Maggies a waste if only 3' from backwall?

All maggie owners, please chime in. I've been considering the maggie 3.6 or 20.1. My basement room is 15x20x7, thin carpet on slab floor, drywall over foundation. It is very unlikely I will be able to have them out farther than 3 feet from backwall, unless i had them on some kind of rolling/sliding platform. I have read repeatedly that maggies must be at least 4-5 feet from backwall. So, is 3 ft just not enough? Will the magic disappear and render them pedestrian?

While I'm at it, one more question: I understand there is a narrow sweetspot for maximum enjoyment, but how bad is out-of-sweetspot/off-axis listening? What aspect of SQ is actually lost? I ask this because I've read several posts where people thought they heard a real drummer or piano in next room only to find it was music played through a maggie (ie, "Best Speakers.." thread).

Thanks much for the replies. I really am considering joining the maggie family, but don't want to make a mistake based on room and one-person sweet spot.

They would still sound pretty darn good but not optimum IMO.

The extra few feet away from the wall improves the bass and gets rid of some muddiness, thickness and lumpy bass compared to what they can do.

I should also add that soundstage depth will improve if they are farther than 3' out.

of course ymmv

good luck
I have 3.6's (tried 20.1's) and they are 40" from my rear wall, and they perform very well. I would worry more about what you plan to drive them with,(don't get me wrong, placement is very important, try experimenting with different configurations). They will reward good choices when it comes to amps. 20.1's were amazing, but my 8' ceiling seemed to take away some of their magic and my incorrect equipment choice (and cables) left me wanting more. Also consider bi-amping the maggies to get rid of their x-over, that was a big step forward for my system. Hope this is helpful.
I have 1.6QRs in a 14 x 19 x 8 room with plush carpeting over hardwood floors and drywall walls. I've had to deaden the walls behind the speakers, especially the corners, to remediate excessive brightness and address slap echo. My speakers are out 5' from the back wall which is necessary for getting response down to 40hz. I also use Mye stands, which enables me to tilt the speakers forward to allow the tweeters to align in a perpendicular to my ears at my seated height. To me, getting the vertical right is much more important than the lateral sweet spot. Given the difficulty in getting them set up properly in my room, I've decided against going up to the 3.6Rs unless I can arrange an extended audition in my room. I expect the 3.6R's will be an even greater challenge in your case. I would worry that you will find the 3.6's too bright and I'm pretty sure you won't get nearly what they are capable of in the bass. You might have more luck with the 1.6's or new 1.7s. Also, they are not all that heavy even with the Myes so you could move them out for listening and back again I suppose if you placement concern is appearance driven. If you really need to go lower it might be easier to get a sub to work than the larger maggies.
Given the difficulty in getting them set up properly in my room, I've decided against going up to the 3.6Rs unless I can arrange an extended audition in my room.

That says it all in my experience. Unless you are getting a pair used and don't mind reselling them if they don't meet your expectations, an extended audition is required. I demoed a pair from a dealer for a week before deciding I could not find that "Maggie magic" I hear about.
I would just buy them and give them ago. Really many many brands of speakers should be placed more than 3 feet off the back wall.....

I demoed the 3.6s and 20.1s a few weeks ago in a 14X20X10 foot room with Mcintosh. I thought the sweet spot on the 3.6s and 20.1 was average. It was MUCH wider than Martin Logan's Summit/Spire. But no worse than some box speakers out there such as B&Ws that always put my head in a vise. Off-axis was much better than I expected but not great. I walked around the room to test I heard no hot spots, bass nodes, and the vocals remained clear. The image was not near as sharp as the sweet spot but it was not totally gone either. All of these things will be set up critical of corse.

Some long time uses might be able to give you an idea of how many feet (or inches) wide the sweet spot will be in a room your size.

Best of luck,
Your room dimensions are a little small for the largest Maggies and what do you plan to power them with? Maggies are known to be power hungry especially the 20.1 needing a very powerful high quality amplifier like the Audio Research Reference 600 for them to sound properly. On the other had, basements make excellent listening rooms with their concrete walls and floors. Good luck.
I wonder if the new 1.7 would be a step up from the 3.6, now that it has all QR drivers, which would help make it more coherent. I have not read about a comparison. It also is supposed to have a larger sweetspot. It seems like it would be a better fit for your room too.

