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Thread: Brief Visit With MartinLogan Neoliths

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    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Brief Visit With MartinLogan Neoliths

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    MARTINLOGAN NEOLITHS

    KJ West One in London currently is hosting the MartinLogan Neolith. Lloyd swung by briefly this afternoon. Kedar and I went to the official demo tonight. The demo continues all day tomorrow. I welcome Lloyd's and Kedar's thoughts and impressions here.

    The Neoliths were driven by huge Constellation Audio mono-blocks. Preamplification was by Audio Research. Digital discs were played by a Metronome DAC and transport. Vinyl was played on a TechDAS Air Force Three with a Graham Phantom Elite tonearm and a Koetsu Azule cartridge.

    1) Although the main KJ One West listening room is a little small for the Neoliths I liked what I heard. As a life-long “panel person” and as an owner of ML speakers since 1990, I could not help but be infatuated with the transparency of the Neoliths. This transparency is an attribute which is not a byproduct of excessive detail or “analyticalness.” It is transparency in the sense that the “window” we usually listen through is not only crystal clear and spotlessly clean, with the Neoliths it sounds like the window has been removed.

    The Neolith is without doubt the most transparent speaker, from 250 Hz and up, that I have ever heard. It is more transparent, to my ears, than the Genesis 1.1, the Rockport Arrakis, the Gryphon Pendragon or anything else I have ever heard. The Neoliths are extremely high-resolution without being the slightest bit bright, edgy or analytical.

    2) The Neoliths project a big sound which is tall and wide and, I think, realistic. No other ML speaker in my experience sounds as big and life-size as the Neoliths.

    The new ML Renaissance was being demonstrated in a smaller room today as well. The Renaissance speakers sounded good; they sounded like punchier, cleaner, more transparent, more dynamic Prodigys. I think they produce wonderful sound compared to other speakers anywhere near their price point. But they are not ground-breaking.

    I think the Neoliths display a qualitatively different level of “bigness” and openness and scale and realism and dynamics than any ML speaker with a smaller panel. I think the Neoliths are groundbreaking.

    3) The bigger the ML electrostatic panel, the better the dynamics. I have always felt up and down the entire ML product line that the bigger ML hybrids sound better than the smaller ML hybrids. I think this is because the larger the electrostatic panel, the more the dynamics of the panel “catch up” to the dynamics of the cone drivers.

    The size of the Neolith panel allows the Neolith to close a bit of the gap it has compared to other dynamic driver speakers and full-range ribbon speakers with respect to reproducing the weight and corporeal body of voices and instruments.

    4) Amir reported from CES that the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Neolith vibrated more than the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Renaissance. Tonight I found this to be totally incorrect.

    While the Neolith frame still vibrates, its heavy, phenolic resin frame does a great job of reducing and dampening that resonance compared to the Renaissance’s frame. The Neolith panel surround vibrates much less than does the panel surround of any other ML speaker, past or present.

    5) I think the 12" cone driver, bridging the 60 Hz to 250 Hz to 400 Hz (depending on setting) range between the 15" woofer and the panel, is the key innovation to the Neolith's success at integrating more effectively than ever before the ML electrostatic panel with cone drivers in a hybrid design.


    POSTSCRIPT

    A) Digital

    Tonight was the first time in many years I heard high-end digital. I think the Metronome transport we heard tonight was the Kalista. It was a stunning-looking piece of equipment! I do not know which model of Metronome DAC was in use, but I am sure it was a top model.

    The digital sounded better than I have ever heard digital sound before, but it still sounded like digital. I still heard a slight “dryness,” a slight “sandy-ness” or maybe a slight “whiteish-ness” to the sound. I still do not care for digital.

    B) Koetsu

    I thought the analog front-end tonight sounded amazing: natural, rich, meaty in the midrange and realistic. I want to describe the sound of the Koetsu Azule as sonically complete. Its sound was vivid. (So this is what Koetsu aficionados are raving about!)

    Just yesterday I wrote to Peter A:

    I think I have decided to eliminate Koestu from my cartridge search. There are just not enough experienced people who have had a Koetsu on a Basis Audio Superarm 9. I do not want to be the guinea pig.

    The reputation of Koetsu of requiring a low compliance and high effective mass tonearm to achieve greatness, coupled with so many experienced Koetsu users insisting upon an Ikeda or a Fidelity Research tonearm, just makes me uncomfortable to take a chance on doing something which might be even slightly suboptimal.

