Martin Logan Motion Vision Sound Bar - Review

Raising the Bar on the Sound Bar

Martin Logan Motion Vision Sound Bar
Martin Logan Motion Vision Sound Bar. Images provided by Martin Logan

Probably the most popular home audio product to jump out in recent years is the Sound Bar. They are easy to install and use, don't take up a lot of space, and for many consumers, sound just fine was way to improve sound for TV viewing.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of inexpensive sound bars that really don't deliver a quality listening experience. To counter this, an increasing number of high-end speaker makers, such as Martin Logan (who is well known for their impressive line of electrostatic speakers), are jumping into the sound bar market with their own solutions, with the goal of elevating the sound bar into a serious audio solution for those that have limited budgets and space.

Martin Logan is hoping that its Motion Vision Sound Bar will find its way into a lot of homes as a great TV audio listening solution. For a closer look and perspective, keep on reading this review, and afterwards, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

Product Overview

The features and specifications of the Martin Logan Motion Vision Sound Bar include:

1. Design: Amplified Sound Bar with left, center, and right channel speakers featuring a bass reflex configuration. The Motion Vision can be placed on a shelf or wall mounted above or below a TV.

2. Tweeters: Three 1 x 1.4-inch Folded Motion Transducers with 5.25 x 1.75 diaphragms.

3. Midrange/Woofers: Four 4-inch speakers with fiber cones.

4. Dual Rear mounted ports for extended low frequency response.

5. Frequency Response (total system): 43Hz to 23kHz + or - 3db.

6. Crossover Frequency: 3 kHz

7. Amplifier - There are a total of seven amplifiers.

Each amplifier is paired with one of the mid-range or tweeter speakers. The total output of all the amplifiers is 100 Watts RMS or 200 watts peak.

8. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel surround-sound decoding.

9. Audio Processing: Dolby Virtual Speaker.

10. Audio Inputs: Two digital optical, One digital coaxial, One set analog stereo (RCA).

11. Subwoofer Outputs: Both wired (via RCA line output) and wireless (via built-in SWT-2 transmission). Compatible wireless-enabled subwoofers include the Martin Logan Dynamo 1000w and 700w.

12. Control: Top mounted onboard controls and wireless remote control provide. Front panel LED menu and status display.

13. Dimensions (H x W x D): 5-inches x 39.9 inches x 5.85 inches

14. Weight: 20.5 lbs.

A Note on Folded Motion Tweeter Technology

The Martin Logan folded motion tweeters used in the Motion Vision Sound Bar employ ridges, rather than speaker drivers and cones to produce sound. The ridge structure does not have to physically move as much as a cone to produce sound. This means that the folded motion tweeters can respond faster, enabling them to reproduce high frequency sounds more accurately. For full details, refer to the Official Martin Logan Folded Motion Technology Page.

Hardware Used

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-93,

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Home Theater Receivers Used: Onkyo TX-SR705.

Subwoofer Used: Martin Logan Dynamo 700w (On review loan - used in both wired and wireless setup with the Motion Vision)

TV: Westinghouse LVM-37s3 1080p LCD Monitor

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs: Battleship, Ben Hur, Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, Jaws, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

Set-up and Performance

I listened to the Martin Logan Motion Vision in three different setups:

1. As a single, standalone sound bar audio system.

2. As a sound bar combined with the Martin Logan Dynamo 700w subwoofer connected via audio cable.

3. As a sound bar connected the Martin Logan Dynamo 700w via wireless connection option.

For the purposes of this review, the Motion Vision was placed on the "shelf" just below the TV. I did not listen to the sound bar in a wall-mounted configuration.

In listening tests, the Motion Vision provided very good mid-range and high frequency response for music, doing very well in reproducing depth and detail of acoustic instruments and more breathy vocalists, such as Norah Jones and Sade, but was also lively with more rock-oriented groups, such as Heart.

Also, with movies, vocal dialog was full bodied and well anchored, and background sounds were very clear and distinct. Also, the highs were well extended and dispersed, but not brittle - a great balance.

