People often assume that MartinLogan was founded by a couple of guys named Martin and Logan, which is sort of true: Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland. MartinLogan “just sounded better than SandersSutherland,” Sanders explains. (Apparently they never considered GayleRon.)
The two met in the late ’70s at a high-end audio store Sanders managed in Lawrence, Kansas. Despite very different backgrounds—Sanders had trained in architecture and advertising, Sutherland in electrical engineering—they shared a passion for music and, they soon discovered, electrostatic loudspeakers.
For anyone seeking the ultimate in sonic purity and clarity, electrostatics held enormous appeal. Unfortunately, designing and building one that will also produce the sound levels and bass extension most people expect from a loudspeaker is a formidable challenge, even today. Back then, only a relative handful of electrostatic speakers had ever been brought to market. Although most were failures, a few, such as the KLH Model 9 and Quad ESL, were legendary among audio enthusiasts.
The KLH probably came closer than any other full-range electrostatic speaker of its day to competing effectively with conventional speakers in bass and output capability. It was very big, however, and finicky and expensive, and it didn’t fit in at all with the rest of KLH’s line. Consequently, sales were modest, and eventually the Model 9 went out of production. The Quad ESL was much more successful, especially in its native England, and until MartinLogan’s products came on the scene it was arguably the only commercially significant electrostatic loudspeaker in history. It suffered the classic limitations of the breed, however. Though the original Quad electrostatic was widely regarded as the world’s finest reproducer of chamber music, fans of rock and even symphonic music were inclined to look elsewhere.