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rockoqatsi
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Looking to buy new pair of speakers for ≤1000

Hi everyone, this is my inaugural post.

I've had my current pair of speakers, the Bose 301 IV, since I was in the 7th grade. Now nearly three years out of college (and my tax return pending), I'm ready to change up.

Two models in particular have caught my interest: Magnepan MMG, and Monitor Audio Silver RX2. Why those? Well, I've been lusting after Maggies for years, but felt like I never had the power to drive them. (Current amp: Emotiva UPA-2, 185w/4ohms) And the RX2 for a number of things: it's sensitive, it's pretty, I've a bit of a fetish for solidly-built monitors, and I've already got a great pair of stands waiting for them.

I auditioned the MMGs a while ago at Gifted Listener in Centreville, VA (not too far from where I live) and wasn't too impressed, but that system didn't have a room to itself (they were kind of on display in the foyer), and they were driven with a Marantz PM5003. In retrospect I probably should've suggested they be driven by the Ayre monoblocks that serve the MG 3.6 and 20.1 (which did impress) but the guy seemed to be in defensive mode, and wasn't too patient with me as it became clear that I didn't come there to actually buy anything.

But enough borderline character assasination. It's evident that I won't be able to make a proper decision unless I hear either two of these things in my room with my equipment. And after a proper burn-in period, I probably won't want to let them go. I guess I'm calling out all the Maggie owners I know are here to give me a nudge. After all, this kind of plea is all about the nudge.

I should also mention that my listening tastes range far and wide. I do listen to a lot of classical, but have a rolling selection of 60s and 70s classic rock.

jackfish
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The MMGs are available for home audition with

Magnepan's 60 day money back guarantee. In all but the largest of rooms the UPA-2 should be adequate, although Magnepans really open up with more juice. They are not the end all for high SPLs, but are about as articulate as one can get for under $1000. Add a Rythmik subwoofer and you won't find anything to touch them for a couple, three thousand.

My system:

13.3" MacBook Air, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD, iTunes/BitPerfect
MacBook Air SuperDrive
Western Digital My Book Essential 2TB USB HD
Schiit Bifrost USB DAC
Emotiva USP-1, ERC-1 and two UPA-1s
Pro-Ject Xpression III and AT440MLa
AKAI AT-2600 and Harman Kardon TD4400
Grado SR80i
Magnepan MMG Magnestands
Rythmik Audio F12

 

commsysman
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Speakers

Magnepans are... tricky to set up.

They can sound fantastic when set up right, but you have to get them positioned just right, and they need to well away from the rear walls (at least 3 feet). They also are limited to relatively low volume levels and don't give much bass. Those are things you need to accept about them before you buy them. They have definite limitations when compared to conventional speakers.

They are efficient and DO NOT need much power; what they DO want is an amplifier with a very low output impedance. Your current amplifier will work fine, although I don't think its sound quality will give you the full enjoyment that is possible with those speakers. There are much better-sounding power amplifiers, such as the Bryston 3B-SST or the Vincent SP-331.

If they didn't sound good in the store, I would bet that 90% of the fault was with the way they were placed in the room. The Marantz 5003 has a low output impedance and sounds fairly good; not a problem.

It's pretty hard to go wrong with Monitor Audio or PSB speakers at almost any price point; good quality speakers; good sound. I have the PSB Image T6 speakers at one home, and love them; great speakers.

The Silver RX2 speakers are very nice speakers; no doubt about it. So are the PSB Image T5 speakers ($999).

On the other hand... (said the devil...), the Dynaudio Excite X12 speakers are absolutely incredible speakers; absolutely awesome...for $1200/pair. If that could be in your price range, don't buy without considering them!! Check out the recent Stereophile review of them. If you spend around $1000 on some other speakers and then hear them...you will be sick.

 

 

 

rockoqatsi wrote:

Hi everyone, this is my inaugural post.

I've had my current pair of speakers, the Bose 301 IV, since I was in the 7th grade. Now nearly three years out of college (and my tax return pending), I'm ready to change up.

Two models in particular have caught my interest: Magnepan MMG, and Monitor Audio Silver RX2. Why those? Well, I've been lusting after Maggies for years, but felt like I never had the power to drive them. (Current amp: Emotiva UPA-2, 185w/4ohms) And the RX2 for a number of things: it's sensitive, it's pretty, I've a bit of a fetish for solidly-built monitors, and I've already got a great pair of stands waiting for them.

I auditioned the MMGs a while ago at Gifted Listener in Centreville, VA (not too far from where I live) and wasn't too impressed, but that system didn't have a room to itself (they were kind of on display in the foyer), and they were driven with a Marantz PM5003. In retrospect I probably should've suggested they be driven by the Ayre monoblocks that serve the MG 3.6 and 20.1 (which did impress) but the guy seemed to be in defensive mode, and wasn't too patient with me as it became clear that I didn't come there to actually buy anything.

