The Formidable Renaissance 15

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Big Dog RJ
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The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by Big Dog RJ » Thu Jun 29, 2017 1:16 am

G'day maties, after a while of hard work, shifting work locations and all that jazz...

I had posted this note previously on WBF and thought I must post something here, after all this is for CJ owners.
This system was not auditioned at the main dealers simply because they are not getting in the newer series, still trying to sell off their current stock. The newer classic series and top line amps, such as GAT series 2 and ART's are being offered in terms of placing orders but their price range is equal to a mini cottage...

I finally got the chance to sit down and listen to an awesome combination of gear, which was obviously quite different from what this owner previously had; (MG20.7, MC452 with the GAT pre). He had retained the Kondo Overture for a while now, about 3 years and I have tried the overture on my previous Quads, which I liked very much.

Now the system comprises of the Martin Logan Ren15A, CJ Classic 120 (with EL34’s) and the GAT series 2 pre.
I can go on virtually all day about the sound, soundstage, dynamics, subtle nuances and so on, but since I am addressing a well-versed audiophile audience, I will make it as simple as possible.

I don’t know whether or exactly what component contributed to the overall sound, since it is somewhat hard to say on the Ren15A, especially when it has high powered built in amps that can deliver over 600w! Therefore, to me the Classic 120 seemed to be overkill for a stat hybrid with such high efficiency to add.

The sound was very powerful, seemed to have no limits in output power. Dynamic is an understatement, it's more like a rocket taking off, and yet can deliver a whisper in a wink! The speed, transparency and acceleration are outstanding! From a charging African wild elephant to a butterfly is so seamless, it is quite mind boggling. For those looking for a big powerful sound, would find the Ren15A as a perfect fit, especially for quite large rooms, having ample space behind the panels is a must.

The design is very different to the previous models. The panel (uses Blade tech) is even thinner. Looks like the side of an A4 sheet of paper, so to speak, yet very rigid and very robust. The panel is completely flat/straight without any fixed tilt. The cabinetry is solid! It is heavily braced and does not vibrate and it is quite longer compared to say the Summit or the Ethos. It is quite heavier as well, and would require at least two people to move. A number of controls as well on the back, including the ARC- Anthem Room Correction software port. To take advantage of this room correction software, you need to purchase ML's Mic kit to fine tune and obtain that finer balance to suit your room.

For me, I just can't be bothered. After working hard labor 7 days in a room with just one day off, I just prefer to drop in a SACD or LP, sit back and just relax...
I guess I’m old fashioned… Even when I had the big Infinity’s, adjusting that dam cross over was a pain in the butt - high gain/low gain/HF filter/LF filters/low pass & high pass something else, bloody hell, what didn’t it have? I also found with every track you played, you would have to always adjust accordingly and this was very annoying.

Fast fwd 25 years, I can see that ARC software and digital Room EQ seems to be more simpler, when you get it right. However, to me this seems too cumbersome, plus with my lame IT skills, I probably wouldn’t get it right in the first place!

The Ren15A definitely has a wider soundstage, one that is also more in terms of that 3D depth and superb visual effects. The bass is what struck the most, it is up there with all the bass that is required, hence no need for subs in this system. The only drawback for me was the levels were too loud, and my ears are not accustomed to such high levels. Call it mature listening, not sure but after a while I began to have listener fatigue. I would have never thought a CJ system would give me listener fatigue especially when CJ is known for sublime sonic purity and allows you to relax into your favorite recordings. But this was far too loud. When it was turned down it was very smooth and something that I could easily live with forever.

We then tried the Kondo Overture- AH! Now that’s what I call relaxation and musicality at its best! Delivering just 32w of pure class A in integrated form was superb on the Ren15A! It was all there! Basically, nothing to complain about here whatsoever. It did not have the airy high extensions of the GAT/Classic 120 combination, but everything else was just right. The highs, superb EL34 midrange, and tight super-fast mid bass was what I was looking for. It had all the required SOTA details/attributes since the Ren15A is powered and delivers the bass extremely well compared to any other ML hybrid I have heard so far. I am assuming that the smaller models, ESL 13, 11 & 9 would also be able to provide similar transparency and detail retrieval but with less bass impact. Then again depends on the room.

