CLX art exceed expectations.
How did I end up with CLX art speakers? Well, I am a cable development engineer for Belden, and in the process of working with cable designs I used a Martin Logan SUMMIT-X in those trials, as well as my own speakers. The SUMMIT-X speakers were a friends, who just happens to work for Martin Logan. So that sets the stage for hearing Martin Logan products for the first time.
The problem was the extended development cycle of the cables, and with the changes in sound so readily apparent on his summit-X speakers. So much so, that his system "broke" mine! I had to leave my system alone for a few days till my brain forgot the fantastic detail and realism of those SUMMIT-X transducers. I never really though I was an electrostatic guy, and all the rumors about issues with these exotic bread of speakers.
I eventually said, if you EVER sell those speakers, call me! He didn't, but said to buy the even better CLX-art versions. I did, and now there is no going back to dynamic drivers anywhere in the near future.
For a dynamic driver person (or I thought I was) the first electrostatic experience is almost a "confrontation" of your expectations of what a stereo sounds like. It should sound like expertly REPRODUCED sound. The SUMMIT-X and CLX-art DO NOT sound like that as they are much closer to REAL MUSIC!
This can REALLY, REALLY mess with your head as you need to change what the musical expectations are. The CLX art are moving things to a totally different presentation.
OK, first things first for the dynamic driver crowd. No, the CLX art won't give the DYNAMIC POP in the bass, but it is far from bad. And with subs, it is almost a non-issue. But yes, dynamic drivers can do the "hit" better if that's your thing. They also industrialize the sound and erase all the micro-dynamic detail up and down the frequency spectrum. Of course YOUR dynamic driver speakers don't...until you listen to a CLX art, anyway. Happened to me, that's for sure. Dynamic drivers are getting better, but DO NOT listen to a CLX art until you want to know what they leave on the table.
These CLX art speakers take some serious break-in time. Mine have maybe 50 hours on them, and have improved markedly in richness. So be patient with a set that's new. Every hi-end speaker I've owned, Vandersteen Quatro's, Dynaudio C4's ETC has been like this, they are STILL dampened mechanical devices.
After many hours I finally REALLY listened to them. I stuck a Hans Thesessink and best of Peter Paul and Mary CD in and melted into my seat. This can't really be a review because I can't seriously explain how RIGHT these speakers "get it" through their frequency range. The fluid, visceral, liquid nature of voices is almost unsettlingly real. Higher frequencies are also so right. The energy in a cymbal isn't stuffed into a single hissing band I'm used to hearing, but extends up and down the frequency range in a fantastic balance that makes cymbals finally sound like cymbals.
Expansive vocal chorus presentations are immense in size, to the nature of the musical event, and specific detail right down to every individual head in the choir. I've heard expansiveness before, but NOT the incredible detail and resolution.
CLX art speakers simply seem to make music "appear" and not be "produced". Their micro dynamics are so incredibly delicate a butterfly can be hard flitting about. Yes, you don't think of dynamic as delicate, but they can be both delicate and hugely rash (saxophone) as needed. There is absolutely NO harmonic overruns that aren't in the music. Those dynamic driver resonance sounds you used to think is music are GONE. I had to get over that.
I do indeed like deep bass, and I used a pair of 10" Velodyne DD10+ subs, and moved them to the CLX arts. They seem to work better than expected...and their smaller stereo pair size helps them be acceptably quick to better match the panels. What I wasn't expecting is the "sound" of the bass being so much more complex and resolving. If there are 100 words for snow, my old dynamic driver speakers got maybe 25% of the words across, the CLX arts? I'd say about
95% (they are still not fully broken in).
I listen to little rock, but Supertramp, NICKEL BACK and the like still puts it out on the CLX-art with subs.
The myths of electrostatic speakers have been busted in my mind. Imaging? I feared I'd get this detailed euphoric expanse of sound everyone references. Nope, the imaging is real life sized and precise in a HUGE box between and behind the speakers. There is so little mechanical resonance on the CLX art that the blackness and openness rides to infinity. The space around everything, not just the bass, midrange or treble, is utterly amazing. Box, what box? I detect ZERO electrostatic "halo" people also reference. You can make them brighter with position, but that's NOT a membrane resonance, it is energy distribution in the room. Hard to drive? My MOON W-8 barely gets warm runningvthem at 85dB average. My dynamic driver speakers got the W-8 HOT to the touch.
The ideal seating position isn't as bad as many claim in my room, which is a screwy room, a 40' long room with a "L" shaped end. One speaker is against the wall, the other in the open end of the "L". So each speaker is really in a different "room". Some toe-in and out of each speaker got the image placement correct and excellent sounding. Truth be told, NO speaker I've owned and used in this room has sounded good in all but one single spot. The CLX arts sound SO GOOD in THAT ideal spot you never want to leave it anyway! They are so good you don't want to accept less. My dynamic driver speakers never reach the perfection of the CLX art, so moving about doesn't really make them much worse. I'm not sure if that's a compliment to dynamic driver speakers, really.
It takes a few days to get used to dipole radiators, as everything seems backwards. They get louder as you move AWAY from the speaker. Speaker placement and toe in or out is also more room dependant to center the image. Throw away the 1/3 of the panel thing and LISTEN to the music! Get the speakers placed right so the midrange is centered, full, liquid and resolving. WHO CARES where the speakers are pointed. In my two different rooms "L" shaped mess mine are in, the speakers are a parallelogram. The right speaker by the wall is toed in. The left speaker in the open end of the "L" is toed in on the BASS panel side. So the hi-frequency panels are BOTH 62" from a front wall, with the BASS panels toed IN (right) and OUT (left) 3 inches. This places the imaging in a more center position with a full resolving sound. Yes, the room loads the speakers differently so be open minded to placement. Try stuff that's "wrong" in an ideal room. I'll keep tuning the placement but this odd ball looking set-up gets the job done.
The image placement is in the upper third of the panels in my room, and wonderfully expansive to the left and right and even beyond the speakers. Voices and images are "big" but to a life-size rendition. So huge they are not. Correct they are. You won't see Linda Rhonstadt's tonsils if you dig overly large imaging. And on the other hand, they aren't British in compressing the image into a tiny pinpoint of spatial precision, either.
The CLX art have pushed my expectations of musical "reproduction" to simply hearing the music. You just have to audition a set to understand this speaker, as it is so unlike anything else. I started out developing cables, and ended up buying new speakers!
Rating a speaker is very subjective so my criteria is it can't be 5 stars unless it does EVERYTHING, so I give 4 stars to the CLX arts by themselves. The CLX art lack that dynamic bass POP which is not the same thing as static frequency response where they do very well (I measured them), but dynamic accuracy in the bass. Yes, I have a few cuts that are nuts dynamic in the bass. They are good, but I need those two subs too open-up the low frequency dynamics. But you simply cannot get the rest of the sound without the CLX arts. They do SO much more right than wrong compared to any speaker I've listen to and yes, even the MAGICO's and FOCAL EM series.
So yes, there is a spot where they will excel to amazing standards for their price and you won't mind seating yourself there, either. It's not a head in a vise seat, but a relaxed livable position that is totally rewarding. If you need crocodile tears, put one in front of a set of CLX arts and bring a bucket!
Way to go Martin Logan.