Now here is a conundrum. These almost 2m-high speakers are simply the ugliest I have ever seen. They look like weird, wrong-way-round thrones commissioned by some mad dictator, or perhaps a Soviet-era secret weapon rejected for looking too frightening. The problem for me is that the Neoliths, by Kansas manufacturer MartinLogan, sound wonderful – a thrilling combination of clarity, openness and transparency with titanic power and bass.
I have heard more majestic speakers, but I utterly love these ones. They offer a startlingly believable sound stage that is both ethereal and hologramic. Along with the gigantic, air-shifting muscle, there’s a sharpness and delicacy that made them resemble, for me, a pair of brontosauruses with angelic voices and a sense of humour. The secret of the Neoliths’ extraordinary sound is that the main noise maker is a giant electrostatic membrane – the biggest ever produced by MartinLogan – which injects its characteristic precision into everything from 250Hz to 22kHz. But the Neoliths also have a more traditional, whoomping 12in carbon-fibre bass cone and a 15in metal-coned woofer for 60Hz and below.
I am writing this in the Cape Cod guest “cottage” of a friend. There’s a 3,000sq ft basement den (where, I worked out, 150 people could sleep in an emergency) – the kind of room you would struggle to fill with stuff. But it would be perfect for an epic hifi starring these speakers. So how, then, to deal with their stellar hideousness? MartinLogan will finish the speakers’ super-rigid phenolic resin polymer bodywork in a variety of premium automotive‑quality colours, and even make them to order in bespoke hues to better blend into an interior. Aesthetics aside, bear in mind that the Neoliths require suitable quality amplifiers and a music source.