Which Magnepans 3.5 or 1.6?

I am looking to purchase a set of Magnepans. My budget is about $1800. Would I be better off with a new set of 1.6QRs or a used set of 3.5s? I am using a CAT SL-1 mk 2 pre, Resolution Audio Opus 21 cdp, and for now an old Bryston 4B amp. My next step will be to replace the amp.
I would buy new 1.6's over used 3.5's. At least you know what you have plus a warranty.
If your room can accomdate them I much prefer the 3.5's.
"At least you know what you have .....". Yes, nothing that remotely resembles the air, openness, dimensionality, harmonic structures, etc., of the series 3.

I owned the 3.3 and 3.5 for a combined 6 years. Everytime I went to the Magnepan dealer, the series 1 speakers, and the series 2 speakers for that matter, did not come close to convey the musicality of the series 3.

At the used price of <$2k, the 3.5s has virtually no competition. The one unfortunate issue here is that these speakers require a lot of money invested in an amplifier for the owner to hear its true potential. There's always so much focus to use Bryston amps with these speakers, and this was true for the dealer here too. But the Bryston is mediocre at best after hearing these speakers on so many other amps in the 200-400w range. These speakers sing magic with tube amps.

An excellent starting point is the Counterpoint SA20/220 or NPS 200/400 amps. Then if you can, try to move up to the VTL 450 or Wolcott P220 mono amps. Or if you want to stay with solid state, perhaps an older Rowland or McCormack 225 might just do the trick. The 3.5s driven by any of these amps would destroy the 1.6s driven by the best amps in the world.

New is obviously an advantage. The MG1.6 is a significant improvement over earlier QR models. Some people (I am one) actually prefer the QR approach (tweeter is part of the one membrane) over the separate different-technology ribbon. I suggest you listen to both. If the QR sounds good to you, skip the ribbon.
A good compromise would be the 2.5.5?

(Sorry!) If bass reproduction is important to you, then the 3.5. If you listen only to the Vienna Boy Choir (albeit, sans organ accompaniment) or are a fan of the solo violin/flute/piccolo repertory then, by all means, the 1.6. The 1.6 is also good for wiring your doorbell to it.
Oh yes ....... opinions are golden. With a budget of $1800 and given the current situation. I would opt not to buy something ten years old. I have 3.6's that are powered by a Spectron Musician II. They are indeed powerful performers. Tubes? Well if that's your bag.... Really if it came down to it. I would save the additional monies needed and buy new 3.6's. Then again if were doing all of the printed suggestions. Might as well nix the idea of buying anything new........

Do yourself a favor and go for the 3.5's. Although I like the 1.6, I feel the 3.5 is the better speaker. True ribbon tweeter for those exquisite highs, a liquid midrange panel and a separate woofer panel giving deeper bass. Yes buying new will give you a warranty; however, if you are careful, most sellers on A'gon are extremely honest and will not sell you a badly used pair. (I say most because I have been burned before, but that is another story and did not involve Maggies!)

If in the future something does go wrong, Magnepan will rebuild your speakers for a nominal fee. Give them a call and see how much a rebuild would cost (not that the used speakers you buy would need it!).

The only drawback? You will need an even more powerful (high current) amp for the 3.5's. But since you are planning to upgrade anyway....

Great people, great company, great products! You cannot go wrong either way! IMHO
I have owned MG12s, 1.6s, 2.6s, 3.5s, and 3.6s. I think your best overall bet would be to try to find a pair of 2.6s, which have the true ribbon tweeter and is one of the best speakers Magnepan has ever made (according to my ears and Jim Winey), and, put the money you would save in to a new amplifier. Not a lot of people are familiar with the 2.6s, so they often get overlooked, but I think they are astounding, considering you can get an excellent condition pair on the used market for ~$1000.

I think the 1.6s are wonderful speakers, but there is no question that they sound somewhat veiled next to the true ribbon designs. As other people have said, the 3.5s are hard to drive properly, noticably harder than the 2.6s.

