There are two major factors to consider that no one else can help with.
The first aspect is based on your personal priorities as to what is important in reproduction of music.
The second is these two speakers will interact with your listening room in a dramatically different fashion as the designs are different. The Maggie is a bi-polar design that radiates to the rear as well as the front. The Totem is a more conventional forward radiating box design.
I owned the Maggie 1.6QR for several years and loved it. However, when I moved in 2006, it simply did not work in my new listening room. A pair of more conventional box speakers (Spendor 1/2Es) were a far better choice in terms of interaction with the room.
I'd recommend a trial run of each in your own room if possible. If that isn't an option, you might give some details of your room size, layout, openings and furnishings.
Gosh, you can't go wrong with either but the Maggies will require more powerful amplification than the Totems. The Spendor are hard to find or to obtain. I've been running an ad in the wanted section and I haven't found a pair yet. That goes to show they are great speakers nontheless. But it all depends on the amp you have or are going to buy. Maggie will tell you a good 100 to 200 watt amp is required for the Maggies. And the amp must have good bass control. The McCormack amps drive these nicely as well as Moscode amps are very good on the Maggies.
They are totally different animals. But, despite that, I consider them both to play in the same class of audio quality. I had the MG111a's for 10 years, then went to the Forests. Not exactly by choice-the Magnepan voice coils delaminated from the mylar panels. They never sounded right after the repair (my work, not Magnepans) so I sold them with full disclosure. The Maggies are alot harder to live with, I now have my living room back with the Forests only 2 feet from the back wall. Never heard the 1.7's, but, to sum it up I would have to say that to the hard core audiophile, the 111a's were a better speaker than the Forest. That doesn't mean I like them better though. They both have their atributes. Power was never a problem for me as the 111a's sounded better with 15 watts of tube power than 300 watts of solid state. I don't think the 1.7's can pull off this hat trick. I do think the Forests are more forgiving of placement and other components in the signal chain. The Maggies were ruthlessly revealing of every little thing... cables, 1/4 inch changes in toe in, placement to the walls, etc., etc., etc. Remember now, the 111a's sound is a bit different due to the true ribbon tweeter as opposed to a quazi ribbon-probably closer to the sound of the 3.6.
I had the 1.6QR's and drove them with a Unison Research Unico integrated amp (80watts @ 8ohms). The Unico handled the 1.6's with ease.
Totem: Greater pinpoint accuracy when it comes to imaging than Magnepan. Will disappear sonically in the room when setup correctly. May have edge in dynamic range but that can depend on room and equipment too.
Magnepan: Larger sound field which will be slightly more diffuse than the Totem. More enveloping sound. Intimate sound with acoustic music.
Since you said acoustic jazz my gut says go with the 1.7's.
Hifiharv, your response was very detailed and informative but now I`m curious, what 15 watt tube amp out performed a 300 watt SS amp? I don`t doubt you at all, it`s just that regarding the maggies people constantly state that you need high power/current amps to make them perform at their best. I feel good quaility low power tube amps with an appropriate speaker is the way to go for pure musicality and less of that mechanical/electronic veiling.
Heard most of the totem line (back to back) and heard the 1.7s a few months later. I listened to Norah Jones on both systems. The Totems were feed by Cary tube amps (model slips my mind) and the 1.7 were off of Naim gear.
I an not familiar with either front-end. But the system with the 1.7 were a knockout sound wise. They sounded much more natural to me compared to the smaller totems (the wind was ok). For small jazz the 1.7 are not just good for the money they are plain out good. I feel that Totem is a good buy at their asking price but higher-end stuff out classes them.
I am going to take some flack for this, but I feel that voices through the Totems (all models below the wind) seemed forced and nasally. Not bad as a whole and very good all around for their asking price, but lacking compared to higher-end stuff. While the 1.7 hold their own against higher-end speakers. They (1.7s) are limited in the bass depth but not output if you room is averaged size. The highs are pretty good on the 1.7s but they still stick out a little bit to me in tonal balance and location.
With all that being said. The build quality of Magnepan is total junk. If you can get past the build quality they sound VERY nice. The Totems on the other hand have MUCH better build quality and nicer finish.
Just my opinion... and demoing is the key to understanding what aspects you value most.
Huh? Two completely different speakers and really if you are looking at one you probably aren't looking at the other.
Look at your room and decide what speakers you actually want to listen to (and look at) to determine what you are willing to place in a room.
