The MartinLogan Motion 4i Take em Outside!

By Jeff Dorgay

I’ve got a great music system everywhere else in the house and office, so what’s left? That’s right the garage.

As a car guy, I spend a fair amount of time in the garage, and now that I’ve added a semi vintage 83 BMW 320i and a 2000 323 touring (for speaker hauling, car parts runs, and of course Mrs. Tone’s trips to the nursery for gardening necessities) to the fleet, I’m back to doing some of my own maintenance again.

And that’s a good thing. Much fun as hifi is, you can only tweak VTA and speaker placement so much before you run out of things to do; or go mad processing it all. We all know a few of those, don’t we? Finally, there’s something wonderful about completing a task. Even something as simple as changing oil or a set of sparkplugs is incredibly fulfilling in a day where we always seem to have one more text message to return.

Great music always makes whatever task you are engaged in more worthwhile. The garage environment is somewhat different, with a different set of challenges. One minute you’re under the hood, (or bonnet, for my British pals) and one minute you’re under the car, so much like a recording studio a speaker with some presence and fairly wide dispersion is a good thing. There’s no sweet spot here, you need engaging sound everywhere. Limited space makes wall mounting a plus. The Motion 4i wins on all counts.

Introducing the MartinLogan Motion 4i

Thanks to their small, flexible size and wall mounting options, the Motion 4i’s are at home anywhere and can be easily positioned to get the sound you need. Because they only go down to about 70hz, positioning is not as much of an issue as a speaker that goes down lower. And their 90db/1 watt efficiency means you don’t need a ton of amplifier power for engaging sound. As with any small speaker, desk duty or placement near the room corners in a small room with help tremendously with room gain.

The folded motion tweeter in all of the Motion speakers comes incredibly close to producing a similar voice to the big MartinLogan ESL speakers, in a small box. The Motion 4i is a marvel of transparency, but you’d expect nothing less from MartinLogan, would you? Having spent decades with MartinLogan’s mighty ESL speakers, I’m constantly amazed at how much of this voice they’ve been able to bring to bear with the Motion speakers.

The diminutive cabinets also make the Motion 4i’s a perfect match for a great subwoofer. As we just happen to have their Dynamo 600X (which is ARC ready, for even better room integration) in for review, this is an easy next step. At $599.95, a full MartinLogan sat/sub system will only set you back about $1,100 – making a mighty combination. It’s all from the same manufacturer, so you know it will all sync up perfectly. And you can get it all at the same dealer – awesome!

At home anywhere

After a few months of listening, it’s hard to decide where I like the Motion 4i’s better. They are equally impressive in our smaller listening room and up on my desktop for nearfield listening. The resolution of the folded motion tweeter feels like you’re listening to headphones, especially when listening to speakers with a lot of stereo effects in the mix. The defined soundfield that the Motion speakers create easily gets things floating around your head in a nearfield environment. Listening to Forq’s latest, Threq (somewhat ethereal jazz/fusion/semi electronica), the 4i’s paint a massive landscape in my large room (15 x 25 foot) and do an exceptional job, even without the sub.

Because of that high sensitivity mentioned earlier, the Motion 4i’s will work fine with a wide range of amplifier choices. We used the Rega Brio, PS Audio Sprout 2, a PrimaLuna ProLogue One, and Dynaco’s new Stereo 70, all with excellent luck. As with MartinLogan ESLs, there is a certain magic that you’ll love with a small tube amplifier, so this is worth investigating if convenient. I ended up doing the bulk of the review listening with the new Dynaco Stereo 70 for my little slice of hifi heaven.

Extended listening also shows off the low distortion and as a result, low fatigue of these speakers. Just as MartinLogan has done with their hybrid ESL speakers, the seamless blend between the Motion tweeter and the woofer feels like you are listening to a full range speaker. There is a level of transparency here that just doesn’t happen with other budget small speakers and that’s impressive. The level of high frequency smoothness and refinement is way beyond anything I’ve heard at $500/pair, or for that matter, 3-4 times that much.

I can’t think of a better recommendation for a pair of speakers at anywhere near this price.

The MartinLogan Motion 4i

MSRP:  $249.95 each


Digital Source                         dCS Rossini

Amplification                          PrimaLuna ProLogue One and DiaLogue HP integrated, Pass Labs INT-60, Esoteric F-07, PS Audio Sprout 2, Dynaco PAS2/Stereo 70 (new and old versions)

Cable                                       Tellurium Q Blue

Power                                      PS Audio P15