Review: Magnepan MG-3.6r Speaker

Category: Speakers

Magnepan MG 3.6R Speaker.
It has taken me quite some time to come to terms with these speakers, identify their strengths and weaknesses and ultimately begin to appreciate what they do best.

The reason for the long ‘break-in’ period (me, not the speakers), was primarily due to one fundamental flaw in the process, and that is that I changed too many components in too short a time frame. I won’t get into the reasons for this; suffice to say that moving house was the primary culprit, the new listening room being somewhat larger than previous.

Design / Construction:
Most people I’m certain are familiar with Magnepan speakers and what they represent. The MG 3.6R sits one down from the top of the Magnepan range, with its bigger brother, the MG 20.1 occupying top spot.

The MG3.6 is a 3-way speaker, with a planer/magnetic midrange/bass and a true ribbon tweeter.

It’s specification on paper tends to mask the true characteristic of how easy (or difficult) a load it presents to any amplifier. Rated at 85db/500hz/2.83v sensitivity and a 4 ohm impedance, one might assume a fairly conventional load, not requiring anything too ‘brute-force’ for amplification. One might also be wrong, but more on that to follow.

Much of the Magnepan’s sonic signature is derived from it’s use of ribbons, in place of the typical cone drivers, and it’s open ‘box-less’ construction. Most box speakers assume a certain sonic characteristic that is heavily influenced by the construction of the enclosure, the Magnepan’s are free from this influence and tend to sound…’open’, ‘box-less’ …...different.

Before getting into specifics, I should state that these speakers were purchased on the used market, and were therefore fully broken in when they arrived.

Many people probably reject Magnepan as a speaker choice due to the problems associated with shipping and handling such a large ‘fragile’ object. Properly crated, as mine were, they are no more prone to shipping mishaps than any other speaker of similar proportions.

Measuring 24” x 71”x 1.625” they are quite large, but they are not particularly heavy, so unpacking, assembly and preliminary positioning was not a difficult task for one person.

Magnepan, for reasons known only to them, are not proponents of the ‘rigid construction is best’ theory. The stock stands are flimsy at best, and a gentle push on the top of the speaker has it swaying too and fro like drunken sailor. One might consider this less important given that the speaker is a true dipole design, with equal sound pressure output from the front and rear of the speaker, thus perhaps providing some cancellation of the forces which might try to set the speaker in lateral motion to the detriment of the sound. Still, it is disconcerting to see such a basic support structure on a speaker that retails for over $4,000.

Disappointing also is the external crossover box, and its method of coupling to the rear of the speaker. As mentioned previously, the MG 3.6R is a 3-way design, the crossover components for the tweeter are mounted inside of the speaker, but the bass/mid crossover components are mounted within two small boxes which attach to the rear of the speakers using supplied metal pins. These pins also act as electrical conductors, making the connection between the box and the speaker terminals. Small brackets are supplied which attach the crossover box to the speaker, removing support stresses from the pins. All of this is barely adequate, and for me, creates something of a dichotomy. How can a speaker gain so much critical acclaim, yet completely fly in the face of everything we have come to know about the importance of construction and support? It leaves me wondering what a ‘hot-rod’ version of this speaker might sound like, with rigid frames, integral support stands that brace the whole structure of the speaker and couple it effectively to the floor, improved internal wiring and crossover components, and the addition of spade connectors to replace the cheap banana’s. These are probably improvements that could be implemented during the manufacturing phase for less than $1,000 in parts, and a couple of additional hours of labor. These improvements could elevate the speaker into another class, and allow the manufacturer to demand a much higher price for a speaker that is already considered something of a bargain.

One can’t expect to mimic the setup of a floor-mounted box type speaker with a large dipole. At a basic level, these speakers need room to breath, and need space to the rear of the speaker to develop stage depth. Dipoles radiate sound in a ‘figure of 8’ pattern, so sidewall, floor and ceiling influences are less than with a typical box type speaker. In my room I have the ability to place the speakers quite freely, with as much as 8’ behind them, 14’ between them, and well clear of the side walls. This isn’t how they are finally positioned, but my starting point was to take advantage of the large room and set placement to the boundary extremes.

