Magnepan—Updating a Legend

I finished my first day at THE Show, at the Flamingo hotel. (It's wonderful that CES and THE Show are now within easy walking distance.) Over the years, Magnepan has built some of the best-sounding speakers I've heard, and most often ones that perform at the level of speakers several times their price. The MG 1.6 is one of the High End's true classics and has always been one of its most spectacular bargains. One of Magnepan's demo systems was the brand-new MG 1.7. It's physically identical to the 1.6 but rather than planar-magnetic drivers for the bass and tweeter, the 1.7 use Magnepan's "Quasi-Ribbon." Both planar-magnetic and quasi-ribbon drivers are lightweight diaphragms onto which a conducting element is attached, but in the case of the planar-magnetic, the element is wire. In the quasi-ribbon, it's a very fine ribbon, or foil. The latter is lighter and covers more area, so the performance approaches that of a ribbon, where the conducting elementis the diaphragm. The 1.7s sounded truly spectacular and at just $2000/pair, destined to be another winner for Magnepan.

Nearly unnoticed at the other end of the room were the mini-Maggies that JA wrote about in our 2009 CES report, finally ready to be shipped. These are essentially miniature MG3.6s, with a true ribbon tweeter and quasi-ribbon midrange and bass drivers, combined with a Magnepan woofer/subwoofer module to create a very compact three-piece system. I listened to both as a computer speaker and as a satellite/subwoofer system in a normal room layout. It works beautifully in both applications and will likely be priced in the $2k/pair region as well, which makes for an interesting question; in a smallish listening room like mine, which is the better approach, the quasi-ribbon 1.7 or the mini-Maggie 3-piece system? Different form factors, different technologies, same price, same application. Which would I recommend or buy, and why? Maybe JA will agree that it's an interesting question too.

Jason Serinus Comments: As Magnepan's Wendell Diller began playing an excerpt from Pierre Boulez's recording of Mahler No.3 on a multi-channel SACD sampler, the huge soundstage and all-enveloping sense of air produced by the system which used the new MG1.7s at the front for Left and Right, a Magnepan center channel, and Magnepan's motorized, hinged speakers for the rear, were something very, very special. (Source was an Esoteric SACD player and amplification was the Bryston SP2 driving 7BSST2s.) Although there was some brittleness to the sound, the surround presentation was gripping.

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Lance P.'s picture

I too enjoyed the 1.7s, but was distressed to find that they were supplemented by a Maggie center channel speaker as seen in your picture. I asked if they could disconnect it, they said they could not. I asked why, they said they wanted the quality of sound to be even throughout the room. They said they wanted to ensure that people would not leave the room with any negative impressions from uneven sound quality and that the main purpose was to get folks to go to their dealer for more detailed listening of the 1.7s alone. I guess I can accept that and if I was in the market for a $2000 speaker I would go to a dealer for a proper test.

Ray Robinson's picture

This is what I've been waiting for!

Jeff Glotzer's picture

What?!? The Magneplanar 1.6 QR's already USE the quasi-ribbon! What part of the description did this new speaker differ from the 1.6? I don't see any. If they put a true ribbon in there, then that would be a feat... and enough for me to kill myself, as I just purchased 1.6's last year. Uggh.

suits_me's picture

The 1.6 does not use quasi ribbons with the foil conductors throughout the way the 1.7 does, as is clearly explained in the text above. Additionally, the 1.7 has a new section, if not separate driver, set aside as a super tweeter.

JJK's picture

Well the 1.6 is a quasi ribbon for sure. Maybe the reviewer made too much of a point on the subject or something!! From Magies web-site on the 1.6:MG 1.6 2-way Quasi Ribbon Planar - Magnetic 40-22 kHz 86 dB 4 Ohm 19 x 65 x 2 So what I want to know is where is the "Mini Maggie" I heard last year at THE Show. You know, with the RIBBON tweeter? That would have and could have walked all over the "new" 1.7, along with several models up from it! Did they KILL the design in fear that they would never sell another, higher up, model again!!???? It was like Frankenstein or something, if so!

suits_me's picture

The tweeter section on the 1.6 is quasi ribbon. The bass section is not. It uses wires. The 1.7 is quasi ribbon throughout, and has the new super tweeter section and crossover. This is my best understanding from reading much of the show coverage in various places as well as the dedicated maggie forum at another website. (Perhaps I erred earlier in saying this aspect was clearly explained in the original report posted here.)

