Maggie 3.6R performance dilemma..

Maggie 3.6R performance dilemma..


I hope I'm not abusing this forum with too many Magnepan posts; this is my third post in as many weeks!

I have used the forum as a research tool, reading through older threads to see what others are doing with their Maggie's. I've implemented some of what I've read, wherever possible, but so far I haven't been successful in extracting what I believe these speakers have to offer.

So I'm hoping for some new insights into the 3.6R's and also wanting to share some observations that may (or may not) be useful to potential Maggie owners.

First, I've rearranged things in my room a little to decrease the cubic feet of the listening space. Some previous feedback suggested that my room may be too big. The speakers now operate in a space as follows:

48'X28'X10' The 10' ceiling height is directly above the speakers, however this is a gallery and approximately 4 feet forward from the speakers the room opens into a cathedral ceiling which peaks at 28'.

I have the speakers on the long wall, but cannot place them centrally on the wall. They are 12' apart (centre to centre) with approximately 9' to the side wall from the right speaker and 27' to the left side wall.
They are 6.2 feet from the front wall (based on the Cardas rule of ceiling height times 0.618) 18 feet from the listening chair with 3 feet behind the chair to a very reflective rear wall. (I will try to dampen this with drapes in the near future).
Toe-in angle is low at about 5-7 degrees. I have the tweeters on the outside so prefer to keep a small toe-in angle to have the tweeters further from my ear than the mid/bass, as suggested in the Magnepan manual.
Naturally I have experimented with positioning. I have tried variations in all directions but have not attained what I consider to be acceptable sound for reasons to follow.

The basic plan on buying these speakers (used) was to play them at low volumes with my existing Conrad Johnson CAV 50 and spend a week or two trying more powerful SS amps from local dealers, then to buy a new pre/power or integrated, with a $4500 budget.

I tend to play jazz, acoustic, some classical (nothing too brutal) at louder than normal levels. I haven't used an SPL meter, so I don't have an actual level recorded, but opinions of the occasional guest tend to suggest that I listen on the loud side.

I first tried a Belles 250i integrated. My local dealer, who is very experienced in high-end and seemed to be familiar with the 3.6's suggested the modestly rated (125 watts into 8 ohms) Belles based on it's higher than normal current delivery (about 25 amps if I remember correctly) and it's 'musicality'. He advised against the Rotel RB1090 which has higher output, but is far less 'musical' (his words).

The Belles was clearly an accomplished integrated, but for my tastes way too bright and forward. I tried to tame the brightness by moving the speakers....but with little effect.

Next I tried a McIntosh MC 6500 integrated. This had some appeal, sounding more tube like and warmer. However, it quickly ran out of steam, with the powerguard warning indicators flashing on and off even at modest volume levels. It also lacked transparency, didn't image very well and just sounded compressed - obviously lacking power.

Feeling somewhat inclined toward persue the Mac sound for it's warmer presentation, I thought the new MC 252 power amp with autoformers might deliver, given it's 200 watts into 2,4,8 ohms and its better load handling capability with the autoformers.

Well, it sounded better, more dynamic, more transparent....however, it cut-out completely several times on louder passages, the PowerGuard indicators locked in the 'on' position until the signal was removed and the amps allowed to 'cool'.

I then considered trying the MC602 with 600 watts per channel, but now I'm up at $8k without a pre-amp!!

So, to take a breather I rigged up my old CJ CAV50, and to be blunt, despite its inability to play loud, it just sounds so much more musical than any of the other amps I've tried. It also does play quite loud. Almost as loud as the MC6500, without the significant fall-off in performance when overstretched. It also demonstrates to me that tube watts are really bigger than SS watts!! (LOL, yes I know a watt is a Joule/sec and can't be stretched or made any bigger with a tube - but I'll be darned if they don't 'sound' louder!)

So, I'm now hell bent on staying with tubes.

I'm looking at maybe some Cary V12 monoblocks or a VT100 MkII.....advice here would be greatly they have enough power for 3.6R's in a larger than average space?

Lastly, and perhaps most important, with the 4 amps that I've used so far, I'm missing some aspects of the sound presentation that I particularly enjoyed from my old monitors and from other speakers that I've used in the past, including Quad ESL57's. I don't know if this is due to the amp/power deficiencies, the room, or is inherent in the speaker presentation.

All 4 amps that I've used have been unable to open the soundstage width beyond the limits of the speakers. When I read about 'wall to wall' soundstage, well it just isn't happening, and I find that surprising and disappointing. I don't expect a 45' wide stage, but perhaps 4 or5 feet beyond the speakers ought to be attainable on some recordings? My QLN monitors opened a wider stage than I've heard from the Maggie’s. Also, using closely miked acoustic music, small jazz ensembles etc (The Steve Green Trio disc and Diana Krall live in Paris spring to mind), the musicians are gathered tightly within the space between the speakers, at times sounding like they are sitting in each others laps! It just isn't recreating the dimension of a live recording as I expected, given the parameters and dimensions of my room. Incidentally, I haven't moved the speakers since I tried the MC252, and on the Steve Green Trio recording, both guitars sounded overlapped, like the players were standing one behind the other. Now with my CJ CAV 50, there is a little separation between the two, not enough for it to sound realistic, but better than with the Mac.

So how can this just be a function of underpowered amplification? Is it something much more fundamental?....The stage width sounded no different on the MC252 than it does on my CAV 50....200watts versus 45watts, but the 45 watter improves separation and imaging within the confines of the stage. The 125w Belles probably opened the stage a little wider than the MC252, but barely noticeable.

To add to my dilemma, there is virtually no discernable lower octaves on most recordings, I mean no bass. Listening to Clapton's Unplugged, the bass impact on the track 'Old Love' is completely missing, as are other bass lines that I'm familiar with on this recording.

