MG12 / MC1
Home-Theater Speaker System
MG12 floorstanding speaker
Price: $1099 USD per pair
Dimensions: 51"H x 17"W x 1.5"D
Weight: 27 pounds each
Model: MC1 center-channel/surround speaker
Price: $375 USD each
Dimensions: 46"H x 10.5"W x 1"D
Weight: 12 pounds each
System Price: $2599 USD
Warranty: Three years parts and labor
- Thin-panel quasi-ribbon/planar-magnetic two-way speakers
- Two center-channel speakers
- Wall-mounted or floorstanding center and surround channels
- Dipole radiation pattern
- Choice of natural oak, black, or dark cherry hardwood trims
- Choice of off-white, black, or gray grillecloths
Magnepan, one of the oldest makers of
audiophile loudspeakers, is beloved by audio enthusiasts around the world. The
companys speakers represent tremendous value, although their philosophy of speaker
design is unorthodox. Their line consists of varying sizes of flat panels: ribbon or
quasi-ribbon tweeters mated to planar-magnetic woofers. The size of the panel generally
dictates how deep its bass response will be -- but Magnepans family sound is
unmistakable: fast and transparent.
Although its speakers have long been favorites of
two-channel fans, Magnepan is now making strides into home theater. They now sell two
dedicated horizontal center-channel models to complement their floorstanding main
speakers, as well as wall-mountable surround designs. For a higher-end center-channel
solution, however, Magnepan believes that two center-channels sound better than one. They
thus sent me two MC1s ($375 each) to try out as centers, along with two MG12 floorstanders
($1099 per pair) to serve as mains, and a second pair of MC1s for surround duties. As
configured, the system retails for $2599.
The Magnepan MC1
The Magnepan MC1 is versatile -- its usable as a
main, surround, or center-channel speaker. At 46"H it isnt small, but its
only 10.5"W, a mere 1" thick, and weighs but 12 pounds. The MC1 consists of a
wooden frame in which a planar-magnetic woofer is mounted. Unlike a conventional cone
woofer, the planar driver is a thin sheet of Mylar to which wire has been bonded. The
driver works via an electrical current run through the wire, which creates a magnetic
field that moves toward or away from permanent magnets, moving air back and forth to
create soundwaves. Running alongside the woofer panel is a narrow strip -- the
quasi-ribbon tweeter. This creates sound in a similar fashion to the woofer, except that
its wire density is higher. (A true ribbon tweeter, as is used in Magnepans
higher-priced designs, differs from a quasi-ribbon in being made of a thin sheet of
aluminum rather than a sheet of Mylar with wire bonded to it.)
I was amazed to see the crossover network squeezed into the
MC1s shallow 1" depth. You attach your positive and negative speaker cables to
two wires from this network. I can see these wires being a boon to custom installers (a
permanent wire-to-wire connection is easy to accomplish), but theyre a pain for a
reviewer. To connect my speaker cables, which terminate in locking banana plugs, I had to
connect the MC1s to a second set of banana plugs, which wasnt as secure as proper
binding posts would have been. The MC1 is covered in a sturdy grillecloth with wood trim
on the sides. My samples had black grilles with cherry sides, but the buyer can select
from a variety of color and trim options.
Magnepan also sells kits for their wall-mounted speakers
that make for a clean and unobtrusive appearance. One kit frames the MC1 on your wall. No
one would know that the cloth panels to either side of your screen were speakers until you
pushed a button and a motor swung the MC1s out to their optimal listening angle. This
feature makes the MC1s essentially disappear until needed. I can see it making a huge
impact with spouses.
Magnepan claims for the MC1 a frequency response of
80Hz-24kHz, +/-3dB, a sensitivity of 86dB, and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. These
figures would indicate a difficult load for an amplifier to drive. I used the MC1s with my
Anthem MCA 30 multichannel amplifier and the internal amps of my Sony STR-DA5ES A/V
receiver, and they performed fine with both. However, to get the best out of the
Magnepans, I used the more powerful Anthem for critical listening.
The Magnepan MG12 is a floorstanding speaker 51"H by
17"W by 1.5" thick. It sits on L-brackets, which give it excellent stability.
The MG12 has the same type of quasi-ribbon tweeter and planar-magnetic woofer as the MC1,
only wider and longer. This makes possible a frequency response that goes down to 45Hz,
which is significant -- the MG12 can sound full without a partnering subwoofer, which MC1s
used alone would require.
Unlike the MC1, the MG12 has provisions for connecting
speaker cables, though unfortunately not conventional five-way binding posts; banana plugs
and spade lugs wont fit. I used bare 16-gauge wire, which I tightened with the
included Allen key.
The screen of my front-projection home-theater system is
about 64" wide. To set up two of the MC1s in Magnepans recommended
center-channel configuration, I used their temporary mounting kit, which allowed me to
vertically mount the two center MC1s 68" apart, on freestanding 1" x 4"
wood studs on each side of my screen, without damaging my walls. The bottoms of the center
MC1s were mounted at Magnepans recommended 20" above the floor. So mounted, the
center MC1s looked like window shutters hinged on their inside edges. In my room, the
ideal angle from the wall was about 30 degrees.
