First Listen: Magnepan 3.7
Got a call today from Magnepan — the first of the new Magnepan 3.7s have left the factory!
The only dealer anywhere near my neighborhood was The Gifted Listener in Centreville, VA. They received their floor models of the Magnepan 3.7 less than a week ago, but, Tom Unger (proprietor), very kindly invited me to stop by if I happened to be in the neighborhood.
I was in the neighborhood an hour later. Ahem.
Tom had them playing when I walked in. Like I said, he’d only had them since Thursday, so this was his fourth day of playing them. They’re not even close to broken in, says Tom. But they were great right out of the box.
I asked him about his old demo 3.6s that I had heard a year ago — sold them immediately, said Tom. These new 3.7s are better in every way than the 3.6 model they replaced. I love them!
Now, yes, you’d expect enthusiasm from a dealer. But this was a bit interesting. The last time we’d talked, I’d demo’d his pair of 20.1s and his 3.6s. I’d ended up settling on the 1.7s (an order which I later canceled), but I remember quite distinctly how careful Tom had been putting his (verbal) feet that time, very deftly saying positive things and gently deflecting things that he might have felt were negatives, saying only things like well, you’re either a Magnepan guy or you’re not. Today, with the new 3.7s, there was no reservations. No hesitations. Tom seems genuinely smitten. Which is always fun.
So, out with the music.
First up was Jem, “Come On Closer” off of her Finally Woken cd release. I like this track because the bass is just brutal. This is the track that both wowed and puzzled me when played back on the big Revel Ultima Salon 2s over at Evolution Audio in Tyson’s Corner. There, the track took on an almost heavenly sense of scale, as if an orchestra was actually playing (which is appropriate, as there was one). The problem was the bass, if you’ll believe it. The song has a seriously deep bass line that simply got lost on the Revel. Which was weird, because those speakers are rated way below 30Hz. When played back on my Merlin + Rythmik subwoofer combo, the bass lines are clean and punchy. And when played back on the Magnepan … they were clean and punchy. Wow. Okay, so now I’m thinking that Evolution’s Revel setup is enjoying a rather profound bass null or two in that room of theirs, but the point is that the Magnepans did bass. They’re supposedly rated down to the low 30Hz region (no specs are posted online yet), and there is some serious output. Way more than I thought. With more slam than I had anticipated — by a lot. Sure, it’d be even better with my pair of Velodyne SMS-1 controlled Rythmik F12Gs, but then, what wouldn’t?
The signature Magnepan sound was there. HUGE vertical soundstage. Width was very good, but not as electrifying as the four-ribbon Transmission Audio M1i (and I’m beginning to think nothing will be), but it passed the now-mandatory MoFi Gold CD reissue of “Roundabout” by Yes, off of Fragile. When the vocals switch over to (what sounds like) out-of-phase at about 3.5 minutes in, the sudden illusion of side-speakers was pretty convincing — better room treatments would have made this more clear. I have to say, though, that I’m really beginning to appreciate Jeff’s room at Command Performance AV more and more. The sense of ‘stage that he gets in that room. Sweet!
The image was very center-stable. And large! Natalie Merchant on “Carnival” and “San Andreas Fault” off of Tigerlily sounded spot on, again, a slight difference between the Revel Salons, which had the vocals recessed a bit, but right there with my Merlins, which are pretty much perfect here. ‘Stage depth was only so-so; again, this was probably due to the room — there was absolutely no room treatments in here at all. Yes, the Maggies were at least 4′ off the back wall and at least that off the side walls, and yes, the Maggies were toed in, so the overall tone of the speakers were completely revealed, even if soundstaging was a bit compromised. Tom admits he ranks soundstage & imaging as relatively low on his own personal rating scale (perhaps an obfuscation or even a mild admission of fault — who knows). Better room, and more break-in time (again, these had only four days of playing time on them!), and I suspect this will sort itself out.
Rodrigo y Gabriella’s marvelous latest release 11:11 served as a rather lively interlude. That’ll certainly help with break-in, said Tom. Most definitely. The big panels produced some fascinating music here, but it did emphasize something else that the Maggies do — big sound. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a good or bad way — just that everything the Maggies did was big. Big sound. Big images. Big ‘stage. Big instruments. And while I expect some of this to tighten up as they break in, some of this “bigness” is a Maggie hallmark and a bit different than the “big speaker” sound you get from the Salon 2s. There, the sound is huge (too) and you can feel like you’re at a concert — just like with the Maggies. But if there’s a need for intimacy, the big Revels can do that — maybe not as well as my 2-way Merlin VSM-MXRs (but not much can, so that’s hardly fair), but still they can be very convincing. On the Magnepan, the Jumbotron imaging stayed regardless of what was being played. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a thing worth noting. Especially if you’re into small group jazz, like Arne Domnerus’ (apparently mandatory-for-an-audiophile recording), Jazz at the Pawnshop, or Oscar Peternson’s, We Get Requests. Both K2HD discs sounded great on the Maggies — I mean, really great, with fantastic tone and clarity, but they just sounded bigger than perhaps I’m used to.
An interesting change for the 3.7 — onboard/integrated crossovers. I know this is not good news to the aftermarket crowd, but perhaps Magnepan will let you order the speakers without them. I have no idea and I didn’t even think to ask until I saw this picture. Binding posts for spades (shown above) are apparently not standard — bananas are still the way to go.
As far as I can tell, the panels look almost identical to the 3.6R. They’re about as tall, about as wide, about as thin (which is really thin) and come in the same finishes. I think the only thing that’s new is the aluminum trim option (silver or black); the only finish that costs extra is the cherry, but I think that only takes the speakers up to $5900 from the base of $5500.
Scot Markwell at EliteAV told me that the Plinius gear I have is a natural match for the Magnepans and hearing them played with the outstanding Ayre MXR-monoblocks, I have no reason to disagree. Would more power be better? Who knows. I did note that the speakers sounded best when played a bit louder than I was used to, but that may or may not have been just me — we’re gonna need a bigger boat — err, just make sure you have a big amp.
Summing up — it was really hard to not fork over a down payment on the spot. Even though I don’t really have any cash at this exact moment, I’m fully aware that this is an uncharacteristically sober move for me. LOL. But I might not be able to hold out long.
Look, if you’ve ever even considered a Magnepan — ever — go audition these. They are easily the best Maggie. Ever. And yes, they fully compete with speakers four times their price — and yes, I’m thinking of the Revel Ultima Salon 2s when I type this. You’re simply not going to find this effortless top-to-bottom coherence easily or inexpensively — believe me, I’m actively trying. These new Maggies are breathtaking.
[Comments & impressions continue on my second visit, read more here].
[My Magnepans have arrived! Read more here.]