But enough borderline character assasination. It's evident that I won't be able to make a proper decision unless I hear either two of these things in my room with my equipment. And after a proper burn-in period, I probably won't want to let them go. I guess I'm calling out all the Maggie owners I know are here to give me a nudge. After all, this kind of plea is all about the nudge.

I should also mention that my listening tastes range far and wide. I do listen to a lot of classical, but have a rolling selection of 60s and 70s classic rock.

JIMV
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Jackfish

Great setup and good gear BUT, does not that record rack between the MMG's screw with the sound? My TV in the same position in my setup does....

 

jackfish
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The whole works is in a different room now...

and the LPs are no longer in between. But I also no longer have a dedicated room so my speaker placement is less than optimal. When I can I pull the speakers into the room a bit while listening.

rockoqatsi
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Such pretty pictures...

@jackfish: I'll surely give Rythmik Audio a look. I was thinking (dreaming) of a REL R-series. Keep in mind that my listening 'area' is only 13' by 14', and doubles as an office. Still hasn't stopped me placing my speakers four feet from the front wall. (Funny sidenote: the 301s actually sound pretty damn good, once I completely disobeyed the instruction manual's placement suggestions.)

@commsysman: I read a 6moons review that compared the RX2 favorably with the Dynaudio DM 2/6. I don't know where I could audition the X12 though. The only local retailer I know of who stocks Dynaudios let me have a look at the Confidence C1 as one of their lower-end models (???). I wanted to hug them, but I won't give up my camera kit. C'est le guerre.

I'd have posted shots of my setup, but my room isn't as photogenic as y'alls.

Here goes, but it's a mess:

My system:

  • Emotiva USP-1
  • Lynx Two-B (residing in homebuilt HTPC)
  • Technics SL-QD3 w/Audio Technica DR300E cart (both older than me, hand-me-down from Dad)
  • Emotiva UPA-2
  • Bose 301 IV
  • Sennheiser HD600
  • Meier Audio Corda-2-move

Thanks all for your input.

Jackfish, your setup looks sweet. The UPA-1's are serving you well, no?

jackfish
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So, is it Cheez-Its or Ritz?

Certainly looks like you have enough speaker cable there.

rockoqatsi
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Both, actually. The Cheez-Its

Both, actually. The Cheez-Its have since been polished off.

Demondog
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I like all the pictures.

I like all the pictures.

rockoqatsi
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I've decided to go with the MMG's

And now I'm steeling myself for what promises to be a very interesting audiophiliac journey.

JoeE SP9
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MMG's

Congrats on ordering the MMG's. Let us know what you think of them. They need to be broken in. It'll take at a week or so before they start sounding right.

rockoqatsi
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THEY'RE HERE.

Or, they've been here for the past two weeks. I'm preparing a piece for my blog that's going to be filled with the kinds of experiences that most of you, as MMG or Maggie owners in general, know about already. If you don't want to read all of that, then suffice it to say that even after just ten or so hours of break-in that I'm totally in love with these things.

Now if you dare indulge me, I'd like to try my hand at what one audio journalist described as "dancing about architecture":

The act of removing these oatmeal and oak-colored slabs from their boxes, affixing their feet and standing them upright seemed out of a dream, as if what I had done was to somehow inject them with the potential of life. To the uninitiated, the anthropomorphism of Maggies is unquestionable; conventional speakers are built up like blocks, bookshelf speakers may be placed on stands. With Maggies, you put feet on them and raise them off the ground, where then they assume humanoid proportions and exert a willful energy in the room.

The genus even has an endearing nickname, which I will henceforth sprinkle with restraint lest it wear out its welcome. But as they stood before me, beaming with newness and filling my nose with the smell of freshly cut fiberboard, they seemed as unblemished, uncontaminated and unbelievably virgin to Earthly existence as a newborn baby. I fell in love with them immediately. Even though they're the babies of their range—the least expensive, and second-most diminutive speaker Magnepan makes—they still stand four feet tall. I'd read this figure on paper in the past, and have auditioned this and larger Maggies in showrooms before, all the way up to the six-foot-six-inch MG 20.1, but that didn't prepare me for having these human-scaled things standing in my cramped 13x14' home office loft, blocking the light of my desk lamp, casting long and ominous shadows on my carpet.

I grudgingly accepted the fact I'd have to move the Bose 301's from atop their 50-lb, sand-filled stands, whose spikes had settled comfortably and securely into the carpet underlay after having been positioned so painstakingly, in order to stand the MMGs in roughly the same place. Apart from the feeling of having my sanctuary disrupted, setup was speedy. I switched out the 3-amp fuses for fours, just to set my mind at ease about cranking the volume. The instruction manual and many user accounts gave me the impression I'd have the devil's own job trying to get a solid listening level from the Magneplanars.