I don't think you should buy the 1.6s for the warranty alone. Magnepans are harder to abuse than you would imagine. The greatest risk with buying used, either 2.6s or 3.5s, is that the shipper may destroy them in transit. I actually had to have Magnepan do serious repairs to both a pair of 2.6s and a pair of 3.5s due to shipping abuse. The good news is that Magnepan is wonderful to work with on these sorts of issues and will charge you very reasonable fees. Also, if only the tweeter gets damaged, they are designed to be easily removed and replaced by the owner, at relatively low cost.

All of their speaker designs produce wonderful, if somewhat different presentations. All three of the models I discussed are dynamic and coherent. As you go up, you get more bass output and airier highs, but, to be frank, the 1.6 is the most coherent of the bunch.

Tradeoffs are inevitable in the life of an audiophile, but if you go with Magnepan, it is hard to make a bad decision!

Good luck to you!
Thinmk Jamsescince is right on though haven't heard the 2.,6.Think Bryston is poular (I justb got a set for buddy's 3.6's which were soooo much harder to drive than his MGIII's.A try ribbon tweeter is beter than quasi.Have heard Arc 100's are great but more curent the merrier.Sure you could get the VTL 450 but maybe less power in their line would be fine.If not wanting tom bias I'd say go $4K long for 4000 watt class A mono blocks.But stay away from Krell either a/b or pure class A.Just beacus you spend money it does not mean they match up.I was going to use 300 watr class A mpos ($9500 new) anmd was told by EVERYONE who new Maggies not to do it.Wonder if the Parasound Halo JC1's at 400 are same or have that Bryston synergy.Know knew class D amps from PS Audio or Bel Canto.1.6's can fit in big bedrroom or office etc but if this is a alrger room r\go deep.One thing is get used as new as you can.After time wires start to become unglued from panels and have to re-glueed.Don't want to disagree with audiolaw who has reccomended the 2.6 but I would have said as recent a vintage 3.5 as you can get is great deal.In retropect think my buddie overspent on used 3.6's wehn he coulkd have goten the 3.5's for much less.Leaves moiney for higher qaulity amplification.Also if you want solid state don't poh pooh the Brystons,Many ,many owners have had this combo and instead of 250 rated mono's the model 7 mono blocks at 500 wats or model 14 same in one chasis are excel;lent way to go feeding the current the speakers hunger for.But don't get new SST amps because they didn't re-invent whel (as you can tell that Maggie didn't either from ealier years.Improvemtns are small.With Brysrons 20 year warranty just rty to get something with as much of that warranty lesft as possible (it's fully transferable and the real deal-they'll out live you)
As you can see, there are quite a variety of opinions on this topic; some quite strong opinions. I once owned the 1.6s. A phenomenol speaker for a phenomenol price. You can't go wrong with them and I would recommend them in a heartbeat if the warranty for a new speaker is important to you. However, unless you are bypassing the fuse or plan to use an amp that is underpowered, you really should never need the warranty. The dilemma here is that you are considering a quai-ribbon tweeter vs. a true ribbon tweeter and full range speaker. If you go with the 1.6s, you will be happy, but you will be infected with and suffer from the "what if" syndrome. As you happily listen to your 1.6s, you will sit back and ask yourself, "what if" I had a true ribbon tweeter, what would that be like. Or, "what if" I had a full range planar with a little deeper bass. Because you will suffer from this common audiophile affliction, I would suggest the 3.5s. You don't need the warranty and if you did, the replacement parts are not hard to get and not too expensive. I have the 3.6s and have not heard the 3.5s (I understand they are similar and the 3.6s may be a bit better intergrated than the 3.5s) and it is a great speaker. You will not regret the decision; you will not ask "what if" I had the quasi-ribbon tweeter/two way speaker. I don't think anyone would say that the 1.6s are better than the 3.5s. I'm guessing the 3.5s are a slightly better speaker than the 1.6s, but even if they are equal, you will always fret over not having the true ribbon. In addition, the 3.5s are easier to biamp, should you choose that direction. (I do think that the poster above suggesting the 2.6s may be right, but the 2.6s were not in your question and, therefore, I assume not under consideration.) One last thought: room size. If your room is small, than the 1.6s would be a better choice; the 3.5s need a little more room to breath. My conclusion is that you can't go wrong with either speaker, but you might as well save yourself from suffering from the "what if" disease, put yourself out of your misery and get the 3.5s. Good luck.
I owned 3.5s for a couple of years. If you can supply enough power with the new amp and enough listening room to let them breathe (after a relo I couldn't provide such space, hence the sale), I'm confident that they will impress. I'm a bit surprised to find in this thread that some people would pass on the 3.5 in favor of the 1.6, regardless of price, but I guess tastes do vary.
OTOH, if new is important, you may want to consider the Eminent Tech hybrid at ca.$1800. Bass performance is closer to the 3.5, but it is a hybrid and you may/may not be comfortable with the dynamic to planar cross region. FWIW, I feel that ET has done a good job there, but that is certainly a matter of judgement.
You are going to live with the speakers so what you hear is what ultimately matters. Listen to a pair of 1.6's and any pair of 3 series maggies(IIIa,3.3,3.5, or 3.6) and decide if the coherence of the 1.6 or the true ribbon of the 3.5 is what will float your boat. I own both the 1.6 and the 3.6. The 1.6 was my main speaker for four years and the 3.6 for the past two which I upgraded to when I was afflicted with "what if" disease. Both are great speakers and have different strengths and weaknesses which the previous posters have covered in depth. I am happy enough with the 3.6 as my main speakers and I was happy with the 1.6 which now serve as surrounds. I confess I have not done a shootout between the two because if the 1.6 wins, I will have to go to the trouble of selling the 3.6's. And I just don't want to deal with that hassel.
Jimburger is a brave man to admit that "what-if-itis" was at least in part responsible for his 3.6 purchase. Unfortunately, after you buy the 3.6, you will still suffer from this ailment as you contemplate the possibilities of the 20.1. And after that, how about a "true" electrostatic planar?

