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REVIEW: Magnepan Magneplanar MG12 Speakers

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Model: Magneplanar MG12
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $950
Description: Planar Magnetic Loudspeaker
Manufacturer URL: Magnepan
Model Picture: View

Review by Marc Bratton on December 22, 2003 at 14:24:19
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for the Magneplanar MG12

Do we NEED another review of the 12's? Read on, then you can decide if I've added anything. I'd been the happy owner of MMG's for 4 years. While they definitely made music in a manner WAY beyond their relatively peanuts price point, I was ready for something along the same lines, only better. Thus the 12's. The 1.6's are too big for my condo and WAF considerations, but the 12's are the right size to to just drop in neatly where the MMG's were.

With the stock 12's, I was a bit disappointed, frankly. Yah, yah...I
could hear the more extended treble, detailing, and the extended deep bass. But it wasn't gelling...I actually preferred the more musical way of my cheap n' cheerful MMG's, despite their obvious limitations. For one thing the 12's definitely sounded edgy-the treble and upper midrange had a subtly whitish, grainy quality that my MMG's didn't have. So, I complained to that effect in these pages. Those with more knowledge and experience than I told me to give 'em more time to break in (though I'd bought them used). They had to 'get used to' my electronics and cabling. That may not be as far out as it sounds, because the sound quality was amazingly similar to when I had some Hovland caps put into my EAR 834P.It took those caps forEVER to break in, and they sounded bright, edgy, and grainy until they did. So I waited...for awhile. But not too long.

Being the impatient sort I am, I decided to grab the bull by the horns, and do the crossover mods, as described in these pages by Ed Morawski, James Caroll, and others. I refer you to their articles, but I did it slightly differently, making it all internal (there is room to put in the new, bigger inductor, right behind the speaker binding post area, but if you add aftermarket speaker binding posts such as Cardas, you won't be able to bolt it to the back of the speaker, as they'll touch the inductor. I just left mine hanging, no big deal). I also bypassed the Solen caps that I installed with Jensen PIO caps, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The sound after doing the mods was cleaner, more open, more dynamic. The bass became more extended, and had a more musical quality. The speakers STILL sounded a bit relentless to me, and that's when I bypassed the new Solen caps with the Jensen PIO ones. THAT made ALL the difference.The treble became even more extended, cleaner, and more relaxed. I did that one 1st and listened for awhile. Then I did the same for the mid/woofer Solen shunt cap. The effect of adding a Jensen bypass there was to completely remove a slight residual graininess that the Solens had been imparting. The sound is sumptious, spacious, relaxed, and relaxing. I'd call the effect of the Jensen bypass caps as 'subtle, but VERY worthwhile'

So, are they worth twice the price of the MMG's? Yes, they are. I put about $300 into the crossover mods total, and it took them to twice the sound quality the stock ones were (difficult to quantify these things, but you get my point). Their bass is deeper and more tuneful, the midrange is cleaner and more 'in the room' and the treble is considerably more extended and cleaner than the MMG's, even though ostensibly it's the same tweeter. Better crossover parts is my guess here. Since doing the crossover mods, the musicians are a LOT more 'in the room' than with the stock 12's....with the right recording, it can be spooky. So, if you're considering these speakers, I recommend you buy 'em used, and do the crossover mods. Believe me, if I can do them ANYONE can! You will NOT be disappointed with these speakers if you do so, but you may end up being disappointed with any weakness upstream of them, as they'll tell you all about it. They're quite revealing, but with the better crossover parts installed, they are no longer 'relentlessly' so. Indeed, I don't even find it necessary to use any treble resistor...all that pot metal crap is long gone. I retained the tweeter fusing, though, using a Jena Labs cryo treated silver fuse holder to very good effect. Highly recommended. Oh...if you still have MMG's, and can't afford to move up to 12's, I HIGHLY recommend you replace the stock parts in the crossover with similar valued, high quality ones. I'll bet that'd be the biggest bang for the buck in all Planarland!

Product Weakness: I think the stock 12's sounded bright, edgy and relentless. It's like they're SO revealing they were revealing the poor quality of the stock crossover parts (and they WERE BOWSERS...the stock electrolytic woofer shunt cap looks like something you'd find in a cheap 60's era walky talky!).
Product Strengths: Holographic, musicians 'in the room' sound, with upgraded crossover parts. Open, clean, relaxed.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Class A Forte 4a
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): AVA T7 with NOS tubes
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Teres/Morch UP4/Shure V15VxMR and Rega Planet
Speakers: Magnepan MG 12's
Cables/Interconnects: Cardas 300B
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, rock, jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 26 x 16 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: RPG foam behind speakers
Time Period/Length of Audition: 3 months
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Brickwall
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Magnepan Magneplanar MG12 Speakers - Marc Bratton 14:24:19 12/22/03 ( 6)