u s e r ’ s
m a n u a l
Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
Installation in Brief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
Introduction and Assembly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
AC Power Connection
Signal Connection
Jumper Clips
Single-Wire Connection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Bi-Wire Connection
Passive Bi-Amplification
Active Bi-Amplification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Bass Control Switch
Placement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
Listening Position
The Wall Behind the Listener
The Wall Behind the Speakers
The Side Walls
Final Placement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
The Extra “Tweak”
Enjoy Yourself
Room Acoustics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Your Room
Rules of Thumb
Dipolar Speakers and Your Room . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Solid Footing
Dispersion Interactions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
Controlled Horizontal Dispersion
Controlled Vertical Dispersion
Three Major Types of Dispersion
Home Theater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
Electrostatic Advantages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
Full Range Operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
MartinLogan Exclusives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Curvilinear Line Source
Plasma Deposited Diaphragm
Transducer Integrity
Electrostatic Loudspeaker History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Troubleshooting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
General Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Warranty and Registration
Glossary of Audio Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26
We know you are eager to hear your Ascent i speakers, so
this section is provided to allow fast and easy set up. Once
you have them operational, please take the time to read,
in depth, the rest of the information in this manual. It will
give you perspective on how to attain the greatest possible
performance from this most exacting transducer.
If you should experience any difficulties in the setup or
operation of your Ascent i speakers, please refer to the Room
Acoustics, Placement or Operation sections of this manual.
Should you encounter a persistent problem that cannot be
resolved, please contact your authorized MartinLogan dealer.
They will provide you with the appropriate technical analysis
to alleviate the situation.
•Hazardous voltages exist inside—do not
remove cover.
•Refer servicing to a qualified technician.
•To prevent fire or shock hazard, do not
expose this module to moisture.
•Turn amplifier off and unplug speaker
should any abnormal conditions occur .
•Do not operate if there is any visual
damage to the electrostatic panel element.
•Do not drive speaker beyond its rated power.
The lightning bolt flash with arrowhead symbol, within
an equilateral triangle, is intended to alert the user to
the presence of uninsulated “dangerous voltage” within
the product’s enclosure that may be of sufficient magnitude to constitute a risk of electric shock.
The exclamation point within an equilateral triangle is
intended to alert the user to the presence of important
operating and maintenance (servicing) instructions in
the literature accompanying the appliance.
Step 1: Unpacking
Remove your new Ascent i speakers from their packaging.
Step 2: Placement
Place each Ascent i at least two feet from any wall and angle
them slightly toward your listening area. This is a good place
to start. Please see the Placement section (pages 8–9) of
this manual for more details.
Step 3: Power Connection (AC) (see warning)
Your Ascent i speakers require AC power to energize their
electrostatic cells. Using the AC power cords provided, plug
them in first to the AC power receptacle on the rear panel of
the speaker, making sure that you have made a firm connection, and then to a wall outlet. Please see the Operation
section (pages 5–7) of this manual for more details.
Step 4: Signal Connection
Use the best speaker cables you can. Higher quality cables,
available from your specialty dealer, are recommended
and will give you superior performance. Spade connectors
are suggested for optimum contact and ease of installation.
Attach your speaker cables to the signal input section on the
rear panel. Be consistent when connecting speaker leads to
the terminals on the back of the Ascent i. Take great care to
assign the same color to the (+) terminal on both the left
and right channels. If bass is nonexistent and you cannot
discern a tight, coherent image, you may need to reverse
the (+) and (–) leads on one side to bring the system into
proper polarity.
For Bi-wiring/Passive Bi-amping instructions, turn to the
Operation section (Page 5–7) of this manual for proper
setup of the Ascent i system.
Step 5: Listen and Enjoy
Now, you may turn on your system and enjoy!
Installation in Brief
Congratulations! You have invested in one of the world’s
premier loudspeaker systems.
The MartinLogan Ascent i represents the culmination of
an intensive, dedicated group research program directed
toward establishing a world class reference monitor utilizing
leading-edge technology, without compromising durability,
reliability, craftsmanship or aesthetic design.
The Ascent i comes with an easy to install woofer grille cover.
This woofer grille is designed so that it can be installed in
two ways, either with the indent towards the top, or with the
indent towards the bottom—depending on your personal
aesthetic preference. To install the grille, just line it up with
the bottom of the Ascent i and carefully push the grille into
place (see figure 1).
The Ascent i raises and refines the performance level of the
original Ascent. Bass response now has improved definition. High frequency response also has better extension
and is more natural in character. The integration of the
two is much smoother and seamless. Power handling and
system efficiency have been enhanced as well.
The materials in your new Ascent i speakers are of the highest quality and will provide years of enduring enjoyment
and deepening respect. All trim pieces are constructed
from selected hardwoods. They are then grain and color
matched and finally hand finished. The cabinetry is constructed from the highest quality composite material for
acoustical integrity and is finished with our attractive custom finish.
Through rigorous testing, the curvilinear electrostatic
panel has proven itself to be one of the most durable and
reliable transducers available today. Fabricated from a custom tool punched high-grade steel, the patented panel is
then coated with a special polymer that is applied via a proprietary electrostatic bonding process. This panel assembly
houses a membrane just 0.0005 of an inch thick. Ruggedly
constructed and insulated, as much as 200 watts of continuous power has driven the Ascent i’s energized diaphragm
into massive excursions with no deleterious effects.
The other sections of your User’s Manual explain in detail
the operation of your Ascent i speakers and the philosophy applied to their design. A clear understanding of your
speakers will insure that you obtain maximum performance
and pleasure from this most exacting transducer. It has been
designed and constructed to give you years of trouble-free
listening enjoyment.
Figure 1. Assembling the Ascent i
Introduction and Assembly
AC Power Connection
Because your MartinLogan Ascent i speakers use an internal power supply to energize their electrostatic cells, they
must be connected to an AC power source. For this reason
they are provided with the proper IEC standard power
cords. These cords should be firmly inserted into the AC
power receptacles on the rear connection panel of the speakers, then to any convenient AC wall outlet. The Ascent i’s
integrate a signal sensing power supply which will switch
off after a few minutes of no music signal, and requires
less than two seconds to recharge the panels when a
music signal is present.
Your Ascent i speakers are wired for the power service
supplied in the country of original consumer sale. The AC
power rating applicable to a particular unit is specified
both on the packing carton and on the serial number plate
attached to the speaker.
If you remove your Ascent i speakers from the country
of original sale, be certain that the AC power supplied in
any subsequent location is suitable before connecting and
operating the speakers. Substantially impaired performance
or severe damage may occur to an Ascent i speaker if operation is attempted from an incorrect AC power source.
WARNING! The power cord should not be installed,
removed, or left detached from the speaker while
the other end is connected to an AC power source.
Signal Connection
Use the best speaker cables you can. The length and type of
speaker cable used in your system will have an audible
effect. Under no circumstance should a wire of gauge higher
(thinner) than #16 be used. In general, the longer the length
used, the greater the necessity of a lower gauge, and the
lower the gauge, the better the sound, with diminishing
returns setting in around #8 to #12.
A variety of speaker cables are now available whose
manufacturers claim better performance than standard
heavy gauge wire. We have verified this in many cases, and
the improvements available are often more noticeable
than the differences between wires of different gauge. The
effects of cables may be masked if the equipment is not of
the highest quality.
We also recommend, if possible, that short runs of speaker
cable connect the power amplifier(s) and speakers and that
high quality long interconnect cables be used to connect
the preamplifier and power amplifier. This results in the
power amplifiers being close to the speakers, which may
be practically or cosmetically difficult, but if the length of
the speaker cables can be reduced to a few meters, sonic
advantages may be obtained.
