Where are your maggies??


Just took delivery of a pair of Magnepan 3.6 R's and I'm just starting to get a handle on their sound and at the same time having some placement issues.
I'm using a Belles 250i integrated, which despite it's modest power rating seems to handle the Maggie's incredibly well....large, open soundstage, dynamic, no compression to speak of at higher spl's etc.

My only issue so far is that the overal balance and presentation is a little on the bright side of neutral, more so than the monitors that I've used for the past 6 years or so. Also, bass is definately on the 'lean' side, which doesn't help with the issue of a bright tonal balance.
I'm wondering if my room is mostly to blame for the forward presentation, and wondered if any Maggie owners could cast some light on their own placement issues with 3.6's and what steps they may have taken to overcome the forward presentation and lack of bass. I know that placement with the Maggie's is critical and so far I've spent two evenings making adjustments without any real impact to the overal sound. I have some issues with reflective surfaces, but the speakers are 10' clear from the front wall, 25 or so feet clear from one side wall, 12' clear from the other side wall and 18' from the listening chair with 3' behind the chair to the back wall. So room reflections ought not to be a significant issue given their proximity to the room boundaries.(also, they are 12 feet apart with slight toe-in and the tweeters on the outside).

I've messed around with distance from side and front wall, distance from listening seat, distance between speakers, toe-in angle, and have switched the speakers around between tweeters inside and outside.
The changes in position have effected the soundstage, imaging depth/width but have not really altered bass response or the tonal balance to any real degree.

I'm wondering if these are just inherrently 'bright' speakers with no bass??....though I have heard people claiming to get great bass response from 3.6's and have never heard anyone claiming that they are overly bright. (I've got the Maggie supplied tweeter attenuator installed also, by the way).

Should I be trying anything else as far as placement is concerned, what have others used to tame a forward sound??

Should I be concerned about the amp?...it is an integrated with a tube pre and solid state power stage, and most people describe it's sound as warm, full and tube-like.

Sorry for posting yet another 'Magnepan' thread, but my instinct is that these speakers are capable of much more than I'm getting out of them, and I have the space to allow them to 'breathe' with a room approx 30x60.
I do however have a limited budget for amps, $3k max, though I suspect the Belles is really a great amp that is up to the task of handling these puppies.

Any ideas, insights or tweaks would be greatly appreciated!!



Here are some of the things I have done with older Maggies and also ML's they seem to work with both. Decrease the distance from the wall behind the speaker to about four feet. Put the speakers about 10 feet apart. Sit about 10 to 12 feet back and then see if the bass changes. Also, have you broken these speakers in. My Maggies and my ML both needed to be broken in.

I'm not familiar with any of the newer Belles models. You said the amp is low powered and it is bright in the highs. Is the amp broken in? All of the Maggies I know want to see high power unless played extremely low.

Good luck.
check out the Cardas website, there is a section there with suggestions and a formula for placing planar speakers. We used the formula with my friends 1.6s and it worked great.
Rooze, what your experiencing is not "the norm" if they are brand new then you'll have a few hundred hours before they sound right- break in is roller coaster ride with these speakers up's and down's. Even if they are broke in if you just got them they will need to settle for a day or two, try not to form any opinions yet. The more power you feed them the more bass you get, I am using an amp that produces very high current and 450 watts at 4 ohms and am thinking of something more powerful. With your budget I would suggest looking into the innersound esl, they are a great amp for the money and give you tons of power. I am getting great bass from my speakers(along with all of the other audiophile bells and whistles), I would suggest for you however to try to move the speakers closer to the front wall and the same with the listening chair. Start at about 6 feet from the front wall and move them out 1 foot at a time to you get the compromise from everything. In my room with the speakers 2 feet from the front wall(obviously to close) I get explosive fast bass, but it doesn't sound good, and there's no imaging or soundstage, so its all about finding what works with your room. The other problem is that the 3.6's even stock are so revealing if your system upstream is colored at all you'll hear it, which could be the lean sound your getting from them. You can try and tone them down a little bit with the tweeter attenuator, see if that works, and down the road try taking it out. I found that these speakers were so revealing I needed the attenuator in place until I got used to the speed and clarity I was hearing, then I removed them and haven't looked back. What kind of floor do you have? if you are on the second level of your home, i.e. subfloor you may have a problem getting great bass with out some room tweaking(which I would strongly recommend either way), concrete floors and magnepans seem to work great together. I have owned the 3.6's for a while now and love them very much for the money they are the bargin in high end and if your ever looking for more sky's the limit after some modification. You may also want to check out http://audioasylum.com/forums/MUG.bbs.html its a place dedicated to planers and electrostat's and there is a lot of information available there(and a lot of varying ideas so your destine to find something that will work for you). Enjoy the speakers!
I have MG1.6. I assume that the "attenuators" which you refer to are 1 ohm resistors. (That's what came with the MG1.6). If you still find your MG3.6 to be too bright, try a 2 ohm resistor and see how you like it. All crossovers have resistors in series with the tweeter so as to match its SPL to the woofer. One crossover schematic that I happen to have handy (for a Dynaudio system) uses 3.5 ohms, so don't feel guilty about the resistor.