Do I have the speakers positioned incorrectly?. I read about Maggie’s needing room to breath, well this is a fairly large room and they ought to be working much better than they are. My main fault so far is that I haven't been very systematic about moving the speakers in small increments until I find the optimum position. I've tried them at 4' from the front wall where bass seemed no better, so I brought them out to the Cardas recommended position at 6.18 feet. I've slid them back and forth a little from that position but without any positive effect.
Are they too far apart?....when I reduce the 12 feet centre to centre to 10' it reduces the stage width, which goes against what I'm trying to achieve. It warms the tonal balance slightly, given the added centre fill energy, but it doesn't improve bass response or stage width.

Does anyone have a setup procedure that works well with planars? Is it worthwhile even bothering with fine adjustment until I have a more powerful amp in place?

The bottom line is: I'm concerned about spending big money on high powered tube amps, if what I'm hearing is basically the sonic signature of these particular speakers, and other deficiencies that cannot be overcome with my room parameters.
After all, I could ditch the 3.6 and go with a higher efficiency box speaker and keep my CJ amp, and only have to spend another $2,000, perhaps less?

I'm sure that I cannot be the first person having a largely negative experience with the 3.6, though I suspect many people try to use these in rooms that are way too small.
Does anyone have any thoughts as to a way forward that would provide me with a sound that:-

Is non-fatiguing at higher SPL's
Is realistic in its presentation of stage width and depth.
Is realistic in its imaging ability and it's placement of performers on the stage, with realistic separation between performers.
Is realistic in reproducing mid bass and lower bass frequencies, not 'earth shattering' bass, just tuneful bass that underpins the music and adds to the realism of the reproduced event.
Is perhaps slightly warmer than most SS fans would like, with a little over-emphasis of the mids (tube-like bloom that I'm used to hearing with my little CJ integrated).

My other equipment is as follows:
Audio Alchemy DDS Pro Transport
Audio Alchemy Dti Pro 32 signal enhancer/jitter remover.
Musical Fidelity Upsampling DAC set at 192khz
Also tried a Monarchy Audio 18B DAC with volume pot to drive the Mac 252 directly from the DAC.
Various cables of reasonable grade, Acoustic Zen, Flatwire Twin etc (I'm a John Dulavy supporter and believe that wire is wire is wire is....)

I apologize for this long post. However, I’m certain that many people use these posts as a reference when sourcing new equipment, improving the sound of their existing rigs, or just reading for general amusement. So the more information the better, in my opinion.
It seems I'm one of the few that (so far) isn't getting what they expected from the Magnepan speakers, but I'm open and receptive to any ideas and input that others may have.
Many thanks in advance.


Rooze, I am going to be blunt because you do not seem to be getting the point of what some of the Maggie experts here at Audiogon are trying to tell you. (I personally had the Maggies for over 3 years).

1 - You need MORE powerful amps than any of what you mentioned above. No 100wpc amp short of the LAMM M1.1's are gonna give you the kind of performance a high current 400wpc+ amp will give into the Maggies. No integrated amp short of maybe a 300wpc ASR amp (about $15k or so retail with few dealers in the US) is going to work well with the Maggies. Companies just do not tend to make integrated amps to be high enough current (yeah, there may be 1 or 2 out there, but darn few).

2 - Maggies in general DO NOT sound good at low volumes. Or should I say they sound A LOT better at higher volumes. If you bought them to listen at low volumes, you bought the wrong speaker.

3 - With the right amplification, Maggie placement (from my own experience) is not as critical as you might think. With the wrong amp/s Maggie placement is not going to help you at ALL. Of every speaker I have owned, I think the Maggies were the easiest to set up. My current reference, the Mahlers are much more difficult and finicky.

4 - Wire is NOT wire. Sorry but even AC cords can make a big impact either way on almost any system sonically. This is another discussion though...

5 - Listen to Tireguy. He may have some of the best sounding Maggies in the US.

My main suggestion is DO NOT use tubes with Maggies. To get the type of tube power to really get the Maggies going is out of your price range.

And I say again...GET MORE WATTS.

Just as an experiment, try an Adcom amp,5500, 350 watts into 4 ohms. Use that as a basis for comparison with multikilobuck amps. You may be surprised.
Hi Rooze,

You are STIL not getting it!! You are still sitting so far away from them it makes me wonder. Rooze, with a sloped ceiling, how do you expect to use the Cardas forumla that requires a fixed ceiling heigth????? There are a lot of set-up possibilities on the Cardas site since no two set-ups are the same, check the site out thoroughly.

Most of the time when people say Cardas, they mean listening in an equilateral triangle. This means the distance from your head, the distance between each speaker, and the distance from the wall that the speakers back wave hits are all equal. How is having your speakers 12 feet apart and sitting 18 feet away, with 4 ft from the back wall anywhere close to what most of the folks are recommending?????

Try a combination of 7ft, 7 ft, and 7 ft or whatever, put the in the number of your choice. Side wall is not a big factor for the Maggies, especially in your situation. Adjust the distance from the back wall to get the bass right (and not too muddy). This will change the dimensions of the triangle, so you will have to decrease/increase them as needed.

If you sit closer, in an equilateral triangle, the sound will be much louder, and you might just end up with a very holographic soundstage.....and you just might be able to use a low power amp to satisfaction.

Who knows.

Also.....Maggies wont image (pinpoint) like mini-monitors....give that one up. Monitors rule in this area. This is dissapointing I know, but they make up for it.

Maggies have a huge stage.....more like in "wall of sound" terms......monitors sound small by comparison. Maggies rule here, and can be holographic when set up properly.
Hi guy's, go easy on me! I have enough stress (LOL).

KF - I do understand what you say about needing more power, but there are people using their maggies with 100 watt tubes that say they are getting great results, and I tried a 200 watt SS that took two people to carry it into the room and it craps out at modest volumes!.....
Also, you seemed to thing that I like to play at low volumes when the exact opposite is true. I play too loud if anything. I appreciate your comments on positioning, I WILL get these babies to play right....soon, I promise!...but I can't guarantee that I won't be using tubes...they just sound so right to my ears!

