Magnepan Magneplanar MG3.6/R loudspeaker Page 2
I did all of my listening in my main 17' by 23' listening room, with the Maggies firing across rather than down the room's length. The setup put them approximately 3.5' out from the front wall, and the speakers' outer edges approximately 7' 10" from the left wall and 4' 11" from the right. The speakers' inside edges were about 5' 8" apart, their centers each about 13' from my listening position. I settled on a slightly toed-in configuration, with the speaker axes crossed at a point approximately 6' behind the listening position.
My past experience with Magnepans led me to expect a fairly easy setup and optimization process, and that proved to be the case. A few things are worth noting, however. The MG3.6/R's radiation patterns—dipole for the bass, a line source for the midrange and tweeter—reduced bass problems with room boundaries, but made sidewall interactions a bit more of a concern. Positioning too close to a side wall could cause the image to come forward along the side walls, distorting stage placement and image size. In my room, with a 23'-long wall behind the speakers, it wasn't an issue. It's also been my experience that Maggies in general work best when backed by a solid but irregular wall. Hard plaster and adobe are good, brick and stone are better. None was an option for me, so I had to make do with drywall and lath over concrete block.
Another consideration is that although the 3.6/R is a benign load—mainly resistive and a fairly flat 4 ohms—at 86dB/2.83V/m they're not terribly sensitive. The VAC Renaissance 70/70 is an unusually strong 70W amp, but wasn't really enough to make the Maggies sing. The Mark Levinson No.20.6s, VTL Ichibans, and Classé CAM-350s all did better jobs of resolving low-level dynamics and detail, and opened up the soundstage noticeably. I spent time with all three, but ended up preferring and doing most of my listening with the Classé monoblocks, which are rated as delivering 700Wpc into the Maggies' 4 ohm load.
The rest of the system remained constant throughout the review period: my VPI TNT IV/JMW Memorial turntable/tonearm combo with Grado Reference cartridge, SimAudio's new Moon Eclipse CD player, and a VAC CPA1 Mk.III preamplifier at the center of it all. Nirvana's new S-X interconnects arrived mid-review and immediately claimed their territory. I biwired the MG3.6/Rs with Synergistic Research Designer's Reference when the Classés were in use, and used Kimber's Bi-Focal XL with the VTL and Levinson amps.
Bright Star's Rack of Gibraltar and Air Mass, Big Rock, and Little Rock isolation products kept everything stable and quiet, and AC was fed through an MIT Z Stabilizer (amps) and Z System (front end), with a Nirvana isolation transformer providing an extra measure of isolation for the Moon Eclipse.
I ended up using only a minimum of room treatment—a single 14" ASC Tube Trap in one front corner (reflective side out), an EchoBuster diffuser panel in the other, and a combination of EchoBuster BassBuster columns and homemade panel resonators in the rear corners. EchoBuster absorbers were mounted to the rear wall, behind the listening position.
Use and Listening: Can Great Expectations be Met?
Great Expectation No.1: A huge, open, holographic soundstage. Magnepans have always gotten "the space thing" right. Whatever their other pluses or minuses, they've been able to create a more realistic soundstage than most speakers, and better capture the sense of real instruments playing in a single, coherent acoustic environment. The 1.6/QRs were very good in this regard; the MG3.5/Rs were outstanding.
The MG3.6/Rs didn't disappoint me in the least. Their soundstage was huge—extending well outside the speakers, and the deepest of any speaker I've used. Front-to-back layering was superb; in fact, the 3.6s set a new standard in this regard. They didn't just clearly define the position of the instruments on the stage and the surrounding hall boundaries, or even do so with a greater degree of precision and specificity than other speakers—they also quite clearly described the spaces between the performers, and between the instruments and an adjacent hall boundary. A lot of speakers can do this in the lateral plane, but none—in my experience—can do it so well with respect to the front-to-back distances.
The effect is particularly riveting on naturally recorded works, where the hall ambience is discernibly woven between the instruments. For a dramatic example, try John Eliot Gardiner's recording of Henry Purcell's The Tempest, with the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra (Musical Heritage Society 4479). Most speakers can assign the correct depth cues to the orchestra and various singers, and correctly place the images on the stage. Good speakers clearly track the singers as they move forward and backward on the stage.