I am not familiar with your amp, and it may be a fine unit, but Maggies, perhaps more than any other speaker, benefit from brute force. At the same time they are an "easy" resistive load for the amp, so perhaps the amp doesn't need to be an exotic expensive design. I have 350 watts (4 ohms) and I am willing to believe that an even more powerful amp might extract even better sound.

To be specific, see if you can borrow an Adcom 5500 (200 watts into 8 ohms) and give it a listen. If it works for you your budget will still have $2000 in it for other neat stuff.

You need to shrink your room. If you can't do that physically, your screwed. That is a lot of air to pressurize, even for a massive cone speaker. Quite a few people use one of the various speaker set-ups shown on the Cardas cable web-site. Most of the time this ends up being some sort of equilateral triangle between you and the speakers. For example, try the maggies at 10 feet from the wall at the narrow end of the room, positioned 10 feet apart , and sit 10 feet from each speaker. See if that (near-field listening) helps. This may be the only solution to "shrink" your room. A lot of people enjoy near-field listening (including Cardas when he had/still has modded 3.5Rs).

The fact that you use the tweeter attenuator probably means that you have purchased the wrong speaker. Putting the attenuator on the ribbon is like buying a stud horse and then castrating it. Not good.....almost all the transparency and presence that sets the speaker apart from the rest is lost.

>>>I'm wondering if these are just inherrently 'bright' speakers with no bass??<<

It's not about quantity with the maggies, its all about the quality. A sub is not the answer either. A good amp can help with the bass most definitely, but if you went that direction (big amp) your already bright speakers might get even brighter. It seems that the 3.6 is the wrong speaker for your house and tastes. No shame in that. There are few people whom have ever found the right speaker for their situation without some trial and error.
First off congradulations on owning a fine speaker.

Second did you buy these new or used? They need at least 200-300 hrs to break in.

To tame the tweeter a bit while breaking-in try a simply fix of using some copper wire replacing the metal jumpers for the tweeter attenuator or use the supplied tweeter attenuators.

Now to improve the bass, placement and power will handle that. The comment about using the Cardas method is a good one. I have my 3.6R 48" from the front wall. In your case 10ft from the front wall seems rather far, but again look at the Cardas method to help address this.

Finally Magnepans are not for everyone, but given the right setup they are an incredible speaker especially for the $$.

If you bought from a dealer they should be assisting in setting these up for you.

Some people including myself buy the Magnepans only to end up upgrading their power amps, but before you do set up is key.

Happy listening
When the bass loosens up it will mask some of the brightness. In the meantime, see if you can borrow a big amp or powered sub to try. Make sure the sub can be crossed at 30 to 40hz. Some things you can do now are try them 3.5 to 4 feet from the wall behind them, tweeters on the inside and put a 2 inch piece of 12ga. copper wire in place of the steel tweeter bar or resistor your using now. Good luck.
Sold... (Hi Roose)
I have tried many tweak and speaker cable before selling them. Even with my big krell KRS 100 (180 pounds each mono block) I couldn't get the bass I was hoping for, and I wasn't looking for out of this world bass, just realistic bass and that in a 15 x 17 x 8 room. So I sold them and bought a pair of Apogee Scintilla : these got bass and a lot of it. But there is still light at the end of your tunnel ; after reading a lot on the net (after selling the maggies, too bad I haven't founded this before) I found that the best way to increase the bass with your maggies is to modify your crossover. So take the plunge and get your crossover modified and be happy.
My Maggies are sold. I had them for almost 3 years.

