North America Premiere!
The Marten Company tells us, "The Oscar Duo exterior is an exercise in minimalist design, without unnecessary details." The Marten Oscar series consists of two speakers, one for the floor, the Trio model, and the stand-mounted two driver Duo. The Oscar Duo measures, 15.5" high by 7.75" wide and 12.75" deep. This two-way design employs a 1" ceramic tweeter and a 7" ceramic mid-bass. Both of the drivers use ceramic domes and cones. The speakers are formed from aluminum and then thru a multi-step process, the aluminum is converted into a ceramic. This produces a part that is light, stiff, and with high internal damping.
The Oscar Duo's are $6995 and the matching 24" high Duo stands are $995. That price sounded a little steep to me and so I looked at other Marten products. I found five two driver dynamic cone speakers from five different companies that were priced over $20,000. The Duo speaker cabinet has a unique rhomboid profile in that the front face is slightly slanted backward and the back face follows the same slanted angle.
The Marten company tells us: "The speaker is designed with attention to everything that can somehow color the sound". That includes both internal reflections and the solidity of the enclosure. The material used is 3.375" medium density fiberboard. The samples to be evaluated have a matte finished walnut veneer. As an option, you could order these speakers with white or black colored cabinets. The 26.1 pound cabinet feels remarkably dense and inert. The interior is glued and covered internally with a very dense acrylic material similar to glass wool. The front panel was further braced with a reinforcement positioned just above the woofer.
The 6" woofer and the tweeter are flush with the front panel and held in place with metal screws and nuts screwed into the panel itself. A small MDF support is fixed to the sides of the woofer for additional support. This is where the crossover components are glued and connected. Inside, the crossovers have copper foil air core coil inductors, silver/gold capacitors, Supreme style resistors, and Swedish Jorma internal cabling. The loudspeaker cable input connectors are WBT Nextgen. Bottom line is that The Oscar Duo appears to be made with great attention paid to every small detail.
First Things First
Early the next morning I lifted the Duo speakers free from their shaped foam air cell liners. The Oscar Duos did not have a fabric grill cover. The tweeter and mid-woofer drivers are protected by a metal grill perforated with honeycomb-shaped holes. However, you can purchase optional fabric grill covers to get a different aesthetic. For my evaluation, I chose to use the 24" high speaker stands that support my Aurum Cantus V30M reference speakers. Although they are not the stands made for these speakers they are dense, heavy, and have the same specified 24" height. The 24" height of these stands purposely places the tweeter near your ear level when seated.
Quoting from the owner's manual, it states that you can use a very approximate speaker placement until the Oscars are fully broken in. So my speaker approximation was to set the samples five feet from the rear wall and three feet from the side walls. After the burn-in process, the Duos were toed in approximately 12 degrees. That leaves a little more than 4 feet of separation between both speakers. Now my listening room measures 12 feet wide by 20 feet along the side walls.
Out of necessity, the room is treated with sound-absorbent side wall panels and a trio of movable Argent made Helmholtz pipes. Additionally, the owner's manual tells you the speakers will be fully broken in after approximately 200 hours. That would be equivalent to 8.3 days listening 24 hours a day or listening 4 hours a day for 50 days. I was fortunate in that the review speakers I received had already been broken in. But I should tell you that after about a week I thought they sounded a bit better.
The Ear Test
And so now we cue up Ms. Krall In her mid-20s. Krall sings at the piano keyboard with persuasion, honesty, subtlety. With a bell-clear voice, she slides into phrases sounding a bit like Sarah Vaughn, albeit with a little less warmth. At the same time, her piano leans toward an Oscar Peterson-meets-Gene Harris style. Comparing my Transistor Magtech amplifier to the Orchard Class-D amplifier is an exercise in subtlety. First the Magtech would offer a very slightly slower transient attack at higher frequencies. But my Magtech somewhat offsets this with a greater sense of mid-bass power combined with a bit more midrange warmth. With anticipation, I hooked up my KT88 tube-powered Prima Luna Prologue 2 integrated Amplifier. Someone that shall remain unnamed suggested that this would make a great match.
By and large, they were right, and to justify that conclusion I would have to refer you to the imaging between my speakers. That quality tops my list of requirements. A tale can be told of my habitual habit of half-inch movements to set up speakers. With my Prima Luna Prologue 2 the sound stage is wider and a bit deeper and I hesitate to use the word polite, but it is. The Prima Luna is what you would call a modern tube amplifier. It is not like the lush warm sound of old-time SET amplifiers. But compared to "D" Amps and transistor power my little tube amplifier does something they don't. With Diana's take on the song, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. John Clayton's bass fiddle may be a tad softer but that's because it resonates with a characteristic wooden timbre just like the real thing.
What I Discovered
For 30 years now I have looked for a theoretical music component, a device without faults. If that did succeed similar components would probably measure alike. In the real world, I believe audio speaker design is largely an art-form. Many years ago the Nola speaker designer Carl Marchisotto told me that, "The sound of a speaker is the designer's idea of what music sounds like". Let me ask you a question. Did you ever turn down the bass level and notice that the speaker sounded far brighter? The point I am trying to make is that everything affects everything else. As much as possible listen in an environment that you know intimately and you can discover the speakers' personality.
Most music-loving audiophiles simply settle on their favorite set of tradeoffs. Marten's slogan tells us "everything is done to serve the music". Once in awhile something comes along that can deliver 90% of the music for which it was designed. The caveat is that this Duo speaker should be set up and positioned away from room boundaries in known space. Initially, my set up of the Duo was just an approximation and later on, I experimented until the placement was optimized. With the Duos toed in I could appreciate a heightened sense of sound field depth. This expansive imaging is defiantly one of the Marten Duo loudspeaker's great strengths.
Remember to enjoy the music. And from me Semper Hi-Fi.
Interconnect Cables: Monster Reference 4 pairs, two- 0.5 meter, 1 meter and 1.5 meters, Nordost Red Dawn, Music Hall1 meter Phono cable, 1 meter, Audioquest Cinnamon XLR 1 meter. Chord Silver Siren 1 meter, Homemade Teflon RCA 1 meter, Autobahn 0.5 meter digital.
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