    I do not know if the Graham Phantom Elite is the right tool for the low compliance, high-effective mass Koetsu job, but I know the Azule tonight sounded exactly the way I want my future cartridge to sound. (And we know that Christian is very happy with his Coralstone on his Graham Phantom Elite.)

    So a Koetsu Coralstone or Blue Lace is back in contention for me, along with the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme and the MSL Ultra Eminent EX. (I have no idea how I am ever going to make a decision on this.)

    (I liked very much the ZYX UNIverse Premium but at only .25 mV output I think I would be asking for noise trouble with my Io. The reviews of the Air Tight PC-1 Opus suggest that the Opus (with its duralumin, rather than boron, cantilever) heads in the direction of the Ortofon Anna, which is not the direction in which I, personally, wish to head. If anything, coming as I am from the Benz Ruby 2, I would want to head in the direction of a richer, meatier midrange.)

    C) Constellation

    I have never liked solid-state amplification on ML electrostatic panels, and I still don't. But these Constellation Audio amplifiers sounded good.

    I have no basis for comparison but every other solid-state amplifier I have ever heard drive ML speakers drew my attention to the amplifiers for being a bit bright or a bit dry or both. I did not get that sensation from these Constellation amplifiers. (Someone has to compare Constellation, Gryphon and Pass Labs amplifiers.)

    Thanks to Ricardo of Absolute Sounds, and Richard, Seva, Derek and Jason of KJ West One, for a wonderful and interesting evening!
    Last edited by Ron Resnick; 04-17-2016 at 07:26 AM.
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000; tonearms: SME 3012R, Schröder LT; cartridges: ZYX UNIverse Premium X-SB2, Air Tight Opus-1; tape: Studer A820 Mk II; phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: VTL TL-7.5 Series III; amplifier: VTL Siegfried Series II; loudspeaker: Gryphon Pendragon; cables: MasterBuilt Ultra; stands: Herzan + Taiko Tana + Evo LPS for Io, custom for turntable, Stacore Basic+ for amps; power: Benjamin Electric subpanel, JPS in-wall wire, Furutech NCF outlets, Torus AVR60BAL; room: 19' wide X 24' long X 14' tall; acoustic treatment: SoundSense A.T.I. + Lumitex drapes + Vibramat, ASC IsoThermal Tube Traps; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks, self-propelled sound-absorbing cocker-poo

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    Excellent summary Ron. Hoping to visit later w/Blue58, and will post my thoughts. I'm very pleased they're being demoed w/vinyl and rbcd, I still don't have enough experience of streaming/dsd to have a handle on that presentation.
    Trans Fi Salvation tt & Terminator arm, Soundsmith Straingauge SG200 cart/Eera Tentation cdp/Nat Audio Utopia line stage & SE2SE SET monos w.NOS '48 GE tubes/Zu Definitions 4 spkrs w.Duelund caps & Lundahl transformers/Stacore isolation platforms, Symposium Isis rack & Rollerblocks isolation/Sablon Reservas & Elites cbls/Westwick 8kVA balanced pwr, Oyaides dedicated lines w.Furutech US sockets, SR Black fuses, Entreq Silver Tellus grndng.

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    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Today will be less busy for them so bring your own LPs.
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000; tonearms: SME 3012R, Schröder LT; cartridges: ZYX UNIverse Premium X-SB2, Air Tight Opus-1; tape: Studer A820 Mk II; phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: VTL TL-7.5 Series III; amplifier: VTL Siegfried Series II; loudspeaker: Gryphon Pendragon; cables: MasterBuilt Ultra; stands: Herzan + Taiko Tana + Evo LPS for Io, custom for turntable, Stacore Basic+ for amps; power: Benjamin Electric subpanel, JPS in-wall wire, Furutech NCF outlets, Torus AVR60BAL; room: 19' wide X 24' long X 14' tall; acoustic treatment: SoundSense A.T.I. + Lumitex drapes + Vibramat, ASC IsoThermal Tube Traps; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks, self-propelled sound-absorbing cocker-poo

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    Addicted to Best! Harlequin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Resnick View Post
    While the Neolith frame still vibrates, its heavy, phenolic resin frame does a great job of reducing and dampening that resonance compared to the Renaissance’s frame. The Neolith panel surround vibrates much less than does the panel surround of any other ML speaker, past or present.
    My apologies in bearing the contradiction Ron....However It would be remiss of me not to point out that the panel frame of the CLX 25th Anniversary is milled out of aircraft grade 2.5 X 1.5 inch solid aluminium billet on three sides, and 1 inch square steel billet on the remaining edge, and therefore neither flexes or vibrates in the slightest.