Thanks again Eldartford, I can't ask for more than consistant feedback/advice, and I surely have had that.

Rathbone...I mentioned that the ceiling directly above the speakers is 10 feet high, but then further into the room opens up to a cathedral ceiling, so I tried the Cardas rule which put's them 6' into the room. Also, this is about as far as I can go for traffic reasons....I just can't do the triangle setup that people talk about. The room has a staircase and two doors that stop me from sitting any closer. I would have to move the seat for listenting then move it back again. Even with a larger room there are certain constraints that I have to work around.
Anyway, I seemed to have opened up Pandora's box here, but I'm taking it all in good humor!
Now I'm going home to kick the cat...
Rooze- Did a little testing with some of the information you gave me. On Clapton's unplugged track 13, with my BAT VK-500w/bat pak(amp 1) I didn't hear the bass line until 64dB- as where everything else was very audible before. I pushed up to 92dB and it had a lot more presence and weight. I also found out 92dB is WAY to loud to listen(I acutally had hearing protection on after the first test run). So I then swapped out my amp for a much less powerful amp it was an older adcom(amp 2) and played the same piece, the bass line became noticeable at about 85dB and it sounded strained(about the same bass output as amp 1 had at 64dB). Fwiw, the first amp is rated at 450w@4ohms and very high current, the second amp is rated at 150w@4ohms and much much lower current. I didn't dare push amp 2 because I don't have any fuses and don't want it to clip and blow a ribbon!

The second problem is your room is just plain HUGE, your going to need TONS of power(by tons, I mean 600watts or more of good clean power) if you ever plan on getting full sound in that room with these speakers. My room is about 17x30x7½ it may not be set up ideally but the room is much smaller then yours and still takes a lot of power to get real energy from the speakers. Your going to need an amplifier with the power output similar to an MIG welder!

I agree with a lot of what Tok20000 has said except 5, he is being to kind, I am sure other's out there have even better sounding maggies. Cables, sources and amps completely transform these speakers, if you are of the wire is wire is wire camp this may not be the speaker for you. With your budget tubes don't seem to be a practical option, from my experiences. I have tried a few tube amps and they need to be BIG($$$$) to deliver any sort of good bass and staging at higher volumes and make that even worse with a HUGE room like yours. But the midrange is among the finest I have heard ever.

I hate to recommend any one get rid of these speakers before they hear them sing, but this may be an exception. You have a lot going against you and you may be happier with another option- just trying to save you a lot of frustration. That's the big problem with maggies, they are cheap but you spend a lot getting to hear just how good they can get. They are by no means the perfect speaker for everyone but those who have the right room and are willing to upgrade and upgrade and upgrade, its really amazing what they are capable of. I don't see much more of an easy answer for you, I wish you the best of luck with this- your in a tough spot.
Rooze, when you think you've got enough power for Maggies... get MORE! I have 1.6QR's in a 10 X 17' room.
I was using a Levinson 27.5 amp (200 W/Chan @ 4 ohms)
but felt the dynamics suffered. I replaced it with a
Levinson 335 (500 W/Chan) and it made a noticeable
improvement....this in a MUCH smaller room than yours.
When it comes to Magneplanars: go big or go home.......
The Bryston 7B-ST (or the new 7B-SST) monoblocks are worth considering. They put out 500 WPC at 4 ohms and are stable down to very low impedance. A friend had a pair of Magnepan MG 1.6QR and the Brystons drove them extremely well, with great bass and impact. The 300 Watts per channel Adcom 5802 power amp was used before that and the Brystons were much better than the Adcom. The tricky part is to pair the Brystons up with a good tube preamp, smooth CD player, interconnects and speaker cables so as not to have the ribbon tweeters sound too bright.

The stand feet that come standard with the MGs are not made to provide great bass. Go to the link below and consider these stands from Sound Anchor:

If you MGs are a new pair, give them at least 100 hours play time to break in.
MGs are very directional speakers that have sound coming out from both front and back. The sound from the back hits the back wall, bounces to the side wall and back towards the listener. It is this reflection that creates the soundstage width you are looking for.

Your current placement in NO WAY utilize the side reflections given the 27' from the left side wall and a 5 degree toe in. This will never produce the reflections back to the listening position. If you can position the MGs along the short wall, there is a good chance you can create the proper reflections.

By the way - if there are fuses on the MGs, did you check the fuses in the MGs to see if any of them are blown?
Just try the Innersound ESL amplifier, you can get one for about $1200.00. The clarity, presence and bass control with that amp is quite nice, if you do not like it you can sell it again. It will have enough power as it is designed to run speakers that need lots of current.
Some thoughts/ideas:
1) Your room is very large, so you may need signicantly more power (as others suggest), or depending on your budget, you may want to consider the Mag 20.1.
2) Call the company!!!! They are there to help their customers! I read so many posts on Audiogon where people ask questions without having consulted the manufacturer. Who generally knows better?
3) Consult your dealer. Now if you didn't buy them from a dealer, well that's the downside of doing so.
4) It seems you're a tube man (and like tubes colorations). So stick with tubes.

Good Luck,
I second more power recommendations with a tube preamp.I just got my Maggies home after listening to them on a 60 wpc Adcom. Plugged them up to a 585LE Adcom amp only limited by how much current the outlet will give it! Using a tube preamp on the front end and wow these things really opened up.Dynamic and smooth with air on the top. Try one of these or some 565 monoblocks.You maybe suprised how good they run those maggies and save yourself some money.Had my Adcom forsale but it's not going any where now!

