Brief Visit With MartinLogan Neoliths

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#21
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.
This is not correct. The renaissance may have the best bass integration when set up right, but that day for the show it had worse than the previous models. KJ too mentioned the drivers hasn't been burned in, and probably the room it was in (different from the neolith room) was not well suited for a speaker it's size. An ethos has done better in that room
 

bonzo75

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Feb 26, 2014
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#22
The main thing wrong with the demo was that stats need valves in the supply chain. The renaissance had none.
 

jfrech

VIP/Donor
Sep 3, 2012
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#24
Hi Ron, great write up. Seems like the modern Koetsu's are quite good. As someone who spent the last 6 months with a .2mv cartridge and only a 60db gain tube phono stage, I'll have to agree with you on getting the right match for noise and gain for proper dynamics.

Surprised no comments on the Transparent Magnum Opus cabling? I suspect those cables were making quite a contribution to the sound you heard...Was it just Magnum Opus speaker or whole system wired with Magnum Opus?
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#25
The main thing wrong with the demo was that stats need valves in the supply chain. The renaissance had none.
I would not write it absolutely as bonzo writes it -- I still see almost all of these issues purely as subjective, personal, preferences. Some people, in fact, prefer all solid-state electronics on ML panels. Subjectively I agree with bonzo 100% -- on ML panels I like tubes somewhere, if not everywhere, in the supply chain.
 

LL21

Active Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,572
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#26
My two cents from the very brief 'audition' where I stopped by:

1. I suspect if you love ML, the Neolith gives you WAAAY more scale and midrange weight than any CLX, or the other 2 smaller Hybrids i have heard, let alone bass...while still delivering that 'stat alacrity that ML lovers crave

2. This guy finally has WEIGHT and POWER to rival a big all-cone speaker. The CLX/Descent combination to my memory did not give me anywhere near the same impression of scale and depth...suspect its related to the bigger panels?

3. I felt that the room was a bit small for the Neoliths, and would have preferred to hear them in a bigger room with a taller ceiling to see what they can really do.

4. On drum kits, on the upper bass elements, I heard alacrity and detail now with weight and spaciousness from the PANEL. To my ears in the deeper bass, acknowledging that it sounds trite/contrived, but i felt it thickened more than i would have preferred and i wondered if it is was the old panels/cones integration thing. And specifically, the lower bass was more 'thickened' than i have heard from the XLFs and the Focal Grandes in the same room.

5. Ultimately, i preferred the coherence and sense of CONTROL of the delivery of full-scale sound from the XLFs and Focal Grandes within the same room...it seemed more in control to my memory. They and the Alexias seemed more easily able to cope with the room. While the scale of the Neolith was big and dynamic, the music seemed to 'shudder' a bit or 'strain' quite a bit in comparison with the 2 bigger speakers and to a less extent i heard pretty big scale from the Alexia and it never seemed fazed. While the upper elements were incredibly transparent at times so that i really felt there was 'no speaker' on these individual sounds/notes (the shaker rattle on Dead Can Dance was incredibly real), i still felt when the music really got going in scale, i felt the overall system 'strain' just a bit to reproduce and try to keep everything together. And that sense of reproduction of music came forward in my mental notes...something i did not find in listening to the XLF or Focal Grandes.

While they may/may not have had quite the upper range alacrity, the overall balance seemed better, along with the sense of effortlessness, which (on my own personal priority list) is more important to me when relaxing and listening to music. I have grown to appreciate alacrity, speed and detail but i have never ranked them as number one on my overall priority list. Effortlessness, propulsive bass, midrange magic and extension rank higher for me.

That said, those 2 of the 3 speakers are also 3x more expensive and the 3rd is much smaller (Alexia) and i did not seek to put the Alexia through the same paces as the guys did on the Neolith.

6. In the final analysis, I find the Neolith a killer speaker at its price, stat alacrity, huge scale, big bass, and as much as i like the Alexia for 15% less, it is tough for that 15% more in price to walk away from all that the Neolith delivers. For me, it would depend on the room as the Neoliths are huge and certainly on first impression seemed to need the room.

