Need some wisdom comparing planars

I appreciated Sean's essay in the recent "what is your opinion" thread re: electrostats vs. horns.

As a studio musician and classically trained pianist, I have recently been bitten by the planar bug after hearing Magnepan 3.6's through VTL monoblocks at my very patient local dealer. But biting the bullet to purchase 3.6's (and required upstream horsepower to appreciate them) may be out of my financial league.

Any thoughts re: the smaller 1.6QR's (which I have not yet heard), and similar tier products from other planar manufacturers (Martin Logan, Apogee, Final, etc.)? I heard a pair of Martin Logans (sorry, didn't get model number) but I was unimpressed, seemed notably darker and muted compared to the 3.6's.

I'm also curious what people are using upstream with satisfaction...are tubes that much more preferred? Can one use an integrated SS like the Krell KAV300iL with good results? How much power is really required to get musical results?

FYI, my eclectic tastes run the gamut from jazz (Bill Evans to Pat Metheny to Jane Monheit to Duke Ellington) to rock (Dream Theater to Metallica to Eric Johnson to ELP) to classical (Bach, et. al.) to avant garde (Wendy Carlos to Robert Fripp to Varese to King Crimson)

I realise even the larger 3.6's have liabilities with the harder edged, bass-rich genre's, but the immediacy, slap, soundstage and presentation of acoustic instruments has me hooked.

Thanks in advance for any responses.
I had an inverted experience from yours. After my dealer demo'd the 1.6s, I fell in love with them. When he asked if I wanted to hear the 3.6s, I replied "No, this is the best sound I can imagine-if there's a better, more expensive speaker, I'd rather not know about it". After owning them for 2 years and upgrading all my associated eq't and cables, I am still very satisfied with my purchase.

I haven't heard the 1.6s yet, and wanted to give a little time after getting blown away by the 3.6s before I went back and auditioned them.

What equipment / cables are you using to drive yours?
Hello Timwat

My advise would be to get a pair of used ESL-63, and use them with a 50-100 watt tube amplifier (ARC, C-J, SF, BAT, JJ etc.) and some Argento wire(breathtaking wire).
Quad is the mother of all ESLs and are in some ways stil a leading design. People think they can't make bass but that is only if they havn't heard them with the right amp and correctly set up (that can be said about all planars). The one driver sound of them are without match and the price of a used pair are very low, seen in the light of the performance.
As fare as amplifiers goes, I think the new JJ 828 and JJ 322 offers fantastic value.
The JJ and Quad will sing when spun together with silver wire from Argento.
I have just upgraded from the standard silver from Argento to the VDM model and it stil has me wondering what makes people buy other brands. I guess they are simply a well kept secret.

Check out the goods at the following web-pages:

I hope this helps

I owned a pair of Magnepan 3.3r's for a couple of years. Talk about a love/hate relationship! They were the best sounding, most impressive audio product I've ever owned. They were always better sounding with each upgrade I made upstream. I'm looking for a used pair of 3.6's right now - (there's NO Magnepan dealer in Arizona)....
Since I sold them I've heard Martin Logan, Sound Lab, & most recently the new Quads. All these others sound like my 3.3's with a sheet or blanket draped over them. I've been spoiled by that Magneplanar Ribbon!
I sold my 3.3's because they had an electronic artifact that I could reduce, but not get rid of. All the reviews I've read on the 3.6r say this has been almost eliminated. I've already purchased an Adcom GFP750 & Aragon 4004MKII for my next Magnepan system. If the amp is not good enough, I'll upgrade to a Pass Labs X250 or whatever it takes!
Be warned, if you get the 3.6r's you'll contract the upgrade disease & end up searching for better & better upstream components!

Good Luck!
asylum at if you haven't already - here you will find maggie/planar/stat fans who can enlighten you or maybe confuse you even more!
Greetings Timwat -

So you are a musician and have fallen in love with Maggie 3.6's! I'm not surprised. The Maggies do timbre very well, and don't impose any distracting boxiness on the sound.

