His Last System

Hello Roger,

I’ve read a number of your reviews with interest and was wondering if you could help a 68-year-old figure out his “last” system?

You seem to have a system that is very, very similar to what I am considering (MartinLogan speakers and class-D amplification). I am starting over with a clean slate, and trying to go “all American” with as many of my purchases as possible. The biggest question for me, though, is which speakers to buy.

Since I have been a “flat panel” speaker guy almost my entire life, I have narrowed my choices to the MartinLogan Masterpiece Series, which is where I am stuck. I am trying to justify the price difference between the Classic ESL 9 and the ESL 11A, which has larger, active woofers and Anthem ARC room correction. Are those features that important, especially since I am planning to use a pair of subwoofers anyway, and the $4000 difference would go a long way towards a new amp or subs? As you stated in your MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9 review, you were able to achieve good results by using Anthem ARC separately in your Anthem Statement D2 A/V processor. Also, I can get a pre-owned pair of 11As for the same price or less than the cost of the 9s.

I have previously owned the JL Audio Fathom f112 subwoofer and have an opportunity to get a pair of pre-owned f112v2s at a price I can afford. However, I have also been looking at a pair of the company’s E-Sub e112s, whose active crossovers should be beneficial.

I believe class-D amplification is the direction I want to go. You are using Anthem M1 monos and I figure that a professional reviewer would not be using class-D amps with electrostatic loudspeakers unless he was absolutely convinced they succeeded. I read Doug Schneider’s interview with Peter Lyngdorf and his Lyngdorf Audio TDAI-3400 integrated amp was my first choice. However, I have also been looking at the Orchard Audio Starkrimson as well, since the TDAI-3400 might be older technology.

Although I am mostly interested in streaming music, I am looking at the Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, mostly because I have a few Best Buy gift cards. I’m also really tempted by the Reavon UBR-X200 player, although it would be twice the price of the Panasonic.

So, Roger, if you have a moment to respond with any thoughts or recommendations, I would be very appreciative.

Thank you,
Larry Miller
United States

Hi Larry,

As you have been following my reviews and are considering a significant investment in your “last” system, it would be a pleasure to provide you with my thoughts.

You say that you are a “flat panel” speaker guy, so I will assume that the MartinLogan Masterpieces will be to your liking. As you point out, the difference in price between the ESL 9 and 11A is significant, but I am very happy with my 9s. I do in fact use them with powered subs—a pair of JL Audio E-Sub e112s—and the Anthem ARC Genesis room correction in my Anthem STR Preamplifier. That said, why wouldn’t you get a pair of pre-owned 11As for the same price if they are in good condition? You may find that you do not need additional subwoofers. And even if you do get subwoofers, ARC and the built-in powered woofers of the 11As will mean that your amp and subwoofers will have to do less work, which should improve the overall sound of your system.

You also mention that you want class-D amplification, but I am not married to that particular amplifier topology. I have heard some excellent class-AB amps, but I find that class-D amplifiers in my price range tend to offer a better price-to-performance ratio. And while I did love the sound of the TDAI-3400, I thought that the NAD Masters M33 was a better integrated amplifier overall. It’s also better value because it costs less than the Lyngdorf. As an aside, Peter Lyngdorf is one of the partners of Purifi, the company that produces the Eigentakt amplifier modules used in the NAD. I am not familiar with the Orchard products so cannot comment on them, but can heartily recommend both the TDAI-3400, despite being a few years old, and the M33. Both have excellent room-correction systems and are suitable for streaming. The M33 has the excellent BluOS multiroom streaming software, and is my favorite integrated amplifier in this price range.

Finally, you say that you are considering the Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. While this is a fine player, it only plays BDs, DVDs, and CDs. It doesn’t support SACD or DVD-A. And if you will be using the M33 amp I recommend (or even the TDAI-3400), the audio signals have to be digitized to take advantage of the DSP and room correction. A player like the DP-UB9000, which has analog outputs, is not necessary, so I would recommend the Sony UBP-X800M2, which plays SACDs and DVD-As and is available at Best Buy for $329.99. The disadvantages of the Sony are that it does not automatically recognize Dolby Vision discs, which must be manually selected via the menu system, and it does not support HDR10+. Otherwise, it is an excellent digital transport for 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays and audio discs.

I hope this helps. Good luck in the quest for your “last” system!

Best regards,
Roger Kanno