As per user account, the sound did seem to come out of the air itself. But that was my poor primitive brain failing to cope with the MMG's dipolar dispersion before I reached my seat, whereupon the sweet spot leapt into stark relief. I sat, listened, moved the speakers closer together, farther apart, fore and aft, and experimented with positioning the tweeter. (The instruction manual recommends placing the tweeters on the inside.) The "sound" in this case, was BBC's Top Gear, and Jez, Dick and Jim are usually mixed for center, so that helped with getting the imaging right, while also having a few laughs doing what is the audiophile equivalent of eating one's vegetables. At three feet apart, with my chair seven feet away, I felt the MMGs succeeded in creating a nearly Jeremy Clarkson-sized stereo image. Whether that's to be celebrated is up for debate.

My name is Matthew Ward, and I am a photographer, video editor, and film score nerd. To bust the cherry on my new speakers, I reached (figuratively, from my HTPC's flac library) for the soundtrack from Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie, performed con fuoco by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and composed and conducted by William Stromberg (Unknown label, as my copy was provided directly from Visual Concept Entertainment, Inc.) It's powerful, sinister, dynamic, and as far as film score albums go, refreshingly neutral, with a lovely midrange. Again, user accounts and my glass-half-empty attitude led me to believe the MMGs wouldn't sound very good at all until they've been broken-in for at least 100 hours, which as a working man, is just as much free time to be had in Magnepan's 60-day trial period. I had the volume knob at 10 o'clock up from about nine, whereat the Bose used to play most comfortably. Thinking back, it surprises me how low the little 301s could go, and how loud. Sure enough, the MMGs didn't go quite as low, nor were they as punchy, even though they're plenty punchy for apartment listening.

Everything above 50Hz, however, was several orders of magnitude above anything I'd heard at home. During the repeated full orchestral blasts of "Operation Hardtack/Teak and Orange" (all tracks are named after different bombs/missions), my jaw dropped. I didn't make it drop, it just did. The dipole/planar MMG were taller, lighter, faster, tighter, and just more.

The following day I played the score from Braveheart (CD, London G2 48295.) No bass? The MMGs had bass enough to vibrate the floor under my feet. Where the Bose would make this very warmly mixed album sound muddy at times (particularly during "Battle of Stirling", "Falkirk" and "Mornay's Dream"), the MMG clarified it, turning the reproduced kettledrum-like sounds into the reproduced sounds of kettledrums, thanks in part to the speakers' radiating area, and no doubt to the renowned Magneplanar midrange. I also found they can go comfortably, dangerously loud, such that I wondered if reviewers had been inflicting permanent damage on themselves by their claims of Maggies being power hogs. Then again, I was driving them with the Emotiva UPA-2, the [since-discontinued] baby of Emotiva's line of affordable high-current amps. It can provide 185 continuous watts into the MMG's constant four-ohm load, and that's plenty for my small room. The concluding thwack at the end of "Attack on Murron" almost took my head off.

Most film scores, and James Horner's in particular, are significantly pumped up in the lower-midbass, so despite the MMG's 50Hz roll-off, they sounded very full-bodied on Braveheart, and later Glory (CD, Virgin V2-86150.) This led me to search for albums in my library with a warm mix, or midbass hump, like the 2011 remaster of Gerry Rafferty's City to City (CD, EMI 5099908726728), and The Bass-ic Collection by Stanley Clarke (CD, Epic 64277) and then, with adrenal glands primed, cautiously probe the limits of the MMG's performance as I pushed the volume just beyond my comfort level. In the end, the neighbors did not complain, I was not evicted, and the Maggies, mercifully, surprisingly, did not harden. Not before my ears were fatigued and needed a break anyway.

Only when I played drier mixes like Jurassic Park (CD, MCAD-10859, the very first and most listened-to film score in my collection,) did I notice reports that I expected to register in the bottom octave that just weren't there... yet. "Okay, so I've found their limit" I thought, but there was nothing at all to fret about. (After all, everything sounds dry after an hour with Stanley Clarke.)

These speakers were the best I've ever heard my music sound at home, and over the course of a few albums' play not only justifying their worth over my well-traveled Bose 301, but delivering the coherence and detail of my Sennheiser HD600 cans and JH Audio JH-5 in-ear monitors, all while expressing that speed and lightness in the third dimension, and energizing my room with the presence of sound, with pressure waves imperceptibly tickling the nerves in my skin, and thumping the cavities of my body, thus creating within me a confluence of visceral and sublime pseudo-sexual emotions that had me rapt, confused, and grinning like Alex DeLarge under the hangdog stare of Ludwig Van—something no set of headphones, no matter how good, can ever hope to do. Maybe it's a matter of taste, or fetish, but this is coming from a man who's spent more over the years on headphones than speakers. The MMG allowed me to do more than just discover new things about my favorite music, I could love upon those discoveries and revel in them.

