It’s unusual, but occasionally my schedule opens up. Like a bubble, and about as transient. There I was, out and about, working The Job for The Man, when I got the call. My next two meetings had to be rescheduled. Something about the customer having to take a sick day … and suddenly I now have several hours to reallocate. Cool! Maybe I could actually eat lunch today! And then a thought struck me … As happenstance would have it, at that very moment, I found myself less than 10 minutes away from The Gifted Listener.
It’s been 5 weeks since I last visited their showroom out in Centreville, VA, which means it’s been about 6 weeks since Tom took delivery of his demo Magnepan 3.7s. Hmmm. I wondered what they sounded like, now (you can read my comments about that visit here).
Who needs lunch, anyway?
When I arrived, Tom chided me for expecting drastic changes. It takes a long time for speakers to break in, he said. And it’s not all about playing time, it’s about time itself. Wendell Diller, aka Mr Magnepan, told Tom that given how tight the panels are when they’re shipped, it’s simply a matter of aging them before those panels loosen up a tad — and playback is only going to do so much. Interesting theory — who am I to argue?
Still, I clung to the (perhaps vain) hope that time had healed the 3.7 of my only real complaint the last time I heard them — specificity. The soundstage, then, sounded muddled and confused — if only a bit. True, they’d only been out of the box for 3-4 days, but I was worried that the Maggies wouldn’t “tighten up” so much as “loosen up” and that the muddle would be a permanent character of the speaker.
Tom then took a few minutes to bust my chops about taking and posting all those pictures showing a less-than-pristine showroom floor (I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I guess I’m not as fussy as he is — ahem!). Sorry, Tom! I promise to give you warning next time I come in with my camera. 😉
I let Tom queue up some Martina McBride ….
… [snap!] ….
… and there was the imaging. Crisp, clean, delineated, centered. Ahhhh ….
Tom let me plug his Ayre QB-9 DAC into the all-Ayre fronting gear, and I got to run through my demo tracks off my laptop, running Decibel. If anything, the damn speakers are even more revealing than they were when I first listened to them. Mediocre recordings showed their less-than-ideal attributes. Good recordings caused the speakers to vanish entirely behind a seamless tapestry of sound. It was like having seats, front and center, at the Birchmere — with the listener all of 10′ from the performers. Wowza!
The sense of disproportionate sizing I picked up on that first visit? Gone. Well, largely. You are sitting in on a live performance / studio session with these speakers, so everything is very tangibly in-your-face, and big to boot, but nothing feels out of place anymore. All the images are more or less life-sized — gone are the monstrous guitars and smeary-edged Jolly Green Giant singers. The sound is coherent and room-filling. And, yes, big, but not weirdly so. It’s hard to describe — it’s a big-panel thing.
Yes, there are faster speakers. Speakers with a lusher midrange, a more detailed treble, or a deeper, more powerful bass. But they all sound like speakers, to some degree, whether they’re point sources, line sources, what have you. The Maggies just sound like a performance. Not crystalline and hyper-real. Just real. And that soundstage is like an enveloping blanket. It’s everywhere. It’s huge. It’s different. And different from most everything I heard at Axpona. I heard the Kings. I heard the Sanders. Of the two, the Sanders was probably the closest, but that head-in-a-vise “ESL thing” I can (and did!) appreciate but would find hard to live with. The Kings just couldn’t quite get out of their own way at Axpona, and I have no idea why. Interestingly, both of those solutions were at least 2x the cost of the newest Magnepan.
So, ah. Yeah. My new Magnepan 3.7s will be arriving some time in the next 8 weeks or so. Black fabric with pebbled silver finish. Should go mah-velously with my Plinius gear.
I can’t wait!