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REVIEW: Magnepan Magneplanar 1.6QR Speakers

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Model: Magneplanar 1.6QR
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $1500
Description: Planar Magnetic Loudspeaker
Manufacturer URL: Magnepan
Model Picture: View

Review by Green Lantern ( A ) on April 16, 2003 at 22:07:47
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for the Magneplanar 1.6QR

About 3-4 months ago I took the leap and decided to do the XO upgrade on my 1.6Qr’s. The following represent my findings:

My greatest sincerities go to Paco, S.Hum, Ed Hsu, Mart, et al for their patience and unselfish sharing of knowledge

I chose the Hovland and Sledgehammer components after spending many hours searching through the archives section. Economically speaking, these were also well within my spending budget (apprx $300 total).

I’m often emailed asking if an upgrade would be beneficial to them, the cost involved, it’s complicities etc.. My respond is typically: yes and no; it won't make bad components associated with your system better; in fact they'll reveal ALL shortcomings in your system (if any). Or in other words, the upgrade will not promote mid-fi into high-fi; if anything it’ll demote mid-fi into low-fi!

It is in this regard I fell a lot folks have actually regretted performing upgrades (myself one of them at first!); if you think maggies are revealing of upstream components now; these are brutally revealing in fact I probably would have kept them stock (it would have been a lot cheaper!). However, they will take the 1.6's to the next level. Warmer, transparent etc, -but I’m getting ahead of the game..

There are different ways to approach this project, from the novice to the expert. Myself never having soldered before took the ‘novice’ approach. My entire upgrade was performed without soldering (until a wire became dislodged from a push tab!) This can be accomplished quite simply making a slit along the rear panel where the current ‘caps’ are housed. The four main wires are then identified and ‘snipped’. The stock shunt is also snipped and removed. The above 4 wires are then cap twisted into your new stock wires (warning: do NOT skimp on your choice of wires! STAY AWAY from Radio Shack!). I initially chose cheap tin wires, then copper while waiting for my Cardas variety to arrive. WRONG! Remember, revealing is the key word here.. Great amounts of distortion is introduced at this level (and quite disturbing!). Finally my Cardas did arrive with pure silvers and pure copper per Paco’s recommendation. Out went the distortion.
I also chose to bypass the fuse eliminating as much ‘contaminants’ as possible. However, an inline fuse can be re-inserted and recommended when evaluating new components and those times you feel the 'need for speed'. I just recently replaced the Cardas with CAT-5 with great results.

The music:
Right out the box my first impression was more ‘weight’ was added to the music. Not that the Maggie sound were lacking in this regard, I just felt the cross comparisons left me with the impression that the ‘old’ Maggie's sound was a ‘diet Pepsi’ sound and the newer, upgraded XO sound was a good ole' rich and tasty Classic Coke variety! (sorry, Sam Tellig I’m not!) Warm, open, transparent. All instruments appear greatly represented in a new, richer way. Soundstage opened up, and up.. head tilts looking for the ‘pinpoint’ area now become full shoulder sways! I’d be willing and daring to say two people can now enjoy the ‘sweet spot’ (provided you’re ‘snuggled up’! ) and enjoy the maggie sound on the same couch!

the highs
High frequencies now take on a much defined definition. Cymbals now seem ‘unshelled’, solo trumpets take on a more natural feeling. In fact I want to discuss the trumpet a little more in detail here. Having played the trumpet for years (purely recreationally speaking) I know what to listen for when listening to recorded music. I’ve always felt the maggies (at least with my modest components) to be hmmmm ..’shy’ in this department. Definetly not up to the task of a good dynamic ‘box’ speaker. The upgrade definitely helped in this regard although I’d still like to feel the ‘impact’ of a live trumpet solo. In all fairness, my cd collection of trumpet music is quite limited. Flute music is splendid, never over the top or shrill, Bob James’s “Ivory Coast’ is a perfect example in this regard. The first track “Ashanti” is a beautiful piece demonstrating how well maggie can reproduce the flute’s scale ranging from it’s highest pitch down to it’s lowest range revealing how a flute is played via a combination and blend of air breath, air and miniature chambers.
Strings are pure bliss demonstrating what the right combination of highs, mids and lows a good speaker can reproduce. If that weren’t enough maggie throws in a soundstage so deep you’d think the string section was 15 behind the rear wall!

the mids
Trombones on the other hand…OHMYGOD! Hey, it’s no secrete I feel maggies do midrange perhaps better than most (if not all) speakers on the market today. Nothing better to test her abilities than with the trombone! Excellent reproduction; amazing in fact. Vocals are Maggie’s bread and butter. Again, weight is added where it seemed ‘paper’ thin-like before.

(Or, low freq’s as the maggie camp likes to describe them!) It gets tighter folks, no question. The Sledgehammer is probably twice the size and weight of the stock unit and it SHOWS you why. Her ‘bottom’ end is now firmer, tighter and definitely deeper. Kick drums are present yet not overpowering, double bass uprights benefit too in this regard appearing firm and steady.
Hey, more and more women are getting ‘help’ with their physiques why NOT maggie?

maggie's soundstage also greatly benefits from a XO upgrade. Instruments are better defined and pronounced. Wider, more transparent as well.

Maggie out the box are a phenomenal speaker, just ask any owner. Adding a XO upgrade (providing you have adequate supplemental components already) will defintely take the 1.6QR to the next level.

Describing a XO upgrade with the stock XO is not an easy task nor is rebuilding a replacement one; Both have their merrits and certain considerations must be determined if one wishes to perform the task. Considering you have worthy components I'd say go for it-

The differences is like regular Folgers coffee vs their premium richer, earthier Columbian coffee. Very rich and stimulating! (sorry again) OK, I'm done-

Product Weakness: as the quality of sound is enhanced ten-fold; so is it's ability to reveal upstream components!
Product Strengths: new dimension in sound reproduction

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Bryston 4bst
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Sony 1000ESD
Sources (CDP/Turntable): n/a
Speakers: as above
Cables/Interconnects: CAT-5 project
Music Used (Genre/Selections): all types
Room Size (LxWxH): 25 x 25 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: room lens, ficus plants
Time Period/Length of Audition: 4 months
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): n/a
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Magnepan Magneplanar 1.6QR Speakers - Green Lantern 22:07:47 04/16/03 ( 11)