Based out of Gothenburg, with an HQ in the heart of the city and a factory in the outlying region, the Olofsson brothers design Marten loudspeakers with an uncompromising stance, a touch of jazz, and Swedish style.
The factory is small, but if there’s a brand that punches above its weight, it’s Marten. The company buys in components and cabinets from Europe’s finest, and the factory itself is as much an assembly and final testing centre. The team of careful cabinet-makers and electronics engineers are scrupulous to the highest degree.
Marten brings a distinct European/Scandinavian flavour to the high-end audio world, but that doesn’t prepare one for the Marten Coltrane Supreme 2 loudspeaker. In part, this is because the new Supreme has, unlke its predecessors, moved from two tall enclosures per side, to one very tall enclosure per side; but also because the Supreme 2 cost €390,000 a pair.
Aside from hearing these loudspeakers in the usual show environment at Munich and CES, we’ve spent a lot of the last year or so with these loudspeakers, first in Roy Gregory’s loudspeaker listening room, and at Marten’s own listening room (where these loudspeakers were developed and designed) in Sweden.
This is the most expensive loudspeaker system we’ve ever tested. It’s also one of the largest, and at 300kg per channel, probably the heaviest. At two metres high, and nearly 60cm wide and deep, this is a physically imposing loudspeaker.
Marten’s Coltrane Supreme 2 arrives in five large flight cases. The cabinets themselves follow Marten tradition, combining laminated hard-woods and MDF with critically damped composites. The baffles (front and rear) are built from a combination of single-log, matched grain planks, MDF and three layers of plywood, amounting to a total depth of 70mm. The 45 mm carbon fibre laminate is formed from thin carbon-fibre skins over a Kevlar honeycomb core and three layers of 6mm ply, with deadening glue in between. The curvature adds stiffness and non-parallel walls to the cabinet volume, although Marten still adds heavy internal bracing to the mix.
The lower cabinet weighs in at 195kg, while the top unit is smaller than the base and weighs 85kg, but it has to be lifted on to the base element: a vertical lift of 115cm! In the absence of the outrigger arms, Marten leaves the lower, rear-facing ABR out of the cabinet and this leaves a rectangular void in the front baffle where the midrange cabinet will eventually sit. With two flat-faced parts this large, it is essential to have an accurately machined interface, so the mating surfaces of the two cabinets are machined from 35mm Corian, with integral locating pucks ensuring a precise 1.5mm gap between the two. Those Corian slabs help explain the weight of the cabinets. Once in place, the two cabinets are joined with anti-topple bolts.
After this, placing the midrange/tweeter ‘block’ into the rectangular void left in the front baffle is child’s play. The tapered 20kg box is built from laminated stainless steel, aluminium and Corian, while three sets of WBT NextGen terminals are provided to connect it to the main cabinets. This central cabinet sits on three small engineering polymer cones that allow for precise alignment and adjustment of attitude.
This is only the beginning of the installation. As such, the Marten Coltrane Supreme 2 demands a close working relationship with the dealer, distributor, and the Olofsson brothers themselves, as you would expect when buying a €390,000 loudspeaker. The Coltrane Supreme 2 at first sits on heavy-duty castors, allowing for careful fine-tuning of placement. When this process is complete, a supplied jack is used to replace the castors with Black Diamond Racing cones and pucks. However, this is largely academic: the prospective buyer would not be expected to set the Coltrane Supreme 2 up on their own, any more than a Ferrari owner would be expected to build their own gearbox.
The enclosure is the most immediate aspect of Marten Coltrane Supreme 2, but what sets it apart from the pack is the number and variety of the drivers. Marten has a very close working relationship with Accuton, and the Coltrane Supreme 2 gets the benefit, including both a 20mm diamond tweeter and a 51mm diamond upper midrange unit in the central enclosure. These drivers handle the range from 3.5kHz up, working with a 125mm ceramic midrange unit (also in that central cabinet) that extends down to 450Hz. From there on down, low-frequency units (three in the upper unit, four in the lower unit) take over. The seven 200mm drivers appear identical, but in fact the one immediately below the the midrange enclosure is a mid-bass unit operating form 12Hz upward, leaving the other six to reach down to the lower limits of our audible range. But that’s not all: around the back of the loudspeaker, there is a sextet of 275mm aluminium sandwich ABRs, mounted in an offset pattern.
But what stands out – in this case, literally – is the broad, domed diaphragms of these units. Rather than concave cones, their convex shape is formed from a ceramic/aluminium honeycomb sandwich, delivering the speaker designer’s holy grail of lightweight and super rigidity. More importantly, the domed profile allows Accuton to advance the acoustic centre of the driver. Despite the vertical baffle of the Coltrane Supreme 2, this is actually a time and phase coherent coincident design, every drive unit acting in true pistonic fashion and having exactly the same distance between the baffle and its acoustic center.
What you can’t see is the 30m of Jorma Statement cable that’s inside each cabinet, the sheer size of the (predominantly first-order) crossover, or the 700-800 man-hours it takes to complete a pair of Coltrane Supreme 2s, but these are indicators of just how seriously Marten has taken this project. The end result is a genuinely full-range speaker system with a claimed bandwidth of 18Hz to 100kHz ±2dB, a sensitivity of 91dB and relatively benign impedance of six Ohms nominal with a 3.2 ohm minimum at 80Hz. Roy achieved excellent results with a whole range of amplifiers, including a 200 Watt push-pull 300B Canary Audio Reference 2, an Audionet Amp 1, and a Krell, but perhaps it should come as no surprise that perhaps the most startling coupling was with the 225 Watt Berning QZ OTLs. And in the Marten showroom (where we think most pairs of Coltrane Supreme 2s will be demonstrated), the combination of MSB’s top front-end with Marten’s own Class D M.Amp and Jorma Design cable worked well, as you might expect.