Good Luck!
I have a friend with very large room also- he has Infinity Betas- big monsters with separate woofer columns. He is using Sim Audio W-10 SS monoblocks. They are 1,400 watts into 4 ohms, and the bass control is phenomenal.
I have Maggie 3.5s and two Nad amps where not enough power. I believe now that power is very important but even more important is HIGH CURRENT that most amps don't produce even many very expensive amps. I purchased an Innersound amp demo model and the improvement is outstanding! Just buy one you'll see. It will be the best money spent/saved in your quest to drive these maggies. I will get another and biamp them someday soon but until then I promise the Innersound will blow away your tubes on your maggies and I can't believe I said that. Unless you have an unlimited budget for tubes that would be better spent upgrading the Maggie parts/stands etc. Have you tried this site full of Maggie fanatics .

Good Luck
Magnepans can be driven very well by some affordable amplifiers. My home theater uses the MG-1.6, MG-CC3, and MG-MC1 all driven quite well by an Outlaw 750. I have also used Bryston, Aragon and Anthem amplifiers with good results. Magnepans are fairly resistive loads not as difficult to drive as many purport, although they do require a substantial amount of power. Definitely get a set of Mye Sound stands because they offer a real increase in performance at a reasonable cost.
A) You've got the wrong speakers. Maggies WILL NOT play "loud" if we are speaking the same language. By the way, SPL's should be measured at the seated listening position on an average basis.

B) You don't have a suitable amp(s) for your situation, nor do i think it is possible to obtain one. If you do, you will blow your speakers to smithereens.

You need high rail voltages and high current capacity. Solid state Mac amps are big SS boat anchors that try to emulate tube sound. That is great if you are more concerned with a specific sound than with obtaining high levels of accuracy and the best in electrical performance. Mac's do this by throwing away the technical superiority of their SS heritage and high current potential by introducing the non-linear distortions of an output transformer into the system. An output transformer is equivalent to raising the output impedance of an ss design ( soggy, less controlled bass ) and running a VERY long run of small gauge speaker wire ( higher series resistance, placing a veil on the entire audible spectrum ). In my opinion, such a design is not suitable for use when trying to obtain either accuracy or musicality in a system. Running an output transformer with tubes is another story ( although it sounds better without them ) due to being a bird of a different feather.

C) You are sitting WAY too far back from these speakers. For most speakers to produce "wide" soundstages, you need to sit appr 2' - 3' in from how far you have them spread apart. That is, if you have them spaced 12' apart, you'll probably have to sit somewhere between 11' - 9' from their center. Obviously, this will vary with the amount of toe in used.

D) Your speaker placement and listening positions are all wrong. Look at all of the commonly divisible numbers in the equation here. I will pretty much guarantee that you are creating a lot of your own problems here. Here's what you posted:

"I have the speakers on the long wall, but cannot place them centrally on the wall. They are 12' apart (centre to centre) with approximately 9' to the side wall from the right speaker and 27' to the left side wall. They are 6.2 feet from the front wall (based on the Cardas rule of ceiling height times 0.618) 18 feet from the listening chair with 3 feet behind the chair to a very reflective rear wall."

3' from the rear wall
6' from the front wall
9' to one side wall
12' apart
18' from the listening chair
27' to the other side wall

E) The first thing that you need to do is to get the tonal balance right. Music without bass will always sound "weak & anemic". This is true even if the mid-band spl's are the same or slightly higher than if you actually had some bottom end "grunt". Once you obtain a more balanced frequency response, THEN worry about the volume requirements. The reason that i say this is that once you get some bass into the picture, your perspective on volume will change a little bit.

F) These speakers will never deliver "slam" or great bass impact. Their bass will be tight and well controlled, but you'll never get "thump" out of them. Due to the surface area, they will produce quite reasonable bass when properly set up.

G) John Dunlavy is a very smart man and i have oodles of respect for him. Having said that, many people misinterpret what he said. What he did say is that various wires will measure differently and that they could affect performance but that most people can't detect the differences that they could contribute under controlled conditions.

All i will add to that is:

1) their "controlled conditions" may not have been ideally optimized for the tests being performed

2) the candidates selected for such tests did not have the proper listening skills. As i've stated before, most people here but don't know how to listen.

3) the cables being used were all of similar electrical characteristics and / or not different enough to warrant audible differences under the specific test installation conditions

H) I can provide a means to obtain better, "more optimum" speaker placement for any given room, but it seems as if all of the previous comments have gone unheeded. Most speaker placement formulas fail in rooms that are not relativey square or rectangular in shape. Even then, they don't work all that great due to the various surfaces, points of reflection and room furnishings involved. If you are truly interested in working to minimize your problems, please let us know.

I) Given that most of us have contributed very similar answers and you've gotten the same results with everything that you've tried by ignoring those comments, the general consensus is that the system is trying to tell you something, we are trying to tell you something, but you aren't listening. I don't think that any of us have a problem with multiple posts about the same problem so long as we aren't talking to a brick wall.

Good sound reproduction is a science. You can stumble across good sound by trying a million different things or you can apply logic to the situation and speed the process up drastically. Sean

Get a normal size house, with a normal size listening room or else get some giant, efficient (since you don't seem to like big amps) cone speakers.
The best sound I was able to get from my 3.6/Rs was with an electronic crossover (Marchand XM 26 - tubes) set at the points recommended by Magnepan and two McCormack DNA-1 deluxe amps; one for each speaker. My room is 18+ X 28+ with 10 ft walls and a cathedral ceiling with top being 14 ft from the floor. This set up gave me all the loudness I needed and better inner detail from large orchestral music. Small Jazz groups also sounded very good with this arrangement. I found that using the crossovers provided with the speakers and a single amplifier seemed to close-down the soundstage, depth and most other musical aspects of music. This is not a costly set up and the sound is wonderful with sound pressure levels approaching pain if you want it. Higher wattage amps would probably help even more in a larger room.
Roose...Seems like most people think you room is too big, and/or you need different speakers. Perhaps they are right, although my view is otherwise.

Just one final suggestion...don't give up the ship without at least actually trying a powerful (not necessarily expensive) amp. 350 watts (4 ohms) works for me.
Thanks again to everyone who has taken the trouble to post responses, and also to those people who emailed me privately.
There are a couple of points that I wanted to revisit, particularly in response to Sean's post which was very informative.
Sean, I respect your input very much, I've followed your comments in other posts and clearly you have a lot of experience and are able to articulate it well to the benefit of the rest of us.