    Pleased to read that you enjoyed your time at KJW1 with the Neolith's Ron, they are my ML/ARC dealers.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Resnick View Post
    4) Amir reported from CES that the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Neolith vibrated more than the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Renaissance. Tonight I found this to be totally incorrect.
    I must admit when I read that I thought it was BS. I'd had my hand on the frames with music playing at Munich and I reckoned they were good.

    Hopefully I'll get to hear a pair with some decent valve amps in the future as I know I didn't like the Moon kit used at Munich.

    I know even after 17 years spent with MLs that the Neolith isn't a speaker I would go for. I can see why people like it though. It does perform well. It is just that I feel planar magnetic technology done well is superior.

  6. #6
    Ron - how did you feel about bass integration with the Renaissance? Kedar texted me that he wasn't convinced it was as good as previous models.

    Also, are you going to Henk's? You really should if you can
    Last edited by User211; 04-16-2016 at 07:15 AM. Reason: typo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Resnick View Post
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Size:  99.6 KB4) Amir reported from CES that the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Neolith vibrated more than the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Renaissance. Tonight I found this to be totally incorrect.
    I bet you did that sighted Ron. That is the perils of such tests. You need to do it blind as I did. I closed my eyes and stroked the wall next to the speaker. Then I stroked the Neolith. Then I had a person turn me around a dozen times so that I could not tell which was which and I repeated the test. Openned my eyes and I was on the floor, having passed out from dizziness. But I firmly recall it was the ML that had more vibration. And said vibration got larger and larger as I stroke its slick body (!) from bottom to top.

    I have seen people do this test wrong all the time which I am sure was behind User211's observation just the same. Forgive me for being immodest and reciting my resume but I have had my hands full calibrated for vibration measurement and can show you the NIST traceable certificate if you wish. You being in London, I also insured my hand at Lloyd's of London. They would only insure them for £1 but it is good enough to go on the resume.

    Thank you for thinking of me during your evaluations.

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    Addicted to Best! PeterA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Resnick View Post

    4) Amir reported from CES that the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Neolith vibrated more than the frame surrounding the electrostatic panel of the Renaissance. Tonight I found this to be totally incorrect.
    Perhaps you were listening to Julie London or Ana Caram and Amir was listening to Rhianna gyrating to the latest baddest hippity hop bass rap at outrageous volumes.
    My system link on WBF: http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...-Sublime-Sound
    Analog: SME 30/12, SME V-12, My Sonic Labs Signature Gold, AirTight Supreme, VDH Colibri Platinum, MINT LP protractor
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    Just returned from visit to KJ to listen to the Neoliths. I have to say the jury is out on them imo, and any positives I might have for stats.
    Firstly, I really didn't get on w/the cdp, and most music was vinyl via the AF3.
    The store readilly admitted the panels hadn't been broken in (only played for 5 days) and this contributed in a major way to what I felt was a lot less transparency than I was expecting. The ML Prodigies, Summits, SL3's and CLX's I've heard previously were well broken in and sounded a lot less shut in than the Neoliths. Bass was a little strange, overly reticent and not totally continuous w/the mids/highs.
    There WAS promise to be had esp in the lp version of Bolero played which showed a fair amount of verve and texture.
    But for me, and Blue58 I think, we were left generally unimpressed.
    Trans Fi Salvation tt & Terminator arm, Soundsmith Straingauge SG200 cart/Eera Tentation cdp/Nat Audio Utopia line stage & SE2SE SET monos w.NOS '48 GE tubes/Zu Definitions 4 spkrs w.Duelund caps & Lundahl transformers/Stacore isolation platforms, Symposium Isis rack & Rollerblocks isolation/Sablon Reservas & Elites cbls/Westwick 8kVA balanced pwr, Oyaides dedicated lines w.Furutech US sockets, SR Black fuses, Entreq Silver Tellus grndng.

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    As I commented at the time Marc, the Amplification was IMHO well capable of showcasing the frequency range capabilities of the Neolith's, however, a disappointment for anyone wishing to hear visceral tonality and harmonics in the mids and upper registers that larger panel ML's are capable of, they were not the prefered weapon of choice of the staff at KJ. And I thought over emphasised the top and bottom octaves leaving a certain hollow presentation in between, this was not IMHO a sin of the speaker.

    Having experienced sitting within a massive organic 3D bubble, much more elemental than today's performance, with ARC Ref 250 SE mono blocks and IMHO a comparatively less capable transducer overall in the CLX, the day could have shown the Neolith in a very different light with the latter amplification.

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