UIDE TO LOUDSPEAKERS - Audio .UIDE TO LOUDSPEAKERS Contents | On the Horizon ... [Roulette], a Count

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  • UIDE TOLOUDSPEAKERS

    Contents | On the Horizon | Sneak Previews | Further Thoughts | Desktop and Powered | Bookshelf, Stand-Mount | Floorstanding $10K | SubwoofersFeature:Speaker

    Placement Secrets

    :

    Preview:TAS

    Illustrated History

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  • 4 The Absolute Sound's Buyer's Guide to Loudspeakers www.theabsolutesound.com

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    Contents | On the Horizon | Sneak Previews | Further Thoughts | Desktop and Powered | Bookshelf, Stand-Mount | Floorstanding $10K | Subwoofers

    publisher. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jim Hannon

    editor-in-chief . . . . . . . . . . . Robert Harley

    executive editor . . . . . . . . . Jonathan Valin

    acquisitions manager and associate editor . . . . . Neil Gader

    managing editor and buyer's guide editor . . . . . Julie Mullins

    creative director . . . . . . . . Torquil Dewar

    art director . . . . . . . . . . . . . Shelley Lai

    production . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rachel Holder

    webmaster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Garrett Whitten

    senior writers . . . . . . . . . . . Anthony H. Cordesman Wayne Garcia Robert E. Greene Jim Hannon Chris Martens Tom Martin Dick Olsher Andrew Quint Paul Seydor Steven Stone Alan Taffel

    reviewers & contributing writers . . . . . Duck Baker, Greg Cahill,

    Stephen Estep, Jacob Heilbrunn, Sherri Lehman, Ted Libbey, David McGee, Kirk Midtskog, Bill Milkowski, Derk Richardson, Jeff Wilson

    nextscreen, LLC chairman and ceo . . . . . . . Tom Martin

    vp/group publisher . . . . . . Jim Hannon

    advertising reps . . . . . . . . Cheryl Smith (512) 891-7775 Marvin Lewis MTM Sales (718) 225-8803

    Address letters to the Editor: The Absolute Sound, 2601 McHale Court, Austin, TX 78758 or rharley@nextscreen.com2015 NextScreen, LLC

    Scott Constantine (609) 275-9594

    BUYER'S GUIDE TOLOUDSPEAKERS

    Feature:Speaker

    Placement Secrets

    e:

    Preview:TAS

    Illustrated History

  • 64 The Absolute Sound's Buyer's Guide to Loudspeakers www.theabsolutesound.com

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    It started well over a decade ago. There I was in audio store listening to a pair of traditional moving-coil loudspeakers coupled to an Audio Research amplifier. The sound was excellent but didnt really move me. Then a pair of Magnepan 3.6 loudspeakers was substituted for the cone speakers. All of a sudden a huge soundstage emerged. The chorus sounded lifelike. I had found my entry ticket into the high end.

    Magnepan 3.7iSpooky Real

    Jacob Heilbrunn

    So its with more than ordinary interest that Ive followed Magnepans recent efforts to improve its speaker line. Over a year ago, at the behest of the companys marketing guru Wendell Diller, I traveled to Magnepans headquarters in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. A summons from Diller, after all, is not to be taken lightly. Hes been around the high-end industry for decades, helping a host of fanatics track Magnepans every move.

    In fact, Dillers efforts may have succeeded better than he always finds comfortable. Take a look at the Internet forums and youll quickly find that almost every aspect of Magnepan loudspeakers is discussed, analyzed, and scrutinized, down to the type of staples and

    glues the company employs to construct them. Everything that goes into a Magnepan

    loudspeaker matters. A lot. I spent a number of years tinkering with my 20.1 loudspeaker to improve its sound. If you know anything about Magnepan, then youre probably aware that its loudspeakers are very inexpensive compared to the performance they offer, and this is so because the company pinches pennies wherever and whenever it can. My pet peeve had always been that Magnepan has on occasion taken this principle too far, when, for a modest outlay, it could extract even greater performance. But lo and behold, even Magnepan can apparently be prodded to invest more in its hardware. (My understanding is that its longtime neighbor and friend, the Audio Research Corporation, finally drummed it into Magnepans collective heads that capacitors actually do affect the sound.) When I listened to the companys new flagship 20.7 loudspeaker during my visit to the factory, it didnt take long to hear that upgrading the capacitors and running the midrange panel in phase with the bass and ribbon tweeter had greatly improved the presentation.

    This was a big deal for planar aficionados because the blunt fact is that changes at Magnepan dont happen very often. The company has historically moved at a pace as glacial as the weather in White Bear Lake. It thus took more than ten years for Magnepan to move from the 20.1 to the 20.7 loudspeaker. Next Magnepan introduced the 3.7 loudspeaker, which superseded the 3.6. And there matters seemed to rest. Magnepan would sit pat for another decade or so, right?

