- Manufacturer & Model
- Martin Logan Dynamo 1100x
- Well Made sealed 12" subwoofer
- Competitive output and extension
- Best app in the business
- Balanced inputs
- ARC subwoofer correction through phone app
The Martin Logan Dynamo 1100x is a twelve-inch sealed subwoofer with class-competitive output for a sealed subwoofer, is priced right for what you get, has one of the best apps for setup and adjustment, includes ARC bass correction, and a plethora of inputs. It sounds great with music or movies and will not leave you disappointed. This is a highly recommended product for those in the market for a sealed twelve-inch subwoofer. While it won't provide the extension or output of larger ported designs, it's also quite a bit smaller with the benefits of lower group delay and improved transient response.
In general, I have found that companies that focus on subwoofers seem to produce the best performing and highest value products on the market. Companies like SVS, HSU, Paradigm, Klipsch, JTR, and Power Sound all produce impressive subwoofers that provide significant output and capability. MartinLogan is another company producing serious subwoofers with some real value. They recently introduced Dynamo series of subwoofers launched with value-add feature that in and of itself made me want to get my hands on it. Wireless capability? No, I could care less about that. The app! While lots of companies have produced subwoofers with apps providing modest setup convenience, what most interested me about the MartinLogan subwoofer was that it included ARC in the app, allowing for simplified low-frequency optimization built right into the product. I couldn’t wait to see how effective this approach was and requested a 1100X be sent right over. To see what I thought, read on.
Features and Appearance
Unpacking the MartinLogan 1100X was a largely uneventful experience. As far as twelve-inch subwoofers go, its weight and size could be described as modest. I could easily remove the subwoofer from the package and place it without too much struggle. The enclosure seemed to be solidly built, but certainly not overbuilt. Many subwoofers today have become so overbuilt they are nearly impossible for one person to move them around. The finish quality is industry standard. A satin black paint job of relatively high quality and an attractive MartinLogan insignia on the front. One of the more unique features of the MartinLogan subwoofer line is that they can be reconfigured for either down-firing or front-firing operation. The down firing configuration may be best for those of us with small children and pets who may decide that subwoofers are for poking.
The twelve-inch driver appears solid with an inverted surround. It is my understanding that the inverted surround was chosen after research into new subwoofer driver designs for both Paradigm and MartinLogan, which lead to a finding that the inverted surround was more linear and had lower distortion. In addition, the driver has a cast frame and long-throw design. Paired with this relatively beefy driver is a 650 watt RMS (1300 watt peak) amplifier. All in a nice compact sealed enclosure. This is good but unremarkable for current subwoofers. Many companies offer robust drivers with high-excursion in small sealed boxes with high output amplifiers. MartinLogan has added two features that are notable, however. First, they provide an optional wireless module that can fit inside a compartment in the back of the subwoofer amplifier. This isn’t unique, many companies now offer this, but it is handy for folks who don’t want or can’t run wires to the subwoofer.
Second, and what really sets the MartinLogan apart, the app-based digital control of the subwoofer’s setup. By utilizing an app they are able to offer significantly more fine-grained control of a variety of parameters that normally are not feasible on such a modestly priced subwoofer at $1299.99. The app provides precise crossover settings, including a choice of no low pass, 3rd order, and 4th order, which I find very practical. In addition, there is a polarity switch along with fine phase adjustment, a low-frequency boost that operates between 20hz and 30hz, Various listening modes, and the most interesting, Anthem Room Correction (ARC). I will discuss the sound and setup later, but note that ARC, using this app, was the easiest room correction system I’ve ever used, and I found it effective to boot.
Normally I wouldn’t spend a lot of time discussing subwoofer setup. It is highly room dependent, and while some might try to claim that one subwoofer was easier to set up than another, when it comes right down to it, a subwoofer is a subwoofer. They all produce low frequencies in much the same way and the room ultimately dominates the sound we hear. That means all subwoofers tend to need the same kinds of setup work, and all subwoofers should generally work equally well in the same locations. The room will dictate what these locations are. That is true of the Marten Logan 1100X as well, but the app provides so much setup flexibility that it is worth noting. I would guess that a novice would find the setup options overwhelming. That is ok, for the novice, they can ignore most of the features. By utilizing the automatic setup built into most home theater receivers and bypassing most of the options on the subwoofer, most people will get a satisfactory performance. However, for those with more experience, the many options on the app allow a degree of setup perfection that is unmatched in the industry. I chose to use the 1100X as a basis for a case study I presented at AXPONA 2019. For example, trying to integrate a sealed subwoofer with a ported full range speaker can often be difficult. The lowest range of the subwoofer, largely produced by the port, tends to be out of phase with that of the subwoofer. Flipping the polarity will fix the phase problem at those low frequencies, but then cause integration issues as the crossover region. In the case of the 1100X, I was able to integrate the subwoofer with a pair of Klipsch tower speakers by flipping the polarity and then adjusting the phase manually until the response was optimized across the range, and by utilizing a shallower slope. This is not something I can do so easily. Without an app, even when this option exists, I often am left having to take a measurement, get up from my seat, make a small adjustment of unknown increment, and measure again. Rinse and repeat. It’s frustrating to say the least. This app allowed endless tweaking while I measured, the results were immediately clear, the increments clearly demarcated, and everything easily repeatable. I loved it and I wish every manufacturer would include such an app with their products. Paradigm and MartinLogan share an identical app, with only the branding changed. SVS also offers an app for some of their subwoofers, though I don’t find it quite as capable.
