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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 jameskerry ( A ) on February 14, 2002 at 19:37:02
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for the Magneplanar 1.6QR

"The Magnepan 1.6QR" or "How I joined the ranks of Audiophilology without going broke"

1. First allow me to submit my own two cents worth (to review my impressions
on the Magnepan 1.6QR pls skip to paragraph three): 9-11 has taught us that
life is very short. Fullfill your needs, take advantage of what life has to
offer. I do not consider myself to be a "audiphile" I do not have the money
or resources. However, I recently refueled my interest (since adolesence) in
audio gear. Myself (like many others) grew up reading the now defunct
monthly magazine "Stereo Review". It amazed me how every review (it seemed
to me anyway) of audio equipment was at the least adequate/never glaring or
negative. I guess it fell under the "don't bite the hand that feeds you"
principle (most equipment reviewed were also built by major advitisers of
the magazine). But alas, the periodical always satisfied and stirred the
interest of audio/hi fi gear in me. It seemed the world of (high end?) hi fi
equipment such as Revox, Meridian, Infinity (hey were're talkin' 70's
here!), Marantz, yes even Carver was far beyond my grasp.
2. Enter Ebay. Sure I'm aware of the caveats, shipping horror stories,
unwarranted items etc., but hey, you got to admit-you can't find some of
this stuff at your neighbor's garage sale! And isn't that what Ebay is
anyway -a giant (worldwide) flea market?! Plus there are certain safeguards
in place ie, safeharbor, etc. But to see some of the gear available from the
70's going for pennies! I a aquired a Marantz 1060 and 14 Integrated Amp for
$40 bucks each! Mark Levinson's going for 50 cent on the dollar used (of
course). B&W 801 Matrix considered by some to be the best speaker in the
World -pound for pound (a speaker a former roomate of mine "swore" he'd own
one day which at the time retailed for $5000!) on Ebay for $2300! Who cares
it the things weigh 300 pounds and special shipping/crating required? My
point is I succesfully built a-what I consider to be a high end system. I do
not make a lot of money (apprx 35k annually); but most importantly I have
(what my wife and I disagree on:) priorities! ie; the kids needing shoes
-vs-oh, say $200 interconnects for my speakers-that sort of thing! Well with
some sneaking and a little white lying (I keep telling/convincing
myself/her: at least it ain't crack!) I was able to come up with a very
decent "starter" audiophile system" on a budget! Preamp: $350 for Adcom GFP
565 (a stereophile recommended and now classic) Two Nakamichi PA-7 monster
amps running 200watts mono (I consider a definite giant killer) and
considered better than Adcom's GFA 555's at $400 each! A rotel RCD 965
limited edition CD player -$150. Finally a pair of Vanderteen 2c
speakers-$500. Try match this for under $2000! Apparently my Vandy's
challenged my kids to a duel (and lost) and had to be replaced. Since it's a
crime to disgard children, I opt'd for a new set of speakers. I did not go
the ebay route this time, instead I wandered into my freindly neighborhood
run of the mill high end store. I asked the salesman what he had in the
$1500 range. I explained I was not looking for quanity at this point in my
life; but quality.
3. Which brings us to Magnepan and his current masterpiece: the 1.6QR's. I admire Jim Winey and his "out of the box" concept of audio speaker design. I'm not a engineer or physicist and I do not know what makes a magneplanar speaker work; But I do know these work magnificiently! You could not buy these in a Circuit City or Best Buy or Good Guys etc. no, not in this age of home theater, satellite speakers, subwoofers, dolby this, dolby that, MP3's, DVD's, (you get the picture). Further, these are truly a high-end speaker in every sense. (Hey-you can't purchase a steinway at K-Mart can you?!) Nor can you purchase these, pluck em' down in the living room, fire up the ole' Fisher receiver and expect acoustic alchemy! Not that Maggies can't deliver HT (home theater) sound quality; see the MGCC2's on the Magnepan website : http://www.magnepan.com. I have not used the 1.6's for HT yet; I primarly purchased these for audio only playback. Which brings me to the sound. I knew from the first decible these were special. The best way to describe the sound was "ambient". They truly do disappear! The pro's and con's: These speakers are NOT as finicky as some would lead you to beleive. It's true they need power (they are inefficient by design; 86db!) but think in terms of quality vs quanity. Case in point: when my normal amp was down I ran the speakers using my old Sansui AU G99X an integrated amp rated at approx 200WPC at 8ohms; 250/280 in 4ohms. I play a solo saxophone piece by Mccoy Tyner. It ran well until Mccoy hit a lower octave on his baratone sax and it was shut down city! Conversely, I ran the same passage through my old stand-by Marantz 1060 at 60 watts and it played flawlessly!