I do not think it delivers 'ultimate scale/unflappability', and i would like to dig deeper into that bass snap to see how much was room vs design of the speaker. But for that rare 'spooky presence' thing that MLs do nicely, there is a weight and scale i have not witnessed before myself in MLs which is truly impressive compared to its forebearers. And so again, if you love that and get the bass integration right, its hard not to love what ML have done...and again at a price that is incredibly competitive relative to the other comparable speakers i have heard in this room from time to time.

I suspect setup is very tricky and room size (ceilings) very important to get right. With the incredible attention to detail by KJ/Pedro, i could imagine many people living with these speakers for a very, very long time.
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
4,957
40
48
North Shore of Boston
#27
I would not write it absolutely as bonzo writes it -- I still see almost all of these issues purely as subjective, personal, preferences. Some people, in fact, prefer all solid-state electronics on ML panels. Subjectively I agree with bonzo 100% -- on ML panels I like tubes somewhere, if not everywhere, in the supply chain.
I think member ack has all SS with his ML panels.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Beverly Hills, CA
#28
Hi Ron, great write up. Seems like the modern Koetsu's are quite good. As someone who spent the last 6 months with a .2mv cartridge and only a 60db gain tube phono stage, I'll have to agree with you on getting the right match for noise and gain for proper dynamics.

Surprised no comments on the Transparent Magnum Opus cabling? I suspect those cables were making quite a contribution to the sound you heard...Was it just Magnum Opus speaker or whole system wired with Magnum Opus?
Thank you!

My Postscript on the Koetsu Azule was a veiled plea for assistance from David and Jack and others who have great experience with Koetsus. If I am not going to use an Ikeda or a Fidelity Research tonearm, should I stay away from Koetsu? Exactly what effective mass of the tonearm is the requirement for a Koetsu to work on a new tonearm as well as it works on the vintage, heavy tonearms on which the Koetsus are so commonly mounted?

I know the Koetsu cartridge can be mounted on the Superarm 9 and it will play music, but I am applying perfectionistic standards on this project and I want to get it 100% correct. I will write to A.J. and ask him exactly what is the effective mass of the Superarm 9.

With the Neolith demo I think the cabling was all Transparent Magnum Opus. I have no idea of its contribution to the overall sound.

I am sorry but I have trouble getting excited about cables. Cables just don't turn me on.

Unsolicited rant: I resent extremely expensive cables. I use older, but still expensive, Transparent Audio cables. I know that different cables sound different. But I think the whole expensive cable thing is a morass. I believe that a network which contains a resistor, an inductor and a capacitor (a basic R-L-C circuit, which is also known as a tuned circuit) is a simple tone control.

I think the highest cable prices are offensive. (No pro-capitalist replies please, as I am with you. I believe companies should charge whatever people will pay pursuant to a free market and supply and demand. But at some price point don't you think the cable companies are laughing at us?)

The pricing of Transparent Magnum Opus for network boxes in the shape of an exotic car almost makes me want to slap someone at Transparent for being so transparent about how gullible they think we are.

Several people whose opinions I greatly respect, including Lloyd and Peter A, hear the improvements of the new generation of Transparent cables. I will upgrade my Transparent cables at some point, either to Basis Audio cables or to new Transparent cables, but I will hold my nose when I do it.
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,217
94
48
Beverly Hills, CA
#29
My two cents from the very brief 'audition' where I stopped by:

1. I suspect if you love ML, the Neolith gives you WAAAY more scale and midrange weight than any CLX, or the other 2 smaller Hybrids i have heard, let alone bass...while still delivering that 'stat alacrity that ML lovers crave

2. This guy finally has WEIGHT and POWER to rival a big all-cone speaker. The CLX/Descent combination to my memory did not give me anywhere near the same impression of scale and depth...suspect its related to the bigger panels?

3. I felt that the room was a bit small for the Neoliths, and would have preferred to hear them in a bigger room with a taller ceiling to see what they can really do.

4. On drum kits, on the upper bass elements, I heard alacrity and detail now with weight and spaciousness from the PANEL. To my ears in the deeper bass, acknowledging that it sounds trite/contrived, but i felt it thickened more than i would have preferred and i wondered if it is was the old panels/cones integration thing. And specifically, the lower bass was more 'thickened' than i have heard from the XLFs and the Focal Grandes in the same room.

