Magnestands – $4,000
Magnepan speakers are without question unique in the high end industry, and not just because of their shape and design principles. What makes them unique is the design seems capable of almost limitless possibilities, yet they are produced at a very basic and modest level of operation.
For whatever reason their design envelope was never pushed by the parent company who seem happiest making them affordable and a value for the money. In light of that numerous people have taken it upon themselves to alter, tweak and “pump up” their maggies over the years. Modifications tend to be confined to:
- Making some sort of stand, and possibly raising or straightening them
- Replacing the crossover components with better parts
- Installing struts to “stiffen” the frames
What instantly struck me about all this modding was how varied the methods, parts and processes chosen were. There was no agreement, no unifying principle, no “best way”. The only statement that even seemed to get universal support is “Just mod them some way, it will improve them.” While confusing it highlights one truth – Something is wrong about the design and it needs to be found and fixed. That being the case “just doing anything” is not the solution. If there is a flaw then the way to improve them is finding and fixing that flaw. Since it appeared this had not been done and no one discovered what the real issue is, I made it my mission to find it.
|For nearly four years I experimented with not only the stand and its design, but the crossover and components for it. While it may all seem obvious now, for a long time it was a vague shadow I could only sense, and uniting it all was difficult and took trial, error and time, often because past assumptions or “truths” all proved incorrect. The end result therefore didn’t just “happen”, and it’s also not a guess. It is the culmination of those things which showed themselves to work best, all united and working as a whole.Up to now, most people utilized steel when making stands for their Maggies, which I can only attribute to the fact that’s it’s easier to drill a hole and insert a bolt than do woodwork. Yet even those who used wood only made either bases or struts and achieved little more than making them vertical or stand taller, the mdf was never replaced. It is our feeling that all vertical placement does is make them beam. Like a flashlight, that direct beam may seem like an improvement due to increased strength (in this case dbl levels) but if you stop and really listen and consider, do you want that any more than you want a flashlight beam in the eyes? What’s more, gaining this dbl increase happens at the cost of ambience, musicality and even bass reproduction. (Magnepan itself for the majority of the companies life has chosen to tip most models) A tipped flashlight gives an ambient light, a tipped maggie gives an ambient sound and it also improves its bass response. We don’t wish to lose any of that and we can make up the detail in other ways.|
Magnepan speakers in stock form have a few issues, but they have one major problem. Vibration. It is the biggest source of sound degradation maggies have. If you observe a pair of maggies playing moderately loudly with their socks off you will see more vibrating on the driver than you would have imagined, and in fact some people manage to get theirs to make a “slapping” noise. (from the mylar actually striking the magnets, the culprit here almost always being an underpowered amp) Maggies make sound by vibrating the mylar, but once made, ideally we’d like those waves to vanish and not interfere with the next ones. However the maggie driver is attached to an MDF frame which does not accept any of this energy. In fact, because of MDF’s normal refusal to accept vibrational energy a large portion of it has no choice but to return to the driver from where it came where it meets and destroys those new waves being formed, with the net result being major loss of detail and smear.
Sadly, for many years people misunderstood why this smear happened and they incorrectly assumed the problem was that the speakers were moving or shaking. They tried to solve this non existant problem by “stiffening” the panels with struts and metal frames. Since adding these things had some effect on the sound, people felt vindicated doing it, and it became the accepted truth. Yes, attaching struts to stock maggies will yield some improvement, but not for the reason thought. To add a strut you also need to add a base, and all three, speaker, struts and base come together in a triangle. This triangle naturally provides more floor coupling which allows more of the vibrational energy to bleed off into the floor than would normally escape the frame. However only a smaller amount more is getting off and they are not solving the inherent problem because “stiffness” isn’t the actual problem.
We know that the real problem lies in the fact that the MDF frame refuses to take up and diffuse the vibrations the maggie driver makes. Imagine the maggie driver as a body of water and the waves generated stemming from a rock thrown into it’s center. This first wave set is beautiful and very clear and distinct. However when it reaches the shore line it has no where else to go, whereupon it rebounds back in the direction it came from. When this wave front collides with the next set of waves it makes “choppy water” which is no longer clear or beautiful and that is exactly what a maggie driver in MDF looks like when playing and sounds like when playing – Choppy Water. The solution therefore is to remove these waves entirely and stiffening will not do that.
