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|Suggested Retail Price:||$1500|
|Description:||Planar Magnetic Loudspeaker|
Review by bob on December 07, 1999 at 08:07:39|
IP Address: 188.8.131.52
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for the Magneplanar 1.6QR
In deciding to purchase Magneplaner 1.6QRs, I auditioned many other speakers over a several month period. Typically, I auditioned these with the following CDs, among others:
Patricia Barber: Café Blue (especially: "Too rich for my blood")
Diana Krall: Love Scenes
Sara K: Hobo
Dadawa: Sister Drum
These provided a good test of the speakers’ abilities. Other speakers auditioned—all with different components and in different listening environments, some better than others (in relative order of preference on a 5 point scale, 5 being best):
Joseph Audio RM22si (4.5)
Dynaudio Contour 1.3mkII (4.5)
B & W Nautilus 805 (4.0)
Platinum Audio Duos (4.0)
Cabasse Farella (4.0)
Dunlavy I and II (4.0)
Hales Design Group Revelation Three (3.5)
Lynn AV 5140 (3.5)
Paradigm Reference Studio 80 (3.5)
PSB Stratus Gold I (3.0)
Mirage OM6 (3.0)
Thiel CS1.5 (3.0)
Martin Logan Arerius (3.0)
I was particularly interested in speakers that could fill a relatively large room (W 20’ x L 35’) with a high, vaulted ceiling (15’ at apex). I wanted the speakers to be accurate, detailed, and capable of producing a profound soundstage. The Maggies did this, and did it well; and they did it for considerably less than any of the speakers mentioned above, all of which I would have been willing to purchase if I had liked them as much as the Maggies. Other individuals, with different tastes in music, different listening environments, and different musical demands might very well rank the above speakers quite differently. For example, if I had had a small listening room, the Joseph Audios or Dynaudios would have been a great choice. If I preferred heavy rock, then maybe the Platinums or Paradigms would have been better.
I have now had the Maggies for approximately two weeks, and have been listening regularly to all types of recordings (both digital and vinyl). Although they are certainly not "broken in" yet, they sound better in my listening environment than in the two show rooms where I auditioned them. The room is carpeted. They are about 3’ from the back wall, 3’ from the side walls, and 6.5’ apart; my listening seat is about 12’ away. They are toed in slightly. I also have them bi-wired. [It is also very interesting to sit directly between them—gives one the impression of being part of the band!]
They disappear into a very large and engaging soundstage. I can safely say that I will never go back to box/dynamic speakers again. The published reviews of these speakers (July 1998 Fi; Jan. 1999 Stereophile) are quite accurate. In terms of dynamics, accuracy, and coherence, they are nearly perfect. I do not find the supposed lack of bass slam to be a problem—the bass is tight and accurate. I feel no need for a subwoofer. Nor did I find setting them up, and positioning them to be very difficult. I may play with this in the future, but am quite happy after only spending a few minutes positioning them.
The only potential issues I see with these speakers is their long waiting list (I had to wait 3.5 months for mine)—but I think that reflects the audio bargain that these speakers represent. The binding posts are not the easiest to use, but work well once set up. If a user plans to switch speaker cables regularly, this could be a bit of a pain.
These are revealing speakers, however, and may not be appropriate for some (especially "pop") recordings. But isn’t this the irony of high-end audio? The better the equipment, the more you limit yourself in terms of what you can listen too! Nevertheless, it is enjoyable to listen again to old records and CDs, discovering nuances in the music that simply weren’t revealed with my former system.
Most importantly, the Maggies are spectacularly engaging and musical—they make it enjoyable to close one’s eyes, forget about equipment, and simply listen! It is wonderful to let the music envelope you! And that is the bottom line, I think. I heartily recommend that anyone looking for speakers in the $1,000 to $3,000 range audition the 1.6QRs (realizing, of course, that high quality amplification is important).