I'm not a Maggie dealer, but... You asked about the Maggie 1.6. In my opinion, the Maggie 1.6 OWNS its price range. The 3.6 has some competition, as does the 20 (or 20.1), but the Maggie 1.6 has none. It is economically impossible to build a commercial box speaker in that price range that doesn't sound like a box speaker.

Okay if I muddy the waters a wee bit? In the price range of the Maggie 3.6, you can find used Sound Lab speakers. The Sound Labs are full range electrostats that excel at timbre and nuance. I have owned Maggie 3.6's and compared them side-by-side to Sound Labs. Now, I'm a Sound Lab dealer, so take that into consideration.

Let me tell you about three auditions I gave to musicians. One was a harpist, one a drummer, one a concert violinist. The harpist and drummer had taken vows of poverty, and so were not potential customers. When I put on a good recording, the harpist immediately sat forward in her seat and started playing "air harp", while excitedly explaining the technique the artist was using to get a certain sound from the strings. When I put on a drum solo cut for the drummer, she (yes, "she") likewise sat forward and started describing the techniques being used. The concert violinist was a potential customer and brought his own recordings, and he told me that the Sound Labs were the first speakers he's heard convincingly reproduce not only to violin, but also to cello and double bass. He bought a pair. Incidentally his other speakers, which he said were up until then the only ones he's heard reproduce violin correctly, were the original Quad ESL's (the "57's").

My point is, if you have a chance to pick up a pair of used Sound Labs, give them serious consideration. One thing, though - they must be shipped in factory crates. If you find a pair you're interested in, get the serial numbers and run them by me. I'll find out what I can on them for you.

One final anecdote - a few years ago I got to hear a local pianist, Seth Kaufman, in concert on several occasions. When I bought a recording of his and played it over the Sound Labs, I could tell it was made on the same Yamaha grand piano. The next time I saw him I asked, and he confimed that he'd had his Yamaha shipped out to Los Angeles to do the recording.

I have a soft spot in my heart for musicians - you are the reason we're in this hobby. Most of you have taken a vow of poverty. And, frankly, many musicians hold home audio equipment in disdain, never having heard a really good system - but you have seen the light! And so we all enthusiastically welcome you to our little world!
Thanks for the kind words, Tim.

I too LOVE the sound of a stand-up bass on omni speakers. While i'm currently not using planars or stat's, i do have speakers that appear to be "boxless" in terms of sonics and imagery. The sound is so "there" and "wet" with the correct timbre that it gives you goose bumps and just draws you into the performance.

Ne1sjay had a good idea ( in some ways ). Limiting yourself to things that you CAN work with in terms of affordability and room placement CAN make life a lot simpler and narrow down your choices. Personally, i like to dream and then acquire : )

You already seem to have taken into consideration the pitfalls of planar's. No real deep bass ( but hey, the $37,000 Krell's don't have it either), limited volume capability, the need for a healthy / sturdy amp, etc... No need to go there again. I will remind you about room placement though. These work best slightly spread apart but with ample room on all sides and some attention to room treatments. If you can't get them out into the room ( probably well into the "traffic area" ), you'll never get optimum results.

As to your other options such as Martin Logan's, etc... i have to agree. The models that i recently heard ( just like you, can't remember the model ) sounded pretty poor. While i KNOW the installation was FAR from optimum, i couldn't believe just how bad they sounded. Not only was the top end NOT open, the bass was bloated and "thuddy". If someone from M/L is reading this, you BETTER start dropping in on your dealers to see how badly they are killing your product.

With that in mind, i would look at the 1.6's and subs rather than the bigger 3.6's running solo. This will make placement a LITTLE easier for the panels while increasing the speakers versatility for your specific listening tastes and habits. By running the subs, you'll not feel the need to crank it up as much simply because the sound will be MUCH fuller at lower levels. Dynamic range and maximum sustained SPL can be increased due to the panels not having to make long excursions to cover the extreme bottom end. That is, IF crossed over before the amplifier. This can be done either actively or passively without a lot of fuss.

