Countless years ago, my first true subwoofer was a MartinLogan Dynamo. Sure, I had tried those small, non-powered varieties. No matter what the reviews said, they always left me wanting more.
So, when I came across MartinLogan’s Dynamo, the subwoofer was a perfect fit. Its small size made it immediately spouse-friendly. It blended well with my monitor speakers at the time. The Dynamo could be positioned in a down-firing or front-firing position. Styling was superb in typical MartinLogan fashion. And the sub’s value proposition was perfect.
My memories of the Dynamo were so positive that when MartinLogan called to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their new Dynamo 1100X, I jumped at the opportunity.
Not the Dynamo of yesteryear
When the the MartinLogan Dynamo 1100X subwoofer arrived, I knew this wasn’t the same Dynamo subwoofer of yesteryear. This Dynamo was a whole different breed—in a good way.
At 46-pounds the Dynamo 1100X subwoofer was far heavier than the one I owned. And at 15-inches wide x 17-1/8-inches tall x 15-5/8-inches deep (down-firing) and 15-inches wide x 17-1/4-inches tall x 16-1/4-inches deep (front-firing) the 1100X it was far, far larger.
I noted drastic improvements in every area: The 1100X is rated to dig down to 22Hz (±3dB). The built-in Class D amplifier will deliver 650 watts of continuous power and can double down to punch out 1,300 watts peak when needed. The 12-inch high-excursion polypropylene woofer features an inverted surround and cast aluminum basket.
The more I looked at the specs, the more I knew the Dynamo 1100X was a force to be reckoned with.
As different a sub as the 1100X was, there was one thing that was pleasantly familiar: I could change the Dynamo 1100X’s orientation. I could choose to run the sub in a down-firing configuration (default) or front-firing. That’s a neat thing to have for installation options or fine-tuning the bass performance for different scenarios. I preferred the front-firing orientation during my review and that’s how I set it up.
The tool-less design for switching orientations is ingenious. Unscrew the feet, pop them on the other side of the sub and bingo, you’re done. It’s that simple (but do note my mishap later on in the review).
An advanced feature set
Physical characteristics aside, the Dynamo 1100X’s capabilities will rival some of the best subs out there. You have seemingly every tool at your fingertips to ensure perfect integration with whatever setup you have.
The Dynamo 1100X subwoofer features a continuously variable low pass crossover from 35Hz to 120Hz; continuously variable phase; and three listening preset modes (Music, Night, and Movie) via MartinLogan’s Subwoofer Control app for iOS and Android. I’ll talk about the app in more detail further on in the review.
You have your choice of RCA line level stereo inputs or a choice of RCA or XLR (balanced) LFE inputs. Showing its audiophile pedigree, the subwoofer even includes speaker-level inputs. The binding posts are recessed to accept banana connectors only. The setting for the Low-Pass Filter control is applied to the signal received through the speaker level inputs and line level RCA stereo.
If your pre-pro, integrated amp, or AVR supports it, you have the option of using a 12-volt trigger to power the sub on or off. There’s also a physical volume control knob on the sub’s rear. All in all, MartinLogan’s Dynamo 1100X is built perfectly for the audiophile, cinemaphile, or custom installer.
But forget simply looking at the specs. What truly differentiates this sub from the competition is its rich, on-board tech.
True wireless connectivity without any latency
The subwoofer’s rear panel has a special slot designated for MartinLogan’s SWT-X wireless transmitter kit. The kit consists of a transmitter that looks like a large AppleTV with stereo RCA inputs. If you want to use the sub with a receiver’s LFE (Low Frequency Effects) output, then you use the right input, which is labeled accordingly.
The receiver looks like an L-shaped USB stick. The USB connector plugs perfectly into the designated slot on the back of the Dynamo 1100X that’s labeled, “Wireless Module Connection.” The module sits flush into the back of the sub. It takes up zero additional footprint. There’s an apse-shaped notch allowing you to pull the module out easily if you need to.
If you’re a technophobe or the type of person who just likes to get your gear up and running quickly, rejoice! The transmitter and receiver come pre-paired. Pre-pairing makes installation a snap. I had no problems getting the MartinLogan Dynamo connected in mere minutes.
I fell in love with the fact that I could place the Dynamo 1100X freely in my room for perfect placement. Those of you facing spousal restrictions (such as “I don’t want to see that thing” or “I don’t want any wires…”) will wonder how you lived without this wireless feature.
If you’re a skeptic about wireless speaker transmitters, I’m telling you that you can allay those fears. While it’s true that models from yesteryear had latency issues, that’s not true of MartinLogan’s SWT-X wireless transmitter. Whether it was two-channel music or movies, the Dynamo 1100X didn’t miss a beat. The performance was so good that I conducted the review entirely with the wireless transmitter and never thought twice about replacing it with a wired connection.
Anthem ARC room correction included
The Dynamo 1100X comes packaged with Anthem Room Correction (affectionately known as ARC and not to be confused with HDMI’s Audio Return Channel). In my experience, ARC is one of the best room correction solutions on the market today. The inclusion of ARC significantly enhances the Dynamo 1100X’s value proposition.
The Dynamo doesn’t come with a calibrated Microphone in the box. You can purchase one from your MartinLogan dealer or from MartinLogan directly if you want. The calibrated microphone allows you to use the PC software version of ARC for more precise measurements.
