Magnepan, How Low Can You Go...power-wise

Hi Guys,

I have used a pair of Maggie 1.6s with a little Naim Nait5i (50wpc) and they sounded ok. I hear a lot of people saying you really need 250wpc to make them sing. I have the opportunity to buy a pair of Maggie 3.6s very cheap in another country where I spend some months each year. I was hoping my Simaudio i7 at 150wpc would be enough power for these. Magnepan won't answer this question firmly - what do you think ?
As long as you aren't trying to achieve concert level sound output, the i7 will sound quite nice. I really would recommend more power, (actually more current/amperage/voltage) to make the 3.6's sing. You could always use the i7 as a preamp, if you buy a larger amp.
The more power you put into Magnepan the better they sound. I picked up a pair of Wyred 4 Sound SX-1000 monoblocks (500 watts per ch) and the dynamics of the 1.6 became excellent. I had been using a Krell xi 400.
I drove Maggies with a 50 wpc NAD and the sound was quite nice. You will have very good sound, but Maggies get better as you add power. Musical Fidelity Superchargers can be added later if more power is needed. They will wake up Maggies!
Electrostatic speakers generally sound better with more power but also that power has to be stable down to 2 ohms at least as these speakers usuallyu have pretty good impedence dips regardless of what they are nominally rated at, imo.

You can always look at some class D amps like the Bel Canto REF11 1000 or Spectron MK2 depending on your budget.
If you have the should try quality tube amps. By a chance, I tried mere 34w/ch Marantz 8B to my 20.1s and it is still driving them in my 26D x 29W x 8H room in reasonable listening level. I've been searching for a tube amp with similar sonic virtues as the 8B but more power...

Magnepans are not electrostatic speakers. They are planar magnetic and thus do not suffer from the ultra low impedence problems. I agree that more power is better.
How low is your listening level? I have 3.6r's and have used as little as 75 watts and as much as 300. Biamping helps, as does a small room. If maggies broke with anything over, say 100 watts of drive, the issues regarding power would be moot. If they were more efficient, discussions of how much power needed wouldn't come up too much either.
But they are rugged and can soak up a lot of juice so this issue regarding power will remain (forever?)
More is better, my experience with Maggie 3.6R's was that they woke up at about 400 W, started to sing at about 600, and came completely alive at 1000w (into 4 ohms that is).

My fav amps for them; Cary CAD 500 MB, Innersound (now Sanders Sound) all the ESL amps, and I have not had them, but I too hear the Wyred4Sound amps are sublime with the Maggies.
Thomastrouble, it depends on how loud you listen.

Audiogon member Onemug uses low powered SET amps to drive his 3.6's, and gets simply outstanding sound from them - for his purposes.
I would be interested in running these with the Glow Audio tubed amps. Thoughts?
Thanks for all the input guys. Yes, I realize that more power helps and it would be nice. However, I am hopping on a plane and can't carry heavy separates. Plus, if I put any gear into checked luggage customs are alerted straight away and a heavy taxing comes into force (twice the price of the gear!!), so it boils down to what I can get into my carry-on bag, which basically means a decent, not too big or heavy integrated, and even the Simaudio i7 is pushing it a bit. It is a great integrated, my only concern is would I be doing the Maggie 3.6s a disservice.
The guy that ran the Magnaplar User's Group over on was adament that the best amp possible for the 3.6/3.8 was our own MA-1.

We have lots of customers running our M-60s, using a set of ZEROs. My impression is (for the ones with single-ended magnets) that the speaker is really not that hard to drive, as long as you do not go above the 'knee' in their efficiency curve.

Above that point it takes a prodigious amount of power to increase the volume, as at that point the diaphragm has enough excursion that the distance from the magnets becomes and issue (the strength of the magnetic field falls off by the square of the distance- the push-pull units do not have this problem as the magnetic field is constant).

The speaker is otherwise a moderate efficiency, as you can add about 6 db to the efficiency numbers since it is a line source.

As a result, 80 watts is plenty in many moderate sized rooms.
Personal experience: I am running 1.6QR's with a Sunfire amplifier, biamped delivering 400W at 4OHMS to each speaker and they love it, I have as well discussed with Magnepan and they will never give a solid answer. A buddy of mine is runningthe 3.6R's and has 300W to each speaker and they sound killer, he attempted to drive them with a Krell 150W amplifier and found that they ate up the power and seemed to be asking for more.
Nick778's answer is interesting but simply doesn't apply to Magnepan.
The 1.6s simply don't go below 4ohms and have moderate phase angle to boot.
They may be power hungry, but certainly not a 'bad load'.

Also, Magnepan ISN'T electrostatic. Sorry.

The 1.6 / 3.6 are within a db or so sensitivity. If you are happy with your 1.6 with 50/side, than I see no reason you wouldn't be happy with 150 for the 3.6s in a similar room.

My original MG-1s were content with 60/side /8ohm rating for quite while before I got the upgrade bug.

