Hifi Zine
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Magnepan Incorporated—A Tiny Giant

Though it may sound like the stronghold of a race of ice giants straight out of The Golden Compass, White Bear Lake is a working class suburb of Saint Paul Minneapolis. There is one giant living amongst the modest homes, strip malls and wetlands though, and that’s the venerable Magnepan, Incorporated. Known for the quality and value of their relatively large planar loudspeakers, the family run business has been manufacturing their quasi-ribbon and true ribbon products since 1969. Founded by Jim Winey, a 3M engineer who found his Janszen and KLH electrostats wanting, the company continues to be family owned and operated.

Magnepan

We have a large and fairly active audiophile self-help group hereabouts, the ASM or Audio Society of Minnesota, and our Presidente pulled some strings with his buds and arranged a field trip for us. I was happy, for even a few hours, to escape the pain of trade show prep, so I pointed my nav widget at White Bear Lake and off I went.

Our little group, about a dozen, was hosted by Wendell Diller, Magnepan’s sales and marketing manager. Manufacturing takes place in a 50,000 square foot shed, and we picked one of the hottest days of the year for our tour…argh.

Wendell Diller and Mark Winey

Wendell Diller and Mark Winey

We started with the wood shop, where the panel frames are formed on a numerically controlled machine. Those frames begin life as a quotidian sheet of trusty MDF; dimensionally stable, homogeneous in all three dimensions, and inexpensive. Sorry, no wenge here folks…

The Wood Shop’s spiffy router table - Magnepan

The Wood Shop’s spiffy router table

CNC-machined loudspeaker frames - Magnepan

CNC-machined loudspeaker frames

Elsewhere in the plant, the magnet assembly is being formed. Long strips of flexible magnetic material are lined up in parallel and adhered to a perforated metal sheet which becomes a planar pole piece.

Magnets

Flexible magnet material

Magnepan Magnet Assembly

Magnet assembly

To create a “voice coil,” you need a former. Traditional loudspeakers use circular or square cross-section wire wrapped around a cylindrical former. Magneplanars use something akin to more modern printed voice “coils” sometimes used in tweeters. Instead of wire, a very, very thin aluminum strip is attached, by hand, to Mylar film. When placed in proximity of the magnets, this drives the entire surface of the film. Mylar is also dimensionally stable and not hygroscopic which assures proper tension across the frame.

Magnepan Film

Raw mylar film

In the following photograph, Wendell is standing over a nearly completed panel. The silvery ribbon can be seen…notice how the spacing changes from the long edge farthest from Wendell to the one closest to him, which is part of the solution to producing a broadband emitter. A related aspect of that same solution is the use of two different width magnetic strips where appropriate. Tweeters get a much narrower magnetic strip than low-frequency and broadband panels since shorter wavelengths are involved.

Nearly-complete Magnepan panel

Nearly-complete Magnepan panel

The result of all these elements is a finished panel. Again, the variable ribbon spacing is visible, as are those magic white buttons:

Finished Magnepan Panel

Finished Magnepan Panel

According to Wendell, the buttons “…break up the diaphragm into multiple resonant areas.” Huh? As you probably know, electromechanical systems exhibit resonances as do purely mechanical and electronic systems. EQ is a common example of electrical resonance. The simpler the system, the easier it is to predict the resonant modes. By the way, resonance according to Wikipedia is the “tendency of a system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others.” Think guitar string or my fave Helmholtz Resonator, an empty Northern Lights Ale bottle – since I get to drain it prior to use. Imagine a Maggie at resonance, that large expanse of plastic flopping around excessively, it’s liable to bottom out with some resulting nasty distortion. Hence the buttons, which detune the panel and reduce the effects of resonances.

Though most of Magnepan’s products are quasi–ribbon, they also make true ribbons in the old school sense; a corrugated strip of aluminum, vanishingly thin, suspended in a magnetic field:

Magnepan's ribbon

Magnepan’s ribbon

 

The ribbon within the completed tweeter assembly

The ribbon within the completed tweeter assembly

Magnepan offers this true ribbon in their high-end tweeters, two good examples being their 3.7 three way and their super kewel Mini Maggie 2.1 system. Insanely great sound at what could also be called an insane price. In fact, that sums up their entire range…neutral voicing, excellent transient response, room filling with a wide sweet spot considering they are panels, and prices that make one laugh at the idea of domestically (hand) made goods generally being on the spendy side. The down side? They are dipoles, which can be problematic in certain rooms though some of their models are designed to be wall mounted and, “What’s that you say, sonny?” – they are not for the hard of hearing or the blow my hair back, “Damn, this is as loud as my Marshall stack!” School of Rock Reproduction.

