MMG W / MMG C
Home-Theater Speaker System
|Magnepan Inc., of
White Bear Lake, Minnesota, has gone its own way from the beginning. Theyre one of
the few manufacturers of planar-magnetic speakers, which have a unique, flat-panel shape
that produces a distinctive sound-radiation pattern craved by many audiophiles. This
audiophile following is warranted -- in my experience, conventional cone-and-dome speakers
cant match the coherence of sound at the low prices at which Magnepan sells its
MMG W main and surround speaker
Price: $299 USD per pair
Dimensions: 38.25"H x 10.25"W x 1"D
Weight: 20 pounds per pair
Model: MMG C center-channel speaker
Price: $299 USD
Dimensions: 36"W x 9.25"H x 5.25"D
Weight: 18 pounds
System Price: $897 USD
Three years parts and labor; 60-day money-back guarantee
- Flat-panel, wall-mounted design
- Planar-magnetic diaphragm
- No crossover
- Fabric grilles
- Oak frames
With the MMG W, Magnepan has found a way to offer a pair of
Maggies for $299 USD, and the MMG C center-channel speaker for $299 each. The home-theater
enthusiast looking for a fantastic-sounding speaker system costing well south of $1000
would be making a big mistake in ignoring the MMGs.
Magnepan MMG W
The Magnepan MMG W looks like no other speaker Ive
auditioned -- its more like a window shutter than a speaker. The smallest panel that
Magnepan makes, it still measures more than 3 tall. But the MMG Ws most
remarkable dimension is its depth, or thickness: just 1"! The speaker is covered in a
nonremovable off-white cloth, and the panels outside edge is finished in oak. There
isnt a stand to speak of -- the Ws top and bottom have holes for brackets that
are designed for wall mounting. Magnepan also sells a wall adjustment bracket to ease
setup; it allowed me to mount the MMG Ws in my room without drilling holes in my walls.
Instead of speaker binding posts, each MMG W has two wires
that connect to the plus and minus connectors of your receiver. These wires are 2
long, which is too short for most applications. I wish that Magnepan provided proper
binding posts; I had to improvise with banana plugs to enable these speakers to be set up
with my regular speaker cables.
Planar-magnetic speakers are essentially dipoles, which
move sound to the speakers front and rear. The moving part, or diaphragm, is a sheet
of Mylar with wires applied to its surface. Permanent magnets beneath the surface of the
Mylar attract or repel these wires, which causes the Mylar sheet to vibrate, which
produces sound. This is called a quasi-ribbon driver -- its the wires that
are conductive, not the Mylar itself. (In true ribbon drivers, which Magnepan uses in its
more expensive speakers, a conductive aluminum ribbon is bonded to the Mylar instead of
wires.) Because of the low mass of the Mylar sheet, planar-magnetic speakers are able to
respond more quickly to an input signal and stop more quickly when the signal is gone,
with little decay time compared to conventional cone speakers.
In other Magnepan speakers, part of the Mylar sheet has
thicker wires and part has thinner wires, which creates, essentially, woofer and midrange
drivers. Not so with the MMG W -- its single-diameter conductor makes it a crossoverless,
or one-way, design.
Magnepans wall brackets have been cleverly designed.
Once drilled into a wall, the brackets hold the panel in place with top and bottom pins
that let you swivel the speakers out when listening, then swing them back against the wall
when not in use. The bottom pin allows the connector wires from the panel to be threaded
through, which results in a clean appearance.
Magnepan MMG C
As in the MMG W, the MMG C center speakers Mylar
sheet sits in a wooden frame covered in cloth, with an open front and back. Unlike the MMG
W, the MMG C is designed to be mounted on a stand or atop your TV, not on a wall. Another
difference is that the MMG C is curved for better off-axis dispersion. Its 3
wide and more than five times as deep as the MMG W -- a whole 5.25". The MMG C is
covered in black cloth with oak accents on the sides and a single set of binding posts
centered on the rear.
Because the four MMG Ws had to be mounted on walls, the
system proved a bit challenging to set up. The front speakers went in easy -- I had
bookshelves, which worked quite nicely for mounting the panels. All I had to do was screw
the brackets to the bookshelves so that the panels would be at the recommended 2
above the floor, and I was in business. This pair ended up around 9 from my
listening seat, at 45 degrees from the center-channel speaker -- wider than the 30-35
degrees that I normally use. The MMG C center-channel was also 9 away, on a low
stand. Because I didnt want to drill holes in my walls for the rear speakers, I had
to use the supplied wall adjustment brackets with a couple of pine boards 8 long and
1" x 4". I needed to fiddle with these brackets to get them to lie flat against
the wall. Once secured, the bottoms of the rear speakers were mounted 2 above the
floor and about 6 from and slightly behind my listening position.
Because the MMG W and C put out no bass below 100Hz, I set
up my receivers crossovers to 100Hz. I was a bit worried that such a high crossover
point would be difficult to match with a subwoofer, but I found that both the Paradigm
Seismic 12 and the Outlaw LFM-1 subs worked well.
Magnepan rates the impedance of the MMGs at 4 ohms, their
sensitivity at 88dB/W/m. These numbers, especially the 4-ohm load, would indicate a
moderately difficult load for an amplifier. I found that this was the case. Using my Sony
receiver, I was able to drive the speakers to satisfyingly loud levels, but I had to crank
the volume control higher than usual. My receiver displayed no signs of distress during
the auditioning; Im confident that if your receiver puts out enough current, you
shouldnt have any problems.
