PMC patron Peter Thomas says that he “has always had a sneaking regard for electrostatic loudspeakers”. Having used stacked Quads many years ago, I’m inclined to agree. There’s definitely something ‘different’ about listening to electrostatics, whether full-range or hybrid designs like the ElectroMotion ESL X tested here. This might have something to do with the fact that they’re invariably dipoles, and therefore interact with a listening room in a rather different way to more conventional (box-type) monopole loudspeakers. It’s also important to sit down in the listening seat in order to achieve the correct treble balance.
After some years as distributors of electronic brands such as Bryston and AVM, PMC has recently formalised its UK Distribution operation as a separate division. Its first task will be to take over the distribution of MartinLogan loudspeakers from Absolute Sounds, offering hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers at the top end, plus lots of smaller and specialist niche models lower down the price ladder. This is not nefarious brand-raiding by PMC, however; MartinLogan’s smaller box loudspeakers and in-wall systems are at once part of the next-decade strategy for ML, a sector of the market in which PMC is interested. A UK speaker company distributing an overseas rival might be unprecedented, but the two companies do have very different philosophies and product portfolios, so they dove-tail rather than compete.
MartinLogan is actually larger than PMC by a comfortable margin, with an R&D operation of around 30 people in Kansas City, plus some 200 carrying out production in Toronto, Canada. Although it was originally founded in Kansas City, MartinLogan was purchased by Canadian company Paradigm some ten years ago, and is currently owned by the Bagby family, along with Anthem.
Full-range dipole Quad Electrostatics are well enough known in Britain, because they revolutionised the loudspeaker scene from 1957 via the original two-way model, or the subsequent more complex ESL63 and its variations. However, MartinLogan has always made hybrid electrostatics, with relatively narrow electrostatic panels that operate above conventional dynamic bass sections. My recollection of early ML speakers was that they experienced some difficulty in integrating the bass box with the electrostatic panel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.