    Well, no. It has now come out with an upgraded version of the 3.7 called the 3.7i (owners of the former can upgrade to the latter for $500). For

    most other loudspeaker companies this fairly rapid shift would be no big deal. But for Magnepan it is tantamount to epic change. To make matters even more mysterious, Maggie wont divulge what upgrade it has performed to the 3.7i. It simply wants you to (gulp) trust your ears.

    Im a fairly trusting fellow, but as a veteran fan of Magnepan I have to admit that I was more than a mite curious to see if the companys claims were justified, or if Maggie were just blowing smoke. So when Diller asked if I might be interested in reviewing the new 3.7i, I bit. A few weeks after I assented, a pair of oblong brown boxes landed on my doorstep. Diller himself showed up a few days later to help set them up, which did not take long at all. We listened to several amplifiers, Diller pronounced himself besotted with the Ypsilon SET 100 Ultimate monoblocks; the overall sound was superb, and that was that.

    Or so I thought. What I didnt initially realize was the extent to which the 3.7i has improved its performance when compared to its predecessors. In dynamic power and transient speed, in coherence and smoothness, the 3.7i represents a substantial advance. Despite the glories of Maggies ribbon tweeter, it has always stuck out a bit, requiring some taming with a resistor. This Band-Aid is no longer necessary. Magnepan has performed some engineering jiggerypook that appears to have banished the sense that the tweeter is just a mite faster and hence edgier than the mid and bass panels. In the bad old days, I would sometimes flinch when a particularly violent transient was sounded in the treble region. No longer. You can listen with pleasure for hours on end to the 3.7i without fatigue. It is a loudspeaker that pulls such a disappearing act that it barely seems to be present.

    Contents | On the Horizon | Sneak Previews | Further Thoughts | Desktop and Powered | Bookshelf, Stand-Mount | Floorstanding $10K | SubwoofersFeature:Speaker

    Placement Secrets

    :

    Preview:TAS

    Illustrated History

    64 The Absolute Sound's Buyer's Guide to Loudspeakers

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  • 65 The Absolute Sound's Buyer's Guide to Loudspeakers www.theabsolutesound.com

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    EQUIPMENT REVIEW - Magnepan 3.7i

    Type: Three-way planar-

    magnetic/true ribbon

    loudspeaker

    Frequency response:

    35Hz40kHz

    Sensitivity:

    86dB/500Hz/2.83v

    Impedance: 4 ohms

    Dimensions: 24" x 71" x

    1.625"

    Price: $5995

    MAGNEPAN INC.

    1645 Ninth Street

    White Bear Lake, MN 55110

    (651) 625-1425

    magnepan.com

    ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT

    Continuum Caliburn

    turntable with two Cobra

    tonearms, Lyra Atlas

    and Miyajima Zero mono

    cartridges, dCS Vivaldi

    CD/SACD playback

    system, Accustic Arts

    tube hybrid preamplifier

    and monoblock amplifiers,

    Ypsilon PST-100 Mk 2

    phonostage, Transparent

    Opus and Nordost Valhalla

    2 cabling, and Stillpoints

    Ultra SS isolation feet

    The truth is that the longer you listen to the 3.7i, the more addictive listening to it becomes. Im not ashamed to confessit. I fell hard for the ethereal sound of this Magnepan. It hit me as I lowered the needle to listen to one of my favorite LPs. All of a sudden the sound just flowed, transmuting the room into a concert hall. The same phenomenon occurred when listening to CDs. Its almost as if an audible tension had been released from the music. This speaker seems to let out a big sigh and just let the music emerge in a holistic fashion.

    In fact, one of the most endearing characteris-tics of the 3.7i is its gossamer-like continuity on acoustic instruments. My chum Jonathan Valin

    has written at length about what he likes to call the ability of a stereo system to reproduce the action of an instrument. With the 3.7i that qual-ity can almost be taken for granted, so absent is any sense of strain or fatigue. The 3.7i anneals the action of an instrument to a lissome quality, a sense of continuity that is extremely enticing. The remarkable fluidity of the 3.7i came home to me in listening to Murray Perahia playing Han-dels Chaconne in G majorthere was an eman-cipation of the sound from mere rote recapitula-tion of the notes into a realm of sonic bliss. Again, the lissome quality of the 3.7i returned to me on a splendid recording of Bachs flute sonata on the Delos label played by Joshua Smith on flute and Jory Vinikour on harpsichord.

    The Maggies sense of continuity extends to the acid test of any loudspeakerthe reproduction of the human voice. The ease with which the 3.7i reproduces same is simply uncanny. Its not just that you hear a well-defined acoustic space in which the recording took place. Its againfo