MartinLogan Dynamo 800X Subwoofer Review
By Chris Heinonen on
Though we almost all know MartinLogan for electrostatic speakers, they’ve released a number of high-end subwoofers over the years. After all, they’ve spent decades pairing a woofer with an electrostatic panel in their speakers. The new Dynamo line of subwoofers offers one of the most important features you can have in a subwoofer: integrated room correction. Coming in 8”, 10”, 12”, and 15” sizes, I reviewed the 800X which is a sealed 10” model.
MartinLogan Dynamo 800X Features
The Dynamo 800X features a 10” driver and an amplifier with 600-watt peaks inside a sealed cabinet. The design of the 800X allows you to place the woofer facing the floor or out into the room, as the feet can easily be moved to a different side of the cabinet. In addition to integrated room correction, the 800X has integrated Bluetooth for control via the app. All of the adjustments, from volume to phase to crossover can be done from the comfort of your listening couch or chair.
I mentioned the integrated room correction earlier but wanted to explain why this is so important. Sound travels at 1125 feet per second. So a 30Hz tone from your subwoofer is 1/30th of that or around 37.5 feet. Unless you’re sitting over 40’ from your subwoofer, that means that sound wave is going to interact with the room before it can fully reach you. This causes dips and peaks as bass frequencies react to the room. Every subwoofer will sound different in every room since it will interact with the environment so much.
While some receivers have room correction in them, most skimp on the subwoofer. Some might completely skip over the subwoofer channel, while I’ve seen some that offer 5 bands of EQ but only two are below 80Hz. Also, most receivers can only EQ a single subwoofer at most, so if you run multiple subs you can’t get ideal sound from both. By having EQ in the sub, you aren’t limited to what your receiver can do.
MartinLogan also offers an optional wireless kit for the Dynamo 800X, though I didn’t test it as part of the review. The $200 SWT-X Wireless Subwoofer Kit includes a plug-in USB adapter for the subwoofer and a transmitter for your receiver. Since subwoofer placement in a room has a lot to do with optimal performance, it’s nice to see MartinLogan offering an easy way to make placement easy without hurting performance.
MartinLogan Dynamo 800X Performance
To test the Dynamo 800X I used a set of speakers from Q Acoustics (review forthcoming) and a large number of receivers that I’m testing for Wirecutter. I also put it into my reference system for a while as well. Running ARC on it was easy, with the iOS app finding it over Bluetooth and connecting quickly. From the app doing all the adjustments was easy and made testing it easier than most subwoofers.
The biggest drawback with the Dynamo 800X is that a 10” woofer can only dig so deep in my 12’ x 14’ room. Watching the opening of Edge of Tomorrow, the opening sub tones begin to fall off and demonstrate more distortion than a 15” subwoofer does. The tone from around 35Hz and up are reproduced well, but the laws of physics come back into play below that.
For the rest of the film, the Dynamo performs admirably. The low rumble of airplanes bringing troops into combat fills the room, while explosions are tight and loud and keep you alert. With the ARC calibration, it keeps the Dynamo from having room interactions that you would usually hear. When I disable ARC from the app, those opening tones from Edge of Tomorrow are not as clean and even as they were with it engaged.
With music, the Dynamo 800X excels. Nothing that I listen to usually goes deeper than the 800X plays, so the size isn’t a concern here. With the ARC and running room correction on a receiver, it integrates perfectly with either the bookshelves or tower speakers that I tested it with. Queueing up “Nothing Else Matters” from Metallica, the drums and bass are reproduced with all the tightness and texture that you want. There is no bass overhang or excess rumble here, just low-end that fills the room and makes the music come alive. As I disable the sub and move to a pure direct listening mode with towers, the song loses much of its impact by comparison.
Much to my wife’s chagrin, I still enjoy listening to Phil Collins. An easy way to test the impact of a subwoofer is to queue up the classic “In The Air Tonight” and wait for the drum breakdown near the end of the song. When this happens, the Dynamo 800X takes over the low end, which was absent in the first section of the song. The drum hits are clear and crisp, and it fills up my space with no problem. Even better is the next track on Face Value, “This Must Be Love”, where the bass line through the song hits hard but seems to stop on a dime.
Sticking with artificial bass, “Idioteque” from Radiohead pumps from the 800X with a precise beat. Using my Anthem MRX 1120 to switch between the bookshelf speakers alone or with the sub (each with their own correction profile) it is easy to see how much the Dynamo helps out. The bass line is still there with the bookshelf speakers without the sub, but it lacks any sort of impact and is less defined. With the Dynamo 800X properly integrated, you cannot tell it is in the room, but you can clearly hear the impact it has.
For a more natural sound, “So What” from Kind of Blue has been demo material forever. Again, the Dynamo helps to fill in the bass throughout the song, making it much more detailed and audible than it is without the sub. This is one song where I noticed the Dynamo only being a 10” driver, as I’ve heard the bass line here dig much deeper than the 10” Dynamo is capable of. MartinLogan does make larger versions of the Dynamo that can remedy this issue, but the song is still much better with the Dynamo than without it.
One thing I did notice my first week with the Dynamo 800X is that I did have a slight rattle sometimes. Shortly after I flipped the feet on the subwoofer so the driver was now facing the room instead of the floor, and the issue went away. I’m not sure if the issue was that the feet have gotten a bit loose during shipping or something else, but I didn’t hear it in the 2 months after that. Since you have a remote app with full controls, having the physical controls on the subwoofer facing the floor in this setup wasn’t an issue.
MartinLogan Dynamo 800X Conclusions
Who the MartinLogan Dynamo 800X is ideal for is the person that has a nice pair of bookshelf speakers in a mid-sized room, but isn’t happy with their bass response. I’ve often recommended that people go with bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer instead of tower speakers in the past because it gives you more placement flexibility and better performance. The Dynamo 800X fits this role perfectly thanks to its integrated room correction that makes it easy to integrate with bookshelves. Dialed in, the 800X does a great job of disappearing into the room and just making the bookshelves sound like full range speakers.
What the 800X can’t do is hit those absolute low octaves from 35Hz or so and below. It tries its best and gives it an honest effort, but a 10” driver can only do so much. If you want that deep rumbling impact in your chest from a movie explosion, you’ll want to look at the larger Dynamo models for that. But for the price and feature set, the Dynamo 800X accomplishes exactly what it needs to do, and unlike other subwoofers, you can achieve its full potential without needing a high-end receiver that can handle room correction.
Room correction being integrated and automated makes this subwoofer easy to implement into a two-channel system, compact size, great quality with music.
Can only dig so deep for movies with a 10" woofer, if the feet come loose you can get a rattle.
The MartinLogan Dynamo 800X is ideal to pair with some bookshelf speakers and complete a music system. With integrated Anthem Room Correction, you get a flat bass response in your room without much work, and the transition from the sub to the speakers is virtually invisible. If you need deeper bass, MartinLogan offers the dynamo in larger sizes as well.