MartinLogan Dynamo 800X subwoofer review

hcchighreccomendA mid-range subwoofer from MartinLogan, the Dynamo 800X crams features and flexibility into a compact cabinet. Richard Stevenson is very impressed

The middle model in MartinLogan’s five-strong Dynamo series of active subwoofers, the 800X is a svelte little box of joy subtly finished in a satin black with Poirot-like abilities to reveal greasy fingerprints – have a cloth handy. The film noir styling continues to the chunky feet, complete with spikes and seamlessly integrated rubber spike covers for hard floors.

Core specifications are right on the money, with the sealed enclosure featuring a 600W peak-rated Class D amp, a single 10in driver (terminated with an inverted surround, said to reduce air turbulence), and both line-level and speaker-level analogue connections. There's then Bluetooth connectivity for MartinLogan's Sub Control app (iOS and Android), plus an input for the company's £200 approx SWT-X wireless module. This fits into a neatly designed docking pocket on the back of the woofer, so doesn’t stick out.

In a feature I certainly haven’t come across before, the feet surrounding the Dynamo 800X's smooth concave driver unbolt and can be fitted to the rear panel, allowing you to rotate the whole sub so the driver faces forward. If you are sticking this model in a cabinet where the usual 360-degree bass radiating from a down-firing driver will get largely obstructed, the front-facing option makes a whole lot of sense.

Okay, the connection panel and controls end up on the bottom, but with the Sub Control app handling all the bases (there are no crossover or phase dials on the Dynamo 800X itself), plus a bit of cable-routing creativity, it’s eminently workable. MartinLogan even supplies the sub with a grille cover for the front-firing setup.

ARC angel
Alongside compatibility with the app, the Dynamo 800X comes with a semi-integrated room correction system that uses partner brand Anthem’s well-regarded ARC EQ for smart devices, Windows or MacOS. Yes, that's the same software that graces Anthem’s AV processors, on a subwoofer costing £995. This is something that will pique the interest of tweakers.

You can use the Sub Control app and the microphone on your smartphone or tablet to run ARC, but the best results will be using MartinLogan’s universal (Anthem, Paradigm and MartinLogan products) Perfect Bass Kit. This is a £195 optional extra but comes with a calibrated microphone, with download link to the calibration file; a lightweight metal tripod; and two 4m-long USB-A to miniUSB cables to connect mic and sub to your laptop. That's all great, except the Dynamo 800X's ARC input is on a microUSB port, so you will still need another cable or adaptor.

The app and software present you with two options, Auto or Professional. The former is fire and forget, the latter offers flexibility over some of the measurement parameters. Running the pro setup requires between five and 10 measurement positions around the listening position, but has a blissfully short test-tone sweep so is all done very swiftly. You then upload the filter file to the sub’s internal DSP and it’s job done. If the software’s final response curve post-EQ in my room is to be believed, the ARC setup turned a slightly lumpy LF response into a very smooth bass curve.


Back-panel offers line/LFE and speaker-level connections, plus ARC and wireless module inputs

Enter Sandman
At first, however, this failed to translate into dreamy bass with a punch like Tyson. The Dynamo 800X was filling out the room well and hitting hard for its size, but sounded a little 'tight' straight out of the box. The good news is the performance improved and improved by the movie. Two weeks in, it had loosened into its stride and was showing off its best attributes.

Netflix’s moody Sandman gave the Dynamo an atmospheric test, as the series is underpinned with subtle ambient sonic effects alongside the occasional rumble. Sandman’s crumbling castle provides plenty of deep-down sofa-shaking entertainment while distant low thunder rolls around the room without sounding over-the-top. In fact, the 800X’s compact proportions lay down a lot more LFE level than you might anticipate; having gone a little ‘hot’ on bass levels initially, backing down delivered a much smoother and more engaging performance.

Upping the pace with the all-action Matrix Resurrections (4K BD), the cinematic scale wrought by this 10in sub really captivates. Matrix movie gunshots always have oodles of bass and the Dynamo 800X does not disappoint, giving each a healthy thump. I have heard faster and harder-edged LFE delivery, but rarely from such a compact model packed with features and sporting a not-too-eye-watering price ticket.

A good or bad facet of MartinLogan's excellent Sub Control app is its comprehensive and easy-to-use controls. You will either love the software's flexibility or see it as an open-door to becoming an itinerant twiddler. Alongside the basic level there are three presets for Music, Movies and Night, plus fully variable 0-180 degree phase control, adjustable low-pass and ARC on/off. There is even a variable low-bass gain, offering +/- 10dB from 20Hz-30Hz. Personally, I love this flexibility, but having a little tweak during every movie session might not please your guests.

Compelling soundstage
Perhaps the Dynamo 800X’s finest talent is its tuneful presentation with music, demonstrating a sophisticated and even-handed filling in of the lower registers within a stereo setup. It dialled into some large bookshelf speakers with ease, thanks in no small part to the flexibility of the app, and added texture to a wide range of music. It never fails to amaze me how a sub can seemingly bolster the entire audio spectrum when set up correctly, and this one did wonders to create a bigger, much more compelling soundstage with stereo recordings.

Interestingly, the app defaults to the sub’s Music mode as standard, perhaps indicating where this little Dynamo’s heart lies. But it remains an excellent all-rounder – for those hunting a compact, well-featured woofer that delivers the bass goods, the Dynamo 800X is hard to beat. It's one very versatile, great-value sub.

HCC Verdict: 4.5/5

MartinLogan Dynamo 800X
Price: £995 (+£195 for PBK mic)

We say: Small in size yet big on features, the Dynamo 800X is a well-designed and very flexible all-rounder sub that performs great. ARC and app make setup fun.


DRIVE UNITS: 1 x 10in polypropylene cone with inverted surround ENCLOSURE: Sealed FREQUENCY RESPONSE (CLAIMED): 24Hz-200Hz ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): 300W/600W (peak) Class D REMOTE CONTROL: Yes, via app DIMENSIONS: 315(w) x 348(h) x 333(d)mm WEIGHT: 13.6kg

FEATURES: L/R line-level and LFE inputs, speaker-level input; optional SWT-X wireless connection; 12V trigger port; microUSB port for ARC EQ; down- or front-firing configuration; Sub Control app (iOS, Android); ARC Anthem Room Correction; supplied with Energy Transfer Coupler spikes