Magnepan 3.6/R: $5,400 buys you Speakers of the Year

CNET's "The Audiophiliac" Steve Guttenberg (no relation) calls the Magnepan 3.6/R his "Speakers of the Year":
The sheer believeability of the sound can be, at first, a little jarring. The ribbon tweeter is so much more realistic sounding than any dome tweeter I've ever heard. Cymbal crashes sound like crashes. The treble dynamics/impact/vibrancy are absolutely state of the art. So much so returning to box speakers can be a letdown, they sound smaller, more contained, and well... boxier.
They're in the "You paid what?" range of home audio options, though, at $5,400 a pair. A cheaper option from the same manufacturer, the MMG, goes for just $700. I don't think I've ever paid more than $250 for a set of speakers — I've got two 5.1 sets in the house, one from Logitech and one from Yamaha — but I'm open to the possibility that these sound a lot better. Hopefully with an emphasis on "a lot". Speaker of the year: Magnepan 3.6/R [CNET]
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15 Responses to Magnepan 3.6/R: $5,400 buys you Speakers of the Year

  1. Anonymous says:

    Look at Stereophile magazine for INSANE prices on all audio equipment. Carefull,you might drool,tho :)

  2. blip says:

    You’re “open to the possibility” ?

    Nothing wrong with Logitech or Yamaha, but… treat yourself to some decent stereo speakers and put on some of your favourite records.

    Have a beer, and turn it up.

  3. scissorfighter says:

    No, the Adam Audio Olympus Sound System falls into the “you paid what?!” category, at $325,000. These Magnepans fall into the “probably pretty good” category.

    And after seeing that picture of you with Bill Gates, it doesn’t surprise me that you spend more money on beer than you do on speakers! But I guess if you don’t know what you’re missing, then who cares?

  4. haineux says:

    This is a troll article, right? You live in NYC, you must know dozens of people with good audio setups, and you talk about speaker systems sold by LOGITECH? Not buying it. Gotta be a troll.

    Look, Logitech makes some pretty good computer mice. Some even innovate beyond the surface plastic and have better than average interior components. If you want a $15 mouse, you probably can’t do better than a $15 Logitech mouse.

    But one thing Logitech does not do is design good speakers. Sure, they sell some plastic boxes that make thumping noises vaguely related to what’s on the TV, but they simply aren’t any better at reproducing sound than the $3 thumpers in the TV — because they are using the same $3 thumpers. They only provide value by being further apart.

    Big expensive electrostatic speakers, they are not that easy to live with, as others have noted. In NYC, nobody has a room big enough for them. (An exaggeration, but.)

    But there’s no need to go there, when you can get a nice pair of used two-way audiophile speakers (I have Tannoy studio monitors with the dual-concentric drivers) AND a nice old amplifier (I have an ADCOM) for under $500. They sound great on my desk, and they can keep a party going just fine.

    The difference between good stuff and cheap stuff is pretty obvious, even with a tin ear. With cheap stuff, you can hear a guitar and a guy singing. With the good stuff, you can hear the singer turn his head to look at the guitarist, because the guitarist is striking the guitar strings with the broken neck of a beer bottle.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t hear something new in the music. Today, I heard someone off in the corner, playing a dobro. I found out that it’s Michael Buck who was down the hall, sitting in.

    There’s no specification on the box for this kind of thing. But it’s perfectly plain when you hear it, and totally worth the extra simoleans.

  5. tedpallas says:

    A sound designer I do quite a bit of work for swears by ribbon drivers. He builds his own speakers, so he’ll stack 20 ribbon drivers on top of one another and use those to, say, amplify a pit orchestra or serve as front fills, since you get a lot of sound without having to turn the boxes up too hot. I’ve got the parts on order to build my own, and I can say firsthand that ribbon drivers, for anything short of studio monitoring an absolute aural pleasure(and they might even be good at that.) The on;y thing about them that isn’t totally friggin’ awesome is that they seem to require a lot more EQ love than other speakers, especially when we bust out the stacks – phase cancellation, when they’re chained together, happens much easier than with boxes arrayed on either side of the room.

  6. dculberson says:

    Magnepans are very cool.. I used to have a pair of MG-III’s. I thought they looked neater because they had natural oak surrounds and tweed grill cloth. (stylish!) They did require a sub as the ribbons don’t have much in the way of bass production.