Moving the speakers around with the stock stands on a carpeted floor is very simple – they slide around quite freely.

Magnepan show a steep toe-in angle, and I have experimented with angles ranging from 0 degrees to 45 degrees. Magnepan recommend tweeter placement to be at a greater distance from the listener than the bass panels, since the tweeter can ‘overwhelm’ the sonic picture in certain setups. With a high toe-in, this would require tweeters on the inside. I finally settled on around 3-5 degrees of toe-in, which means tweeters on the outside edges of the speaker.

Please checkout my ‘virtual system’ for other components.

At this point I’m going to wind the clock forward, since most of you are probably asleep by now anyway. I’ve tried several different amps with these speakers, including powerful tube Monoblocks, and bi-amped SS configurations. I won’t describe the sonic attributes of each here, though if anyone would like to email me I would be happy to provide more information on my lengthy trials and tribulations.

I have also implemented a few tweaks a very quick summary of which is:

Cardas Crossover pin replacements – an absolute must.
Cardas Tweeter attenuator pin replacements – an absolute must.
Sound Org Custom Magnepan stands – marginal improvements, MYE stands are supposedly much better.

My immediate impression of the Magnepan sound was - wow!! I’m not a newcomer to this style of musical presentation, having owned Quad ESL57’s and a pair of Apogee Caliper Signature II’s, along with various box speakers.

The first thing that strikes you about the Magnepan sound is how open and natural it is. You immediately realize that a good percentage of what you hear in a typical box speaker… is the box.

The next thing that strikes you is how differently these speakers express themselves when compared to more conventional box designs. The sound has tremendous scale and clarity, yet the timbre and texture of notes from an acoustic instrument, like an upright bass for example lacks some fullness and roundness.

Sound flows from these speakers in a big open wave, it doesn’t jump at you with the same dynamic snap and attack that typical box speakers provide.

I’ve recently listened to Talon’s Peregrine speaker, albeit in a less than ideal setting, and they struck me as having many similar qualities to the Magnepan’s. The Talon’s also buck the trend exhibited by typical boxes and provide this same effortless and flowing presentation, without the dynamic attack and presence.

Other speakers I have listened to recently include speakers from B&W and Kharma. Focusing on the B&W model 808, since I lived with them in my system for a full week, they present sound in a completely different way to the Magnepan’s (and the Talon’s), more, dare I say it, conventional.

It strikes me that what I am observing here is what makes this hobby so interesting. Two different pairs of speakers can both be contenders for the high end, yet can both present themselves sonically in completely different ways, almost night and day in terms of musical presentation, yet, given the rules of our hobby, they can both coexist and both claim respect in the industry.

Getting back to the matter at hand, with my chair some 17’ from the speakers, and the speakers moved in to approximately 13’ apart, the soundstage from the 3.6R’s was huge, with excellent center fill energy and a good cohesive stage presentation. The stage width easily extended beyond the outer edges of the speaker, when required to do so, and depth was quite good, though not as deep as other speakers, particularly the Quads.

Bass was somewhat lacking, both low bass and mid/upper bass, which gave the sound an overall lean presentation.

I was able to get a slightly better bass response using the Rives Audio Test CD2, and simply playing the low frequency test tones whilst moving around the room. I was able to move the listening seat to a position where the 50-80hz region was slightly boosted, giving a little more bass effect and warmth to the overall sound.

I also initially found the tweeters to be a little too bright for my tastes, with just too much treble energy. Brass instruments such as solo trumpets and even solo woodwind instruments came across with just too much energy and force.

I was able to tame this slightly forward presentation somewhat by moving the speakers closer to the front wall, but with an unwanted loss of soundstage depth as a trade-off.

I was able to achieve something of a compromise between tonal presentation and stage depth, but it always left me wanting more of what the compromise had removed. In a nutshell, I wasn’t really satisfied with the sound to the point were I could live with and enjoy these speakers in the long term.

The comments above encompass and span a variety of system changes, all implemented in an effort to correct the tonal balance of the system and realize the sonic attributes that I had initially sought. These changes mostly related to power amps, and I saw amps from McIntosh, Belles, Conrad Johnson, Cary and Perreaux come and go, in a relatively short space of time.

