I have a pair of 2.7QR's that are powered by Ayre. This is not bad at all. It just depends on your budget and listening taste. I am beginning to look at a much better system to replace my current system. Where are you located at?
I think they live up to the hype but, you need to place them well out in the room and you need a lot of power, 100 watts is the starting point and 300 to 500 watts with lots of current is what they really need to come alive.
It gets expensive to run them, money that could be spent on better speakers if you do not miss the planer sound. I think this is the most important thing to consider.
Bottom line is that I feel my system (with 1.6's) sounds as good as my friends system that has $5000 B&W 803 speakers, so yes I think they live up to the hype.
So much depends on your musical interests and what you do to support the Maggies in terms of filling the obvious void in the low bass region and, of course, providing proper amplification which they love. Bryston 4B-ST's do the trick for the 1.6's (for some people) but 7B-ST's would be much prefereable. For that matter, the Maggie 3.6's are probably worth the extra dough if you can swing it. The only Maggies I currently use are an old pair of MG-1C's that I picked up used for $200 and even those guys are power hungry!
Positioning is also critical with all Maggies, as they need to be several feet away from the rear walls, and a lot of experimentation is needed with the toe-in to find the sweet spot that hits you just right. It seems to differ for everyone and is also very room dependent. Don't even think about trying the 1.6's in an 8' x 10' dorm room!
For what it's worth (not too much, I suspect), in the planer/electrostat/ribbon world, I've used Maggies, Martin Logan Aerius, Bohleder Graebener X1 and X3's, and Newform Research R645's. Although I've not owned a pair of 1.6's, I've heard them in a well set-up system and agree they are amazingly detailed in the upper mids, which is where my listening ear turns to first. This is an enormous strength of the 1.6's. Yet, my money would be with the Newforms in terms of overall bang for the buck and, in my opinion, naturalness of sound quality (quite amazing integration for a hybrid design). The R645's go for $2,265 new or about $1,500 used if you're lucky enough to find a pair. As with many speakers, the Newforms are most at home when bi-wired. Another advantage of the Newforms is that they are one of the more tweekable speakers you'll ever run across. No disrespect for the 1.6's, just another point of view.
Search the archives here for "Magnepan" or "Maggies" and you'll find a lot of dialogue. Many members of A'gon have more experience with Maggies that I do. Tireguy for one is a big fan of the 3.6's and he's posted his entire system fairly recently.
In their price range they stand out as one of the very best speakers. In ANY price range, they are a contender. I owned a set at the same time as a set of $12,000 vandersteen 5's. Vastly different speakers yet in all honestly I considered them ALMOST in the same shooting gallery as a combination of merits. (the van 5 was def. better)
A little lightweight in presentation, unmatched on orchestral works, very detailed but not in the 'ultimate class'. A little haze blanket in the background when used with very quiet electronics such as pass labs. FAST FAST FAST in all ranges. I haven't yet heard a dynamic speaker that can match them in that respect. Sometimes this can make large heavy instruments sound a little surreal. A bass for example seems like a 2d paperweight version of the real deal. A full range dynamic speaker can communicate that a bass a large, heavy and powerful instrument. With a magnepan a bass and a flute seem to have a similar sense of weight and presence.
I personally think they should have a tube amp on them to sound good. They tend to expose any grain in a solid state design yet revel in the soundstaging and liquid presentation of a tube amp. Solid state can make them sound a little dead. The slight noisiness of the speaker is also masked by a tube amp. They do eat tubes so get an amp that's cheap to retube.
But a set used and see if you like them. They're easy to resell but shipping can be difficult. Make SURE they are insured in shipping. You may want to buy a subwoofer to go with them. Rel is consistently recommended. I'd skip the sub myself.
I used to own a pair of 104/2's. Great speaker in their day. The maggies are a pretty different sound. If you love bass, you might want to add a sub to the mix. very carefully match it though. If you value imaging, depth, etc...you'll love the maggies. All the comments above are great.
