So I made a trip to Calgary to give the Mangepan 3.7Rs a listen. The “R” stands for “ribbon tweeter panel”, indicative of high end Mangepans. In a nutshell, the big maggies (3.7Rs) are a fantastic speaker, but wouldn’t be right for my room.
I had figured out a way to accommodate these gorgeous sounding speakers (and for some, gorgeous looking too but the WAF often factors in on these babies). I had even 3D modeled my Canmore listening room with them in it with architecture software just to make sure they would fit. As such, I was very excited to audition them at a high end dealer in Calgary. But after listening to them in a room with almost exactly the same dimensions as mine in Canmore and playing around a great deal with positioning, even from what the very knowledgeable advisor thought was best, I continually felt like their performance was being compromised dramatically by being too close to the side walls of the room. And… if you move them farther from the side walls then they are too close together, so it’s a no-win scenario.
I went in with great expectations. Having owned a pair of Tympani 1Ds in the past, I couldn’t wait to hear the modern day equivalent, and the 3.7Rs simply fell flat on their face in those terms. To be fair, I only ever listened to my 1Ds with a very high end vinyl front end, but none-the-less, these just didn’t make it worth compromising my room only to have my room compromise their sound quality. As I’ve always said, the room is the most important component in any audio system, and this proved true once again.
The dealer had nothing but high end turntables in their main listening room (I counted a total of nine set up to demo), and he personally shared my love for the Denon 103R phono cartridge and it’s what he runs at home. But ironically the room that I wanted to listen to the Maggies in, since it has very similar dimensions to mine, only had a SACD player. So that’s what I brought with me for listening tests, three of my favorite reference SACDs. I did a total of 4 listening sessions, as follows:
Listening Session Number One – Magnepan 1.7s. I basically walked out right away and said, “this just isn’t doing it for me”. Like i said, I went in with high expectations from past Magnaplanars owned.
Listening Session Number Two – 3.7Rs. Those ribbons are simply amazing. So accurate. But, unforgiving almost to a fault. You better up your game in all respects if you’re gonna own these babies otherwise they will be a constant reminder of what else is amiss in your signal path. And i suspect they would be far better paired with a tube pre-amp. Overall, they are very impressive but not the speaker for me at this stage of the game and they never did their sound staging properly since the room was too small – so obviously not the right speaker for my listening room in Canmore. While the bass isn’t pronounced I found it satisfying for my listening taste. Though not as satisfying as my Kef 104/2s which are only rated to go down to 50 Hz (the 3.7Rs are rated to go down to 40 Hz), but sound much tighter due to the very well engineered cabinet resonance that obviously doesn’t exist with the 3.7Rs since there is no cabinet to resonate (Planars… The room is the enclosure). Bass response has never been a strong suit of Maggies, but I do remember having more bass with my Tympani 1Ds from 35 years ago. But that just makes sense, the 1Ds had more planar surface area dedicated to bass response (they had three panels in total vs. the two of the 3.7Rs).
Listening Session Number Three – A little disappointed, I suggested we try the Magnepan MG-12’s. These weren’t on my hit list, but I was 0 for 2 so far and figured, “you never know…” Bingo! All of a sudden I was immersed in all that famous sound staging and Maggie sound I was craving. These were the right Maggie for the room dimensions, period. Could I hear what the ribbon’s on the 3.7Rs were capable of?… Sure! Did it make for a better sounding experience overall with the room (relatively small) and source (SACD so digital) I was auditioning? No, I’d venture to say just the opposite.
Listening Session Number Four – I gave the 3.7Rs one more listen just to be sure. I really did want to love them and had high expectations, and I could tweak away to my hearts content with their external crossovers allowing me to passively or actively bi-amp their panels. But the answer remained the same. I think if I were a classical music buff the outcome very well may have been different due to their extraordinary dynamic range. But, much as I like listening to classical music on occasion, I am not and likely never will be a classical music buff. And no matter what music you listen to, I’d venture to say the 3.7s are too big for my Canmore listening room (and the room I auditioned them in). Or perhaps better to say the room is too small for them to breathe.
So I walked in to that Calgary high end audio store wanting to love the $6K 3.7Rs and walked out loving the $1.3k MG-12s. Sometimes less is more and it just goes to show, you’ve gotta audition gear live rather than trust what you read. And when auditioning speakers you’ve gotta do so in a room very similar to the one at home you will be listening to them in. Or better still, take them home on a trail basis.