Soundlabs and magnepan mix on front stage?????

Building a home theater/2-channel listening system from scratch. I was leaning towards the soundlabs M-3 or A-3 used (don't own them yet). I like the soundlabs because they have a bit larger sweet spot and are less directional than the maggie 3.6's (my second choice).

My thought originally was to run three of the maggie 3.6's for the front, center and right but found them to be a bit to focused. Now leaning towards the soundlabs for the left and right speakers but still thought one of the 3.6's would make a great center channel.

The maggie is a 4 ohm load where the soundlabs run at 8 ohms. I was worried about speaker compatibility. Anyone run a setup similar to this, I know it's a little out there.

My amp plan was to run a Sim Audio Titan with MGM Maggies on the back wall for the surrounds. Let me know what you think.

WoW, I have to admit your idea sounds pretty absurd. I don't think it would work well at all. But if there was a prize for expensive esoteric blunders I think you'd be in the running! Also, I'm selling some real estate you might want to look at. Party on!
I have seen a couple of different systems using three 3.6's across the front, not as crazy as you might think. Obviously it makes more sense to run three of the same speaker but I like the soundlabs better. BTW, where is your property, I might be in the market if the price is right. Constructive responses are always appreciated.
I set up an all Apogee surround system a few years back. SACD surround was just hitting the market.

It sounded very good, although there were not enough good recordings, at that time.

I still have a few Apogees (4)....I'd need to buy one more, to give it another go.

If you are going to use it for movies also (with a projector) need something that is not to tall (unless you can hide it behind the screen?). I used an Apogee Centaur Minor. Of course, for music doesn't matter how tall the center channel is.

Something like this would be good also:

You will need subwoofers for home theater.
Good luck,


The three 3.6 Maggies on the link I put in my above response had the center 3.6 laying down sideways which would give a great soundstage that is 2 ft. tall and six feet wide. MYE makes the stands for the center 3.6 to lay down sideways. I thought it would make a great center channel, was hoping someone out there had the setup and could remark on it.

My real concern wasn't the viability of going 100% planar for the listening/theater room as much as using the soundlabs for the right and left and using the Maggies (different manufacture and technology) as a blend.

My first concern was that the titan wasn't strong enough to push the soundlabs with 200W at 8 ohms.

Second concern was that the blend of soundlab and maggie wouldn't work well.

Third concern was that the maggies are 4 ohms and the soundlabs are 8. I thought the "gain" of the speaker through it's volume range would be different enough to throw off the balance of the left and right vs. center channel. Also, being different manufactures, the efficiency will be different potentially further throwing off the balance but I may be wrong on how the amp/speaker relationship works.

Oh, BTW, I will be running an IB setup for the sub so that is taken care of.

If I decided to can the 3.6 for the center channel, Magnepan does make a nice center channel. That is always a fall-back!

Thanks again,


Your proposed system makes more sense if you are running the Maggie 3.6 center sideways.

But your concern about amplification is valid. Yes, of course 200 watts will drive the Soundlabs but if their efficiency is in the mid 80's you might run out of gas on the power peaks, especially if they present an odd resistive/capacitive load like some ESL's do.

I don't know how large your room is or how loud you like to listen, but I would think you'd be limited to moderate volume levels if your room is large. If you have the opportunity to audition the Sim amp with the Sound Labs that should tell you quite a bit. Sometimes it's difficult to guess which amps will work well with a particular speaker.

It seems like an uphill battle to me and that is the reason for my earlier off-the-cuff comments. But good luck; I hope it works out for you.

Interesting idea. Let me correct a misconception. The nominal impedance of the SLs may be 8 ohms, but it's VERY far from a flat impedance curve. You're looking at 40-50 ohms in the mids, dropping to about 2 ohms at 20 kHz. It is not a nice load, but I would expect the Sim to be able to handle it. 200 solid state watts is marginal. Also, unless these particular A-3s have the PX panels, they will not be as efficient and you'll be asking a comparatively small panel to do the midbass(?) and up in a home theater. Honestly, I'm not trying p!ss on your parade, and I LOVE my A-1PXs, but I'm not at all sure I'd want them in a theater setup.

