Is Apogee in a class by itself among planars?

As a former owner of Apogee Stages, after listening to a number of popular planars, I still feel that Apogee produced an uncanny feeling of live music better than anything else IMHO all these years later. Although they weren't the most detailed, didn't have very well defined bass, and didn't have a very holistic soundstage, there was just something undefineable to me that sounded real (even when listening from the another room), along with unsurpassed vocals, that makes me say "There's something about Apogees." Am I hallucinating? If not, how was this achieved?
Yes they are great speakers. I own a pair of Apogee Centuar Major speakers. I love them great midrange...they have good bass and do have a big soundstage...they are keepers for me..i;m buying some merlin tsm-mm so i could hear something different not better,,i;ll switch them out every few months..
First of all, Apogee are not planars. They are ribbons. I owned the Scintillas (their 3 way design) many years ago. They were magical at first. However, after living with them for a while, their shortcommings became evident. They did some very impressive things, but did not have the palpability, transparency and the all important dynamic contrasts which makes reproduced music come to life. I found that great dynamic speakers sound the closest to live music.
Properly driven, Scintillas excel at sound stage, bass definition, ultra fast
delivery and full frequency realization. Detail? It is in a class by itself. I
thought I was hallucinating the first time I heard them in '85.
Yes, the Apogee speakers were certainly in the top tier of planars. I'd also include the old Magnaplanar Tympani 4's and the 20.1's in the category of "best".
Yes, but they're not the best.

I have owned Magneplanars since about 1978 and I have Tympani IVa's in my latest system.

Along the way, I have also tried a few sets of monitors, a pair of Martin Logan SL3s for few years, and I reluctantly admit (at least in this forum) that I have found Wilson Watt/Puppies to sound pretty good at one of my local dealers.

From about 1993 to 1997, I had a later pair of Apogee Stages, without the additional woofers, but using the enclosure as stands to raise them up a bit. I had a Mark Levinson 30.1 transport, an Aragon DAC, a Jadis JPL preamp and an Aragon 4004 MK II.

Of all the various permutations of components and systems I have used over the years -- yes, that one had perhaps the most UNCANNY presence and midrange I have ever heard.

For the first time since I was a kid with my new turntable and MG-1bs, I would stay up late at night, my room lit only by the fireplace and listen until 2:00 in the morning.

My biggest complaint was that the image height was a bit squashed and on reflection, perhaps also a bit diffuse. I would agree that the bass, at least on the Stage, was a little rolled off. Also, although not as bad as Magneplanars in this regard, they did need a bit of power and volume to get them going.

But in general, a very musical, easy to listen to, non fatiguing speaker.

I am not familiar with their bigger models, and believe some were difficult to drive. But I would guess a pair of the giant ones, well placed in a good room, with some monstrous class A amps or something, would be one of the best examples of "high end" audio ever.

Good luck.


My memory of the old Apogees is fading, so it's hard for me to compare, but the Analysis Plus speakers available now sounded better to me than I recall the Apogees at the time, particularly in the bass. A friend of mine who hates planars has actually admitted he might like to own them if he had the room and the cash. There is something special about the old Apogees, though they weren't exactly my cup of tea overall; I think that the Analysis Plus has a bit of that too.
The Stage is a very special speaker...midrange to die for when properly driven, In "that area" it is in a "Class by itself".

I own a pair of Duetta Signatures...properly setup in a large dedicated room...I'm MORE than happy.

Not really a panar and weak at frequency extremes smal chamber classical,folk,voocal and jazz fols can't do better than Quads.But have to second the nod on Maggie 20.1 as being "more of eveything with a hell of a tonal reporoduction.Even 3.6's with tubes running them (the more the merrier atbleast 100 if not something like a VTL 450)may be best value you can get if you have right room accepting mate and can place them right.
They are very nice speakers. I agree that they make the music sound "live." I feel that detail and transparency of the Stages are top notch. I disagree with your statement about the detail of the speakers. Like the cliche goes, it is like putting "Windex to the windows." The highs are the best that I have heard in my system.

However, they are "one person" speakers. You need to be seated in the sweet spot to fully enjoy them. If you stand up or move to the side, the imaging and soundstaging will fade.