I am not sure what to compare here exactly though, whether I should review the amps or the speakers but one thing I would have preferred to listen to would have been the CJ amps driving a full range stat / panel on its own, such as the CLX or Audio Analysis Omega's. I can only imagine what the sound would be like upto a certain point, when the powered bass drivers take over. As far as driving the panel, I sincerely think anything from 20 to 50 watts of healthy power is more than adequate.

To sum it up, I couldn’t see myself spending this kind of money on a system where the pre-power combination alone amounts to nearly 50 grand! Then comes along the Ren15A which will retail in Aus close to 50 grand, so all up amps plus speakers are 100 grand plus. Forget it, I am not in that league, even if finances permitted. But for those who would consider this level of spend, plus what it delivers at this expenditure, I would have to say is truly remarkable.

And on another note, my humble CAV45 and the Ethos, closing in at just under 15 grand- is truly “remarkable” as well!
Cheers, and a big "woof" RJ

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Re: The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by admin » Sun Jul 02, 2017 9:30 am

Thanks for the thorough review. This is really interesting for me as I am a previous martlin logan owner. It's really fascinating to see the developments and slow perfection of such an unusual speaker design. I would love to have the opportunity to audition the 15A and see how it compares to my memories of the Vantage I used to own. One interesting design aspect is their use of forward and rear facing subs. Previous models had the forward facing sub but with a dipole output of the electrostatic panel I can definitely see the advantage of making the low end essentially dipole as well. Planar speakers always have positioning issues, especially with how close they are to the front wall. Both my ML vantages as well as my current magnepan sound best with being at least 4-5 feet off the front wall.

I caught the planar speaker bug many years ago and really couldn't imagine using anything else. I also have to admit that the nobody pairs a subwoofer with a planar element like martin logan. I don't currently use a subwoofer with the magnepan as I think the low end is pretty good with the large panel size. However, nothing moves air like a large cone. Even though the sub panel on the magnepan 20.1's are rather large, my good old Vantages had a more powerful low end. I don't think planar speakers will ever be able to match the raw power of a traditional subwoofer.

When comparing my Vantages to the 15A, you can see the evolution rather nicely. The ESL panel is really thin and wider. The subwoofer much larger. The sound controls on the back is really nice and the adjustments available probably make it a much more versatile speaker than the Vantages.

I think the only thing that Margin Logan really has to watch is the price creep. Of course there are plenty of rich people, but once you have the speaker costing more than a typical car, I think it really starts limiting your buyer demographic (not going to even mention the Neolith at $80k). Of course they have many offerings in the electromotion series at much lower price points so I guess maybe it's not a huge concern for them.
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Re: The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by Big Dog RJ » Tue Jul 04, 2017 12:11 pm

Good point Admin, and I totally agree Re. to pricing.
This was my only concern, where you have a stat hybrid panel which was offered on a fairly affordable scale and many got the chance to own such systems and really enjoy them. For whatever reason ML seems to have upped the anty, where they have completely redefined their designs and deliver a totally redefined sound. One that is even more transparent, utterly natural and very dynamic. Can very easily compete with the top contenders and cater to those with financial means.

However, since I have been there and seen and heard nearly all these lofty systems and ultra prices, all I can say is, based on my humble / realistic budget, the musical experience and satisfaction I currently encounter exceeds all pre-notions of more expensive must sound better, it definitely does not!

A lot of people also cannot define "better" rather they use generic terms such as "killer bass" or "Beats that system out of the park" & so on...

Definition of the actual music and the way instruments sound is far more important for someone reading it and trying to evaluate a particular system. Hence, the main reason why I was a bit apprehensive to provide a review of the Classic 120 since it's driving a hybrid stat with over 600 watts of brute force!

I was also a bit sad to see the other range of stats such as the Ethos, Montis & Sumits no longer in production. These new hybrids cost a dam fortune here in Aus. You have to be making some real big bucks to afford the new ML hybrid range, let alone CJ gear! Anyway for those who managed to acquire their ml and cj gear early enough are quite fortunate I must say.

