There’s an almost tangible difference to the sound created by speakers that don’t use traditional cones. Take the planar magnetic speakers made by Magnepan. Maggie speakers, which are beloved by audiophiles, are typically huge. Bigger still is the sound they create: a wall of detailed vibrations that in some ways comes closer to live music than what many cone speakers deliver. So, when Magnepan announced that it was scaling down its technology for a desktop system, the news came as quite a shock to the audio elite.
Magnepan’s system consists of two satellites and a separate woofer that you store below your desk. A much smaller version of the company’s 3.7 tower speakers, the satellites measure 14 inches high, 9.5 inches wide, and only 1.5 inches deep. The woofer is the same thickness, but 22.5 inches high by 19.25 inches wide. Despite their thinness, don’t think about mounting them on the wall — dipolar speakers like the Maggies need room to “breathe.” This design makes the Mini Maggies a lot more sensitive to environment than many other speakers, with small changes in position, especially with the woofer, creating significant changes in the sound. Magnepan recommends an in-home trial so you can hear if they’ll work in your room. If they do, you’re in for a treat.
The first thing you notice about the Mini Maggies is their soundstage. There’s a depth and height to the image that most desktop speakers can’t match. I didn’t get a lot of width, but this was likely due to my narrow desk and office. When I played music with percussion instruments, the speed of the attack on these speakers was awesome, as was the openness of their sound.
Magnepan specs frequency response as 40 Hz to 40 kHz, with 86-dB sensitivity and 4-ohm impedance. That means you’ll need a decent receiver/amp to run them.
If someone you know (perhaps you?) is serious about desktop audio, has a suitable amp, and doesn’t mind fussing around with installation, the Mini Maggies will offer a completely different and rewarding near-field audio experience. (For a full review, check out the Tech2 blog on the S+V Web site.) – Geoffrey Morrison
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