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Magnepan MG3.6/R Review

November 11, 2008 By Steve Guttenberg



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Magnepan MG 3.6/R

Speakers have the toughest job in audio; reproduce the deepest bass to highest treble and unleash the widest possible dynamic range. In stereo, the best speakers should provide a full-blown holographic recreation of the original sound event. For home theater you should feel like you're there.

That's the goal, but all speakers fall short of perfection. They never truly disappear as sound sources, and to a greater or lesser degree they all wind up sounding like an assortment of tweeters, midranges and woofers mounted in a box.

Not this time. For this review we're looking at a very different type of speaker.

Magnepan MG 3.6/R

The Magnepan MG 3.6/R is 71 inches tall, but a mere inch and a half thick. There's no box, just a nicely finished open-panel design with nary a dome tweeter, cone midrange or woofer in sight.

That's why the MG 3.6/R will sound like a revelation to first-time listeners; the gap between the sound of real, live music and recorded music feels a whole lot smaller.

The speaker projects a more full-bodied, three-dimensional soundstage than any box can—correction, the MG 3.6/R's sound was bigger and deeper than I've ever heard from a speaker retailing for less than $50,000. With the MG 3.6/R instruments and voices emerge closer to their real life scale and size. Clearly, Magnepan engineers changed the way speakers compress and rarefy air.

Mounted within the MG 3.6/R's statuesque panel are three "planar-magnetic" drivers: a 55-inch tall aluminum foil "ribbon" tweeter; a 199-square-inch 0.5-mil-thick Mylar midrange diaphragm; and a 500-square-inch Mylar woofer.

The MG 3.6/R is a dipole design, so it projects sound from its front and rear surfaces. The drivers are Magnepan patented designs, all manufactured at the company's factory in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

More about the planar-magnetic midrange and woofers: Rather than use a conventional voice coil that pushes and pulls the center of a cone diaphragm, wire grids are deployed across much of the surface of the flat planar-magnetic diaphragm—the design gambit produces lower distortion than cone type drivers.

The MG 3.6/R's pleated aluminum ribbon tweeter directly carries the current and doesn't need additional conductors. It weighs far less than a dome tweeter and still has many times the surface radiating area of a dome. Without getting all technical on you let's just say it's a remarkable device; the Magnepan ribbon has been cited as the world's best tweeter by a number of audio reviewers, including yours truly.

Magnepan MG 3.6/RThe technology may be exotic, but the MG 3.6/R’s design is far from cutting edge: It's been in production for more than ten years, and the original MG3 debuted in 1983.

Magnepan rarely introduces "all new" models; the speakers are so highly evolved design changes are infrequent. I find that refreshing, Magnepan is a very different sort of high-end speaker company.

The MG 3.6/R is available in dark cherry, natural or black oak, with off-white, black or grey cloth grilles. Contact Magnepan to discuss custom finishing options.

The sheer believability of the sound can be, at first, a little jarring. The ribbon tweeter is so much more realistic sounding than any dome tweeter I've ever heard. Cymbal crashes sound like crashes.

The treble dynamics/impact/vibrancy are absolutely state of the art. So much so returning to box speakers can be a letdown, they sound smaller, more contained, and well... boxier.

While there's astonishing resolution of fine detail the speaker somehow still manages to sound phenomenal with all sorts of music. The MG 3.6/R was surprisingly adept at cranking out nasty, distortion-strewn punk rock from the 1980s.

1960s psychedelia was also trippier, seemingly because the speaker imposes less of its own sound over the music. It's really as simple as that.

The ribbon tweeter has an effortless quality that almost always brings out the best in recordings; but bass definition/precision is just as extraordinary. It's supple and nuanced in ways that cone woofers never quite match.

The thing is, I have to interrupt this glowing review with a few caveats. First, the 3.6/R can be demanding about placement, it wants to be at least 30 inches away from the wall behind it; in my room the review pair needed more like 40 inches.

Same with side walls, get too close and the soundstage goes to hell and the bass loses its magic. Some folks slide the panels close to the wall when not listening. Thankfully, the speaker is pretty easy to move around.

The next hurdle is power, the MG 3.6/R is a hungry beast and needs at least 100 watts from a high-quality amplifier to strut its stuff (100 watt A/V receivers probably won't cut it). My JC-1, 400-watt Parasound amplifiers were a perfect match, so the power issue never came up for me.

If you like to listen loud or your room is large, don't scrimp on power. But even feeding it enough juice the MG 3.6/R won't satisfy headbangers, it's not going to rock out like a heavyweight tower.

Back to the rave. I played a lot of the earlier Simon & Garfunkel records. On "Cloudy" and "Patterns" there was a purity to the sound of the chimes and other percussion instruments that I swear I've never heard before. I had to stop and play those songs a few more times just to marvel at the sound.

And on S & G's Live From New York City, 1967 CD the duo's voices were startlingly natural. The voices were so perfectly realized I can almost accept them as real. The concert had a live, in the moment feeling, as if the music was miraculously brought back to life. That's a trick that few speakers, even ones retailing for ten or more times the MG 3.6/R MSRP, ever pull off.

As good as the MG 3.6/R is, it's not the ultimate Magnepan—the MG 20.1/R ($12,500/pair) is the company's flagship. Magnepan will soon introduce a matching dipole center speaker, the MG CC/R for around $3,000. That, along with MG 3.6/Rs as surround speakers would make a dreamy home theater.

Me, I'll be hanging onto the MG 3.6/Rs, they're too good to send back!

PRICE: $5,000/pair
CONTACT: 800.474.1646, magnepan.com

Comments

Maggie 3.6 seems to be one the best speakers on earth. Partnered with my naim 500 series and FMACCOUSTIC 266/611, the speakers give an absolute detailed and real-life soundstage, depth and clarity.
I need to give you an invaluable tip for all maggie users.

Try these,

1. instead of toeing-in your maggies, toeing-out by 30-40 degree give u an instant soundstage and depth.
2. Place a pair of good quality super tweeters( 50Khz and above)in between maggies.
3. Place maggies at least 40 cm from rear walls and 8 feet apart.
4. some sound treatment at the centre part of the rear wall.

Above information has rendered you to create a performance stage or even a mini concert hall for maggie to function live.

--yong

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