Firstly, in my humble opinion, the equipment is a necessary evil that often gets in the way of what this hobby is really about - music.
I've also been involved long enough in this 'hobby' to know that it is mostly about compromise. There is no rig out there that does everything well, each component has weaknesses regardless of price, the question is: 'are their strengths so appealing that we can live with their weaknesses?'
When I bought the Maggie's I knew I was getting on a bit of a roller-coaster ride that might not end up where I expected. However, my previous experience with Quad's, Apogees and ML's, plus what I have read in the audio magazines and on Audiogon, made me believe that these speakers had strengths that would appeal to me and that I could live with their weaknesses. So; 'earth-shattering' bass is not something that I'm trying to achieve, nor is 'extreme' levels of volume.
The 'dilemma' that I referred at the start of my post is that I haven't been able to unveil the strengths of these speakers in my listening room, and I listed some of what I expected from the 3.6R's in my first post in this thread.

Where Sean comments that I am not listening to peoples advice, well that just isn't the case. I have tried accommodating these speakers to the detriment of room aesthetic by moving the seating around and moving the speakers into positions that are not best suited to the room layout - as suggested in various posts. I've tried most of what has been suggested about placement, (given room constraints) and in fact, yesterday evening made some good progress which I will touch on in a moment. Also, please note that not all comments that have been posted are of a consistent nature, as one would expect given the diversity of input and the fact that no two listening rooms are identical. On the previous post I made about a week ago it was suggested that I move my chair back toward the rear wall, effectively putting more distance between chair and speakers, whereas the most common suggestion has been to close the distances down. Anyone who has tried speakers against the short wall of a rectangular room knows that there are certain sonic gains to be had from sitting quite far back from the speaker. Conversely, using a good pair of monitors in the nearfield for example, provides sonic virtues that cannot be achieved when the seating position is some distance from the speaker. And so it goes around.
My question was aimed at bringing out other peoples experiences so that I could perhaps benefit from an arrangement that was not a typical equilateral triangle arrangement but might lend itself to my particular room layout. In my previous home I had great results from monitors on the long wall of a 30X13 room, where I used the setup method suggested on the Audio Physic website, which worked really well for nearfield listening with monitors. When I moved to my present home a few weeks ago, it was clear from the room layout that I needed to have an arrangement whereby the speakers would be between 16' and 25' from the listening chair, and not a nearfield arrangement. So perhaps I should have researched speakers that work well in this arrangement, rather than assuming that the Magnepan’s would work out. However, I do own a pair of Apogee Caliper Sig II's that worked very well firing down a long room with a seat approx 17-20' feet away (I can't remember the exact dimensions of that room).

Anyway, on to the good news. I rearranged the room somewhat last evening and have an arrangement that is starting to sound really good (Hallelujah, I hear you all shout in unison!!)
I moved the chair a couple feet toward the speakers and the speakers a foot toward the chair, then separated the speakers by another 18" to move closer to the goal of an equilateral triangle layout. Though not quite equal on all sides it is as close as I can get given room constraints and the wife factor. I also received my new cable terminations yesterday and was able to install bi-wire cables which also helped. I’m getting a real ‘holographic’ image that has widened by more than the extra 18” I have between the speakers.

Finally I am starting to appreciate these fine speakers for what they are. I am hopeful that with a suitable choice of amplifier, some work on cables and power cords, and the impending installation of a dedicated power supply, I can get the sound that I initially set out to achieve.
(Sean, I take onboard your cable comments. I'm an Electrical Engineer by trade, and spent 3 years developing cabling systems for use on hi-tech printing equipment that were notoriously prone to EMI and RFI issues. My comments regarding cabling were ambiguous at best. What I meant to say was that there is, in my opinion, a certain standard of cable {components, design and assembly} that can be attained without spending thousands of dollars. Cables are often acting as tone controls, mostly due to their capacitance, particularly with bi-wire setups. If you happen to find a cable that effects the 'tone' of your system to your liking, then it might be that you can justify their expense. You could however recreate the electrical characteristics of a high price cable in a low cost design, or stumble upon similar characteristics in a low cost design.)

Anyway, again I thank everyone for their input in helping me out with my new Maggie's!!

Rooze: Sorry if i came across as "dogging" you. Quite honestly, i take for granted that some info should be "common knowledge" when it really isn't. Couple that with a lack of info due to differing ideas as to what is "loud", what is "bass deficient", etc... due to not having any points of reference ( spl measurements, frequency response curves, etc) and we could run around in circles forever. Until we know exactly what you want, how far you are willing to go to achieve those results and what type of results you are currently observing will only have us making general observations about your installation. You are presenting a situation that is out of the ordinary. As such, many of the suggestions that might otherwise be excellent may not be applicable to your situation.

Having said that, it had appeared that you had put forth some effort to address many of the concerns, but the changes mentioned almost seemed to ignore some of those trying to offer first hand insight as to what makes these speakers in that type of installation "sing". Part of this could be from lack of specifics in the suggestions being made and / or your lack of experience with various makes / models on the market. My guess is that it was probably a combo of both. I guess in some situations, one almost has to be specific about makes / models that should work and makes / models that should be avoided. As a general rule though, we end up having "fights" about what is "good" and what is "bad" in situations like that, hence the generalizations that many of us make trying to point people in the "right direction" without being TOO specific. I probably stepped on ( more like STOMPED on ) more than a few toes with my comments about SS Mac amps above, but it seemed like "generic observations" weren't doing us much good here.

Top this off with the speaker placement that you ended up with in this new post, which was far from optimal and possibly even worse, and it appeared that many of the recommendations being provided were being "dissed" i.e. thrown to the side due to lack of respect for the points of view being expressed. Hence my "spelling it out" point by point, which probably came across as hostile. In all actuallity, i was simply trying to explain things in the most informative yet "cut & dried" approach possible. Being to the point and coming across as being a "gruff bastard" are sometimes easily confused. That said, i probably am "gruff bastard" all too often.

