The Magnepan 3.7 and aspects of reality

It’s almost embarrassing to talk about the basic concepts of the Magnepan line. They have been around for so long (early ’70’s) and have stayed so true to their original concept that it seems almost impossible that anyone remotely interested in Quality Audio isn’t already aware of the company and their products. In fact, if you saw a picture of their original MG-3’s and then pictures of the succeeding models, you would suspect that more has stayed the same than has changed, and there is some truth to that.

Still, there have been incremental improvements since the original MG-3’s, intended to address the original designs perceived weaknesses. The biggest problems were in the area of low-level resolution and detail. One had to play the MG-3’s louder than one would expect for a given level of life and detail. And due to this, dynamics tended to suffer (as did the amplifiers driven beyond their limits in the process).

As the years went by, the succeeding models diminished these problems slowly but surely (by tweaking the mass of the drivers, partly) until the 3.6 were a real improvement over the originals. But some of the problems remained and Magnepan stayed on the case.

It took a while, but the result is the new MG 3.7 which takes an even greater leap towards solving these issues by introducing a wrinkle new to the MG-3 series, the Quasi-Ribbon. This variation on the original planar driver appeared earlier in the smaller MC 1.7, proving to be a significant upgrade for that speaker and it provides similar benefits in the 3.7.

Here are some specs…

Freq. Resp. 35Hz- 40 kHz
Sensitivity 86dB/500Hz /2.83v
Impedance 4 Ohm
Dimensions 24 x 71 x 1.625 inches
Shipping Weight 125 lbs

Well, Magnepan does not exactly overwhelm you with specifications! But the manual tells you most of what you need to know to get the best out of these speakers. I suspect that most folks will use solid state amplification since tube amps with enough power and quality to get what the Maggies have to give would be expensive beyond what most would pair with an under $6000 speaker. In a moderate size room, you may be able to get away with a good 100 watt amp, but I would think a 200 watt amp would be more appropriate. I used the fine Rogue Medusa to good effect. Other equipment included a Motif MC-8 preamp, a Yamaha GT-2000 turntable with Koetsu Black phono cart, Pioneer PD-9D SACD/CD player and an Apple Mac Mini based server.

One of the glories of the Magnepan line has been their true ribbon tweeter. The deployment of the Quasi-Ribbon has brought the rest of the speaker more in line with the outstanding tweeter. Coherency top to bottom is better and the speaker sounds much better when played at lower volumes than its predecessors. And since one can listen at lower levels without losing the Maggie quality, in a backdoor way the demands on the amplifier are lessened (as are the demands of ticked off neighbors).

The presentation of the MG 3.7 is different from typical box speakers and how you react to that will go a long way to determining how you react to this speaker. The tall line-source style radiation results in taller images and the dipole figure 8 radiation interacts with the back walls of the room (though lessens the involvement of the side walls) to make larger sounding images in general. Of course, this is a bit of an artifact, the sound of your room superimposed with the sound of the hall as captured on the recording. But it can be argued that this “artifact” replaces the aspects of the original hall sound that mics just don’t capture, enhancing the sense of the Gestalt of a concert hall, if not the concert hall. This subject is worthy of a longer write-up (and will get one eventually in the Philosophy section of this log), but hopefully, you get the idea.

This presentation is tailor-made for some music. For example, The Legendary Pink Dots “The Whispering Wall” sounds as large and atmospheric as this music would seem to demand. Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” benefits similarly. Here, the sounds were engineered in the studio and there is no “original venue” to deal with, so all is well with regard to the soundfield presentation.

With acoustic music, things are less straightforward. Here there is often an original venue to deal with, and the Magnepan’s interaction with the room has a significant effect. But, to me, this does not at all disqualify the 3.7 from doing well on this music. First of all, I have never heard music live in the vast majority of venues, so I have no idea how live music sounds in them to know how severe the dual venue effect for a given recording really is. And recordings do not really capture the sound as it would have sounded for a listener at the recording session in all its aspects, so the added room sound, it can be argued, may add back some of what was lost.

Tonally, the Magnepans do pretty well. To get what they have to offer here, one has to take some care in room placement (distance from rear wall and toe-in). Treble balance can be adjusted by using a feature that allows a resistor to be inserted in the path to the ribbon tweeter. A shorting wire can be removed from the appropriate terminals mounted on the speaker wire connection plate on the lower rear of the speaker and an included 1 ohm resistor put in its place to lower the tweeter output a bit. I preferred the sound in my not overly live room with this resistor in place, deader rooms may benefit by leaving the short in place and very lively rooms may benefit from larger value resistors. A bit of experimentation is the byword here.

If you demand absolute faithfulness to the recording above all, it must be said that the Maggies play a bit fast and loose, not providing the more completely flat monitor sound that some speakers can exhibit under ideal conditions. But these other speakers arguably fall short on providing the concert hall Gestalt mentioned earlier and, as these things go, the 3.7 are still pretty good tonally providing this enhanced sense of venue without too much collateral damage.

Overall, the MG 3.7’s are a lot of speaker for a moderate price. If you have the room, and you like their general presentation, they are hard to beat. I am not the first to proclaim them a relative bargain in today’s market place, but so they are.


Posted on August 24, 2012, in Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Magnepan 3.7 and aspects of reality.

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