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Electrostatic speakers: A very different way to make sound

MartinLogan's new ElectroMotion Series of speakers feature electrostatic and other technologies to produce extraordinary sound quality.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read
The MartinLogan EM-ESL speaker MartinLogan

Just about every speaker you've ever heard uses cone woofers and dome tweeters that feature a coil of wire in a magnetic field that pushes the diaphragm back and forth to make sound. Lots of great audiophile-grade speakers use conventional drivers of this type.

Flat electrostatic panel speakers work on a completely different design principle. These speakers use a superthin, but large, surface area diaphragm, coated with a conductive material sandwiched between two electrically conductive grids.

Electrostatic speakers produce levels of distortion one to two orders of magnitude lower than conventional cone drivers in a box. Electrostatic speakers' clarity is extraordinary. The big downside is high cost, but electrostatic speakers have been popular with audiophiles for many years.

MartinLogan is America's best-known manufacturer of electrostatic speakers. I've heard previous generations of the company's speakers many times, and was consistently impressed by their sound. Its all-new ElectroMotion series of speakers will feature electrostatic and MartinLogan's proprietary Folded Motion drivers.

The floor-standing ElectroMotion ESL speaker is one of the most affordable full-size electrostatic designs ever offered by the company. Voice-matched center and surround speakers will also be available.

The EM-ESL features a full-size 34-inch tall curved XStat electrostatic transducer, housed within an aluminum and composite AirFrame similar to those found on MartinLogan's flagship products. The EM-ESL also features an 8-inch audiophile grade woofer, custom designed by MartinLogan.

Priced at $1,995 per pair, the ElectroMotion ESL is scheduled to ship this month and will be available at high-performance audio retailers worldwide. Matching center- and surround-channel speakers featuring Folded Motion XT technology will debut shortly thereafter.