Review: Magnepan MMG Speaker

Category: Speakers

I’ve owned my MMGs for 3 months. I purchased a used pair so mine were broken in before I received them. Before I purchased the MMG’s I had never really listened to planer speakers. Like many of the people who have reviewed these speakers they were purchased to satisfy my curiosity rather than as a planned upgrade. Along with a newly acquired sub the MMGs have replaced my Vandersteen Model 3s.

Looks: Oak trim with black cloth. Not stunning but not bad. Look at them on the web site. If you like the looks there, they look the same in real life. Note: The screws that hold the side panels on are exposed on the sides. The legs are strong enough to do the job but the speakers are not going to sit firmly on the floor like my 85+ pound Vandy’s with spikes. The flippers to adjust back angle are not the strongest looking parts but they do work. Some people may find the speakers imposing (most non-audiophiles find 4 ft tall speakers imposing) but I find them less imposing than my 2” taller Vandersteens. They are more imposing than my previous ~3 ft tall Meadowlark Kestrals. Like the Vandersteens these are cloth monoliths in the listening room. Unlike the Vandersteens you do have a choice of grill cloth colors.

Please note placement is important. I placed them too close to my Vandy’s while doing an AB comparison and the sound became thin and shrill. When set up properly in my room they sound great. The soundstaging is almost as good as my Kestrals but it has more height. The images come from a large area in front of me instead of a line between the tweeters. That said, the MMGs do not have the pinpoint accuracy of the Kestrals. The sound is more coherent than the Vandys. I believe the Vandy’s were suffering from being a big speaker in a small room. They simply couldn’t be placed well enough to really work. Where as the height of the tweeters and midrangers was obvious with the Vandys the Maggies act as if the highs and lows are all from the same wall of sound in front of you.
The MMGs are not the last word in depth. I think the Vandys are a bit better in my room. The Kestrals were also very good in this regard.
As other reviewers have said, voices are stunning through the MMGs. Details are superb. I think the Dynamics are very impressive. They do not have the slam that dynamic speakers can have but they have the lightning fast transients that for which electrostats are famous. This makes instruments like cymbals, acoustic guitar and banjos (yes banjos) sound there best. The large size of the radiators also makes them good for classical by giving the impression of a large performance in front of the listener.
A word about base. Some reviewers have criticized this speaker for not having enough base. I think this is half true. The MMGs do not go low. Over the range they do cover they have strong prominent base. My Kestrals went lower but the base was laid back. The Maggies give a full showing right down to their 50 Hz rating. The Dayton Titanic sub has proven to be a good match. I actually have the crossover set to a little over 40hz. This gives me the lowest notes that the Maggies just can’t reach. As set up, I have had no issues integrating the sub with the rest of the system.

Power: I have heard that the Maggies can be run with lower power amps. I’m sure an honest 100 watts into 4 ohms would be good for regular listening. Unfortunately I like to go to PA type volumes from time to time. The maggies have clipped my Bryston (rated at 400 watts/channel into 4 ohms) more than a few times. Mind you this is loud but not party loud. In short, if you aren’t the sort of person to crank you system, 100 watts into 4 ohms should be fine. If, like me, you like loud from time to time you will need lots of power and a willingness to give up some volume anyway.

Overall, try them. They are cheep new or used. They are easy to move around so tweaking the placement is not backbreaking. They sound great. I’ve already converted one audiophile (and myself).

Associated gear
Original Rega Planet CD player
Classe Cp 45 Preamp
Bryston 4B-NRB Amp
Home brew interconnects and speaker wire (thanks
Dayton Titanic subwoofer kit from Parts Express.
Rooom: 12ft x 22ft Converted car port, wood panel on three walls and the ceiling. Right wall is brick., floor is carpet over concrete.

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MG 1.6 QR
Nice review job. What you heard largely coincides with my own opinion of these speakers, but I do have a few other comments.

What you describe as amp clipping from your Bryston, in my experience would almost certainly be clipping from the planar panels themselves. The small Maggies are rather easy to overdrive at higher volumes, but it probably won't damage the speakers if you back off. Due to their relative ineffeciency, however, lower power amps are best avoided.

Since you indicate you have used 1.6's, I was a little surprised not to see some criticism of the comparitive lack of smoothness I hear with the MMGs. They just have more texture throughout the band, and particularly in the treble, than more expensive Maggies, or than speakers like your old Meadowlarks.

