MARTIN LOGAN ILLUSION ESL C34A
                               &
     IMPRESSION ESL 11A REVIEW
Coming from an already "pretty dang good" front section using Martin Logan's Theos and Center Stage X (Reviewed here) we always felt we were hearing what we considered ultimate sound. Well, fast forward a few years later and now we get their new Illusion center and pair it with their new Impression fronts. First we got the Impressions (had to wait on our Illusion) and by changing the setting to phantom center on the McIntosh 160's (Review here) set up menu we were off and running. Testing Pacific Rim 4K first the surround and of course fronts were pretty intoxicating. Of course it's hard getting used to the main dialogue coming out of the front speakers. The Impressions with two-channel audio were very impressive. I would have to say they are the best front speakers I have ever had and they are probably not all the way broken in! 

Jump ahead a couple weeks later and I am bringing in the Illusion. And let's start off by saying it is one heavy center speaker. It weighs without the box about 90 pounds! After it was hooked up I went straight to one of my favorite narration openings with Darkness Falls. It was incredibly clear and in our faces like it was coming from someone directly in front of you in the room. I included a short video clip (below) to try and give you an idea of the clearness and inflection in his voice but it definitely does not do it justice. Not even close. 
JoeRod
5/14/17


Martin Logan describes both types of speakers as:

Impression ESL 11A The Immediacy of Exceptional Audio
The Impression ESL 11A is part of the Masterpiece Series. It features a dual 8-inch woofer system, with ARC-honed performance, for a perfectly blended low-frequency response. The groundbreaking integration of this woofer array and MartinLogan’s signature 11-inch wide XStat CLS transducer, coupled with a powerful dual amplifier section, delivers an expressive and dynamic audio experience. It's an experience of pure audio pleasure. 

The Ultimate Center Channel Loudspeaker
This ambitious new center channel blurs the line between performance and reality by combining the unflinching accuracy of a 34-inch wide XStat™ CLS™ electrostatic transducer with the detailed imaging capability of dual Folded Motion XT tweeters. Additionally, four laser-engineered 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers, driven by 250 watts of clean amplification with on-board Anthem Room Correction (ARC) technology, anchor the image to your screen and deliver massive cinematic impact.

We ordered the speakers in Deep Sea blue. Our commitment to that color became apparent when we had Sherwin Williams match it and we painted the walls the same. Jaclyn (my Wife) also painted the ceiling black again. She has become quite the expert little painter! Pics below of her work...

Actual specs are below but what I can tell you from our experiences the better the sound the more likely you are to have the ultimate movie immersion! The center channel has always been the single most important speaker during a movie. It is said that about 80% of the soundtrack comes out of it. Never skimp on it! And having terrific fronts to go along with it make it that much better. I have never used the term "life changing" to describe a piece of Audio Video equipment. The Illusion and Impressions have done just that in our home theater. 

Specifications for the ILLUSION:

Frequency Response
45–23,000 Hz ±3dB
Horizontal Dispersion
30°
High Frequency Transducer
Two 1.25" x 2.4" (3.2cm x 6.1cm) Folded Motion XT Transducers with 4.5" x 2.75" (11.4cm x 7cm) diaphragm.
Mid Frequency Transducer
Patented CLS™ XStat™ electrostatic transducer
» Panel Dimensions
8" × 34.5" (20.3 × 87.6cm)
» Radiating Area
276 in2 (1,778 cm2)
Low Frequency Transducer
Four 6.5" (16.5cm) cast basket, high excursion, rigid aluminum cone with extended throw drive assembly, non-resonance asymmetrical chamber format.
Room Correction (Bass Section)
Anthem Room Correction (ARC) Ready (Sold Separately)
Amplifier
1x 250 watts/channel (4 ohms), 500 watts peak
Sensitivity
90 dB/2.83 volts/meter 
Impedance
6 Ohms . Compatible with 4, 6, or 8 Ohm rated amplifiers.
Recommended Amplifier Power
20‒600 watts per channel
Crossover Frequency
500, 2000 Hz
Components
Custom-wound audio transformer, air core coils, polypro- pylene capacitors. 24-bit DSP based preamplifier (used with woofer amplifier).
Audio Controls
Bass: ±10dB under 75Hz
Mid-Bass: –2dB, 0dB, +2dB
ARC Room EQ: On, Off
Signal Inputs
WBT-0703Cu nextgen™ 5-way binding posts feature a filigree signal conductor made from gold plated, nickel free, non- ferromagnetic, pure copper for high conductivity and fully insulated. Free from eddy current effects.
Inputs
AC Power, RJ45 (for ARC), mini USB (for ARC)
Power Draw
Max: 300W per channel Standby: <1W per channel
Weight
90 lbs. (40.9 kg)
Dimensions 
23.75" × 32.35" × 23.1"
(60.3cm × 82.2cm × 58.6cm)

Specifications for the IMPRESSIONS:

