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Thread: Is the Martin Logan brand declining?

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    Super User Rich's Avatar
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    Default Is the Martin Logan brand declining?

    Iím curious about this. Iíve been a member of this forum for over ten years now. When I started, it seemed like there was so much interest in and enthusiasm for this brand. And this forum was filled with discussions about the speakers, the brand, and hifi in general. Nowadays, it doesnít seem the same. There doesnít seem to be all that much discussion of MLís current products, particularly the high end ones, as there used to be. As has been noted in another thread, all of the forum moderators and many of the long term members donít even own Logans anymore. Few memberís systems sport the newest high end Loganís. And there doesnít seem to be a plethora of new members joining after purchasing the higher end ESL speakers. It seems like we discuss politics much more than electrostatic speakerís these days.

    So is this a function of the declining brand appeal of ML, or just a natural decline in the popularity of this forum? I was struck by these thoughts recently reading the PS Audio forums and noting the amount of participation they have and the amount of daily discussions about their current products. I think that is partially facilitated by the participation in those forums by PS Audio employees, especially by the founder Paul McGowan and one of his lead engineers. It seems like a long time since anyone at ML participated in this forum.

    Years ago, when ML made some major changes, fired some longtime employees, merged with Paradigm, moved production to Canada, made some questionable CEO hires, and moved into lower tier home theater and architectural type products, while jacking up the prices of their high end ESLís, I was concerned that they were diluting their brand and would run it into the ground. I wonder if we are not now witnessing the effects of all that. I wonder whether they have priced themselves out of their traditional market for high end ESL speakers and canít compete with the likes of Soundlab, Magnepan, and so many other ďnon-traditionalĒ speaker companies.

    My Summits are working just fine for me now, but if I were to replace them in the current time frame, I expect I would lean towards Soundlab over MLís current offerings. For equivalent money, I think I would get a much better speaker. I would also consider Roger Sandersí speakers, and a few others. The ML brand just doesnít seem to hold the cachť that it once did, especially for the prices they now charge.

    I mean, the Ren. 15a is basically the modern equivalent to the old Prodigy, but at 2.5 times the cost of the Prodigy a mere 12 years ago. Thatís a pretty big price jump in a short amount of time. Especially considering you can get the Maggie 20.7ís or the Soundlab Majestic 545 for under $14 grand. Or Sanders 10e for $17 grand. All of which are arguably as good or better than the 15a at $25 grand. Weíve had a decade of low inflation, and the move to Canada was supposed to have cut costs of production. Yet MLís pricing has more than doubled for an equivalent level of speaker, while Magnepan, Soundlab, and others really havenít risen that much.

    Iím curious what everyoneís thoughts are on all of this.
     
    Rich

    This comment is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as conveying any express or implied warranty of fitness for any other purpose. Said comment constitutes merely the humble opinion of its maker and does not reflect the views of the MLOC or of ML, Ltd. YMMV. Trust your own ears.

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    "Few member’s systems sport the newest high end Logan’s. And there doesn’t seem to be a plethora of new members joining after purchasing the higher end ESL speakers. It seems like we discuss politics much more than electrostatic speaker’s these days."

    It seems you have answered your own question.
    It is not lack of interest or the quality of the new speakers, which by the way are far better than any previous models and bargains at that.
    No, it is the political internet forum bullshat and cockiness by its longtime members that turns people off.

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    Forum Administrator twich54's Avatar
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    Rich, paragraph #3 sums it up pretty much. While it's true I am no longer a 'Loganite' I have listened to both the 13a and 15a and if I were to walk away from my Revel's tomorrow it would probably be for a pair of 13a's. That is why you never hear me say 'never' !

    Also, in general, like Tom I no longer feel the need / desire to chase 'audio nirvana'. I am far more content to enjoy what I have and the superb music it produces. The internet audio forums are filled with individuals more interested in the 'gear' than the music itself.

    FLT, while I understand(to a degree) what your trying to say, re the political stuff, I think we do tend to keep things from getting out of hand and besides no one forces you to read any of those posts.
    Dave

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    I'm completely satisfied with my lower end Ethos speakers and feel no need to upgrade anything at this point, but I was never in pursuit of audio nirvana. I was just fixated on the brand because I went to college in Lawrence, KS. The impression the Statements, Monoliths and CLS's left with me back in 1988 were long lasting. However if I wasn't fixed on the brand, I'm sure I would have purchased something else. It was just something I always wanted it, so I got it.

