Magnepan MMG/LRS Comparison
Before I begin to share some of my comparative listening impressions between the LRS and MMG I should first note that all comments are based on using our Magna Riser stands.
This is important to note because using Magna Risers allows both speakers to achieve significantly more in the way of bass reproduction, midrange realism and high frequency detailing as well as harmonic refinement across the sonic spectrum. Gains in sound staging and image focus, dynamics, the ability to play louder with less sense of strain and added transparency are also by products of our design approach. So as a bit of a reference tool- the addition of a set of Magna Risers allows each speaker to reveal more of their inherent sonic capabilities.
The MMG story
The MMG has been offered as a gateway product to the world of Magnepan. It uses some of the latest design aspects of its more expensive and upscale brothers while being able to be driven by more modestly priced amplification.
When placed on well-designed stands I hear sonic gains in both the tonal quality and sense of foundational support of the bass. The tonal character of bass instruments simply is more defined and things like tuning on drum heads more easily discerned. Acoustic bass on the MMG can be a delight to listen too.
The midrange of the MMG always had a special quality where voices are presented with a sense of immediacy and realism that eludes a great many even more costly traditional speakers. On our stands I hear a surprising degree of separation and individualization with mass vocals. Backup singers in contemporary recordings are more easily discerned as distinct vocalists with the MMG on our Multi Riser and subtle aspects such as musical phrasings, sustaining of notes and dynamic shadings are all more evident on the MMG.
This coupled with an extended and detailed high frequency allow the speaker to offer somewhat of a break through level of performance at a price point especially on the used market that embarrasses many competing brands.
No- the MMG will not provide subterranean extended subwoofer bass. If you demand jaw dropping, gut punching bass you need to either look to more costly box speakers or should consider adding a subwoofer or subwoofers to the MMG.
On stands the MMG does have an added clarity and dynamic nimbleness and added bottom authority that may surprise a lot of owners. The open and focused sound-stage of the MMG is worth the price of admission alone but when coupled with the sense of box-less coloration and transparency one hears; the listening experience the speaker brings is genuinely quite involving.
I have owned several high end reference level speakers in my lifetime as an audiophile. The one thing that always amazes me is how the MMG gave me a glimpse of some of the things those statement speakers did. The MMG also just made listening a lot of fun. I knew the bass lacked ultimate extension. I knew the speaker lacked the ultimate detailing and refinement of the best electrostatic and ribbon speakers I have owned yet still there was something enjoyable sitting down listening to the MMG-they allowed me to enjoy the music.
The Second Coming-The LRS
For years owners have speculated as to what a new or revised Magnepan might sound like that incorporates the manufacturers latest design approaches. Those discussion ranged from the inclusion of a true ribbon tweeter or full quasi ribbon throughout at a more budget friendly price point.
Well our wishes were granted and we now have a full quasi ribbon design similar to the .7 and 1.7i available (for those who are open to waiting the three months or more) at a very cost effective price-point.
Even listening just out of the box and placed on the factory L bracket feet it is quite evident that Magnepans’ new offering is something more than its previous model.
Though the speaker improves with playing time (burn-in) I was instantly struck by several things.
While the MMG gives one a glimpse of the high end the LRS allows a passageway into a world many people have longed to enter. With appropriate electronics and room placement-The LRS allows you to be transported into the studio or concert hall in a bit of a time traveler fashion. Subtleties and nuance, dynamic contrast and inner detailing all can be found with the LRS. But in the end you may just find yourself lost in the music lost in the moment. For the music lover the LRS may be all they need.
For those MMG owners lamenting the introduction of the LRS I would like to share a few final thoughts.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my MMG and still do. Building stands for many Maggie owners I resonance tune each set before shipping. For MMG owners that means placing the stands on MMG’s and listening as I tune. Every time I return to the MMG I still find the MMG thoroughly enjoyable. The speaker on stands perform at much improved levels with and the difference between the MMG on stands and the LRS on the factory feet is not as pronounced as my above comments might seem. I guess I am trying reassure MMG owners a bit here- the MMG still remains a really enjoyable speaker even with the LRS introduction and I could happily live with my MMG had I not purchased the LRS to be able to tune stands for that speaker.