As for the rest , if your systems are giving you at least 95-98% of overall satisfaction, I really wouldn't sweat the remaining 2-5%...
Enjoy your music! Cheers Admin and many thanks for sharing your thoughts. RJ

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Re: The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by ronenash » Tue Jul 04, 2017 3:52 pm

Hi RJ,

6 or so years ago I had a ML Spire after selling the Ascent i I previously had. I loved the Spire very much but when the opportunity came to get a Sonus Faber Amati Anniversario I could not pass it, sold the Spire and bought the Amati's. I remember when I first got the SF Amati Anniversario I missed some of the clarity the ML Spire had but the sound stage was deeper and dynamics were a step above what the Spire could offer. The SF AA's took forever to break in and when they finally did after a few month they sounded better than anything I have heard to date (but at this point my sonic memory of the Spire was fading away).
4 years latter I had another great opportunity to replace the SF AA with the SF Amati Futura. The Futura I got used so they were already broken in. The Futura was a definite step up from the AA, considerably more details, much better clarity and soundstage definition. I still enjoy and love the Amati Futura today.
When ML came out with the Ren15A a year or so ago I immediately took notice and wanted to test them out. As a long time ML user in the past I am curious how the new Ren15A will stack up against the SF Futura. Might be time to return to ML. I have not had the opportunity to compare the ML and SF and will not gamble selling a speaker as good as the SF Futura until I have that chance but ML definitely got my attention with the Ren15A. Hopefully in the near future I will have this chance to audition the two speakers side by side.

Needless to say all these set ups were powered by CJ tube amps. Preamps were ET3SE and ACT2 later and power amps were CJ LP125m SE mono blocks which I have had forever now. I also use the Vaic (Ayon) Mastersound 300B amplifier and an Odyssey Stratos Dual Mono fully upgrade to Kismet boards, WBT terminals and SynphonicLine caps. All fantastic amplifiers which I have no intention of selling anytime soon.

Cheers,
Ronen
ronenash
----
Power:CJ LP125m SE, Beard P100, McCormack DNA500, Krell FPB300
Pre:CJ ACT2.1, Pr14, Pr15
Analog:VPI Classic/Falcon/SoundSmith Denon 103R, Lenco L75 rebuild
Digital:J.River-->Chord 2Qude
Speakers:SF Amati Futura

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Re: The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by sleepysurf » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:55 pm

I, too, love the combination of ML stats and CJ! I have ML Expression 13A's (one step down from the Ren 15), with CJ CT5 preamp and Premier 350 amp. I upgraded from legacy Summits, and the new dipole woofer design (with Anthem Room Correction) was a major improvement. I'm pretty sure it's actually a cardioid sub design (see http://www.fohonline.com/ci/31-tech-fea ... etups.html) which directs more of the bass forward. I've toyed with the idea of trying a different (solid state) preamp or amp, but every time I sit in the sweet spot, I think "it can't get much better than this!" I also have two ML BF210 subs to fill in a major bass null at my sweet spot, but that's due to room geometry and limited seating arrangement in my family/listening room. In a dedicated listening room, the Expression 13A's would probably suffice by themselves, but the Renaissance 15's would be sublime. Wish I had the room!
Squeezebox Touch/Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB + Oppo BDP-95 > Conrad-Johnson CT5 preamp and Premier 350 amp > ML Expressions 13A. Dual ML BalancedForce 210 subs. Audience Au24e I/C's, speaker cable.
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Re: The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by Big Dog RJ » Sun Jul 09, 2017 11:29 am

G'day maties,

Thanks for sharing that update Ronen. I do certainly agree Re to the LP125se amps, infact I was at the CJ dealers place just yesterday, auditioning the LP125 monoblocks with the ET5 driving a pair of Quads (very similar to what I had 2905's). These were the 2912's, exactly the same in appearance just a few cosmetic changes that's about at. Soundwise, it did seem a bit more dynamic, most probably due to the extra power on hand, the usual expansive soundstage, excellent depth and that very relaxed sound. I then brought the monoblocks home just for a simple spin, since the chap has lent me so much cj gear in the past, obviously due to being a "special customer"...

I must say, those LP125's fitted with KT120's made the Ethos take off! Very powerful, dynamic and effortless precision of all elements in the soundstage. The bass was the most noticeable, especially in the mid-bass, obviously the low bass was taken over by the 200w built in amp on the Ethos, and with the assistance of DSP, that mid to low bass integration seemed seamless, as if coming off one driver rather than multiple drivers. The speed of the panel also matched very well with the rest of the spectrum, such that the bass was able to render more definition in the mid to lower bottom end.