I think when you get into planers in general taste of music is very important. How you listen and how you plan to set the speakers up (as already been mentioned) are also critical. I personally don't really like the Maggie's, but I do agree they are a great value for those that do. The bottom two octaves just don't do it for me on the Maggie's. But that is just my personal taste, and I know many people are very satisfied with these speakers. I have Martin Logan's and I wasn't very satisfied with the bass response there either--so I changed it--now I like it. I love the transparency and speed of planers on the mids and tops, but the dynamic drivers in the bass. Even Sound Labs M-1 (haven't listened to the U-1 yet) are too soft in the bass region. Even though you are remote, (I'll go out on a limb here) I would consider posting: I live in 12345 zip code--any one with Maggie's care to let me listen--considering a purchase. I'd let a fellow A-goner listen. Particularly if it was a remote location (knowing that the next 100 people wouldn't be knocking on the door). Even if you had a drive an hour or a little more--I think it's almost impossible to purchase a speaker like this without having heard at least one Maggie (even if it's not the exact model) first.
I have the older version of the 1.6 (the 1.5Qr) driven by Musical Fidelity A3cr power/pre combo and love them. I would not buy anything else even at 3x the price (though I would get the 3.6's if I could. I listen to mostly classical and I think maggies are almost universally loved for acoustic music of all types and especially for classical music. They do not have the pounding bass that some Rock or heavy metal lovers seems to want. Also HT listeners tend to want a sub with them. I'm a classical musician and I find the lowest register of double basses very realistic with well setup maggies, but it doesn't do the huge electric bass and drums of some recordings without a sub.
Maggies sound very different from conventional speakers (better to my mind, but definitely different), so it is really important to hear a pair. As mentioned above the family resemblance between all maggies is strong, so you don't necessarily need to find a pair of 1.6's.
I've had the 1.6's since Nov. '98 and I power them with the same pre and power amps that Fineberg uses, MF A3cr, an excellent match. I replaced the crossovers with Hovland caps and Alpha-Core inductors in 2000 with an 80% overall improvement in sound. You can read all about the crossover upgrade in the Planer Asylum at Audio Asylum. I think the biggest weakness is the lack of clarity you get with something like a 2A3 SET powering efficient speakers. The tonal quality of the MF and Maggie combo in my opinion is at least the equal of the SET's that I have heard. Low powered tubes done right just sound cleaner. The problem with low power is dynamics, something I am addicted to. I heard a small tube amp powering ElectroVoice horns at this months Bottlehead meeting and I was quite impressed. The owner said the crossover was a bear to set up, which is the biggest problem with horns, getting them to work right in this lifetime. Good dynamics for a small amp though. I use a PSB subsonic II sub that works quite well with the rock that listen to.
Maggies can be a lot more demanding of room and placement than your Kef's. Make sure you can accomodate them. I don't know if Maggies are necessarily better but they sure are different. I happen to like both. With no disrespect to those who love other models of Magnaplanars, if it were me (room willing) I'd hold out for a 3 series. Good listening.
Maggies are GREAT and some things and not so good at others. If your taste is in jazz or especially intimate acoustic music, they're wonderful. We listen to a lot of European and old American folk music that often ends up with a guitar or a duclimer and one or two voices - the 3.6's are the best speakers I've ever heard on that type of program, period. (They did have the advantage of $20k worth of linestage and power amps.)
At the other extreme, if you are into heavy metal, their bass characteristics probably won't put them at the top of your list. And adding a sub isn't that easy either - they seem to be particular about which subs integrate well with them. I heard one Aerial sub that was horrendous with the 3.6's, despite the fact that both the sub and the 3.6s are very excellent speakers on their own.
I also have the problem of being quite a drive away from delaers, but after having gone through this last cycle of auditions, I can't imagine buying Maggies without having heard them. Frankly I'm really amazed at how differently the various VERY GOOD speakers present the same material.
All the above are great observations. FWIW, I fell in love with planars over a year ago after an ad hoc 3.6 demo.
I finally purchased used 3.5s this year, but did not really hear the speaker's bass extension until throwing 375wpc into them via Plinius. On other speakers, some Plinius users have complained of slightly boomy/uncontrolled bass, but on 3.5's I haven't experienced same.
When I demo'd both, I was not as impressed with 1.6QR's (taking into account their obvious differences), as bass extension problems seemed so much greater and perhaps harder to solve.
IMHO, it somewhat becomes a 'purpose built' question. As a studio musician I'm used to near field listening on small, articulate and revealing monitors. My previous home speakers were Von Schweikert VM-2 monitors (true, their not Genelecs).
I still mix on these in my home studio, but now also run check mixes through the Maggies.