Anyway, I say listen to Tireguy because he is a Maggie expert.

Personally I would advise the following:
- get the most powerful amps you can afford to drive them
- no integrated amp is going to do what a 500+ wpc amp/amps will do into the Maggies
- Maggies take a while to break in, whatever brightness you hear is due to your system, the room, or the Maggies needing to break in. Maggies are not inherently bright speakers.
- You probably are not getting much bass from the Maggies due to your amp. You need more power to get the Maggies to perform better (especially in the bass).
- At a $3k budget I would get a couple of the Bell Canto digital switching amps and monoblock them or go with used Plinius SA-250 mk4 if you can get one around $3.5k or so... Think POWER.

1) Your room is TOO big for this type of speaker.

2) You don't have near enough power for the speaker that you are trying to run. Combine this with the size of the room that you have and it's no wonder you aren't happy.

3) In order to get what you want out of this system retaining these speakers, you'll probably need to buy a WAY bigger amp ( you can't buy one big enough ) and supplement the bottom end. That will probably take another amp since most "quality" subs don't come with their own amp.

4) If you go the route mentioned above, all you'll have left to do is to play with matching the gain levels on the mains and the subs, find the best placement for the subs and then hope that the subs and Maggies blend well together.

5) You probably bought the wrong speakers. "Good" products are not universal in application.

Getting around the problems cited above may have you pulling your hair out, getting very frustrated and going bankrupt. Sorry for the bad news and being brutally honest, but i'm trying to save you a lot of headaches and heart-aches. Sean
the room is massive, period!

slide the speakers all the way to the back wall and move one out until the bass is satisfying, do the same with the second. use some type of repetitive bass music like a nice stand up bass for this exercise.

good luck.
I bought my 3.6's new and had the roller coaster ride. The brightness puzzles me because you don't have reflectve surfaces. Pay attentention to the toe-in they mention in the manual for this will affect the phase relationship between the bass and the tweeter.

The amp does indeed need to be a brute. The Maggie spec's are misleading on sensitivity. They use a voltage figure instead of the 1 watt/1 meter spec'. That shows a speaker that is actually less sensitive than what is first believed. So, even though it may be a fine integrated, the power supply probably can't keep up, especially in the cavernous room you are listening in. Try using the Spectron Musician II. It is a digital amp that puts out 650 wpc into 4 ohms with 40 amps of current. I have had this thing cranked in my 13x26 room to the point where the fuses on the speakers quit the next day just on power up. But, we had a rock concert goin' on with ZZ Top right in front of our eyes. This is a fantastic amp. I can say that as I have owned 28 amps in the past 13 years and I started this whole hobby off with listening to Maggies.

The rest of my system is a Sony SCD-1, Kern modified SACD player feeding an Eastern Electric MiniMax tube pre. Harmonic Tech Pro Silway MK111 interconnects are used with Spectron's sense cables used on the output of the amp to the speakers. I have also chucked the metal factory-supplied jumpers. I replaced them using Audio Magic silver jumpers.

Finally, get some of the Mye Stands to firm those panels up. You have that big room and the panels are just rocking back and forth with the bass they are being fed. The stands will give you great bass and will provide so much more information retrieval that the factory stands will be useless.

Good luck and don't give up the ship...yet.
I always felt the 1.6s were bright and especiall touchy and revealing about how they were driven and associated components, my theory is the massive tweeter/QR ribbons have so much output they sometimes need taming.

I agree with the Cardas method of placement, I tried everything with my 1.6s and after using the Cardas formula I never moved them again which is really saying something given my tweeking habits.

Ficus trees placed behind them and near the front on the outsides so as to interrupt the soundwaves headed toward the walls helped. Though these points might not matter much with your large room.

When I switched from my Plinius SA100 MKIII to a Plinius 8200 MKII integrated I lost a surprising amount of bass. You have to get an amp with a ton of current, and Plinius seperates are a great choice, with unsurpassed bass as well as a slightly laid back high end which I think would suit you well.
They say that if a town has one lawyer, he is unemployed, but if there are two they are busy! So too with audiophiles.
Here is another point of view.

First...get more watts. They don't need to be esoteric expensive high end watts, just lots of them. The relatively inexpensive Adcom 5500 would be worth a try, and use it as a basis of comparison to see if you can justify anything more expensive.

