The 1.6s don't need the current of the bigger 3 series maggies and are happy with 100 or so tube watts. This is where they shine, IMHO. And since you said "I will trade VOLUME for MUSICALITY!", this is definitely the route you need to take.
Let me offer a suggestion based on what's worked for me with my own Maggie 1.6's.
First, as you've discovered, Maggies love current. The best high-current amp I've found so far for mine is Roger Sanders' amps -- either his current one or more likely a used Innersound ESL 300 amp. The Innersound amp really delivers what Maggies hunger for, and it's clean and strong. Paired with a musical tube-based preamp, it's pretty damn nice.
Of course, the Maggies can be strongly improved if you go the route of bi-amping them and doing away with the internal crossover, but then they are "modded" and much lower in resale value. I've had mine for seven years, and they've evolved to a bi-amp setup with an Innersound ESL 300 Mk II driving the bass panels and a homemade tube amp (75wpc) driving the tweeter/mid panels. I'm using an active Linkwitz crossover that exactly matches the factory curves, and I love the sound that I'm getting. A vast improvement in detail and bass drive compared to stock. But you certainly don't have to go that far to get a huge improvement. The Innersounds/Sanders amps will carry you a long way there for not a huge investment. And they are a great match with Maggies.
Hope this helps!
solid state amps and panel speakers is a recipe for disaster. why ? magnepans are known for their ability to resolve subtle details. they are not attenuated in the treble region. solid state amps will accentuate the flaws in recordings. why be a masochist ? get tubes. you don't need more than 25 watts, as long as you don't need to generate more than 85 db in a moderate size room.
if your room is bigger, 75 to 100 watts may be required.
my suggestion is based upon personal experience. i am currently using a 25 watt amp on 1.6s . it is sufficient for my needs.
With all due respect, my long experience owning Maggie 1.6's was different from Mrtennis' in that I do find the 1.6's rather attenuated in the high frequencies. (Yes, I've had my hearing checked, it's excellent.) Admittedly, everything is relative to price and the competition at hand. I didn't think that there was any defficieny in the highs until I replaced them and had the advantage of hindsight. I went through three solid state amps and had the same dismal experience Mrtennis describes. However, the PS Audio HCA-2 was a completely different animal from all the predecessors. A sweet treble that was nuanced and detailed, great bass, not much to quible about. My point being, generalizations about product design categories are like other stereotypes, there are exceptions to every "rule." The Spectron Musician is another solid state amp I'd not hesitate to try. If you're inclined to go the tube route, I believe Ozzy had very good results with Music Reference's large tube amps. Check them out, they are a great design.
I too do not agree with Mrtennis. Like the old saying, "I've been rich, and I've been poor. Rich is better!" Same is true for power. I've run my Maggies with about 11 different amplifiers, and there are definitely nice sounds to be had with lower power amps, however, the results with higher power are better IMHO.
One of my nicest-sounding setups used Atma-Sphere M60 monoblocks (with Zero's) as treble/mid drivers, and a modded Citation-II as bass panel drivers. All tube. About 120 watts per channel (more like 200wpc if you use the bi-amp equivalency formula). But then when I went to 600wpc at 4 ohms with the Innersound amp, the whole speaker just opened up and sang! Rich is better!
Also, the Maggie is NOT a particularly high-resolution device at lower volume levels. At higher volume levels, when it "comes alive" is just when the lower power tube amps start to go into soft clipping. Many people like that sound -- part of the appeal of SE amps, I think -- but it's not very accurate. Rich is better!
Finally, I agree completely with Photon46 that characterizing all solid state amps as deficient does not represent useful advice. My preference is tubes (of the 15 amps I currently own, only 3 are solid state). But there are good-sounding solid state amps out there that will work well with Maggies. I really like running tubes on top and solid state on the bottom, partly because I do like the harmonic rightness I hear in the highs, but there may be a solid state amp I haven't heard that will do an even better job. Nice to keep an open mind!
if you consider what music is--pitch,timbre and harmonics, you can see why a lower power amp may create greater realism with respect to timbre.
i hosted an audio meeting and many preferred a 2.5 watt ampolifier over a 120 watt amp--both tubes. voices and instruments were more natural sounding with the 2.5 watt amp.
resolution isn't that important. most stereo systems have more detail than live music.
HMMMmmmm.....I am reluctant to enter into this frey....but I have had enough Zin tonight to be stupid. So here are some very off the cuff observations. I like maggie 1.6's with (good)tube preamps (SAS, VAC-expensive, and passive EVS DAC attenuators....combined with solid state (Nuforce amps). But having Mye Stands and good (PAD) speaker cables have really made my system a lot more fun to listen to. I think that the (1.6's) are sufficiently easy to drive and that you can have alot of fun experimenting with different solid state amp/tube/passive combinations . So the issue of amps /speakers is really an issue of patience. By the way at one time in a small room I drove the 1.6's with a scott/passive preamp/ 22 watt amp. The sound was GREAT! BUT! it sucked (cliped) when I went to a BIG living room! I think that you will have alot of fun listening to different speaker/amp configurations. Hey let all of us know what you end up doing!