One standout trait of the Magnepan "house sound"
is coherence, and the MMG W and C did not disappoint in this regard. This coherence was
evident while listening to "Fly Me to the Moon," from the SACD Ray Brown,
Monty Alexander, Russell Malone [Telarc SACD-63562]. As Alexander played lows and
highs on the piano, I wasnt surprised that I didnt hear the transition from
midrange driver to tweeter that I can sometimes hear from conventional cone speakers --
after all, the MMGs are one-way speakers. Because the MMGs bass response extends to
only around 100Hz, I expected the sound of Ray Browns double bass to be more
disjointed as he played up and down the full range of the instrument. But the transition
was nearly seamless, no matter which subwoofer I used -- both the Paradigm Seismic 12 and
Outlaw LFM-1 were excellent matches.
Another high point of the Magnepans was the enormous
soundstage they put forth. Dipole speakers send sound to the front and rear: the rear
soundwaves bounce off the walls (in my case, the bookshelves) behind the speakers to
contribute to this large soundstage. This enhanced such DVDs as The Matrix Reloaded.
Chapter 4 has a scene in which Morpheus makes a speech to a large crowd. I got a
convincing sense of the arena-like space, the Magnepans seeming to push out the walls of
my listening room. It helped that all of the speakers in this system are dipoles --
the surround envelopment was seamless from speaker to speaker.
The MMG W and C thrilled me with their transient response.
In chapter 3 of the DVD of Kill Bill: Vol. 1, there is a fight scene between The
Bride and Vernita Green. During the scene, a glass coffee table is broken when one
combatant lands on it. The shattering glass sounded more realistic through the Magnepans
than through most other speakers Ive heard. And a gunshot in chapter 4 sounded
particularly startling through the MMGs.
I found the Magnepan MMG C a thoroughly convincing
center-channel speaker. Throughout Kill Bill: Vol. 1, the engrossing dialogue was
captured well. I didnt have to strain to hear the actors speech, both male and
female voices sounding clear and natural. The MMG Cs curved panel helped as well --
dialogue was as clear in the sweet spot directly in front of the MMG C as it was at the
ends of the couch. As mentioned earlier, the C and the four Ws matched well. During any
front-to-center transitions, such as in chapter 14, "Swarm of Smiths," of The
Matrix Reloaded, the MMG C was the equal of the MMG W, which is seldom the case with
home-theater systems. Great job, Magnepan.
I didnt have another flat-panel system with which to
compare the Magnepans, but I did have a comparably priced bookshelf speaker -- the Axiom
M3ti, which retails for $275/pair. The Axiom M3ti stands about 14" high, with a
1" titanium-dome tweeter and a 6.5" aluminum-cone woofer. This speaker is a
conventional, direct-radiating design similar to most speakers built today.
The first thing that struck me while comparing the Magnepan
and Axiom systems was the difference in the size of the soundstage. While listening to
"Stop This World," from the SACD of Diana Kralls The Girl in the Other
Room [Verve B0002293-36], the MMG W/C filled in the entire front wall; the M3ti could
not match this width and depth. When I listened to the two-channel SACD track, the piano
sounded large through MMG W/C, Kralls voice filling in the center of the front
soundstage. Through the Axioms, the piano sounded much more closed-in, although the
phantom center image was stronger.
The two-channel SACD mode does not invoke the subwoofer.
When I listened to "Temptation" from the Krall album, it was evident that the
Maggies needed a sub; the Axioms could get along without one. This difference can be
eliminated with an external crossover for SACD or DVD-Audio listening, such as the Outlaw
ICBM. In direct comparison with the Axioms, the MMG W/Cs high frequencies sounded
rolled-off. When I listened to "Chuck E.s in Love," from Rickie Lee
Jones [CD, Warner Bros. 3296], the guitar didnt have the bite though the
Magnepans that it had through the Axioms.
The MMG W/C combination truly shone as a home-theater
system. The Magnepans huge, seamless envelopment was advantageous with DVDs with
lots of atmosphere, such as Gothika, which has stormy scenes throughout. The
ability of the MMGs to convey the sense of space made for a more involving listening
experience than with the Axiom M3ti system.
Magnepans MMG W and MMG C comprise a unique
flat-panel speaker system in a price range dominated by conventional cone-and-dome
speakers. In my experience, however, even conventional speakers costing many times the
Maggies price cannot match their coherence. The huge soundstage they produced was
mesmerizing. Combine these two standout traits with class-leading transient response, and
you have the bargain of the century. I dont see how Magnepan can make any money
selling this system for $897.
Final words of advice: Give the Magnepan MMG W and MMG C an
audition before word gets out and you end up on a long waiting list.
|Receivers - Outlaw Model
1050, Sony STR-DA5ES
- Paradigm Seismic 12, Outlaw LFM-1
|Source - JVC XV-721 DVD
player, Pioneer Elite PD-65 CD player, Sony DVP-NS650V SACD player
- Sonic Horizons, TARA Labs, Nordost, Siltech
|Monitor/Projector - JVC
32" direct-view TV, InFocus X1 front projector