Center Channel Speakers
- Written by John E. Johnson Jr. and Cynthia B. Johnson
- Published on 26 August 2013
I tested the MartinLogan Stage X with other ESLs, including Threshold ES-500 Full-Range ESLs for the front left and right, and Final Sound ESLs for the rear. I cross over the front left and right ESLs at 60 Hz, and the rear ESLs at 80 Hz, using three subwoofers, one for the front left, one for the front right, and one for the rears. For the Stage X listening test , I crossed over the Stage X at 60 Hz, and routed its low frequencies to the front left and right subwoofers. An OPPO BDP-95 served up the entertainment, followed by a Classé SSP-800 processor and Classé CA-5200 power amplifier. Cables were Emotiva and Wireworld.
I really do enjoy flat panel speakers, and particularly ELS, but one of their problems is fall-off as you move off-axis. I was shocked to find that this was not occurring with the Stage X, which I assume is due to a carefully designed curve to the panel. This is the only center channel speaker I have ever tested that didn't have noticeable falloff. So, I was treated to the wonder of ESL center channel sound, and I could sit in my regular recliner-rocking chair off to the right side and still hear every word and sound with articulate, detailed clarity.
House of Flying Daggers is a great movie for testing speakers because of the dance in chapter 3, where the girl uses her costume to strike drums placed in a circle around her. The male star first throws pebbles onto the drums, and she mimics this by striking the same drums with the arms of her robe. At the end of the dance, he throws the entire bowl of pebbles onto the floor and the soundstage erupts as she strikes all the drums. What I wanted to hear with this test, was how the Stage X responded to the sharp sounds of the bowl full of pebbles striking the floor. I usually get up from my chair and move to the center in this scene as it is extremely "surround sound" in nature. However, I was able to sit in my chair off to the side, and the Stage X reproduced the crystalline sound of all the pebbles crashing to the floor, without any fall-off. No matter where I stood in the room, the clarity of that scene remained the same. I don't know how MartinLogan did it, but all I can say is WOW !
Jaws is another movie where the center channel is being used a lot for high frequencies, namely screaming when the shark bites, and all the water splashing. It came through very clearly, and horrified me yet once again in this classic tale of what everyone fears (at least they started being afraid when the movie was released) when they go into ocean water.
Lawrence of Arabia has finally been released on Blu-ray, and since it was shot on 70mm film, the high def image is spectacular. The musical score is phenomenal, and the Stage X gave me the full monty, even off to the side. No coloration of any kind. Smooth, transparent, and detailed. The midrange was slightly laid back compared to all-cone center channel speakers, like my Paradigm Reference Signature C5, but that is easily dealt with using room correction. On the other hand, you may prefer a laid back midrange, as I do.
This set of violin concertos (2L38SACD), recorded in DSD 5.1 are a good test for the Stage X because of the high frequencies that the soloist violin plays. Violins can sound tizzy or scratchy, and otherwise unappealing if the tweeter is not high quality. But, the ribbon tweeter of the Stage X did Marianne Thorsen the great honor of reproducing her, I'm sure very expensive, violin, in a full bodied, natural sound with no sharp edges.