Frequency Response
29–23,000 Hz ±3dB 
Horizontal Dispersion
30°
Vertical Dispersion
44" (112cm) line source 
High Frequency Transducer
XStat™ CLS™ electrostatic transducer
» Panel Dimensions
44" × 11" (112 × 28cm)
» Radiating Area
484 in2 (3,136 cm2)
Low Frequency Transducer
Two 8” (20.3 cm) cast basket, high excursion, rigid aluminium cone and extended throw drive assembly, non-resonance asymmetrical chamber format.
Room Correction (Bass Section)
Anthem Room Correction (ARC™) ready (Sold Separately)
Amplifier
Woofer: 2 x 275 watts/channel (4 ohms), 2 x 550 watts peak
Sensitivity
91 dB/2.83 volts/meter
Impedance
4 Ohms, 0.6 at 20kHz. Compatible with 4, 6, or 8 Ohm rated amplifiers.
Recommended Amplifier Power
20‒550 watts per channel
Crossover Frequency
300Hz
Components
Custom-wound audio transformer, air core coils, polypropylene capacitors. 24-bit DSP based preamplifier (used with woofer amplifier).
Audio Controls
Bass: ±10 dB under 75 Hz
Mid-Bass: –2 dB, 0 db, +2 db
ARC™ Room EQ: On, Off
Signal Inputs
WBT-0703Cu nextgen™ 5-way binding posts feature a filigree signal conductor made from gold plated, nickel free, non- ferromagnetic, pure copper for high conductivity and fully insulated. Free from eddy current effects.
Inputs
AC Power, RJ45 (for ARC), mini USB (for ARC)
Power Draw
Idle: < 1W/channel
Max: 500W/channel
Weight
90 lbs. (40.9 kg)
Dimensions 
60.75" × 11.9" × 27.4"
(154.3cm × 30.2cm × 69.6cm)

Speakers on their journey to my theater. The Illusion comes on a pallet!!!
Some new additions (signs) to the theater. The entryway is well lit. A quick look at the Illusion shows it just barely fits under the sscreen. Just right! The pic on the right shows my favorite new movie poster...





Sony VPL-VW5000ES, McIntosh MX160, McIntosh MC205, McIntosh MC207, DirecTV 4K, Oppo UDP-203, Panasonic DMP-UB900 4K Ultra Blu-ray, Darblet DVP 5000S, Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra Blu-ray player, Zigen DA14-UHD HDMI distribution amplifier/splitter, Monster Power HTS 5100, Oppo 103D Blu ray, Value View 3D glasses, Antec Component Coolers, Stewart Studiotek 100 Screen, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN ILLUSION, IMPRESSIONS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (HEIGHTS & ATMOS & T), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 X 2, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP x 2, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs (with Raffel Integrated Lighted Cup Holders), Remote: Harmony 1100, iPad Mini. Cables: Monster Black Platinum HDMI cables top to bottom. And two 35 foot Monster Black Platinum HDMI cables.
Equipment used for part or all of Review:
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JOERODHOMETHEATER.COM
Even the twins favorite show Paw Patrol sounds amazing in the theater with the Illusion. Pretty much everything down there from sports to movies have had a massive upgrade!
Final Thoughts... It's hard to imagine how just by changing your fronts and center out how much of a difference it could make. Every source be it DirecTV or Blu-ray has a resounding effect. My favorite comments from ML are, "The Illusion ESL C34A is timbre-matched to our flagship Masterpiece Series speakers to create a white-knuckle home theater experience of skidding car chases, blitzing battle scenes, or even intimately whispered dialogue within a seamlessly coherent surround-sound environment, making the Illusion ESL C34A the perfect center of your Masterpiece home theater." I will say that nothing has ever been able to ring more true! We find ourselves wanting to watch our favorites from our library. The Oblivion test with Tom Cruise chewing his toast and saying thank you for his coffee has never been more clearer. Same for Sicario when Emily Blunt is whispering to herself after a hot shower to stay calm. Her breathing and words have astounding clarity. Vin Diesel's sexy voice (my Wife's words not mine) has never been so deep and distinct. I had once said in another Review, "With an outstanding image and now even more immersive sound there truly is no reason ever to pay for another movie ticket..." I must have had a pretty good crystal ball because now with the Illusion and Impressions we have the ultimate movie immersion experience at home. And high cost movie tickets and popcorn does not apply...
Click to read more detailed info about the ------>
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A HUGE thank you to Noah at Audio Video Interiors Chicago in Oakbrook. They have many MLs on display including their 80K Neoliths! Give him a call today (630) 607-0054 or just stop in and check them out! Definitely worth the trip...
And another special thanks to my lovely Wife
and our beautiful twin daughters! I can only imagine how much fun we will have when we plan out movie nights with them...
Here are more signs and items that light our entryway into our theater. There are so many ideas out there. Directly below click to see how you can make your own concession stand! DIY from items from Amazon.