Each of the above amps came with their own signature and qualities, and offered something different into the mix, but none ultimately corrected the deficiencies to a satisfactory extent.

Enter the Krell:
On the verge of giving up the Magnepan’s, I was accosted by a local audiophile (Nrchy), and for the sheer fun of it we traded amps on a loan basis – out went my beautiful Cary V12i Mono’s and in came Nrchy’s sinister looking Krell FPB200.

The first thing that became apparent was that these speakers really do need a barrel full of good clean power – forget about paper watts, these speakers need real watts, and more to the point, current. The Krell opened up the speakers and created a pure and effortless sound that melted the speakers (not literally), delivering a highly transparent picture, with extended stage width and depth. The stage presentation changed from a recessed stage to a more forward presentation, not forward in the tonal sense, but in the sense of physical placement of performers on the stage.

The stage became more layered and 3 dimensional and I could now clearly sense that performers were not standing in a straight line, but occupying different places at varying distances from the front of the stage.

This improvement in dimensionality helped to improve my perception of image specificity. I had considered the imaging quality with previous amps to be fairly good, but the Krell presented images more clearly defined, with more space and air around each image and a greater sense of presence.
The Krell also seemed to render stage and image scale more accurately than with previous amps. The Cary’s presented big, almost bloated images, mostly confined within the outer edges of the speakers. Track 7 on Dianna Krall’s Live in Paris presents a piano that completely dominates the soundstage with its 20’ wide keyboard! The Krell provides a more lifelike image size and creates a more realistic presentation.

The Krell took a firmer grip on the lower octaves, as one would expect from its reputation alone. I can’t honestly say that the bass was more extended than with the Cary or even the Perreaux 3150B, but it was more tuneful and articulate.

Playing track after track of familiar music, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the scale of the presentation. When people talk about trying to recreate the illusion of live performers in the living room, well, when was the last time you saw a 5 piece band performing on a stage that was only 7 feet wide? To recreate live music you need physical space. With the Magnepan’s sitting 13’ apart, and well away from side walls, the stage scale was spectacular. The Cowboy Junkies’ ‘Trinity Sessions’ is a pretty well recorded set, recorded using a single mic, with minimal post recording processing and in a fairly good acoustic venue. The performers are placed realistically on a stage that is released from the confines of the speaker boundaries, with reverberant ambience seemingly enveloping the room. These are real sized performers and instruments, with space between and around them, as you would expect at a live acoustic event.

The sense of 3-dimensionality isn’t the best I’ve ever heard, that accolade goes to a system I heard many moons ago comprised of much more expensive amplification, with a much more expensive front end (Linn Isobariks, active Naim amps, LP12/Ekos/Troika), but it is very good, particularly late at night when the AC power supply is cleaner.

Despite obvious improvements brought about by the partnership with the Krell, the tonal balance was still a touch too lean for me to be completely satisfied. However, I was able to edge the tonal presentation a little more towards neutral by changing I/C’s and speaker cables. Also, running balanced XLR’s to the Krell, made a significant improvement over single ended cables, even with expensive Purist Audio RCA’s versus relatively inexpensive DH Labs Silver XLR’s (one tenth of the price of the Purist).

It’s an old cliché I know, but these speakers are truly revealing of what is upfront of them in the component chain.

There is something very special about the Magnepan MG3.6R, particularly when your listening room allows flexibility of placement with good distance between speakers and walls.

The tonal balance is a little tipped toward bright, but you can tame the bright presentation by carefully selecting source components, amplifiers and cables.
The MG 3.6R is clearly capable of stellar performance, given the removal of certain constraints and partnering with appropriate equipment, in particular, a good quality and high powered amp.

If you have the time, patience and inclination to pursue the goal of achieving a sound that is open, full scale, accurate, articulate and free from the sonic colorations of boxes, and if you can cast off your conceptions of how a conventional speaker should sound, then I highly recommend giving the Maggie’s a try.


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Wow, nice review. You clearly put a lot of time and experimentation to achieve such great results.

