Review: Magnepan 3.6R Speaker

Category: Speakers

I started this audiophile thing when I was 12, at which time I drooled over mail-order catalogs from Allied Electronics, Heathkit, and Lafayette. Haven't been able to kill the audio bug yet, nor do I plan to. My first serious system consisted of mid-80s Nakamichi gear, including a 3-head cassette deck. I also had ADS towers and later a Denon 3000 CD player after I wore out my NAK unit.

Some people just don't get it--this audio obsession, that is. For me, a system is not about techy cuteness, kidney-assaulting bass, or surround-sound special effects. I'm not quite converted to super audio CD yet, either. Not that it doesn't sound good; it's just that it's still too expensive to do both super-audio and "redbook" CD well. That brings us to my present system, which does ONE thing and one thing WELL: play CDs with a jaw-dropping realism that continues to bring tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my skin. THAT, my friend, is what we shell out the precious green stuff for, is it not? (Which means that for FM listening, I'll most likely do the newest Bose-killer Cambridge Soundworks table radio. For now, my system is sans-preamp, with the CD running direct to the PS Audio HCA-2 via variable outs, which sounds spectacular! Who needs bells and whistles?)

After auditioning a plethora of contenders for best bang-for-the-buck speakers out there, I was immediately addicted to the Magnepans. The 1.6QR (for Quasi-Ribbon) is quite fine, and probably the best deal going for under $3000. But once you hear the TRUE ribbon of the 3.6R, mated as it is to the most harmonically accurate, transparent, and life-sized musical image I have experienced at ANY price, there's just no going back to anything else.

I listen to just about every kind of music there is--short of rap, country western, and thrash metal. For me, it's all about conjuring up the reality of a live musical event, and doing so with finesse. If pressed on the issue, I would have to say that classical music, jazz, and celtic are my three favorite genres for listening. First, a word to the wise: give the Maggies a long leash, and don't make any judgments on them 'til they're given the mandatory 400 hours of break-in time. (That was no sweat for me, having put the components together over a several-month period as budget allowed.)

Time does not allow me to discuss all the discs I first audioned this system with, but here are a few: Entangled Devotions (Beethoven piano concerto #5 and Moonlight Sonata), Pope Music gold CD; Jazz at the Pawnshop double-disc set, XRCD; Dianna Krall: Love Scenes, CD; and Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade, XRCD. Like many audiophiles, the reproduction of upright bass and grand piano were THE winning factor of the Magnepans. Non-audiophile friends, who at first questioned the sanity of spending the equivalent sum of a nearly-new Honda Civic on a MUSIC system, are starry-eyed in amazement of these speakers, as grand piano, orchestra, and vocalists are virtually transported into my humble abode. (Much credit goes to various high-end consultants, who brought such amazing synergy to the various componentry involved here. EVERYTHING about this system is a match made in heaven.)

There are many great speakers available, each excelling at one or two audiophile feats. But none match the coherence, imaging, immediacy, and sheer musical involvement of the Magnepans. Quads are great if you can get past the Peterbilt radiator look--though they, in my opinion, simply cannot match the Magnepans for harmonic, tactile presence and authority. (No questioning their crystalline clarity, but SUBSTANCE is missing.) Martin-Logans were a MAJOR disappointment in this regard. I actually preferred the sound of the JM Labs to them. But even the Thiels, my long-term reference for dynamic systems, left me wanting after first hearing the Magnepan 3.6R.

Now that I've had many, many long hours with these speakers, I am more in love with them than ever. The above-mentioned discs played through these speakers continue to wow everyone who I have allowed into my sacred listening chamber. The amazing harmonic integrity of the Magnepans is so compelling that I am seriously considering foregoing a planned subwoofer purchase. I can't stand boomy bass any more than an emaciated midrange or spitty, reedy highs.

My old mid-eighties ADS towers served me well, and became my reference for "box" systems until I heard Thiels, which, as I say, cannot hold a candle to the Magnepans. A comparison to my old ADS towers would be a waste of time, as good as the ADS speakers were. In conclusion, I have never heard vocals--particulary female vocals--reproduced with such uncanny realism. Nor have I heard large-scale orchestral works or intimate classical or jazz ensembles made to sound as convincingly three-dimensional and LIVE!

I can find no fault with these speakers. The only thing I would change if the laws of physics allowed would be their room-dominating stature. (I really have no problem with their looks. I think they're gorgeous, especially in their deep cherry with black grilles. But then again, I don't have the spousal-acceptance-factor to deal with--yet.)
Would I "upgrade" to anything else if cost were no object? Perhaps, but then only to the MG20.1R, which a friend owns, along with Mark Levinson componentry. And, dare I say, my system isn't all that far behind his in terms of genuine musical enjoyment.

Associated gear
Jolida JD100A tube CD (Graham Co./Parts Connection level one mod.), PS Audio HCA-2 power amp, Balanced Power Tech BP Jr Mk II line conditioner (Graham Co. mod.), parallel runs of Audioquest GR8 speaker cable for bi-wire, Audioquest Python interconnect; vaious power cord upgrades, including the mammoth PS Audio Lab II; Audioprism Quietlines, and various system tweaks and enhancements.

Similar products
Martin-Logan Aeon and Prodigy, Quad 988 and 989, JM Labs Cobalt S826, JM Labs Electra 936 and 946, Thiel 2.4, B&W Nautilus 804, various new Meadowlarks and Energy Veritas.
Hi, does that "jaw dropping realism" include playing all types of music at realistic levels, or is it limited to polite music at realistic levels or dynamic music at polite levels? How about Rock, can that be played anywhere near "realistic levels"? Hope you bought yours new.
Recommended upgrades for the 3.6's are the Mye Audio stands, and jumpers from Infinity Audio.
The Mye Audio stands tighten everything up, images and instruments take on greater clarity and substance.
They are very well built, come shipped in wooden boxes, and include solid adjustable brass spikes.

Trying to make the 3.6's move back and forth with these stands are impossible! Man, what a difference in rigidity!

The Infinity Audio jumpers also make a nice difference in clarity. They can be terminated with Cardas Maggy pins, which work excellent.
You can get solid silver, or silver plated copper.
These jumpers seemed to clean up the top end a bit, more extended and cleaner.

I am sure many of you know about these tweeks for the 3.6's, but for those who didn't, now you do!

Happy listening.

Best, Bill M.
Hey Billm (or anyone else that uses the 3.6's), where did you buy the Infinity Audio Jumpers? I haven't been able to find any place that sells them via google. I have found some Cardas Golden jumpers made specifically for the Maggies...have you compared these at all?

I'm a happy owner of Sound Lab full-range U-2 ESLs (same size as the A-3s and M-3s, don't even ask), but I did some careful listening to the 3.6R at a local dealer. The mid-range is startling in its clarity and immediacy. I definitely heard some things I hadn't heard on the U-2s, but . . . there's no way I'd make the trade. The Maggies do a few things that the U-2s don't do -- they project peformers and instruments larger than life-size, and they train an electron microscope on the sound. These are not necessarily good things -- I was a bit nervous being in the room with a 10-foot-tall tenor saxophone. The Maggies also don't do a few things that the U-2s do -- they don't give you the bottom end that makes music sound like music, and they truncate the notes before the decay is actually done, er, decaying. Your actual mileage may vary.