I’m a recent transplant to the Twin Cities, so I don’t have the local historical perspective of some of my ASM geekolytes. What I can tell you is, I’ve been in CE and pro audio for a long time, and even when I was a New England kid worshiping at the altar of the Boston Audio Society with local kids like Edgar Villchur, Henry Kloss and Tomlinson Holman cranking out groundbreaking product, the far-away Magnepan company had a reputation as seriously high fi for not a lot of dough. The same is true today…olde tyme value, great sound. If you get a chance to listen, please do.

MAGNEPAN Incorporated
1645 Ninth St
White Bear Lake MN 55110 USA
http://www.magnepan.com/

 


Readers' comments

    Once the second best bargain speaker in audio, BUT since the departure of Acoustat ( USA ) in 1991, Magnepan is by far the # 1 bargain speaker in audio, dollar for dollar no other speaker even come’s close, yes i’m a die hard panel fan, Acoustat owner since 1984 once you discover panels THERE IS NO GOING BACK.

    MrAcoustat – – – – – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mracoustat/

  • Dude,

    You got it bad! Seriously, Magnepans are a tremendous bargain considering the outstanding performance. Accounting for all the variations in personal preferences, I can’t say they’re #1 but they certainly are in the top 5.

    Hope you liked the piece and, thanks for weighing in!

    OMas

  • Great article for us maggie fans. I’ve had the MMG’s for years, modded the crossovers etc. I will never get rid of them. I guess they could make my coffin out of them…

  • Thanks for the factory tour. – As a proud owner of SMG Maggies for almost 30 years I finally upgraded to the 1.6 QR’s. Before the upgrade (that includes Marantz AV separates & an OPPO-103) I did not consider myself an audiophile. Now that I exist in a new realm I hope to move on to the 20.7’s and definitely will upgrade my Outlaw mono amps (which are also a great bargain). …Anyways now that I’ve come across HiFi Zine I’ll be enjoying your site quite regularly… p.s. also enjoyed your website MrAcoustat (some awesome photo’s & hardware).

  • Hey G-ninja,

    Thanks for the support! Sounds like you’ve got a nice rig; good performance without being crazy spendy.…BTW, Happy Halloween!

    OMas

    • Monitor Audio speakers have aalyws been a favorite choice for me. Smooth roll-off the highs, very tight sounding bass response without being overpowering, and mids that make your favorite vocalist sound even sweeter.Nice job of picking components that won’t break the bank.

      • Hey Gustavo,

        Thanks. I will occasionally write up a product that’s expensive but, generally, great sound can be had on a relatively modest budget. I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Monitor Audio products but will look for them at my next trade show…

        OMas

    I am locate in Sweden . I have Magnepan 1,6 and i want to change to Furutech Fuse 6×32 mm 4,0 A is that corect?
    Best regards
    Tony

  • Hey Tony,

    That’s a good question, and best asked of the nice folks in White Bear Lake. Their daytime phone is +1 651-426-1645. I don’t have an e-mail for their service dept., but I’d send an e-mail to and CC .

    If that doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll see who else I can rustle up…

    OMas

  • Great company – great sounding equipment. I will never give up my MMG’s. I’m proud to be an American with companies like Magnepan!

  • Yes me again, i have been with panels since 1984, i have been an audiophile for more than 40 years, i
    know i started a little late, got maried and settled down and that’s when it all started i was 25 going on 50, the first 14 years i was into boxed speakers in 1984 i discovered Acoustat’s electrostatic speakers and that was the beginning of my panel journey, for many years i have been helping audiophiles to go outside the BOX i start them of with Magnepan – small – medium – then larger models, i try to make them get their money’s worth and with Magnepan you ALWAYS do, i have said this before and i will say it again because i believe this to be true, dollar for dollar NOTHING come’s close to Magnepan, for the love of music not NOISE.

    • For those of you who have trouble juiinfystg big speakers to your significant other (like me), try the Silverline Minuets. They are small enough that they can sit on a desk and they absolutely rock. They go low enough that they don’t demand a sub but I recommend one.

      • Hey Georges,

        Thanks for the suggestion. Bookshelfs are one of my favorites as well; I own B&W 685s.That said, the Minuet Supreme Plus fits into that very broad and crowded category, so that’s a bit like suggesting figs when someone wants oranges.
        Did you know that Maggie makes the Mini Maggie System, a crazy good desktop version of their big panels? At twice the price of the Minuets, it’s not for everyone, but it is all the things folks love in a Maggie in a form factor your significant other will also love.

