In terms of power recommendations, Magnepan remains close-mouthed on the subject. Stating that no hard recommendation is possible when one considers different rooms and tastes, they recommend a visit to a dealer so that he can set up an appropriate system for demonstration. They do suggest an amplifier with good 4-ohm performance and rightly so. However, since there is no possibility of a dealer MMG W demo (they're sold factory-direct, remember?), I will say that I'd personally recommend a quality amplifier of at least 50 watts. I'll also share that I use 200wpc on my MC1s and have done so for years. I have no idea how much power the speakers can absorb but I can tell you this: these small Magneplanars utilize what you could call a passive high-pass filtering system. Magnepan has been able to control the low-frequency cut-off through careful tensioning of the membrane. Below a certain frequency, the speaker simply refuses to respond to the input signal to make them somewhat impervious to bass overload. The 100Hz cut-off frequency of the MMG W means that loud volumes incur none of the dramatic excursions one experiences with conventional coned speakers. From what I can tell, once the small speaker's dynamic limit is reached, they simply ignore higher levels. And since there are no tiny voice coils to burn up; and since they operative over such a large surface area to facilitate cooling; they offer somewhat more protection than usual against high-power damage. Obviously, one should always approach the potential of overdriving any speaker with caution but here, there does seem to be less risk involved from the responsible use of a large rather than small amplifier.

What's Behind Door #1?
The MMG Ws spent time in two different rooms, one of them the two-channel room because assessing a speaker's overall performance just comes a lot easier to me when listening to two of them reproducing music over familiar electronics. When you put on a well recorded and familiar CD, a speaker either rises to the occasion or it does not. Setup was as I've just described. I used a Velodyne SPL 800 subwoofer to supply the bass.

Now, the MMG W isn't supposed to produce bass so there's absolutely nothing to say about that. And I've also just discussed that it doesn't use a dedicated tweeter either so I guess that's as good a place as any to start discussing the sound of the MMG W. I said in the opening paragraph that I wasn't going to cut Magnepan any slack in this review and I won't. In that light, I have to say that
the treble performance was not up to the standard of any of the Magnepans I've heard previously. It had neither the detail nor the delicacy I've come to expect from this brand. In a major departure from other Magnepan speakers I've heard, it just didn't outshine the far more costly competition. However, it was every bit as good -- no, it was still better -- than one can reasonably expect from a pair of $299 speakers. In fact, it was easily as good as one can expect from speakers twice the price. The very fact that I approached the MMG Ws after the outstanding Thiel PCS monitors selling for ten times their price and wasn't sent, fingers in ears, screaming from the room was somewhat amazing. True, they lacked the Thiel's smooth extension and detail but 90% of the problem with their treble boiled down to errors of omission. I did detect a relatively small amount of grain and a little edge but, again, it was easily forgivable in the context of the speaker's price and other attributes. If you want better treble performance -- no, strike that: if you want excellent treble performance -- get the MC1. If you want sublime treble performance? Hold on to your money. I have it on excellent authority that Magnepan is working on a version of the MC1 using (are you ready for this?) their true ribbon tweeter.

I don't know about you but I've been hankering for a smaller-than-MG 3.6R speaker using Magnepan's true ribbon tweeter ever since I bought the big boys. I have no idea what that hot-rodded MC1 will cost but if there's any justice in this world, I'll be able to give a full report as soon as they are available.

Anyway, back to the MMG W. For the most part, Aimee Mann's Lost In Space [Super Ego Records SE-007] sounded very good. Mann's voice demonstrated the MMG W's low levels of coloration and high degree of transparency and generally good detail retrieval. However, like the
canary in the coalmine, this CD always shows off issues in a speaker's treble range. It's not the finest or smoothest of recordings and can occasionally sound a little grainy and edgy on top. This was the case over the little Magneplanars. I observed just a touch of grain at the very top of Mann's vocal range and cymbals lacked some of the shimmer and delicacy that the best tweeters bring to the table. In the end, it was hardly anything to complain about, especially considering this class. Throughout the rest of my time with them, I can't say that any other overt compromises were obvious.

The little Maggie is rated to 16 kHz, which on paper seems to leave them a little short on treble. In practice, the speaker seems to have 'normal' treble extension. For one thing, most of us can't hear that high anyway. Secondly, much of what ultra-sonic high frequency extension is all about is to provide an airy soundstage. By this dipolar speaker's very nature, it already does that splendidly. But there's one caveat, which is somewhat of a double-edged sword. The MMG Ws are tall speakers and most of the diaphragm is radiating the entire range of frequencies. Because it's a fact that the larger the speaker diaphragm is relative to the frequency it's producing, the more directional it becomes, the MMG W beams in the treble. Once you get your ears above or below the speaker, the treble attenuates and diminishes. Since the speaker is tall, it's a minor issue for seated audiences. But beware the fact that when one walks about the room, there's going to be a price to be paid if the speaker is mounted too close to the ground.

The other edge of that sword? The MMG Ws suffer fewer room effects than most speakers. If a speaker doesn't radiate upwards or downwards, it won't reflect off the floor or ceiling. Because my walls are littered with guitars, I usually have to remove the acoustic 12-string from the room or it re-radiates too much sound in sympathetic resonance. Not so with the Maggies. As a matter of fact, the guitar can hang almost directly above them and when I hit the 'pause' button on the CD player, the guitar is barely ringing out at all.

Moving down from the treble and into the midrange, the MMG Ws go from pretty good to outrageous performance for the money. It's their midrange transparency, detail, tonality and accuracy of timbre that left me absolutely slack-jawed. If you are looking for something more critical than that from me, you are wasting your time, sorry. Like most Magnepans, the MMG W's outperform everything else in their class throughout the midrange. Supertramp's Some Things Never Change [Oxegen/Silvercab 63245-90002-2] sounded superb over the little Maggies (I'll resist the urge to call the little Maggies magettes). In particular, Rick Davies' vocals sounded stellar. Piano? Saxophone? Ditto. Cymbals? As a smoother overall recording than the Mann disc, the MMG Ws skated through it without raising any red flags whatsoever.

Jesse Cook's Gravity CD [Narada Equinox ND 63037] was a mixed bag but mostly full of goodies. On one side of the ledger was a less than sharply focused image of Cook's guitar – for instance, it lacked the sharp delineation that the Thiels produced. But more than balancing things on the other side was, again, a large and airy soundstage, full-bodied instrumental tones and a warm and smooth overall demeanor. But more important than the nuts and bolts of what sounded good and what didn't was the fact that the CD came across as organic and involving.

The market is brimming with good little speakers that are relatively balanced, nicely detailed
and fairly uncolored. But there's something about their performance that just doesn't gel like these speakers from Magnepan. They certainly don't cast the same kind of spacious soundstage. And I've never encountered one that just sonically disappeared like these speakers, either. I tend to think that a lot of the more intangible 'rightness' of these magettes (whoops! I couldn't resist!) is largely a byproduct of their dipolar radiation pattern. They just have a fullness that small monopoles can't match. For sure, Maggies have a power response, which no small ordinary speakers can even dream to aspire to.