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MartinLogan reQuest Speakers: The Yang To My Vandersteen 2C

MartinLogan reQuest speakers from 1996 have been out of production for many years but are one of the best used electrostatic loudspeakers if you can find one.

MartinLogan Request Electrostatic Loudspeakers

The past few weeks have been extremely challenging, to say the least. Although my injured right hand has shown signs of improvement compared to 3 months ago, an unfortunate encounter between Tyrion and another dog caused it to twist awkwardly, making writing and editing much more difficult. In addition to that, having my iPhone stolen was a highly unpleasant experience, and I’m still debating how I’m going to punish Verizon Wireless for how poorly it handled the situation.

Our eldest is 12 months away from graduating from a great college with two degrees and zero debt. Our 16 year-old son is already applying to college and we will soon be left with a nine year-old with a burgeoning TikTok Empire (she has 15 followers) and a feisty West Highland Terrier.

All of this has made me feel very old; which I’m not and this will probably be the last time that it gets mentioned.

Nostalgic is a better word for it.

Discovering a pair of Vandersteen 2C Loudspeakers in the trash less than 3 blocks from our home was a very strange moment to say the least, but I’m glad that I did. John Rutan of Audio Connection here in New Jersey is assisting in the restoration and I plan on using these iconic audiophile loudspeakers that are older than any of my children in good health in my new home office.

Vandersteen 2c Loudspeakers left curbside

Gratitude is the other thing that comes to mind; especially at a time when everything feels out of sorts on the planet and people should feel damn lucky for what we have.

I Request That You Turn Those Off…

The other side of the 19′ x 17′ x 11′ room will feature a pair of these pulled 4 feet from the wall.

MartinLogan Request Electrostatic Loudspeakers
MartinLogan reQuest Loudspeakers (Photo credit: Revilla Grooves and Gear)

I vividly remember the day I flipped over the copy of Stereophile at the newsstand and saw my first pair of MartinLogan loudspeakers. Having inherited the family stereo in 1983 as my Bar Mitzvah gift, I was already on my audiophile journey but I was not prepared for the MartinLogan Sequel II loudspeakers that would inspire me to make high-end audio my career. The Sequel II were my first high-end speakers but only the beginning of my journey which culminated with the MartinLogan reQuest speakers.

Before I spent almost $5,000 on a pair of reQuests, I spent almost 8 years with the Aerius, Aerius i, and a pair of the original CLS speakers. I was such a huge fan of the company that I called their office in 1989 in Lawrence, Kansas, because I had a question about my pair of Sequel II speakers.

Imagine my surprise when MartinLogan founder, Gayle Sanders, took the call and spent an hour on the phone with me. I was 18 years old and in the process of looking at college applications which included the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Israel and GWU would be my final destination but that one hour on the phone cemented my future in high-end audio and my love of electrostatic loudspeakers. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Fast forward to 2019 and the last real high-end audio show in Rockville, Maryland before the COVID-19 pandemic would disrupt the planet.

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PR Queen Sue Toscano and I have been friends for many years but she was unaware of my history with MartinLogan and how Gayle Sanders had influenced it back in 1989.

Gayle Sanders sold MartinLogan many years ago and had retired from the audio industry to enjoy the fruits of his 25+ years of hard work and success. Those who know him understood that he would return which he did with Eikon Audio.

Gayle Sanders and I finally met in 2019 and it was a very memorable day for me meeting the man who set everything in motion for me. He was as gracious as I remember him from our only phone call.

Eikon Audio introduced a new two-way system at Capital Audio Fest 2021 that Gayle and I discussed in our recent podcast.

Now that you know the history, let’s take a look at the MartinLogan reQuest loudspeakers that have been out of production for many years but are one of the best used electrostatic loudspeakers if you can find one.

The reQuests were really large back in 1999 when I bought them and I’m sure most people would recoil with some hesitation if they came across a pair today.

At 71″H x 18″W x 13″D and 95 pounds apiece, the reQuests are big transducers.

The 48″ CLS electrostatic transducer panel has a lifespan of around 12-15 years; and it’s something you need to dust on a regular basis with a vacuum to keep in operational shape. You definitely hear it when the panel starts to show its age. MartinLogan will sell you replacement panels but they’re not $100-$200; so something to think about if you find a pair in good condition with the original panels.

The 12-inch high excursion woofer was a big improvement over the smaller drivers in the Sequel II, Aerius, and Aerius i.

What really made the reQuest a better speaker and one of my favorite MartinLogan models was the integration of the woofer and electrostatic panel — many electrostatic speakers that try to blend both fail miserably.

The other interesting feature of the reQuest was its 90 dB sensitivity rating and impedance (4 ohms).

Having owned 4 other pairs of MartinLogan speakers, power is definitely an issue. You can run tube amplifiers with the reQuest but they need to be stable into 4 ohms and at least 50-75 watts/channel.

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I would definitely recommend CJ (solid-state), Pass Labs, Mark Levinson (1980s or 1990s), Bryston, Adcom, Aragon, and older Krell with these loudspeakers.

The amp that worked for me was a huge surprise. The Blue Circle BC6 SET Hybrid Amplifier which was only 25 watts/channel. Gilbert Yeung and I were friends for a number of years when I still lived in Toronto and I would make the trip to Innerkip on a regular basis to listen to his new amps and go for food. The BC6 did not operate like any 25 watt amplifier that I’ve ever heard and it matched the reQuest almost perfectly.