Connections are done at the signal input section on the
rear electronics panel of the Ascent i. Use spade connectors
for optimum contact and ease of installation. Make certain
that all of your connections are tight.
Be consistent when connecting the speaker cables to the
signal input terminals. Take care to assign the same color
cable lead to the (+) terminal on both the left and right
channel speakers. If bass is nonexistent and you cannot
discern a tight, coherent image, you may need to reverse
the (+) and (–) leads on one speaker to bring the system
into proper polarity.
WARNING! Turn your amplifier off before making
or breaking any signal connections!
When you first begin to play your Ascent i speakers, they
will sound a bit bass shy. This is due to the high-quality,
long-life components used in our woofer. Our custom
made, butyl surround woofer requires 30 hours of breakin at 90 dB (moderate listening levels) before any critical
listening. The break-in requirements of the crossover components (and, to a lesser degree, the stator) are equivalent.
Jumper Clips
In some countries federal law prohibits MartinLogan from
supplying jumper clips. If none are found installed under
your speakers binding posts, please refer to ‘Bi-Wire
Connection’ for connection instructions. If jumper clips
are installed please refer to ‘Single-Wire Connection’ for
connection instructions.
Single-Wire Connection
Please take note of the jumper clips installed under the
binding posts. These clips attach the high and low frequency
sections of the crossover together. Leaving these in place,
connect the (+) wire from your amplifier to either red
binding post and the (–) wire from your amplifier to either
black binding post (see figure 2).
Bi-Wire Connection
This connection method replaces the jumper clips installed
under the binding posts with individual runs of speaker
wire from your amplifier. This doubles the signal carrying
conductors from the amplifier to the speaker, thus directcoupling each portion of the crossover to the amplifier.
To bi-wire you must first loosen the binding posts and
remove the jumper clips. Connect one set of wires to the
upper set of binding posts which connect to the panel of
the Ascent i. Then connect a second set of wires to the
lower binding posts which connect to the woofer. Next,
connect both sets of wires to the appropriate terminals
on your amplifier. Please take care to connect both (+)
wires to the (+) amplifier terminals and both (-) wires to
the (–) amplifier terminals. This is known as a parallel connection (see figure 3).
Passive Bi-Amplification
For those that desire ultimate performance, the Ascent i may
be passively bi-amplified using the existing internal passive
crossover elements.
Stereo Amplifier
Horizontal Passive Bi-Amplification
Horizontal bi-amping allows you to use two different types,
models or brands of amplifiers (i.e. tubes on top, transistor
on the bottom). However, we recommend that you use two
identical amplifiers (i.e. same brand and model). If you
must use two different amplifiers, it is essential that they have
the same gain or that one of the two have adjustable gain
so that you can match their gain characteristics. If the amplifiers of choice do not have the same gain characteristics,
then a sonic imbalance will occur. With horizontal bi-amping, one amplifier drives the high pass (ESL) section while
the second amplifier drives the low pass (WOOFER) section.
Jumper clips
Stereo Amplifier
right speaker output left speaker output
Bass Control
Figure 2. Single-wire connection. One channel shown.
This method takes the bi-wiring concept one step further.
You will have a dedicated channel of amplification directly
connected to the high and low pass sections of the Ascent i
crossover. There are two different methods for bi-amping
with two stereo amplifiers. The first and most common is
referred to as Horizontal Bi-amping. The second method is
referred to as Vertical Bi-amping. With either method you
may use two stereo amplifiers or four mono amplifiers, or two
mono amplifiers and one stereo amplifier. Get the idea?
With either form of passive bi-amplification, your preamplifier must have dual outputs. If your preamplifier is not
so equipped, you must either purchase or construct a “Y”
right speaker output left speaker output
Jumper clips
in place,
WARNING! Only after jumper clips are removed
may you connect individual runs of speaker cable
from your amplifiers to the high pass (ESL) and
low pass (WOOFER) signal input binding posts.
Damage will occur to your amplifiers if the jumper
clips are not removed.
Figure 3. Bi-wire connection. One channel shown.
Bass Control
To horizontally bi-amp your Ascent i’s you must loosen the
binding posts and remove the jumper clips. Connect the
low frequency amplifier to the lower set of binding posts
of both speakers. Connect the high frequency amplifier to
the upper set of binding posts. Next, connect the left and
right preamplifier outputs to the appropriate left and right
inputs of both amplifiers (see figure 4).
Vertical Passive Bi-Amplification
The very nature of vertical bi-amping dictates that both
amplifiers be identical. With vertical bi-amping, each of
the stereo amplifiers is dedicated to one speaker. For
instance, the left channel of each amplifier drives the low
pass (WOOFER) section while the right channel drives the
high pass (ESL) section. To vertically bi-amp your Ascent i’s
you must loosen the binding posts and remove the jumper
clips from both speakers. Starting with one speaker, connect the right channel to the lower binding posts and the
left channel to the upper binding posts. Repeat the same
procedure for the other speaker. Connect the left preamplifier outputs to both inputs of the left channel amplifier
and the right preamplifier outputs to both inputs of the
right channel amplifier (see figure 5).
Low Amplifier
right speaker output
Jumper clips
left speaker output
High Amplifier
right speaker output left speaker output
Bass Control
Figure 4. Horizontal passive bi-amplification. One channel shown.
Active Bi-Amplification
We do not recommend active bi-amplification of Ascent i.
The internal crossover can not be bypassed. This connection method seriously degrades the Ascent i’s performance.
Bass Control Switch
On the rear panel of the Ascent i electronics module, beside
the signal input binding posts, is a two position Bass Control
switch that allows you to select the type of low frequency
response you desire.
The flat position is considered the normal setting for most
rooms. However, if you feel that the bass in your system is
too heavy relative to the mid and high frequencies, simply
select the –3dB position. This switch position will decrease
the output of the woofer by 3 dB.
Some experimentation with these two switch settings will
allow you to find the optimal tonal balance for your specific
taste, room and equipment.
Left Amplifier
Right Amplifier
speaker output
speaker output
Jumper clips
Bass Control
Figure 5. Vertical passive bi-amplification. One channel shown.
Listening Position
By now your speakers should be placed approximately
two to three feet from the front wall, the wall in front of
the listening position, and at least one to two feet from the
side walls. Your sitting distance should be further than the
distance between the speakers themselves. What you are
trying to attain is the impression of good center imaging
and stage width.
There is no exact distance between speakers and listener,
but there is a relationship. In long rooms, naturally, that
relationship changes. The distance between the speakers
will be far less than the distance from you to the speaker
system. However, in a wide room, you will still find that if
the distance from the listener to the speakers becomes
smaller than the distance between the speakers themselves,
the image will no longer focus in the center.
Now that you have positioned your speaker system, spend
some time listening. Wait to make any major changes in
your initial setup for the next few days as the speaker
system itself will change subtly in its sound. Over the first
40 hours of play the actual tonal quality will change slightly
with deeper bass and more spacious highs resulting.
After a few days of listening you can begin to make refinements and hear the differences of those refinements.
The Wall Behind the Listener
Near-field reflections can also occur from your back wall
(the wall behind the listening position). If your listening
position is close to the back wall, these reflections can
cause problems and confuse the quality of imaging.
Actually it is better for the wall behind you to be soft
than to be bright. If you have a hard back wall and your
listening position is close to it, experiment with devices
that will soften and absorb information (i.e. wall hangings
and possibly even sound absorbing panels).