Don't be stampeeded by power junkies. If you are not happy, try to borrow something with some more guts, but if you are happy, don't worry.
That being said, my panels love my 'd' amp. Lot's of 'em out there and even a few pre-loved which would mate up fine with either the 1.6 or 3.6 panels.
Size on a plane the issue? Try the small integrated from BelCanto. It is half rack width, has plenty of power and is a reasonably efficient ICE design. Some even have either a phono or USB DAC input.
Just hopping on here to thank you guys for the input so far - very appreciated.

To Magfan -I am going to check out the specs on that small BelCanto- thanks for the suggestion.

In follow up please don't misunderstand my post. I am not advocating tons of power, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, and I speak from personal experience that the majority of time speakers are blown it is not because of too much power, it is because of too little or not enough to drive correctly. Most that have been in this hobby long enough will agree, speakers get blown when under powered and your finger takes over on the volume dial. Again out of personal experience I have never had issues with 'too' much power. Personally I have had 5 pairs of Magnepans and multiple floor standing and monitor speakers and have run amplifiers operating up to 750W and have NEVER had and issue. My second point is one of headroom a term thrown around on sites like this, well not being a trem freak I can say that power in my experience leads to headroom. Finally we all know that Magnepans are not quite well off in the efficiency department and thus can eat up power and really show the quality of your amplification. It has been my experience that a soild amplifier in the 150-200W range will nicely run Magnepan speakers, my taste leans a bit to the higher side as I suggested in my last post. I desired to not leave you with the feeling that you need tons of power, more that the sky is the limit with Maggies..... but quality power is an absolute must have......

When Magnepan shows their speakers now they use Bryston Amps, usually the 28Bsst. Before that, they used the 7Bsst, I think that let's you know what kind of power they need.
Nissancrazy Thankyou. When you say 150 - 200w will run Magnepan speakers what model are you referring to? I am curious about the 3.6s. I assume that as you go up the line of Mag speakers you need more power. What kind of power is in those Bryston amps they run to show their speakers?

Again my personal feelings here tell me that both the Bel and Sim should do the job as they are quality amplification and I am assuming that the power ratings we are discussing are 8OHMS, power output should come close to double or actually be double at 4OHMS so you should be more than safe.

be careful underpowering the 3.6s. you're more likely to to damage the ribbon tweeter from underpowering (clipping) than overpowering them.
From what I've read, the tweeter will fry with the tweeter fuse still intact.
Well, the maple-wood guy claims his modified small tube integrated amp (30 wpc?) can drive the 3.6. Interestingly when I've seen Magnepans at shows, the company bi-amps them with large Brystons (600 wpc?). That should tell us something.

Of course the usual considerations apply; size and furnishings of room, type of music played, preferred listening levels, etc. But my experience in listening to any model Maggie is they all have a minimum playback level where they come alive. Below that and they sound limited, as if the several veils reviewers talk about are still in place. So to me the question is not what is the smallest amp that can play Maggies, but what is the smallest powered amp that can make them perform at their potential?
Thomastrouble, I can tell you from much experience, that yes you can run Maggies 3.6r's with lower power amps, but you will not hear what they can do with those amps. They will be veiled and limited with almost no bass or impact.

If you are really keying on the smaller powered amp, you could get a different speaker that would do more for you.

The Vandersteen 3a comes to mind in that price range. With lower power amps as you want to use, you will get much better, cleaner, more open sound from the Vandy's.

I would also look at the Paradigm Signature S6, a great speaker that can be found in the same price range.

Or look for some really nice monitors that are more efficient.

You will not get what you want from Magnepan 3.6R's with low powered amps. Sound will come out, but not anywhere near what they are capable of.
Thanks guys.

Macdadtexas, thanks for the input. I realize that to make the Maggie 3.6s sing you need good power. What I am getting at is what is the lowest power amp you could use but still get GOOD sound - would 150w at 8ohm from a good integrated (Simaudio i7) cut it? The Vandersteens have definitely interested me but I have the opportunity to buy the 3.6s very cheaply in a country where I spend some months each year. If I had the same opportunity to pick up the 3a Vandees at a good price I would, but that is not going to happen in Brazil. The 3.6s belong to an american in Sao Paulo who can't justify dragging them back to the US, so is letting them go very cheaply.

Assuming that you are going to double the power output of 150W at 8ohms as the 3.6 will present a 4ohm load which should increase power output of the Sim to close to if not 300W, based on this being solid amplification which the Sim is you should be fine running the 3.6's and your current Sim. If you felt the need for more power you could always add and external amplifier and use the Sim as more of a processor or if the ability is there you could actually use the Sim to power the highs or lows and an outboard amplifier to actually set up to biamp the speakers.
Yes, the Simaudio 150wpc amplifier will drive them well and easily even being a nominal 4 Ohm load of impedance. Maggies have very low voltage sensitivity, somewhere around 85dB or so based on the model, so they require high wattage or at least current capability to produce moderate to high volume playback. A high current power amplifier will do better with them in general regardless of the brand or model. They also tend to respond better to solid state (like the Simaudio) than tubes depending on the brand and model of course. The Parasound A21 power amplifier at 250WPC RMS at 8 Ohms and 400 or so at 4 Ohms will not let you down with them at all. I know ... I have heard that combo many times at dealers and homes and it is effortless and beautiful sounding. Power with Maggies does what power to Usher Be-718's does ... brings them out and makes them live and sing like they can and should be able to. Don't make the mistake of skimping on the power and sheer kahunas under the hood with your maggies. For goodness sake, don't put a receiver on them of any kind; especially an A/V one. I heard that set up several times and it awful and constrained and lifeless at best.
In terms of bang for the buck, the $1200 NAD intergrated reviewed by Sam Tellig in Oct Stereophile seems hard to beat, and should do a very nice job with your 3,6's.
I keep being amazed by the responses to this. I want to know how many of these respondents have ever actually owned these speakers, and if so, how long did they keep them? If they used the dreadfully underpowered amps they have recommended I would assume it became very unsatisfying listening.

