October 2, 2011

The Amazing Marten Getz Loudspeakers

I do not know how to relate the aural impact these Marten Getz loudspeakers had on me. So I thought of using an old experience of mine, a visual one, as an analogy.

A couple of decades ago, I was transiting at Tokyo’s Narita airport. In the transit lounge, there were a few TVs playing to keep the weary travellers occupied. However, it being Japan, these TVs were unlike anything I saw before. They were slim, there was practically very little depth to the box, the screens were rectangular in shape, rather than the squarish ones on the ubiquitous CRT TVs of that era.

What hit me, and left me staring at the screen for a good part of an hour though, was the picture. The program was some interview on NHK I think, I could not understand any of it as it was in Japanese. But oh, the picture was so clear that I could see the wrinkles on the faces and the creases on the clothes of the people. The picture was so smooth that I could not see the pixels at all. The colour was oh so pristine and natural. The studio was brightly lit but it was not the kind of brightness that assaulted ones’ eyes, rather, the whole scene glowed. HDTV was in its nascent stage then, but its superiority over SD was already very obvious.

That experience was like a left hook that came out of nowhere and knocked me for six. After that, my expectation of visual enjoyment totally changed, it took a great leap. This expectation is satiated only now, with the availability of bluray and HD satellite broadcast.

My listening experience with Marten similarly knocked me over, and my expectation of aural enjoyment totally changed too. My description about the HDTV visual could be changed to mean my aural experience with Marten and that would be pretty accurate.

I realized that I just experienced some sort of a cultural shock, the audiophile type, at the end of the three weeks living with a pair of Marten Getz loudspeakers. The effect they had on my audiophile sensibilities greatly shifted my expectation of what I can and want to get out of my music.

But let’s talk about the loudspeaker itself first. Marten is from Sweden. Their distinguishing design feature is the white drivers seen in all their models. These are ceramic drivers. The ceramic membrane employed has the hardness of sapphire, so the cone is very rigid, it does not flex, thus capable of producing a sound with little or no distortion. The ceramic membrane is also very thin, thinner than the human hair, and it is also very light, making the driver very responsive to electrical signal. However, the thinness also means it is fragile. A light poke may just break it like an eggshell. So every driver is protected with a metal mesh.

As we go up Marten’s model hierarchy, diamond tweeter and diamond midrange are also added into the mix.

Marten has 3 speaker ranges – Coltrane, Heritage, and Form. The Coltrane range adds carbon fibre as the construction material for their cabinets. The other ranges use the good old MDF.

The Martern Getz comes from the 4-model strong Heritage range, second from the top. Like the other models in the range, the Marten Getz is named after a jazz musician, in this case Stan Getz.

The specifications are:
  • Frequency range: 30-40000 Hz +-3dB
  • Power rating : 250 W
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB / 2.83V
  • Impedance: 6 ohm (4.0 Ohm min)
  • Type: 3-way with passive radiator
  • Drive units: 9" ceramic , 9" aluminium (passive), 7" ceramic, 1" ceramic
  • Crossover frequency: Second order: 400 & 2900 Hz
  • Terminals : WBT, Bi-wiring
  • Internal wiring : Jorma Design
  • Cabinet: 23 mm veneered MDF
  • Stands: Steel stands with Clearlight Audio cones
  • Dimensions WxHxD: 250 x 1160 x 350 mm (9.8 x 45.7 x 13.8")
  • Net weight: 35 Kg (73 lbs)
The Marten Getz comes standard with metal outriggers and wooden cones. The points of the cones are blunt, but because of the weight of the loudspeaker, they could still leave marks on wooden flooring. Put something under the cones if you need to protect the finishing of your flooring

The construction of the loudspeakers is impeccable. The walnut veneer on the pair I listened to looks absolutely exquisite. Its glossy finish also lends the Getz a luxurious look.

Marten definitely does not skimp on quality. The Marten Getz lists at RM80,781. Well, high quality does have its price tag.

The ceramic tweeter and ceramic midrange driver

Now, let’s talk about how the Marten Getz fared in my room and with my equipment.

First, let me say that the Marten Getz is an absolutely transparent pair of loudspeakers. I had 3 digital frontends at my disposal during the time the Getz was with me. The Getz readily showed up their differences. Two of them were at the stratospheric price range (circa RM80k), through the Getz they sounded significantly on the opposing end of each other; the one from an European brand was refined, organic and excellently musical, whereas the American one was bold, impactful and detailed.