The Wall Behind the Speakers
The front surface, the wall behind your speakers, should not
be extremely hard or soft. For instance, a pane of glass will
cause reflections, brightness and confused imaging. Curtains,
drapery and objects such as bookshelves can be placed
along the wall to soften a hard surface. A standard sheet
rock or textured wall is generally an adequate surface if
the rest of the room is not too bright and hard. Sometimes
walls can be too soft. If the entire front wall consists of
only heavy drapery, your system can sound too soft or
dull. You may hear dull, muted music with little ambience.
Harder room surfaces will actually help in this case.
The front surface should, optimally, be one long wall
without any doors or openings. If you have openings, the
reflection and bass characteristics from one channel to the
other can be different.
The Side Walls
The same requirements exist for side walls. Additionally, a
good rule of thumb is to have the side walls as far away
from the speaker sides as possible, minimizing near-field
side wall reflections. Sometimes, if the system is bright or
the imaging is not to your liking, and the side walls are
very near, try putting curtains or softening material directly
to the edge of each speaker. An ideal side wall, however,
is no side wall at all.
Now you can begin to experiment. First begin by toeing
your speakers in towards the listening area and then facing
them straight into the room. You will notice that the tonal
balance changes slightly. You will also notice the imaging
changing. Generally it is found that the ideal listening
position is with the speakers slightly toed-in so that you are
listening to the inner third of the curved transducer section.
Experimenting with the toe-in will help in terms of tonal
balance. You will notice that as the speakers are toed-out,
the system becomes slightly brighter than when toed-in.
This design gives you the flexibility to compensate for a
soft or bright room.
Tilting the Speakers Backwards and Forwards
As the diagrams show in the Dispersion Interactions section
of this manual (pages 12–13), the vertical dispersion is directional above and below the stator panel itself. In some
instances, if you are sitting close to the floor, slight forward
tilting of the speakers can enhance clarity and precision.
In their final location, your Ascent i’s should have a stage
width somewhat wider than the speakers themselves. On
well recorded music, the instruments should extend beyond
the edges of each speaker to the left and to the right, yet a
vocalist should appear directly in the middle. The size of
the instruments should be neither too large nor too small.
Additionally, you should find good clues as to stage depth.
Make sure that the vertical alignment, distance from the
front wall, and toe-in is exactly the same for both speakers.
This will greatly enhance the quality of your imaging.
Bass Response
Your bass response should neither be one note nor should
it be too heavy. It should extend to even the deepest organ
passages, yet it should be tight and well defined. Kickdrums should be tight and percussive—string bass notes
should be uniform and consistent throughout the entirety
of the run without any booming or thudding.
Tonal Balance
Voices should be natural and full and cymbals should be
detailed and articulate yet not bright and piercing, pianos
should have a nice transient characteristic and deep tonal
registers as well. If you cannot attain these virtues, read
the section on Room Acoustics (pages 10–11). This will
give you clues on how to get closer to those ideal virtues.
Final Placement
After obtaining good wall treatments and the proper angle,
begin to experiment with the distance from the wall behind
the speakers. Move your speaker slightly forward into the
room. What happened to the bass response? What happened to the imaging? If the imaging is more open and
spacious and the bass response is tightened, that is a superior position. Move the speakers back six inches from the
initial setup position and again listen to the imaging and
bass response. There will be a position where you will have
pinpoint imaging and good bass response. That position is
the point of the optimal placement from the front wall.
Now experiment with placing the speakers farther apart.
As the speakers are positioned farther apart, listen again,
not so much for bass response but for stage width and
good pinpoint focusing.
Your ideal listening position and speaker position will
be determined by:
•Tightness and extension of bass response
•Width of the stage
•Pinpoint focusing of imaging
Once you have determined the best of all three of these
considerations, you will have your best speaker location.
The Extra “Tweak”
A major cable company developed the following procedure
for speaker placement. As a final test of exact placement,
use these measurements for your speakers placement, and
see what can happen to the ultimate enhancement of
your system’s performance. These two basic formulas will
determine optimum placement of your speakers to minimize
standing waves.
1 Distance from the front wall (in front of the listening
position) to the center of the curvilinear transducer. To
determine distance from the front wall, measure the
ceiling height (inches) and multiply the figure by 0.618
(i.e. ceiling height (inches) x 0.618 = the distance from
the front wall to the center of the curvilinear transducer).
2 Distance from the side-walls to the center of the curvilinear transducer. To determine distance from the side
walls, measure the width of your room in inches and
divide by 18. Next, multiply the quotient by 5 (i.e.
room width in inches/18 x 5 = the distance from the
side-walls to the center of the curvilinear transducer).
Enjoy Yourself
The Ascent i is a very refined speaker and benefits from
care in setup. With these tips in mind you will find, over
your months of listening, that small changes can result in
measurable differences. As you live with your speakers, do
not be afraid to experiment with their positioning until you
find the optimal relationship between your room and speaker system that gives to you the best results. Your efforts will
be rewarded.
You are now armed with the fundamental knowledge of
room acoustics and the specific fundamentals of the Ascent i
loudspeaker. Happy listening!
Your Room
This is one of those areas that requires both a little background to understand and some time and experimentation
to obtain the best performance from your system.
Your room is actually a component and an important part
of your system. This component is a very large variable
and can dramatically add to, or subtract from, a great
musical experience.
All sound is composed of waves. Each note has its own
wave size, with the lower bass notes literally encompassing
from 10’ feet to as much as 40’ feet. Your room participates
in this wave experience like a three dimensional pool with
waves reflecting and becoming enhanced depending on
the size of the room and the types of surfaces in the room.
Remember, your audio system can literally generate all of
the information required to recreate a musical event in
time, space, and tonal balance. The purpose of your room,
ideally, is to not contribute to that information. However,
every room does contribute to the sound, and the better
speaker manufacturers have designed their systems to
accommodate this phenomenon.
Let’s talk about a few important terms before we begin.
Standing Waves
The parallel walls in your room will reinforce certain notes
to the point that they will sound louder than the rest of the
audio spectrum and cause “one note bass”, “boomy bass”
or “tubby bass”. For instance, 100Hz represents a 10’ feet
wavelength. Your room will reinforce that specific frequency if one of the dominant dimensions is 10’ feet. Large
objects in the room such as cabinetry or furniture can help
to minimize this potential problem. Some serious “audiophiles” will literally build a special room with no parallel
walls just to help eliminate this phenomenon.
Reflective Surfaces (near-field reflections)
The hard surfaces of your room, particularly if close to your
speaker system, will reflect some waves back into the room
over and over again, confusing the clarity and imaging of
your system. The smaller sound waves are mostly affected
here, and occur in the mid and high frequencies. This is
where voice and frequencies as high as the cymbals occur.
Room Acoustics
Resonant Surfaces and Objects
All of the surfaces and objects in your room are subject to
the frequencies generated by your system. Much like an
instrument, they will vibrate and “carry on” in syncopation
with the music, and contribute in a negative way to the
music. Ringing, boominess, and even brightness can occur
simply because they are “singing along” with your music.
Resonant Cavities
Small alcoves or closet type areas in your room can be
chambers that create their own “standing waves” and can
drum their own “one note” sounds.
Clap your hands. Can you hear an instant echo respond
back? You have near-field reflections. Stomp your foot on
the floor. Can you hear a “boom”? You have standing
waves or large panel resonances such as a poorly supported wall. Put your head in a small cavity area and talk
loudly. Can you hear a booming? You’ve just experienced
a cavity resonance.
Rules of Thumb
Hard vs. Soft Surfaces
If the front or back wall of your listening room is soft, it
might benefit you to have a hard or reflective wall in
opposition. The ceiling and floor should follow the same
basic guideline as well. However, the side walls should be
roughly the same in order to deliver a focused image.