    The fact is that I don't know many audiophiles who are not a decade older than me and personally I think it is a vanishing market.

    In addition the bang for the buck in the low to mid price range continues to improve making the high end increasingly exotic and pricey.

    I am utterly amazed by the sound quality I'm getting out of a ~$300 AV receiver in my media room. Does it compete with my ML and amp, no, but I'm perfectly happy watching movies with it.

    People listen to music increasingly through ear buds and having a big stereo in college is no longer important so most people are not "turned on" to the idea of hi fi anymore.
    Mark
    JRiver Media Server 21 on Windows 10 -> (Async USB) -> OPPO 105D -> Emotiva XPA-2 gen 2 -> Martin Logan Ethos -> my ears

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    Super User Rich's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLT View Post
    It seems you have answered your own question.
    It is not lack of interest or the quality of the new speakers, which by the way are far better than any previous models and bargains at that.
    No, it is the political internet forum bullshat and cockiness by its longtime members that turns people off.
    Interesting perspective. While I agree with you that today’s models are better in many ways than previous models (and I would expect nothing less) the same is true of the other brands I mentioned. All manufacturers tend to improve their products over time to maintain customer interest. That still doesn’t account for the price differential between ML’s new models vs. old compared to those other brands. Maggie’s, Soundlab, and Sanders have all improved their product, but their prices haven’t doubled or more for the same level of speaker. I can hardly call the current ML’s “bargains” compared to these other brands.

    As for the political stuff and cockiness turning people off, you may have a valid point. At the same time, there is really only one or two threads discussing the political stuff. Seems easy enough to just ignore those threads if that is a turnoff. The cockiness may be harder to avoid, as it can show up in any thread. But I have yet to encounter an audio forum that didn’t contain a fair amount of cockiness and snark among its members. So I’m not sure that really answers the question either.
    Rich

    This comment is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as conveying any express or implied warranty of fitness for any other purpose. Said comment constitutes merely the humble opinion of its maker and does not reflect the views of the MLOC or of ML, Ltd. YMMV. Trust your own ears.

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    Super User Rich's Avatar
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    Dave and Mark both make some good points. Audiophiles may be a vanishing breed, with an ever-decreasing customer base to divvy up between a plethora of high end brands. Perhaps this is why ML filled out their brand selection in the lower price tiers. Maybe that is the majority of their revenue now. I would imagine that most purchasers of the Motion series, for example, donít spend a lot of time discussing hifi on the internet.
    Rich

    This comment is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as conveying any express or implied warranty of fitness for any other purpose. Said comment constitutes merely the humble opinion of its maker and does not reflect the views of the MLOC or of ML, Ltd. YMMV. Trust your own ears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    Audiophiles may be a vanishing breed, with an ever-decreasing customer base to divvy up between a plethora of high end brands.
    There was already an very in depth analysis on what is happening in this market and why we have so many high end brands lately.

    Mass production products are improving in price/value very steadily, but it takes a pretty good sized company to recover engineering costs and produce enough volume with competitive lower profit margins to stay solvent.

    That meant that many of the audio companies couldn't remotely compete in the mid price range anymore so they had go to a low production much higher price model, in some cases using questionable means of differentiating their products and going after the top 1% who have price points that are not necessarily defined by performance and more by their wallet size.

    BTW that is not to disparage all expensive products, but the fact is that manufacturers had to find way to get a lot more margin out of many fewer sales.
    Mark
    JRiver Media Server 21 on Windows 10 -> (Async USB) -> OPPO 105D -> Emotiva XPA-2 gen 2 -> Martin Logan Ethos -> my ears

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    Super User Rich's Avatar
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    Good points, Mark. Obviously, every company is different in their goals and revenue/profit models. But there is a key factor that shouldn’t go unnoticed, and that is whether the company is still run by its founders or whether it has been sold out to a corporate structure. ML seems to have gone the route of Klipsch and Quad. Whereas Magnepan, Sanders, Soundlab, and for that matter, PS Audio, are still run by their founders (to the best of my knowledge). I think the management culture and mindset created by these founders instills a certain customer brand loyalty that is hard to replicate by a corporate entity. Just see the uproar on this forum created when ML management decided to end customer support for many prior models a few years ago. Missteps like that can really damage brand loyalty, as can huge jumps in product pricing that lack obvious justification.

    With a dwindling pool of potential customers, brand loyalty and repeat business become really important.
    Rich

    This comment is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as conveying any express or implied warranty of fitness for any other purpose. Said comment constitutes merely the humble opinion of its maker and does not reflect the views of the MLOC or of ML, Ltd. YMMV. Trust your own ears.

