From a speaker-designer’s perspective, $15,000 is a tricky price point. Above that, there is plenty of room to lavish resources on extensive R&D (e.g.—the KEF Blade), ultrarigid enclosures (the big Wilsons, Magico’s Q series), and exotic drivers (Vandersteen 7, higher-end Martens). Meanwhile, at more down-to-earth prices, where such luxuries are not feasible, it’s all about careful parts selection and the hard work of making them sing together. But at $15k, after allowing for manufacturer and dealer profit, the designer has just enough left over to lavish funds in some areas—while showing restraint in others. The challenge becomes deciding where to invest.
So, when it came to its new $15,000 Django XL full-range speaker, where did Swedish builder Marten chose to focus its considerable resources? In keeping with its traditional design priorities, the company splurged on the drivers. The Django XL boasts a ceramic tweeter as well as a ceramic midrange unit, both made by Accuton. For ultimate coherence, Marten would have loved to have also spec’d ceramic for the Django XL’s three woofers; however, that would have doubled the speaker’s price. So the company “settled” for custom, SEAS-sourced woofers made from not-exactly-mundane aluminum.
Although the Django XL does not feature exotic cabinet materials, the enclosure’s MDF (medium density fiberboard) is unusually thick, and my knuckles report excellent rigidity. Further, the cabinet is graced with lovely curved corners that complement its lustrous finish.
In other areas, the Django XL is a solid if not especially innovative design. The speaker is a straightforward three-way floorstander. Its drivers are not time-aligned, and the crossover breaks no new ground. There is one unusual touch: a downwardfiring port. Like rear ports, the idea is to minimize the potential for the port’s output to interfere with that of the drivers.
With the big-line items decided, Marten did not neglect the details. The Django XL’s binding posts are from WBT (that’s a good thing), and the cabinet meets the floor via an anodized aluminum stand that includes cones. I wish the latter were pointier so they could pierce carpet and really couple the speaker to the floor, but on the plus side they are adjustable for leveling. The cones can also optimize tilt for listening height, a capability I found highly useful. Another optimization feature is a rearmounted, three-position, bass-output switch that boosts or cuts frequencies between 60 and 150Hz by +/-1dB.
How does it all play out? Very well, indeed. Once I worked out the set-up issues—a challenge, given my relative unfamiliarity with both the speaker’s proclivities and my new listening room—I was surprised at just how closely the Django XL resembled my reference speakers.
For instance, the Django XL’s version of the Beatles’ “Come Together” is nearly indistinguishable from the reference’s rendition. And on Mary Gauthier’s “Falling out of Love” from Mercy Now, both transducers bring her voice eerily close, like she’s nearly whispering in your ear. On this track, the accompanying sandpaper-like percussion is not as palpable through the Django XL—that’s the benefit of the reference’s more costly ribbon tweeter—but it’s not far behind. And the Django XL’s bass proved taut and authoritative.
I am equally impressed with the Django XL’s transients. The initial guitar strike on Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Little Wing,” from the excellent MFSL hybrid release of The Sky is Crying, slices through the soundspace exactly as it should, and Michael Wolff ’s sharply struck piano notes on 2am are like nails driving into your head. That sounds painful, I know, but if you’ve ever heard a real piano played this way, you know it’s right.
Once I got the Django XL a sufficient distance from the rear wall and properly toed-in—they like a lot of toe-in (see “Setup Provisos” for other important listening tips)—spatial performance also became an asset. The speaker won’t make the backwall sonically disappear, but depth to that point is convincing. Nor does the soundstage extend beyond the speakers’ edges, but the space between them is a natural one, full of air and inhabited with precisely located players and singers.
Tonally, the Django XL is on the warmish side of the spectrum, especially with the bass switch in my preferred “+” position. However, its warmth is as mild as a bath and, most importantly, does not compromise other timbral elements. This makes for a very appealing overall character. For example, the lower piano register on 2am’s title track is simply ravishing; yet that warmth doesn’t interfere with the string bass’ timbral detail—there’s no question this is a large, air-filled, wooden instrument. On my standard timbre and dynamics torture test, the first movement from Stravinsky’s l’Histoire du Soldat, the Django XL exhibits superlative form. Each of the myriad instruments sounds uncannily real and distinctive.
If the toe-tap test still has any purchase in audio, then please note that the Django XL passes it with flying colors. Whether playing back Wilco’s infectious latest release The Whole Love or Handel’s buoyant Water Music, the Django XL is unfailingly rhythmically engaging. The fact that it makes every instrument plainly audible and has no trouble sorting out musical lines makes it even more so.
No speaker is perfect and so no review is complete without an itemization of limitations. In the Django XL’s case, these fall more into practical than sonic areas. The Django XL thrives on volume, requiring plenty of it to realize the performance I’ve described above. The speakers need space behind them and attention to switch-settings, neither of which is uncommon in this class. Once those matters are settled, there is precious little to criticize. Bass notes, for all their weight and timbral density, can sound a little “furry” on some source material. The midrange will honk at you if toe-in is not just so. As noted, soundstage depth and width are not quite on par with more expensive references, nor are the highs quite as resolved. But in each case they are close.
At this price point, there are many excellent options; the Django XL now takes its place among them. Under the right conditions, it delivers near-reference-caliber performance in many categories, adding up to the musical engagement we crave. The Django XL is not for everyone, but for those willing and able to pursue the fruits of Marten’s canny choices, its virtues are plain to hear.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Three-way ported
Drivers: 8" aluminum woofers (3), 6" ceramic midrange, 1" ceramic tweeter
Impedance: 6 ohms (4 ohms, minimum)
Weight: 135 lbs.
Dimensions: 10.6" x 49.2" x 19.7"
411 35 Gothenburg
+46 31 20 72 00
EAR USA (U.S.Distributor)