This rule suggests that a little reflection is good. As a matter
of fact, some rooms can be so “over damped” with carpeting,
drapes and sound absorbers that the music system can
sound dull and lifeless. On the other hand, rooms can be
so hard that the system can sound like a gymnasium with
too much reflection and brightness. The point is that balance
is the optimum environment.
Breakup Objects
Objects with complex shapes, such as bookshelves, cabinetry
and multiple shaped walls can help break up those sonic
gremlins and diffuse any dominant frequencies.
Solid Coupling
Your loudspeaker system generates frequency vibrations or
waves into the room. This is how it creates sound. These
vibrations vary from 20 per second to 20,000 per second.
Solid Footing
If your speaker system is not securely planted on the floor
or solid surface, it can shake as it produces sound and,
consequently, the sound can be compromised. If your
speaker is sitting on the carpet and only foot gliders are
used, the bass can be ill defined and even boomy. The use
of spikes is recommended to insure secured footing for
your speakers. (See ‘Solid Footing’ for spike information
and installation instructions).
Dipolar Speakers and Your Room
MartinLogan electrostatic loudspeakers are known as dipolar radiators. This means that they produce sound from
both their fronts and their backs. Consequently, musical
information is reflected by the wall behind them and may
arrive, either in or out of step, with the information produced by the front of the speaker.
The low frequencies can either be enhanced or nulled by
the position from the front wall. Your Ascent i’s have been
designed to be placed two to three feet from the front wall
(the wall in front of the listening position) to obtain the best
results; however, your room may see things differently. So
listening to the difference of the bass response as a result
of the changes in distance from the front wall can allow
you to get the best combination of depth of bass and tonal
Now that you know about reflective surfaces and resonant
objects, you can see how the midrange and high frequencies
can be affected. The timing of the initial wave as it radiates
to your ears, and then the reflected information as it arrives
at your ears later in time, can result in confusion of the
precious timing information that carries the clues to imaging.
Consequently the result is blurred imaging and excessive
brightness. Soft walls, curtains, wall hangings, or sound
dampeners (your dealer can give you good information here)
can be effective if these negative conditions occur.
After living and experimenting with your Ascent i’s, you may
want to use ETC (energy transfer coupler) Spikes (see figure
6), which are available from your local MartinLogan dealer
or from the Xtatic shop at With the
use of these spikes, the Ascent i will become more firmly
planted on the floor and, consequently, bass will tighten
and imaging will become more coherent and detailed. It is
best not to implement the spikes, however, until you are
secure in the positioning, as the spikes can damage the
floor if the speaker is moved. MartinLogan ETC spikes will
fit any common 1/4” inch thread insert that may be found
on your other audio equipment (racks, speakers, etc.)
Spike Installation Instructions:
1 Carefully lay your speaker on its side to gain access to
the bottom.
2 Remove existing feet or spikes. Thread new spikes into
holes and visually adjust to an equal height. If the speaker
does not sit level loosen one spike until level is achieved.
3 Tighten the jam nut snugly by hand. Do not over tighten
the nut.
4 Right the speaker.
Caution: Make sure your hands and any cabling are clear
of the spikes. Do not slide speaker as spikes are sharp and
can damage your floor or carpet.
5 Adjust to level by rotating spikes. Tighten the jam nut
securely when satisfied that speaker is level.
Caution: Walking the speaker may result in a broken spike.
Figure 6. The ETC Spike.
Room Acoustics
Controlled Horizontal Dispersion
Your Ascent i’s launch a 30 degree dispersion pattern when
viewed from above. This horizontal dispersion field gives a
choice of good seats for the performance while minimizing
interactions with side walls (see figure 7). Make sure both
speakers stand exactly at the same vertical angle, otherwise
the image can be skewed or poorly defined. The wave
launch of both speakers is extremely accurate in both the
time and spectral domain. Consequently, small refined
adjustments can result in noticeable sonic improvements.
Controlled Vertical Dispersion
As you can see from the illustrations, your Ascent i speakers project a controlled dispersion pattern. Each Ascent i is a
45-inch line source beginning 18 inches above the base.
This vertical dispersion profile minimizes interactions with
the floor and the ceiling (see figure 8).
Figure 7. MartinLogan Ascent i’s deliver a 30 degree wave launch dispersion pattern distributed horizontally.
Dispersion Interactions
Three Major Types of Dispersion
In the field of loudspeaker design, it is a known fact that as
the sound wave becomes progressively smaller than the
transducer producing it, the dispersion of that wave becomes
more and more narrow, or directional. This fact occurs as
long as the transducer is a flat surface. Large flat panel
speakers exhibit venetian blind effects due to this phenomenon. This is why most manufacturers opt for small
drivers (i.e. tweeters and midrange) to approximate what
is known as a point source wave launch.
Historically, most attempts to achieve smooth dispersion
from large flat panel transducers resulted in trade-offs.
After exhaustive testing of these different solution attempts,
we found an elegantly simple, yet difficult to execute solution. By curving the radiating surface, we create the effect of
a horizontal arc. This allows the engineers at MartinLogan to
control the high frequency dispersion pattern of our transducers. That is why you see the gentle curve on our products.
Figure 8. Your Ascent i speaker system is a 45” inch line source when viewed
vertically. Actual height above the base is from 18 inches to 63 inches.
Figure 9– 10. As can be seen here, point source
concepts invite a great deal of room interaction.
While delivering good frequency response to a
large listening audience, imaging is consequently
confused and blurred.
Figure 11–12. Even though they suffer from
“venetian blind” effect, angled multiple panel
speakers can deliver good imaging, but only
to specific spots in the listening area.
Figure 13–14. A controlled 30-degree cylindrical wave-front, a MartinLogan exclusive, offers
optimal sound distribution with minimal room
interaction. The result is solid imaging with a
wide listening area.
Dispersion Interactions
Home Theater
It had long been the practice of stereo buffs to connect their
television to a stereo system. The advantage was the use of
the larger speakers and more powerful amplifier of the
stereo system. Even though the sound was greatly improved, it
was still mono and limited by the broadcast signal.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s two new home movie
formats became widely available to the public: VCR and
laser disc.
Surround Speakers
We recommend that the surround speakers play down
to 80 Hz or below. The surround speakers contain the
information that makes it appear that planes are flying over
your head. Some may suggest that this is the place to save
money and purchase a small, inexpensive speaker. If you
choose to do so, be prepared to upgrade in the future as
discrete six-channel digital encoding becomes available
and the demands on the surround speakers increase.
By 1985, both formats had developed into very high quality
audio/video sources. In fact, the sonic performance of some
video formats exceeded audio-only formats. Now, with
theater-quality sound available at home, the only element
missing was the "surround sound" presentation found in
movie houses.
With any good surround system you will need a high-quality
subwoofer (the .1 in a 5.1 channel surround system). Most
movie soundtracks contain large amounts of bass information as part of the special effects. Good subwoofers will
provide a foundation for the rest of the system.
Fortunately, Dolby and DTS-encoded movies (including
almost all movies) have the same surround sound information encoded on home releases as the theater films. All that
is required to retrieve this information is a decoder and
additional speakers and amps to reproduce it.
Home theater is a complex purchase and we recommend
that you consult your local MartinLogan dealer, as they are
well versed in this subject.
Each piece of a surround system can be purchased separately. Take your time and buy quality. No one has ever
complained that the movie was too real. The following list
and descriptions will give you only a brief outline of the
responsibilities and demands placed on each speaker.
Front Left and Front Right
If these speakers will be the same two used for your stereo
playback, they should be of very high quality and able to
play loudly (over 102 dB) and reproduce bass below 80 Hz.