Regardless of which model you own there is still a lot of great listening to be had with either model.
Well, ten days after receiving the “mystery amplifier” I finally took a break from stand building after dropping off a new batch of stands at our powder coaters. I drove over to where I do all of my prototyping and tuning- about a 50 mile ride one way and finally plugged in and listened to the unit on my LRS.
I purchased a used Conrad Johnson Sonographe SA 250. It is rated at 125 watts a channel and about double that into 4 ohms and is a high current design. The unit is well built and moderately heavy for an entry/mid-level amplifier. Sonographes were solid state and designed to incorporate the tube like presentation of the companies more upscale tube offerings.
I purchased the amp to see how well it powered a vintage set of electrostatics I own but always value being able to switch between multiple amplifiers when prototyping new stand designs.
Having only listened to the Sonographe for a little over 4 hours- these impressions are only preliminary. After warming up for an hour the amplifier one can definitely sense musically engaging tube like character- it is open and dynamic and almost tactile at times. Image focus is good with a deep and wide soundstage when called upon. The Sonographe has a vividness that makes many other (even more expensive) amplifiers sound less involving and certainly less organic.
Subtle details and dynamic shadings and instrument sustains and decays are well rendered. In many ways there is a bit of the EL 34 tube midrange sound inherent in the 250.
The Sonographe drives the LRS and MMG to very loud levels while retaining a coherency and the ability of the speakers to hold together without sounding bright or strained in ways you normally only hear with more expensive amplifiers and speakers. Driving the 250 at loud levels the amplifier remains basically cool to the touch. The High current designation seems well suited for the LRS and with the MMG the amp seems to be loafing. Part of the holding together character is also something owners hear with the addition of their Magna Risers.
The high frequencies are refined and natural sounding and even a bit delicately rendered with quality recordings. The Sonographe does very well in combination with the LRS and even MMG in offering musically authentic high frequencies- no brightness or splash- just musically natural.
A tale of two amps.
The bass of the Sonographe is enigmatic. The 250 has a two prong power cord which is reversible. The amp has two distinct sonic signatures in the bass depending on the orientation of the plug. In one direction the bass is tube like- reminiscent of the early Dyna 70 with a more rounded slightly less articulate character. With the plug reversed the bass has added snap and sounds more precise and solid state like. For the bass players out there it is a bit like the difference of using a Fender Bass Man tube amp and an Ampeg solid state bass head.
The dichotomy also applies a bit to the midrange and highs where a harmonically leaner character accompanies the more articulate bass wall plug orientation. You also lose a bit of the sweet refined high characteristics in the highs and midrange palpability found in voices and in wood bodied instruments using the more articulate bass plug orientation but may gain a little bit of electrostatic etched clarity.
So in some ways owning the 250 is a little like owning two amplifiers. The more articulate bass plug orientation still offers musically enjoyable sound. The alternate plug setting does provide glimpses of an even more vivid, bold and three dimensional musical world. I will also note that placing the LRS and MMG on Magna Risers significantly improves the speakers’ bass resolution and imaging capabilities and none of my listening was done using the stock factory fee.
For the investment of 300-500 dollars on the used market this amp may be a worthwhile alternative to the Adcom and Hafler and other used amplifier offerings. I own an Adcom GFA 545 and the difference in performance of the Sonographe is instantly recognizable with a sense of added vividness, detailing and dynamic swings and shadings and vivid sound staging all much more evident. The Sonographe simply offers a sense of refinement in comparison to the Adcom. If you want a musical amplifier at an affordable price the Sonographe may keep you happily listening for quite some time. For those using fully active bi-amplification with subwoofers on their LRS or MMG the Sonographe may be a choice you will celebrate in many hours of great listening-times when it is just the music and not the equipment. For those in search of a musically engaging amplifier and for those who have struggled with harmonically thread bare and more two dimensional sound stages provided by many entry level amplifiers the Sonographe may open new musical worlds.
Welcome to the Magna Risers blog! As a fellow Magnepan owner I am dedicated to getting the most sonically out of my Magnepans as possible.I hope the posts here help other owners gain some perspective on my journey to better sound.
Thanks for stopping by!
Robert Raus, Musician, Music lover & Magnepan enthusiast.