Fortunately it turns out that there is an ideal medium which can do this: Wood. It has a natural ability to absorb vibrational energy and diffuse it. In fact, that is one of the main jobs it is designed to do. It’s cell structure is compliant and this shifting ability of it’s cells allows it to turn vibrational energy into heat (friction) and dissipate it. An interesting thing I discovered is if you hold a stock maggie by the MDF frame while playing, you really don’t feel a lot of vibration, but if you look at the driver it will be bouncing all over the place. If you hold one of my frames while playing the amount of vibrational energy one can feel is startling, however if you look at the driver, no movement can be seen, even at high volumes. The sound you’ll hear proves I am correct, and the fact that my frames move and vibrate so much while doing this disproves the “stiffening” argument as well. It’s like the suspension of a car, it moves and bounces in response to a bad road so the occupants do not. You don’t “stiffen” a car to make the ride smoother, you install a system that can absorb the shock, which is what we are doing to these speakers.
Magnestand frames accept the wave energy reaching them and turn it into heat thru cell friction and simply bleed it off, therefore it NEVER goes back into the driver and that energy never contaminates the subsequent waves. What you get is one of the purest sounds in audio, which has been compared to and even beaten electrostats in its delicacy and beauty.
We do still use struts in the design because they add to the over all strength, but I have played modded maggies without them installed and I have yet to be able to say I can tell a difference. That’s because the wood frame is doing the job so completely that there is nothing left for struts to really do as far as draining away wave energy and “stiffening” as we’ve proven is not a real issue.
This design is a shared, 1st order series with a 6 dbl slope and what is interesting is it makes both voice coils on the maggie driver use a “shared” input. There are not 4 “in” wires, (2 to each voice coil) there are only 3 and each voice coil shares this third positive and negative lead. (the XO components stop the drivers from seeing the signal which would short them) It is my feeling that this method effectively turns the two separate elements on the single maggie driver back into a single, coherent one. Some have claimed this unifying notion is impossible and not technically correct, however listening is the proof of the pudding here and there is no question that is exactly what it sounds like it does, and it’s what everyone who hears it says it sounds like. So others can have their semantic wars about it, but for me, if it quacks like a duck… Another side benefit of this crossover is it’s efficiency raises the decibel output of every maggie it’s used on (except for the 1.7) from around the stock 86 dbl to about 92 dbl.
With the help of a computer aided technician friend we have adapted this design and applied it successfully to all models from the MMG to the 3.6 and older ones like the MG-I and MG-II series. In choosing the components to use for it, I wanted detail but did not wish to lose the inherent warmth of the speakers. After a long trial period I selected inductors, capacitors and resistors based on performance, not cost, and selected those which could deliver warmth and detail without adding grain or edge. Musicality was most important, and fatigue must never be an issue. You can read more about the parts used on the Prices page.
The result was a crossover worthy of the frames and neither is limited by the other in any way, and in fact they are greater than the sum of their parts. The crossovers get built into matching custom wooden boxes (every pair is different) which feature Vampire binding posts. This box then “rides” on the plinth on Herbies “Iso-Dots” which allows the boxes weight to be added to the panels over all mass yet completely isolates the crossover from all vibrations. This gives the listener the clearest window into the music possible. The fuses are also permanently removed from the speaker because as far as Maggies go, “No fuse is good fuse”.
Primare CD32 – $1,900
Every component of the CD32, from the CD transport to the audio output stage, has been designed to achieve the highest possible audio performance.
Asatech 8210.B01-02, Sanyo SF-P101N
D/A Converter 2x PCM1704, DF1706 (digital filter), 24/96kHz
2.1 VRMS, 390Ω impedanceBalanced output
4.1 VRMS. 47Ω impedanceDigital outputs
Coaxial: SPDIF Optical: TOSlink AES/EBU: XLR
PCM Sample Rate 44.1kHz
Upsampling 44.1kHz, 48kHz, or 96kHz.
File format MP3 or WMA
Disk format FAT16 or FAT32
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz (-0.5dB)
Signal to noise ratio 20Hz – 20kHz unweighted -100 dB THD + N: 20Hz – 20kHz <0.01%
Power Consumption Operating 25W Idle 22W Standby 0.5W
Size 430 x 375 x 106 mm (WxDxH)
Weight 9 kg
PS Audio Direct Stream Jr DAC – $3,500 Store Demo
DSJ is a technological wonder that builds on the same architecture awarded Product of the Year in both Stereophile and TAS, Darko Knock-Out award, Editors’ Choice and Golden Ear awards. DSJ is an extraordinary performance instrument–handwritten and uncompromised–a pure DSD Digital to Analog Converter uncovering all the missing information long hidden in your audio library, from both PCM and DSD sources. CD’s, high-resolution PCM, or DSD based media, are expertly upsampled to twenty times DSD rate and output as pure analog directly into your amplifier or preamplifier. DSJ is one of the few, true, fully analog DSD devices, that’s setting the industry on its ear and reshaping the landscape of music and high-end audio.