The next thing that really sets this subwoofer and app apart is the inclusion of Anthem Room Correction (ARC) which many feel is one of the best room correction suites on the market. It often reviews favorably against my own favorite, Dirac. The version of ARC used on these subwoofers is more limited in that it only corrects the low frequencies of the subwoofer. The correction is handled through a second ARC specific app and has the ability to make use of either the built-in phone microphone or an external calibrated microphone that can be obtained from MartinLogan. It also works with the new ARC Genesis technology and a PC or MAC but use a microphone supplied by ML. Many may worry that the microphone in a phone is of such bad quality that it can’t be used accurately in this way. Not true. The MEMs microphone used in iPhones are very accurate at low and mid frequencies with adequate dynamic range for basic setup. At low frequencies, microphone accuracy is rarely a concern. Once you begin the setup, you simply follow the instructions, manually holding the phone where the app shows you. After a few minutes the setup is complete, and ARC can be applied. I found it highly effective at knocking down the worst of the peaks and could easily address severe modal issues and it was easy to use.
I have a strong philosophical view that makes reviewing subwoofers hard for me. I believe the room ultimately dominates the sound of the low frequencies in a system. The subwoofer is simply a means of exciting the room, its own sound is irrelevant and largely non-existent. I find the most important feature is how loud the subwoofer can play over a specified bandwidth and with low distortion. Loud being defined as the loudest volume it can hit without exceeding a distortion threshold. I test this later on, but from a practical and subjective standpoint, I basically just want the subwoofer that plays the loudest at the lowest possible frequencies. This makes reviewing a subwoofer hard, because I generally feel that within their linear range, all subwoofers sound the same. However, sounding the same was with a caveat, within their linear range. Subwoofers exceed their linear range a lot. That is why so many of us want many large subwoofers in our room, to avoid exceeding that linear range.
When it comes to the 1100X, I found it easy to set up and integrate into numerous systems, with adequate output capabilities for most of my needs. As a certified bass head who even paired it with a pair of JTR Noesis 212RT’s at one point, this sub often could not keep up with my preferred listening levels of highly dynamic action films. For example, Star Wars the Last Jedi had bass tones that, when reproduced at reference levels, simply overloaded the MartinLogan 1100X in my listening room. This is no surprise and not a knock on the MartinLogan. My room is around 2700 cubic feet and reproducing as much as 115dB of low-frequency effects is difficult in a room this size for a single 12” subwoofer. In addition, I found some of the features, such as the low-frequency boost option, to easily lead to overloading. It is my suggestion that you leave this nulled out if you want to avoid audible overloading during movies like this. It might seem from this like I did not like the subwoofer, but what I’m really telling you is to not expect miracles from a $1300 12” subwoofer. That doesn’t mean it is a bad subwoofer. This is, in fact, why ML makes larger subwoofers.
I found was a reaffirmation of the fact that there is no replacement for displacement. With music I never once found that I could overload the subwoofer, nor did it ever leave me wanting for more. It played down to 20hz in my room and I found it’s sound perfectly fine. Many of my favorite music tracks
Setup improperly, with the level too high and ARC off, I often found the bass to sound boomy or tubby. Measurements typically confirmed that the problem was prominent peaks in the bass between 55hz and 80hz. This is a common problem in my room, and I can see many listeners walking away assuming this is a flabby one-note wonder. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Once I set up ARC and switched it on, I found the boominess disappeared and the bass tightened up. This wasn’t a quality of the subwoofer, it was a quality of my room. This is why I often mention that subwoofers typically don’t dominate the sound. What we hear as boominess is often a problem in the amplitude response caused by the room. I’m constantly amazed at how a little EQ can make such a dramatic difference in the sound of the bass. The fact that ARC worked so well and was so easy to set up is a commendable ergonomic achievement for MartinLogan.
As noted earlier, similar-sized subwoofers often sound similar when operating in within their linear range. That is, if we compare the MartinLogan 1100X to a similar priced SVS SB-3000 (the most comparable subwoofer I am aware of), we would expect the sound to be very similar. The SB-3000 has a slightly larger woofer which provides for more displacement. Other features are similar, SVS even offers an app for the SB-3000.
Getting back to the music, I paired this subwoofer with several speakers such as the JTR Noesis 212RT and the Philharmonic BMR Philharmonitor. In my review of the Yamaha R-N803, I noted that with the “Theme from Jurassic Park, the composition was better than I realized musically, and I had great fun listening to it. Much like E.T., this is a very dynamic performance with big crescendos, while also having many delicate moments presenting just the horn section or string section here and there.” Adding this subwoofer to the mix really helped the already excellent BMR’s. They added the perception of an extra octave or two of the bottom end, but more importantly, increased the dynamic range dramatically.
