Magnepan's giant-killer upgrade, the $995/pair LRS+

After a few hours of listening to speakers that cost well into the five and six figures, how much enthusiasm could I muster for a pair that retails for just $995? As it turns out, a lot. I'd heard the $750/pair Magnepan LRS a few years ago and marveled at how low the admission price to true high-end sonics can be. They sounded fast, surefooted, and transparent. Magnepan's new LRS+ speakers offer more of the same but at an elevated level and a slightly elevated price. Wendell Diller, a.k.a. Mr. Magnepan, calls them "higher-resolution" speakers.

Following the 30-minute, appointment-only demo I attended, I don't disagree, but I'm working from memory. No A/B test between the newer and older Maggies was possible.

With a twinkle in his eye, Diller played a symphony-orchestra track—with basses, timpani, the works—that transported me to the concert hall, although the four-foot-tall LRS+ could only do so much in terms of vertical soundstaging.

But wait: are relatively diminutive dipoles really capable of (re)producing this much prominent bass? No, as it turns out. Diller, practicing full disclosure, revealed unprompted that this part of the demo had been augmented by a well-hidden pair of Magnepan dipole subwoofers. Those haven't made it to market yet, and Magnepan fans shouldn't hold their breath: The company already has a months-long waiting list for the LRS models, and neither the subs nor the prototype amplifier (that's right, a first-ever Magnepan amp was driving the main panels) will be in stores anytime soon. But it's never too early to dream.

The flat-panel passive subs, which—courtesy of a pair of Bryston monoblocks—were set to tackle frequencies below 60Hz, are only about the height of a couch, Diller pointed out. That's no random yardstick: The idea is to gain acceptance from interior decorators and spouses who recoil at the sight of traditional subs.

The high-quality front-end components in the Magnepan room added up to many times the price of the speakers. But in Diller's view, that doesn't diminish the extraordinary value of the speakers. He says that some lower-priced class-AB amplifiers make for a very good pairing with the LRS series. A receiver won't cut it, but something like a Schiit Vidar? Bring it on.

What was missing from the picture without the subwoofers? Not as much as you might think. Acoustic guitars and pianos were on the warm side of realistic, just as I like it, and the super-affordable Maggies delivered both male and female voices with a fidelity unrivaled by current speakers I've tried that cost less than 10 Benjamins.

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