Time was, not so very long ago, that the ne plus ultra of American high-end audio was embodied in the imposing shape of massive, four cabinet speaker systems like the Infinity IRS and Wilson WAMM. That thinking survives today in the shape of the Nola Exotica Grand Reference (a speaker with a name as portentous and nearly as imposing as its appearance) and various equally enormous models from the likes of Genesis and Avalon. But the advent of more manageable systems such as Wilson’s Grand Slamm, the Isis and a host of alternatives from the likes of Hanson, Wisdom and others has left the four-tower format looking unwieldy and something of an audio dinosaur, even if its sonic scale remains unchallenged. The high-end map of America has been redrawn, these behemoths inched gently aside and into a darkened corner that the spotlight seldom reaches, their place centre stage taken by svelte middle-weights that cost (and demand) considerably less.
So, if four-box speaker systems have really had their day (and let’s face it, the potential market for these products is probably already saturated) why would a boutique European speaker brand tread this well-worn design path so long after the fact? For, on the face of it, that’s exactly what Marten have done in producing the Coltrane Supreme, a four-box, multi-driver speaker system with all the hallmarks of those classic American monsters. Take one look at the pictures (and the price tag) and it’s like watching old newsreel: you can see history repeating itself right before your very eyes. Indeed, on the basis of the visual evidence it’s an inescapable conclusion – but that doesn’t stop it being wrong. Look a little deeper and you’ll appreciate subtle but important differences that make this both a European and very much a Marten design.
For a start, the Coltrane Supremes are an awful lot smaller than you’d think, and appear smaller still. Secondly they use infinite baffle loading for the majority of their range, reflex loading for the bass, in stark contrast to the open-baffles and sealed box bass of speakers like the Infinity IRS and Nola EGR. They’re also conceptually simpler than those massive speaker systems of yore, with far greater consistency between driver types, and significantly, a dedicated bass amplifier to drive and integrate the low-frequencies. So, if they’re smaller and