|Product Weakness:||backorder delay; binding posts|
|Product Strengths:||transparency, dynamics, soundstage|
|Associated Equipment for this Review:|
|Amplifier:||Bryston 4B-ST (a very good match with these speakers)|
|Preamplifier (or None if Integrated):||Bryston B-60R (a great sounding integrated in itself!)|
|Sources (CDP/Turntable):||Adcom GDC 700 (next component to upgrade); Micro Seiki BL-111 with Fidelity research tonearm|
|Cables/Interconnects:||Synergistic research alpha sterling (with active shielding)|
|Music Used (Genre/Selections):||see review|
|Room Size (LxWxH):||20 x 35 x 15|
|Time Period/Length of Audition:||2 weeks, so far|
|Type of Audition/Review:||Home Audition|
I'm having trouble getting my wife interested in the 1.6 -mainly because of an unsatisfactory dealer demo. We brought some of our favorite cds of acoustic music [mostly Baroque] and were chagrined by a hard, metallic, 'in-your-face' presentation that had us both cringing and beating a diplomatic retreat. What went wrong here? Why do these speakers sometimes sound completely inimicable to music? [The room was a a major part of it no doubt -a concrete box. Electronics were by Bryston with a modest Linn cd player.]
"I'm having trouble getting my wife interested in the 1.6 -mainly because of an unsatisfactory dealer demo. We
brought some of our favorite cds of acoustic music [mostly Baroque] and were chagrined by a hard, metallic,
'in-your-face' presentation that had us both cringing and beating a diplomatic retreat. What went wrong here?
Why do these speakers sometimes sound completely inimicable to music? [The room was a a major part of it no
doubt -a concrete box. Electronics were by Bryston with a modest Linn cd player.]"
I tried a pair in my room and didn't really care for them. The older 3.5R is a better speaker to my ears. The 1.6's are really rolled off in the highs, have little to no bass foundation, and the most annoying thing I found was the soundstaging.. the images seemed to want to stay on the panels. I tried both SS and tubes, with and without subwoofers, and 3 different crossover points for the subs along with many different positions in the room. They also tend to be too "upfront" IMO. I also found the midrange has a "plastic" coloration that can be bothersome after listening to a good electrostat (Eros) or a less colored dynamic speaker (Coincident Super Eclipse).
For the money they are a good value but..
I'd buy used 3.5r's over them in a heartbeat.
I've never heard the Maggies, but recently I heard Linn's 3 CDPs demo'd in an all-Linn system. The cheapest player (Genki) sounded harsh, bright, hard; wasn't impressed at all. The midline model (Ikemi) was a big improvement; the sound was much smoother and more natural, with better definition and control. I think I could live with it. The top-of-the-line CD12 was better still - more refined and effortless, but the difference wasn't as dramatic as that between the Genki/Ikemi.
If the Linn CDP you heard was the Genki, that might be another contributing factor to the sound that chased you out.
In my experience, and many others around here, that it's not so much the speakers themselves or the electronics that cause this, but it's the back raditaion of the Maggies that interacts a great deal with the wall and room. Maggies take a lot of care to setup properly and chances are that they won't sound good just thrown in the room with little thought to sound absorbtion and finite placement adjustments. These details matter so much more with Maggies than with other more traditional speakers that aren't so finicky.
I am almost certain that it was the room that was causing the pain with what you heard. Those electronics should work just fine with the 1.6s, actually probably very good. Was there any sound absorbtion panels on the back wall either in between the speakers or directly behind and slightly off to the outside? How much room was behind them, and to the sides? If they are too close to the side wall, you will pick up hardness from the wall reflection. If they are not out from the back wall far enough they will condense the soundstage and the imaging will sound flat. Also, how high were the ceilings? Were they dropped panels or drywall? It will make a difference in such a large surface.
Watch out for a dealer that tells you he used a formula to position the Maggies. While this may work pretty good with standard cone speakers, it usually doesn't work with Maggies. You have to just use the formula placement as a very general guide and experiment from there. Maggies interact too much with the room they are in. Toe in angles make a huge differences too.
Some people experiment with swapping the speakers, so the tweets are on the inside, this works for some people. I find in my room it confines the soundstage though. Some folks, like Mart, have closed up the back altogether by using a towel or something. This has a dramatic effect on the hardness. It's amazing how much the room sets it's impression on the final sound. But, again, I feel like this eliminates the "air" and ambiance too much for me. Right now I'm experimenting only covering the back of the tweeter, and leaving the mids and bass free to raditate out the back. I think I may be on to something here. I am liking the initial results. I need to play around with it some more. Another possibility is using resisitors for the tweeter. Did the set you heard have them in? Magnepan sends along a 1 ohm one, but you can get resistors of more or less resistance to lower or raise the tweeter output. This also makes a large difference in the upper registers depending on whether your room is too dead or too alive.