If you put that NAD integrated on a pair of 3.6r Maggies, it's not going to sound good. The amp may be fine with other speakers, but it's not going to bring those panels to life.
I have never owned them, but have sold them here in PA. Maggies need, or at least do so much better, with much high quality power on tap.
More power is better, but - If he powers them with the Sim amp in question he will be fine.
He'll get to Brazil, plop down on the couch with his favorite beverage and smile and be glad he bought the Maggies for a great price.
If he finds another ex-pat with 1000w monoblocks at a great price he should buy them as well. But the OP's question wasn't "What's better, 150w or 1000w to power Maggies?", which is where this thread has gone more or less.

btw: I've owned 12's and 1.6's for about 10 years, no longer have them.
Sebrof is correct. But the op also asks at some point if he would be doing a disservice to them with the simaudio. The answer to this in my opinion is yes.

Magnepans need enormous amounts of juice to sound their best. They can sound good with much less power and even nice with low power but if you want to hear what they can really do need big time power. I would say 600 a side at 4ohms and more is better.

It has nothing to do with loudness-
In my experience, 300 wpc was enough to play Lawrence Welk at moderate volumes. If you like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Yes, Hendrix, The Who, Beatles, Nine Inch Nails or pretty much anything else that isn't chamber music, you should probably sell them and find another speaker.
I own 1.6s. 150 watts is not even really enough for the 1.6s, let alone 3.6s.

It's not that they won't play or that they'll sound bad, but they won't really fully "blossom."

Maggies love power, and high-quality power. They're not that expensive, but require amplifiers that are powerful and often, expensive.
I just looked at the stereophile measurement panel of the Simaudio i-7.
It popped the 8 amp rear panel fuse at 320+ watts into 4 ohms.

That should do, no? especially since the OP seemed at least minimally content with his Nait at 50 watts. This is at least 6db increase.

Figure what? about 200 to 250 'real world' watts.
Thanks Magfan, though I am a little confused with your answer. Are you saying the Sim will give me 200 -250 watts at 4 ohms and that is ok? I think that is the gist of what you mean. The other thing to remember is the Sim will be running 3.6 Maggies as opposed to my 1.6s and I guess they would take more power to drive.
As near as I can figure, based on your original post of being 'satisfied' with the 50 watts of the Naim, I'd just suspect the 4x to 5x power of the Simaudio should make you more than satisfied. Naim has its own 'trademark' sound and I am not familiar with any signature sound of the Sim, but just comparing watts to watts, the Sim should work?

Do you still have time to take the SimAudio to a Magnepan dealer and give it a run? That'd be what I'd try.
Having even well intentioned people tell you something definitively without having given it a listen is a recipe for disappointment. I don't want you to get down there and say.....'Those dirty rats! If I catch that MagFan guy I'll wring his neck!'

How much juice did the Bel Canto have? If you GOTTA smuggle it in as 'carryon', that'd be the way to go. About as large as a cigar box!

The sensitivities between the 2 panels is pretty comparable, but the 3.6 has a higher capacity.

It's a kind of miracle that Magnepan have a sensitivity of about 86 db at 4 ohms because their magnetic system is somewhat weak for at least three reasons. First they use flexible magnets instead of ceramic strontium magnets to alnico or neodymium used in regular and high end speakers this means the flux density(gauss)  is weaker and the total magnetic power (Maxwell) are limited .  Secondly the back plate is thin compared to the back plate usually found in speakers in general, moreover on the Magnepan, the "back plate is perforated to let sound pass through. Thirdly there is no top plate as it is found on speakers in general.  The role of these back and front plate is to help the magnetic lines to concentrate and to avoid to escape.

In a magnepan the magnetic lines create semi circle magnetic lines and the conductor is placed in the magnetic lines.  The main problem with the magnepan magnetic structure is the assymetry of the magnetic field relative to the movement of the conductor in the magnetic field. When the membrane and the conductor goes outward, it leaves the magnetic field and when the membrane goes backward it enters in the magnetic field where the concentration of the magnetic field (gauss) is higher. BUT nothing being perfect,  dynamic cone speakers have their own flaws, and suffer from linearity problems caused by their magnetic circuits, mechanical non linearity, In the case of magneplanars, their weaker magnetic structure is the trade-off that limit their efficiency but help for their transparency due to the light weight of the membrane conductors assembly also due to the perforated metallic plate.