Munich’s Hidden Secret, Martion Audiosysteme
Martion Audiosysteme, Berlin, opted to stash their treasure away in a little cave just down the road from Munich's HighEnd Show in 2016.
On the fourth and final day of the show, I met with Australian HiFi distributor Warwick Freemantle of Pure Music Group bright and early at the show venue, MOC. Warwick would play host on a personal tour of the brands and new products he represents. After a couple of hours delving into rooms and introductions to some clever designers and manufacturers from around the world, just as I thought the tour was coming to an end, Warwick explains he'd left something interesting until last.
Feeling a little like some sort of underground illegal activity, I was whisked away down the road from the MOC, to an unassuming building that somehow crossed half meter thick concrete walls with a glass atrium type roof. From the outside I wondered just what I was walking into. Warwick provided a little reassurance, knowing too well my personal interest in high efficiency drivers and horn speakers.
Whether it be a politically motivated decision, creative freedom, or perhaps both, located inside were a number of HiFi demonstration spaces. Ushered briskly through to the largest space at the rear of the building, I wondered if I'd just been let into some sort of underground German audiophile movement's inner sanctum. Either way, I'm across the other side of the world on a HiFi expedition of discovery, and these opportunities don't present themselves every day. Lap it up, son.
I'm quickly introduced to the flamboyant Heiner Basil Martion. Basil's youthful, humorous aura wouldn't suggest a man in his late sixties. But with age, comes experience, and that is something that Basil has in spades.
Originally from a small village in Germany’s Rhön area, early life playing with various local bands would lay the foundations for a career that would be forged by his love of music, but more importantly, the aspects that connected music and technology. Basil studied the theoretical fundamentals under Prof. Krause at Berlin’s TU university, graduating in studio technology. He gathered plenty of practical experience, paying his way through education by building loudspeakers, working on surround sound optimisation and studio work.
Through the 70s Basil continued developing loudspeakers, but his fascination for the natural advantages offered by horn technology led him and two engineers to present their hi-fi spherical wave horn at the Berlin IFA exhibition in 1977. Basil proudly states that this speaker, EXODUS, led the field at the time in HiFi reviews. While refined over the years, it is still used as the "ultimate monitor" and is still relied upon in many theatres and clubs.
It's evident Basil will happily continue chatting as long as there's a willing audience. His personality is addictive, his passion obvious, and his humour cheeky.
With slotted demonstration times shared between the exhibitors in the space, Basil prepares for his turn and makes the relevant connections to Bullfrog, a passive single-point source 2-way Monitor with a 15″/1″ Driver in a quasi horn/coaxial arrangement.
The singular cube sits proudly on a pedestal stand with authority, and while it boldly stands out in contrast to its surroundings, in my mind it's still quite elegant.
Bullfrog first emerged mid-2003, reviewed by Holger Baske for STEREO. “Without doubt, the Bullfrog is the greatest compact loudspeaker of all time. And that’s from both constructional and sound points of view”. Since refined and now available in two versions, one being an active version designed for the addition of an active crossover and four channels of amplification, and the perhaps simpler, 'Passive' version, with internal crossover that we're listening to today.
I wouldn't even attempt to describe the opening track used for the demonstration or even take a wild guess at the genre, but within seconds of the Bullfrog leaping to life, I was engaged. Rumour has it Basil likes to party, and the dance/techno tracks that followed might suggest evidence to support the claim.
Bass that digs deeper than you'd expect, with slam, authority and pace that is convincing. Bullfrog slides effortlessly up and down the human hearing scale, filling the very large open space with sound reminscent of a live performance or P.A system, minus the honk, fatique or other drawbacks associated with horn speakers. What is reproduced by the Bullfrog is done so with confidence, like a pro boxer's right hook, or the response to planting your foot on the pedal of an exotic car.
Bullfrog is fun, plain and simple. It gets the foot tapping, and it's clear Basil is proud. You half expect him to erupt into dance. A classical piece follows, and a sound stage emerges that proves this speaker is clearly as capable of accuracy as it is output. It's not the speaker for critical listening at low levels with fine degrees of analysis, and I'll suggest that probably wasn't Basil's intention when pen met paper. It's the speaker that will allow you to turn up the wick, have some fun and truly enjoy music. Other speakers in the Martion range are built to higher standards and differing applications, price reflective.
On this expedition of HiFi discovery, Bullfrog was the diamond in the rough. While certainly the best HiFi Show in the world, and I'm including this little side show in the collective, there's a lot of same-same, but Martion's offering stood out. Many thanks to Basil for his time, and to Warwick Freemantle for allowing the experience.
For more information, visit Pure Music Group.
StereoNET's Founder & Publisher and still buried deep in the review room auditioning everything from docks to soundbars, amplifiers and headphones. Marc is also the founder of the annual International HiFi Show.
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