Those who crave a highly delineated soundstage with loads of graduated depth may feel a little let down by the MMG Ws. In fact, while many audiophiles covet such imaging (I love it too!), the fact remains that the Magnepans actually sound more like the real thing. They don't give the artificial definition of monitor speakers and though depth is very good, they don't give you the artificial layer-upon-layer version, either. But what they do so much better than anything else at much higher prices -- what they do to make up for all of their minor sins of omissions -- is create a positively gargantuan soundstage. The speakers absolutely disappear from the room, leaving behind the widest and tallest window on the music that customers at anywhere near this price level have likely experienced before. Like the MC1s before them, the MMG Ws fill a room with some of the most naturally presented music around. One of the reasons I've been so enamored with the MC1 is that they just get out of the way of the music. It's the closest thing to not being aware that I'm listening to a sound system I've ever experienced. Does the MMG W offer the level of detail that more expensive Maggies do? No, they don't. But they are so natural in their presentation that it sounds right nonetheless. They are so completely satisfying that they never leave you feeling as though there's something else to be had. Even after listening to "better" speakers, they don't leave you feeling cheated. Which brings me to what's behind door #2.

Door #2
Door #2 leads to the multi-channel room, the home theater room. For the purpose of this review, Magnepan's Wendell Diller contacted MAXX Products on my behalf (see sidebar) to procure the excellent 42-inch MAXX 4270 Plasma display. Why? Because I wanted to evaluate a pair of MMG Ws as a center channel speaker flanking a TV display and that just wasn't going to happen with the huge box that is my 36-inch TV. Thanks go to Scot Kenney, President of MAXX Products - not only for sending out the 4270 without which this portion of the MMG W's evaluation would not have been possible, but also for being a good sport throughout this review's multiple delays.

Not wanting to do what it took to mount the MAXX 4270 to my walls for a temporary installation, Kenney was also kind enough to send out the appropriate stand. While I'm sure that the wall mounting of both the plasma and speakers would have been more aesthetically pleasing, mounting the speakers just a few inches behind the plasma didn't seem to incur any sonic penalties.

As I've already addressed at the beginning of the review, using two MMG W's was a great solution to getting all the speakers off the ground when there's no room for a bulky center channel. I ran the speakers in parallel from my Rotel RMB 1095 5-channel amplifier though two separate amplifier channels fed from a split mono signal could just as easily drive them if power were an issue. How did it sound? As a center channel speaker, it sounded so good that I quickly began taking things for granted. Because a center channel is used predominantly for dialog, the MMG W's spend most of their time concentrating on the midrange, which happens to be where these speakers excel. In my rig, the MMG Ws replaced Magnepan's own CC2 center channel speaker -- the most accomplished center channel I've ever owned, discounting for a moment the excellent CC3 I reviewed -- and, frankly, it was an easy substitution to make. The MMG W doesn't have the treble sophistication of the CC2 (though they have similar 16kHz extension), but when utilized for center channel duties, it never became an issue.

Maxx is a relatively new brand in the display market. They produce Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), an excellent line of projectors that use Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) and Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology, as well as a full line of superior quality high-definition plasma displays. Additionally, Maxx has a high-quality line of video processors and DVD players. For those who want to get more involved in the setup of a custom home theater system, Maxx also provides an extensive collection of wires and connectors to ensure you are getting the most from your gear. These intense video display products are not for the weak of heart or the casual user! Only serious enthusiasts and home theater aficionados need apply. Maxx's products are at home in any setting from the basic DIY home theater to the top of the line, got-your-own-popcorn-machine, media-server and cinema-recliner home theater.

Maxx's high-definition plasma displays are sleek, sexy and offer enough ports and jacks to easily connect your home theater. One unique feature is the interchangeable bezel on their TruVision 42-inch plasma unit. The bezels can be color-customized to match any décor or environment and lend a very sleek and refined look to any vogue home theater. The LCD's are razor thin and sharp as a tack. They offer up to a 40-inch screen with very wide viewing angles, 1280x768 resolution and a contrast ratio of 500:1 of vivid, crystal clear video, which makes these ideal for use as a display!

Maxx provides an excellent lineup of projectors using only cutting-edge technology. The Maxx projects feature either LCOS or DLP technology to deliver a spectacular picture. The projectors have an expanded set of connections includes DVI, BNC, component, RCA-type jack and S-Video. The Maxx project offers great resolutions and fantastic contrast ratios to enable a first-class picture. Maxx's projector resolutions go as high as 1400 x 1050 on their top of the line projector.

