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Thread: Martin Logan Trainer & Set-Up Expert Joel Lopez - "It's My Passion"

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Madison, Wisconsin

    Default Martin Logan Trainer & Set-Up Expert Joel Lopez - "It's My Passion"


    My wife and I purchased Martin Logan Expression 13A loudspeakers from the Magnolia Audio & Design Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Nick Hufford the store manager put me in contact with Joel Lopez at Martin Logan regarding questions I had about rake angle and set up.

    My first contact was in March of this year.

    I had already seen several YouTube videos with Mr. Lopez about setting the speakers up.

    I sent to Mr. Lopez an email containing material from the Cardas website regarding speaker set up:

    This is the link to the Cardas guide for speaker set up:

    But the calculator was the most helpful:

    Thank you for contacting Cardas Audio.

    I recommend using the standard calculator to start. This will help to maximize bass performance. If you also mark the spot for the dipole calculator you could try any location between the two to improve imaging also.

    Imagine my surprise when there was a message on my cell phone from Mr. Lopez offering to speak to me via telephone regarding my questions and concerns. In the course of that conversation Mr. Lopez offered to come to our home to personally set the speakers up and implement the Anthem Room Correction, a program built into these speakers designed to take the room out of the equation; identifying and removing room nodes and standing waves; essentially allowing the speakers to perform at their best without being compromised by interaction with anomalies caused by the room. Frankly, I was flabbergasted by his offer.

    He wrote back after reviewing the numbers: When looking at the calculator it looks as though his calculations are correct and also what we would recommend as well.

    The only downside with using technology for speaker placement is it doesn't take into account things like type of flooring, thickness of sheetrock, type of paint weather flat or gloss, and objects in your room that will absorb or diffuse sound waves. My personal suggestion would be to use the calculator as a starting point for placement but be aware that minor adjustments in placement and or toe in can have a big effect on your overall sound.

    My offer still stands to come to your home and insure your speakers are performing to the reference level we intended.

    I simply could not believe my ears. This was personalized service unlike anything I had read about in the industry other than knowing about Peter McGrath of Wilson Audio going to the home of a customer after a sale to set up speakers and of course dealer set up.

    The set up team from Magnolia did an outstanding job using the results generated by the Cardas calculations.

    Even before the speakers had 100 hours on them it was hard to imagine how much better the response could be even though I had read reviews which testified to the difference the ARC made.

    Moreover Mr. Lopez sent instructions for achieving a rake angle of one degree (almost exactly perpendicular to the floor) something I desired, to improve imaging even further so I would have them to give to the install team.

    He added “Once I get a chance to travel back to Madison, your speakers will have played for the recommended break in period and I can then lend my expertise by making adjustments in placement to squeeze out every ounce of performance as possible.”

    Mr. Lopez came to our home on July 25th and I played for him 9 selections from vinyl, several from Redbook CD’s and two from an SACD so he would get a good feel for how our system sounded before he started.

    I thought, somewhat pridefully, that the system sounded very good but was looking forward to witnessing to what degree it could be improved.

    He felt the soundstage was too small and went to work knowing that my priority, if I had to choose between a large soundstage versus focus, I would choose focus.

    There was a great deal of speaker movement before the ARC was implemented. He asked my wife to sit in what looked to me to be a very near field listening position and yet it was at the apex of an equilateral triangle. My wife could immediately discern that the new position was much better. Specifically, instruments appeared and sounded a great deal more present and alive than our previous listening position. My wife had to leave to go to the library and when she left I shared that I knew, despite the clear improvement, that she was unhappy about the set up because the seating position was too close, so Mr. Lopez had to start all over again; moving the speakers further apart so the sofa could be further back and still achieve an equilateral triangle.

    Mr. Lopez started the ARC process and I could clearly see on his laptop the response caused by the room. To say that the frequency response was not linear would be a tremendous understatement.

    There are degrees of knowing; for years I have read that the room really impacts the sound; take care of room interactions first. The graph on his laptop hardly looked like the frequency response curve of the speakers shown by testing in an anechoic chamber. It is generally taken for granted that it is almost impossible to replicate outstanding results in the real world but the deviation in our living room was not to be believed.

    When Mr. Lopez was done he asked us to choose a selection from the original ones we played and it was IMMEDIATELY discernible, immediately, as in less than two minutes just how improved was the sound; specifically the entire sound spectrum was balanced! We had not heard the presentation like that before so of course we could not know what we were missing. Choral voices to my ears were even more individuated and defined and yet the presentation became, for lack of a better descriptor, relaxed. It was ironic to me how we could be hearing more information with greater definition and at the same time the presentation was relaxed; not laid back in any way; just relaxed; there was also an effortlessness to the presentation.