5. Ultimately, i preferred the coherence and sense of CONTROL of the delivery of full-scale sound from the XLFs and Focal Grandes within the same room...it seemed more in control to my memory. They and the Alexias seemed more easily able to cope with the room. While the scale of the Neolith was big and dynamic, the music seemed to 'shudder' a bit or 'strain' quite a bit in comparison with the 2 bigger speakers and to a less extent i heard pretty big scale from the Alexia and it never seemed fazed. While the upper elements were incredibly transparent at times so that i really felt there was 'no speaker' on these individual sounds/notes (the shaker rattle on Dead Can Dance was incredibly real), i still felt when the music really got going in scale, i felt the overall system 'strain' just a bit to reproduce and try to keep everything together. And that sense of reproduction of music came forward in my mental notes...something i did not find in listening to the XLF or Focal Grandes.

While they may/may not have had quite the upper range alacrity, the overall balance seemed better, along with the sense of effortlessness, which (on my own personal priority list) is more important to me when relaxing and listening to music. I have grown to appreciate alacrity, speed and detail but i have never ranked them as number one on my overall priority list. Effortlessness, propulsive bass, midrange magic and extension rank higher for me.

That said, those 2 of the 3 speakers are also 3x more expensive and the 3rd is much smaller (Alexia) and i did not seek to put the Alexia through the same paces as the guys did on the Neolith.

6. In the final analysis, I find the Neolith a killer speaker at its price, stat alacrity, huge scale, big bass, and as much as i like the Alexia for 15% less, it is tough for that 15% more in price to walk away from all that the Neolith delivers. For me, it would depend on the room as the Neoliths are huge and certainly on first impression seemed to need the room.

I do not think it delivers 'ultimate scale/unflappability', and i would like to dig deeper into that bass snap to see how much was room vs design of the speaker. But for that rare 'spooky presence' thing that MLs do nicely, there is a weight and scale i have not witnessed before myself in MLs which is truly impressive compared to its forebearers. And so again, if you love that and get the bass integration right, its hard not to love what ML have done...and again at a price that is incredibly competitive relative to the other comparable speakers i have heard in this room from time to time.

I suspect setup is very tricky and room size (ceilings) very important to get right. With the incredible attention to detail by KJ/Pedro, i could imagine many people living with these speakers for a very, very long time.
Thank you very much, Lloyd, for this insightful, perceptive and, I think, completely accurate report! I am grateful you heard the Neoliths and posted your thoughts.

I think Lloyd interprets exactly correctly how people with slightly different sonic priorities will view the Neolith differently. Applying Lloyd's sonic priorities (versus mine) I understand completely his analysis and I agree with his analysis.

I am sure Lloyd's slightly thickened lower bass comment is accurate. For me that is one of only three possible critiques I have of the Neolith. (The others being the point about corporeal weight and body of voices and instruments from the panel versus from other other driver technologies, and the point that the frame should not vibrate at all.)

I think the ML design team solved for a one column speaker equation absolutely brilliantly (I literally do not think ML could design a better one column speaker), and I personally think the Neolith is an amazing achievement. But I feel that between the front-firing sealed 12" and the rear-firing ported 15" there is a lot going on in the woofer cabinet section of the Neolith.

If we are talking theoretically ideal, and comparing the Neolith to super-systems like the big Genesis and the Pendragon and XLF/Thor or XLF/JL Gotham, then the 15" driver has to be removed from the back of the Neolith, replaced with a second rear-firing 12" in a dual-opposed, "BalancedForce" configuration, and the low bass has to be provided by a separate column of 12" or 15" diameter "BalancedForce" drivers, converting the Neolith into a four column system. I believe that would solve completely the "thickening" going on in the woofer section of the Neolith.
 
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Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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94
48
Beverly Hills, CA
#30
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.
Interesting, Marc. I cannot say that I understand the comments about less than expected transparency and "shut in" sound, but I totally appreciate you going to the demo and having a listen and reporting your thoughts! Thank you!
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
4,957
40
48
North Shore of Boston
#31
With the Neolith demo I think the cabling was all Transparent Magnum Opus. I have no idea of its contribution to the overall sound.

I am sorry but I have trouble getting excited about cables. Cables just don't turn me on.