Isn't this a fun hobby!
I've tried a few combinations with my 1.6QR speakers. They like a high current amp if you want to play large orchestral music. Lower power is fine only for polite vocals and jazz (IMHO). For a really inexpensive set up try a luxman R117 receiver and put your digital through with the CD pypass engaged. Very good sound with plenty of clean warm power. I use copper RCA interconnects (silentaudio apollo C) and they work very well for the price. Next level up was my old threshold 4000 class A amp with a Lector Zoe tube pre-amp. This combo finally got the timbre correct on horns and cymbals. Next step (up?) is a innersound esl 300 mark2 which isn't set up yet. Believe it or not, speaker cables and power cords do make a difference. Giant improvement noticed when bi-wired with Apex signature speaker wire vs lower end nordost cables. These are hard to find but worth looking for. I use K-works empowered cords on my digital components and front end and either VD nite or Van den hul mainstream PC's on the amp. I connect the amp directly to the cryo'd wall outlet (Locust designs) and put everything else through a large powervar conditioner. When I get the time I'll upgrade the speaker's crossover components. Other people believe that Classe amps (CA201 or monoblocks)and Simaudio amps work well while others like Brown Electonic Lab amps. I like using SS a amp and a tube pre-amp. Room set up is also important as is using mye stands.
To all, thank you for your suggestions. I am new to this forum so excuse my ignorance but could someone tell me what IMHO means?
Over the years I have owned several Maggies (even had a pair stolen once in Seattle while on vacation) and my experience is they do not open up until you reach a certain db level so I am leaning toward the SS power side. Any thoughts on the Bryston power amps? What are the opinions on the Modulus 3A pre-amp, and is it reliable long term? Also considering Rogue Audio, and AR tube pre amps.
Many people have been very happy with Bryston & Maggies. Jim Winer of Magneplanar used to show the Maggies at hi-fi shows using Bryston electronics, so the speaker's designer believes in the synergy. The SST line is more refined sounding than the earlier Brystons and worth seeking out. Per my above post, I think the bigger Brystons are better matches, but they can get to serious bucks, even used. Another cheaper option that many folks like is the Conrad Johnson solid state line (see the Maggie Planar forum on Audio Asylum and search for amplifiers with Maggies). These can be had for under $1k also.
I have heard the Brystons with Maggies, and I own a Modulus 3A, but I've never heard them all together, so I don't know what the synergy would be like. But maybe a few thoughts about the Modulus would be helpful to you?
The Modulus 3A is not a particularly romantic-sounding tube preamp. It is very clean sounding and does present a holistic presence that is very addictive. Some of that "3D" sound you said you were looking for. If you want a warm sound, you can try tube rolling, but it limits your tube rolling options because it runs fairly high plate currents on its 6922 tubes. While you can use NOS 6dj8's in it, the higher plate currents will shorten their life dramatically. Some people have had good results with 7dj8's, although I didn't hear a lot of magic from the Valvo's I tried in mine. I've had very good results using JJ 6922's in the line stage, which are among the warmest-sounding of current production 6922's. From the factory these days, it comes with EH6922's in it, which are OK. The phono stage benefits from using the Russian 6n23eb tubes, which are both sensitive and decent-sounding. I'm using a set of platinum graded ones I got from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. Recommended.
One nice thing is that there are only two tubes in the line section, so it's not too expensive to try alternatives, and kinda fun too.
If you run phono, the Modulus has a fairly nice, but not state-of-the-art phono section. That is, unless you get the John Curl gold phono board, which is considerably nicer, but restricts you to MC cartridges. If you're only running CD, then ignore this paragraph.
The latest versions of the Modulus 3A have DIP switches which let you disconnect the output capacitors (used to prevent DC from appearing on the input of the amp). Assuming your amp has DC protection, some people have found it worthwhile to bypass these caps. I did that in mine, but I haven't actually done serious listening to see if it makes a big difference.
Another preamp you might have a look at is the Juicy Music Blueberry. I think there's one for sale now on A'gon, maybe as an auction? Anyway, they've been getting good reviews, and should be within your price cap.
A terrific and very musical preamp that I know well (have one on order as a result) is the octal-based Mapletree Audio Ultra4 SE. Also from Canada (like the Bryston) so you can have an all Cannuck amp setup, eh? These are hand-built by a retired electronics engineer & teacher. I can't say that they are anywhere near as accurate as the Modulus 3A, but they sure are musical, and make the music FUN!! Highly recommended!
Hope this helps!