    Mr. Lopez’s experience (he has been with Martin Logan since 2002) cannot be underestimated; the software did not do the work; it was Mr. Lopez’s implementation, that achieved such an accomplished result.

    In that sense what took place can be described as art, assisted by technology; Mr. Lopez’s artistry was evident as was his craft, and make no mistake it was craft too. The speakers were tilted a bit to the right and left, meaning from side to side respectively for each speaker and he worked tirelessly to make the lack of perpendicularity disappear. I am guessing most people would have been content to leave them as they were.

    Mr. Lopez said “we are seeking perfection.”

    I said “I am sorry you are working so hard” and he immediately and yet casually replied “it’s my passion!”

    What more could I have asked for “it’s my passion” says it all; how many people do you meet that can claim the work they do is their passion?

    Martin Logan is lucky to have him because he is insuring customer allegiance one at a time; the old fashioned way, via unparalleled dedication to results.

    In the interest of clarity I want to emphasize that Martin Logan speakers are not finicky or difficult to set up; they are great from the get go, but with the extra attention comes extra-ordinary, extraordinary results.

    Since Mr. Lopez cannot be cloned, owners would do well to inquire regarding his availability, since his primary responsibility is training dealership personnel.

  2. #2
    MLO owner/operator TomDac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Rancho Mirage, California


    Many of us, like you, have first-hand experience of just how awesome MartinLogan customer support is and has been since the company was founded! Thanks for posting!
    Tom D'Acquisto owner/operator
    ML Owner from 1988 to 2015 (Sequels, reQuests, Summits, Cinema)
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  3. #3
    Super User sleepysurf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Tampa, FL


    Interesting! It would be great if he trained BB/Magnolia and other local ML dealers how to optimize ML setups (both in their showrooms and customers homes).

    However, as a longtime ML owner, I'm surprised I've never heard about this guy, nor recall seeing him in any ML videos. Do you have any YouTube video links?
    Squeezebox Touch/Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB + Oppo BDP-95 > Conrad-Johnson CT5 preamp and Premier 350 amp > ML Expressions 13A. Dual ML BalancedForce 210 subs. Audience Au24e I/C's, speaker cable.
    Click here to see my entire sytem. Member of the Suncoast Audiophile Society.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Madison, Wisconsin

    Default Joel Lopez

    Quote Originally Posted by sleepysurf View Post
    Interesting! It would be great if he trained BB/Magnolia and other local ML dealers how to optimize ML setups (both in their showrooms and customers homes).

    However, as a longtime ML owner, I'm surprised I've never heard about this guy, nor recall seeing him in any ML videos. Do you have any YouTube video links?
    Here is a link to a video with Mr. Lopez.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Madison, Wisconsin

    Default It would be great if he trained BB/Magnolia and other local ML dealers how to...

    Quote Originally Posted by sleepysurf View Post
    Interesting! It would be great if he trained BB/Magnolia and other local ML dealers how to optimize ML setups (both in their showrooms and customers homes).

    However, as a longtime ML owner, I'm surprised I've never heard about this guy, nor recall seeing him in any ML videos. Do you have any YouTube video links?

    Apropos "It would be great if he trained BB/Magnolia and other local ML dealers how to optimize ML setups (both in their showrooms and customers homes)" that is exactly what Mr. Lopez does.

    Some work with independent dealers but Mr. Lopez conducts training exactly for Magnolia at least here in Wisconsin.

    When he was about to leave I asked his permission to post a review of his work; I said, "I do not want you flooded with requests" and he graciously answered "If my schedule allows I would be glad to do it."

    I note that you are an Expression 13A owner. Did your dealer do the ASC for you?

    Magnolia's set up team was prepared to do the ARC as part of the set up; they arrived complete with the kit; microphones etc. but I declined.

    I wanted to wait until I had 100 hours of playing time on the speakers.

    In the interim Mr. Lopez offered to do it for us.

    This will give you some perspective regarding our purchase from a "Big Box Store." No one is more surprised than me.

    Dear Mr. Soderberg,

    You were kind enough to reply to my emails about six months ago. I just wanted to let you know that we ordered the 13A.

    We auditioned loudspeakers by Triangle when we were in NYC. My wife and I just moved from Beverly Hills to Madison, WI.

    We auditioned the Paradigm Persona 5A which have a suggested retail of $17,000; they were backed by a McIntosh preamp and a Bryston 4B cubed amplifier, Rega Saturn-R CD player and Audioquest Oak speaker cable; in short a great deal of firepower dollar wise. At first I found the speakers lacking in the jump factor that the Triangles had but then realized they are a great deal more linear. The dealer then swapped out the McIntosh preamp and added a Bryston preamp which I thought would make things worse and remarkably the entire soundstage became a great deal more expansive.