Room size...I don't think that the room is too big. In my experience, bigger, with cathedral ceiling is ideal. If you have a high ceiling, suspend the speakers well off the floor and away from all walls. Because your room is so big, you could try a diagonal setup. This can work well. (I envy your room, and I bet some of those other guys do too. Sour grapes).

Get another Maggie...just one for a center channel. IMHO center channel has many advantages, but making more noise is one of them. Use the Adcom 5503 3-channel amp instead of the stereo version.

Get another pair of Maggies, and amp....even more noise. $$$? With dual side-by-side stereo speakers positioning can be difficult, but results can be good. The best I ever heard was KLH 9 electrostatics, dual pair.

Get three more Maggies for full 5-channel setup...$$$$$$$$$ Power the whole rig with the Spectron 6-channel digital power amp. $$$$$ Go to jail for embezelment. (But you will be happy).

Last, and probably least, get several subwoofers.
Thanks to everyone for some great feedback and suggestions!...I like the idea of having 5 maggies, but going to jail has limited appeal, thanks Eldartford!

Just to clarify a couple of points that were raised:
The speakers are fully broken in, as is the amp.
The room does have a suspended floor, but it isn't one that bounces around when walked on, it's solid.
I gave the dimension out from the front wall at 10 feet, it's actually at 7 feet now, with 18 feet to the chair and 3 feet to the back wall. I'm restricted on pulling the chair forward, but I tried it on a temporary basis at 12 feet and it does sound different, better imaging and more space around instruments.

Some things I've noticed in the last 24 hrs since I first made the post: The speakers are incredibly revealing of the source, anything that is a remotely average recording is delivered warts and all. (I guess I should have known this, but this is my first real venture into a higher level of equipment).
It's interesting that some CD's that I thought previously were well recorded, now sound quite poor, whereas others that previously sounded average now sound quite spectacular. Two example of what previously sounded good on my old system are Claptons Unplugged and the Santana revival CD (can't recall the name). Both these were commonly used to demonstrate the 'fidelity' of my old rig, where now I can hardly stand to play them at any kind of volume. The Santana CD sounds compressed with poor dynamic contrast and the Clapton CD just lacks any warmth and midrange presence.
Other CD's sound spectacular - Diana Krall, Nora Jones, Chieftens, some classical etc....

Anyway, I will try the Cardas setup, though I understand that it requires an equilateral triangle between speakers and chair, which may be difficult to get past the wife....incidentally, her first comment on seeing them in the room was "I thought you said they were only a couple inches wide?" (I never lie to her!).

.....I have some work to do on amps/placement, but I really think these are incredible speakers, with tons of potential given some time, and some extra cash!!

I'm still very much open to more suggestions from anyone who has experienced these and has found things that work well regarding amps/placement.