I've heard better equipment in the past, or at least what I've been told by people who know more than I do is 'better'; certainly more expensive. The first time I visited a high-end audio showroom in my mid-teens, I clapped eyes on the mantis-looking Wilson Audio Maxx 2 (which if memory serves me was $65,000.00 USD,) and have been following the brand ever since. (More like coveting their unattainable wares.) The Watt/Puppy 8, Sophia 2, Sasha W/P, I've heard (and hugged) them all. I've read articles about their manufacturing procedures, and combined with a passing childhood interest in DIY speaker building, I developed a massive amount of respect for Dave Wilson and Co., and their creations. I admired their flawless clearcoated paint jobs, masculine architectural styling, and the engineering, research and painstaking levels of quality control behind the making of them, the true depth of which I will never know. I appreciated them as apex technological marvels. I could not, however, fully appreciate what they did best, because I hadn't acquired the taste.

And what should I have expected, listening to my Bose 301s at home for the past fifteen years, powered by my dad's old Fisher from 1975, and then at a whim, bestriding a rocket ready to punch the stratopause? I had no idea what "good sound" really was because I didn't have a mentor there to explain to me what it was that I'd experienced after having been so assaulted. (It made for some genuinely sphincter-crunching inner drama as the proprietors of these boutiques would enquire about my system characteristics. A total Wilson geek with no street cred, I never told the truth.) I've heard the Maxx 3 powered by Boulder monoblocks, the Magnepan MG 3.6 and 20.1 powered by Ayres, and it was all nice and good fun. But between Bose at my soul-food smelling home, and high-end Maggies in a nigh-inhospitable showroom, I had absolutely no point of reference. Audiophilia, like wine-tasting, is a journey you cannot rush. In Clarkson's own words, I was trying in my overeagerness to go from baby's milk straight to Port.

With the MMGs here, I finally got a little taste of what I had been missing in the showroom. Something happens when you take this stuff home with you, and I predicted as much. What I couldn't predict was how far and fast I'd travel up the learning curve once I auditioned them in my room, with my equipment.

The way I feel now, I can never go back. I love my Bose 301s to kibbles 'n bits, and have had them practically forever, long enough for a not-at-all unimportant learning experience to take place, and make me love my music that much more. I've used them to serenade family members, I've blasted them for friends, and at RIT they became as much a part of my public identity as the tattered and oversized jean jacket with which I vainly disguised my appalling lankiness. Today I'm still lanky, but now a bit more muscled and with better posture. The jean jacket is three years retired, having since found a milligram of fashion sense and now more at ease about my proportions. Now thanks to Magnepan, and the kind and knowledgeable forum community at Stereophile.com, the 301s are sitting on the floor, ticking themselves to sleep and waiting to be walled up with Perspex in a makeshift gallery with my other beloved childhood artifacts. And like the jacket before them, they are irreversibly and incontrovertibly sacked.

As for the MMG, just ninety-five more hours of break-in to go.

JoeE SP9
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MMG's

Just think, those are the entry level Magneplanars. They are designed and made to get you hooked. I guess they gotcha!

Seriously I and I'm certain others are very glad to hear you're happy with your new speakers. They will sound even better after they are fully broken in. In the meantime, enjoy your new toys.

jackfish
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You have a knack...

for writing that makes it a pleasure to read. Now start saving for a Rythmik F12, and with the MMGs highpassed at 50 Hz and the Rythmik lowpassed at 50 Hz using the USP-1 it will take it to a whole new level. Then your neighbors might complain.

rockoqatsi
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Yeah, they got me...

—but good. In retrospect I probably would've been satisfied with either the MMG or RX2, but in the end I went for the brand that I've been following longer, spent less money as a result, and have no regrets.

@jackfish: I hope adding the F12 will only extend the system's "voice" down further, rather than make some of those aforementioned albums with a warm mix unlistenable. (that's what the gain knob is for I guess.) Glad you enjoyed my little attempt at journalism.

So the USP-1's crossover is better than the built-in one in the Rythmik sub?

jackfish
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When used together the highpass and lowpass filters of the USP-1

are complementary, making integration of loudspeakers and subwoofer virtually seamless.  The Rythmik PEQ works well to fine tune the setup. I've listened to a lot of subs with Magnepans and the Rythmik is the best under $1,000 to extend the Magnepan sound down into the next lower octave and beyond.

If you don't have it already, you should download the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross lossless soundtrack of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo for $14.00. I've listened to it several times and keep hearing new stuff in it. An exercise in serendipity.

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