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High-End Companies Up Ante on Luxury Loudspeakers

Dec 3, 2007 8:00 AM

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If you can’t beat ‘em, make a statement. That’s the attitude of some high-end loudspeaker companies long known for towering floorstanding loudspeakers that deliver full-range audiophile sound. These same companies—MartinLogan, KEF and others—may be bending to market trends elsewhere in their product lines, but they’re making brash-style statements at the high end, hoping to tap into the tastes of the luxury crowd.

MartinLogan, which has traditionally held the position of style bearer in high-end speakers, has taken the role to a new level, thanks to the power of the Internet. The company recently launched the MartinLogan Custom Shop where consumers, designers and custom installers can tailor the fit and finish of MartinLogan’s $10,995 a pair Summit loudspeakers to fit the aesthetics of a space.

For years, MartinLogan touted the woodshop and painting processes available at the company’s Lawrence, Kan. headquarters, but the custom aspect had limited reach. The online custom shop takes those options to a new level, providing consumers and designers the opportunity to tailor every aspect of aesthetic speaker design from cabinet finish to the color of the screws on the speakers back panel plate. According to the company, optional luxury finishes are designed to appeal to style-conscious households where full-size loudspeakers wouldn’t typically be considered.

Users tap into a web-based application at where they can work with a 3D model and a palette of finish options to visualize their custom loudspeakers. The library of finishes displayed at the MartinLogan Custom Shop translates to approximately 400,000 possible combinations including finishes for cabinet, hood and faceplate, woofer masking, LED, feet/spikes, knobs, backplate screws, and binding posts. Airframe finishes include black aluminum, clear anodized aluminum, chrome, and wet coat styles in blue, green, red, copper, and opal.

MartinLogan quotes a delivery window of six to 10 weeks. KEF turned to outside industrial designer Ross Lovegrove for the design of the limited-edition Muon loudspeaker, an aluminum-clad, seven-ft. loudspeaker with a slightly human shape that places form and function head to head. More sculpture than traditional loudspeaker, Muon is produced in England and the 100-pair limited-edition run is available exclusively through KEF for $140,000 a pair.

The Muon speakers remain true to KEF’s design principles, incorporating the company’s trademark UniQ driver array. The four-way loudspeakers include two bass arrays on the rear of the loudspeakers that are said to deliver a clean and open sound while dealing with room effects. The 1/4-in.-thick damped aluminum shell provides rigidity against unwanted vibrations and resonance.

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