If you can provide us with some type of spl references and ballpark frequency response curves, we might be able to better help. Between the size of your room, your speakers radiation pattern / impedance / lack of sensitivity and not knowing what speaker positioning is acceptable in your room, we are all working blindly. I think that most of us took for granted that with a room that size, you could put your speakers wherever they worked best with little concern for traffic patterns.

Here's a method that i've used to set up all different types of speakers in all different types of rooms. If it helps your or someone else, that's great. Other than that, i'll shut up now. Sean

The "quick & dirty" method of speaker positioning, regardless of room size or shape:

This method takes into account the variables encountered in a normal installation in a room that is not acoustically optimized or make use of dimensions that are considered desirable by most audiophiles. Since most of us have our systems in shared living spaces, some restraint must be placed on how things are set up. This approach tries to take those factors into account and at the same time, help you to achieve the best performance that you can with those operating constraints. This assumes that the primary listening position will be centered between the right and left speakers. Obviously, you have to have some idea of where you want to place the speakers in your room i.e. which side of the room, etc... before you can start.

With that in mind, the dispersion characteristics of the speaker and room placement should have been taken into account prior to purchase and set-up. Far too many people buy speakers that are not suitable for the intended listening environment and then wonder why their results are not what they expected. Some careful planning and common sense can go a long way here. Bigger is not always better and vice-versa.

Select a recording with a solo female vocalist accompanied by minimal music. With the system in mono and the speakers firing straight ahead ( flat faced with no toe in ), spread the speakers out as far as possible while keeping the singer's voice centered. When you can start to hear the left speaker independently of the right i.e. the female singer is no longer centered but sounds slightly diffuse, bring the speakers back in just a bit. If you've done this correctly, the speakers should be spread as far apart as is possible while still retaining a rock solid center image.

Using a recording that has relatively even tonal balance with good bass extension, move your speakers back and forth until you find good tonal balance i.e. the right amount of bass reinforcement / cancellation for your individual room and seated listening position. By back and forth, i'm speaking in regards to their position to the wall behind them and your seated listening position. You're still in mono mode here. You are looking for the most even frequency response i.e. no specific bass notes stick out nor do others seem to be missing.

Switch the system back into Stereo mode. For this portion, you'll need a recording that offers both a broad soundstage and solid imaging. Adjust the angle of the speakers ( flat-faced, toed-in, etc... ) until you have both solid imaging and a wide soundstage. In most cases, you'll end up having to compromise between how wide the soundstage is and how "etched" the image is. One should also bare in mind that tonal balance is affected here with more toe-in generating an apparent increase in high frequency output.

Once you've got all this done, go back to the first step and start over again. You may end up having to move the speakers a bit in any given direction. Since any one placement change will alter the performance of several aspects of the presentation, it's possible that further refining will have you doing this several times. While repeating this procedure, don't forget to switch back to mono for the first two steps and then stereo for the third portion.

The first run will get you 90% of the way there in a reasonable amount of time. From there, it's all a matter of finesse and how picky you want to be. Since every installation is different, especially with various furniture, speaker radiation patterns, room dimensions and listening positions, this works better than any formula i've ever found. In effect, this helps you to work with your individual room and speakers rather than trying to make your specific room and speakers work with a "generic" formula based on optimal conditions.

This approach is based on using one's ears as the only tools available. The end result will give you sound that you find enjoyable within the confines of that room. It is quite possible that the end results may be far from "flat" or "tonally neutral" though. Obviously, what one hears and likes will have great effect on the outcome here. Tuning the system for flatter response using test recordings and an spl meter may provide very different results than what one ends up with using the above approach. In most cases, one can obtain excellent results by combining the two types of system set-up ( listening / personal preference and testing with calibrated test equipment ) with minimal cash outlay.

By the way, DON'T make the same mistakes that most people do. Slightly uneven spacing from side walls on each speaker is okay. Many people try to space the speakers the same distance from the sidewalls, but this just reinforces specific nodes. Staggering the nodes for each speaker slightly helps present a more even tonal balance with less pronounced peaks and dips. Investing in a reasonably priced yet "accurate" spl meter and a recording containing calibrated test tones is well worth the money in my experience.

Rooze,i think vtl tube amps would solve your problem.
sean...Your speaker placement procedure is pretty much what I have used for years, and is just common sense. But, you forgot the final step! Mark the speaker positions somehow (tape works) so that you won't have to go through the whole routine every time your wife vacuums the rug.
Thanks Sean / Dsoden,
VTL amps are on my list, others are some high powered Mono's from Manley. First I will try a powerful SS which has been suggested by most people, I can at least use that as a referrence point when I try out tubes later. I hate to be a pain about SS versus tubes and I do I appreciate everything that has been said about driving 3.6's with a high powered SS. I understand their load characteristic on an amplifier and that higher than normal current is needed.
Sean...I prefer 'forthright' over 'beating around the bush' anyday. It's ok to be forthright provided that one is factual, otherwise it ends up like a bad Bush speach!!

Just to reiterate, and not wanting to trawl over old ground, I do respect each and everyones opinions, and do appreciate people taking the time to add to the thread. And I really did try to incorporate as much of the information as was practical in my situation.

I like the speaker setup procedure, I think I've come across that somewhere before. I've also seen something similar that talks about adusting the toe-in to centralize lead vocal in the soundstage, where the recording is appropriate. This gives a different toe-in angle for each speaker based on the room being non-symetrical.
Anyway, things are looking up with the 3.6's, now I have to find a good amp....if anyone has something for sale I won't take it as 'unwanted solicitation' if someone wanted to drop me an email or call me on 920 336 0000 - (provided of course that doing so is within the framework of Audiogon acceptable policy.)
Thanks again

I think you are fighting a loosing battle. Here's why:

1) In order for you to get the 'loudness' that you want with such inefficient speakers, you are going to need a very powerful amplifier.

