Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition Floorstanding Speaker Review
Marten speakers are designed and built in Sweden. Leif Marten Olofsson founded the company in 1998. Marten is now run by Leif Marten and his brothers, Jorgen and Lars Olofsson. Marten designs and manufactures five lines of speakers, all named to earn points from me; that is, they are named after American jazz musicians - Coltrane, Mingus, Parker, and Oscar. The fifth series is the Heritage Series, which has the sub-series Bird, Getz, Miles, and Duke.
The Marten Parker Trio is a floor-standing speaker situated in the middle of the Parker series offerings. On its front baffle, it has two 7.5-inch ceramic bass/midrange drivers and a 1-inch "pure" ceramic tweeter, which in this model has been upgraded to diamond. Besides having a diamond tweeter, the upgrade to Marten's Parker Trio Diamond Edition floorstander also has upgraded crossover components, improved speaker terminals, and Marten's Jorma Statement internal wiring.
On the Parker Trio Diamond's rear panel are two large aluminum passive radiators measuring 9-inches each. When I first set up the speakers in my listening room, I mistakenly thought these were active drivers, which I thought was a crazy idea, as this would likely make the bass frequencies dominate the speaker's sound. Passive radiators, on the other hand, seemed like a great idea. Of course, Marten agrees and writes on their website, "Passive radiators give the control and dynamics needed for the Parker Trio. A speaker of this class demands the ultimate in bass response."
These are rather large speakers, standing more than 3.5-feet tall and weighing about 90 pounds each. The front baffle is only about 9" wide, but the speaker gets wider as it gets deeper, and at their 14" depth, they are about 11" wide. Looking at one of the speakers from the side, they are a parallelogram, tilting the speaker back for time alignment. The tapered cabinet is made from what Marten calls M-board, explaining that this provides a resonance-free enclosure.
Leif Olofsson designed the speaker's ceramic drivers, which are said to have a long linear excursion and utilize a Neodynium magnet system. Jorma Design copper internal wiring is made by hand in Sweden. The Parker Trio's Diamond Edition's upgraded crossover was developed using a "multi-diverse crossover technique."
After unboxing, I attached to the bottom of the speakers the outrigger system Marten designed to further reduce resonance by completely isolating the speaker's cabinet from the floor. In collaboration with the Canadian company IsoAcoustics, they developed Marten Isolators. Besides looking good, these high-gloss silver cylindrical footers lift the speakers another couple of inches off the floor. On their website, Marten says when the cabinet is wholly isolated, it reduces both resonance and distortion, "leaving the soundstage free." More sonic benefits, according to Marten, are "a more dynamic bass with increased power and control, a natural openness and clarity."
I connected the speakers to my reference Pass Laboratories X250.8 power amplifier using Kimber's Carbon 18 XL speaker cable. It was a rather long 4-meter run because the equipment racks were not located between the speakers but to the side of the left speaker. I used a two-chassis Pass Labs XP-22 linestage or a tube-powered Nagra Classic Preamp connected to the power amp with a Kimber Carbon 8 interconnect with balanced XLR terminations.
The analog front-end of this system consists of a Tri-Planar 6 tonearm mounted on the armboard of a Basis Audio V. The power cord of the turntable's AC synchronous motor is connected to an AC regenerator power supply capable of producing a clean 60 Hz sine wave. This 60 Hz wave rotates the turntable's platter at a precise 33.3 rpm. When listening to 45 rpm records, I must switch the power supply's output to 81 Hz. A Top Wing Suzaku Red Sparrow low-output moving coil phono cartridge is attached to the headshell of the Tri-Planar arm, which is hardwired with silver cable and is terminated with Cardas unbalanced RCAs. It is connected to a Pass Labs XP-27 two-chassis phono preamplifier, and its balanced XLR output is connected to the linestage with a Kimber Carbon 8 interconnect terminated with XLRs.
An EMM Labs DA2 digital-to-analog converter is at the heart of the system's digital front-end. The primary source is a computer-based music server, with its USB output connected to the USB input of the EMM DA2 converter with a Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB cable. I use the open-source Foobar 2000 or JRiver Media Center software to play files stored on hard drives connected to the computer. I also have subscriptions to TIDAL and Qobuz streaming services. I use an OPPO UDP-203 Blu-ray/universal disc player to spin the occasional 5" silver disc, its digital output connected to the coax input of the EMM Labs DAC with an Accusound Digital Link cable. The OPPO's analog outputs are connected to the linestage using Kimber Carbon 8 interconnects terminated with RCAs.
Locating the "perfect" spot in my listening room to position the Parker Trio Diamond Edition was not difficult at all. Because my room is acoustically treated and used for no other purpose than listening to music, I could get away with having a space that most would consider small for a speaker of this size. The review pair of the Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition speakers ended up about three feet from the room's front wall. Because of the setup of my non-rectangular listening space, the right speaker was closer to the side wall than ideal, but judicious toe-in resulted in a very well-defined center image.