    They’re definitely not worth $5400 for the average person, though. But if you’re rolling in recently cashed out millions from the stock market, then why not? What else are you going to do with it, put it in the bank? Ha! At least this way you’ve got neat stuff to fawn over.

    Oh, and electrostats do require a lot more power out of the amp to get decent volume.

  7. styrofoam says:

    Maggies take up a lot of floorspace, though. YOu can’t really pile stuff under them around the stand, and they don’t take to being tucked into that tiny corner between the couch and the wall.

    Not that an Audiophile would really care about that, but a run of the mill schlub might.

    Also: you have to keep a close eye on your cat.

  8. claud9999 says:

    Electrostats (and relatives, let’s not get pedantic about exactly how they drive) are great sounding but are notoriously directional (read: you must sit in the sweet spot to hear them properly, off-angle and you hear less volume and the sound may be out of phase.) But directionality is also kinda the point, and can result in some wonderfully 3-dimensional sound out of two speakers.

    I have a pair of Martin Logan speakers (Scenarios, one of their lower-end lines, electrostat mid/highend, cone bass) and I love them. They’re still fairly directional, but the curved surfaces helps some. I seem to remember they were in the $5k range for the pair, plus another couple grand for the amp/preamp (yeah, you need lots of juice for ‘stats.)

    And if you can find them, the Monsoon electrostats are great computer speakers. I have two sets, one for home, one for work. Too bad they went out of business–nothing but crap out there for computer speakers nowadays.

    Personally I wouldn’t go with ‘stats for 5.1, they’re more for listening intently to music, particularly good at reproduction at lower volumes. 5.1 is for watching loud movies with lots of booming effects and not a lot of detail needed.

  9. Otter says:

    @7- They are not electrostatic. They use permanent magnets on the back and a mylar diaphragm with aluminum wire glued to it on the front. As such, they are very easy to drive, since the load is almost purely resistive.

    My Magnepans are going on 20 years old and still wow everybody who hears or sees them. Best $500 I ever spent, and if you listen to a lot of music in the same room you would be crazy not to try the 60-day-money-back trial on the smallest model, which is now $600. I bet Joel spends that much every year on shaving supplies and would enjoy great sound a lot more…

  10. felsby says:

    Joel, you´re in for a surprise. Panel speakers of any kind almost almost beat any boxed speaker. The closest competitor, the Quad 2805, is twice as expensive, and it is worth every penny/dime.

    But how would you know?

  11. technogeek says:

    Quoting Mad Magazine ttto No Business Like Show Business (again, but it’s appropriate every time over-the-top audiophilia comes up):

    “… I don’t like to brag how good my speakers are
    But when I turn the sound up real far
    I can hear the dandruff fall from Ringo Star
    That why I’ve got hi-fi!”

    I do need to get a decent pair of studio monitors at some point, but that’s because I’m doing some amateur audio production and will need ‘em alongside more pedestrian (and downright bad) speakers to check that the mix works across a full range of systems. But for ordinary use, 99% of the time I’m not listening closely enough that I’ll notice the difference between good and great.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am listening as I type this to a 15 year old pair of an older model Magnapan 3.3R speakers. The art of listening to music is served well by speakers like these.

    Most people do not just listen to music. They multitask, as I am doing right now. Focused istening ia what recording engineers, some musicians, and audiophiles do. Some audiophiles fall for the snake oil, and just spend money, but this is about listening.

    With well recorded music and a good sounding sound system, magic happens. You have to slow down and just place yourself between these speakers and listen. 3 dimensional sound with these 2 speakers. A palpable sound picture.
    Not for everyone, but if you know how great recorded sound can be, these (or any) wonderful sounding speakers are a visceral, cerebral delight.

    I started my journey as an audiophile, and became a professional musician, recording engineer, producer, radio DJ, and music teacher.


  13. petquality says:

    My brother has these speakers. I’m an audio guy myself, so I know the difference between ok and great. These sound great – more “musical” than almost anything I’ve heard. Worth the money IMO if you have it to spend.

  14. haineux says:

    Touché, Technogeek. I’d actually never heard that.

    I do want to point out, however, that when I listen to Al Reinert’s For All Mankind (imdb link), “easily one of the best documentaries of the Twentieth Century,” one can easily make out what the mission control engineers are saying to each other. Nothing scandalous, but it adds an extra lagniappe of geeky interest.

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