I have owned Maggie 3.3 and now 3.5 for about 5 years now and like you, I tried many amps. The ARC VT130 was an awesome sonic match but just did not have the required headroom. The ARC CL150s were just too analytical and not much more power than the VT130. What surprised me was how incredible the Counterpoint NPS400 amp was with these speakers. For pure value, I suspect nothing else under $2k or so would be even close to this match for the 3.X series.

Today I use the Wolcott monos which have that incredible richness as did the VT130 and the drive capability of the Counterpoint. If you ever come to the twin cities, you're welcome to stop by.

And yes, I understand your comments on the Peregrines as I use a pair of Khorus and a pair of Peregrines for my HT setup. I find the Talon speakers to be so incredible for HT and music applications but in the end, for pure musical enjoyment, I am a Maggie fan all the way.

I'm just breaking in a pair of 3.6's. Please tell me about the Cardas crossover pin and tweeter pin replacements. I am using a Consonance 2.2 CD player direct to a pair of Musical Fidelity M250 mono's and I don't have a brightness problem at all, smooth as silk and the best sound I have have ever heard. They replaced a pair of Vandy 2CE's and are a quantum leap improvement albeit quite a bit more money also. Thanks for the review!
Rooze-Nice review. Where did you get the Cardas Magnepan Cable Kit? Thanks-Gary
Good job on the review. I recently upgraded my speaker cables from biwire to a single run of Shunyata Lyra. I could locate the jumper pins for the xover so I had some 6" Lyra jumper cables made. Although the cables are still breaking in, there is a dramatic increase in midrange clarity and micro dynamics. The highs are smooth without being harsh.
I recently reviewed my friends system of the 3.5 Maggies with the Rowland Concentra II, Music Reference RM 200, Odyssey, EAR 509, and they all had a distinctive character. These speakers are as I am sure the 3.6 is, very revealing and involving to varying degrees depending on components. Overall, the RM 200 was the best fit with the 3.5. We also used silver cable between crossover/speaker and silver speaker cable which made a substantial improvement. The bass slam and treble speed were markedly improved. There was also an added warmth to the midrange. Jallen
Thanks for the input, it's great to hear other peoples experiences with Maggie's, and thanks for the various emails that I received regarding the post.
John, I'm envious that you are using Wolcotts, I've heard others say that this is an exceptional match. I'd thought about an ARC VT200, since I have a LS15 it would probably be a synergistic match, but I'm not sure that it would be powerful enough - the Cary V12 Monos have a similar spec and they don't have enough power.
The Cardas kits are available from they have the full range of accessories and are an excellent company to deal with.
I just bought an extra two sets of the tweeter attenuator cables, and I'm going to use these to replace the bi-wire shorting pins. I have bi-wire cables presently, but just bought a couple sets of single cables, so I need to replace the pins.
Jallen - that's interesting that you've had good results with silver cables. Many people would say that silver cables should be avoided with Maggies, since they can be a tad bright. I used DH Labs silver ref XLR's and they sounded very good.
No one has mentioned stands, which surprised me. Are you all using the stock feet, or has anyone tried MYE stands?
That may be my next investment, though I don't care much for them visually - are there any other options around that anyone has tried?

Best regards

Bright? Maggies with ribbons can sound a leanish, but not bright. Bright is like eosone with what sounds like +6dB to the tweeter. Maggies do not sound like that. I used to think they were bright, but I had Acoustats prior, and they were severely rolled off in the treble, so it's all relative.
Very well put, well thought out review. I will look into the Cardas kit myself for my 3.6Rs...
Rooze- Nice and detailed review! I know I have said it before, but you are spot on with something being amiss with magnepan. With my hot-rodded 3.6's the level of performance is nothing short of amazing- clearly they could make a similar speaker and sell it for MUCH more then the current 3.6. If most audiophiles saw the insides of there speakers(crossover construction, components used and in general a feeling of cheapness) they would not believe they sound as good as they do stock!
I have a set of mye stands on order and should receive them within 2 weeks. I'll let you know if they made a difference in my system.
I have a pair of MG 20's, so my comment may not apply, but construction is virtualy identical, so it should.