Because of the wide spacing of the two center MC1s, I had
to keep the floorstanding MG12s far apart as well. The distance between them was 88",
which was not ideal for my room. To compensate for this and get a stable stereo image, I
had to drastically toe-in the MG12s, which ended up 24" from the sidewalls and
33" from the front wall.
I placed the MC1s I used as surrounds on their optional
floor mounts. These sturdy metal stands bolt through the bottom of the speakers to lift
them 24" above the floor. The surrounds ended up 5 from my listening seat,
slightly back from the sides, and toed-in toward my listening seat.
Home-theater and music performance
I was anxious to hear how the center channel would sound
sent through two MC1s. My first impression was that the speakers "disappeared"
from my room. Despite the fact that two separate speakers were re-creating the single
center-channel signal, I was amazed at how difficult it was to pinpoint where sounds were
actually coming from. As I walked around my room, I could detect no shift of tone or sonic
Dialogue intelligibility was first-rate as well. Its lack
of a cabinet meant that the MC1 sounded very open and extended with deep male voices such
as actor Jean Renos, in Leon: The Professional. Female voices as well, such
as Cate Blanchetts in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,
never sounded better than through the dual MC1s: airy and detailed.
In terms of the timbral match of the four front speakers,
there was a difference in sound: While watching The Matrix, I noticed that
the two center MC1s sounded brighter and more reverberant than the MG12s. Throughout this
film are scenes that transition from large and reverberant to dead quiet. Dialogue through
the center MC1s tended to sound lively even when the scene didnt call for it. This
might have been due to the fact that the MC1 is a dipole speaker -- that is, it reflects
sound off the wall behind it. In contrast, the MG12 was well away from the walls, which
minimized reflected sound. I was able to tame this somewhat by placing foam behind both
wall-mounted center MC1s, which improved the sound.
As with all Magnepan speakers, the light mass of the
planar-magnetic drivers resulted in excellent transient response. This, too, was evident
when I watched The Matrix; high-frequency sounds such as a ringing telephone and
shell casings hitting the floor sounding more realistic than through most other speakers
Ive heard. This will be a plus with most any soundtrack you could name.
The Magnepan MC1s and MG12s produced excellent surround
envelopment. Because all of the speakers are dipoles, the soundstaging was remarkably
coherent. Scenes such as chapter 5 of The Road to Perdition, with rain seeming to
fall all around me, were more immersive to watch with the Magnepans. In scenes set in
large spaces, such as Morpheus addressing a crowd in a huge cave in The Matrix Reloaded,
the MG12s and MC1s provided a convincing illusion of being there.
An interesting comparison to the MG12/MC1 system is Magnepans own combination of MMG W and MMG C,
which retails for a scant $897. What does three times the money get you? For one thing,
much larger speaker panels. The difference in size gives the MG12/MC1 greater bass
response and power handling. This was especially noticeable when listening to the two
MG12s alone. A good example was "Supermans Song," from The Crash Test
Dummies The Ghosts That Haunt Me [CD, Arista ARCD 8677]. Brad Roberts
voice is deep, and the MG12s alone, without subwoofer, reproduced it properly. But the
Magnepan MMG W rolls off sharply below 100Hz; it was difficult to get Roberts
voice blended just right with a subwoofer.
Another area where the two systems differed was in the high
frequencies. In my review of the MMG W and MMG C, I noted that the MMG W
sounded rolled-off on top. This is perhaps due to its lack of a separate tweeter -- the
MMG W is a one-way speaker. The MG12s quasi-ribbon tweeter, however, gives it
extended, airy highs, as revealed by the piano notes on Joe Jacksons Live in New
York [CD, Sony SK 89237]. The MG12s quick transient response and smooth highs
resulted in a more realistic piano sound than the MMG W is capable of.
But if you dont have room for the floorstanding
MG12s, the entirely wall-mounted MMG W/MMG C system will give you most of
Magnepans signature sound for a third the cost.
The Magnepan MG12/MC1 speaker system is not for everyone.
The lateral space required to accommodate my home-theater screen and the two center MC1s
resulted in less-than-ideal placement of the MG12 main speakers. An ideal room would be
one with a smaller flat-panel TV, or a front projector throwing its images on a screen
along the longer wall. If you have such a room and system, however, Magnepans
MG12/MC1 speaker array should reward you with a quality of sound ranking with the best
surround sound Ive ever heard.
|Receivers - Outlaw Model
1050, Sony STR-DA5ES
- Anthem MCA 30
|Sources - JVC XV-721 DVD
player, Pioneer Elite PD-65 CD player, Sony DVP-NS650V SACD player
- Sonic Horizons, TARA Labs, Nordost
|Monitor - Sony KV-34HS420
direct-view TV, InFocus X1 front projector