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September 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

North America Premiere!
Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker
A breakthrough in transparent speaker design.
Review By Ron Nagle

 

Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker Review

 

  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.

 

Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker Review

 

First Things First
I was fortunate enough to have the Marten's USA distributor, Vana LTD, visit my home. Vana's CTO Roy Feldstein personally delivered the Marten Duo speakers. In this age of pandemic, the procedure for speaker review is to first spray the shipping carton with disinfectant and wait overnight till it dries. Initially, the plan was to have Roy deliver and set up the speakers in my listening room. My cautious nurse spouse would have none of that. The mantra at my humble home right now is the word antisepsis. Roy decided on an alternate plan. The Chief Technical Officer Roy is a strict taskmaster when it comes to proper speaker placement. Before I return the speakers, Roy with safety measures set in place would come and inspect my room and how the Oscar Duo is set up.

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.

 

Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker Review

 

Set Up
Inside the shipping carton, I found a hardcover black book, this was the owner's manual. Attached inside the manual's back cover Marten provides the new owner with a burn-in CD. The first CD track is a sound from an alien invasion film. It is an ever-repeating frequency sweep that is impossible to listen to. It cycles through low and high frequencies. It is intended to stress tweeter and bass drivers, their crossovers, and even internal wiring. The only way to use it is to place it on repeat close a door and go into another room. Despite the nasty noise, the damn thing works very well. After a night of the pest eliminating neutralizing noise, the speakers decide to sing with an improved timbre. The voice I heard became more of a blended and integrated whole with a politer personality.

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.

 

Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker Review

 

The Trifecta
What is the basic nature of the Oscar Duo, well I do have some idea. But let me not get too far ahead of myself. First I have an idea that should provide some of the answers. Right now I still have a review pair of the Orchard Audio Class D amplifiers. I can start the audition with the Orchard and then hook up the Oscars to my transistor reference, the Sanders Magtech power Amplifier. And finally as the last listen I will take my Prima Luna tube integrated amplifier out of retirement power up and use it to get down on the Duo.

 

The Ear Test
To establish a benchmark, I will start each of the parts of my evaluation with the same CD and then move on to Ear Test some other tunes. That test CD is one of my $4 flea market finds. It is Diana Krall's album "Stepping Out" with John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums: Justin Time [Just50-2] It is notable because this the first recording that Ms. Krall ever made. She gained notoriety as a teenage piano wiz from Nanaimo Canada. And, notably, she recorded this 1992 debut album on a small Canadian label. This is an exceptionally well-made recording so natural it seems to exists outside of your speakers. (Buy it). The first listen was with the Orchard Class-D Amplifiers that I have been writing about. Their characteristic sound is laid out with cool surgical precision. If I had to highlight two defining characteristics of the Orchard Class D amplifier the first would be that dead quiet background and the second would have to be a very flat treble to bass even-handed frequency response.

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.

 

Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker Review

 

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.

 

Marten Oscar Duo Two-Way Loudspeaker Review

 

What I Discovered
I could give you very good reasons to power these Oscar Duo speakers with any one of these three amplifiers. But for me, the choice comes down to my 30 Wpc four-tube KT88 Prima Luna amplifier. Yes granted it cannot bang out deep bass but anyone who buys a stand mount two-driver speaker is not likely to be into big bomb blasting bass. If asked why, it's a vacuum tube conclusion that evolved over many years. Digital reproduction sounds fast and detailed but it's on the backside as the fading chords decay. There is a surrounding modulating timber in the air rides that fading shifting modulation into silence, that is what we sense as real. A complicated way to describe a simple concept I call sustain.

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.

 

Bottom Line
In the final analysis and in my apartment the Swedish Oscar Duo two driver monitors get 90% of the source just as it is. Ask yourself what should speakers sound like. The only sensible answer must be, absolutely nothing. As I began, I asked myself if the Marten Duo speakers were true to their sources. By that I mean that they let everything upfront come through without alteration, then the answer is yes. Everything I have described so far could not exist without a very accurate transducer. The Marten Duo does not have a company trademark sound or any definable music inflection. In no small measure, they represent a breakthrough in transparent speaker design. If you do try them, I know you will buy them.

Remember to enjoy the music. And from me Semper Hi-Fi.

 

 

 

 

Reference System
Sources
SOTA Nova Turn Table, Grado Laboratory Standard Tone Arm, Denon DL-301 II cartridge, Sony UHP-U1 Universal disc player, Music Hall upsampling DAC 25.3 with headphone amplifier, Yamaha WXC-5 Wi-Fi Blue Tooth Receiver.

Reference Amplification
Sanders Magtech power Amplifier, Prima Luna Prologue 2 Integrated Amplifier.

Speakers
Aurum Cantus V30M, with Mark Daniels Omni Harmonizer tweeters.

Speaker Cables
Kimber Kable 12TC 11 ft. And a Kimber Kable 8TC 18" to tweeter speaker.

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.

Power Conditioning
Wire World 10 gauge IEC line cord, Power Cords: Kaplan Cables 12 gauge IEC
, Islatrol Industrial 20 Ampere AC line conditioner, Richard Gray 20 Ampere Sub Station, Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply, Audio Power PE-1 power enhancer.

 

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Specifications
Type: Two-way loudspeaker
Frequency Response: 37Hz to 20kHz (+/-3dB)
Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m
Impedance: 6 Ohm (3.1 Ohm minimum)
Crossover: Second order @ 2500Hz
Speaker Connections: Single-wiring WBT Nextgen
Internal Wiring: Jorma Design
Cabinet: 25mm fiber laminate Matte Walnut, Piano Black or White
Dimensions: 7.9" x 15.7" x 12.6" (WxHxD)
Weight: 29 lbs.
Price: $6995, plus matching 24" high Duo stands $995.

 

 

 

Company Information
Marten
Flöjelbergsgatan 18
431 37 Mölndal
Gothenburg
Sweden

Voice: +46 31 20 72 00
E-mail: info@marten.se 
Website: www.Marten.se

 

 

North America Distributor
Vana, Ltd.
66 Southern Blvd
Suite C
Nesconset, NY 11767

Voice: (631) 246-4412 
Website: www.VanaLtd.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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