They are so different in their presentation that you really need to hear what they both do in a room situation also.
Not that either is tougher than the other (in my opinion)
but they could react differently in your room than someone elses.
They can also both sound sooo different depending on what electronics you out in front of them that it becomes a crapshoot when putting them with one electronic firm and then another. It can really make or break both of them because of their somewhat demanding nature to be fed well.
If you already have the rest of your hifi set you may simple want to hear each of them with YOUR setup. If you are just starting out then a dealer that carries them can stear you into what sounds best for each respective brand.
The earlier post mentioned Naim with the 1.7's and I can only concur and note that Naim is also a terrific match for the Totem line.
One last note, not sure why you have chosen to focus on Totem out of the many many box speakers available out there but you'd be remiss not to at least check out some others including Naims own line of speakers before making a purchase.
The Magnepan is a product that can evolve higher and higher with better associated gear and other tweaks. It is a unique audiophile product. It has the ability to sound like music and disapear from the room. The Totems do not really get this done and I consider them a lesser speaker.
BUT....The proper Magnepan system will probably end up costing more.
To Charles1dad: the amps are Fisher 30A mono's. A simple push-pull pair of EL84's per side. I slightly modify the input stage and they require the best of the best NOS tubes to really work their magic. Amps they repaced were Adcom 565 mono's. Not exactly the sweetest Solid State design and probably a less than ideal match for the Magnepans, but you can't argue with their power abilities. I didn't think it would work either, but initially, all I could say was WOW, the system is finally ALIVE! The only reason I had the 565's in the first place was because I was told the Maggies craved such a thing. Interestingly, the dealer was happy to demo with a 50W class A Levinson amp.
To Hifiharv: Yep, Maggies can sound downright amazing with less power than people think. And tubes? Yes. But....the newer Maggies are actually EASIER than the old ones to drive and make sound great in a real room. You don't need to measure every inch at ALL I have found. Just do a decent job of placing them and voila...fantastic music.
Sorry about the double post! How do y'all think my Quicksilver V4 tube monoblocks (120 plus per side) would sound with them. I talked to Mike at Quicksilver and he wasn't so sure that it would be a great match because of the Maggies needing so much power. He said that if I already have speakers that I like, to audition them at home with my system to compare and be sure. I'm not sure that I would be able to do that, though. Has anybody heard the 1.7's or 1.6's with Quicksilver amps?
My room is totally dedicated as my two channel listening room, so I can set them up however I need to. It is 15.5ft by13.5ft. Ceilings are normal height, around 8 to 9ft. My other equipment and wires are all very good quality and very revealing.
Thank you for all of your great posts and time with this.
What is going on with me is that I was just laid off. I'm thinking about down sizing my speakers to get some extra cash and still be able to buy a lesser priced speaker. My current speakers are Von Schwiekert VR4jr Mark 3's which there aren't to many of. They are awsome speakers! My wife doesn't want me to do this because she doesn't want to hear me complain about not having them anymore. I've always wondered how Magnepan or Totem would sound in my system. Right now I have the wow effect with what I have. So if I get something else, I'm still looking for the wow effect.
Right now I have great imaging, so I wonder about what one poster said that the Maggie's imaging can sound a little bit more difuse than the Totems. Thanks again!
Elb - if you're wondering how Totems or Maggies would sound in your system, one option is to buy used. There are several 1.6QRs available on Audiogon right now and a number of Totems, also.
If you buy with a bit of investigation and a level head, you can audition the equipment at your leisure and then resell it for about what you paid.
You can answer for yourself all of the questions about imaging, volume, bass, interaction with your specific room and so on you may have.
As others have commented used magnepans is a option if you just wanted to try them out. But be carful when you buy magnepans used. Delimitation of the "coil" from the mylar is a very real issue and petty common. As an engineer in the polymer field I can tell you it is climate/time related. Keep them dry, cold damp basements will be an early death, and also keep them out of direct sunlight.
The "ribbon" on the 1.7 might help them last longer than the 1.6 because of the increased surface area to glue the coil to the mylar.
Magnepan for sure.Provided you have a high current amp.
Please consider that Totem Forest is pretty difficult to drive an control. You need a very beefy amplifier and they put lots of bass (bit artificial to my ears) which needs a big room to be consumed. Overall Maggie is far superior if you can keep them 6-8 feet from the rear wall.