If Magnepan can do it, why can’t you?
I spoke to Magnepan’s Wendell Diller on the way into the room, after glancing around in relative confusion that Friday afternoon, looking wildly for a big panel or two — and not seeing any on display!
“It was a risk,” Wendell explained. “We wanted to show something different this time through,” he said.
Today, Wendell was showing off the Motorized MMC-2 speakers. These run $2,000/pair and include all the mounting hardware you’d need to get them out of the way, which is what they do — get out of the way. The goal is to provide world-class sound with the Magnepan approach (that is, panels), but to do it in a way that won’t cause undue domestic distress. No, really! Wendell related a story about having to appease a family member’s need for “good sound” and his spouses’ requirement of “not mucking up my living space with a giant panel”. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s a fair point.
In fact, it’s more than a fair point. Apparently, these models aren’t really carried by the Magnepan dealers for some unknown reason. After hearing them in this room, I can’t imagine why. They solve a real problem — the WAF issue — neatly and completely.
Which means no one really has heard them! So, how better to get the message out than with a captive, audio-friendly audience? Hence, the demo here at Newport. I’m bummed I couldn’t get more time with the 20.7 über-panels, but honestly, there are lots and lots of places I can hear those. But this was a once-so-far-in-my-lifetime opportunity to hear something new and neat, so obviously I was on it like white on rice.
Nestled in the middle of the display was an $800 CC5 center channel.
Yes! The point was to demo an audiophile-quality system in an unconventional space. A center channel can really anchor an otherwise suboptimal listening space — assuming you have the proper gear for it … which they did, courtesy of some 3-channel gear from Bryston — an SP-2 processor and a 6B 3-channel amplifier.
I will say this — when the panels folded out of the wall, I was a bit non-plussed. Not negative, just not sure what to expect — they’re not big. And they’re not optimally placed, sitting something like 16′ apart. I mean, how good could they sound? But then the music started.
I was sitting next to Marc Mickelson from The Audio Beat and I am embarrassed to say, he started dancing in the most peculiar way. Okay. No, he didn’t — but I’m sure he wanted to. I did.
I stuck around for all the demo tracks. We covered the immediacy of vocals, the dynamics of a full orchestra, and some jamming from a rock band — and I was not only surprised, I was a very happy camper.
I found myself chatting with a guy and his wife who’d come in, looking for 1.7s and leaving confused as to whether or not to pursue getting them. It’s a fair question, given that the MMC-2 are the same price — they don’t really sound “the same”, however, the demo at the Atrium Hotel here in Newport very definitely did share a “house sound” with the rest of the Magnepan line — a point which I made to the curious shopper. And it’s true — I think the big panels tend to sound more coherent than any scattering of little panels, but I think that the immediacy and transparency in the room will be very similar to what he’d get if he took the 1.7s home. The main caveat is this — there is no way a 1.7 is ever going to vanish as completely as the MMC-2 setup I heard here. Ain’t gonna happen, no way, no how. And no, I’m not talking about some weird, only partially decipherable, audiophile cliche. With the MMC-2, they really do vanish — into the friggin’ wall.
I can hear my wife singing “Halleluiah” in the background now.
Now, there were some supporting actors in the room, too. Hiding behind some potted flowers was an $800 DWM woofer module — and another of them was tucked “into” a table on the other side of the room. All told, there was about $4,700 worth of Magnepan speakers creating a stable and rather tangible sound stage. I heard all the Maggie trademarks here — fast if not cavernous bass, soak-your-hair-in-it mid range, and an extended, clear treble with no grit or grain.
Pictured above is Gary Arluk of Hi 5 Stereo, a Magnepan dealer in La Habra, California.
All things considered, I thought this a fair and fun demo. I wasn’t expecting it, to be sure, and sure, yeah, I want more time with the big new panels but whatever. I got something nifty, fun, great-sounding, and actually useful. For those interested in using them to solve some problems, a 30-day in-home trial is available.