The power of two is in no greater evidence than in the founding of MartinLogan. Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland met in Lawrence, Kansas, during the late Seventies and managed to convince each other that they could not only build an electrostatic speaker but could better previous designs such as the KLH Model Nine and Quad ESL when it came to bass extension and dynamic range. Needless to say, that was an ambitious vision and one only likely to succeed though the blending of these two men's talents.
Even though electrostats are conceptually simple to understand, basically a stretched Mylar diaphragm sandwiched between two stators, reliability and ultimate performance reside in the engineering details. The early years were focused on experimentation with conductive coatings, insulation, adhesives, perforated steel stators, and, of course, the curvilinear line-source panel (CLS). The CLS was a conceptual breakthrough now a fixture in every MartinLogan electrostatic design. Some said that a curved panel wouldn't work, but we're all grateful to MartinLogan for exploring the road less traveled.
Over the years MartinLogan strove to improve its core technology, the electrostatic transducer, by researching new materials and methods to improve conductive coatings, insulators, adhesives, and assembly processes. This continuing evolution has resulted in improvements to bandwidth, efficiency, consistency, and reliability. The electrostatic panel of 1983, while looking similar, is vastly different from its contemporary counterpart. For example, in 1983 conductive coatings were hand applied with a conductive slurry. Today, conductive coatings are applied to the diaphragm through a proprietary vapor deposition process in a state-of-the-art vacuum chamber that allows the diaphragm to maintain a 5000-volt charge.
What motivated all this experimentation was that audiophiles wanted (and still want) full-scale reproduction of both dynamics and bass. After significant experience with all variations of both ESL and dipole technology, MartinLogan had to face the reality that dipoles, and ESLs in particular, are challenged when asked to reproduce both large-scale dynamics and low-frequency information at the same time. So ML decided early on to design a high-efficiency electrostatic transducer to be integrated into a hybrid system. That first speaker was the Monolith and it launched the company following an encouraging reception at the 1983 CES. Sales took off in 1985 placing the company on a firm financial footing; that was also when Ron Sutherland departed MartinLogan to pursue his first love, electronics.
The first full-range electrostatic speaker, the CLS, arrived in 1986. But it was the Sequel, a smaller hybrid introduced in 1987, that resulted in explosive sales. During the Nineties product releases came fast and furious and included some of MartinLogan's classic models such as the Quest, Aerius, and SL3, and to top off the product-line with a claim on state-of-the art honors, the massive Statement e2 loudspeaker was released in 1998.
The release of the Summit in 2005, followed by the Summit X in 2009, heralded the arrival of the most advanced hybrid yet, combining dual independently-powered woofers with MartinLogan's most advanced electrostatic transducer to date, the XStat. The CLX Art, unveiled in 2010, is its most advanced full-range electrostatic so far. Though co-founder Gayle Sanders left MartinLogan about the same time it was acquired in October 2005 by ShoreView Industries, MartinLogan is still today a growing company with an internationally recognized brand, and a first-class design and manufacturing team.
Adapted and excerpted from The Absolute Sound's Illustrated History of High-End Audio, Volume One: Loudspeakers. Copyright © 2015-2016 The Absolute Sound. All rights reserved.