Center Channel
This is the most important speaker in a video system, as
almost all of the dialogue and a large portion of the front
speaker information is reproduced by the center channel.
It is important that the center speaker be designed by
the same manufacturer as the front speakers, and that it is
recommended for use as a center speaker. This is not the
place to cut corners.
Home Theater
Figure 15. Ascent i speakers as front channels, Theater i as the center channel,
Script i speakers as side surround (effects) channels, and Depth subwoofers
as 0.1 (effects) channel.
Electrostatic Advantages
How can sound be reproduced by something that you are
able to see through? Electrostatic energy makes this possible.
purity of the electrostatic concept due to its exceptional
linearity and low distortion.
Where the world of traditional loudspeaker technology deals
with cones, domes, diaphragms and ribbons that are moved
with magnetism, the world of electrostatic loudspeakers deals
with charged electrons attracting and repelling each other.
Since the diaphragm of an electrostatic speaker is uniformly
driven over its entire area, it can be extremely light and
flexible. This allows it to be very responsive to transients,
thus perfectly tracing the music signal. As a result, great
delicacy, nuance and clarity is possible. When you look at
the problems of traditional electromagnetic drivers, you
can easily see why this is so beneficial. The cones and
domes which are used in traditional electromagnetic
drivers cannot be driven uniformly because of their design.
Cones are driven only at the apex. Domes are driven at
their perimeter. As a result, the rest of the cone or dome
is just “along for the ride”. The very concept of these
drivers requires that the cone or dome be perfectly rigid,
damped and massless. Unfortunately, these conditions are
not available in our world today.
To fully understand the electrostatic concept, some background information will be helpful. Remember when you
learned in a science or physics class that like charges repel
each other and opposite charges attract each other? Well,
this principle is the foundation of the electrostatic concept.
An electrostatic transducer consists of three pieces: stators,
the diaphragm and spacers (see figure 16). The diaphragm
is what actually moves to excite the air and create music.
The stator’s job is to remain stationary, hence the word
stator, and to provide a reference point for the moving
diaphragm. The spacers provide the diaphragm with a
fixed distance in which to move between the stators.
As your amplifier sends music signals to an electrostatic
speaker, these signals are changed into two high-voltage
signals that are equal in strength but opposite in polarity.
These high voltage signals are then applied to the stators.
The resulting electrostatic field, created by the opposing
high voltage on the stators, works simultaneously with
and against the diaphragm, consequently moving it back
and forth, producing music. This technique is known as
push-pull operation and is a major contributor to the sonic
Figure 16. Cut away view of an electrostatic transducer. Notice the simplicity due to minimal parts usage.
To make these cones and domes move, all electromagnetic
drivers must use voice coils wound on formers, spider
assemblies, and surrounds to keep the cone or dome in
position (see figure 17). These pieces, when combined
with the high mass of the cone or dome materials used,
make it an extremely complex unit with many weaknesses
and potential for failure. These faults contribute to the
high distortion products found in these drivers and is a
tremendous disadvantage when you are trying to change
motion as quickly and as accurately as a loudspeaker
must (40,000 times per second!).
Figure 17. Cut away view of a typical moving coil driver. Notice the complexity due to the high number of parts.
Electrostatic Advantages
Full Range Operation
The most significant advantage of MartinLogan’s exclusive
transducer technology reveals itself when you look at
examples of other loudspeaker products on the market today.
The Ascent i uses no crossover networks above 280 Hz
because they are not needed. The Ascent i consists of a single,
seamless electrostatic membrane reproducing all frequencies above 280 Hz simultaneously. How is this possible?
First we must understand that music is not composed of
separate high, mid and low frequency pieces. In fact,
music is comprised of a single complex waveform with all
frequencies interacting simultaneously.
The electrostatic transducer of the Ascent i essentially acts as
an exact opposite of the microphones used to record the
original event. A microphone, which is a single working
element, transforms acoustic energy into an electrical signal
that can be amplified or preserved by some type of storage
media. The Ascent i’s electrostatic transducer transforms
electrical energy from your amplifier into acoustical energy.
Due to the limitations of electromagnetic drivers, no
single unit can reproduce the full range of frequencies.
Instead, these drivers must be designed to operate within
a narrow, fixed bandwidth of the frequency range, and then
combined electrically so that the sum of the parts equals
the total signal. While nice in theory, we must deal with
real-world conditions.
In order to use multiple drivers, a crossover network is
enlisted to attempt a division of the complex musical signal
into the separate pieces (usually highs, mids, and lows) that
each specific driver was designed to handle. Unfortunately,
due to the phase relationships that occur within all crossover
networks and during the acoustical recombination process,
nonlinearities and severe degradation of the music signal
take place in the ear’s most critical zone (see figure 18).
The Ascent i’s electrostatic transducer can single-handedly
reproduce all frequencies above 280 Hz simultaneously.
You have in one transducer the ability to handle in elegant
simplicity the critical frequencies above 280 Hz.
The crossover phase aberrations that are associated with
traditional tweeter, midrange, and woofer systems are
eliminated. The result is a dramatic improvement in imaging
and staging performance due to the minutely accurate phase
relationship of the full-range panel wave launch.
Conventional Loudspeaker
MartinLogan Ascent i
crossover point (2–5kHz)
Critical Zone: 280Hz–20kHz
crossover point (100–400Hz)
Figure 18. This diagram illustrates how a conventional
speaker system must use multiple crossover networks
that have negative effects on the musical performance.
Electrostatic Advantages
crossover point (280Hz)
Curvilinear Line Source (CLSTM)
Since the beginning of audio, achieving smooth dispersion
has been a problem for all loudspeaker designers. Large
panel transducers present even more of a challenge because
the larger the panel, the more directional the dispersion
pattern becomes.
Full range electrostats have long been one of the most problematic transducers because they attain their full range
capabilities via a large surface area. It looked as if they were
in direct conflict to smooth dispersion and almost every
attempt to correct this resulted in either poor dispersion or
a serious compromise in sound quality.
After extensive research, MartinLogan engineers discovered
an elegantly simple solution to achieve a smooth pattern
of dispersion without degrading sound quality. By curving
the horizontal plane of the electrostatic transducer, a
controlled horizontal dispersion pattern could be achieved,
yet the purity of the almost massless electrostatic diaphragm
remained uncompromised. After creating this technology,
MartinLogan developed the production capability to bring it
out of the laboratory and into the market place.
You will find this proprietary MartinLogan technology used
in almost all of our products. It is one of the many reasons
behind our reputation for high quality sound with practical
usability. This is also why you see the unique “see through”
cylindrical shape of MartinLogan products.
Plasma Deposited Diaphragm
The diaphragm in the Ascent i employs an extremely sophisticated conductive coating that has been applied to the
polymer surface at an atomic level using a plasma bonding
process. A proprietary compound is driven into the surface
of the polymer film in an oxygen free argon chamber. This
process allows extremely uniform surface resistivity characteristics, an optically transparent surface and adds no mass to
the diaphragm. This uniform surface resistivity controls the
electrostatic charge on the diaphragm surface and regulates
its migration. As a result, no discharging or “arcing” can occur.
Transducer Integrity
All MartinLogan transducers begin with two pieces of highgrade, cold rolled steel. These steel pieces are then custom
perforated and insulated with a unique composite coating.