Unsolicited rant: I resent extremely expensive cables. I use older, but still expensive, Transparent Audio cables. I know that different cables sound different. But I think the whole expensive cable thing is a morass. I believe that a network which contains a resistor, an inductor and a capacitor (a basic R-L-C circuit, which is also known as a tuned circuit) is a simple tone control.

I think the highest cable prices are offensive. (No pro-capitalist replies please, as I am with you. I believe companies should charge whatever people will pay pursuant to a free market and supply and demand. But at some price point don't you think the cable companies are laughing at us?)

The pricing of Transparent Magnum Opus for network boxes in the shape of an exotic car almost makes me want to slap someone at Transparent for being so transparent about how gullible they think we are.

Several people whose opinions I greatly respect, including Lloyd and Peter A, hear the improvements of the new generation of Transparent cables. I will upgrade my Transparent cables at some point, either to Basis Audio cables or to new Transparent cables, but I will hold my nose when I do it.
Hi Ron,

I'm with you on the whole cable thing. My four year old discontinued Transparent REF XL MM2 have now been replaced by the Gen V line. They are very expensive and I have not upgraded them. I'm sure the newer line is better. I will say, however, that when I was in the market to upgrade my Harmonic Technology cables, I contacted a few dealers. Only Transparent Audio was willing to build me a complete set at my required lengths (6M ICs), calibrate them to my specific equipment and let me demo them in my home for a complete month before I bought them. I was free to return them at any time. No deposit was required. That level of service, and risk on their part, was unmatched by other brands.

I really liked the improvement they brought to the sound of my system, and how they compared to the isolated cables from other brands, so I bought them. They made the shopping part of the exercise very easy. Auditioning various cartridges or turntables is even harder than cables. I don't like the costs of most things "high end". But that is the way it is.

I would like to hear the Basis Audio cables in my system. They do measure exceedingly well.
 
May 30, 2010
14,139
83
48
Portugal
#32
(...) Unsolicited rant: I resent extremely expensive cables. I use older, but still expensive, Transparent Audio cables. I know that different cables sound different. But I think the whole expensive cable thing is a morass. I believe that a network which contains a resistor, an inductor and a capacitor (a basic R-L-C circuit, which is also known as a tuned circuit) is a simple tone control. (...)
Ron,

I would be very happy if it was so - then I would know why my cables sound like, would take a few measurements of them and would go DIY :D. But the tuning frequencies of the Transparent Audio networks are far from the audio bandwidth - well in the half MHz zone, they can not be considered as a tone control. They are part of the design of the cables, but only a part of it.
 
May 30, 2010
14,139
83
48
Portugal
#33
Hi Ron,

I'm with you on the whole cable thing. My four year old discontinued Transparent REF XL MM2 have now been replaced by the Gen V line. They are very expensive and I have not upgraded them. I'm sure the newer line is better. I will say, however, that when I was in the market to upgrade my Harmonic Technology cables, I contacted a few dealers. Only Transparent Audio was willing to build me a complete set at my required lengths (6M ICs), calibrate them to my specific equipment and let me demo them in my home for a complete month before I bought them. I was free to return them at any time. No deposit was required. That level of service, and risk on their part, was unmatched by other brands.

I really liked the improvement they brought to the sound of my system, and how they compared to the isolated cables from other brands, so I bought them. They made the shopping part of the exercise very easy. Auditioning various cartridges or turntables is even harder than cables. I don't like the costs of most things "high end". But that is the way it is.

I would like to hear the Basis Audio cables in my system. They do measure exceedingly well.
Using a complete set is an important aspect when listening to Transparent cables. IMHO using only the speaker cable without using the corresponding cable at less at the source component (digital or phono unit) results in a unbalanced system. When upgrading a system cabling system in steps Transparent recommends we start from the source cable.

Although I prefer to wire the whole system with the same brand of cables, sometimes I have mixed brands - but never had great success mixing Transparent cables with other brands.

As far as I know almost all audio cables measure exceedingly well. Some claim it, others do not claim it!
 