No first hand experience with what subs would work best here, so i would have to divert you to someone else. General consensus is that the Rel's seem to work good with "panels". You might also look for something with a small woofer ( 8" or so ) that is in a transmission line or larger woofer ( 10" or 12" ) in a sealed low Q design. All of the above would offer the very tight, clean and quick bass that you're looking for.

RGD's suggestion of popping over to the Planar Asylum is also a good suggestion. Just don't forget us back here : ) Sean

Pardon me but the Maggie 1.6 does have some competition....Apogee. For about $800-1000 you can get a mint pair of Stages with the stands. They are a pain in the butt to set up but will reward you with stunning, natural sound. For about $1500-1800 you can get a pair of Duetta Signatures. Bigger than the Stages, but will compete head on with the Maggie 3.6 in everyway. Close to the price of a new pair of 3.6's is the Apogee Diva, which will cause jaw & eye injury to the unprepared. Pleeeeaaaase check out these two sites before you decide.
Dear Tim,

I am also a musician and have had Magnepan 1.5/QRs (the older version of the 1.6s) and love them. I have also liked very much some more traditional speakers in a similar price range (e.g. Thiel CS2.2s). But nothing does it for me like Magnepans. Martin Logans can also be excellent especially since you seem to listen to more music with a drum and electric bass section (I almost never do), but for me that added bass driver is a real blow to the beautiful coherence of Maggies.

I would love to get 3.6s some day, but the qualities of Maggies are present throughout their line (my dad has the MMGs in his second system and for $500 new they are astounding - though not equal to the bigger models).

I am using the Musical Fidelity A3cr amp and preamp which mate wonderfully with the maggies. I had a higher power amp before, but have not missed it. the detail is so much better and I can always move the volume from 10:30 to 11:30 The A3 and the maggies bring out phenomenal detail.

I am using TMC Interconnects (which are also very good for the money) and am in the process of upgrading my speaker wire to a biwire run of Analysis Plus Oval 9 for the bass and oval 12 for the treble. I have also just taken the plunge with some less expensive after market power cords (Stealth, Kimber and Dedicated Audio). I'm not yet ready to evaluate these last changes.

At any rate, I often work as artistic director on contemporary music recordings and have tried to avoid the extremes of a "Flatter" system or a pure analytical system, and while I'm sure that improvements can still be made, I love the sound of my stereo. Were I in your position, I would not hesitate to get the 1.6s they even work for those of us who've taken the musician's 'vow of poverty' (as Audiokinesis put it).

Good luck.

You've got a lot of information here to sort through.

I agree with 1953 on the virtues of Apogees. I've owned Stages for eight years now.

Sean makes good suggestions regarding a subwoofer. I'd recommend a small, fast sub, also. I used a Velodyne ULD-15 for years (crossover reset to 60 Hz) and finally sold it recently in favor of Mini-Grand style dual 8" subs to better match the speed of the ribbons.

As far as amplification goes, I've found that planars can't be given enough current. I've upgraded amplification twice in the past eight years: from 120W to 200W and then back to 160W. The last upgrade was key: from Rotel to Threshold.

While I don't have any experience with the new Martin-Logans, I chose the Stage over both the Sequel and Aerius (original) because the ML sounded veiled by comparison.

My $0.02, FWIW, YMMV (and any other internet acronyms I can think of).

The first thing one must ask themselves when getting a music system is: How much to budget?

Personally, I prescribe to the notion that you build an audio system backwards. Start with the speaker you love, followed by an amp to go with the speaker, followed by a preamp to go with the amp, etc. ect...

I have been an owner of Maggie 3.6's since they came out. I have compared them directly to the 1.6's many times back to back. The 1.6 is the best bang for the buck in planer speakers that I know of; however, I am not familiar with the above mentioned speakers. The 3.6's were the best speaker I could afford at my time of purchase, and they are one of the greatest speakers in their price range.