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    I have no doubt that founders matter and I've seen that first hand.

    I've seen how a company that was very successful and cash flow positive could be sold as the founders reach retirement age and want to cash out. The controlling company is then leveraged to afford the purchase, immediately absorbs all the assets and runs the business on a purely profit/loss basis and completely loses track of the company's initial focus.

    I'm sure it is worse if the company is having any financial issues before it is sold.
    Mark
    JRiver Media Server 21 on Windows 10 -> (Async USB) -> OPPO 105D -> Emotiva XPA-2 gen 2 -> Martin Logan Ethos -> my ears

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    MLO owner/operator TomDac's Avatar
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    The younger generations don't seem to care about sound quality as much as we do... They get their music from streaming sources and that's fine with them.
    Tom D'Acquisto
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    Super User Rich's Avatar
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    Tom, I think that’s true to a large extent. But I don’t know how much it really plays into the whole picture. I didn’t become interested in sound quality, nor could I afford high end gear, until I was in my mid-thirties. I suspect the same is true for a lot of people. And there are still plenty of old fogies interested in this stuff, judging by participation on some of the other audio forums.

    Perhaps one piece of the puzzle is the decline in retail options. I used to have multiple options to audition high end gear (including ML’s) in my medium sized town. I heard my first pair of Prodigies at a local hifi shop, which is what originally turned me on to the brand. Bought my Ascents from the same shop. Now I believe Nashville (2 hour drive) or Atlanta (3.5 hour drive) are my nearest options. This has got to have an effect on sales of the higher end gear and also on brand recognition.

    And I’m sure some of it is just that electrostatic and planar speaker’s are ultimately a bit of a niche market in the world of high end audio. Over on the WBF forum, the number of posts in the Wilson Audio sub-forum is almost double the posts in the ML and Maggie sub-forums combined.

    Regardless, it just seems to me that enthusiasm for the brand has waned on this forum from what it used to be. I can’t speak for others, but for me the shine began to wear off with the changes in corporate culture and the big price hikes. I think the quality is still there (probably even better than it once was) and I have no doubt the new models sound great as always. But the increase in prices have made them much less competitive to competing brands that also produce high quality, great-sounding gear. The change in corporate culture has diminished my expectation for support over the long term. And the fact they are no longer produced in the U.S. is certainly a negative for me.

    Having said all of that, I won’t say that I wouldn’t replace my Summits with the 15a’s at some point if I found a great deal on them (like half price). But it would definitely be a tough decision, with probably half a dozen other brands under consideration. It would seem more than a few members of the forum have made similar decisions and come away with a different brand of speaker, each for their own personal reasons of course.

    My reason for starting this thread was just to bring this elephant in the room out into the open and get different perspectives on it. I really wish we could get a breakdown of ML sales by model and compare to historical numbers. That would tell the true story better than anything else. Though it still wouldn’t fully explain the reasons behind the numbers.
    Rich

    This comment is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as conveying any express or implied warranty of fitness for any other purpose. Said comment constitutes merely the humble opinion of its maker and does not reflect the views of the MLOC or of ML, Ltd. YMMV. Trust your own ears.

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    Super User amey01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomDac View Post
    The younger generations don't seem to care about sound quality as much as we do... They get their music from streaming sources and that's fine with them.
    When I was young, most kids got their music from a Sony cassette walkman or boombox. Nothing has changed there.

    In fact, I'd go as far to say they are more interested in sound quality. These days, the amount of kids you see with the standard Apple or Samsung headphones is next to none - most have some sort of better sounding pair - even if their interpretation of that means Beats.......it's a start.
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    one more thing Rich, your last paragraph. Would I take the Maggie's over the 15 a's , no way, they can't even come close to the bottom end grunt of a Logan, but I still love 'em ! As for the Sander's product, so long as you keep your head in a vice and your eyes closed (they look like something made in a High School shop class) they are superb.

    Comparing the modern top end hybrid Logans to Prodigy's of twelve plus years ago, if one can't discern the improvement in panel / woofer integration then by all means buy some Bose and call it a day !
    Dave

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    Super User Gordon Gray's Avatar
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    Hi amigos,

    I can only speak for myself but here's my take but first a bit of history.