Gilbert used the MartinLogan CLS and CLS IIz in his listening room so I wasn’t surprised that the BC6 worked so well.

It didn’t possess the low-end control of a Bryston, Aragon, or Krell — but the midrange resolution and tonal balance was so good that I would listen to the speakers for 3-4 hours at night and awaken in my listening chair at 2 or 3 a.m. almost longing for another session.

The transparency (the reason why you buy this type of loudspeaker) was jaw dropping with some recordings. There was an ethereal quality to the human voice that would make you sit up and pay attention to every little detail. The soundstage was also quite wide and deep in my space and the reQuest delivered music with scale and presence like few other speakers.

MartinLogan Request Loudspeaker Manual

If you don’t have the space for a large pair of electrostatic loudspeakers, these speakers will not work for you. They don’t need to be 5-feet from the wall behind them, but I wouldn’t consider them unless you can move the speaker at least 3-feet out and give them 36-48″ from the sidewalls.

I ran my pair of reQuests in 3 different apartments and my smallest listening space was 20′ x 16′ x 9′ and always hardwood floors with an area rug.

They benefitted from breaking up the hard surfaces behind them by placing two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with books and other forms of absorption. I made sure that the windows in my room had heavy velvet drapes and left them partially open to deal with the reflections off the back wall and ceiling.

The MartinLogan reQuest came with rather sharp spikes (mandatory) and I did upgrade the power cords (they require electricity) from the cheap ones provided to $100 models from Blue Circle Audio; they made a significant difference in regard to lowering the noise floor of the speakers and improving the panel’s clarity. I hate audiophile power cords but these particular cords worked.

I know that this sounds like the behavior of a crazy person but it never looked or felt like overkill for the simple reason that the sound quality I was able to achieve with them was the best I’ve ever had and I wish I could turn back the clock and put that same system together again.

I’ve seen used reQuest online for between $1,400 — $1,800 USD and I would say that they are worth it if the panel has been replaced in the past 5 years or less.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Phil

    July 31, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    I bought a pair of Clarity ESL used about 8 years ago and an ML Center about 6 years ago…I have never vacumed them but I will today….once u have MLESL…you have no interest in reading about new cone speakers…you are satisfied.

    • Ian White

      July 31, 2021 at 2:32 pm

      Phil,

      I heard my first pair in the 1980s before I was old enough to afford them. I saved in HS for a pair of Sequel IIs.

      I will be building a system this year around a pair of Aerius i which I owned many years ago and never should have sold.

      Ian White

  2. Randy

    August 3, 2021 at 1:43 pm

    I vividly recall (somewhat) selling much of the gear mentioned in this article. Nice photos, with one expection.
    Why are the Logans trying to upstage these beauties shown the background?
    Both the MLogan and the Klipch’ deserve they’re own covers or stage.
    To top it off…Who had to mention the “I wish I never sold” line here?
    Acoustic 648s Van Nuys, Cali “Survivor” here…R.I.P. V,,

    • Ian White

      August 3, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      I’m building a 1990s system around the Aerius i right now and prepare to be amazed and what I’ve found so far.

      I hated selling the reQuests but the lawyers made me do it.

      Ian White

  3. Jim Romanski

    May 16, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    Hi Ian

    I love ML speakers. I had a pair of Aerius I speakers that I gave to my daughter. They sound great in her house in a smaller room with some vintage tube gear I’ve “loaned” to her.

    I have a pair of Sequel II ML speakers that sound very nice. I’m biamping them with vintage tube gear. The Sequel II are very revealing and have excellent bass. But I think the Aerius I have a sweeter top end that I miss. Do you think the reQuest will have a similar top end as the Aerius I speakers?

    There’s a mint pair for sale not too far from me for $2K. I’m debating trading up to them.

    What do you think?

    Jim

  4. BradleyP

    May 31, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    Those very speakers changed my life and set me on the path of loving more music than I ever thought I would, played on really good equipment. I heard the reQuests at an audio show I attended on a whim about three years out of college, and I couldn’t believe how vocalists were just…there. (Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall was surreal.) One day, I’d have a pair of Martin Logans, I resolved. In 1998, I was able to afford a pair of SL3s, between the reQuest and the Arius in size, and have had them ever since. Interestingly, I have never had a need to replace the panels or the woofer. They still sound the same!

    • Ian White

      May 31, 2022 at 3:20 pm

      Bradley,

      I regret selling them. Someone forced me to do it back in the day.

      They looked amazing and the first time I drove them with my Blue Circle monoblocks…it was the best sound I had ever heard in my home.

      That’s pretty amazing in regard to the panels. Gayle Sanders told me 12-14 years on them.

      Best,
      Ian

  5. John M.

    August 8, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    Where can I get my Martin Logan’s ReQuest electrostatic speaker serviced or repaired ?

    • Ian White

      August 8, 2022 at 9:57 pm

      John,

      I would contact MartinLogan directly in Toronto because they make all of the replacement panels there.

      Best,

      Ian White

  6. John M.

    August 9, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you very much —👍Ian for your prompt response!
    ,

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