Brief Visit With MartinLogan Neoliths

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#1
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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:

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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#2
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.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#3
Today will be less busy for them so bring your own LPs.
 

Harlequin

New Member
Jul 30, 2013
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#4
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.
 

User211

Active Member
Jul 28, 2014
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#5
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.
 

User211

Active Member
Jul 28, 2014
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#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:
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#7
View attachment 26557 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 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.
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
4,946
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North Shore of Boston
#8
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.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
6,416
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E. England
#9
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.
 

Harlequin

New Member
Jul 30, 2013
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#10
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.
 

es347

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,570
1
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Midwest fly over state..
#11
..for anyone who has heard both I'd like to know the differences between the Neolith and the CLX...aside from the
$50K that is..
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#13
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.
No apologies needed! I am puzzled -- but I am glad your CLX does not vibrate.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Beverly Hills, CA
#14
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.
Thank you for the very interesting, contrasting report. This is why I hoped you and the others would be able to provide independent opinions.
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Beverly Hills, CA
#15
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;)
I am afraid I cannot say. I did not spend enough time in the Renaissance room to evaluate the bass integration. It makes sense based on the design that while the active Class D driven woofer will have greater low-frequency extension and oomph, it might not be as well-integrated as is the woofer in the passive hybrids.
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Beverly Hills, CA
#16
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.
You are welcome. But I do not understand this post at all. Didn't your original report compare the Neolith to the Renaissance, not the Neolith to the wall?

When you reported originally that the 385 pound phenolic resin-framed Neolith vibrated more than the 140 pound aluminum-framed Renaissance I was skeptical. Your report didn't make sense on its face, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt, and I accepted your observation, pending my own inquiry.

You have written repeatedly that you do not trust your own senses. Fortunately I do not suffer from any of your infirmities. You might need to check a relative vibration level via a blind test, but I do not.

I am quite sure that anyone else comparing the two speakers will corroborate my conclusion.
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
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Seattle, WA
#17
I am afraid I cannot say. I did not spend enough time in the Renaissance room to evaluate the bass integration. It makes sense based on the design that while the active Class D driven woofer will have greater low-frequency extension and oomph, it might not be as well-integrated as is the woofer in the passive hybrids.
The Renaissance has Athem's room correction built in (same parent company). Not only does that improve the smoothness of bass response, but helps the integration between the panel and bass. I heard that yesterday at AXPONA and it again delivered on that front. Unless you deploy other optimizations with the passives, you won't match the better response of the Renaissance. Physics of rooms won't allow it. It has nothing to do with the speaker.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,209
86
48
Beverly Hills, CA
#18
..for anyone who has heard both I'd like to know the differences between the Neolith and the CLX...aside from the
$50K that is..
The hybrid nature of the Neolith, with its 12" driver and 15" cone driver, makes it, to me, a very different animal than the CLX.

I never loved the full-range CLX because I find it to be too lacking in dynamics and impact in the 200 to 400 Hz range. To my ears, something important and impactful and realism-creating goes on there. With the CLX I was missing warmth and impact in that frequency range. I have learned that I prefer a hybrid speaker system in which the panel crosses over to an integrated cone at a higher frequency than the frequency at which a full-range panel (i.e., the CLX) would cross over to external subwoofers.

This explains why I like the Prodigys, which have two 10” cones crossed over at 250 Hz. This also explains why I liked the Statement E2, whose panel crossed over to eight 7” cone drivers at up to 200 Hz.

So, for me, the Neolith solves completely my leanness and dynamics and impact issue in the 200 to 400 Hz issue. The hybrid design also relieves the panel of the stress of working much below 200 Hz.

The 12” cone of the Neolith, crossed over to the panel at between 250 and 400 Hz, provides exactly the impact and oomph which I crave in the 200 to 400 Hz range.
 
Last edited:
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#19
You are welcome. But I do not understand this post at all. Didn't your original report compare the Neolith to the Renaissance, not the Neolith to the wall?

When you reported originally that the 385 pound phenolic resin-framed Neolith vibrated more than the 140 pound aluminum-framed Renaissance I was skeptical. Your report didn't make sense on its face, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt, and I accepted your observation, pending my own inquiry.
I reported those jointly and severally. The Neolith by itself has vibrations that increased from the bottom to the top of the transducer. This clearly indicates lack of rigidity in the frame as the more it is cantilevered, the more it vibrated. This has nothing to do with what their other speakers do or don't do. Just look at the speaker and you see that problem is likely to be there. Take a ruler and shake it. The top of it will move more than the bottom of it.

You also need to play at high volume and dynamics. Of course there won't be any vibrations if you play it low enough or with content that doesn't exercise the panel.

BTW, my entire last post that you responded to was a joke other than the bit about sliding my hand from bottom to top....
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
11,031
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Manila, Philippines
#20
One of these days someone's bound to shoot a video catching you in the act of stroking speakers Amir :D
 

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