I bypassed the tweeter attenuator jumper entirely. If you remove the 4 screws holding the terminal panel on you will see that the internal wires have ring terminals, and are just held to the posts with a nut. By swapping a few wires you can just bypass the jumper, and if you wish, the fuse too. I took the opportunity to replace the terminals with Cardas posts. You do need to open the holes in the cover plate slightly to use them. Since my cables have spades, I eliminated the needed bananna adapters. You will definatly hear an improvement bypassing the fuse and jumper(undoutably voids warranty)
Hotsauce, I took your advice and yes it looks easy to bypass the tweeter attenuator link on the 3.6. The 3.6 uses push on spade connectors, so I'm going to try and find some brass ring connectors to replace them. I couldn't believe how cheap the whole arrangement is behind that backplate!!! Those fuse holders and the spade connectors would look cheap inside of a $20 transistor radio.
The quest continues.....

Accosted? There may have been a little groping and fondling, but there was no accosting taking place! Therefore this review is fundimentally flawed! I want my money back!
I had have had success using Infinity Audio's Silverbridge jumpers on my 3.6R's. They are pure silver with teflon dialectric. They are terminated using the Cardas pins. They are of a heavy enough gauge to facilitate good current flow which improved the bass weight and dynamics. My Maggies had a slightly rising frequency response in my room with the standard tweeter jumpers resulting in the installation of a 1 ohm tweeter resistor. So I am sacrificing some transparency in exchange for a smoother overall room response.
Jimburger, I know this isn't for everyone, but this past week or so I've been doing some basic upgrades to the speaker and crossover, and the results have been amazing. Bypassing the fuses and also bypassing the tweeter attenuator brought a significant change in tonal presentation, and took less than 10 minutes to complete. I'm getting a much more fluid sound and more dynamic. I know that fluid and dynamic seem at odds with one another, but it's the only way I can describe it. Yesterday I replaced the speaker posts with Cardas binding posts that accept both spades and banana's. The improvement in bass and overal warmth, with no loss of transparency, was astounding.
I know it's not good for the resale aspect, but anyone handy with a soldering iron can take these speakers into another league.
Tireguy has been very helpful in both providing the motivation to make these changes, and also the technical know how.


I am most impressed with the way you describe the Maggie sound. Very good review indeed.

I had the pleasure of listening to the older Maggies (Tympani IV), that was the first time for me to hear the sound of the maggies and I was stunned to say the least at what they could produce in terms of soundstage and clarity. Those were capable of going down to 28Hz if I remember it correctly. The amplifier being used to drive them was a huge beast from Krell not sure which model as it was very long time ago and I was at that time not too familiar with Krell amplification. I wonder why Magneplanar stopped making similar type of three panel speakers.

Happy Listening!
What is that ugly stand under your Krell amp?
I also bypassed my fuse and attenuator on the tweeter, How can I do the same bypass on the midrange without soldering. I'd like to just get a double spade connector that will fit on the 1/4 20 bolt on the terminal. This way I can easily return it to stock if desired.

That is the Perreaux stand originally with list price of $2,400! LOL
Thanks for your input Quadophile, and thanks for setting Nrchy straight on the Perreaux amp stand....don't these Krell guy's know anything!! (LOL). Maggies are an absolute work in progress, I'm still moving them around and trying different things, even after almost a year of ownership. On the weekend, I moved them to the other side of the room, which involved some temporary hook-ups of amps/cables, but was worth the effort. The opposite side of the room has them placed just overlapping a large window. Despite the large reflective surface, they sounded great - more punchy and dynamic, without any detriment to the midrange or treble. I was expecting the sound to be harsh, with the proximity to all the glass, but it sounded great. Now I have to organize mains and equipment racks to make the move permanent....and so it goes on!
I haven't heard the Tympani's in donkey's years, I think Magnepans explanation of why they ceased production would probably be 'superceded by the new models with superior sonics'....but as we know, progress isn't always progress in a forward moving sense!....Thanks again for your comments.

Dolfan, I snipped the cheap push-on spades off the attenuator cabling and replaced them with basic gold plated spades from RS (a crimp-on type). It's not ideal, but it's a lot better than what is there now! I plan to redo the internal wiring, at which point I will bring all of the wiring out through the backplate and have it spade terminated onto binding posts inside of the crossover (new crossover box, that I'm planning).