    I owned four different ML models over 25 years. From first to last, the CLS 2A's, the Aerius, the SL3 and finely the original Summit. I was a huge fan boy until I heard the MBL's at a CES show. As some may know, the MBL's have an omni-directional tweeter and midrange "pod" which cover all frequencies down to 2K. Basically, they did everything the ML's do but were / are more "immersive" (energizing the room) due to the omni (360 degree) radiating pattern. However, they are very pricey and I simply could not afford the price of entry. Then I saw an ad for a used pair of 116's (GTT Audio / Bill Parrish) and traded my Summits in 2011 to purchase the 116's. I ended up selling them approx. 2 months ago when I retired and moved to New Mexico. They were simply too visually dominant in my new living room when placed where they needed to be. I decided to physically "down size" and now have a monitor (on stands) with a single sub which has a very small physical presence.

    I can't speak to Rich's theories but the sellout to Paradigm didn't help "brand loyalty". Neither did the new ML Corporate owner when they decided to jack up the price on replacement panels. A great example of corporate greed IMO. Add to that the departure of Gayle Sanders, and shortly thereafter Jim Powers, I experienced a further emotional detachment from the brand.

    Moving to the current state, audio types that buy big speakers generally have a dedicated (man cave) room or a very large living area that diminishes the physical presence / impact of large speakers. Also, there are so many great sounding speakers out there to choose from at very affordable prices. And then there is a market decline of "hi end" products in general given ear buds, MP3 and the like which has caused further decay in the "upper end" market. Most of the younger generation these days could care less about sound quality. It's now all about portability, streaming and ease of use. The "hi end" market has always been a small niche market but with the failure of manufacturers to adjust to the "new" reality and attract younger users, not to mention the obscene prices that some charge for their gear, the market continues to shrink.

    So there's my rambling take on the situation.

    Happy holidays to everyone.

    Gordon

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    Super User Rich's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by twich54 View Post
    one more thing Rich, your last paragraph. Would I take the Maggie's over the 15 a's , no way, they can't even come close to the bottom end grunt of a Logan, but I still love 'em ! As for the Sander's product, so long as you keep your head in a vice and your eyes closed (they look like something made in a High School shop class) they are superb.

    Comparing the modern top end hybrid Logans to Prodigy's of twelve plus years ago, if one can't discern the improvement in panel / woofer integration then by all means buy some Bose and call it a day !
    Dave, I view the Maggie’s much like I view the CLX. Would I own a pair of CLX without also purchasing a pair of subs? Of course not, as the CLX only go down to 56 hz., lacking that low end grunt of the hybrids. But I dare say the Maggie 20.7’s (which actually go down to 25 hz.) will compare favorably to the CLX in sound quality, assuming both are paired with subs and set up correctly. But the Maggie’s cost about $12,000 less than the CLX! Even buying the Maggie’s with a nice pair of REL subs is going to come in a good bit cheaper than buying the 15a hybrid. So I think the Maggie still comes out ahead in the value equation.

    I agree the Sanders is a trade off. You give up a more generous sized sweet spot, but you gain a huge increase in imaging and soundstaging that no Logan can match. So that one really depends on your priorities. Personally, I suspect the Soundlabs are the best of the bunch, and the Majestic 545 is probably the best bang for the buck of any of them (although I would pair it with subs as well since it only goes down to 32 hz.).

    I agree that woofer/panel integration, and the quality of bass response in general, has improved since the Prodigy. But by no stretch of the imagination do I feel the 15a is more than twice as good a speaker as the Prodigy was. It’s certainly better. But it’s also 2.5 times the cost! If I were to purchase the 15a’s, I wouldn’t pay more than 12-13k for them. I just don’t feel they are worth more than that. And even at that price point, I would be more likely to go with Soundlab and spring for the extra money spent on a good pair of subs to complement them.

    Bottom line, it just seems to me at the $25,000 price point of the 15a or CLX, there is a lot of good competition and some of it is quite a bit less expensive, even if you have to buy a pair of subs to provide the low end grunt of the ML hybrids. A pair of Maggie 20.7’s or Soundlab Majestic 545’s, even paired with a pair of REL S/5 SHO subs, will still come out $6,000 cheaper than the ML 15a! And you will probably get better sound out of them as you have flexibility in placing the subs vs. the panels, which you don’t get with the 15a.
    Rich

    This comment is intended solely for educational purposes and should not be construed as conveying any express or implied warranty of fitness for any other purpose. Said comment constitutes merely the humble opinion of its maker and does not reflect the views of the MLOC or of ML, Ltd. YMMV. Trust your own ears.

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