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Magnepan .7 Quasi Ribbon planar speakers Review

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With the Red Dragon S500 amplifier

I had several runs with the Red Dragon S500 class D amplifiers and the .7, and while one operating in stereo drives the Magnepan speakers sufficiently, two of them in mono mode are even better. A stout class D amp is a great fit for the .7. You will want to get all the bass the .7 can muster and high-powered amplification gives you more of what the speaker can offer. It also cleans up the low end, maximizing the benefit of the taut magnetic planar bass panel.

With the S500, the .7 came alive with a greatly expanded soundstage and more forceful dynamics. With enough power one can turn a speaker like the .7 into an approximation of a smaller dynamic tower in terms of the capacity to feel the music physically. While the .7 will not give an equal experience in terms of a visceral low end when compared to speakers with 8” or larger bass drivers, it can, with proper power, compete well with speakers having 6-7” bass drivers. One has to push the speaker to nearly the limit of excursion to get a palpable bass from it, and by that time it is bumping into the territory of distortion. If heavy bass is what you want, then add a subwoofer or two.

 

Binding post bind

My complaint regarding the Quasi Ribbon speaker lies in its binding posts, as I consider them user-unfriendly. Audiophiles around the world – as the advertisement states, “Made in America; sold in China” – have to scrounge for banana terminations on speaker cables because of the restricted connection options. Companies such as Vandersteen, which on some of their models feature miserably constrained posts that accept only small spades, and Magnepan seem deaf to the entreaties of audiophiles to make their speakers easier to use. The greatest reason I can see why the company should not use more traditional three-way binding posts is for protection of the speaker while shipping. However, clever packaging could nullify that concern.

While I am grousing, the labeling of the terminals at the back of the .7 is poor and the jumpers for the low to high frequencies are at best functional. Larger symbols for the posts should be implemented post haste. I understand that one way Magnepan keeps the price of its speakers down is by giving the owner a tough but sonically low-grade steel jumper. It is a non-starter in terms of sonic quality. Is the jumper that important? Let me respond by asking: Is sound quality important to you? The supplied jumpers kill a great amount of the speaker’s sound quality, and the owner is urged to replace them. I tried a few variants, including a sample of 16-gauge WyWires silver cable as well as a twisted copper multi-strand 10-gauge wire. Both were clearly superior to the stock jumper, but the thin WyWires single, solid core wire was the cleanest and most refined for the treble. The result was not simply a sense of better upper frequencies, but also more of the midrange peeking through. Perceptually, it seemed to me that this simple fix improved the overall performance 10-15%. Would this void the warranty? Perhaps, so it is your risk to do so. However, as long as you don’t do something bone-headed, such as jumping from the speaker posts to the treble attenuation posts, it should work well.

 

Treble attenuation

Speaking of the treble attenuation, Magnepan provides resistors that can be affixed to the appropriate posts on the terminal plate at the bottom rear of the speaker in order to shelve down the output of the tweeters. These 1.2-Ohm ceramic resistors reduce the treble output 1-2dB for use in certain systems with an emphasis on the top end. In some cases adjustments beyond that of the cabling are necessary to ameliorate treble brightness. I prefer to adjust the rest of the system and not use the resistors, but many do not have that flexibility.

For example, when listening to the nearly maniacal “The Piano Guys,” the resistors cause the upper register piano notes to lose some of their shimmer. To my ears, the worst the owner can do is to leave the stock jumpers in place and put the resistors in as well. Far better to leave the resistors out and find a suitable jumper that both improves information retrieval of the speaker and moderates intensity of the treble. Magnepan may downplay that advice, but I discuss what results in the most efficacious, best sound and in some cases it conflicts with manufacturer recommendations. Again, the owner is advised that it is entirely at their risk to vary from manufacturer recommendations. However, we are discussing some of the easiest speaker tweaking known to mankind.

 

Stands

The review pair of .7 had previously been used with the upright stands, as there were holes in the fabric on the front and slight impressions where the stands had been affixed. I requested the older style angled stands because they offer more flexibility in placement. The primary advantage of the newer, oval upright stands is aesthetics; it may be the only way to “sell” the speaker to the spouse. However, the upright position limits the options for listening position, especially if one will be up and about while listening. Panel speakers are notoriously directional and when using a smallish one, such as the .7, every advantage should be taken. Tilting the speaker back allows the performance to be picked up from floor level and aimed more toward the head. This is one reason why older Quads have never held appeal to me, as they sound like they are firing up from a pit. The .7 on the oval upright stand is similarly constrained, though to a lesser degree. When the .7 has a backward cant, it sounds like a larger speaker. The potential buyer must weigh the importance of aesthetics and listening preferences in relation to soundstage.

 

Positioning

Positioning of the .7 will depend upon your preferences, especially with regard to the size and depth of the center phantom image. Along with this is the oft-referred-to sense of one’s seat in relation to the stage, indicated by phrases such as front-hall, mid-hall, or back-hall. Placement and toe-in directly influence the sense of where one is seated relative to the performance. Consider that the more recessed the center image, the more it seems you are seated farther away from the center of the performance; point the speakers toward your ears and the center image gets tighter, smaller and more recessed. Conversely, as the speakers are toed-out the center image seems to draw closer and larger but with less density and sharpness to the image.

The Owner’s Manual takes care to point out that the .7 should not be placed parallel to the front wall. Because they are so directional, the speakers should be aimed toward the listener, and I usually prefer all speakers aimed slightly wide of the respective ears. It is fruitful to try the speakers placed with the tweeters to the inside, then to the outside. With almost any panel speaker, I prefer the tweeters to the inside. The room will also contribute to one’s final choice. If the room is highly reflective, the inner position of the tweeters might alleviate a sense of the treble running hot.

