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.
Personally, I’d go with the 1.7i. The LRS is amazing, I’ve never heard anything close for $650, but the 1.7i is louder, cleaner, deeper, images better, and has better HF dispersion because of the supertweeter. A sub will give you more bass than either the LRS or the 1.7i, but you lose the clarity and realism of the planar midbass, particularly at the higher XO you’d have to use with the LRS.
However, that’s my personal preference, I can see some people preferring the high output and extension of a sub to the naturalism of the planar bass. I think it depends on the kind of music you prefer, too, planar bass is inimitable on acoustical bass like drums but for rock or movies I might prefer a sub.
Another factor — if you already know the sound of the 1.7i, you’re likely to be unhappy with anything less. Just audio psychology, I’ve found that once I’ve heard something it’s hard to make do with something less because I’m always hearing the difference. 🙂
I have the same feelings when considering the .7i’s which I have not heard either. You make a lot of sense. I’d hate to be let down over trying to save a few hundred bucks. I can forgo a sub for now.Thanks
Yes, volume, and also bass extension. In his review, Steven Guttenburg said that they don’t equal the .7 on volume and bass extension. Also, Wendell Diller of Magnepan said that they won’t work in large rooms without a sub, they just don’t have enough panel area to couple so he said they end up sounding like a midrange and a tweeter!
I heards the LRS at AXPONA and my reaction was like Eric’s, they were stunning. I’ve never heard $650 speakers that could come close. I think that they’d make an ideal starter system or second system, and some people are talking about using them for surround as well. Many who are on a limited budget too will love them — I’d be happy listening to them for life. Magnepan wanted to design something that would impress people who own $30,000 speakers — but that’s because they know that a percentage of people who buy them will move up to the larger models for the deeper bass, higher levels, and true ribbon tweeter. It’s a promotional program for them — they sell them at near cost. The great thing is that a lot of people will find that they’re all the speaker they ever need.
I am setting up my first system and I’ve been considering trying these or just jumping to the 1.7i’s (the only ones I’ve heard in person) and forego a sub. I’d hate to jump in on the lower model and not have the sense of dynamics or volume in a medium+ room that I experienced with the 1/7i. Too many decisions!
An appetizer? Specifically what are you missing out on? Volume?
The MMG has been replaced by the LRS. I think the MMG was designed as their entry-level model back in the days when receivers were more common. Now you can get a good high current amp like the Vidar for relatively little money. I think you’d be taking a risk if you went cheaper, if you use a mid fi or semi pro amp it will probably not do very well, but maybe someone knows of something. They dip below 4 ohms so need a high current amp, and are also relatively inefficient so a small solid state amp would limit their dynamics too much. The Vidar is a decent amp, I’ve heard it on Maggies.
Fellow audiophile reviewer Steve Guttenberg raved about the LRS when driven by Schiit Audio’s Vidar amplifier, finding the combo’s synergy to be exceptional. The Vidar goes for $699. so it matches cost wise as well. Top it off with a $500. Blusound Node 2i (sub out @ 80Hz) and all that’s left is a suitable subwoofer. Though given the sheer speed of ribbons, that may be a challenge. The RSL Speedwoofer might work and at $399. it fits in the cost range of the other components. Hi End sound has never been so affordable.
So the only folks who should buy the MMG rather than the LRS are folks who don’t have proper amps to drive the LRS?
If yes, any suggestions on the cross-over point (pun intended) between worthy and non-worthy amps?