4. Unfortunately the Maggies biggest attribute is also it's achilles heel: Their uncanning, crystal-clear clarity and their ability to reveal weaknesses in your system truly stand out! Be prepared, (if your serious about your system) to spend some time and money for these! You have to get the best interconnects, amps, preamps etc. It's true when my salesperson told me owning these are like being married (if Maggie says move the couch and does'nt like the curtains, you move the couch and get rid of the curtains!). Speaker placement however is crucial (although not as critical as some electrostatic's tend to be). I'm learning you don't necessarily aim the speakers as much as "designing" a soundfield in your room. Unfortunately, I'm learning big screen TV's and maggies don't like sharing the spotlight! So for serious listening the big screen is rolled out of the living room! Would you place a 6 foot diagonal black cube on stage while Miles Davis performed; well neither would Maggie!
5. I feel I made the best move purchasing the 1.6QR's. But they are not for everyone! I'm 41 years old, my kids aren't toddlers anymore, and NO cats around to climb on these! I grew up listening to rock, soul, (ok I'll even admit disco-but I was forced to via the airwaves!) jazz, and now classical. This is truly a magnificent speaker, capable certainly of reproducing any genre (although heavy metal and rapsters would be disappointing). But it's ability to reproduce the human voice -particulairly female- and piano's are uncanning. Listening to a cappella recording (try Livingston Taylor's version of "Grandma's Hands") is truly a remarkable experience! Listen to Stepen Marley and Erykah Badu sing "I'm in love with you" and you actually "see" Stephen facing Erykah, Erykah facing the listener! Or Jewel, singing the "morning song" she is there in your living room! For pure "wow" factor I play to unsuspecting freinds Pablo Sanchez's "cold sweat/funky broadway" guranteed to drop jaws!
6. The 1.6Qr's have a commanding presence, almost 6' high, 1 1/2 foot wide, 2 inch deep,dominating the listening room, (scoring a perfect 10 in the "wow" factor amongst freinds and relatives!). I'm amazed when in my normal sitting position I'm "enrapped" in sound rich, and full. However, when I stand and approach the speakers themselves, they actually "disappear" all that's left is music coming from the soundstage! By design the speakers are literally transparent, with sound flowing from the front and rear, thereby reflecting and projecting the room with a very convincing soundstage (Not to be confused with a similar and popular "direct reflect" concept). Much has been noted of it's lack of reproducing deep bass. Hey-there's bass; perhaps not the Arnold Schwarzenegger type of in your face explosion in HT but more in terms of a subtle, more acoustic/upright bass feel.
7. Well I think I've said enough already! Jim Winey obviously has a winner and at roughly $1600 this is indeed a standout. In fact, Stereophile magazine rated this pair a "class B" rating (often reserved for spkr's in the 2-8 thousand dollar range) But decide for yourself. Arrainge (if possible) an audition for these and be prepared to become addicted!

Product Weakness: shows component weakness(s),spkr placement
Product Strengths: giant killer; cyrstal clear highs; blood line, price, modern classic, made in the U.S.A.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: nakamichi pa7
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): adcom gfp 565
Sources (CDP/Turntable): technics cd
Speakers: magnepan 1.6qr's
Cables/Interconnects: transparncies
Music Used (Genre/Selections): all but country/rap
Room Size (LxWxH): 30 x 10 x 8
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Magnepan Magneplanar 1.6QR Speakers - jameskerry 19:37:02 02/14/02 ( 12)