It is probably the direction I would go fwiw...
My Magies 3.6r are three feet from the wall and they sound terrific. In my room, there is no lack of bass, thanks in great part to the Joule Electra 300ME/Spectron mono-block combo.
Philjolet...The MG 1.6 has a QR tweeter. QR means Quasi Ribbon, and amounts to no more than a section of the diaphram with lightweight conductors to extend HF response. I do prefer the QR approach over the true ribbon, perhaps because the common technology yields better integration. The lower cost helps too.

I know the 1.6 has a QR tweeter. The point I was making is that the 1.7 has all QR drivers, it seems to me this would be a plus.

Also fwiw, there are some who think the 3.6 lacks coherency because the bass panel can not keep up with the ribbon tweeter so, in this regard, I imagine the 1.7 may top it.
It is not a waste, but I would look into getting some acoustic treatments behind them. Auralex,Cascade and the like have tons of solutions to create more space acoustically behind the speakers.
I don't think I would pad the wall behind the speakers. The problem is you can only catch some of the frequencies and will most likely change the tonal balance of the speaker (making them seem dull, and bassy). But you could also try diffusors behind the speakers instead of a bare wall and bass traps in the corners. The diffusion may make the time delay longer (a good thing, in moderation) from the direct sound of the speakers and reflected sound off the front wall (behind the speakers) longer.

Does any one know what Magnepan recommends (if anything) behind the speakers?
I would really look at the new 1.7. Placement and power is everything with these speakers. Get a nice subwoofer or two and a really good amp or two. My opinion is that your room just isn't large enough to support the larger units- and that is okay since the 1.6/7 are so incredible.
Thanks so much for the replies so far. It seems that some are finding success with 3', but others are suggesting less than max performance. Nice to know that James thinks the sweetspot is no smaller than a B&W, since I do have N803's right now, lol.

I am very surprised at the suggestions to drop down as low as the 1.7, as I would have thought that the maggies just get much better across-the-board farther up the ladder. Especially since, at least according to everything I've read, the 3.6 or 20.1 is not in any way a bass-heavy speaker that can overpower a room. I'm willing to pay over 10k for a speaker like the 20.1 and have read that it kills the 3.6 (which is wonderful in it's own right), yet some are recommending the 1.7 like it competes with 10k speakers (box spkrs included). I am really confused by that. I do love the maggie sound, but I can't see a 1.7 competing at 5x over it's head. Help me out here, what am I missing?

My other option for the open airy sound might be open baffle like a Legacy Whisper or a NOLA Ref3 or Micro, but the palpable presrence of that maggie sound is undeniable, dynamic shortcomings noted.

Keep those thoughts coming. Much appreciated.
Right from Magnepan "A large Magneplanar in a small room is mostly an aesthetic issue and a question of proper bass reproduction", "Buy as much Magneplanar resolution as your budget will allow. However, the objection from family members of a larger Magneplanar in a small room is one we can't help."

Frequently Asked Questions

I demoed the 20.1 in a room about the size of yours (14X20X9ish) and they did not seem too large for the room, tonal balance/sound-stage was just right. They were about 4.5 feet off the back wall, 6 feet apart and I sat about 8 feet back (Mcintosh MC1.2KW amps). It was not too much system for the room. I also heard the Klipsch P-38F in the same room (different amps) and they loaded the room with too much bass. So to me it seems that Magnepans in general do not need as large a volume of room as is commonly believed on this site. But they seem to need some space behind them in order to gain bass definition.

But again we all have different tastes but if it were my money I would start with the 3.6Rs and go from there.
Maybe a few more words will provide some clarification. Maggies are dipoles. It is my understanding that the back firing wave will cancel out the front firing wave on low frequencies if the speakers are set too close to the back wall. While the 20.1s are capable of going down to 25 hz, you won't hear the low frequencies if the back firing wave cancels the front firing wave. I can tell you that at 3 feet out, the 42Hz E on a contrabass is almost inaudible in my room. Moving the speakers out another 2 feet makes a huge improvement. Quality amplification is essential. I use Cary 500MBs with my maggies, and they are wonderful amps but their 1000W into 4 Ohms won't overcome the physics dictated by the set up. I love maggies, and have used them exclusively for the last 20 years. I have not auditioned the 20.1s or 3.6s in my room, so I can't tell you from experience what they would do. I'd buy some 3.6's tomorrow if I could audition them in my room first. But I won't spend that kind of money on an experiment when I'm so satisfied with my current 1.6s. It's your dime. If you are willing to run a 10K plus experiment, I'd suggest hiring a consultant prior to purchase with a follow up to get them set up optimally after they break in.
"I do love the maggie sound, but I can't see a 1.7 competing at 5x over it's head. Help me out here, what am I missing?"