This proprietary coating insulates the stator to three times
its actual needed working voltage and gives the Ascent i a
wide margin of safe operation. In addition to the electrical
insulation properties, this coating also provides the Ascent i
with a durable, attractive finish that dampens the steel to
prevent ringing. These pieces then sandwich a proprietary
diaphragm and spacers into a curved geometry, and bond
together with aerospace adhesives whose strength exceeds
that of welding.The result of these advanced technologies
is a transducer that is attractive, durable, highly rigid, well
dampened, and neutral.
MartinLogan Exclusives
ESL History
In the late 1800s, any loudspeaker was considered exotic.
Today, most of us take the wonders of sound reproduction
for granted.
It was 1880 before Thomas Edison had invented the first
phonograph. This was a horn-loaded diaphragm that was
excited by a playback stylus. In 1898, Sir Oliver Lodge
invented a cone loudspeaker, which he referred to
as a “bellowing telephone”, that was very similar to the
conventional cone loudspeaker drivers that we know
today. However, Lodge had no intention for his device to
reproduce music because in 1898 there was no way to
amplify an electrical signal! As a result, his speaker had
nothing to offer over the acoustical gramophones of the
period. It was not until 1906 that Dr. Lee DeForrest invented the triode vacuum tube. Before this, an electrical signal
could not be amplified. The loudspeaker, as we know it
today, should have ensued then, but it did not. Amazingly,
it was almost twenty years before this would occur.
would refer to loudspeakers as being either “conventional”
or “exotic”.
Bell Laboratory’s electrostat was something to behold.
This enormous bipolar speaker was as big as a door. The
diaphragm, which was beginning to rot, was made of a
pig intestine that was covered with fine gold leaf to conduct the audio signal.
When Rice and Kellogg began playing the new electrically
cut records through the electrostat, they were shocked
and impressed. The electrostat performed splendidly.
They had never heard instrumental timbres reproduced
with such realism. This system sounded like real music
rather than the honking, squawking rendition of the
acoustic gramophone. Immediately, they knew they were
on to something big. The acoustic gramophone was destined to become obsolete.
Due to Rice and Kellogg’s enthusiasm, they devoted a
In 1921, the electrically cut phonograph record became a
considerable amount of time researching the electrostatic
reality. This method of recording was far superior to the
design. However, they soon encountered the same diffimechanically cut record and possessed almost 30 dB of
culties that even present designers face; planar speakers
dynamic range. The acoustical gramorequire a very large surface area to
phone couldn’t begin to reproduce all
reproduce the lower frequencies of
Rice and Kellogg had
of the information on this new disc. As
the audio spectrum. Because the
narrowed the field of
a result, further developments in loudmanagement at Bell Labs considered
speakers were needed to cope with “contestants” down to the large speakers unacceptable, Rice
this amazing new recording medium.
and Kellogg’s work on electrostatics
cone and the electrostat.
would never be put to use for a comBy 1923, Bell Telephone Laboratories made the decision to
mercial product. Reluctantly, they advised the Bell
develop a complete musical playback system consisting of an
management to go with the cone. For the next 30 years,
electronic phonograph and a loudspeaker to take advantage
the electrostatic design lay dormant.
of the new recording medium. Bell Labs assigned the project to two young engineers, C.W. Rice and E.W. Kellogg.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, consumer audio
almost died. The new electrically amplified loudspeaker
Rice and Kellogg had a well equipped laboratory at their
never gained acceptance, as most people continued to use
disposal. This lab possessed a vacuum tube amplifier with
their old Victrola-style acoustic gramophones. Prior to the
an unheard of 200 watts, a large selection of the new
end of World War II, consumer audio saw little, if any,
electrically cut phonograph records and a variety of
progress. However, during the late 1940s, audio experiloudspeaker prototypes that Bell Labs had been collecting
enced a great rebirth. Suddenly there was tremendous
over the past decade. Among these were Lodge’s cone, a
interest in audio products, and with that, a great demand
for improved audio components. No sooner had the cone
speaker that used compressed air, a corona discharge
(plasma) speaker, and an electrostatic speaker.
become established than it was challenged by products
developed during this new rebirth.
After a short time, Rice and Kellogg had narrowed the field
of “contestants” down to the cone and the electrostat. The
In 1947, Arthur Janszen, a young Naval engineer, took part in
outcome would dictate the way that future generations
a research project for the Navy. The Navy was interested in
Electrostatic Loudspeaker History
developing a better instrument for testing microphone
arrays. The test instrument needed an extremely accurate
speaker, but Janszen found that the cone speakers of the
period were too nonlinear in phase and amplitude response
to meet his criteria. Janszen believed that electrostats were
inherently more linear than cones, so he built a model using
a thin plastic diaphragm treated with a conductive coating.
This model confirmed Janszen’s beliefs, for it exhibited
remarkable phase and amplitude linearity.
In the early 1960s Arthur Janszen joined forces with the
KLH loudspeaker company, and together they introduced
the KLH 9. Due to the large size of the KLH 9, it did not
have as many limitations as the Quad. The KLH 9 could
play markedly louder and lower in frequency than the
Quad ESL. Thus a rivalry was born.
As good as these systems were, they would soon be surpassed by another electrostatic speaker.
Electrostatic speakers have progressed and prospered
because they actually do what Peter Walker claimed they
would. The limitations and problems experienced in the
past were not inherent to the electrostatic concept. They
were related to the applications of these concepts.
Janszen continued to develop electrostatic designs. He
was instrumental in the design of the Koss Model One, the
Acoustech and the Dennesen speakJanszen was so excited with the results
ers. Roger West, the chief designer
These developments allow
that he continued research on the elecof the Janszen Corporation, became
the consumer to own the
trostatic speaker on his own time. He
the president of Sound Lab. When
soon thought of insulating the stators to
Janszen Corporation was sold, the
highest performance loudprevent the destructive effects of arcing.
RTR loudspeaker company bought
By 1952, he had an electrostatic tweeter speaker products ever built. half of the production tooling. This
element ready for commercial productooling was used to make the election. This new tweeter soon created a sensation among
trostatic panels for the Servostatic, a hybrid electrostatic
American audio hobbyists. Since Janszen’s tweeter element
system that was Infinity’s first speaker product. Other
was limited to high frequency reproduction, it often found
companies soon followed; each with their own unique
itself used in conjunction with woofers—most notably,
applications of the technology. These include Acoustat,
those from Acoustic Research. These systems were highly
Audiostatic, Beverage, Dayton Wright, Sound Lab and Stax,
regarded by all audio enthusiasts.
to name a few.
In 1955, Peter Walker published three articles regarding
electrostatic loudspeaker design in Wireless World, a
British magazine. In these articles, Walker demonstrated
the benefits of the electrostatic loudspeaker. He explained
that electrostatics permit the use of diaphragms that are
low in mass, large in area and uniformly driven over their
surfaces by electrostatic forces. Due to these characteristics,
electrostats have the inherent ability to produce a wide
bandwidth, flat frequency response with distortion products
being no greater than the electronics driving them.
By 1956, Walker backed up his articles by introducing a consumer product, the now famous Quad ESL. This speaker
immediately set a standard of performance for the audio
industry due to its incredible accuracy. However, in actual
use, the Quad had a few problems. It could not be played
very loud, it had poor bass performance, it presented a
difficult load that some amplifiers did not like, its dispersion
was very directional and its power handling was limited to
around 70 watts. As a result, many people continued to
use box speakers with cones.
Today, these limitations have been resolved. Advancements
in materials due to the U.S. space program give designers
the ability to harness the superiority of the electrostatic
principle. Today’s electrostats use advanced insulation
techniques or provide protection circuitry. The poor dispersion properties of early models have been addressed by
using delay lines, acoustical lenses, multiple panel arrays
or, as in our own products, by curving the diaphragm.
Power handling and sensitivity have also been increased.
