Magnepan Magneplanar loudspeakers run-in | Part One

22.09.2012..

Foreword

Today I am going to speak of a common dream for the most part of the audiophiles: the Magnepan Magneplanar loudspeakers.

Small or big, old or brand new, serial or modified, they are impressed in the heart of all the people that have listened to them, even if only for a while.

 

Myth, the sole isodynamic par excellence, the Magneplanars flaunt a rétro charm. Maybe because their livery is always significantly clean and sober or because any past or present model can express itself exactly as an old instrument, sweet and mellow….

 

Without any doubt, a must, heard in many systems and different environments, some interesting, some disarming. Nevertheless, each one, independently from the result, tied by a common denominator: the satisfaction and the emotion of their owner.

 

We can take out from this concept that:

The outcome is often more important than “the whys and the wherefores”.

This is the true spirit of the music lovers.

It does not matter where and how we listen to something. What is important is seizing the emotional content.

 

Listening for the first time to a pair of Magneplanars is a fascinating experience. The passage from a punctiform speaker to an iso speaker is shocking, especially if you are accustomed to “average” systems where the emotional reconstruction is almost non-existent. I remember my first time, with a pair of 3A, jurassic version of the 3.7. It was an emotional trip, starting point of a new and interesting idea of the sound and its infinite properties.

Away back in 1990, my system was made of only a pair of Infinity K9 speakers, Krell Ksa 250 B power amps and an Audio Note tube preamplifier. I was not aware of the digital with separated DAC and I was fighting with the integrated players, in order to get the best source. An amazing Onkyo Grand was the absolute reference, then replaced by Stax Quattro, Jadis Jd3 and finally by a spectacular California Audio Labs cl20. But nothing was comparable to that new sensation of involvement, presence and interaction with a sound that had struck me in those twenty seconds of total trance in one of the most highly-rated shops in Turin, Elettronica Orla.

I am sure that the imprinting of those moments is similar to those experienced by an audiophile who has approached the Maggies with the urge of owning them.

 

I know, it is a very long foreword but I believe in emotions and not in technical contents, so…let us come to the point.

Although exceptional, the Magneplanar have some limits. I am not talking about power, even if…of the suggested 250 watts for the driving, you can use a lot less depending on the music you listen to.

The mechanical limit has always been a big flaw that has hampered the diffusion of this speaker, often subject to the breakings of the panel, that are of course repairable but with the loss of 3/6 dB of efficiency and the renounce of something in the frequency response.

The coming of the Mylar has reduced a lot the gap and the Maggies have become more similar to the dynamic type, both in listening and in the resistance at the transients. De facto, they are still a niche choice for who have been able to drive them with amps of quality and to solve the most part of their rated faults.

 

Without any effort, the Magneplanars can generate, and I specify GENERATE, the magic and the listening involvement.

Like many components which you become “addict to”, they collocate themselves in their own range, where everybody mythicizes and magnifies in relation with the emotions felt during the listening, similarly to what the tubes or the equalizing connections do.

It is clear that I am not denigrating the Magneplanars, not nearly… I am an happy owner of a splendid pair of 20.1, which sometimes I listen with pleasure to and employ to test the most “fake” components considering the great ability of the Maggies to create autonomously what is real and concrete in the sound, noise and distortions included.

 

Use of the Magneplanars, second-hand and new

Clearly, before the purchase, you need to test them, in order to avoid any rage or disappointment. Listening to the Magneplanars is something very different from a conventional speaker. First, you have to take into account their dimensions. Although thin and high, the speaker is very wide and needs a particular positioning in whole synergy with the room, quite always very distant from the back wall.

It follows that very often the Maggies occupy the two-thirds of the room length, therefore the whole room.

 

What differentiates this speaker from the classical dynamic or hybrid is the low range: if you are used to the traditional dynamic woofers, this listening typology is entirely different and you are pushed to create a dual system adding a dynamic speaker driven by another power amp, so to get the woofer punch “which fills the stomach”. This is not possible with the Maggies, unless you use state-of-the-art dedicated connections.

The deep bass, although not very palpable, has always been its weak point. To compensate it the alternative was adding an audio/video sub, awful choice but economic, or a TDY sub, with better results.

 

In the old models, to avoid any breaking, the extension of the low range was acceptable. In the new models, the dynamic/mechanical sensation has increased a lot, but it remains different. If you want to avoid that a beautiful pair of Magneplanar is used as a "divider" at the room sides….which sounds also if stimulated passively, you have to consider all that. You could say that this speaker is made for a more real and concrete sound. It is true: in live music, every sound, every harmonic note resounds with the body. It is a sensation that shakes your diaphragm like a piano string and generates amazing sensations. It has to exist in the artificial playback, otherwise the listening is emotionally incomplete.

Confusing the mechanical solicitation with the resonance is a fallacy and a big mistake if considered superficially. The Maggies are able to give back such detail, today even more, seen the optimizations of the membrane. The 3.6, if driven at the state-of-the-art, is comparable to a dynamic speaker of great performances, consequently provided of a wave band that travels linearly at least from 30 Hz to 30 kHz.

 

We are aware of how this product is and which its set of problems is. Each particular has forced me to find a solution, to modify or optimize. Also the run-in of the new type has been disarming: never seen before a component so lunatic and hard to optimize.

 

Second-hand

I did it in the past, but today I will never buy a second-hand Magneplanar unless an audiophile capable of listening only below 80 dB SPL has used it. The old but praiseworthy Magneplanars were delicate like crystal: with few current, they did not perform very much, with too much current they played in an involving way but inclined to breakings. You might believe that the right amplification is enough, but it is not like that.

An amplification ad hoc, very generous in current at low impedances, should compensate the extreme transients in the playback of any supports excessively impacting and dynamic like Telarcs.

 

I advise you against the tubes to drive the low range: a planar isodynamic like the Maggies is very quick in the transients, while tubes and output transformers are somehow “slower”: this gap creates a temporal displacement that withdraws the image and gives back the sound without any control. To the first saying that the sound must always stay behind the speakers I replay vehemently that yes, it has to stay behind but not as a fault, as a detail and correct transduction of the transients.

 

To end up:

  • at the listening the Maggies have to result easy to drive and both channels have to be symmetrical for timbre and response. Otherwise, they must have been repaired and this intervention is acceptable only if there has been the substitution OF BOTH panels or damaged ribbons in order to keep the timbric and electric coherence
  • the fabric has to be smooth and taut
  • a well-kept Maggie has no damp patches, the declension of the covering is homogenous, the screws are well tightened
  • if you own consumer amplification do not buy the Magnepans to avoid unwelcomed surprises

1 out of 2 - To the second part



Associated equipment: to Roberto Borgonzoni's system

 
by Roberto Borgonzoni
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