Thanks again

OK, Roose, here's a serious response that may actually help you. I owned the 3.6s for 6 months and ran them in a room 16X25 (about 1/4 of your space, I think, but my experience may still be appropriate for you). I bought them new, and during the first month I had reservations exactly like yours. I tried a decent subwoofer (REL Stadium) but found it dirtied up the midrange a bit and changed, but did not improve, the character of the bass. (This has always been my complaint about using subwoofers with full-range speakers, feel free to think I'm nuts if you want). I got a selection of resistors from the dealer ranging from 1 to 5 ohms. This helped with the brightness issue, and it can be fun to play with different values and jumper wires. Amps ranged from Belles 150 to Sim W-10s (1250wpc into 4 ohms). While I agree with many of the comments regarding the need for high wattage/current, I think your 250i, with 250wpc into 4 ohms and 30 amps peak current, should be sufficient for you to find out if you're really going to love these speakers. Three factors were most important in
getting me to love mine: (1)the Maggies broke in over 30 days, (2)my ears broke in (surprise!)in just about the same period--i.e. my frame of bass reference went from big, deep, somewhat bloaty cone bass to leaner, better defined panel bass that had shape and tonal color; and I became accustomed to, and welcomed, the pristine detail available from the remarkable Maggie high-frequency ribbon. As the days passed, I went from the 5 ohm resistor to the 2, the 1, and eventually none. Let's not forget (3) room placement: I found I was able to hear more bass by placing my chair closer to the back wall. You're at 3 feet now--try bringing it back to a foot or two. Bring the speakers much closer to you if the room arrangement/traffic flow allows--I bet they're getting swallowed up in that big room. I listened to my Maggies in a semi near-field position, with the speakers 10-12 feet away from my ears, and my ears about 2 feet from the back wall. Side walls are irrelevant in your case. Toe-in is most crucial to the tonal balance and of course tweeter position is too. Try putting the tweeters to the inside with extreme (45 degree) toe-in, and adjust back in 1-inch increments. Start with the speakers only 8 feet apart on center (this should fill the hole and "warm" the sound quite a bit. The idea here is to create your own little room inside the big room, but with the speakers facing in to the "room" instead of outward into your huge space, as others have suggested. You're mostly there already--I'm just suggesting you shrink the listening area a bit. Break-in of both speakers and ears, and demands of certain musical material, will probably have you adjusting speaker width and depth, flipping tweeter postion and diddling with resistors and jumpers as time goes on. All part of the audiophile fun.
My point is that the 3.6s can be fussy bastards, but they're worth it. I sold mine in a fit of audiophilia nervosa ("onward and upward!") but nothing I've had since then--all WAY more expensive, has given me as many goosebumps. I hope you don't give up on them too soon.
The Cardas room setup uses the short wall as front. From your description, it sounds like your front wall is the long wall.
In either case, 10 feet is probably too far from the front wall (behind the speakers).
A search came up with this site which may help:
room setup

My REL Stadium III is set in the room using the easy steps from the distributor's website and it sounds great. It dials in at B2, 34 hz on the chart. I have not used a meter to determine the speaker performance, but that is the bottom end spec for the maggies. Nearly every recording in my collection benefits from the sub providing the music below 35 hz., where the maggies roll off. I use the high level input to the REL from the amp and do not have any degradation of the midrange.

I also suggest getting stands from Mye Sound for your MG3.6R speakers.
I second the suggestion of moving the panels to about four feet from the back wall; start there and experiment. Also, IMO Maggies LOVE tubes. 200 watts of quality tube power should do it. I use Manley Reference 200/100 mono's, and in my very large listening room I get an incredibly large and dimensional soundstage, without too much brightness.

Good luck.
El: A really big room is harder to pressurize and obtain high levels of low frequency output. If you doubt this, compare the figures that are used for "room gain" in a house and "cabin gain" when used in a car. The smaller area of a car is easier to pressurize and actually increases apparent output as frequency drops.

On top of this, you have to take the speakers that are being used into account. While dipolar bass can sound very good, it also brings with it some very different attributes in terms of how low frequencies "load up" into the room. This is especially true when half of the speaker radiation is out of phase and is trying to cancel out the other half. In this respect, i highly agree with the others that the location of the speakers in terms of how far off the front wall they are and where the seated listening position is could be suspect.

As a side note, i think that a similar yet different speaker might have been a better approach for this size room. The big Carver's would have been a great choice here as they have all the speed of a ribbon with GREAT bass weight and extension. Since this room is SO large, it would have helped to balance out the bottom end on these speakers since they can tend to sound a little bottom heavy in a smaller room. Sean

PS... I'm simply "thinking out loud" here, so i hope that Rooze does not take this personally. Obviously, i'd like to see everyone happy with what they have but at the same time, i'm trying to be as honest as possible. You folks can tell me to shut up at any time and i'll understand : )
Sean- Shut up! heh heh :^) Its not every day you permission to yell at you.
You can always tell me to shut up. That's part of the beauty of having an open discussion. That doesn't mean i'm necessarily going to listen though, but it might send me a message : ) Sean
Fair enough Sean, I just enjoying playing these games- you know how I am, a screw ball through and through :)
sean...I know what you mean about the bass of auto sound systems. In my rural location I can hear tham coming down the road from a mile off.

As the engineer who always looks for the analytical explanation, it's not easy for me to discount your comment, and simply say (what seams to clinch the argument on this site) "it sounds good, trust me". Perhaps the low "room gain" goes along with minimal room resonances, which I find to be very desirable. The very-smooth LF response of Maggies is what makes their limited LF extension acceptable.

