Magnepan's Home Cinema System
By Kim Wilson
Magnepan, well known among audiophiles as a manufacturer of legendary planer loudspeakers, has made a noteworthy venture into the world of high performance home theater sound. The Magnepan Home Cinema System, comprised of two MGLR1 front speakers, two MGSS1 rear speakers and one MGCC1 center speaker, is priced under $2500 and is a great compromise between a "purist's" high end audio system and 5 channel home theater.
For a listening area like mine (about 12 x 14 feet), large speakers with a great deal of depth are difficult to cope with. The MGLR1's wafer thin profile is less than two inches wide. Standing a little over 4 feet tall, and just shy of 3 feet away from the back wall, it appears I've got two miniature monoliths from the film 2001 in my living room but in actuality, they have a relatively small footprint compared to some dynamic loudspeakers on the market.
The MGLR1 (the front speakers shown above) are a 2-way planar magnetic driver with a 5 millimeter mylar diaphragm. A lightweight aluminum wire acts as the voice grid for the bass section. Magnepan's patented Quasi-Ribbon; tweeter consists of a one millimeter aluminum foil.
The radical on the wall planar design for the surround speakers (shown right) solves many problems both acoustical and aesthetic. Rear imaging and diffuseness are achieved by adjusting the angle of the vertically placed MGSS1 on their swivel bracket. A 30 degree angle to the listener is what's recommended but it will inevitably vary from room to room, as it did in mine. The MGSS1 incorporates a one way planar magnetic dipole driver. The entire enclosure is less than an inch thick and can rest almost flush against the wall when not in use.
The MGCC1 center channel speaker (below) is deceptive in that its shape is rectangular, rather than flat, and is very long (35 inches). Inside is a curved two-way planar magnetic dipole driver. You may find it necessary to add acoustic treatments to the wall behind the center channel because of this design. The height and depth are similar to other center channel speakers on the market. Finding a home for this guy may be your toughest assignment. Fortunately, my Sony 32" TV was just wide and deep enough for the MGCC1 to sit comfortable on top.
I've heard people say that these planar speakers just don't have the power and the passion of high performance dynamic speakers. True, these Mags won't blow you out of your easy chair with a blast of air and ear splitting sonics. What you will get, even when dialing in the new John Lee Hooker or cranking up some T2, is amazing clarity and imaging that extends well outside the boundaries of the speakers. For that extra kick below 80 cycles, add a subwoofer or two as I did with the Sunfire True Subwoofers, and you won't find these speakers lacking for much.
These Mags are exceptionally clean, revealing every sound naturally with a life-like quality you'll really appreciate particularly on more delicate piano and vocals. Many of the speakers I've listened to tend to over emphasize the mid range frequencies. I found the Magnepan's smooth frequency response across the entire audio spectrum extremely gratifying. I rarely experienced discomfort in the dreaded 2-3 kHz zone, only on some pop and rock CD's where I suspect the recording was the problem, not the speakers.
Imagery is were these babies really shine. Not only do you get a beautiful and evenly spaced sonic palette laid out in front of you with extraordinary width and height, you'll notice unbelievable depth, well behind the speaker itself. The physical depth of different concert halls is beautifully revealed and unaffected.
I really like the depth of soundstage of this Mag system. The vocals are up front, even on pop and rock CD's that traditionally sound very blended with vocals pulled well back into the mix. They just pop out on these 5 Magnapans.
These speakers essentially disappear and all you get is this amazing soundfield suspended in the middle of the listening area especially when playing 5.1 channel DTS encoded music-only CD's. DTS music playback is a brand new experience which takes you to new musical highs based around 6 speaker systems like these Mags.
Movies in 5.1 channel audio, be it DTS or Dolby Digital, are explosive. There is plenty of impact even without a subwoofer, though a true home theater definitely needs one. While I'm not trying to make any kind of statement pro or con concerning THX, the design on the MGSS1 makes it possible to control the diffussness and achieve the same results as a THX certified dipole speaker. The matched speaker system is a must to prevent tonal differences as sound moves front to rear and back.
Dynamic speakers simply do a better job of successfully covering large areas with fewer "hot spots" in that planar speakers have a fairly narrow focus. If you have a dedicated listening position and are willing to stay there to enjoy the music, these Mags are great. If you listen to music while cooking in the kitchen or other locations away from the "hot spots" then these Mags are not for you.
Ultimately, I found the Magnepan Cinema System did an exceptional job covering all the bases, from exceptional performance of classical music to raucous Rock and Roll, in addition to delivering the impact necessary for multi-channel movie soundtracks.
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Contact Magnepan. at:
1645 Ninth St.
White Bear Lake, MN 55110