As for the differences in efficiency and impedance between the SLs and a Maggie, I'm not real sure that I follow. Your processor is capable of setting relative volume for each individual channel, isn't it? Properly balanced that way, even the nasty impedance slope of the A-3s shouldn't be a problem unless you're getting frequency effects from amp/speaker interaction.

One question, since the center channel is largely for voice, could you get away with something much smaller - like an MMG maybe? I'm far from an HT expert, so maybe I'm just speaking from ignorance.
Hey guys, thanks for the response.


No worries, I should have done a better job at explaining that the center 3.6 would be on it's side. My reasoning was that their center channel, the CC3 was selling used for close to a grand. I can buy a pair of 3.6's for around 2,500.00 so the individual speaker wouldn't cost significantly more than a dedicated center channel from maggie. Though i haven't listened to them individually, I am assuming the 3.6 will blow the center channel away in terms of quality and soundstage. I would have to offload the second 3.6 or try and find a "single" out there somewhere, but I am convinced I can find one.

The Sim is rated at "only" 200W but it doubles down as you drop so it will run 400W at 4 and so on. It's strong and has been used with the maggies by more than a few AVS members who claim it's praises.....but your right...listening to the package would be ideal. The nearest maggie dealer from me here in Michigan is 3 hours away and doesn't carry sim. The nearest soundlab dealer is also 3 hours away (in the other direction) and doesn't carry sim either (or maggie). Listening to this proposed system may be tough so I was going off the knowledge of a few fellow members that had experienced the system.

Thank you for the load explanation on the SL's. I understand it now so the matching of the components shouldn't be an issue. The amp should push the SL's pretty well. Maybe not Wolcott, CAT or parasound halo well, but well. I don't need it to break the sound barrier.

For the processor I am planning on purchasing an Proceed AVP2 + 6 with the blueray player that has analog outs. This would allow me to run separate analog outs for all the channels to the AVP then balance to the amp.


You might be right on the center channel. I am not a theater expert either. The only reason I was leaning towards the larger 3.6's was because the maggies tend to be more directional specific with a relatively small sweet spot. For theater listening, I wanted a large soundstage and sweet spot so that everyone in their respective listening positions could be in the zone instead of being biased to the left or right. That is also the reason that I was leaning toward the SL's. With the curved framework, their dispersion is significantly wider than the maggies.

When I was in Tampa on vacation a few weeks ago, I stopped into Audio Visions South and had an opportunity to listen to their maggies 3.6 setup in a theater. They were using the small dedicated center channel the CC3 and the MGM surrounds and it was amazing. I also had an opportunity to listen to the new Wilsons at a weakening $150,000.00 a pair.....unbelievable, just a bit out of my price range :-) but alot of fun to demo. I believe the maggies or SL's can handle the midbass, at least it seemed to in their setup but I am not sure what power they were running. My sub system, two 18's in an infinite baffle, can run up to 80 htz if I need them to which will help the low end.

The soundlabs are actually more than I wanted to spend originally as is the sim. My next option is to build the system with a pair of SL's and a solid 2-channel amp (parasound JC-1's for example) and just enjoy it with the theater setup in 2 channel mode for a while. That will give me time to get the bugs worked out and get the setup and room treatments right. After that, I can save up and trial a second amp and surround speakers to go with the SL's. If i didn't like the components, I could return them and keep trying till I find the right combination. (sigh). Since I currently don't own any equipment that is worth putting into a system I am starting from scratch. There are so many options out there it isn't easy to start to make a decision. I know I want to go planar (soundlab or maggie) far, that is the only confirmed decision I have made. And I will be 60% theater and 40% listening (approx)

Thanks again for all the input.
Just want to add - although expensive this idea isn't so crazy. I'm actually a bit down on surround sound as I haven't seen it do much. I know recently there are more setups and 3/4 digit acronyms that try to separate voice and other noise and send other noise through primary 2 channels, but still. In some systems 98% of the noise comes out of center channel only!

