to look at them is that the Kharma is a party speaker, exuberant, exciting, invigorating, … and the Marten is a truth speaker, beautiful, mind-mucking, deeply insightful…

Please understand I am somewhat exaggerating the differences to help you understand their intrinsic character …. They are both capable of doing all these things quite well.

Hope this helps!

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.