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 in the 70’s, only a relative handful of electrostatic speakers had ever been brought to market. Gayle Martin Sanders and Ron Logan Sutherland met in the late ’70s at a high-end audio store where they shared a passion for music and soon discovered electrostatic loudspeakers. Sanders and Sutherland convinced each other they could do better. They were sure they could build an electrostatic speaker that would produce adequate bass, output, and sound dispersion without arcing, blowing up amplifiers, or otherwise offending people not interested in a living-room science project.
The first prototype was ready in 1980. Naturally, it still had that science-project quality—a flat aluminium panel sprouting wires, struts, transformers, and power supplies, connected to an amplifier in Sanders’ living room. It sounded even better than expected, but when they turned up the volume, a lightning storm erupted across the panel and music was replaced by a plume of smoke drifting toward the ceiling. Still, they knew they were close. At the 1983 CE Show, they displayed their full-range hybrid electrostatic loudspeaker they called the Monolith and sales started to flow over the coming years. By 1988 sales had increased tenfold and their plant expanded to include a large, dedicated production space. In 1989, and again in 1990, Inc. magazine recognised MartinLogan as one of the 500 fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States.