What did you think of the fuse bypass mod, did you get the same good results? gotta get with it. Next time you come over bring your FPB700c and we can try and use that as an amp stand in place of the Perreaux.

That would definately couple your amp to the floor, but at 180lbs (not gbp) that's a lot of work to drag around especially on the motorcycle!
Rooze-Thanks for the recommendation on the Cardas Jumper kit. I put one in my system and agree with you that they make a big difference in opening up the Maggies. Best-Gary
Rooze, I have had the MYE stands for my 3.6's for about 3 weeks and 1 hurricane. They made a big improvement in my system. Deeper, stronger bass, much better imaging, bigger soundstage, just crisper acroos the board. I think if you tried these your never ending quest for "better" amps might just end. I did notice an improvement with the tweeter by-pass, but the stands really finished it off. Keep in mind my speakers are on carpet and you could rock them back and forward about an inch when pushed, now they are solid. They sounded much better without the cone feet than the stock stands but once you put the cones on there is no going back.
What's going on with your cross-over upgrade? I haven't heard anything for a couple of weeks.
It's a bloody nightmare. Still waiting for the last of the caps to come in from Welborne. Spent the last 2 weekends sanding down a 2" thick mahogany board and making the binding post brackets.
Woodworking was never my forte. In high school WW class we had to come up with a term project and make something. Everyone else in the class made a coffee table, I made a wine-press. Go figure...

I reckon another 6 months at this rate and I should be cooking.
What's the plan for Saturday, what should I bring? (refreshments?)
Dolfan, that's good news about the MYE's. Do the cones come as part of the deal?...what was the shipping charge from Canada, did they charge you any import taxes?

I'll have to stop procrastinating and pick up a pair.



They cost me $393 total to S. Fl. This is what I sent to Grant and he handled everything. It took about 6 weeks to get them from the time I ordered. The cones come with them.

Regards, Dolfan
I own a pair of Magnepan 3.6R and I repalced all caps and inductor coils and installed silver wire internally and binding posts for spades. All which came from North Creek Audio. I use a Sonic Frontiers Line 3 SE preamp and a Krell KSA 300S. I use silver speaker cables with a total of 64 strands (bi-wire x 32 strands). Let me tell you the bottom end kicks booty. The transparency is exciting! The sounstage is steller. I will never own another speaker unless I get the MG20.1. The most important thing I can stress is the more TRUE power you get the greater the performance. Cables that have better cuurent performance and bigger amps will transform the maggies.
Hello to everybody out there.
Have you tried the SOARING AUDIO SLC-A300 AMP with maggies 3.6!!


There are probably greater than 100 stings on here over the past 15 years discussing Maggie 3.6's, it seems you didn't read them before you bought.

The single most important thing you do with these speakers is buy a massively powerful SS Amp that others have recommended.

1) Sanders Sound Magtech (made for these speakers)
2) Cary Audio CAD500's
3) Innersound Monoblocks (nearly the same design as Sanders, same designer)
4) Sanders (or older Innersound) ESL Amps
5) Bryston 14 Bsst2

There are a few guys on here, I remember Macdadtexas, who have gone through this process in detail.

I think you are going down a rabbit hole with the crossover, where you could have just gotten the correct amp, and room placement and gotten sublime results.
Hi Maggiefan8

This is quite an old thread you've resurrected here, lol.

If you read the initial post you'll note that I used the Maggies with amps plenty capable of providing the requisite amount of power - Krell and Perreaux among others. I also bought a pair of SimAudio W10 monoblocks, not mentioned in the review as they came along later.

My experience is my experience. I believe I gave the speakers every chance to shine, and ultimately they did, in many ways....but not quite in the way that I wanted.

I moved from the Maggies to a set of large horns, then later to a set of Carver Amazing Platinum (hybrids).
The Carver gave me everything I wanted from the Maggies but could never quite get - impact, dynamics, deeper bass - more of a 'lifelike' sound.
Anyway, all that was a long time ago and from a forgotten land ;)

Thanks for stopping by...