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.

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!!!