2) Furthermore, you must take into consieration the limitations of the speakers planar excursion when such large amounts of power are applied.

3) However, the largest factor is the size of your room. It is more like a theater than a listening room. It would be like trying to use your average home speakers in a theater. You can not achieve the SPLs required to make a convincing presentation. It may sound really good, but definitely not loud.

Although the maggies sound wonderful, I don't think that you will get the sound you are looking for with them. I wonder if the Maggies 20.1 would even be able to fill such a large room with the 'loudness' that you are looking for. Physics is physics, you can't get around it.

I would suggest a very high efficiency dynamic speaker with moderate amps. I know that would give you the SPLs your looking for.

When I had an Innersound ESL amp and Maggie 1.6 speakers they played very very loud. It is surprising for a planar speaker but the volume was undeniable.
Errivera: I basically agree with all of your points, but "very high efficiency speakers" aren't necessary here so much as speakers with a more effective radiation pattern. While horns are an obvious candidate for a room this size, i was thinking more along the lines of a large line array like Pipe Dreams. Line arrays don't lose as much spl into the distance as a conventional speaker will and have the potential to produce very high spl's with limited distortion due to so many drivers sharing the load. Due to using smaller drivers, transients are relatively quick with little overshoot but due to the massive amounts of air being moved by all the drivers as needed, dynamics don't suffer. I'm not saying that this is the best type of speaker design to go with so much as i'm saying that this might be a viable candidate for this specific type of installation. Sean
Sean, your comment on Pipedreams and SPL's makes sense, but is there anything out there that may be more affordable, that might couple well with tubes?
I'm quite pleased overal now with the sound of the 3.6's, in this space. However, I'm thinking about converting a room above the garage into a dedicated listening room, not now but perhaps in the new year. Again it is a large room but has zero constraints regarding equipment positioning. At this point I'm just collecting approximate costs, and getting a basic shopping list together. The room itself will need about $6k before any accoustic treatment, as the walls and ceiling need to be finished. The main problem with the room is that the floor is suspended and quite 'springy', so that may be an issue ultimately effecting speaker choice.
I haven't measured the room accurately yet but on the spec sheet when we bought the place it was listed as 60X44 approx. The ceiling is unfinished and it has a low height of 8' rising the the roof apex of about 12'.
Anyway, it's a project for the new year but I just wondered what you might think as far as speakers in the $5-8k used range. I like what I've read about the Wilson Sophia's, also perhaps Avantgarde as a contrasting design. What would you add to this list?


You may want to get some expert help with your new room. A springy floor over a cavernous space may be problematic.
Rooze...I think we really need to find out how loud is loud.

You need to do one of two things. (1) Get a sound level meter and determine how many dB we are talking about. (2) Have your hearing checked. (Don't feel bad about this. Beethoven was deaf).

I have just determined that the 3 amp tweeter fuse (one of them) in my MG1.6 blows at a SPL of 100-105 dB. This is with three speakers + three subwoofers in a room that is 24 X 30 and largely open to one side, with the Maggies driven by 350 watt amps. Music for this test was a massive choral selection, with heavy organ. Audio sonic quality was fine right up to the point where the tweeter quit. Believe me, it was LOUD. Louder than actual performance level, and louder than I would ever play music for anything other than a test.

Certainly there are speakers that will play louder than the Maggies, but why? If you play them that loud, you will need to gradually play them louder and louder as you damage your ears.
El: I agree that we need to have some type of "guidelines" regarding SPL's on this forum for general reference.

As mentioned above, you really have to measure spl's at the seated listening position with "C" weighting. Measuring SPL's in any other manner leaves too much for interpretation and differences in installations. Since not all speakers project sound in the same manner, you and i could both measure 95 dB's at 1 meter but have different SPL's at an identical yet greater distance. As such, we would have skewed perceptions of what was going on unless we compared levels as we heard them when seated. After all, 95 dB's at my seat would be equivalent to 95 dB's at your seat, regardless of the differences in the room, speaker radiation patterns or distance from those speakers.

On top of that, these readings should only be taken with the mains and any subs used when operating in two channel mode. Running a center and surrounds that contribute to the overall SPL level will only confuse those of us trying to work off of a given set of standards. If one wants to include readings taken in multi-channel mode, that is fine. Just for sake of clarity though, those readings should be identified as such. Otherwise, since this is primarily a two channel forum, we should be able to assume any readings taken were in two channel mode.

I think that something like this would take these forums a step further in the ability to communicate various ideas with less guess-work involved. After all, when Fred thinks "loud" is 95 dB's at his seat and Barney thinks that 110 dB's is "loud" at his seat, it is hard for them to communicate and understand exactly where the other guy is coming from. If I can say that i'm listening at XX dB's at my seat, you can easily duplicate that ( within a reasonable window of tolerance ) and know exactly where i'm coming from.

If we did this, i think that we would find that most people don't listen near as loud as they think they do on an average basis. While momentary peaks might climb up somewhat, average SPL's are what should be measured and compared. After all, someone using a recording with 5 dB's of dynamic range ( highly compressed rock music ) will have a FAR higher average SPL than someone using a classical recording that has 50 dB's of dynamic range. Comparing SPL's as taken on the peaks between these two installation would be quite useless. The system playing rock music might be averaging 105 dB's and peaking at 110 while the classical recording is averaging 70 dB's and peaking at 110. Both are peaking at the same SPL, but believe me, one of them is WAY louder than the other. Sean

