AudioQuest NightOwl


Motion 35XT Speaker Review

An incredible bookshelf speaker for the money.


$599.99 $449.50/ea


  • Motion Tweeter Technology
  • State of the Art Components
  • Huge and Effortless Soundstage

Company & Product Overview

When Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland formed MartinLogan in 1980, they probably had no idea how successful their start-up would eventually become over the next 40 years. From their dream of producing more natural sound through the use of high technology, they have grown to be one of the most coveted speaker brands around. Their “see-thru” electrostatic panels have amazed listeners for years with effortless sound that is totally free of any coloration.

While electrostatic speakers offer incredible sound, they are out of the reach of many music lovers as it just simply costs a good deal of money to make one that sounds great that will also last for years. As MartinLogan became more successful, they wanted to create a line of speakers with that color free electrostatic sound, but at a price point that was more affordable.

In 2010, MartinLogan came up with the solution in their Motion series of speakers. These used a new tweeter they developed that offered most of the advantages of an electrostatic speaker, without the price tag. MartinLogan recently revealed a new Motion series at a few select dealers in August of 2019 (Audio Advice being one of the first).

The subject of today’s review is actually on the older version of the Motion series, in particular, the Motion 35XT. MartinLogan got the new series out a little sooner than they had expected and as a result, had not sold out of some of the old series models. We have always felt the Motion 35XT was a stellar speaker for the money and when MartinLogan asked us we if would like to buy out most of their remaining stock at a great deal we could then pass on to our customers, we jumped on it!

Design & Build Quality

The 35XT is a medium-sized bookshelf speaker. These are some of the prettiest speakers we have seen at this price level. Fit and finish are top-notch with a beautiful black high gloss paint job. The metal, perforated grill is a classy touch and also attaches magnetically to the front panel.

The cabinet is not a perfect rectangle which does two things. First, it just looks cool, but more importantly, the non-parallel cabinet walls help reduce cabinet resonance. It costs more to make a non-square speaker and you’ll see this tech trick used in a lot of higher performance speakers.

While you can put the 35XT on a bookshelf, you’ll get the best performance if you stand mount them. They are about 13 ½” tall, by 7 ½” wide, and almost 12” deep. And at close to 20 pounds each, you’ll need a substantial speaker stand or table.

When you rotate around to the rear of the speaker, you’ll see some ultra-high quality dual binding posts for bi-wiring and a very solid connector should you chose to just single wire them.

Many other reviewers have noted they feel the 35XT just looks amazingly well built for the money and we have to wholeheartedly agree!

Features & Technology

One of the big deals that makes the 35XT sound so great is the Motion tweeter. The 35XT uses their largest Motion tweeter. So just what is a Motion tweeter? Imagine a roughly 2 ½" high by 4” wide piece of super lightweight piece of a very thin film. This is etched with conductive material, then folded up like an accordion. It is put in a neodymium magnetic field and the current causes the accordion-like film to squeeze in and out, reproducing the high frequencies.

You get the benefit of a very lightweight electrostatic driver with a lot of space and cost savings. Plus the surface area of the one XT Motion tweeter in the 35XT has roughly the same surface area as 10 conventional dome tweeters! The end result of this design is a tweeter that is super low mass with far less distortion than a conventional driver. The speed at which the Motion tweeter can respond to audio changes is much faster than a conventional tweeter as well.

MartinLogan couples this great XT tweeter with a 6 ½” aluminum cone woofer. They spent a great deal of time designing a woofer with a long excursion and low distortion. The rear-ported cabinet uses a low turbulence port. Both the woofer and tweeter are decoupled from the ¾” MDF cabinet with a solid aluminum panel. Once again, this is something you see in much more expensive speakers.

Great speaker drivers without a crossover (the circuitry that sends the highs to the tweeter and lows to the woofer) at the same level is like putting ketchup on a great steak. MartinLogan chose very high-quality polypropylene and low-DF electrolytic capacitors coupled with custom-wound inductors. While this sounds like a mouthful, it means they spared no expense to make sure the crossover quality matched that of the drivers.

The high-quality crossover and output power of the Motion tweeter and aluminum cone woofer enabled this speaker to come out with a very high-efficiency rating for a modest-sized bookshelf speaker. The Motion 35XT is rated at 92 dB sensitivity which means they are very dynamic and able to bring real-life to your music.

As you can tell, this is not your ordinary bookshelf speaker. Every single component of its design has qualities you normally see in much more expensive speakers.


If you pair up the Motion 35XT with a good set of speaker stands and a decent amplifier, it's pretty easy to hear why they have won the Absolute Sounds Editor’s Choice Award for 2017, 2018, and 2019. They just sound far better than most $1200 a pair or so speakers normally sound. We paired them up with a Cambridge CXA80 integrated amp and a Rega P6 table for our listening tests.

First, they have one of the sweetest top end presentations you will find. The design of the Motion XT tweeter allows for a very controlled dispersion pattern. Not only do you get blazing fast and clean highs that are never harsh, but a huge, wide soundstage with pinpoint accuracy. Of course, you need to spend a little time on set up to achieve this, but the result is well worth the effort. When you hear a cymbal sound so accurate and feel like it is right in front of you, that is when you start grinning ear to ear and think, this is really some speaker for the money.

The bass tones reach fairly low for a modest bookshelf. MartinLogan specs them out a 50 Hz plus or minus 3 dB which is very impressive for a box this size. We love the fact they went for a fast and tight bass character rather than a big boomy bass type sound. You can listen to these for hours without any fatigue and just get really drawn into the music.

When you start to push them hard, they respond very well with a great sense of dynamics for a bookshelf speaker. Do they fill up the room like a $15,000 Logan? No, but for what these cost, they do about as well as anything we have heard.

After spinning all kinds of different music, the thing that really strikes you is how well they present a natural soundstage with this totally effortless quality. If you appreciate shutting your eyes and imagining a small jazz band is in front of you, these will certainly make you smile!

Overall Recommendation

The Motion 35XT is one heck of a bookshelf speaker. We have loved them at Audio Advice since their introduction. With the special pricing, they are almost a no brainer. They can be the cornerstone of a great system for two-channel audio, and should you want to use them for home theater, MartinLogan has a perfectly matched center channel to go with them.

If you are a home theater buff and are already using some of the Motion towers for your fronts, you should pick up a pair of these to use as your surrounds or rears which will give you a seamless 3-dimensional surround soundstage.


Motion Tweeter Technology

Martin Logan’s folded Motion Tweeter dramatically reduces distortion while giving your highs more speed and accuracy.

State of the Art Components

Not only is the tweeter state of the art, but the woofer, crossover and cabinet design are also what you would expect on a speaker costing twice this much.

Huge and Effortless Soundstage

Set these right and you’ll be amazed at the size of the soundstage. Their totally effortless sound will also make you smile.

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