Now this I didn't expect from my Ethos, and I simply thought that the additional power would be an over exaggerated sound but it wasn't! Infact it was quite marvelous indeed! I must say though after awhile, the room started to shake up a bit and things got bumpy, simply because our little shoe box unit cannot accommodate this type of energy, hence I would think this is meant for much larger rooms, lounges and ample living space. Now this type of space we will have when our new house is built mid next year. It has also got me thinking whether the CLX is really required...

I do know for a fact that the CLX is no doubt my all time favorite and something that I would happily live with forever but those LP125's did something extra special to the Ethos, which I wasn't aware that the Ethos could do. And it wasn't even the top line GAT or ET5, I partnered it with an ET3SE pre, and it was a superb combination. I have had this very same combination before with the Quads just to test out, when I was on the look out for the ultimate power amp, and finally came to a conclusion that the ARTsa was the best overall.

Now considering pricing, these LP125 amps are going for a steel, plus they have been sitting their for a few years now... The CLX's are way more that the Ethos, close to nearly 30 grand for the pair, and if I was to go for the LP125's, then I have to look towards the pre-power config once again, which would be the ET3SE that's good enough.

I later returned all the gear this evening and hooked up the CAV45 and fired up those EL34's. AH! what can I say, that midrange and musicality cannot be beaten, hence I cannot justify the extra spend, nor would the good wife agree to that match up on the Ethos. On the CLX's she may agree, since the level of transparency and naturalness is at a higher level.

So for now, back to the basics and simple things in life, stick with the priorities, get the house done, keep the wifey happy and get that expensive ceaser stone bench top that she wants for the kitchen. Save a bit more, and then justify the purchase for the CLX? I am not sure if this plan would ever work, I may find myself out on the street on top of the stone bench top!

Cheers to your Expression 13A's mate (sleepysurf) I can clearly see why and how you would be enjoying them very much! ML's are superb hybrid stats and they certainly bring the best out of music when partnered with the right amplification.
Have a good one mate, RJ

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Re: The Formidable Renaissance 15

Post by Wildcat » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:02 pm

Interesting to read impressions on the Ren 15 here. A little tale, if I may...

AXPONA 2016 had one room featuring the Ren 15s, as they were a new model. They sounded nice and all that, but I was slightly disappointed. I've been a fan of planar speakers since I first heard the CLS II back in 1987. I also didn't care for the demo music, and it was not sequenced very well. The highlight, though, was a surprise visit by Gayle Sanders, one of ML's two founders--I guess we were all ML geeks in the room at the time, because we all busted out in applause.

AXPONA 2017, the same dealer now had the Neoliths. Talk about monsters! They had a very similar sonic signature to the Ren 15s, but louder. Again, I was disappointed--they sounded a bit hard, harsh, not all that pleasing. In fact, I complained to someone in the room that it was way too loud, which it was--it's as though they turned them WAY up in order to show off the fact that stats can play loud. It left such a bad impression that I complained to Martin Logan directly, and actually got an apologetic response from them.

About a half hour later, at a room not too far away, the Ren 15s were on display via another dealer's room, which was half the size. (Typical hotel room size...the other room above was either a double room/suite or a meeting room.) Now here was the ML sound I remember. Detailed without being bright, airy, very clean midrange, bass in all the right places...sweet music! I stayed in that room just to relax. The turntable, by the way, was the new Continuum Obsidian with the Viper tonearm.

The difference? Electronics. The good sounding system was driven by Constellation electronics, and the source was vinyl. The room I disliked? They were using those humongous McIntosh 2,000 watt monoblocks. Overkill much? And the source was a McIntosh streamer/DAC. I have never cared for McIntosh anyway, and this did nothing to change that. Although I do admit that I have never heard their tube amplification--I bet that might have improved the demo quite a bit, actually!

I have had some older MLs here as a back burner project to refurbish them (got them almost as a giveaway), but do have a line on some Spires locally that I may move on this coming Spring, if the owner is ready to sell by then. I just hope the Premier 11 is enough to do the MLs justice--that is why I figured the powered Spires would be a nice fit for this amp.
C-J PV-14L/C-J Premier 11/Vandersteen 2Ce

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