Magnepan breaks the sound barrier with $600/pair MMG loudspeakers

mmg

Magnepan – a brand which has been producing iconic (and, sometimes, expensive) magneplanar speakers for over 43 years – has recently announced it will now sell its MMG model for the unprecedentedly-low price of  $600/pair. At this point, most of our audiophile and speaker enthusiast readers have jumped ship to go order a pair. But, sadly, the significance of this deal is probably lost on most folks – here’s why we think that is and why we hope that may change soon. 

For the vast majority of music listeners, the most significant barrier to better sound at home is price. Between mortgage payments, tuition, taxes, food, and health insurance, most people simply don’t have the funds available to splurge on a dedicated two-channel audio system. Ironically, consumers magically find the money for a flat-panel HDTV, even if it costs three times the price of a pair of high-quality loudspeakers.

Human beings are visual creatures, and an impressive looking image is going to win out over a lifelike-sounding pair of loudspeakers 99 percent of the time. Music also requires greater concentration than watching “Lizard Lick Towing,” and most people will find any excuse not to sit down with a partner/spouse/home intruder and enjoy music together. Headphone use has contributed to this, and while it is great to see so many young people exploring new music via their iPhones and tablets, it is also robbing folks of a far more meaningful experience. It’s like getting to third base with the prom queen – It’s fun, but not quite going all the way.

So if you’re willing to spend $1,500 on a television set (which you’ll probably replace in under 5 years), $2,000 on a MacBook (which you’ll replace even sooner), $250 on a pair of headphones, and $400 on a tablet/smartphone, what possible objection could you have to spending $600 on, say, a pair of planar loudspeakers that will outlast all of these products and provide far more emotional satisfaction? Perhaps we’ve taken instant gratification too far.

Audiophiles also deserve some of the blame for turning the fun of music listening into a solitary experience that is more obsessed with equipment than the music itself. We lose sleep over $2,000 cables and equipment tweaks rather than promote better sound quality to the 99 percent who have never heard a good system.

So what exactly are Magneplanars and why would you want a pair in your living room?Magnepan MMG Speakers

Magnepan, based in White Bear Lake, Minnesota (another American manufacturer which still makes things at home,) was founded by Jim Winey who developed his planar driver technology back in 1969. Unlike conventional loudspeakers which utilize cone drivers in an enclosure, planar loudspeakers use a series of thin wires attached to a super-thin sheet of mylar. The mylar is then arranged to sit in a vertical array of permanent magnets. A quasi-ribbon tweeter handles the treble while a planar magnetic driver covers the midrange and bass. Magneplanars and other planar-magnetic loudspeakers are often referred to as “panel speakers,” and while that is a simplistic way of looking at it, that’s exactly what they are. The mylar sheet gets “turned on” when the panel receives an amplified signal and produces sound from both the front and back. In audiophile-geek terms, they are dipole loudspeakers. 

Because these speakers produce sound from the front and back of the panel, they can’t be placed flush against a wall. The MMGs – which, at 48 x 14.5 x 1.2-inches (HxWxD), are Magnepan’s “baby Magneplanars” – look like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Black isn’t the only color option for the panel fabric but it’s the best looking one. The wood panel trim comes in black or natural oak trim.

While the ability to place these speakers properly is key to getting great sound out of them, the bigger issue is what to power them with. The MMGs aren’t terribly easy to drive, so unless your current amplifier or A/V receiver (AVR) is so robust that it can double its output into a 4-ohm load, they may not work for you. Y

But, you can get away with not spending a fortune on a good amplifier to drive these loudspeakers; NAD, Parasound, and Rotel are good starting points, but remember that AVR manufacturers tend to fudge the numbers a tad when it comes to their 4 ohm output. We would be hesitant to recommend any AVR unless it is truly capable of offering a stable load in 4 ohms. Consult with the manufacturer if you’re not sure. 

Once you have a suitable amplifier selected, providing a source of music could be as simple as using a laptop or music server connected to a USB DAC. It’s an effective and affordable way to make such a system sound great. If you’re looking for greater insight into how the MMGs can work for you, take a peak at what fellow scribe John Darko at Digital Audio Review has to say about driving the MMGs.

The MMGs don’t reproduce bass like conventional loudspeakers, but in a small-medium sized room they will surprise you with some decent mid-bass punch and will stun you with their soundstage capabilities. They can reproduce a sense of space with the best of them, and if you can pull these 3 feet or more from the wall behind them, you will be rewarded with a three-dimensional sounding musical extravaganza. They sound better with jazz, blues, folk, and classical than heavy metal, but they do work really well with modern pop and electronica. For $600, there is little in audio-land to compete with these.

Magnepan also offers a 60-day money back guarantee to allow for an in-home audition – hard to go wrong with that.

Movies & TV

How Laika blends 3D printing and CGI to make mesmerizing stop-motion movies

With each film, Laika Studios pushes the bar higher for stop-motion animation. We explore Laika's latest techniques for its new adventure, Missing Link, which the studio it calls a Kaleidoscopic travelogue that ranks as its most ambitious…
Smart Home

Which is better, the original Echo or the Echo Dot? We compare them

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: Having Alexa answer your questions is nothing short of futuristic, but which device should you get? There are some big differences between the two, especially in size, sound, and cost.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Product Review

The Nissan Rogue is smart, handsome, and practical. What’s not to love?

Year after year, Nissan’s Rogue compact crossover is a consistent best-seller, outpacing Honda’s CR-V, and even Toyota’s mighty RAV4. We looked for the reasons why people love the 2019 Nissan Rogue, and found them.
Home Theater

Need to get rid of an unused Netflix profile? Just follow these simple steps

Need to delete an unwanted profile from your Netflix account? It's easy to do, no matter what kind of equipment you've got. Check out our handy how-to guide for step-by-step instructions.
Home Theater

You can now watch four PlayStation Vue streams at once on a single Apple TV

PlayStation Vue subscribers can now watch March Madness in style via Apple TV, which can now stream up for four separate games to your TV at once, making it easy to catch all the on-court action.
Home Theater

Apple's Airpods 2 could be released as early as this week

Apple may release new AirPods in the first half of 2019. A wireless charging case, health sensors, water resistance, and better Siri integration are some of the improvements rumored to be part of the new package.
Deals

Amazon drops price of 65-inch Sony 4K Smart TV by $300 for March Madness

You can get a fantastic 65-inch Sony LED TV for $300 off right now, in what's best described as the perfect TV deal to lead you and your living room into this year's March Madness tournament.
Home Theater

Smart speakers are about to get an IQ bump thanks to new Qualcomm chips

Qualcomm announced a new chipset that is designed to make the next generation of smart speakers sound, listen, and connect better than ever before, and it could soon be in your living room.
Home Theater

What year is this? Apple might drop a new iPod tomorrow

After two days of surprise hardware releases that have brought us new iPads and iMacs, rumor has it that we may see an update of Apple's iPod as soon as tomorrow, sparking a mixture of nostalgia and curiosity.
Home Theater

Dish TV customers can access up to 13 NCAA March Madness games in 4K

If you're a basketball fan looking to get your fix of NCAA Championship action in 4K, Dish TV will be airing up to 13 of the tournament games in the ultra high-def format, starting on Tuesday.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 teaser proclaims it's almost feeding time in Hawkins

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Movies & TV

Disney completes its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox

Now that Walt Disney Company has closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets, what does this future hold for franchises like X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Simpsons, and the rest?