This might sound strange, but one of the biggest challenges facing any speaker system built on this scale is the ability to sound small when the music demands it. It was a test the Coltrane Supreme 2 passed with effortless, almost contemptuous ease. Examples were legion, but perhaps the most remarkable was ‘Luka’, the opening track from Volume 2, People & Places from the Suzanne Vega Close Up series of LPs [Amanuensis, Music On Vinyl]. The simple one-take voice and guitar recording has an almost ghostly sense of shape, size, and presence. The image is perfectly proportioned, between and behind the plane of the speakers – not close enough to touch but with enough body to be quite disturbing if you are not expecting it. The voice is incredibly natural, in terms of scale and inflection, the way Vega’s mouth moves relative to the microphone, the small, incidental noises that mark the movements of her mouth and tongue. The speakers track level changes without any lag or compression. The guitar is is, if anything, even more impressive, with the Supreme 2 conveying the separation of strings and body, the strings’ instant attack, while presenting the shape of notes in an utterly convincing way. But what binds the whole thing together is the human element, the subtle shifts of voice and instrument, the hesitation in an awkward chord shift, the sound of fingers on frets. The sense of pain and isolation in the song is almost palpable: the sense of the person performing it goes a whole stage further than that.
However, if we focus too heavily on the music we played in the execution of this review, this would be a 70,000-word list of musical interludes. Suffice it to say we both travelled all the way from girl and guitar to full orchestra, OTT Euro-electro wig-out and back again. That just reflects how effortlessly these speakers encompass the scale and dynamic demands of each recording – at whichever end of the range. As the size of the band increases, so does the stage width and the sense of acoustic space, but rather than the image expanding equally in all directions as so often happens, the Martens actually give you what’s on the recording, rather than what they think you want to hear, or some sort of identikit acoustic that they add to everything. If the control room has messed around with the space, electronically or through inept mic‑ing, then that’s exactly what you’ll hear.
In part this transparency, especially at low frequencies is the product of the Coltrane Supreme 2’s well-behaved cabinets, but again I can’t help feeling that the drivers are playing their part. Bass of this quality is not just about weight and rise time. It’s also about the shape and the tail of the note, the placement of each note and the pace of the bass line – and all of those things depend not on how quickly the drivers start, but how quickly they stop. The Marten’s lack of overhang strips away that baggage, leaving the speaker light on its feet and able to respond to the signal, despite its bandwidth.
What we have here is a speaker that can do big and small, loud and quiet, can transition between those extremes and do it without strain or even apparent effort. Dynamic range is genuinely uninhibited, response quick enough to pass unnoticed, and distortion – the audible addition of colour, subtraction, or rearranging of information – is vanishingly low. In common with other diamond drivers, the units used here are devoid of audible breakup, harshness, or edge. What is perhaps more impressive is that, used across relatively narrow bandwidths, these drivers also manage to match the energy levels of other high-frequency technologies. Marten has succeeded in producing a speaker that is astonishingly natural and almost perfectly balanced across its considerable bandwidth.
The Coltrane Supreme 2 also projects the most natural stereo stage we’ve heard to date. Not in the laser etched, carved from solid, reach out and touch imagery overt manner of many more initially impressive designs – but definitely the most natural and naturally convincing.
The real beauty of the big Martens is that they are one of the least overtly impressive or showy loudspeaker systems available today. Where so many big speakers scream, “Look at ME, listen to ME!” the Coltrane Supreme 2’s seem to spend all their time doing their level best to disappear. Their refined appearance is matched by their sound – they don’t project that solid, slab-like bass so beloved of audiophiles, so prevalent in demonstrations, and so rarely heard in reality.
It takes several people to install the Coltrane Supreme 2’s, so it’s only fair it took two reviewers to write about them. However, the interesting aspect of this is just how much there was in agreement between the two sets of notes. The two of us may listen for different things with different music, but the convergence in sound quality terms can only mean this huge loudspeaker with a matching price tag really is doing something very special indeed.
Paying €390,000 for a pair of loudspeakers is no mean feat, and there are maybe only a few audiophiles with the finances (and room) to own a pair. But the Marten Coltrane Supreme 2’s real success will not be measured in sales, but in the influence it exerts over the the Marten range, and – in a wider perspective – the whole high-end loudspeaker market. It’s that important!
- Five-way, three cabinet, sealed boxes loudspeaker
- Drive units: 1×20mm diamond tweeter, 1×51mm diamond upper-midrange, 1× 125mm ceramic midrange, 1×200mm aluminium sandwich lower midrange, 6×200mm aluminium sandwich bass 6×275mm passive aluminium sandwich ABR units
- Crossover frequencies: 120Hz, 450Hz, 3.5kHz, 8kHz (first order)
- Cabinet: 25mm carbon fibre laminate sides, 70mm solid laminated wood front, back, top, and bottom
- Frequency range: 18Hz–100kHz ±2dB
- Sensitivity: 91dB/1m/2.83V
- Impedance: 6 ohm (3.2 Ohm min)
- Power rating: 500 W
- Terminals: WBT Nextgen bi-wiring
- Internal wiring: Jorma Design Statement
- Stands: Polished stainless steel with Black Diamond Racing pucks and cones
- Finish: Matt Oak, Maple, Cherry, or Walnut baffle, high gloss black carbon fibre side panels
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 54×200×59cm
- Weight: 300kg (each)
- Price: €390,000 per pair
Manufactured by: Marten
Tel: +46 31 20 72 00