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Magnepan LRS speakers Review

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Magnepan-LRS

When I worked as a Certified Public Accountant, I would return to my office tired and stressed after a long day spent at a client’s office. The best way for me to relax was to listen to my office stereo playing music. I installed a stereo system featuring a pair of Magnepan MMG (Mini Magnepans) speakers in 1997, which cost me $500 for the pair. My co-workers would listen and say those are great sounding so they must be some really expensive audiophile speakers. They were shocked to find out they were only $500. This worked out really well and provided me with hours of listening pleasure while I was at work. The Magnepan MMG was later replaced in the Magnepan lineup by the MMGi and then this year by the new Magnepan LRS (Little Ribbon Speaker). I decided I had to review these new entry level Maggies.

Magnepan has been around for fifty years. I heard my first pair as a teenager back in the 1970s.  Corporate and manufacturing facilities are located in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, a small community north of the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Magnepan’s current plant is over 50,000 square feet in addition to their corporate and engineering offices.

The Magnepan LRS is a full-range quasi-ribbon speaker that will perform nicely with a receiver, but will sound even better using higher-end amplification. The LRS is offered in a 60-day, money-back, home-trial program to allow you to sample Magnepan’s full-range ribbon technology for $650 a pair in your home. The speakers can be ordered directly from Magnepan or purchased from certain Magnepan authorized dealers. If you have a Magnepan dealer close by, I recommend you go audition the full line at the dealer.

I first hooked up the Magnepan LRS to my home theater rig and played both records and CDs. The turntable was the Thorens TD 147 with a Nagaoka MP-110 phono cartridge connected to an inexpensive Radio Shack phono stage and an inexpensive Yamaha home theater receiver. The compact disc player was an AMC CD-8. I find speakers—more than any other component—have the biggest impact on the sound, so I was excited to listen to these new Magnepans in this setup. I played a couple of brand new Reference Recordings compilation CDs that I had picked up at the California Audio Show, including Jazz Kaleidoscope (RR-910) and Reference Recording’s 30th Anniversary Sampler.  Both of these CDs have a wide variety of music on them, so I had the opportunity to hear the Magnepans playing a variety of music. Even in this inexpensive setup the virtues of the Magnepans were apparent. Despite the enjoyable performance, the shortcomings of the home theater system still came through in a lack of resolution, whereas in a higher-end system you could see through to the music. Most people would find this acceptable for background music in the home, but would want much more for serious listening.

Next, I installed components from my former office system, which are higher end and helped make the Magnepan LRS really shine. Using the NAD Monitor 1000 preamplifier and the Parasound HCA-1200 high current power amplifier dramatically improved the resolution I heard from the Magnepans. These components were used with the Goldring GR1 turntable, which is a Rega 2 clone, and a Talisman A phono cartridge retipped by Soundsmith. A Sony CD player/recorder was also used. I played some of my favorite big band and orchestral records and they presented no problem for these Magnepans. The Shoji Yokouchi Trio Greensleeves album had pinpoint imaging (this was the Los Angeles Orange County Audiophile Society special edition). Later I played a number of CDs. British and American Band Classics on the Mercury Living Presence label had a nice wide-open sound that makes you feel the musicians are right there. I was also moving around my house while the music was playing yet the Magnepan’s magical sound was still there. There was a significant improvement in the resolution giving more of a feeling the musicians were in the room playing.

Then I put the Magnepan LRS into my main system with “The AR turntable” with a Sumiko Premier MMT tonearm and the Sumiko Olympia moving magnet phono cartridge. I continued to use the NAD PP1 phono stage feeding the Antique Sound Lab tube preamplifier. The amplifiers are a pair of Quicksilver 25-watt tube power amplifiers using KT77 output tubes. Since these are 4 ohm speakers, I used the 4 ohm taps. I am a little concerned about using these amplifiers because every time I hook up an inefficient pair of speakers to them, it seems the extra strain on the tubes makes me need to replace them shortly thereafter. I have been told this is just my imagination, but just in case I only played a few records at moderate volume. The 25-watt Quicksilver amplifier was actually a better match with the Magnepan LRS than with my Magnepan MMG’s. When I use the MMG’s with the Quicksilvers, the system always sounds anemic and grows worse as I turn up the volume. I played a variety of music from orchestra and jazz to Steely Dan using the LRS at moderate volume and it was surprisingly enjoyable, if a little compressed. Most people would want more power with the LRS, although low power may work in a small room if you don’t play your music very loud.

Finally, I replaced the DAC, preamplifier and power amplifiers in the main system with the Wyred 4 Sound mINT integrated amplifier with built-in DAC. I connected an Audio Alchemy transport to play CDs through the Wyred 4 Sound’s DAC. This was my favorite combination because there was both enough power and the Wyred 4 Sound mINT is wonderfully musical. I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack from The Last Emperor even though I don’t normally care for film soundtracks. I also listened to a variety of classical and jazz music using this setup.

I have noticed in a number of speaker reviews that speakers can perform poorly with certain components and perhaps require tubes, solid state or a particular other component to sound decent. The Magnepan LRS never sounded less than very good with anything I connected to it, although the sound drastically improved as I used better components. I know the specifications state no deep bass, but the speakers were so musical that even playing large orchestral music or big band jazz gave me a nice big wide-open sound that was thoroughly enjoyable. One thing that surprised me was how different and more refined the LRS sounded compared to my 22 year old MMGs.