These developments allow the consumer the opportunity
to own the highest performance loudspeaker products ever
built. It’s too bad Rice and Kellogg were never able to see
just how far the technology would be taken.
Electrostatic Loudspeaker History
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I clean my speakers?
Just use a dust free cloth or a soft brush to remove the dust
from your speakers. We recommend a specialty cloth
(available at the Xtatic shop at
that cleans your speakers better than anything else we
have tried. Do not spray any kind of cleaning agent
on or in close proximity to the electrostatic element.
What is the advantage of ESL?
Since the diaphragm is uniformly driven over its entire
surface—unlike a tweeter that is only driven at its edges—
it is the only technology that can be made large enough to
play bass, yet is still light enough for high frequencies. This
unique property allows for the elimination of high frequency crossover points and their associated distortions.
What size amplifier should I use?
We recommend an amplifier with 100 to 200 watts per
channel for most applications. Probably less would be
adequate for our smaller hybrids or when used in
home theater where a subwoofer is employed. Our
hybrid designs will perform well with either a tube or
transistorized amplifier, and will reveal the sonic character of either type. However, it is important that the
amplifier be stable operating into varying impedance
loads: a stable amplifier will be able to deliver twice its
rated wattage into 4 Ohms and should again double
into 2 Ohms.
Could you suggest a list of suitable electronics and
cables that would be ideal for MartinLogan speakers?
The area of electronics and cable choice is probably
the most common type of question that we receive. It is
also the most subjective. We have repeatedly found that
brands that work well in one setup will drive someone
else nuts in another. We use many brands with great
success. Again, we have no favorites; we use electronics
and cables quite interchangeably. We would suggest listening to a number of brands—and above all else— trust
your ears. Dealers are always the best source for information when purchasing additional audio equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there likely to be any interaction between my speakers
and the television in my Audio/Video system?
Actually, there is less interaction between a television
and an electrostatic speaker than between a television
and a conventional system. However, we do recommend
that you keep your speakers at least one foot away
from the television because of the dynamic woofer they
employ. In the case of our center channel speakers,
however, they are fully shielded and can go anywhere.
Will my electric bill go ‘sky high’ by leaving my speakers
plugged in all the time?
No. A pair of MartinLogans will draw about 5 watts maximum. There is circuitry to turn off the static charge when
not in use; however, actual consumption will remain close
to the same. The primary purpose of the sensing circuitry
is to prevent dust collection on the electrostatic element.
If the diaphragm is punctured with a pencil or similar
item, how extensive would the damage to the speaker be?
Our research department has literally punctured hundreds
of holes in a diaphragm, neither affecting the quality of
the sound nor causing the diaphragm to rip. However,
you will be able to see the actual puncture and it can
be a physical nuisance. If this is the case, replacing the
electrostatic transducer will be the only solution.
Will exposure to sunlight affect the life or performance
of my speakers?
We recommend that you not place any loudspeaker in
direct sunlight. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can
cause deterioration of grill cloth, speaker cones, etc. Small
exposures to UV will not cause a problem. In general,
the filtering of UV rays through glass will greatly reduce
the negative effects on the electrostatic membrane itself.
Will excessive smoke or dust cause any problems with
my electrostatic speakers?
Exposure to excessive contaminants such as smoke
or dust may potentially affect the performance of the
electrostatic membrane, and may cause discoloration
of the diaphragm membrane. When not in use for
extended periods, you should unplug the speakers and
cover them with the plastic bags in which the speakers
were originally packed. It is a good idea to vacuum the
electrostatic portion of each speaker once or twice a
year. See the vacuuming FAQ.
A problem has recently developed with my MartinLogan
speakers. The right speaker seems to be hissing even
when the amplifier and such are not connected. I was
wondering if this sounds like any problem you have
encountered previously and have a simple solution for
or might it be something which will need to be looked
into more carefully.
Your speakers are dusty. See the vacuuming FAQ. The
electrostatic charge on the element has attracted airborne
dust or pollen. Since 1993, all of our speakers have been
built with a charging circuit board that only charges the
electrostatic element when music plays. At other times
they are not charged and cannot collect dust. You can get
the same benefit by simply unplugging them whenever
they are not in use. A power strip is an easy way to do that.
Could my children, pets, or myself be shocked by the
high-voltage present in the electrostatic panel?
No. High voltage with low current is not dangerous. As a
matter of fact, the voltage in our speakers is 10 times
less than the static electricity that builds up on the surface
of your television screen.
How do MartinLogan speakers hold up over a long term
in the humidity of tropical climates?
We should tell you that MartinLogan indeed has a very
substantial number of customers in tropical regions of
the world. Our speakers have been serving them nicely for
many years. This concern may have come from our earlier
design of speakers, which were charged continuously.
Since 1993, all of our speakers have been designed so that
they only charge the panel while music is being played.
This improvement has made a tremendous difference
in the consistent performance of our product. There may
be a little more maintenance involved in humid regions
when not in an air conditioned environment. Simply
enough, the concern is to keep the electrostatic panels
dust free. Humidity will combine with any dust on the
panel to make it slightly conductive. This will result in a
slight pathway for the charge to leave the membrane of
the speaker. The solution is simple. They only require
occasional vacuuming with a strong vacuum hose.
How do I vacuum my MartinLogan speakers?
Vacuuming will be most effective if the speakers have
been unplugged for six hours or overnight. You need
not worry about the vacuum pressure damaging the
"delicate" membrane. It is extraordinarily durable
Dirt and dust may be vacuumed off with a brush attachment connected to your vacuum cleaner, or you may
blow them off with compressed air.
Should I unplug my speakers during a thunderstorm?
Yes, or before. It’s a good idea to disconnect all of your
audio/video components during stormy weather.
Frequently Asked Questions
No Output
• Check that all your system components are turned on.
• Check your speaker wires and connections.
• Check all interconnecting cables.
Weak Output from Electrostatic Panel, Loss of Highs
• Check the power cord. Is it properly connected to the
speaker and to the wall?
• Is the power cord connected to a switched outlet?
• Dirt and dust may need to be vacuumed off. Please see
the FAQ regarding vacuuming.
Popping and Ticking Sounds, Funny Noises
• These occasional noises are harmless and will not hurt
your audio system or your speakers. All electrostatic
speakers are guilty of making odd noises at one time or
another. It is the result of airborne contaminates (most
notably dust). Vacuuming is recommended.
• These noises may be caused by dirt and dust particles
collecting on the speaker, by high humidity.
• Dirt and dust may need to be vacuumed off. Please see
the FAQ regarding vacuuming.
Exaggerated Highs, Brightness
• Check the toe-in of the speakers. Read the Placement
section of this manual for more information.
Muddy Bass
• Check placement. Try moving the speakers closer to the
front and sidewalls.
• Check the type of feet that are being used. Try attaching
the coupling spikes.
• Possibly means low electrostatic panel output. See 'Weak
Output from Electrostatic Panel, Loss of Highs’.
Lack of Bass, No Bass
• Check your speaker wires. Is the polarity correct?
• Check your speaker wires. Are both woofers working?
• Check your speaker wires if bi-wiring.
Poor Imaging
• Check placement. Are both speakers the same distance
from the walls? Do they have the same amount of toein? Try moving the speakers away from the back and
• Check the polarity of the speaker wires. Are they connected properly?
• Try switching the left speaker with the right.
The Ascent i hybrid speaker system consists of a broadrange single element electrostatic transducer integrated with
a quick-response woofer. This approach takes advantage of
the benefits that both technologies have to offer. Dispersion
is a controlled 30 degrees. This was achieved by curving
the electrostatic transducer element itself, an elegantly
simple solution.