What you are missing is that you don't have the space to set 3.6s/20.1s up. I highly suggest you raise this question at the Magnepan users group and get some feedback over there. Look into getting them gunned or take them active if you really want to spend the extra money but putting a 3.6/20.1 in your room is less than optimal.

Greetings Timaru
Just wondering with all of the Padding,drapes etc in your sound rooms pic how could the back wave of the Magnepan work their magic under those conditions anyhow? Did you read the manual on this?
Best Johnnyr
Jeffkad, to clarify my post,

I have not heard the 1.7s

I have only read that the 3.6 suffers from continuity problems, though I have heard them a few times (briefly)and did not notice.

I have heard the 20 and it was terrific but in a very big room, I have not heard the 20.1 and am reasonably sure it would not be a good match for your room size.

also, fwiw, I never had a problem with the limited sweet spot people mention, when I owned the 1.6s.

I have read of $50,000.00 systems built around a pair of 1.6s, I think they (or 1.7) can hold their own - within their limited range.

I hope that is a clarification!

and good luck


01-31-10: Audioconnection
Greetings Timaru
Just wondering with all of the Padding,drapes etc in your sound rooms pic how could the back wave of the Magnepan work their magic under those conditions anyhow? Did you read the manual on this?
Best Johnnyr


Don't want to hijack the thread but your question deserves an answer so, yes I certainly did read the manual. Also, I started a thread on Agon asking for tips from other Maggie owners and received quite a bit of feedback. I took all the recommendations to heart with the week long audition. Also, my wife was out of town so I had the opportunity to spend quality time for the project.
There were two main problems I had with the speakers. First was excessive treble. The manual says this can happen in under damped rooms (not the situation in my room). The tweeter attenuation helped a bit but they were still brighter than I cared for. The second problem was a general lack of coherence anywhere but in the listening chair. If I stood up it was totally gone. Granted I listen while seated but the difference was amazing. The ability to get a coherent presentation is one of the strong points of my Kestrels I guess.
To get the best out of the Maggies I worked on speaker placement, tweeter attenuation, I even removed the panel behind the left speaker and opened the drapes (much worse that way). Removed the designed tilt by placing pucks under the legs (much worse) again).
I auditioned the MG12s in the dealer's room and was ready to buy on the spot. What changed my mind and made me decide to audition them at home was listening to my cds at the store. What any buyer should do as a minimum.
My advice to the poster is to listen in his room before buying. I am not bashing Magnepan speakers and I hope it doesn't come across that way. I understand some listeners find them magical and I have experienced that also in other systems. In my small room however, I could not duplicate it.
Philjolet, that's one of those things I've recently come to understand about the maggies, the concept of spending way more on the amps than the speakers to coax the best sound out of them. This is a concept I'm just starting to wrap my head around, having always believed that the speaker was the biggest budget item. However, space is still my issue. Yes, I can move them out farther than 3', but then they get in everybody's way, and it's just not practical unless I can put them on casters like the B&W 802D or Legacy Whispers.

Johnnyr, you are a maggie dealer, you've got the 20.1's, and you know your stuff. What say you about my dilemma? (and don't say go with vandies, lol!). Is 3' just not enough? For what it's wrth I can stretch to maybe 3.5 ft, but no practical way to leave them 5-6 ft out.

Seems like my next thread will be "what box speaker sounds most like a planar/stat but can be placed closer to wall."
Listen, owning Maggies requires that the user adapt to the speakers requirements not the other way around. If you can't get them out in the room then you are wasting what they have to offer. I've put big speakers in small rooms but it just doesn't work with Maggies. You should hear how well 1.6s sound in a big room, really nice. The 3.6s are even better but you need to pull them out, 10 or 15 feet isn't too much.

Thanx, Russ
Right Russ69 I agree.