I used the Magnepan LRS in three different rooms and in four different systems. I found the sound was fairly consistent. The larger room yielded better front to back depth, but the smaller room tightened the bass. The better electronics offered better performance, although these speakers never sounded bad even with a lesser home theater receiver. The only drawback of these speakers — or any Magnepan speaker — is the need for lots of power and lots of current from your power amplifier, even though they sounded good to me no matter what amplification I used. There are a number of under-$1,500 integrated amplifiers and power amplifiers that can fulfill this need, such as the Wyred 4 Sound mINT I recently reviewed. These speakers would be perfectly fine in a $5,000 traditional stereo system. The only thing that prevented me from replacing my 26 year old Alon speakers with the LRS was the lack of power with my Quicksilver 25-watt tube amplifiers, although the LRS sounded so wonderful I seriously considered it. One other thing: since these are a pair of floor standing speakers, you do not need to buy speaker stands. They take very little space and you can easily move them out of the way. I think bookshelf speakers are great if they are not too expensive and you can put them on a bookshelf, as I used to do with mine. Otherwise, I would audition a pair of Magnepans first.

One important feature for me when buying high-end stereo components is customer service. When I bought my Magnepan MMG’s in 1997, I was able to ask questions about the speakers directly of Magnepan’s marketing manager Wendell Diller. You not only have the support of your local store, Magnepan also supports their consumer. Mr. Diller is also available for questions at a number of dealer events. These new Magnepans are so popular that they were back ordered, so I borrowed the review pair from my local Magnepan authorized dealer, Shelley’s Stereo (see companion piece). This is the only speaker Magnepan sells factory direct with a 60-day money back guarantee. Their other products are only available through a select group of high-end audio salons.

At $650 for the pair, the Magnepan LRS are a fantastic bargain. I paid $500 for my Magnepan MMG’s in 1997, which, based on my inflation indicator, would be $792 today. As great as the MMG’s are, the LRS represent an even bigger bargain. I would be hard pressed to find a better speaker under $2,500 per pair—except for a pair of Magnepan .7 speakers.

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

 

Review sample provided by Shelley’s Stereo

SHELLEY’S STEREO

Alon Moscovitch, President Shelley’s Stereo

60 Years in business.  That would be an accomplishment for any small business, but a brick and mortar high-end audio salon in this day and age.  Well Shelley’s Stereo in Woodland Hills, CA must be doing something right.  The owner Alon  Moscovitch provides high end audio combined with high definition video and advanced audio capabilities.  Over the years, Shelley’s has evolved and remains at the forefront of home cinema, home automation, and control systems integration.  Shelley’s now provides home networking, automated lighting, heating and air conditioning, security systems, and other automated tasks which are now routinely integrated within the control systems and entertainment design work.  This is why it is such a great place to shop for video and audio gear and it is still worth it to patronize the boutique brick and mortar high-end stores.  I have always felt that the customer support were generally better when you buy from your local high-end store.  When you make a large purchase, it’s nice to get advice on system matching and set up.  After you purchase the product you always have a place to get help.  I bought my home theater set up (Yamaha receiver and Paradigm speakers) based on Alon’s recommendations and still use the components today a number of years later.  The store features Sony home theater providing the best picture I have ever seen.

Shelley’s High-End Audio Room

Shelley’s Stereo has not forgotten their high-end audio roots either.  When you come into the store you cannot help but notice the vast selection of turntables including Linn, VPI, Rega, Thorens, even McIntosh; Tube and solid state 2 channel electronics including McIntosh, Rogue Audio, Yamaha; speakers Magnepan, Paradigm, Sonus Faber.  They carry Roon music players.  These are just a sample of the brands they carry.

Magnepan Speakers

Shelley’s Linn LP12 expert Stan Zeiden

Shelley’s Home Theater Room

Throughout the years Shelley’s resident analog specialist Stan Zeiden has helped me maintain my turntable setup with a wide variety of phono cartridges such as Hana, Grado, Sumiko, Ortofon, among others; turntable belts for my secondary turntables Goldring (Rega Planar 2 clone) and Thorens TD-147; as well as any other needs to keep my system up to date.

Shelley’s also is very active in the Southern California hosting a number events including the Los Angeles Orange County Audiophile Society meetings once a year.  I have attended Magnepan and Linn Audio events.

I sound biased towards the audiophile brick and mortar stores for good reason.  It is just easier to make sure you get the right product correctly installed when you visit the store.

 

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2 Responses to Magnepan LRS speakers Review


  1. tom roy says:

    Great review Byron. I see you gave the LRSs exposure to various sets of electronics and settings. This is as it should be and readers are able to judge what they should do when installing these great speakers into their rooms.

    I have a pair of the MMGs utilizing a tubed preamp and a muscular SS power amp and that proves to be a good combination for a variety of speakers regardless of room size.

    I have interfaced with Alon at Shelley’s and also found that he is quite accommodating and knowledgeable in all things audio.

    Thanks again…hifitommy

  2. Wendell Narrod says:

    Excellent and accurate review of the LRS. I continue to be impressed with them. I last dealt with Shelley’s in the 90s when I bought the Mag 2.7. I lived in Upland and Woodland Hills is a long drive. They did deliver them so save me a trip but forgot the stands so I had to make the trip anyway.

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