For delivering media, Maxx offers you two options - a full-featured DVD line and an extensive Video Processor offering. Their DVD players are the perfect capstone to any home theater setup featuring optical DTSR, Dolby Digital Surround, SDI output and black level controls. Viewers are immersed in an incredible life-like movie experience that can only be rivaled in a real movie theater. Their video processors are designed to work with almost any plasma and video projector on the market. These savvy units multiply and upscale the resolution as high as 1400 x 1050, the full native resolution required by today's LCD/DLP/LcOS projectors. If what you need is not here, Maxx also offers a nifty download service that installs any resolution and fully customizes the output - a progressive DVI signal that is flicker-free and clear of residual artifacts or noise insuring the ultimate viewing experience on your display. - Joe Kilmer, MAXX

Vocals were clean and very intelligible. As the MAXX 4270 lacks internal speakers of its own, I had nothing to which I could compare the Maggies for the 4 weeks or so that I used both the MAXX and the Maggies for day-to-day TV viewing. Hence I quickly came to take them completely for granted. It wasn't until I removed the MAXX and the MMG W's and inserted my regular TV with its built-in speakers that I was simply floored by what a huge backwards step the TV used as a center channel really was. That's hardly a surprise, I know, and the Maggies had better sound better. But I just wasn't prepared for how much better. It was orders of magnitude better than what one would experience mounting a pair of $300 box speakers to the left and right of a TV, let alone mounting those box speakers on the wall.

Once removed, another thing I missed was how well the MMG Ws focused the dialog to the screen. Certainly, if a movie is so lacking in interest and appeal that you find yourself listening for the source of the dialog, you need to find a better movie. But hey, it's what we audiophiles do. And when I did, I couldn't detect either of the MMG Ws as the apparent sound source. Even when I moved off center, the dialog stayed centered. In fact, if anything, the source of the dialog seemed to move slightly to the opposite side of the screen (that thing about being on-axis with the far speaker I talked about earlier). However, at no time did the dialog ever seem to originate from anywhere else but the screen.

Magnepan also makes the MMG C, a $299 center channel speaker designed to mate well with the MMG W. While I haven't heard it, I have to conclude that with a plasma TV -- either wall or stand-mounted -- a pair of MMG Ws is the perfect alternative. Alternative? Hell, that makes it sound as though the MMG Ws were merely a good second choice. The fact is, they should be a primary consideration for all Plasma owners - they are that good. Through the midrange, the MMG W is a surprisingly good match with not only the MC1s but other Maggies as well. I've mixed and matched in that room every aforementioned Magneplanar speaker I've owned and I've never come up short in the area of performance or speaker matching. If you're already a Magnepan owner and have a hankering for a Plasma TV, your center channel worries have just been solved.

If the folks at Magnepan are indeed crazy, they are also sly as a fox. At $299 a pair (factory-direct) and with a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, the profit margin's just got to be woefully slim. One can only assume that they're making it up by selling quantities. Given that fact and knowing of the difficulties Magnepan experienced getting the original MC1 into dealer showrooms, I asked Magnepan's marketing manager Wendell Diller how the direct sales program was working ou

"When consumers call us, I like to explain that the MMG program is like an appetizer. We have a 35-year history that shows how customers are very loyal to their planar speakers. A high percentage never goes back to box speakers. We are quite confident that if they will try one of the MMG products, they will get hooked. I don't try to hide the fact that our ultimate aim is to get them started because we know they will eventually get the urge to get some of our more expensive models. Our confidence comes across very well to the potential customers. And if they don't agree with our claims, what do they have to lose? The MMG has a 60-day money back guarantee."

"I also go on to explain that there are millions of people that are not anywhere near one of our specialty dealers. This allows consumers to sample our technology even if they have plans to buy more expensive speakers. It is a great advertising program. I like to think of it as advertising that pays its own way. There is very little profit in this promotional concept but the word-of- mouth advertising benefits are great. We are trying to reach new people that might buy their speakers at Best Buy or Circuit City."

"Dealers are learning that it is in their best long-term interest to support this program even though we are doing the initial entry-level sale. A high percentage of new Magneplanar customers will become their customers in the future. In effect, we are taking on part of the retailer's work. We believe it is in the best interest of the
customer to work with an audio specialist. We have not gone the convenient route of regional chains or big box stores. Consequently, we found it necessary to go out and find new customers for our dealers. This has been the most successful advertising concept we have ever tried."

Indeed, 35 years have shown that today's Magnapan customer will likely also be tomorrow's Magnepan customer. Magneplanar customer loyalty is legendary.

When I opened the review vowing to take aim at the speakers, I obviously had my tongue planted firmly in cheek. I knew full well that these MMG Ws were a steal at their asking price. They are just no-brainer good. Costing less than the price of a good pair of stands required for a conventional monitor, they not only don't require stands (saving you even more money) but outshine anything in their class and do so in a space-saving decorator-friendly way. In my own home, I usually have to point out the speakers to visitors since they do almost as great a job at disappearing visually as they do sonically. But once made aware, visitors invariably love their appearance.

Of course the best reason to give these little gems a try is that they represent the epitome of high performance value. Some buyers will likely find them a stepping-stone to Magnepan's more ambitious speakers. For others, they

will be the last speakers they even consider buying. What these two buyers have in common is being smart enough to sniff out seriously good sound for a silly amount of money. Can you smell what Magnepan has quietly been cooking up? If you can, then I've obviously done my job to easily justify bestowing onto them a Blue Moon Award for "Unparalleled Versatility & Excitement at a Truly Budget-Minded Price". How does the saying go - if you can afford champagne, why settle for beer? In this case, the question should be: If you can afford beer, why pay more for champagne?

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