However, they do reveal EVERYTHING. I have heard them driven by a little ARC CA50 tube 45wpc integrated amp... They sounded pretty good considering the low power of the tube integrated amp. I have heard them driven by: ARC gear, Plinius gear, Monarchy gear, Acurus gear, Aragon gear, Cary gear, Sim Audio gear, Pass gear, Bryston gear... And a half decent listener can hear the differences (some very dramatic) between all of the equipment with the 3.6's.

The Maggies love power. They may make you power mad. If you get Maggies, I would avoid using an integrated amp. You can, but the moment you try out a decent hi powered amp/preamp combo in your sysytem, you will wonder what you have been listening to the past with the integrated amp.

I would advise either Bryston, Sim Audio, or Plinius solid state amps for driving Maggies. If you want tubes the VT100 mk2 or mk3 is a wonderful amp for Maggies. If you are curious as to what I have in my system, see my system listed in the virtual systems here at Audiogon.

Subs can work well with Maggies. Depending on your room and your upstream components, a sub can do amazing things to a system with Maggies. However for the best results, I would choose a REL subwoofer. I have auditioned several different subs with maggies, and REL works best for me. They are not cheap, but neither are most things is this pricey hobby. If your room is small, and you have good enough upstream electronics, the Maggies can be pretty flat down to 35hz. You may not need a sub if your room cannot support frequencies under 35hz.

But it all comes down to budget, and how much upgrading you want to do in the future. If you want to do upgrading, splurge and buy the 3.6's, and make amplification your next upgrade. If you want to settle now, get the 1.6's and a great used amp (this total will run about the price of new 3.6's). This will give you a very balanced amp/speaker part of your system that could keep you happy amplification and speakerwise for a long time. But it all boils down to money.

If you want to enter the Holy Grail quest of audio, there are plenty of future options for upgrade. If not, buy a system within a budget that is balanced, and enjoy your music. (It also helps to not listen to any hi-end system that is remotely better than your own as well ;) )

Good Luck!

My system now consists of the SCD777ES source, ELAD pre to 2 Sunfire amps in biwire mono config to the 1.6qrs with an ACI titan II sub. ICs are the Jon Risch DIY Beldens and speaker cables are bi-wired analysis plus oval 9. I am currently deciding on room treatments.
Thanks you for all your responses. I am a little overwhelmed that so much helpful and useable advise came so quickly; I was anticipating a fair share of "you must do what I've done or you're not a serious audiophile" kind of posts, but didn't get any of those, and I am grateful.

You guys are absolutely right, I need to sit down with the spreadsheet and bank statement and figure out how far I want to go right out of the chutes, and how much I want to go with this in the future as well. A little tough, since I have so much tied up in keyboards and other music gear, LOL.

The best thing is after 14 years of marriage, my sweet wife has developed "musician's ear", and picked the 3.6's hands down vs. the ML's and others we auditioned together. So that's half the battle.

Again, thank you to all who responded for sharing your wisdom...this is exactly what I was hoping for.
Tim, I don't want to rain on your parade about Maggie 3.6's, (especially since you passed the WAF factor) but my experience was somewhat different. First, let me say, they were better than the Logan's Ascent. Actually,I really began to like them to the point of buying them, until i heard some big band music; then, they began to sound more like the older Maggies I have heard. In particular, the upper-mids sounded somewhat stiff and congested. The bass, the best i have heard from a Maggie speaker was impressive but still sounded restricted and not as tuneful as some box speaker i have listene to. So, I put my credit card away and went home. Who knows, maybe like what others have suggested, that the Maggies need carefully matched upstream electronics, and that was not the perfect set-up I heard. A week later, I auditioned the Audio Physic Virgos(new improved model to supposedly hit the market soon) and was in audio heaven. A totally Boxless box of neutral and beautiful music. Not perfect, yet, as others have said, a speaker that forces you to continue to listen, especially the nuances of timbre it is able to uncover. Did i reach for the plastic?? No, because, they were(at the time too expensive, $5600) and I still had not sold my other speakers. Since then, I have made the mistake of trying to find something better if not within the AP line, then something else, as a result I am "circling the field" so to speak trying to make a decision on something. So, maybe, you should give the AP's a listen,, or just buy the Maggies and be done with it.!! Good Luck, , Sunnyjim