    The Paradigm’s are really well made with molded surrounds because as you know rubber surrounds wither over time. I had very high expectations for these speakers. Nevertheless the sound was not engaging; it simply was not the presentation we were looking for; we felt that the ML 13A, even backed by an Arcam A49 integrated and Arcam Universal 411 player with mid range AQ cables (at Magnolia) sounded better.

    We just ordered the following (below). The Marantz Reference pieces are especially refined. I must say that when I auditioned the ML Montis last year they did little for me but the new Renaissance series is entirely different.

    The system consists of:

    Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon turntable with SuperPak; Sumiko Blackbird HO cartridge
    Marantz Reference SA14S1 CD/SACD player
    Marantz Reference PMS3 Integrated Amplifier
    Audioquest NRG10 AC cables 10’ (2)
    Audioquest NRG10 AC cables 3’ (3)
    Audioquest Aspen Speaker cables 8’ pr.
    Audioquest Water IC .5M
    Audioquest Edison 15 amp outlet
    Furman Elite 15PFi power conditioner
    Martin Logan ESL 13A

    When I wrote to you I said that I did not want to purchase from a “big box store.” Ironically that is where we purchased our gear! Below is a copy of the survey we submitted.

    Based on your recent experience, how likely are you to recommend the Magnolia Design Center® inside Best Buy®?
    Not at all Likely
    Extremely Likely
    0 12345678910

    There is a presumption that when you go to a "big box store" you can get a good price, but you do not receive the same caliber of service as in an independent store. That service includes product knowledge, product selection and attention that goes beyond selecting an item and taking it to the cashier. None of this held true here; quite the opposite. To say that the staff far exceeded our expectations in every area is an understatement, so impressed were we with the way were handled from the beginning of the process until purchase. Special kudos to Nick Hufford Magnolia Manager and Josh Schwab Sales Associate. Nick was especially knowledgeable and replied to email inquiries almost immediately. Moreover both Mr. Hufford and Mr. Schwab came to our home to assess our listening room to be and as a result it was determined that we needed longer speaker cables and longer AC cables and shorter interconnect cables. Since cables are made to order my calculations would have been a terribly expensive mistake.

    Please provide specific feedback for JOSHUA SCHWAB, the Magnolia® associate you interacted with.

    Very little to add; the only specific feedback would be to continue to learn as much as possible regarding the specifications of all the electronic pieces on display. Otherwise Mr. Schwab was as accommodating in every way possible; amiable and easy to work with.

    In the space below, please provide any additional feedback or recommendations you have for the Magnolia Design Center® or Best Buy®.
    Thanks to the extra effort extended to us by Nick Hufford, I was able to audition and purchase the Marantz Reference PM11S3 integrated amplifier. This piece was not on demo and I had my heart set on purchasing it long before the audition, arranged by Mr. Hufford, who acquired the piece from an affiliate store in Texas.

    Again, this is another example of his going the extra mile; he simply did not say "sorry we do not demo the Marantz Reference pieces.”

    Parenthetically the performance of this piece relative to the Arcam A49 integrated on display was not subtle. The Marantz, although having one half the power of the Arcam was more refined, revealed more and made the Arcam sound brash. Moreover, the Marantz possesses an outstanding MC and MM phono stages which the Arcam does not and retails for $500 dollars less.

    Although the sign on the window says you are a Marantz dealer, in truth you are not. I also ended up ordering and purchasing the Marantz Reference SA14S1 CD/SACD player and not the Arcam Universal player on display.

    I recognize that you cannot carry every piece in a brand's line but since you advertise you are a Marantz dealer and you demo McIntosh, it seems logical that you would also demo Reference Marantz since they are both now distributed by the same organization.

    It is not an exaggeration to say that golden ears are not needed; if the Marantz Reference pieces were on display you would sell a ton of them and there is also a Marantz 14 integrated as well at a lower price point to pair with the 14 player that we bought.

    In short, the selection of electronics is poor; either McIntosh, Arcam or Rotel in a room with 5 figure speakers on demo; seriously?

    You are doing the customer and yourselves a dis-service by not making these choices available.

    If you are ever in Madison, WI to conduct training or when your rep is in town, I invite you to our home to hear our system; perhaps you and/or your rep could help us tweak our system further? I have read in ML forums that when the rake angle of the panel is at 90 degrees, the imaging is dramatically improved for those who are sitting.

    We will wait until 100 hours have passed and then implement the ARC that is available in the speakers.

    Christopher Frank

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