PS... Most speakers hit a brick wall at a specific point and go into dynamic compression at or slightly above that point. After that point has been reached, they are very non-linear in output and their distortion characteristics take off like crazy.
Sean, are you trying to introduce science to this site? Are you actually trying to get something expressed as a number? You are a brave man indeed. Makes great sense to me BTW. Good day.
Pbb: I've always tried to combine "science" and "instinct" when working with audio. The problem here is that science doesn't know how to explain everything, so we are left to fall back on instinct in many cases. In doing so, i think that we are better off most of the time as science can be rather in-exact. Various ideas and theories come up every day, but until they can get all the pieces of the puzzle together, we only have partial understanding of any given puzzle. Even with all of the pieces of the puzzle supposedly in place, we should still trust what our God-given senses tell us. Science should only help us to understand and better explain what our senses have already told us. That is, if we are alert to those senses to begin with. Sean
Sean... Science is good. Instinct is good. What's bad is when half-baked science is trotted out to "prove" someone's instinct.
El: are you trying to pass off that opinion as fact or is that fact your opinion ? Either way, you're wrong and i can prove it : ) Sean
Sean...Please clarify. Are you in favor of half-baked science? Or do you reject good science and perceptive instinct?
Stereophile and TAS demonstrate the crossover between science and instinct. They occasionally review products and sing thier praises from the audible perspective, only to pass them over to the test people to have the test results suggest a less than stellar performance.
I'm not sure that 'instinct' is the right word here, are we saying that instinct can tell us that a component is good without having tested it AND without having heard it?....or are we just saying that instinct is effectively the process of hearing a component and forming an opinion on it's ability without having tested it?
Semantics maybe, but important nevertheless.

Sean, I'm going to pickup an SPL meter in the next couple days and get something more definative on the volume issue. I'm guessing that it's 100db max, but see the need to remove the guesswork!

It will be interesting to see what is suggested as far as high sensitivity speakers with high SPL capability with the ability to move a good amount of air. I'd love to see a pair of bright red Avantgarde Duo's with a couple of 12 watt SET mono's filling a large space with great sound!! (I'm sick, I know).


El: I was being a smart ass. I agree'd with what you were saying, hence the "smiley". No smiley here as i'm being serious in this response. Sean
You don't say much about your pre-amp, but this can be critical. Have you thought about a low-level active crossover and bi-amping the Maggies. I have been a Maggie nut for more than 20 years, and I have always believed that bi-amping was the true key to glory. A quad of ARC "classic" series amps (esp the Classic 120) and the better Maggie speakers is --- well, magic. If you're on a budget, you could start with two and add two and the crossover later. Be sure to audition cables -- they make an enormous difference, as does speaker hookup wire! If you just can't get the SPL's you want from the 3.6's, look for a used pair of MG20's but be sure you're ready for biamplification. Have fun!
No one has mentioned active bi-amping. Personally I would go with a pair Parasound JC-1's and if they aren't enough add another pair with Marchand Active crossover. This will cost you 12K + but you will have at least 2000 watts per side on hand. More than enough to fill that room full of sound.The JC-1's are very very good SS amps.

I agree with popskull, if you can bi amp, do so. I actively bi amp Innersound ISIS hybrid speakers and love it. The difference is that I suggest trying a mix of SS and tubes. I use a Parasound HCA 1500A for the bass and a Sonic Frontiers Power 2 w/KT 88s for the panels. This way I get the power the speakers need in the bass and the sweetness I desire in the mid/highs.
two times the width of the speakers. Isn't that what the maggie manual (1.6s, only?) says in regards to seating distance? I think it's a maggie thing. If the maggies are X feet apart, you 2X away from the center plane, forming an isosceles triangle. My $0.02
You really should consider biamping. Since you like the sound of the tube amp you already own, run the mids and ribbons from that, and use a cheaper SS to run the bass. Thats how my Maggies are set up. I'm using Cary EL34 monoblocks to run the highs, and Krell 300MDA monos to run the lows.

John C.
Active bi-amping is going to be too expensive in the short term. I did finally pick up a pair of Cary V12i Monoblocks, so I have those working through the standard Magnepan crossovers. The Marchand crossover retails for around 2 grand with all the bells and whistles, like tubes, sub outs etc. I've been looking through the classifieds for something less expensive, but nothing so far.
I am a bit further on than when I first started this thread in October. I have the ARC LS 15, the Cary Mono's, the Cardas x-over cable kit, soundorg stands and marble support slabs. I've spent countless hrs hauling the maggies around the room and moving furniture around also.
Without spending a lot more money, I'm probably about as close as I can get with the performance.
If I had to sum things up in one paragraph, I'd have to say that these are quite remarkable speakers, but more than most other speakers I've used in my system, present the listener with various compromise situations. Placement and room interactions will ultimately determine the performance of the 3.6's, more so than I've experienced with any other speaker, including Quad ESL's. In trying to extract the best of low frequency performance, soundtage scale, imaging and mid-range musicality, you will hear each of these benchmark elements presented quite exceptionally, but never all present to the n'th degree at the same time. For example, right now I'm enjoying good low frequency extension with the speakers somewhere around 70" from the front wall. Bringing them away from the front wall results in a complete shift to noticably poorer LF extension, but an expansion in stage depth and image stability.......and so it goes on!

Anyway, please feel free to offer more comments. It's been a great learning experience and I'm still very much open to more suggestions that don't involve too much expense.

I think ultimately the Maggie's will have to go. I'll probably stay with them for another 3-6 months, but then I want to find a system that can extract the most benefit from a room of this proportion. Again, any ideas on speakers for a room around 48x28x10 with the 10' opening up to a 28' high cathedral ceiling 12 feet into the room.
My typical listening volume is below 90db....occasional 95db peaks on classical music. I'm a tube fan and that won't change.

Thanks again.


You might want to look into Innersound speakers. They have a small sweet spot which tends to cancel out a lot of room issues.

I use and love the ISIS, which is the smaller of the two available. I looked at Maggie 3.6s before I bought them, but 6 month waiting period and tempormentalness of the Maggies sent me to Inndersound.

If and when I can afford them I will upgrade to the EROS.

There are probably other speakers that have small sweet spots and yet still provide great imagery, etc., which sounds like the way you may want to look.