IMHO the out-of-phase rear radiation of a diple speaker only becomes a problem when they are placed close to the front wall, so that the soundwave is reflected back with little delay, and therefore can cancel the front wave. Unfortunately the houses that we live in usually result in the speakers being too close to that front wall. The best way to hear Maggies is in a very large room, 40-50m feet long, and with the speakers set up almost half way. You need to live in a barn to do this right.
Thanks DLSHIFI, I'm working on your suggestions and things are starting to come together. Certainly, moving the chair closer to the back wall goes against some of what I've read elsewhere, but in my case, as you suggested, it really works in warming the sound a touch.
I'm having a bit of an ordeal with amps at present.
I don't want to go through the loop of buying amps online, only to have to try and sell them before I can try something else. So I'm working with a couple of local dealers who are being very helpful and providing some loaner gear.
The Belles 250i was an incredible little amp, some of what it does sounds really top-notch, but still just a little too bright for my tastes.
I tried the McIntosh 6500 integrated yesterday and it warms the sound nicely but looses out on detail and presence, not to mention transparancy. It also lacks power, the overload lights flash on and off at modest SPL's.
Today I've been trying a Mac 252 power amp, which weighs an absolute ton and is built like a tank. It too is a little short of power, it has shut down on me twice at higher SPL's. This amazes me given the size and weight of the transformers on this thing, it ought to have better current delivery, particularly having the 'autoformers' which everyone seems to rave about.
Anyway, I like the sound and presentation of the Mac (before it craps out on me!)..though it seems somewhat lacking in detail and resolution compared to the Belles?
I'm kind of getting backed into a corner with amps, I want to buy from one of my local dealers, but any models further up the range than the ones I have tried are out of my price range.....problems...problems.
Thanks again for the feedback on this thread.

Is the Mac 252 a tube amp? If not, I don't think you will ever hear what those speakers are capable of until you hear them with 150+ tube watts. If you are in the NYC metro area, I would be glad to bring my Manleys over for you to experience the dimensionality and amazing staging that conbination is capable of. Good luck.
my 252 is dgital with 250 watts wpc and i'm usin a tube pramp the mcintos 2200 what do you think?
rooze, i think your problem is easy to understand (but not necessarily easy to fix). on the top end, i don't think it's the speakers -- those ribbons are so sensitive that any component in the chain may come out sounding bright -- look for digital jitter as a big potential culprit, as well as noisy power. the fact that recordings previously thought to sound great lost stature, and some previously thought to sound less-than-great gained stature, bears out that those ribbons are getting more of the recording to your ears -- i found a similar result when i got mine. especially some older recordings i considered uninteresting, especially live tracks, sprung to life. and over-produced, over-compressed, over-crisp stuff comes out sounding like that -- those types of recordings are voiced for boomboxes and car stereos, so they don't sound so great on revealing equipment. the solution, get some refined, sweet-sounding (tube?) equipment for playback -- try a monarchy (or other) jitter remover. how do they sound on vinyl?

next, on the bottom end, no one seems to be mentioning the cause -- namely that the dipole panel cancels out out bass frequencies, depending on proximity to the wall behind the maggies. solutions are tough -- move them out from the wall (but can they be moved far enough is the question); get rid of the wall ;-) or think of other ways to prevent the bass cancellation (may require modifiying your walls). in my case, i run the maggies full range and augment with a m&k sub crossed over low (50hz) and place optimally according to room dimensions for non boomy sound (at the 1/2 width and 1/2 length position) -- then i use digital eq to get rid of any remaining resonance problems. the results are non-bright, crystal clear, non-boomy full bass maggie sound.
Hi...Thanks for the information and suggestions. It's been a while since I made the post above and things have moved on quite a lot since. Also, when I posted the thread we'd just moved into a new house and I used the room dimensions that were on the realtors spec sheet, it's actually a smaller room than the first post indicates, but not by much.

I've tried several amps over the last year or so, including tubes and a couple of different Krell amps. The speakers definately need gobs of power...600w into 4 ohms seems to be the minimum, and more is better.
I have tamed some of the brightness that I first reported, using different cables, amps and paying more attention to placement.
I've also rebuilt the crossovers in the past few weeks. The speakers have been tough to deal with and very frustrating at times, but I'm really enjoying them now.
I'm still messing a little with amps, but everything else is pretty well organized, finally!

What eq are you using?...I tried the Tact 2.0 but didn't have much luck with it.

Thanks again