Go listen to both.
Please forgive me for asking a question in this question, but as I lurk on this post, I too am considering the Maggies vs the M-Ls and have the same budget. Since those of you who have posted have experience with the both, I have a question. Is it worth getting either of them if I can only pull them out 36 inches from the back wall and no further, and am sitting 11 feet away? If so, is there one of the Maggies or M-Ls that is better suited. Thanks to all for your in depth answers, they have helped many. And thanks to PAL for letting me interject this question.
Space is for optimum set up. My 1st pr were 2.6 circa 1993, and they served as the L/R channel in a home theater as well. They were seperated by 8 ft with a TV stand between them. My listening chair was about 5ft away, and they were approx 3ft from the rear wall. My dealer delivered them and positioned them with the ribbons on the inside. I/others thought they sounded great. SInce then I have upgraded to the 3.6, and have a seperate home theater. I also have more than ample space to accomodate their placement. I absolutely love the Mag sound because for me soundsatge/imaging is top priority. I have also added Manley Neo 250's to the mix. Their drawback is you need power, and most ears are not trained on super tight bass so folks add subs. Cant't knoch ML, I just prefer the Maggies.
I have had several pairs of Maggies starting with MMG's and then 1.5's, 1.6's and now 3.5's. I loved the 1.6's, great midrange and a wonderful overall sound but the 3.5's give me that extra level of refinement that the 1.6's couldn't do with there true ribbon tweeter. As well, the bass is better with the 3.5's. I do agree with the other threads that they needs lot's of power and current to really sing. I have tried several amps before settling on a McCormack DNA-1 which really works well with them. I was able to use moderate powered tube amps with my 1.6's and they sounded great but the same amps wouldn't work well with the 3.5's. You can't go wrong with either one but the 5's are a bit better in the overall presentation of music.