I also talked about one of my favorite classical guitar pieces, Suite Espanola, Op. 47: No. 4, Asturias (Leyenda) performed by John Williams. This subwoofer really helped with the bottom end of the guitar during the more dynamic strumming of this piece. Played back accurately you should be able to feel viscerally the performance. It’s astounding how a little acoustic guitar can produce so much bass, but it does, and many systems simply can’t handle it without a good subwoofer. The 1100X was a perfect companion to the BMR and JTR’s, filling in that last octave or two.
You probably are wondering about the competition. I had on hand the CSS SDX12 sealed subwoofer. I also recently helped with the testing of the SVS Sb3000 and PB3000. The SB3000 is a near twin to the 1100X and in fact, they performed near identically. The finish quality on the SB3000 seems a little nicer, but I like the app and ARC available on the 1100X better than the app on the SB3000. If it were my money, I’d buy the 1100X solely for that feature. The CSS SDX12 is a better subwoofer driver than is used in the two commercial offerings and its test performance proved that point. As for sound, within their linear range, I think they all sound basically the same. However, there were some subjective differences worth noting. The 1100X made ugly noises when it was overloaded, and the driver, in general, was a little noisy when pushed hard. This was rarely ever noticed with normal content but pushing reference levels from over the top action movies did bring this quality out.
The equipment used for testing includes an earthworks M23 or MicW M215 measurement microphone, an SPL calibrator, a MOTO 828x, Room EQ Wizard on a laptop, numerous cables, the subwoofer under test, and a multi-acre field that is over 1000 feet from any road. In accordance with legacy reporting practices and that of most other official CEA-2010 measurements being published, I will report all values at 2 meters RMS. These values can simply be converted to the CEA standard of 1-meter peak by adding 9dB.
|Frequency||SPL 2m RMS||Note|
|16||87.6||Non-Official, 2nd Harmonic|
|20||92.9||Non-official, 3rd harmonic|
The performance on this subwoofer is impressive when you consider its size, that it is a sealed box and its price point. It achieved an average of 114 dB average from 40hz to 80hz. It achieved 99dB from 20hz to 31.5hz. This shows that the sub has decent output in the midbass region, which is especially useful for music. It’s low bass output, while certainly not bad, is not comparable to what you can expect from a larger ported subwoofer using a similar or larger driver.
The Compression test showed that the output is limited from 10hz and 70hz, showing an ever increasingly steep slope to the response. It should also be noted that the subwoofer was far exceeding reasonable THD levels at most of the sweeps over 100dB, with a dramatic 3rd harmonic distortion rise centered at 25hz. This is likely the point of excursion limit for the driver.
Looking at the distortion data, it can be seen that THD rises at lower frequencies, as would be expected. However, THD is also high (~14%) at 80hz in the highest output sweep of 115dB. This increase in distortion at higher bass frequencies may be caused by amp clipping and/or coil heating. The dominant harmonic at this frequency is 2nd harmonic, which is less likely to be audibly problematic.
Finally, after stressing the subwoofer thoroughly, I ran through the different EQ modes to get a sense of what impact they had on the response. The ML app allows for Movie, Music, and Night mode. As was expected, the night mode applied a high pass filter that significantly reduced the output of low bass. Of these modes, Music was a neutral response and would generally be my preferred setting. Movie mode provided a 3dB boost centered at 50hz. Night mode was 10dB down at 20hz as compared with either of movie or music mode.
Group Delay was commendably low, falling below 1 cycle to well below 20hz. The effect of EQ to flatten the response of the sealed sub is evident in the response, but overall this is textbook sealed subwoofer performance.
The measured performance of the MartinLogan Dynamo 1100X subwoofer is excellent when you consider its price and size. While there are other 12” subwoofers which will outperform the 1100X in pure output, they will typically be more expensive, compromising in midbass performance, or much larger ported designs.
The MartinLogan 1100X subwoofer is an excellent 12” sealed subwoofer. It is well made, feature-rich, compact, with good objective performance. It worked well in my home theater, blending well in many different systems. The app with built in ARC was a big bonus for this subwoofer and provided excellent setup flexibility and sonic performance. My only complaint with this subwoofer was that it wasn’t quite as loud as I needed, but that was not a problem with the sub so much as a reflection of my listening preferences and room size. For less than $1300 this subwoofer sets the standard for what we can expect in 12” sealed subwoofers.
MartinLogan Dynamo 1100X Subwoofer
- Frequency Response: 22hz to 200hz +/-3dB Anechoic
- Low Frequency Transducer: 12” (30.5cm) high-excursion, inverted surround, polypropylene cone in a cast aluminum basket with extended throw driver assembly; sealed non- resonant cabinet design.
- Input Type: Low Level: RCA, XLR; High Level: Speaker Banana jack
- Amplifier: 600 w RMS, 1300 Peak
- Dimensions: 17.2" x 15" x 16.2"
- Weight: 46 lbs