Scott's picture

The press release from Magnepan is rather confusing, but the verified facts (I'm a dealer) are that the 1.6 only used a quasi-ribbon for the high frequencies while the 1.7 uses the quasi-ribbon technology full range and has three elements rather than two.

jjk's picture

who cares? As far as I'm concerned a 2-way is more coherent then any 3-way anyhow. Major step back in my book with the 1.7, just based on that.And where is the Mini-Maggie? That would wipe the floor with the 1.7. When I heard it last year, I thought it to be right up there with the 20.1. Just an amazing piece of vaporware!

lateralgs's picture

So, jjk, when you find out you were incorrect about the make-up of the 1.6, suddenly you "don't care." How convenient.As for your absolute statement that "a 2-way is more coherent then (sic) any 3-way anyhow," well, absolute statements rarely are truly absolute.

Ron Wills's picture

Just picked up my new Magnepan 1.7s this weekend and have been playing them for several hours. The first two things that stand out are their clarity and seamless sound from top to bottom. While most of my music playing is classical, I really enjoy Rodrigo y Gabriela's incredible guitar playing (check out the video on http://www.rodgab.com/home.html). In the past on my Magnepan 1.6s, I really felt that the music was just a little too fast and felt the Maggies had a hard time keeping up. It was good, but not great. Now, with the 1.7s the same CD was amazingly clear from start to finish. Every instrument in its proper place and all the details came forth. The best way I can describe it is “effortless detail.”Last Friday I sponsored an event in Frederick, Maryland at the Downtown Piano Works. At the conclusion of the evening, the owner, Theresa Shykind, played a piece on what I believe is a $135,000 grand piano in this fantastic small concert room at their store. It was breathtaking. Then on Saturday, I set up the Magnepan 1.7s and played a couple of piano recordings (Haydn and Mozart) that for a few brief moments in each piece, it sounded like the piano was in the room. It was as if I could hear, for the first time on a recording through speakers, the natural vibrations of the piano itself as the notes trailed off just like I heard the Friday before. Very impressive.The 1.7s are a little better with rock than the 1.6s but still not comparable to most good bo

Bob's picture

Congratulations to all the satisfied 1.7 owners. Although it is still not available in my country I am very much interested in purchasing a pair myself if someone can shed light on one important concern. I have been hearing that Maggies are not great as other designs when it comes to dynamics. Is this true?

Josh's picture

Yes, that's true. If you want bass extension and dynamics, dynamic speakers will beat a Maggie at a given price point. Whereas the Maggie will sound a lot more natural. A sub will improve bass extension and also, if you offload some of the bass from the Maggie woofer, improve dynamics, but it's hard to get a cone to mate seamlessly with planars. Small, sealed units tend to do better than big, ported ones. Magneplanars are also inefficient and need a lot of clean amplification for the best sound.In my experience and that of many others, Maggies offer unparalleled bang for the buck, but they aren't for everybody -- you have to have the room to keep them at least 3' out from the speaker wall, they're too directional to make good party speakers, and some people prefer loud and deep to realistic. But in my experience that's a distinct minority, most people are blown away by the sound, including people who aren't into audio (as my stepmom said, "Even I can hear that those are something special").

Jance's picture

Listened to 1.7s this weekend. They were terrible. No midrange at all, and it sounded like what was there was being squeezed through a small -- a very small -- mailslot. Supposedly Magnepan was trying to "fix" the wide soundstage "problem" and the midrange "bloom" by shrinking everything down to a point source. Bull, says I. That live Magnepan sound is gone, gone, and gone. The 1.7s sound like cheap big box speakers. I think Magnepan feels they have to compete in the home theater market and have dumbed down the speaker to meet what the HT yahoos want.

dave's picture

I've had my MG 1.7's since April, before that had MG1B's and MG111A's since the 1980's. MG models since sounded like incremental versus exponential improvement without buying the full range ribbon models. If your system budget is under $10K its hard to go wrong with the MG 1.7 with its transient and tonal fidelity. The difference between the 1.6 and 1.7 model sold me immedately.. the clarity was finally there in the 40-80hz range. The 1.7's will expose weaknesses in the rest of the signal chain... which is what I suspect Jance heard.

Pierre's picture

I wonder what the 1.7 would sound like with aREL T2 subwoofer. Would appreciate any feedback in this regard!Imagine this combination along with the new DSPeaker 8033 (anti-mode DSP subwoofer correction system) and MYE stands for the 1.7's! WOW!?

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