The Martens also made it clear that the sound quality of Nick Cave's vocals on Tender Prey varied from track to track. On some of the tracks, Cave's vocals sounded wonderful. On "Slowly Goes The Night" on the LP's second side, Nick Cave's vocals sounded as if they were meant to replicate the sound of a nightclub singer. They were somewhat bass-heavy and breathy, as if he was singing with his mouth pressed against a hand-held microphone (but without any extraneous sounds because it is doubtful he was singing into a hand-held mic). Regardless, I could close my eyes and could easily imagine him singing in front of his band. The Marten Parker Trio Diamond Editions were able to separate each of the instruments and vocals in their places in a soundstage drawn to scale, Nick Cave in front and the five musicians spread out behind him on the club's dimly lit stage. At one point, I thought that I smelled cigarette smoke.
Although it is a violin concerto, it is not only structured like a four-movement symphony; it also is scored for a relatively large orchestra. Besides the solo violin, it features three flutes and a piccolo, two oboes, cor anglais, three clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, tuba, timpani, tambourine, tam-tam, xylophone, celesta, two harps, and the usual violin, viola, cello, and bass sections. Phew.
Yes, Hillary Hahn's violin was very likely spot mic'd and was upfront sounding, but the sound quality of this high-resolution recording kicked butt. The Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition reproduced this concerto as if this pair of speakers was custom-built for the job.
The concerto's first movement begins as a dark, gloomy sea of instruments, occasionally echoing the theme that the solo violin would eventually pick up on. When Shostakovich composed this concerto, I wonder if he was still aggravated about being censored by the government since he wrote this rather bleak-sounding section about the same time as that event.
This movement of the concerto starts very quietly. Still, by the time it reached its climax, the Marten once again displayed its ability to play loudly, as these muscular-sounding speakers had a low-frequency response that was exceptionally convincing and well-integrated into the speaker's sound.
The Marten speakers let me hear all the instruments in the decently sized orchestra with an exact amount of lifelike detail, with an extraordinary ability to separate the instruments and the orchestra's sections into discrete areas of a large, drawn-to-scale soundstage. Of course, many of the positive traits I heard were due to the good musical signals the speakers were being fed. The Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition's ability to transparently interpret this signal made it easy for me to imagine that my system had become a sonic time machine.
Hillary Hahn's violin was mic'ed closely, which allowed me to revel in her perfect intonation and emotional reading of this concerto. I could picture a cloud of rosin rising from her station, her sound opening like a blooming flower. The sound of her playing this very Shostakovich-like score enveloped me. The orchestra supporting her was spread wall-to-wall, with horns and percussion positioned behind the speakers.
Probably the most well-known section of this concerto is its third movement, the Passacaglia. In this upbeat, bass-heavy section, Hillary gets to swagger and again prove why she is such a well-known violinist. It reinstates the melody of the concerto and lets her show off a bit, and demonstrates her ability in the following cadenza. It led into the last movement without pause and should remind some of the faster portions of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony. Like many other of his compositions, this concerto has a triumphant feel, but it's been said that it is also reflective of the composer's mood, so he didn't want it to end too festively.
No speakers I know of can realistically replicate a lifelike sound of a full orchestra with a soloist playing at a concert hall with a 50-foot proscenium. But some speakers can sonically reproduce the gestalt of a full orchestra playing in a concert hall, and the Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition is one of them.
Kudos must go to this speaker's glistening Diamond tweeter. It contributed mightily to the crispest, tightest trebles I've ever heard. It contributed mightily to the exemplary sound of the speaker's highest frequencies. The Violin Concerto gave me the impression that the high frequencies reached an infinite level.
I was impressed like never before when listening to this Marten speaker's ultra-transparency to the source, and a you-are-there lifelike midrange. It happened once again when listening to the Vienna Philharmonic's string section during my late-night listening session to the 1961 Decca recording of Dvorak's symphony From The New World conducted by István Kertész (often called his Ninth Symphony). There were many times during my listening sessions when I was convinced the soundstage and imaging prowess of the Parker Trio Diamond Edition was unmatched by any speaker anywhere near its price.
I was also blown away when listening to the 2014 release by the Swedish progressive-rock band Opeth, Pale Communion. The Martens left me breathless with their effects and keyboards, and of course, Mellotron as they swirled around the speakers and me as this band weaved their complex rock hymns consisting of jazz and classical influences, metal, and Swedish pop and folk.
No speakers are perfect, but it is evident that Marten has made some brilliant decisions when designing and building their Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition speakers. I also think they made design decisions that I can only describe as mystical since I can't objectively explain why these speakers made me feel so good when listening to them. The music from these speakers expanded my mind and seemed to benefit my mental health. I highly recommend the Marten Parker Trio Diamond Edition Speakers.
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