This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below
Why so good? Planarmagnetic woofer and quasi-ribbon tweeter. The high surface area of lightweight driver materials brings breakneck speed easily the equal of many a single-driver crossover-less design. The MMG’s dipolar sound projection demands sufficient front-wall clearance to move first reflections outside the window within which the brain can't distinguish between direct sound and echo. In my listening space this translates to around one meter.
But - this is not a review of the budget Magnepan per se. Since its inception, the MMG has already been reviewed to the point of web and print saturation. CNet's Steve Guttenberg is a Magnefan. See here and here. So is Frank Berryman. And here's another rave.
At last year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Festival the main Magnepan room bore witness to solid traffic. On the floor were the "new MMG" (which has seen some .7 trickle-down tweaks) and the DWM bass panel. This 2.1 rig was the appetizer. The intention of head chef Wendell Diller’s entrée-sized portion was to entice folk to feed on a main meal further down the Magnepan menu. I wasn’t the only attendee to leave the room astonished that such coherent and emphatic sound reproduction could be had for less than $1500. And I wasn’t the only attendee to completely miss the point. Being demo'd wasn’t just the equipment but an idea: the inclusion of the bass panel in the 60-day home demo programme.
It might sound trite but a neat bonus of owning MMGs in a smaller living space are their flat-pack boxes which so easily slip out of sight under the bed. Hard to do that with even the smallest of monitors! The trap? You need an amplifier that delivers the goods. The fast-track route to tonal weight is to throw as many watts (or current) at the Maggies as you can afford. Many pundits will tell you that this is the only way to audible satisfaction. Spend as many dollars as you can at getting as much power as possible? Not quite. Drop six hundred clams on a pair of loudspeakers and even the most hardened audiophile would balk at sending large multiples thereof in pursuit of copasetic amplification.
Forum chatter is littered with allusions to the "which amplifier for MMG?" conundrum. The Rega Brio-R often surfaces as a solution. I tried it and didn’t like it. The half-width Brit runs hot under the stress of a continual 4Ω load. It also sounded too rich in the midbass and came up short with the frequencies beneath.
An NAD 3020i proved not only a better match—a lovely liquid midrange—but also confirmed my suspicions that bigger nominal ratings don’t necessarily equate to a fuller sound. The NAD can push over 50wpc into 4 ohms. A recapped Sansui AU-719 which on on paper is beefier than either Rega or NAD sounded weaker than both. Boring, dull and flat. Oh dear.
This is how my hunt for good budget amplification crossed over from the personal to the professional. The afore-described preliminary integrated investigations gave rise to this self-styled assignment: to find three budget integrated amplifiers that mesh with the MMGs as units that would properly amp-handle the thirstier noisemakers from Minnesota. Just don’t call it a shoot-out. I review each amplifier in the context of the entry-level Maggies only.