DaveyF

Active Member
Aug 1, 2010
5,751
17
38
La Jolla, Calif USA
#34
I have been following with interest the thoughts on the Koetsu cartridges. Like Ron, I enjoy the Benz Ruby 2. Like Ron, I am in the process of trying to replace the cartridge....and like Ron, I don't want to make a mistake. I do think that the most important aspect of cartridge acquisition has to boil down to whether the output is compatible with the phono preamp. Unfortunately, the platinum magnet Koetsu's do not put out as much voltage as the non-platinum variants. This factor has all but ruled out these variants for me. As to the arm compatibility, I think that most any decent arm is going to let a great cartridge do its thing. The Basis super arm 9 is an excellent arm...and one that I would think would support a top-of-the-line anything cartridge with no issue.
I also agree with Ron's rant...in its entirety. Unfortunately, the pricing structure and the "obvious" behavior of many/most of these manufacturer's ( and their reps) expands to almost all other areas of our hobby; not just cabling. IMHO.
 
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User211

Active Member
Jul 28, 2014
1,064
17
38
#35
I think Lloyd's description is good too.

The Neolith is a high performance speaker - no question about it. With solid state gear at Munich level volumes it isn't a particularly easy listen, but no high performance speaker should be, in my honest opinion. Going to live gigs isn't a particularly easy listen either - but it is usually an impressive one sonically, purely for the dynamics real drum kits and guitars etc can muster.

I didn't really hear much in the way of bass issues at Munich, which I know is "old hat" now, but I did spend a long time listening to the Neolith. With regards to the price - well, they aren't cheap for a bit of stretched mylar sandwiched between two perforated metal gauzes and a couple of woofers, but they are well made, and when it comes to what else beats them for the money the competition is thin on the ground.

Totally different to the CLX driven by Jadis amps in terms of dynamics and excitement, I still have a bit of a soft spot for the much more relaxed CLX driven in said manner, despite non-existent deep bass. The CLX still sounds richer higher up the speaker, as the bass drivers operate in that vicinity, and I maintain that is still my biggest issue with the Neolith - it still sounds a bit lean "up top". But given the obvious design brief of a one column speaker, you can't do much about it. And said leaness probably adds to the sensation of speed the speaker delivers.

When listening to speakers at this level of performance a lot of caution is necessary as characters will change markedly with the driving equipment. It is so easy to attribute something as being due to the speaker when in fact it is a characteristic of the driving equipment and/or room.
 

User211

Active Member
Jul 28, 2014
1,064
17
38
#36
One more thing. I hate to compare Logans with the relics and remains of Apogees, but they simply cannot match the articulation and bass quality of an Apogee bass panel. It just isn't there. Even with the 15 inch and 12 inch bass driver combo, it still doesn't match a well built Duetta. Bizarrely, it doesn't even go quite as low.

Just my opinion of course. I am biased, owning said speakers.
 
Feb 8, 2011
18,959
22
38
Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
#37

LL21

Active Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,572
3
38
#38
One more thing. I hate to compare Logans with the relics and remains of Apogees, but they simply cannot match the articulation and bass quality of an Apogee bass panel. It just isn't there. Even with the 15 inch and 12 inch bass driver combo, it still doesn't match a well built Duetta. Bizarrely, it doesn't even go quite as low.

Just my opinion of course. I am biased, owning said speakers.
I have not had the pleasure of listening to an Apogee for ages...but my 'mental notes' are that the Apogee Stage still ranks up there for me as one of the all-time great speakers. In terms of what they do well, they really really REALLY did it for me. Apogees bigger boys i presume are of the same 'special variety'. Enjoy your Apogees!
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
9,030
113
63
London
#39
I have not had the pleasure of listening to an Apogee for ages...but my 'mental notes' are that the Apogee Stage still ranks up there for me as one of the all-time great speakers. In terms of what they do well, they really really REALLY did it for me. Apogees bigger boys i presume are of the same 'special variety'. Enjoy your Apogees!
Lloyd, read my new thread. At schipol after listening to the grands. If you have the room, one word. Buy.
 
Apr 3, 2010
16,022
0
0
Seattle, WA
#40
This is not correct. The renaissance may have the best bass integration when set up right, but that day for the show it had worse than the previous models. KJ too mentioned the drivers hasn't been burned in, and probably the room it was in (different from the neolith room) was not well suited for a speaker it's size. An ethos has done better in that room
I am talking about axpona show in chicago going on right now. Is this what you are evaluating?
 

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