Magnepan Magneplanar MG3.6/R loudspeaker Page 4
Great Expectation No.5: Dynamics! From the subtlest micro-shading to the most explosive crescendo: Another longtime Magnepan bugaboo has been the need to play them loud to get a sense of realism. The MG3.5/R and 1.6 were dramatic improvements over the previous models in their ability to reproduce large dynamic transients, but they still lacked the nth degree of resolution at the pppp end of the scale. With the MG3.6/R, Magnepan seems to have eradicated this shortcoming. Big crescendos were startling in their power, as were drum sets, particularly rimshots and toms.
At the other end of the scale, when the 3.6/Rs were paired with a muscle amp like the Classé monoblocks, they did a first-rate job of capturing microdynamic shadings. On "What a Dif'rence A Day Made." from her Never Make Your Move Too Soon (Concord Jazz CCD-4147), Ernestine Anderson often floats the faintest, subtlest traces of vibrato on the very last breath of notes. A lot of speakers, even some excellent dynamic models, can't capture that vibrato, but the 3.6/R did it beautifully. I'd often find myself holding my breath, just to make sure I didn't miss these delicate whispers.
Great Expectation No.6: Transparency: no opacity, no texture: For all their great strengths, Magnepan speakers have always suffered from a slight opacity. The MG3.5/R and 1.6/QR were spectacular advancements in this regard, retaining only faint vestiges of a slightly filmy texture. The 3.6/R is another big step in this direction, its transparency rivaling that of the best cone-type speakers I've heard. This showed up in added purity through the midrange and upper midrange, slightly more complex harmonic mixes, and improved dimensionality. The improved transparency was most apparent, perhaps, in how it helped expand and remove congestion in the back half of the soundstage. The MG3.6/R was the best I've heard at opening up the spaces between trumpets, for example, and maintaining their size and detail.
The flip side of the 3.6/R's transparency, however, was that it wasn't nearly as forgiving as earlier Magnepans. Even the 3.5 wouldn't penalize a listener too much for their choice of upstream components, as long as they included a clean, powerful amplifier. With the 3.6/R, I had to be a lot more careful. My Ultech and Parasound CD players just didn't cut it, for example, and until the SimAudio and Oracle players showed up, I listened almost exclusively to vinyl—and had to scrupulously level, adjust, tweak, and warm up my TNT. Selecting cables became an agonizing series of trials and tradeoffs. Even my beloved VTL Ichibans became a limiting factor, ironically contributing a touch of haze of their own. Ditto the Mark Levinson No.20.6s, which had a slightly dark, liquid presence. It was only when I installed the Classé CAM-350 monos and optimized the setup around them that I truly appreciated the MG3.6/R's transparency.
Okay, I'm a Magnepan guy. I've owned several pairs over the years, and I absolutely flipped over the MG3.5/R. In these pages, I pronounced the 1.6/QR "one of the great audio bargains." Nowhere were expectations for the MG3.6/R higher than in my listening room. And, point by point, the 3.6/R delivered.
The 3.6/R builds on the great strengths of the 3.5/R, and successfully incorporates some of the magical touches that transformed the 1.6/QR into such a small wonder. Its re-creation of the original soundstage and recording environment are incredible, and with the latest improvements, its dynamics, resolution, and transparency approach those of the very best speakers I've heard.
The 3.6/R does need to be driven by a good, powerful amplifier to sound its best, and will clearly reveal the weaknesses of upstream components. But when all the pieces are in place, it's magic.
The 3.6/R is unquestionably better than the 3.5/R—stronger, more articulate, and better integrated. It's not a quantum step, though, so 3.5/R owners needn't feel the need to immediately dump their speakers in the "garage sale" pile and upgrade. Similarly, the 3.6/R is a substantially better speaker than the 1.6/QR, in every way. It's flatter, more refined, much better at the frequency extremes—the list goes on. However, if bucks are really, really tight, I suggest you opt for the 1.6/QR, invest the difference in upgrades elsewhere in the system, and not lose any sleep about it.
Taken on its own, however, the Magnepan Magneplanar MG3.6/R is a sensational speaker, and, at $3750/pair, very reasonably priced. In some respects it's the best speaker I've heard, period. Even in the areas where it's perhaps not the very best, it's awfully close—even when the very best is several times more expensive. Some speakers I admire, some I like...the Magnepan MG3.6/R, I think I'll keep. Very highly recommended!