Now, full MQA, Tidal (including Masters), Spotify, Qobuz, VTuner and Roon ready.
Whatever the format, whatever the sample rate, DirectStream Junior (DSJ) provides a pure DSD based solution that fulfills the promise of high-resolution analog performance from digital audio. If you know the sound of music and instruments, are unwilling to compromise sound quality, and want to hear what’s been missing on your discs, then this DAC is right for you.
DSJ provides remarkable performance that uncovers all that buried treasure in your digital music collection. In fact, we’re confident enough to suggest you haven’t really heard what’s on your CDs and SACDs until you hear them reproduced through the DSJ. Connect DSJ to your NAS, computer, or favorite internet streaming station through its built-in Bridge II, I²S through an HDMI cable to the PWT (or upcoming DirectStream Transport playing your favorite SACD), or any digital output source, and sit back and relive musical performances few have enjoyed at any price.
Usher CP7388 – $2000
New – $4000
4 OHM and 90 DB. The drivers are a one inch tweeter, one six inch mid-range and two eight inch woofers.
Alta Audio Rhea – $3500 Dealer Demo SALE
new – $4500
Alta Audio’s Rhea is unimposing in physical size, but presents a large and wide image with extraordinary bass. An audition will make you wonder how it can recreate the space and specificity of the concert hall while packing the wallop and power of live instruments. Created using the same XTL transmission line bass and DampHard cabinet construction on the faceplate as our highly reviewed Celesta FRM-2 speakers, it does so at a far more attainable price and is housed in a beautiful Rosewood standard cabinet. The black seven inch midrange/woofer blends smoothly and seamlessly into the five inch pure ribbon tweeter, creating a sweet sound that can move you physically, while presenting intimate details of three dimensional images from the front to the deepest parts of the concert hall.
At audio festivals, all a blogger like me can hope for are a few scattered moments of sonic immersion. By the grace of some audio gods, I found some of those moments in the Alta Audio room. At first I was caught off guard. The music coming out of the rosewood Alta Audio Rhea loudspeakers ($4495/pair) seemed almost too good to be true. Not that Alta loudspeakers don’t always play nicely, but what I was hearing seemed extra-ordinary… With both CD and LP sources, the Altas played like they cost $50k.
–Stereophile, Oct 2015
Height: 35 inches, 36.5 inches with spikes
Width: 8 inches at top, 12 inches at bottom
Depth: 11 inches
Weight: 49 lbs
– One 5 3/4 inch ribbon tweeter
– One 7 inch woofer
Sensitivity: 87.5 dB / 2.83 Volts @
Frequency response: 32Hz to 47kHz
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Requirements: 50 to 150 Watts per channel
Alta XTL Bass with DampHard faceplate
Alta Audio Solo – $750
Full-range driver speakers have clear advantages in reproducing a sweet sound with smooth clear imaging and exacting detail. Alta Audio’s Solo packs rich, clear sound into a small single driver form factor. The Solos take the very best sound of a full range driver and make it even better using the specialized Alta XTL tuning system. The result is a superb loudspeaker for reproducing a wide variety of live music including classical, jazz, acoustic rock, and other sweet and detailed live genres.
The theoretical advantages of a single full range driver system are realized to the state of the art in Alta’s new Solo speakers. Audio design theorists and audiophiles have written extensively on single full range driver design and how it is closer to the theoretical dream of a point source. The first part in achieving that goal is realized in the Solo’s 6 inch driver. It has a low mass voice coil for extended and detailed treble, a phase plug for a smooth transition to the midrange, and a high compliance butyl surround for dynamic bass response. The second part is the Alta XTL bass tuning system which couples to the driver to fully realize its bass response.
…a detailed, smooth, full and transparent sound with a very nice sound stage and imaging. They were a pleasure to listen to even for long periods of time. I can’t imagine any audiophile not being impressed.
Height: 11 ⅛ inches
Width: 8 ½ inches
Depth: 11 ½ inches
Weight: 15 Lbs
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Rated Power: 25-75 Watts
Sensitivity: 90 dB @ 1 watt and 1 meter
Frequency Response: 60Hz to 22,000 Hz