Martin Audio AQ6/AQ210
Nov 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin
Crisp, clean sound from a sturdy little box.
Martin Audio has a rightfully earned a reputation for manufacturing high-quality loudspeakers, and the company has a large array of products available for many distinct applications. A recent addition to its architectural line is the AQ series. I first laid eyes on these speakers at InfoComm, and I was excited to find out I'd be reviewing them. I received a pair of AQ6s and an AQ210 subwoofer, pulled them out of the boxes, and started playing. Let's dive into what I found.
Shipping two to a box, the AQ6 is a two-way passive trapezoidal speaker with a 6.5in. long-throw LF driver and a 1in. horn-loaded dome HF driver. The enclosure is vented for extended bass response. I connected it to amplification with a low-profile 12 amp push-lock, and while it's arguable that other common connectors would be welcome, the push-lock connector is the most appropriate considering the primary uses for this speaker. The enclosure is made of structural foamed ABS, and features five M6 threaded inserts for bracket attachment. It measures 8.2"×12.5"×8.2" and is finished in a textured, light gray paint. I particularly appreciated the perforated steel grill with its artful concave shape. This speaker is intended for use in clubs, bars, restaurants, theaters, houses of worship, and exhibition centers, and it's aesthetically appropriate for any of those applications. As Martin puts it, this box is “discreet and architecturally friendly,” and these are assessments with which I cannot disagree. Bottom line: I like the way the box looks. The other nice thing about these is the light weight: only 14lbs., easily handled and installed.
The AQ210 is a side-by-side dual-driver subwoofer housed in a small enclosure (“ultra-compact” in Martin vernacular). Indeed, this box is just about as small as any that could house two 10in. LF drivers effectively. It's 26.4"×13.1"×17.2", so it can be easily placed in a discreet location. The enclosure is made of 18mm MDF and sports the same nice textured, light gray paint as the AQ6s that I test-drove. According to Martin, the enclosure is heavily braced, and I certainly got the impression that this is a solid, sturdy box (which at the same time is not excessively heavy, weighing in at 70lbs.). There are no fittings or other mechanisms for bracket mounting — this speaker is intended to reside in a discreet location, but is aesthetically proper if it cannot be concealed. In this case, it occupied a small piece of real estate on the floor. In the box are two long-throw 10in. LF drivers with 3in. voice coils, and the enclosure is also ported for more efficient bass reproduction.
So, how do these speakers sound? I listened to the AQ6s with and without the subwoofer. First up, no sub. The little boxes simply sound great. The highs are crisp and clean without being brittle, and the dispersion of the high end is wide. At the nominal distances normally associated with the architectural use of this type of speaker, the pattern completely encapsulates the listener. The crossover is located at 3.5kHz and it's passive, preserving the natural, organic quality of the signal. The mids sound excellent as well, full and round and not pronounced. The low end is obviously going to be the weak point in a two-way system with a 6.5in. LF driver. The ports help, and this box easily reproduces down to below 100Hz, but drops off sharply below there. Martin claims +/-3dB from 80Hz to 20kHz, and it's all there, smoothly represented.
I expected the addition of the subwoofer would improve the quality immensely, and I was not disappointed. Not having the benefit of the AQX controller box (read on for more), I handled the crossover myself, at 120Hz with a slope of 24dB/octave. As expected, the addition of the sub made a significant difference. It's no secret that many systems integrators and contractors have consciously made the move from full-range speakers to two- or even three-way systems. If the use of a subwoofer is not possible for any reason, there are other Martin products available to provide more low end, but for the other 90-plus percent of the applications where subs can be easily utilized, this is the right way to go. The combination of the smooth, clean mids and highs from the AQ6 with the solid bass from the AQ210 is striking. And Martin makes no wild claims about these subwoofers, publishing a response from 50Hz-150Hz, so these are not deep, rumbling woofers that will shake the ground. That's not the point. Upon listening to these speakers together, it became clear to me that the goal is high-fidelity reproduction over a reasonable frequency range, conducive to the aforementioned applications. As far as that goes, Martin does claim that these are appropriate enclosures for use in a club, but I would personally recommend them only for applications away from the dance floor. For the remainder of the applications Martin portends for these speakers, however, they're very solid. I also took a look at the frequency response of both speakers with SIA-Smaart, and Martin is dead honest in its published frequency response specifications of +/-3dB from 50Hz-150Hz for the sub and 80Hz-20kHz for the small box.
Martin offers an electronic controller, the AQX, that's intended for integrating any of the AQ series satellite speakers with subwoofers. In addition to a stereo crossover, the AQX also provides 20:1 limiting to help protect speakers. As I said before, the system I tested did not include an AQX, but I could easily provide the appropriately bandwidth-limited signals to the speakers. Martin's controller is not necessary, but its deliberate design for this application makes it the preferable choice.
What's the final verdict? These are quality speakers from a company with a reputation for quality speakers. And again, Martin makes no wild claims about earth-rumbling bass or extreme SPLs — just excellent, well-dispersed reproduction over a practical frequency range. The highs are clean and crisp, the mids are full but not overwrought, and the low end is right on the money when the subwoofer is used. There are applications where the AQ6s would be appropriate to use alone, but if you need any significant bass, you would want to include the subwoofer. I can strongly recommend these speakers for use in any of the applications for which Martin suggests them — bars, restaurants, theaters, houses of worship, exhibition centers, and even clubs (if not used on the dance floor). If you need high-quality audio in any of these environments, check these out — you'll be happy you did.
Company: Martin Audio www.martin-audio.com
Pros: Smooth, high-quality reproduction.
Cons: Subwoofer necessary for extended low end.
Applications: Bars, restaurants, theaters, houses of worship, exhibition centers, and clubs.
Price: AQ6 $499; AQ210 $1,129
Frequency Response: 80Hz-20kHz ±3dB
Rated Power: 100W AES, 400W peak
Recommended Amplifier: 100W-200W into 4Ω
Sensitivity: 90dB (in open space, 2M/1W, then referred to 1M)
Maximum SPL: 108dB continuous, 114dB peak (in open space at 2M, then referred to 1M)
Nominal Impedance: 8Ω (16 optional)
Dispersion: (-6dB) 90° horizontal, 90° vertical
Crossover: 3.5kHz passive
Options: 30W 100/70V line transformer
Frequency Response: 50Hz-150Hz ±3dB
Rated Power: 600W AES, 2400W peak
Recommended Amplifier: 400W-800W into 4Ω
Sensitivity: 98dB (open space) 104dB (half space)
Maximum SPL: 122dB continuous, 128dB peak (open space) (calculated at 1m), 128dB continuous, 134dB peak (half space)
Nominal Impedance: 4Ω
Crossover: 120Hz active (via AQX controller)
John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Studio Service in Phoenix and consults for both studios and live sound applications.
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