I'd get the dealer to loan you a pair before making any judgement calls on them. I wouldn't bother listening to them much at all at the dealer showroom, because in your own room they very likely to sound much, much different.
I think you're right that the room acoustics play an important part. I think for Maggies to sound right, the room has to be appropriately damped. Will they let you do a home audition? That would be the best way to see if these are the right speakers for you. Seems to me they should sound great with Baroque music.
about their placement? When I owned maggies I was told by both the dealer and Magnepan themselves NOT to have the distances from the side walls and the back wall be equal. Something about phasing or cancellations. You said you had yours 3 feet in and 3 feet out. Now my logic tells me that you wouldn't want to put them any further apart, that would have the potential to destroy the center image, but why not move them out a little more into your room, maybe a foot or so. That would get you away from that equal-equal situation. Incidently this was the one aspect of positioning that was stressed over anything else, avoiding the equal-equal situation.
Since I live in the Minneapolis area I have had the privilege of touring the Magnepan plant. They are very gracious people there and Jim Winey's son (I forget his name) showed me around and took the time to explain everything. At no point did I feel hurried, al this was done without me having made any prior appointment! The reason I had stopped was to get some tips on positioning, since I did not think I had things quite right in my room. That was when he said that you can do almost anything as far as experimenting around to get 'em right, just don't do the equal-equal thing. He also said to try (I have mentioned this before) trading the speakers places. This puts the tweeter on the other side of the panel, which was how I ended up leaving mine.
I used to listen to Magnepans as decribed in the MG1.6QR review (more or less like normal dynamic box cone speakers!) until I started experimenting. Maggies are not normal......they are extra special and you can really reap the benefits of this speaker if you are willing to "think outside the box" (hee...hee...Magnepan should copyright this slogan since it so fitting). One of the clues to what I prefer as better placement (IMO) is to start with the speakers 1/3 of the way into the room (it seems like they are 1/2 way)and least as far (or farther) apart as you, the listener sit away from them. I consistantly place the speakers 7 ft apart(edge to edge)and sit about 7 ft away. I know you guys are going to slaughter me on this but this works in my situation.....and for 6 or 7 years I set up my Magnepans like the stupid manual sez....like NORMAL box speakers (mainly because NO ONE WOULD BUY HUGE PANEL SPEAKERS if they sounded best in the middle of your listen area just a audiophile-body length away!!!!!!P.S. The Christmas sockings hanging over the glass fireplace insert also really help the sound out.....Merry Christmas!
Was the tour by Wendel? He also gave me a gracious tour but I didn't know he might be related to Winey.
thanks, Rick. I'm sure I try moving things around at some point. Already, I removed the spacers that Magneplan provides to tilt the panels back slightly. They are now completely vertical, which opened up the soundstage a bit (it was too low before). I will try moving them into the room a bit more.
I agree that Magnepan is a good company, and that is important. this is also why I like Bryston. Quality is important.
I've owned few pair of Magnepan before and this is exactly how I felt about them...sheer musical and pure magic. Do not critize them prematurely simply because a proper setup (including room) is a must to be able to truely appreciate their virtues. Though I don't own them at the moment because of the room and system (SET-based), I definitely place them in my top wanted list once the situation allows.
I went to listen to Magnepans a few years ago, but they were either blown, or the setup was horrible. The salesman turned them off pretty quickly. Haven't made it back yet...
After reading your review, I think I will get a lot more out of an audition. Hearing a well reasoned personal opinion helps the evaluation process. Especially when the initial "in store" auditions will probably be at different locations.
You've done a wonderful job of describing the Magnepans. I've owned five pair in my life, starting with the original II's up to my current IIIa's. As I've moved from state to state, and back and forth from Europe, I've reluctantly had to move to more conventional (i.e., smaller) speakers on occasion. Each time I found myself "missing" something in the music and bought new Magnepans as soon as space and/or finances would allow. Botom line: there's a BIG difference between listening to music on conventional speakers and experiencing music with Magnepans.
Nice review. You described how they sound nicely and I do not think they are ugly or bass shy.
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