Maybe this is the same thing you're saying...I too find the Magnepans are not "just like hearing live music", as most advertisements (including that 30 minute infomercial that Herbie Hancock does for Bose) proclaim. Don't get me started on old Herbie selling his soul for Harold's like I've always said about the Eagles and Doobie Brothers reunions...the reason they get back together is because in the U.S., a mortgage is a 30 year loan. I personally prefer that explanation for Herbie, rather than any of the other alternatives (i.e., he really believes that Bose clock radio sounds like a Steinway).

Anyway, my point is that I gladly embrace the truth that the reproduction of recorded music will NEVER be a suitable substitute for live music. Having devoted most of my adult life to the pursuit of musical artistic growth, I sure hope not. Every attempt to electronically reproduce a recorded acoustic event, will, by definition fall short of duplication in a variety of aspects.

That being said, what I'm looking for is a subjective listening experience that communicates music in a way that floats my boat. I don't necessarily buy the argument that the most analytical, precise system is going to a priori be the highest and best pursuit.

I haven't yet heard the Audio Physics, but based upon your suggestion will try to find a dealer to audition them before spending all this hard-earned cash on Maggies (and requisite upstream electronics). I'd love to hear a set of boxes that don't sound like boxes, at least in the manner that Maggies don't sound like boxes.

But admittedly, what I'm skeptical about is the ability for dynamic drivers to offer the approximation of the e-stat acoustic instrument presentation, especially in terms of air, size and "spread" (for lack of a better term).

The search continues.
Tim, Let me just add a few points that I may have overlooked in my first post. I am always cautious of offering advise on the "Gon" because i don't have the technical knowledge of some members. Nevertheless, you mentioned something about finding in a speaker that which is subjectively satisfying to you as opposed to the analytical and super-speced transducer. I think this makes a lot of sense, and all to often we forget how important emotive intuitions are to the enjoyment of music. Selecting a speaker can be a crap shoot, because what you hear in an audio store never gives you the complete picture of what a product is capable, that is, its potential to satisfy over the long haul, and more importantly continue to reveal new meaning or perceptions about the music.To my recollection, the Maggie 3.6 did not do this for me . As I mentioned before, the first time I heard AP's Virgos, they moved out of the way of the music, and provided both a wide and deep soundstage, and new and subtle nuances to CD's I knew well. Without question, they tend toward the analytical, but it is a softer texture. Though,if you audition them, you may want to be wary of their lightweight presentation(which some owners and reviewers have noted, but have accepted in lieu of their other sonic virtues)The Maggies have more weight and possibly slam than the Virgos, but not equivalent to many of the better and highly respected box speakers. Again, I think, a great speaker forces you to listen and holds your attention. I currently own a pair of B&W Matrix 3's; they were one step down from the original flagships of the line 802's 803's.They are very accurate in the midrange, have good high end extension, and when I used the Monster reference hose of 10years ago, had much more slam than they do now using MIT Term 2. Nevertheless, they have been both enjoyable and servicable. So, why do I want to replace them??? Because,I need to know more about the music I listen to than they are capable of providing even with the upgrading I have done. I always judged them as good to very speakers, but never great speakers.I am looking for something more coherent and less boxy that creates a deep and wide soundstage. Early out in my audio experience, I never valued soundstaging and imaging as much as I do now. Then,that is in the late 70's and 80's a speaker for me had possess to razor sharp accuracy and I was content. It was like having the most accurate stop watch. I think this last point may also be a characteristic of the early audio years when I was getting involved in this field first as a hobbyist and then as professional salesmen.... Based on some of the observations you made about the 3.6's (and what others have said here) I may have to give the Maggies another listen. BestRegards, Sunnyjim