The transparency of the Marten also showed up minute things I did further upstream, such as the number of FE ceraballs I used under my pre-amp (the sound was rich but a little dark with 4 pieces, more open and lighter with 3), and the support under the speaker cables (the sound is freer if the cables were lifted from the floor with FE ceraballs).

Due to the very light weight ceramic drivers, the Marten Getz had lightning fast transient and excellent dynamics, the best I heard in my room so far. There was nothing better than Dean Peer’s ‘Ucross’ CD in my arsenal to showcase this. When the playing called for it, the plucks on the electronic guitar ‘exploded’ in the air, sited in-between the speakers. There was no lag, no holding back, just a fast, clean ‘twang’ that came with all the requisite harmonic richness.

The ceramic bass driver (top) and the aluminium passive radiator (bottom)

The Marten Getz’s highs were very smooth, pure, and very extended. There was no shyness in them at all. In fact I’d call its highs explicit, but they never showed any aggressiveness or over-brightness. The Marten Getz also sounded ethereal and luxurious, having oodles of what Chinese audiophiles like to call ‘gui chi’. The mid, like the highs, was very open and grain-less too. Vocals were rendered clearly and naturally, it was colouration-free. The Marten’s bass was not the big impact type which could also sound ponderous if not done right; instead it was of the kind that was agile, tight and, most importantly, tuneful.

On Jazz such as Sonny Rollins’ ‘Way Out West’, all these elements came into play perfectly. The double bass plucking away at the bottom end keeping rhythm, each pluck was distinctive and the timing was impeccable; Sonny Rollins’ saxophone had a burnish and attractive tone, the playing alternating between being jagged and flowing. Further up, I could hear the stick striking the cymbal and the subsequently airy spread of the splash.

The Marten Getz allows biwiring / bi-amping. The terminals are WBTs

The soundstaging capability of the Marten was excellent, with the stage clearly defined behind the speakers. The images were portrayed out of the box. Focus was steady and the outlines were clearly delineated. The only reservation I have was the sense of scale which I knew I could get a bigger rendition for my room’s size. Well, I think that was what the Getz’s bigger brother, the Bird was there for. However, in a middle size room, the Getz’s staging prowess would be well nigh unbeatable.

I found that the Marten Getz was the very rare one whose performance could satisfy me at both the visceral and cerebral levels. My heart was captured by the musicality while my head was satiated by the details that the Marten Getz portrayed. To achieve this, matching was important. The Marten Getz’s cleanness, openness and focus were balanced beautifully with my Pass Labs’ slight midrange warmth, its presence and its hearty presentation. I think the Martens could sound a little too cool and plain tonally if they were matched with electronics pulling at that direction. Not the Martens’ fault though, they were just presenting what was fed to them, that is how transparent these loudspeakers are.

Listening to the Marten Getz also made me realize that I had been missing out on a lot of musical details in the past. There was much masking of details in the speakers I heard before, albeit they were at half the price or less of the Marten. However, I could not escape the fact that there were so much more details and nuances that I could still get out of my music collection.

Having said all this, I like to put in a caution. Not everyone will like Marten, and some will like it only after a lengthy listening period. People who cling onto certain notions of sound, like sweetness, romanticism, or euphony will not accept Marten, as Marten will not give you those things by itself, unless they are in the music program or in the equipment upstream. Those who like it after a lengthy listening period would be like me. I liken my time with Marten as a detoxification program for my aural senses. All the grunge and the colouration in sound that were imprinted in my head over the years need time to be purged in order for me to start listening anew.

The first week I had the Marten Getz, I was neutral about them. The second week, I liked them. The third week, I was in love!

Marten is carried by Swedish Statement. Please contact Koo at 012-2891682 or email info@swedishstatement.com.my


Ken said...

One thing I can say about Marten speakers is that all of them sound very hifi-ish.

All the hifi requirements are fulfilled but I never felt that they communicate emotionally. That's my opinion

OdioSleuth said...

Hi Ken,

I had the same impression as you about Marten sounding hifi-ish.

However, having the Getz with me actually taught me that it was a matter of what you match them with, which I mentioned in my write-up too. The Marten Getz is so responsive it will just show you the characteristics of the equipment further upstream.

If one gets the matching right, one will be treated to a sound that is excellent hifi yet emotionally communicative and musically very enjoyable. That is my experience with them in my own system. :-)