The 1.6 should not be discounted- it is a fantastic speaker when it is fed well and has space to breath. I can only imagine that the 1.7 is better as Magnepan does nto have a history of introducing new models unless the difference is substantial.
Used that close to the wall they will sound muddled and flat. There wont be a problem with having bass but the speaker will be strangled and lose it's air.

Maybe for special listening you could pull them into the room more.
First off, Ive had no problems with 3 ft from the front wall with my 1.6's(40")

I'll also say they have a wide sweet spot, providing your not going to use a 1 ohm resistor(muffles, dulls, and ruins sweet spot width). Most people don't understand Magnepans tend to be bright. Not harsh, just bright. They also NEED a sub. I use a .27 mills resistor and it takes a small hint of brightness away without the ill effects listed above.

All that being said, for the money you have to spend, buy some Legacy Focus 20/20's or HD's. You will be blown away. They play everything well, and have all the bass and volume you could dream of. They are very warm, and I miss them very much! Ive had many of the great speakers, and the Focus were my favorite. They just get MUSIC right.
Ah, sthomas, but the magic of the maggie is only available in planar/stats, although open baffle comes close. The HD's have a ribbon tweet I think, so there is some resemblance, but not that holographic, palpable, 3D sound. Yes, the HD, as with other box speakers, will do some things better, and as far as I've read, nothing else comes as close to full range deep bass response in it's price class, but it's still a box. On the other hand, the Whisper, with an open baffle design, seems to have similar qualities to the planar/stat crowd, at least from what I've read (and they can be placed closer to a wall)
Ive owned Magnepans, Logans, Quads, and love planars. The focus 20/20's had a relaxed sound that reminded me of them. They also thre as large if not larger sound. They are in a box, but for me, the smoothest box speakers Ive ever heard. All my friends & family state to this day,best Ive had.

I can only imagine the whispers.

The Focus 20/20 mids & hi drivers are actually housed in pvc like pipes. The box is more like a shell. As far as the basa, by far the smoothest Ive heard.

I love the Magnepan sound. I just personally feel theres better choices when you have more to spend
Most of my experience has been with different planars (as well as with several bipolars), but I don't see much advantage to going with a smaller model instead of a larger one based on distance from the wall. The relevant factor is the path length for that first reflection off the wall behind the speakers, and that doesn't change with panel size. In general, the ear interprets early-arrival reflections as coloration and late-arrival ones as ambience.

In my opinion three feet out is definitely less than ideal, but it can still work well. I would consider diffusing the backwave, perhaps with ye olde fake ficus trees, and absorbing the backwave as a last resort. What you want to avoid is a strong, distinct, fairly early reflection. Using a large toe-in angle can also help.

James Tanner (Bryston pres) found 3ft to be the perfect distance from the front wall, and said they sounded best in his smallest demo room. I agree. Biggest reason is because Magnepans are perfect nearfield speakers(maybe not the 3.6/20.1).
Duke, if I diffuse or absorb the backwave, don't I kill the ambiance, depth, palpability, etc of the dipole sound? It seems to me that the bi-directionality (maggie, soundlab) or the omni-directionality (mbl, ohm)or the boxlessness (nola, legacy whisper) is what makes these speakers different (and to me, better) than boxes.

stthomas, am I wrong to assume that the bigger maggies afford better bass, dynamics, etc? If I can afford 10k or more, why would I want to drop down to smaller maggies? As much as i like maggies, i don't think the smaller maggies will compete with far more expensive spkrs, as the things the boxes (or baffle-less) do better will far outweigh what the small mags do well.
Yeah, Id get the 3.6's/20.1's if they work well in smaller rooms, and sitting close. I couldnt comment on them, because Ive never heard those in a small room at nearfield or mid distance. My guess is you just need to be far enough that the tweeter and bass panel sound as one. Theres a larger gap of space in the 3.6's tweeter & bass panels, then the 1.6. Just throwing that out there, not sure if it makes a difference.
I'm on my 2nd pair of Maggies. I started out with 2.5s and upgraded to the 3.6s around 4 years ago. The one thing I can tell you is that the positioning is everything. Moving them front or back will dramatically alter the sound. I say get them, you'll find a spot that works. I have my Mags approximately 3.5' out from the wall. The inside edges are about 5' 8" apart, their centers each about 13' from my listening position.