CHICAGO (PTA) — Under sworn-secrecy and via a private-text-message, I was invited to partake in a time-sensitive meeting with Magnepan marketing manager Wendell Diller. The meeting took place in an unmarked and un-promoted location at AXPONA 2019. In that location, behind closed doors, and with security just outside the room, we sat down for a tremendously mind-opening discussion and listening session.
The “Little Ribbon Speaker”
On the surface, it might seem that the Magnepan LRS (Little Ribbon Speaker) is a direct replacement for the MMG. In one small sense, it is. In many larger senses, it is not. Where the MMG was a sample taken from the bottom of what Magneplanars can do. The new LRS is a sample taken from the top of what Magneplanars can do.
It’s like steak
Imagine a steakhouse giving out $6 samples of their flat-iron steaks. That wouldn’t really tell you much about what the steakhouse does well, nor interest anyone into the establishment’s higher-end offerings. Then re-imagine, a steakhouse giving out $6 samples of their Dry-Aged Japanese Wagyu Rib-Eye. That should be a game-changer for their business. Right?
Versus the MMG
What Magnepan has done with the new LRS is give anyone — anywhere — a chance to experience the true high-end sound of Magneplanar speakers, in-home on their own equipment. For years the Magnepan MMG was a type of “expensive business card”, but it did nothing to sway minds or attract the attention of serious audiophiles. The MMG was not good enough in what it did well for that to happen. What the MMG also fell short in doing is to convince its buyers of moving much further up the Magnepan line by conveying a sense of what lies ahead. The MMG more often than not found itself in the hands of end-users more interested in finding a bargain high-end speaker. A dead-end customer for Magnepan and their dealers.
The new Magnepan LRS instead gives you a healthy sample of the very best sound that company can produce. With that, and like the MMG was originally intended, owning a pair of Magnepan LRS speakers is not meant to be a long-term position. The Magnepan LRS is a painless (if $650 to you is painless) way to determine if the Magnepan lifestyle is right for you. Which — in my opinion– if you were to buy the LRS and have the qualifying amplification to push them properly, you would undoubtedly be won over. Hopefully enough so, that you’d begin dreaming of Magnepan 30.7s and begin to make those dreams a reality with the help of your local dealer. That’s the idea anyway, and it’s a good one.
The LRS however is vastly different from the MMG. Yes, the do have the same $650 price tag, and the same small footprint (14.5 x 48 x 1 inch), but the new LRS is incredibly different in its internal design. The LRS is an all-quasi-ribbon in design, whereas the MMG was planar-magnetic with a thin vertical ribbon tweeter. The older MMG was also much easier to drive by those using more modest amplification. Even allowing the use of MMGs on — dare I say without gagging — receivers. Yigghh!
The new LRS demands the same type of high-current amplification you would expect to find with Magnepan speaker models like the Magnepan 3.7i or higher. For our listening session, we used a high-current 300wpc (at 4-ohms) stereo amplifier that was produced by Magnepan, not as a possible future product, but for demonstration purposes only. So don’t get any ideas about Magnepan amplifiers just yet.
The new Magnepan LRS sounds more like what you would expect to hear from a Magnepan model 3.7i or 20.7, or even 30.7 loudspeakers. The LRS did everything your audiophile mind can dream of: power, speed, transients, tones, immediacy, decay, detail, imaging, neutrality, refinement, dynamics. The only thing the new LRS didn’t do was tuck me in and kiss me goodnight. Everything I heard in the LRS was a more complete and telling appetizer of what the top-of-the-line Magnepan models have to offer.
Despite the secrecy, no room at the show felt as inviting or like a real in-home listening experience. As the show weekend continued on and came to a snowy end, I was left with the realization that the new Magnepan LRS may have been the best thing I heard at the show.