13 Responses to Magnepan .7 Quasi Ribbon planar speakers Review


  1. Waldo says:

    One of the most value added reviews I’ve ever read. Thanks.

  2. MarkB says:

    Years ago I had the small Magnepan SMG speakers and by dumb luck they sounded great driven by my lowly 65 watt/channel Onkyo Integra integrated amp. At one point I sent them to a friend on an extended loan. He drove them with his impressive 300 watt/channel Rotel power amp. They sounded like crap – weak, whimpy, and the tonal balance was all wrong. The Onkyo integrated’s power was rated at 8 Ohms but was claimed to be a “high current” model. I don’t know how the power was rated for the big Rotel but it drove his usual Paradigm speakers real well.

  3. David says:

    As a previous and very disappointed owner of a pair of Magneplanar 1.3s(?), I can say that while they sounded terrific in the audio dealer’s shop, at home, they were like a bad girlfriend; fussy, difficult and ultimately just not worth it. Stay away!

  4. Nelson says:

    Thank you. Great review. Clear, concise and relevant from a reader’s perspective. I’m looking forward to the release of a mono block version of the Exogal Ion.

  5. Kelly says:

    I own a pair of the .7’s precursor, the MG12 and enjoy them greatly. What position did you finally settle on for your review? Thank you.

  6. Gerhard Roemer says:

    I use the Yamaha as-2100 integrated with wonderful results.Great informative review Thanks

  7. Waldo, Mark,
    God’s Peace to you,

    I appreciate the encouragement regarding the review!

    As to the Onkyo versus the Rotel, I would suspect the qualitative difference between them had a lot to do with the Onkyo being high current. Of course in mass market products all sorts of gimmicks are used rather than more costly build methods, so “high current” in that amp might need to be taken with a grain of salt. I am using a high current amp now (on review, so I’m not discussing the name yet) with the Kingsound King III speakers, and it is impressively superior to many other SS designs I have used with these speakers.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  8. David,
    God’s Joy to you,
    I have no argument with you; 1.3’s? – that’s likely a model so outdated I wouldn’t touch it. Like Apogee and Quad antique speakers, I don’t care for repairs waiting to happen. Sure, if a dealer has the right amp, for instance, a speaker can sound pretty special. If you don’t have the right amp, not so much.
    There are other factors involved, but surely panels aren’t for everyone. However, referencing an old Maggie model doesn’t necessarily equate to what’s being offered now.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  9. Kelly,
    God’s Peace to you,

    The position I preferred in placement of the .7 speaker is one that was not mentioned in the article and is in a different realm than most audiophiles’ systems. I preferred the Landscape orientation produced by placing the speakers horizontally on two custom Sound Anchor stands (placed with the tweeters across the top of the speakers) to create a width of the sound field disproportional to most audio systems. The effect is stunning and worthy of exploration by those who are curious.

    I first discussed this method in an ancillary article regarding the Daedalus Audio Ulysses Speaker. You can find that article here at Dagogo.com. While the .7 was respectable for Landscape application I have found another candidate much more worthy of long term consideration, and it will be discussed in an upcoming review. Had the .7 performed well enough I would have kept it solely for that purpose. I hypothesized that a panel speaker would be the most ideal for Landscape systems, but as with so many things in audio comparisons proved otherwise.

    However, I understand your intent behind the question; when using the speaker in Portrait (vertical) orientation, every panel I have used I prefer the position of the tweeters inside versus outside. YMMV

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  10. Rev Les Crowley says:

    Love Magnapans, but they come with a serious drawback: cats.

    They just don’t mix. Trust me.

  11. Douglas Schroeder says:

    CATastrophe! 🙂
    Definition: an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering DUE TO A CAT! 😉

  12. CAYAYO12 says:

    Thank you Doug for this excellent review. My question is:
    Do you think by the specs on white paper of the INTEGRA DRX 3.1 AV RECEIVER would drive this 0.7 Magnepan speakers with no problem
    http://www.integrahometheater.com/Products/model.php?m=DRX-3.1&class=Receiver&source=prodClass

  13. CAYAYO12,
    God’s Peace,

    I appreciate the affirmation of the review; thanks!

    I have no doubt that music could issue forth from the pairing of the Integra and .7, however, the amplifier section of the Integra would likely be under powering the .7 significantly, and frankly, may fail if pushed too hard, that is asked to play music too loud for too long. Ideally I would not recommend such a pairing.

    My opinion is that the Integra would not be an ideal match for the .7, and you would be much better served by even a second hand/used older dedicated amplifier; i.e. Parasound, Bryston, etc. I would look for one that had around 200wpc or more and doubled it’s power into 4 Ohms. The result would be far superior in all likelihood. You also could swap the stock cord on such an amp with an aftermarket power cord, and even an inexpensive one would significantly improve the sound holistically. Pay attention also to the quality of the interconnects used to link the preamplifier outs of the Integra to the audiophile two channel amp; interconnects influence the sound significantly, and it would not take a lot of money to improve them.

    If you wished, and the DRX 3.1 had preamp outputs (sorry; limited time, so I didn’t check on that) you could simply add the audiophile amplifier to the surround Integra amp and get much better sound using the Integra preamp function with the outboard audiophile amp for two channel listening, and it would also elevate the performance of the L/R channels in surround for movies, etc.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

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