I agree that the MMGs won't do deep bass, but I also find them to be somewhat rolled in the highest treble as well. I second your opinions of the large soundstage, softer image focus, and incisive transients. The baby Maggies do give a fair-sized dose for the money of the special sound that makes the brand famous.

My own take is that with the quality of electronics that many A'gon readers will use, the bigger Maggies, like the three times the price 1.6s, actually represent an even better value than do the MMGs, giving better transparency, smoothness, articulation, dynamic headroom, and extension. But for someone who is curious about the Maggie magic, and who listens to primarily midrange-centered acoustic music in a smaller room using moderately-priced electronics, the MMGs will provide a more see-through and larger sonic recreation than will most (any?) box speakers available in their $500 price range.
Actually in the case of my set up it is the Bryston that is clipping. The amp has clipping indicator lights to let you know when you are asking for too much. I’ve always turned the amp down when these turn on. When I have the system that loud I’m really looking for loud as opposed to serious listening.
As for the 1.6’s, I have never owned a pair myself. I’ve demo’ed them at several stores with different equipment and room setups. One time they sounded god awful thanks to the “infinite echo” room they were in. I’ve also heard them sound incredible. Infact I think they sounded better that a set of 3.6’s I listened to. Once again that could have a lot to do with the room they were in. I agree that the 1.6’s are an incredible deal and much better sounding (using the audiophile definition of “much”) than the MMG’s but…
Real life settles in: Used or even new 1.6’s are not too expensive but they are too big for me. I’m not sure they would work in my room smallish and I know all would not welcome 6’ speakers. This is the primary reason I have decided to stick with the MMG’s instead of 1.6’s. Even now I miss the unimposing size of my old Meadowlark Kestrels. As for my electronics, I do find it somewhat ironic that my speakers are the cheapest part of my system. I’ve been very curious how a low cost system, based on Rotel, NAD or Adcom would sound compared to my system. I think a used system could be put together for ~$1000 based on what I have seen on audiogon.
Thanks for the feedback
Nikkidanjo, it has been my experience (not as an owner, but as a former salesman at a Maggie dealer) that even smaller Maggies are very revealing of electronics quality, although I have to admit that I can't recall ever hooking up the MMGs themselves to a truly premium amp. I have heard 10-, 2-, and 3-series Maggies clearly respond much better when fed from ARC and Levinson SS amplification, though, than from an Adcom of higher rated nominal power.
The only thing that I can add is the maggies do their best when pulled away from room boundries I feel at least 8 feet off a rear wall and 5 feet from the sides. The driver element/panel is adversly effected by the reflection of the low frequency rebounding.
That said, once I again have a large enough room I will buy maggies, I AM A CONVERT. Also the more current the better on the amp, but the smaller maggies can sound outstanding with good mid-fi.
I have owned my MMGs for a bit over a year now. I remember being frustrated, disappointed, and frankly somewhat confused by them for the first two or three weeks. The sound is, to me anyway, so radically different from what we are accustomed to hearing out of a box speaker, that it takes some time to get our ear-brains adjusted to it. I remember too, that mine were still undergoing changes at the end of the 60 day trial period, and would suspect that at this point, they may be just broken in after a year of reasonably heavy use. It is absolutely true that the low bass is just not there, but that's what good subs are for. What I think these speakers do more than anything else, is provide an invaluable educational experience, in that they serve up a generous helping of what true high end speakers should sound like, especially in terms of speed, clarity, and the truly amazing imaging properties they have. You will also get a feel for how well you can deal with the size, just in case you become hooked on them like so many of the rest of us, and want to upgrade to one of their other models. I'm currently considering the MG12s now that I'm used to the size of the MMGs. In terms of ultimate refinement, they will of course be eclipsed by many other products. Let me hasten to add that these other products will cost substantially more than the MMGs. At this point in my life, I have the luxury of being able to allot up to 2 hours a day to sit in front of my speakers and seriously listen to my collection of CDs and LPs, and after almost every listening session, I have to ask myself--do I really need to go out and buy another pair of speakers? If I ever do find myself buying a pair of box speakers, I assure you, the Maggies will be boxed and put in the closet, because I know that at some point I'll want to hear them again. I don't know if Magnepan still has the $550 60 day trial, but if they do, I cannot imagine a better deal to get some exposure to the qualities of planar speakers. Occasional attractive deals appear on A-gon and Ebay.
fine review. I have not heard all the five hundred dollar a pair speakers but of the ones I've heard,the MMG's remain my favorites.