I also had Maggie IIIa's with the ribbon tweeter, which do not require the listener to stay glued to the listening seat. I felt the Stages were a notch better in the detail and transparency department, and also were louder and punchier with the bass.

Is Apogee in a class by itself? Just from my limited experience with planars, I would give the Stages just a slight edge over the IIIas. I could happily live with either speaker.

However, in comparing planars to Quad electrostats (I have the 988s and the 57s), I feel that the bass of the Quads sounds much more real, like the instrument would sound if it were live. Also, while the Stages' midrange is outstanding, I feel the Quads' midrange is more organic and rich, more fully fleshed out. The drawback to the Quads is the lack of SPL.

The positive qualities of the Quads led me to sell my Apogees and Maggies. I do miss the ability to play my system loud, though, and I miss the glorious highs of the ribbon tweeters of both the Apogees and the Maggies.
Bkonig, only of lately has amp design caught up with the Scintilla's potential. My amp is my speaker's master, not vis versa, as had been the case, at the Scintillas inception.

Transparency is what my Scintillas excel at. No dynamic speaker I have heard comes close.

dynamic speakers always have me wanting to let the music out of the box. Their tweeters, unless ribbons, are woefully inadequate to my ears. frequency integration is a stumbling block with dynamic speakers, as well.
Muralman1 - You have a point about the amp. I was using Krell at the time. I liked the Krell much beter than the levinson, but the Krell couldn't compare with some other designs that were unable to power the Apogees. However, the amps that I think are incredible today (ie: Tenor, dartzeel) also cannot properly drive the Scintillas. These amps coupled with a great dynamic speaker is magic to my ears (incredible imaging, transparency, resolution, etc). I found no problems with the integration of the drivers in the great dynamic designs (Kharma, Verity, etc. )
Correction: As noted above, the Apogees (and Maggie IIIa's) are ribbons, and not planars. I think Audio Asylum, which I read alot, got me associating planars with ribbons because they title their forum the "Planar" forum, although ribbons and electrostats are discussed there too.
The Analysis Ribbons at CES sounded pretty awesome, and reminded of the best Apogee systems that I've heard.
See photo/desc. in Olsher's show report...
"First of all, Apogee are not planars. They are ribbons."
"As noted above, the Apogees (and Maggie IIIa's) are ribbons, and not planars."

Would any one like to explain this distinction? A ribbon is a planar film driven in a particular way, afaik.

Kr4...I have always found it easy to distinguish a ribbon from planar. A ribbon is very long and 3/4 inch wide and 50 inches long. A planar speaker, like a Magnepanar will be more like 12 inches wide and 50 inches long. I would not take into account whether the drive is electrostatic or magnetic.

For an excellent primer on the differences between ribbons, planars, and electrostats, see the following link, beginning on page 10:
Analysis Audio speakers sound very good ,in the system i heard them in.
OK. The referred to manual from Eminent Tech distinguishes between different drive systems and further distinguishes a ribbon as having its magnetic polarity across the surface of its diaphragm rather than normal to it. Nonetheless, electrostatic speakers and electrodynamic speakers are usually planar with polarization vestors normal to the radiation surface. Ribbons might be distinguishable on the basis of polarization vestor but their dimensions are not relevant.

In other words, Apogees and Magnepans are planar, at least for their larger diaphragms. Some of their tweeters may be ribbons because of magnetic structure but not really because of dimensions. Comments?

Kr4...I guess the narrow ribbon dimension is a necessary condition to use a magnetic field across its surface.
Yes, Apogees are in a class by themselves.I don't own a pair but I heard a set and I never forgot it.Nothing I have heard approaches the transient response of the apogees.
It is just plain wrong to say that a ribbon is "very long and narrow". A ribbon can be of probably any dimension. The ribbon bass units on an Apogee are ANYTHING but narrow, and in the shorter models, they are not very long (depending on your definition of long) either.

The same holds true of the Infinity EMIM and EMIT drivers, neither being narrow nor long.