With good electrostatics you get a sort of free (and better in some people's opinions) surround sound already. And to get a surround processor that has the quality of what the speakers we are talking about means more megabucks, not 2,000.

I want to recommend something crazy. And I wouldn't recommend this for lesser systems, but for what you are saying, I want to recommend it.

Get the Soundlabs or 3.6s for your front 2 channels and do that for a while by itself.

Do that for 3 months, and hook up your DVD player (Blu-Ray I hope? Get DMP-BD50 - obsoletes basically every Blu-Ray player available today, comes out in 1/2 months - ironic note that everyone in format war, BR and HD-DVD loose, because BR2.0 is so different and previous BR versions) and put that through super-high quality 2-channel system.

Get used to it. Then add 7.1 or 5.1 or 5.0 or whatever and that ocean of 3 and 4 digit acronyms I can't keep up with, and see if it improves things. I think we are still several years away from it really matching if you spend less than 5k on the pre-processor. One big step forward is the 'lossless' digital transmission system that the BD50 will be one of the first BR 2.0 players to have.

Unless you are getting Lexicon, McIntosh, Krell, etc. you will ruin the sound with El Cheapo preamp. Those high-end AV pre-amps, not sure if they have incorporated the 'lossless' sound transmission the newest BR players will have. You will want to wait until they do in order to integrate all that.

So, this would be my plan for you:

Get 2 channel speakers right now.

In 3 months get DMP-BD50, and use via 2-channel.

In 6 months get, for example, Krell Showcase Processor (or equivalent from similar company) *when* they upgrade it to support, lets see, here are the codecs I was referring to above: Dolby TrueHD or DTS-MA. You absolutely want to wait for that. The super high-end pre-processors take longer to incorporate new technologies - there are 1k and 2k pre-processors that can handle it now, but won't do nearly what Krell Showcase can do.

Then - you will be in a position to see if the surround sound at that level helps as you've been acclimated to the best that 2-channel by itself has to offer with already-enveloping natural surround sound :).

You've also have gone to surround sound with true lossless digital with all D/A happening only once rather than twice or more at very very high DA quality rather than crappy, and you're using a pre-amp that can handle the kind of speakers you are talking about.

If its better, great! If not, and 99% of the info comes from main 2 channels, or if 99% comes from center, or whatever the case, if you don't like it, then there it is and maybe you can take the pre back as you only just bought it.

Do *not* do anyting without Dolby TrueHD or DTS-MA at this time for the level of equipment you are talking about. It seems we are on the verge of a technology plateau where for goodness sakes, after these technologies really come out, we can sit there and let things be. I'm talking about 1080i at 42" and/or 50", 1080p at 50" (at 50" debateable) or 65" and above definitely, HDMI 1.3, BR 2.0, sound via Dolby TrueHD or DTS-MA and please please please let that be the standards for at least 12 months, 3 - 5 years would be even better.

And that said - to your actual question - I think the 3.6 would do great with the Soundlabs and there should be no problem. You might even get away with 1.6, not sure ribbon will help as if you have a 'real' pre-processor then mostly 'dialogue only' will come out of center and the ribbon starts relatively high. Of course, depending on your settings and all that, in many systems I've heard that were supposed to be incredible, 98% of all the noise came from center, but I think those are set up wrong. The more you can verify that more stuff is coming from center, go with 3.6, but if its dialogue only, 1.6 should be fine, ribbon barely comes into play.

People get so excited about surround, about the 3 planes that fly overhead for 2 min of the 2 hr movie, they ignore the fact that the rest of the movie didn't sound that great compared to all that extra money for pre-processor and add'l speakers put into 'real' 2-channel system.

