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Magnepan Magneplanar 1.6QR Speakers Review by bob

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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 bob on December 07, 1999 at 08:07:39
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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
Speakers: magnepan 1.6qr
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

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