        OMas

    Just got my January issue of The Absolute Sound. There is an ad for the .7 speaker with a decorative vase to get perspective. But there is no information about it on your site. Anxious to see that and am curious about the price too. Thanks.

    • Hello Charles,
      I have not heard it as yet but I can ask the guys up in WBL if a loaner is available…
      All the best,
      OMas

    Since 1 2 weeks I own the Magnepans .7
    Absolutely astonishing. stunning reproducer.
    They sound great with my Accuphase E212 amplifier. The best speaker I ever had. ( I had Quad electrostatics ESL63, Kef and also AR speakers)

    • Hello Peter,

      Ars were what started me on the audiophile path, and the first time I heard Quads, it was a revelation. So, you’ve had some great speakers from comparison, and I’m glad you’re pleased with your Maggies!

      Thanks for reading and, keep listening!

    • Peter, My name is Glenn and I am seriously considering purchasing a pair of Maggies I auditioned. I’d like to drive them with a “to be” purchased, fairly high-end Integrated Amp. How much power output (as a minimum) do you recommend is required to drive them cleanly. Even if you had a recommended component, that would be great!
      Thank You…. Regards, Glenn

      • Hi Glen,

        I’d have to guess that a 50W into 8Ω amp would be a good starting point. You can go as big as you want from there, with a 100W into 8Ω amp providing headroom to spare. Do remember that Maggies play loud enough for my needs (I don’t own a pair) but they don’t play crazy loud.

        As to a particular component, you haven’t mentioned your budget, where you are located, whether or not you’d buy a used piece of gear, and other details. So sorry, no recommendations…

    Without too much detail, how efficient are Magnepan’s? I auditioned a used pair of Maggie’s and didn’t catch the Integrated Amplifier (specifications) which was used. They sounded very nice; very natural and spacious. How much power (as a minimum) should be used to push a pair of Magnepans approximately 58″ high by 21″ wide. Thank you

  • Glenn,

    You need two things to drive Maggies the right way.. 1) power/watts 2) current

    These type of speakers are absolutely amazing, proud owner of a pair of a classic MGiic, modified crossovers, etc. I have driven mine with a Hafler DH500, Adcom 555ii, Threshold Stasis 300 and so to be a Emotiva XPA-2 (300 wpc into 8ohm, 450 into 4 ohm)

    And I tried a NAD integrated amp with a 75wpc rating… No bueno!! Solid State all the way… Class A to A/B.

    Go separates do not go integrated.. One thing about Magnepans Old and New.. They will tell you how good your stereo equipment really is.. Also, a amp with a higher wattage output than required for your speaker is highly desirable and is safer for your speakers. Make sure it is clean current power.. Otherwise your just teasing your Maggies.

  • Hey Glenn,

    That’s a common question…According to the Maggie site, “We hear of customers that are perfectly happy with 50 watts and others using 1000 watts. Without the option of listening with you, we have no way to give meaningful advice. The most reliable way to answer this question for your particular needs is by visiting a dealer or arranging to hear a pair of Magneplanars.” I would agree that 50 W would be an absolute minimum but, for most listeners, being able to deliver 100 W or more into 4 Ω is a more sensible goal.

    Given that there are many, amps available that meet that spec, I think you could find something within your budget that will work well. For more, see:

    http://www.magnepan.com/faq#power

  • Hey Glen,

    Had an interesting discussion with Roger Sanders of sanderssoundsystems.com last night via Skype as part of this month’s Audio Society of MN meeting. For Maggies, he recommended an amp that is rated for 200 to 500 W continuous into a 3 Ω load, which is the impedance they present to the amp. BTW, his Magtech amps are a good, reasonably priced match for Maggies.

    All the best,
    OMas

  • Hi there I have some speakers that need rewiring. Can you supply a rebuild kit if I let you no
    the model. I’m in the UK.
    Drew

    • Hi Drew,

      I suggest you contact the manufacturer directly! You should be able to send it to them for a refurb…

      OMas

    Got my 3.7i’s this week, OMG they sound so good. I was a little worried because my stereo is a little Naim system NAP 90/3 NAC 92 CD3, and I was worried it wouldn’t have enough juice, but it seems to power them effortlessly. I am listening to music I’ve listened to for 30 years and I am hearing gorgeous details I’ve never heard before (in the best quality CDs). I think Naim and Magnepan were made to be together. I’ll probably upgrade to Naim NAP 250 NAC 82 and Supercap 2. Wow, to all the people who built these speakers – they are awesome.

