MartinLogan Motion Series Floorstanding Speaker Comparison

By Audio Advice

Since their humble beginnings in 1980, MartinLogan has grown to be one of the largest high-performance audio brands on the planet. MartinLogan formed when Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland met in the late 70s and created a pair of electrostatic speakers. Their space-age electrostatic designs have since flourished for almost 40 years.

Towards the end of the 2000s, MartinLogan developed a technology that would allow more people to experience the fast and pure sound of electrostatic drivers. In 2010, the Motion series was introduced, which used a combination of a special folded Motion tweeter along with conventional driver technology for the lower frequencies. This combination allowed them to get the signature, super fast and accurate high-frequency reproduction of their large electrostatic panels in a much smaller speaker.

The Motion speaker line up has now expanded to 16 different models. Lately, we are seeing a resurgence in people who are interested in larger, full range floorstanding speakers. A few of the models in the MartinLogan Motion series fit this bill perfectly, so we thought it might be fun to compare them.

For today’s comparison, we are going to have a look at the three tower speakers in the Motion line — the MartinLogan Motion 60XTMotion 40, and Motion 20.

What They Have in Common

All three of these great speakers can produce a full, rich, and dynamic sound. To get the most out of them, you do need to pay a bit of attention to their set up. All three have at least one rear-firing port, so you will want to set them up about two feet off the back wall and try to keep them at least a foot away from the side walls. This is not unique to the Motion towers. Most good floor-standing speakers will give you their best performance if you pull them out from the walls a little.

Each of these three models benefits from MartinLogan’s Motion tweeter technology, which provides the speed and pure sound that these speakers are known for.

MartinLogan designed all three of these to be able to be driven by a moderately powered amplifier. The Motion 20 is the lowest efficiency of the three, but it still has a pretty high-efficiency rating, coming in at 90 dB.

Finally, all three models are a 3-way design, although the approach is different in each one. The differences account for some of the sonic improvements you’ll notice as you move up through the line. You’ll also be able to take advantage of bi-wiring for speaker connections on all three models.

Motion 20

When most people first hear the Motion 20, it is hard for them to believe the amount of sound coming out of such a small tower speaker. They often feel the need to confirm that we don’t have a subwoofer also connected to the system.

The Motion 20 produces big sound and very respectable bass energy considering the speakers’ compact form factor. At under 7” wide and less than 12” deep, they actually take up less floor space than a typical bookshelf speaker on a stand. If you’re placing them in a carpeted room, they also come with some very nice spikes, which help to anchor them so they don’t move.

The cabinet features a high gloss black finish that just exudes class. The only drawback is if you plan on using them out front in a home theater, as you may get distracted by the reflection with the speakers so close to the screen.

They use a standard Motion tweeter and two 5 ½” aluminum cone drivers. The top driver, nearest to the tweeter, crosses over at 2600hz. The bass driver, located near the bottom of the cabinet (in order to better couple to the room) kicks in at 500 Hz. We are very impressed with the quality of parts used in the crossover. The Motion 20 uses a special precision Vojtko™ crossover with custom air core coil and low DCR steel laminate for the inductors on the crossover board. Polyester film capacitors in series and low DF electrolytic capacitors in parallel are used in the critical signal path. While this may sound like a bunch of gibberish to those of you who are less technical, it shows a commitment to quality that anyone can appreciate.

Like it’s bigger siblings, the inside of the cabinet on the Motion 20 is asymmetrical to reduce resonance. In this price range, we often see speaker brands cut corners and use stamped baskets for the larger drivers. For the Motion 20s, MartinLogan instead opts to use cast polymer baskets. They go a step further by using a rigid dust cap to help lower driver distortion.

We are particularly impressed with the wide soundstage that can be created with a pair of Motion 20s. There is very little diffraction off the front of the cabinet, making great separation relatively simple to accomplish.


Motion 40

When you move up from the Motion 20 to the Motion 40, you’ll immediately notice more slam and deeper bass. With an increase of 2db of efficiency, dynamic passages will jump out more, getting you closer to the realism of a live stage performance.

To accomplish this, MartinLogan starts with an upgraded bass driver layout. Instead of a single 5 ½” inch bass driver, you’ll get two 6 ½” aluminum cone woofers in that bottom half of the cabinet. The crossovers are the same as well, shifting from bass to mid to treble at the same frequencies, but these speakers get all the way down to 40hz using this configuration. By leveraging two small drivers instead of one larger driver, they’re able to keep the slim look of the cabinet and keep up with the super fast Motion tweeter. You’ll find the bass to be incredibly quick with lots of impact, and you’ll clearly notice the tonal quality of the bass lines, including very low distortion.

The top half of the speakers are identical; they still include the same Motion tweeter and 5 ½” mid-range driver. The cabinet itself is around 4” taller than the Motion 20, which provides an even larger stereo image.


Motion 60XT

Finally, let’s discuss the MartinLogan Motion 60XT. While a $1,000 jump from the Motion 40 is a lot, if it’s in your budget, there is a huge jump all across the board. We think it’s actually significantly more than $1,000 in value.

First, as the name suggests, the Motion 60XT features the XT version of the MartinLogan Motion tweeter. The surface area of the XT is 214% greater than a standard Motion tweeter, allowing it to dip further down into the midrange and extend that super fast, yet sweet sound even lower.

By having the tweeter cover lower into the midrange, it allows MartinLogan to use a larger midrange driver — a 6 ½” aluminum cone, and cross it over lower. In this model, the driver also gets its own internal chamber. The extended range tweeter and upgraded midrange driver provide effortless vocals and instruments that are very impressive. Voices and guitars will just float out in front of you in a way that puts the Motion 60XT on a whole different level.

When it comes to bass, MartinLogan opted for two, 8” aluminum bass drivers. To provide even more rigidity, they used cast aluminum baskets and added a second rear port to accommodate the extra bass energy. We recommend you pull these out even a little further from the wall to make the most of these upgrades.

At almost 12” wide, 14” deep, 4’ tall, and 66 pounds, the Motion 60XT is a serious set of speakers! The much larger cabinet, coupled with the bigger drivers, enables the 60XT to come in at  94 dB sensitivity. This means that it will play more than twice as loud as the Motion 20 with the same amount of power. Big, impactful deep bass is not a problem for this speaker. You’ll feel like the bass guitar is in the room.

The Motion 60XT rocks, both on the bottom and top ends. The XT tweeter is a huge step up, providing incredible midrange and top end with finesse. Overall, it sounds much closer to MartinLogan’s electrostatic speakers that made them famous but with the wallop of a high-efficiency speaker.


Which One is Right for You?

At Audio Advice, we always suggest you get the best speaker you can afford. While other technologies may change a lot in the audio business, speaker technology is pretty stable, so you can be assured your investment will hold its value over time. Most people keep their speakers for decades.

If the 20 is at the top of your budget and you listen to a lot of music that takes a simple form, like a small jazz trio or acoustic music, you will be simply amazed at how the Motion 20 can throw out an image with a sound that is smooth and coherent. If it’s in your price range, however, the Motion 60XT offers up a ton of speaker for the money and is sure to keep you smiling for many years to come.

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