One DVD I popped in to test was Master and Commander. The initial battle scene in this movie can really reveal how a sound system can reproduce detail and low frequency sounds, and also project a surround sound field.

The scene starts with a subtle breeze against the sales and rigging, and the ship's bells in the background, followed by the soft cannon fire in the distance. Then, as the action intensifies and vocalizations of the actors and the special effects sounds of the battle become more chaotic, the Motion Vision did an excellent job separating sound elements. Also, the low frequencies produced by the canons were definitely good by sound bar standards - of course, when I added an external subwoofer the combination was perfect.

However, in terms of surround sound, I didn't get the sense of the splintering wood sound effects jumping very far out of the confines of the sound bar as I have experienced with a sound bar or digital sound projector that can produce a wider sound field.

Another DVD I checked was U571, which takes place on a WWII German U-Boat. One specific scene alternates between exterior depth charge explosions and all of the activity going on inside the sub, include spraying water, clanging metal, and general chaos. The Motion Vision did a great job keeping up with the demands of the low frequency depth charges (albeit not down into LFE territory) and the high frequency breaking metal and spraying water. Even though replaying the scene with an external subwoofer does provide a more impactful LFE experience, especially with regards to the depth charges, I was surprised at how well the Motion Vision, taking into consideration that it is a sound bar, did in reproducing low frequencies.

On music, the Motion Vision did a great job reproducing vocals and acoustic instruments, and was also especially good at reproducing piano and percussion. I even popped in a CD copy I had previously made of an old vinyl album, the Best of Esquivel which is a 50's/60's bing band compilation with lots of percussion, and a wide stereo field (typical of late 1950's/early-60's stereo recordings), and I must say, I haven't heard it that good on a sound bar, ever...

What I Liked

1. Great Sound - clear and distinct midrange and highs, good low frequency response for a sound bar.

2. Wired and wireless subwoofer connection options provided.

3. 40-inch width matches well in appearance with LCD and Plasma TVs up to 46-inches.

4. Well spaced and labeled rear panel connections.

5. Comes with lots of accessories and documentation - including a wall-mounting bracket.

What I didn't Like

1. No HDMI connectivity - resulting in lack of access to Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoding possibilities.

2. Remote control and menu were tricky to use - not as intuitive as I would have preferred.

3. Minimal projected surround sound field.

Final Take

I was impressed with the quality of the audio provided by the Martin Logan Motion Vision. The power output is sufficient for both small and medium size rooms and the clarity and detail at the mid and high frequencies served both movie and music listening well.

Physically, the Motion Vision is heavier and deeper that most sound bars, but in my opinion that is actually an advantage as provides enough interior volume for the dual rear ports to provide extended low frequency response.

However, I was disappointed that the although there is good channel separation within the confines of the sound bar, and also extending up to a foot or so from the ends, any sense of surround sound is limited. Although I wouldn't expect a lot sound placed on the sides and none placed overhead or towards the rear, I would expect a wider sound field than I got from the Motion Vision.

I was also disappointed that the sound bar does not HDMI connections or video pass-through capabilities. For Blu-ray or upscaling DVD players, this means a separate audio connection to the Motion Vision Sound Bar, while your HDMI or other video connection needs to be made to a TV.

By not having the HDMI connection option, this means no access Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on Blu-ray discs, only access via digital optical or coaxial connection of Dolby Digital and/or DTS. This is the common for most amplified sound bars.

On the other hand, Martin Logan has been able to pack in very good wide range frequency response, including down into the lower frequencies, into the Motion Vision, and for those that aren't interested in adding a separate subwoofer, that is good news. That is not to say that an extra subwoofer would be highly desirable, as you can definitely tell the difference, but the Motion Vision actually does provide good low frequency output (especially if you engage the Bass+ feature) that is suitable for movie watching and music listening in a bedroom or other small room setup.

I highly recommend that if you are shopping for a sound bar and have the opportunity to give the Motion Vision a listen, it is well worth your time and consideration - and definitely worth the extra cash.

The Martin Logan Motion Vision Sound Bar carries a suggested price of $1,499
Official Martin Logan Motion Vision Sound Bar Product Page - Buy From Amazon.