  • What do you think the production sequence number understand product delivery time

  • Could you tell me when is the following products production, back to the factory maintenance work。
    PAT,NO,4,319,096

  • As the proud new owner of the MMG and the Harbeth compact 7esr I find myself drawn to the Maggie’s the c7s set me back with stands $5000 the MMG were $900 including shipping This only proves cost has no place in level of performance. Don’t get me wrong I love the Harbeth but I am amazed at how big these MMG can sound I definitely will be ordering the .7s in the near future I run these with a little moon integrated 40 wpc 8 ohm 80 @ 4 no problem they love it

    • Hi Gerhard… I am the happy owner of Harberth P3esr’s run on SET amp that was only $400 in a well damped living room and in the low ceiling and bright sounding man cave/laundry room I have MMG’s ($450!) with lots of expensive gear…I just want to say that I built stands for the MMG’s that raise them 6 ” off the ground and have about twice the floor area of the wimpy metal brackets. Although I used fancy wood ( I am a retired carpenter) you could build the stands out of $10 worth of 2 x 10’s and greatly improve the sound. If you are interested I could send you a photo and you could build them or hire a local carpenter….the MMG’s are now vertical…this is an amazingly cheap tweak…Jan

    I run my Maggies (1.6 with modifications by Stereo Unlimited, which no longer exists) with a Jolida 801A 70 watt tube amp. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Maggies can be driven to make beautiful music with certain tube amplifiers.

  • Hey Jan Woo got rid of the MMG now have the new .7 a big improvement I also have the Harbeth p3esr I really enjoy them all Easy to drive with my new moon Neo 250i

  • Well I have loved panels for some time, I had mmgII’s till I eventually went to Quad 63’s. The Quad’s did some things better and the Maggie’s did some things better. The maggies do open up with power – fortunately quality power is available today. A friend had a set of tympani’s which are to me one of the all time awesome speakers. My nephew has mmg’s which for their size and price are absolutely amazing. While panels have some great attributes, I think it’s partly due to the dipolar radiation pattern, as I have come to experience with cone drivers in the linkwitz orions – which are a bargain because they’re a kit – if they were purchased as completed units they would be many times the price of the maggie’s. I often get asked by folks who are getting into audio or maybe upgrading from an initial box store purchase, I always tell them, get a pair of magnepan mmg’s they will blow your mind and show you what audio is about.

  • I still have the Magnepan including twice 3 panels (bought back in the 80′). Now, in a new home, I will have the proper room to dispaly these so great Timpani III.
    A question : what kind of amplifier and which minimum power is requested ?

    Thanks for what you did achieved at the level of Martin Logan 🙂

  • I have a pair of MG-I speakers that I’ve had forever. You even refurbished them for me once before. Can you do that again?

    I love them and love having people be surprised by them and how much they love them!

    • I am owner of the 3.7i since 3 months, the question “What is the best amplifier for Magneplanars” it’s answered very diplomatically from Magnepan itself see http://www.magnepan.com/faq
      Why diplomatically? Why they don’t recommend the amplifier power you need (for some reasons they are right).
      Shortly my experience, don’t use tube amplifiers I had ones, mono blocks 130W at 4 Ohms they could not drive satisfactorily my Maggies
      Use a good AB amplifier. Regarding the power needs, this depends on your listening taste and room size. Considering that Magnepans have a moderate sensitivity, if you like to listen some dynamic recordings at moderate levels, you are close to the 1000 W zone. Since one week I am using the Magtech from Sanders. I can recommend this amplifier to any Magnepan owner with closed eyes. Try Magtech and you will remember me (there is also the possibility for a in home risk free 30 days trial)
      http://sanderssoundsystems.com/sanders-30-day-in-home-trial

    I am owner of the 3.7i since 3 months, the question “What is the best amplifier for Magneplanars” it’s answered very diplomatically from Magnepan itself see http://www.magnepan.com/faq
    Why diplomatically? Why they don’t recommend the amplifier power you need (for some reasons they are right).
    Shortly my experience, don’t use tube amplifiers I had ones, mono blocks 130W at 4 Ohms they could not drive satisfactorily my Maggies
    Use a good AB amplifier. Regarding the power needs, this depends on your listening taste and room size. Considering that Magnepans have a moderate sensitivity, if you like to listen some dynamic recordings at moderate levels, you are close to the 1000 W zone. Since one week I am using the Magtech from Sanders. I can recommend this amplifier to any Magnepan owner with closed eyes. Try Magtech and you will remember me (there is also the possibility for a in home risk free 30 days trial)
    http://sanderssoundsystems.com/sanders-30-day-in-home-trial

  • Los maggies los siento que te llenan con e lsonido pero les falta pegada les falta fuerza para sentir su presencia musical si mejora eso es otra cosa su audio sería completo

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