The Dynamo assumes you’ll be using the excellent ARC Mobile app on an iOS or Android device. ARC guides you step-by-step on using the software. I’ve used the ARC Mobile app countless times with MartinLogan, Paradigm, and of course Anthem products with great success.
Using the app is straight-forward. First of all, make sure you remove any case from your smart device and hold it arm’s length away from your body (so you don’t have any reflections that could impact measurements). Make sure it’s at ear level with your smart device’s microphone pointed to the sub. Then simply follow the on-screen prompts for conducting a five point measurement. The one thing to note about ARC is that each measurement point should be greater than two feet from the first/primary measurement point. In a matter of minutes I was done.
Unlike the Windows PC version of ARC, you can’t save and call up previous calibrations nor can you see before and after results. Should you want that level of detail, you’ll need to purchase a calibrated microphone from MartinLogan and run the ARC software from a Windows PC. Alas, there’s no Mac version available.
Subwoofer control from an app
Speaking of apps, you can integrate and fine-tune the Dynamo with MartinLogan’s excellent Subwoofer Control app. There’s a switch on the back of the Dynamo that puts the sub from “local” mode to “app” mode. When this switch is set to “App” all the Dynamo subwoofer’s control functions are controlled from the Subwoofer Control app. The only thing you can’t do is power the sub on or off via the app.
Here’s an important note: When this switch is set to “Local” the Dynamo 1100X’s physical volume knob is active and the sub’s settings revert to their defaults. MartinLogan says that the local setting is intended for applications where you connect the subwoofer to a receiver/processor and let the receiver/processor handle most of the settings.
In case you’re wondering, the Dyamo’s default settings are as follows: Phase: 0°; Polarity: Normal; Low-pass: 120Hz 4th order 20–30Hz Level: 0dB; ARC: Off. Should you switch back to “App,” the previous settings re-engage.
The Subwoofer Control app is the Dynamo’s central command. At your fingertips, you have instant wireless control of the subwoofer’s volume. There are three modes available: Movie is an aggressive setting that maximizes the sub’s output and perfect for your favorite movie or LFE channel. Music is the default setting and is recommended for neutral, audio playback. I performed my review with this setting. Finally you have a Night mode setting that reduces bass output for late light sessions.
But the app doesn’t stop there. You can choose from third or fourth order low pass filter settings or bypass the filter altogether. You have variable phase control and can even invert the subwoofer’s polarity—right from the app. All the while, you can run instant measurements or listening tests without ever leaving your primary listening position. MartinLogan has finally created a subwoofer experience that the enthusiast and custom installer has been longing for!
During my tests, I found the app extremely easy to use. The intuitive interface was well designed for either the novice or expert.
But let’s get to the good stuff, how did this baby sound?
Setup and Listening Tests
I set up the subwoofer in my home theater. I anchored the Dynamo 1100X with SVS Ultra Towers and Ultra Monitors all around in a 7.1 setup. I made sure that all other room correction was turned off in the system so that only the Dynamo 1100X with ARC was engaged.
I started off my listening sessions with the Dark Knight on Blu-ray. This is a reference disc by any measure. It’s musical score is intense and the sound is dynamic throughout. I queued up the opening of chapter 2 of the Dark Knight and guess what? The sound literally blew the grille off the front of the subwoofer and into the room! It makes for a great story, but here’s the thing: If you do change the Dynamo 1100X’s orientation from down to front-firing, make sure you note that there is a rubber gasket between the feet and the cabinet. Little did I know that the rubber gasket provides the grip needed to keep the grille’s pegs in place. When I removed the feet, the gasket stayed suctioned to the main cabinet. Nevertheless, it was a superb illustration of this baby’s intense bass output!
Turning to the 57-minute mark of Chapter 14 where Bruce Wayne and Alfred are in the makeshift Batcave analyzing ballistic samples, as the rounds fire, the Dynamo slammed me in the chest as the rounds fired! The impact was intense with ample levels of SPL filling my large space with ease.
Next, I popped in Tron Legacy. In the chapter, Derezzed, the music of Daft Punk in Zeus’ club pulsated with precision and intensity. The Dynamo 1100X never missed a beat. The Dynamo’s sonic performance literally transported the club into my large listening room! Best of all, the wireless performance of the subwoofer was never out of sync with the rest of the system nor did I sense any loss in performance, articulation, or pure slam.
Next, I turned to musical track after musical track. Staying with the Daft Punk theme, I played the hi-res version of “Lose Yourself to Dance.” Wow! The Dynamo showed its pure MartinLogan musical pedigree here. This was nothing short of tight, musical bass. Finally, I turned to the Revivalists’ “Wish I Knew You.” And you know what? Here’s perhaps the best thing. I found myself tapping to the music. It sounded oh so right. The bass didn’t call undue attention to itself. It was just….right. It was musical. A sub that can command your music or perform a full out assault with movies? That’s MartinLogan’s Dynamo 1100X subwoofer.
A refreshing, stellar performer
In a crowded space of subwoofers, MartinLogan’s Dynamo 1100X is a refreshing, stellar performer. And that’s not surprising. I haven’t met a MartinLogan subwoofer that hasn’t been both an outstanding value and depth-charge-worthy, take-no-prisoners sub.
For $1,100, you get a sub that can tackle all the fundamentals with outstanding performance. And, the wireless expansion module makes the Dynamo perfect for eliminating all your wires without any performance hit. If subwoofers are the foundation of any system, you’d do well to set the Dynamo 1100X as the cornerstone of yours. Highly and enthusiastically recommended.