Your suggestion isn't crazy at all. I am actually leaning towards your suggestion. I am out of town for a few weeks on biz but will be auditioning a few soundlabs when I get back. After that, I am planning on purchasing a 2 channel system with the aformentioned BD-50. The BD-50 offers seperate output channels which is what I was looking for. This will give me analog in/outs and HDMI directly to the projector. I will run it in a 2 channel config for the first 6 months or so after which time I will audition the system with maggies (either 1.6 or 3.6 sideways for a center and MGM surrounds for the rears).

Like you said, if I don't like it I can turn around and bring it back. This also gets me into a superior 2 channel system than I previously had in mind.

Thanks for the suggestions. Sounds like you and I are on the very same page but I appreciate the confirmation. Let's me know that I am on the right track.

I spoke with Brian from Essential Audio before I left Michigan and we are going to try and hook up for an audition of the soundlabs with the Atma-shpere's and the JC-1's upon my return. If there are any other Soundlabs systems in the Michigan area I would appreciate a listen if someone is available.

Thanks again.

Two great speakers, I chose 20.1's but would have had M1's if a used sale had gone through (for my 2-channel system). However I think they sound different enough that mixing them across the front of an HT system might create a noticeable discontinuity (not to mention the load issue).

So good ideas above on starting with 2-channel and adding surround, but on the original question I would go all Maggie - and I love the SoundLabs (unfortunately I think it would be a bad idea to put one of them on its side ;-)

Thanks for your reply. The good thing about mixing the fronts is that at least there is some seperation of voice. Hopefully it won't be too different but I guess the only way to tell is to set it up and give it a try.

As for putting the soundlabs on their side :-) Well, probably not an option. How tall are the esl-63's?????

Can someone give me some input on mixing a SS preamp with a tube amp? I am considering running tubes for the power end of it but want to try and avoid running a dedicated 2 channel preamp and later have to purchase theater pre amp. Any ideas on a decent compramise? I was thinking the Proceed AVP2 + 6 because it has seperate in's and out's analog and it has great reviews for the money but running tubes for the power end is new to me so I don't know if they are compatable.


FYI: Gordon Holt uses active ATC SCM 50's - he loved and owned SoundLabs for many years so perhaps you should look into ATC. They would be much more practical for an HT setup and are popular in studios for 5.1 monitoring.

I am not knocking your adoration of SoundLabs or Maggies - truely great speakers.....just the concept of usinglarge panels in an HT system seems a bit impractical to me.....of course perhaps you are simply looking for a challenge!!!
As an Apogee speaker owner...and one that has been there, and done that....unless your going to go for a sacd/dvd-audio setup....your options are many.

I've used everything from another Apogee (on it's side) a cheap Aurasound speaker (around $100) used...linaeum tweeter technology)....all worked "more than fine".

Using the exact same speaker....because of different placement issues, does "NOT" equal the exact same sound......take a measurement to confirm if you need to.

The most important factor is clear dialog...the other parts can be EQ'd if close......subwoofers do the bass anyway.

I'll put my flame suit on, but here goes....Apogees are head and shoulders above Maggies.....go there.


No flame suit needed here. Speakers are the one true piece of equipment that falls under the "biased" catagory. I haven't had an opportunity to review the Apogees so I will try and make a point to do that. The SCM 50's I am not familiar with so I will have to do some research. I agree the center channel doesn't need to go full range. My concern was more that when I heard the 3.6's and most flat panel electrostats, they have been very directional. So going big for the center channel was more to increase my sweet spot for the voice coverage than it was to get big lows and highs.

I could just buy the maggie center channel cc3 as it is curved for better dispersion. It's small and easily moved around and would do the job fine. Though having a 1.6 or 3.6 on it's side for the center channel does have a certain "holy crap, is that your center channel?" flair to it. :-)

Thanks again for the comments.

