Verse Soundbar Review
THE HIGH NOTES
- Stylish and Sophisticated
- ARC on a Soundbar
- Love the Wireless Subwoofer Option
Company & Product Overview
When Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland met in the 1970s, no one could have predicted the path their company was going to take. Ron was managing a local HiFi store with an electrical engineering degree, while Gayle had studied architecture. The two of them started talking about how they could make a better electrostatic speaker. The fruits of their efforts debuted to overwhelmingly positive reviews at the 1982 Consumer Electronics Show and the company bearing their combined middle names, MartinLogan, was formed.
By 1985, business was booming and Ron wanted to return to what he really loved…designing electronics. We are glad he did because we love the Sutherland Audio phono stages! Meanwhile, MartinLogan continued to grow at a rapid pace as more and more people discovered their great sound. In 2005, the company was acquired by a massive private equity firm who has since let them do what they do best, create great audio products. This same company, ShoreView Industries, also has a passive ownership stake in Anthem and Paradigm.
Today’s review is a new product from MartinLogan that interestingly enough, shares some technology from Anthem. The MartinLogan Verse is the lesser expensive of two new soundbars from MartinLogan. In many situations, a soundbar can be a great way to improve the audio performance of your flat panel TV. The new Verse appears to us to be a really good value in this category.
Design & Build Quality
The MartinLogan Verse is a slim profile soundbar that should look really great with a 55” to 65” TV. It is roughly 46” long, by 3 ½” by 5”. With most 55” TV’s being about 48” long, it is a perfect match for that size! You can lay the Verse flat on a tabletop, or mount it on the wall above or below your TV.
The Verse goes back to the basics with a simple, rectangular design that does not call attention to itself. The majority of the surface is wrapped in a black stretched grill cloth and it has two black end caps on either side.
Nine 2.5” long-excursion drivers are used in the Verse, which give it decent bass response down to about 65 Hz. These are housed in a sealed, very low resonant enclosure.
The Verse has a nice display that rotates based on the way you mount it. In addition to the controls on the side, you get a handheld remote as well. On the rear of the unit, you will find two optical inputs, two analog inputs, and a subwoofer out.
Build quality, like all MartinLogan products, is first-class.
Features & Technology
While the Verse may look unassuming, under the hood you’ll find a wealth of features to help you get the very best sound and user experience.
During the setup process, you will specify whether the Verse is sitting on a shelf, mounted below your TV, or mounted above your TV. The processing then changes automatically to create the best sound based on the soundbar’s placement.
The most common setup we see today is a TV and a basic streaming box, such as an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, etc. We see fewer and fewer cable boxes every year. Most of the time these devices are small enough that you can actually mount them directly to the back of the TV. They all connect directly to a TV’s HDMI inputs. Almost all TVs today have an optical out, which is the best way to connect your TV to your MartinLogan Verse.
The Verse even has IR pass-through. Let’s say you had your cable box and Roku in a cabinet under the TV that was hidden behind doors. The Verse has two IR outputs so it picks up those signals and passes them down with a small wire to your other components.
The Verse can even learn from your TV’s remote, allowing you to control your volume on the Verse the same way you always have on your TV, without having to switch between remotes.!
If you want to add a subwoofer, you could use the included audio output and run a cable, or you can use the built-in transmitter to send the sub signal over to any subwoofer with an audio input. MartinLogan includes the receiver with the Verse for this, so you can easily hook up nearly any subwoofer.
The Verse gives you three bass modes: normal, night, and plus. The night mode will reduce the bass and compress dynamics so you won’t disturb the sleeping baby or neighbors, while the plus mode will give you some more umph! You can even fine-tune the bass with the level control which gives you a wide range (10db) of boost or cut.
The Verse has enough speaker drivers to simulate a 5-channel surround system, but once again, you get more control flexibility. You can turn off the surrounds, use them in normal mode, or go into a mode that boosts the surround effect by 6db for those big action movies.
Getting music to your Verse is a snap. You could either use one of your streaming devices or use the Verse’s built-in Bluetooth receiver to send music from your phone. When you listen to music, you can even put the Verse into stereo audio mode, giving you the best of all worlds! There are three modes, normal (which just plays left and right), wide (which will give you a wider sound image), and voice (which will boost the level of voices and simulate a center channel effect).
As you can tell, MartinLogan is serious about getting great sound from the Verse, but we’ve saved the best part for last. Since Anthem is in Canada, they have access to the NRC, the Canadian National Research Center. It was there that Anthem developed their room correction technology called ARC (Anthem Room Correction). If you haven’t heard of ARC, just know that it has taken the audio world by storm. Every room has a huge impact on the sound. Since the dawn of high-performance audio, eliminating the effect of the room has been the holy grail. ARC gets as close as we’ve ever seen outside of acoustic treatments. We really love what ARC can do.
Since MartinLogan and Anthem share the same passive investor, they are able to share this great technology. It is actually the first soundbar to use ARC so we were super excited to test it.
We put the Verse into one of the worst possible room situations; a sunroom filled with glass! We have tested several other soundbars in this same room and were never able to get good sound. When we first played the Verse in this room, before going through the room correction process, it sounded OK, but nothing to get excited about. There were simply too many issues in the room.
After running ARC, however, the difference was just staggering! Before ARC, dialog information seemed to get masked by all of the room issues, but after, they were super clear. The harshness that we had heard with every other soundbar in this very challenging room was almost totally gone.
We always like to recommend adding a subwoofer to any soundbar to give it the impact you are looking for on TV, movies, and music. When we added in a MartinLogan Dynamo 700 subwoofer we were stunned to find that ARC not only improved the Verse soundbar, but it evened out the bass response in the subwoofer as well!
The key is that when you tell the Verse you have added a subwoofer, it will no longer try to reproduce any of the lower frequencies, improving the way the critical midrange is reproduced. We have to say, the Verse combined with a good sub is one of the best sounding rigs we have ever heard in an all-in-one powered soundbar! It is clear, dynamic, and can throw out a very wide sound field of special effects without being edgy.
Whenever we test soundbars, the dialog is always one of the key areas we like to investigate. We love pushing them to the max with British PBS mysteries that have lots of accents and dialogue sequences. While the Verse performed admirably in this test, we recommend switching the bass mode to night if you’re having trouble hearing the actors.
If you are looking to improve the audio from your TV in a challenging room, the MartinLogan Verse is the answer. Not only is the audio quality fantastic, as it is in all MartinLogan speakers, but the ARC Room Correction largely eliminates the acoustic issues in your room, whether you’re faced with lots of glass, cathedral ceilings, large walls, or all of the above.
Of course, if you have a good room, ARC won’t make as dramatic a difference, but will instead maximize your the audio quality, allowing you to hear every nuance of the actors’ performances. It’s super flexible, simple to use, and will provide a vast improvement over your TV’s internal speakers.
The MartinLogan Verse is the perfect solution for getting great audio from your TV shows, movies, and music, without breaking the bank or running wires. From a sound perspective, it’s simply one of the best soundbars we’ve ever tested.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Stylish and Sophisticated
While the Verse is sleek and stylish looking, it packs a ton of technology under the hood to get you both a great user experience and the best sound possible from a soundbar.
ARC on a Soundbar
You’ve got a choice of memory foam based protein leather or micro suede that easily pop off for switching things around and future replacement. Both softly conform to your head for the ultimate in comfort.
Wireless Subwoofer Option
The Verse comes with a wireless subwoofer receiver so you can add any subwoofer to the Verse for extended bass response. And don’t forget, adding a sub and letting it handle the deep bass will always improve the critical dialog sections of the audio spectrum.