System Frequency Response
35–22,000 Hz ± 3db
Horizontal: 30 Degrees
Vertical: 4’ (122 cm) Line Source
90 dB/2.83 volts/meter
Nominal: 4 ohms
Minimum: 1.2 ohms @ 20 kHz
Crossover Frequency
280 Hz
Custom-wound audio transformer, air core coils,
polypropylene capacitors
Woofer Type
10" (25 cm) high excursion, high rigidity cone with extended
throw driver assembly, non-resonance chamber format
Bass Control Switch
-3 dB below 200 Hz
Power Handling
200 watts per channel
Recommended Amplifier Power
80 –200 watts per channel
72 lbs. each (32.5kg)
13” W × 22” D × 64” H
(33 W × 55.9 D × 162.6 H cm)
Warranty and Registration
Your Ascent i speakers are provided with an automatic
Limited 90 Day Warranty coverage.
You have the option, at no additional charge, to receive a
Limited 5 Year Warranty coverage. To obtain the Limited
5 Year Warranty coverage you need to complete and return
the Certificate of Registration, included with your speakers,
and provide a copy of your dealer receipt, to MartinLogan
within 30 days of purchase.
For your convenience MartinLogan also offers online warranty
registration at
MartinLogan may not honor warranty service claims unless
we have a completed Warranty Registration card on file!
If you did not receive a Certificate of Registration with your
new Ascent i, speakers you cannot be assured of having
received new units. If this is the case, please contact your
authorized MartinLogan dealer.
Should you be using your MartinLogan product in a country
other than the one in which it was originally purchased,
we ask that you note the following:
1 The appointed MartinLogan distributor for any given
country is responsible for warranty servicing only on
units distributed by or through it in that country in
accordance with its applicable warranty.
2 Should a MartinLogan product require servicing in a
country other than the one in which it was originally
purchased, the end user may seek to have repairs performed
by the nearest MartinLogan distributor, subject to that
distributor’s local servicing policies, but all cost of
repairs (parts, labor, transportation) must be born by
the owner of the MartinLogan product.
3 If, after owning your speakers for six months, you
relocate to a country other than the one in which
you purchased your speakers, your warranty may be
transferable. Contact MartinLogan for details.
General Information
Glossary of Audio Terms
AC. Abbreviation for alternating current.
DC. Abbreviation for direct current.
Active crossover. Uses active devices (transistors, ICs, tubes)
and some form of power supply to operate.
Diffraction. The breaking up of a sound wave caused by
some type of mechanical interference such as a cabinet
edge, grill frame or other similar object.
Amplitude. The extreme range of a signal. Usually measured
from the average to the extreme.
Arc. The visible sparks generated by an electrical discharge.
Bass. The lowest frequencies of sound.
Bi-Amplification. Uses an electronic crossover, or line-level
passive crossover, and separate power amplifiers for the
high and low frequency loudspeaker drivers.
Capacitance. That property of a capacitor which determines
how much charge can be stored in it for a given potential
difference between its terminals, measured in farads, by
the ratio of the charge stored to the potential difference.
Capacitor. A device consisting of two or more conducting
plates separated from one another by an insulating material
and used for storing an electrical charge. Sometimes called
a condenser.
Clipping. Distortion of a signal by its being chopped off. An
overload problem caused by pushing an amplifier beyond its
capabilities. The flat-topped signal has high levels of harmonic distortion which creates heat in a loudspeaker and is the
major cause of loudspeaker component failure.
CLS. The abbreviation for curvilinear linesource.
Crossover. An electrical circuit that divides a full bandwidth
signal into the desired frequency bands for the loudspeaker
dB (decibel). A numerical expression of the relative loudness of a sound. The difference in decibels between two
sounds is ten times the Base 10 logarithm of the ratio of
their power levels.
Glossary of Audio Terms
Diaphragm. A thin flexible membrane or cone that vibrates
in response to electrical signals to produce sound waves.
Distortion. Usually referred to in terms of total harmonic
distortion (THD) which is the percentage of unwanted
harmonics of the drive signal present with the wanted signal.
Generally used to mean any unwanted change introduced
by the device under question.
Driver. See transducer.
Dynamic Range. The range between the quietest and the
loudest sounds a device can handle (often quoted in dB).
Efficiency. The acoustic power delivered for a given electrical
input. Often expressed as decibels/watt/meter (dB/w/m).
ESL. The abbreviation for electrostatic loudspeaker.
Headroom. The difference, in decibels, between the peak
and RMS levels in program material.
Hybrid. A product created by the marriage of two different
technologies. Meant here as the combination of a dynamic
woofer with an electrostatic transducer.
Hz (Hertz). Unit of frequency equivalent to the number of
cycles per second.
Imaging. To make a representation or imitation of the original
sonic event.
Impedance. The total opposition offered by an electric circuit
to the flow of an alternating current of a single frequency. It
is a combination of resistance and reactance and is measured
in ohms. Remember that a speaker’s impedance changes
with frequency, it is not a constant value.
Inductance. The property of an electrical circuit by which a
varying current in it produces a varying magnetic field that
introduces voltages in the same circuit or in a nearby circuit.
It is measured in henrys.
Inductor. A device designed primarily to introduce inductance
into an electrical circuit. Sometimes called a choke or coil.
Linearity. The extent to which any signal handling process
is accomplished without amplitude distortion.
Midrange. The middle frequencies where the ear is the
most sensitive.
NAC. The abbreviation for natural ambience compensation.
Passive crossover. Uses no active components (transistors,
ICs, tubes) and needs no power supply (AC, DC, battery)
to operate. The crossover in a typical loudspeaker is of the
passive variety. Passive crossovers consist of capacitors,
inductors and resistors.
Phase. The amount by which one sine wave leads or lags a
second wave of the same frequency. The difference is
described by the term phase angle. Sine waves in phase
reinforce each other; those out of phase cancel.
Pink noise. A random noise used in measurements, as it
has the same amount of energy in each octave.
Polarity. The condition of being positive or negative with
respect to some reference point or object.
RMS. Abbreviation for root mean square. The effective value
of a given waveform is its RMS value. Acoustic power is
proportional to the square of the RMS sound pressure.
Resistance. That property of a conductor by which it opposes
the flow of electric current, resulting in the generation of
heat in the conducting material, usually expressed in ohms.
Resistor. A device used in a circuit to provide resistance.
Resonance. The effect produced when the natural vibration frequency of a body is greatly amplified by reinforcing
vibrations at the same or nearly the same frequency from
another body.
Sensitivity. The volume of sound delivered for a given electrical input.
Stator. The fixed part forming the reference for the moving
diaphragm in a planar speaker.
THD. The abbreviation for total harmonic distortion. (See
TIM. The abbreviation for transient intermodulation distortion.
Transducer. Any of various devices that transmit energy from
one system to another, sometimes one that converts the
energy in form. Loudspeaker transducers convert electrical
energy into mechanical motion.
Transient. Applies to that which lasts or stays but a short
time. A change from one steady-state condition to another.
Tweeter. A small drive unit designed to reproduce only
high frequencies.
Wavelength. The distance measured in the direction of
progression of a wave, from any given point characterized
by the same phase.
White noise. A random noise used in measurements, as it
has the same amount of energy at each frequency.
Woofer. A drive unit operating in the bass frequencies only.
Drive units in two-way systems are not true woofers but
are more accurately described as being mid/bass drivers.
Glossary of Audio Terms
2101 Delaware Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66046, USA
tel 785.749.0133
fax 785.749.5320
©2003 MartinLogan. All rights reserved.
Rev. #013103
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