When all the music had finally subsided—when the trademark Maggie mixture of resolution, airiness, purity, spatiality, and musicality had ebbed away—Magnepan’s Wendell Diller was ready to reveal the “mystery speaker” I had been listening to. I expected him to pull aside the shroud blocking my view. I expected to see a Maggie that was somewhat shorter than most, since I had noted a soundstage wide and deep but not especially high. I expected the speaker to be somehow unattractive, since that was ostensibly the reason they were hidden in the first place. I was wrong on all counts.
Instead of pulling back the scrim, Wendell simply reached behind him and presented the new speaker—in the palm of his hand! Anyone even remotely familiar with Magnepans knows that they are floor-standers. That is etched in stone. As is the fact that they are all, well, big. In fact, Wendell declared that it was resistance to the typical Maggie’s size that inspired the company to see how something smaller would work out. Apparently, it’s working out quite well.
The new “Mini-Maggie”, as it is internally dubbed, is almost exactly the size of a sheet of paper—and not a whole lot thicker. Unlike some rumors that have been flying about, these are not desktop speakers; rather, they are Maggie’s version of good old satellites. You place them on a stand, properly located in the room, and they do the amazing things that great satellites do: disappear as a source, create convincing soundstages, and defy expectations by easily filling the room with sound. These Mini-Maggies, by virtue of their size, will have a much smaller footprint—and a much higher Spouse Acceptance Factor—than any to have come before.
But we all know one other thing about satellite speakers: they are not full range. Most are comfortable down to 80Hz, and a few are credible down to about 50Hz. The Mini-Maggie, as it turns out, is even more restricted in this respect. Because of its ribbon design, it only covers frequencies of 300Hz and up. And yet the sound I had heard was manifestly full range, with bass that was not only deep, but tight and powerfully dynamic. Apparently, there was still another mystery.
Time for surprise number two. With the lights turned up behind the scrim, I could see the Mini-Maggies on their stands, but nothing else that looked like a speaker, or even a subwoofer. Looking again, I now noticed what I had taken to be a rather stylish coffee table (with a lamp on it, no less), one I’d be pleased to have in my home. But, of course, this “table” is more than a nice room accessory. It is the woofer to the Mini-Magie’s satellite.
I must say that while I was truly surprised at the form factor of the Mini-Maggie, I was dumbfounded to learn that I had been listening to anything other than a single, integrated speaker. Magnepan ensured the seamless blend between these (now two) mystery speakers by making them both ribbon drivers. They had tried mating the new sats with cone woofers, with the unsurprising result that the dynamic drivers simply could not keep up with the ribbons. So the company figured out how to make a ribbon woofer that didn’t tower over one’s head. The common technology and gentle driver rolloff slopes ensured the uncannily natural blend I heard.
I have been careful to characterize the new, as yet unnamed low end driver as a “woofer” rather than a subwoofer. This is intentional. The bass unit is good down to 40Hz, which is low enough for most listening. Subs, on the other hand, typically delve down to 20Hz or even lower, and Magnepan was emphatic that this woofer will not do that. Nevertheless, I certainly felt not lack of low bass oomph when listening to challenging material such as drum solos. The kick drum kicked! I feel the new combo will satisfy the vast majority of listeners.
In sum, whereas there was no hiding previous Magnepans, the company has now produced a satellite speaker that is no more imposing than any other company’s offering. But they have gone further. Many subwoofer manufacturers actually encourage their products to be hidden—behind a couch, in a corner, etc. Ironically, Magnepan has created a bass unit (don’t call ‘em “subs”) that begs to be shown off. The world certainly is turning topsy-turvy.
Now you would all like to know how much these babies will cost and when they will be available. I cannot answer the first question, and neither can Magnepan. Pricing has yet to be determined, so one last mystery remains. But only until this Summer, when both the Mini and the bass unit will hit the market. Presumably, by then they’ll have a price tag. Let’s hope for yet another pleasant surprise.
Magnepan’s Wendell Diller presents the new “Mini-Maggie”, alongside one of the company’s more typical offerings.