The definition of ribbon is simply a reflection of how the driver operates, as Kal alluded to.
Trelja...How do you create a strong magnetic field across the gap of a wide ribbon? Can you please describe how the magnetics of the Apogee are set up.
I have always argued my bass panel consists of a softly held zig zaging ribbon. It's a bit more complicated than that. Large bar magnets are densely arranged in horizontal rows, and are attached to a metal grid just behind the Mylar/aluminum ribbons.
Eldartford...from the Apogee forum regarding the Apogee magnet layout:

"Apogee bass panels are single-ended...(Magnets on one side only) As the panel moves backward toward the magnets,
the magnetic field gets stronger. As the panel moves away from the magnets - the magnetic field gets weaker. Therefore, there is an asymmetry to the reproduction of the compression waves vs. the rarefactions.

If the panels had TWO sets of magnets; one in front and one in back - then there would be
no asymmetry. As the panel moved away from the back magnets - it would be moving closer to the front magnets and visa-versa. There would be no asymmetry in the production of the compression waves vs. the rarefactions."

"The classic or "true" ribbon like the Apogee MRTs is "double-ended". There are magnets
on both sides - left and right - of the MRT and as the ribbon moves forward and backwards
there is no asymmetry in the magnetic field that the ribbon experiences.

In essence, the MRT ribbons look / work the same if you turned them around front to back.
Thats not the case with a single-ended driver like the Apogee woofers. The compression /
rarefaction asymmetry changes if you flip them around"

"the trapezoidal shape is for control of resonances or vibration "modes"
Because of the shape - the width of the ribbon is not constant with height.
Therefore, the resonant frequency is not constant with height. So resonances are "spread out".

i have not heard the analysis plus or the quads. i have heard the duetta sigs powered by a huge rowland from a good dac. i wsh the systems i heard at the last two rocky moutain audiofests sounded as good as this kit, but they didn't. i could hear the amp, which was very good. the speakrs were not the limitation of this system. best i've heard, by alot.
Muralman1...This sounds the same as Maggies, except the magnets run in horizontal rows instead of vertical rows.

Sogood51...Having magnets only on one side (front or back)of the panel does theoretically give an asymmetrical drive, but, because the panel excursion is so small this effect is also small. Also, keeping excursion small by using a subwoofer minimizes the asymmetrical drive situation. This would logically improve midrange performance...more so than with a cone driver where assymetrical drive is not an issue.

As I understand it (correct me if I am wrong) the magnets of a ribbon are located IN THE PLANE of the ribbon, to the left and right. This only is possible if the ribbon is narrow.
Eldartford, I believe you are correct in your last statement.

And, our longtime Audiogon Apogee experts Muralman1 and Sogood51 have checked in, and I will say that none of us can compete with their knowledge regarding the product.

Someday, I'll own a Stage, Grand, or Duetta variant. Came close a couple of times, but so far, I have always been beaten to the table. I have always been MOST enthralled with the design and execution of this much missed brand.
Thanks a million to all the audiogoners who took the trouble let me know I'm not alone in my thoughts here and provide all this fascinating background info. I appreciate it.

I now have Kharma 3.2s because they also are among speakers that can often drop the 4th wall away as my Stages did (to my ears, at least). And, like the Stages, the 1-word review of the Kharmas is Clarity. But of course, it is a completely different experience from the Stages.

It was noted above that someone used an Aragon 4004 amp (I used an Aragon 8008)--it was amazing how realistic the Stages could sound with a $2500 amp.

I did listen to Quad 988s and did appreciate their wonderful purity and the way they could isolate each image in its own envelope, but felt that the overall sound was a bit foggy, not like the open-air, distortionless feeling of Apogee. I had a similar feeling of distance, of hearing the music through a glass window, with Martin Logans. There was nothing really wrong with these speakers, but felt like I wanted to open up that window and hear real, live sounds.

I think the closest thing I ever heard to having equivalent vocal reproduction was a pair of Dynaudio Evidence towers. The Apogee vocals were LARGE, actually larger than life, so they they were not really spatially accurate, but boy was it compelling.

I remember putting my ear right up to the ribbon and not being able to hear where the music was coming from. It was the ultimate driverless sound, I think.

I finally moved on from the Stages because the left woofer began to buzz, and 3 trips back to Apogee failed to fix it.
Thanks again, everbody.