Let me know....I can probably hook you up with an Apogee listen, you'll only need one.

I am running soundlab m2's with paradigm adp 450 actives for the rear surrounds and my center channel is a wharfedale active 8.2.
My critical listening is 2 channel but the home theater is for the family;I would not worry on the rear surrounds and try to buy a electrostatic for the center as it seems to be a most important speaker in the home theater setup.Take a look at the logan centers if you don't want to buy the soundlab center;I think your setup could sound very nice with the proper center channel.
I think you will find the soundlab a little bit of a harder load than 8 ohms; do they have the impedance mods and tordial transformer upgrade? You should double check with soundlab on the impedance curve of the speakers you are looking at.
For the rear surrounds I don't think you need to spend the big $$ on the maggies, maybe pick up a used pair of martin logan SL3's,Aerius or that used pair of soundlab dynastats that just showed up.


Thanks for your input. I am currently trying to purchase a pair of soundlabs. If the deal goes through the surrounds will be next. I was speaking to Duke from AudioKinesis today and he told me that Soundlab actually suggested not running a center channel at all. The idea is that the big soundlabs do such a good job of soundstaging that it may not be necissary. The rear surrounds I am leaning towards the maggies MGM rears. I am going to give the system a shot with the 4 channel setup. If it's missing something I can always add a center channel.

I will look at the soundlab dynastats you mentioned.

How do the M-2's do in your theater setup? Anxious to hear it.


Lance s
The system overall if quite nice;using Theta Casa Nova,PSE HL-1 with bypass and manley 440 monoblocks for the soundlabs; all my other speakers are actives.The center channel seems to be a tough act to blend with the m2's but as I said my major and critical listening is with the PSE and the manley's driving the m2's.
Maybe I will try running just the m2's with rears and sub just to see what that sounds like as per Duke's suggestion to you.
I think the mmg's for rear surrounds are a good pick; watch the distance from the back wall.
Good luck and enjoy the soundlab's if you get them;What power are going to use to drive them?

Thanks for the input. Duke said to run the surround in "center channel fantom mode". I am not sure if all pre/pro's have this option but check your rig and give it a try. He also said to give the SL's a little more toe-in but I am sure you will have success trialing what works best. Please let me know. I will be anxious to hear what you think. If I can avoid a center channel it would be great from a cost and power perspective.

For the amp I am leaning towards JC-1 monoblocks. I would love Atmas but even the MA1's are 6K used which is steep. I have always heard really great things about the JC-1's and the soundlab marriage so I will most likely go that direction. They can be had for around 3K used and it's a ton of amp for the money. Of course, I am always looking for opinions. I have read every thread on the subject and most agree that big tubes are best but to get into the game it get's expensive fast.

Pre/pro will either be the theta casa3 or the Proceed AVP2+6 (still trying to decide). I don't know if the theta has individual analog inputs (I assume they do but haven't seen the back panel yet) so i have to check. The new panny 50 dvd player decodes all of the new codecs and has independent analog outs so I can run all of the new codecs analog straight out and run the projector via HDMI direct while bypassing the prepro for the video side. I know I will have to run a switch box for the HDTV feed and gaming feed but it's worth it to have all the new codecs running analog without a processor doing the decoding.

Haven't decided on a sacd yet. The maggies for the rears are the MGM's which mount directly to the wall and have the hinges so you can adjust toe-in. I like the idea because they get the speakers off the floor and are designed to not need wall backspacing so they should be great. When not in use you can push them flush with the wall and they just look like sound board :-) The rear amp, if I can avoid a center channel will most likely be a relatively inexpensive 2 channel, maybe an old 200W SS amp that is stable at 4 ohms to drive the maggies (still not the easiest load but they are quite a bit smaller than the floor staning models)

Still working out the details of the system but I appreciate the input. Let me know if anything else comes to mind.