Magnepan 1.6 HELP!

Gerardo Chirichigno -- Sun, 10/11/2009 - 01:31

Hello I am a beginner to the audio world and need help understanding how basic things work.  It may seem like some dumb questions but am looking for good info to get me fired up. 
I am in the market for a Magnepan 1.6, Parasound Halo A21 (can the A52 be a suitable substitute?) and am looking for suggestions for an A/V reciever to complement the "maggie."  I am simply not understanding how these three components hookup in order for me to properly utilize the maggies (aside from a CD player of course!)  CD player aside, do the speakers connect directly to the amp?  Or does the reciever connect to the amp or vice-versa?  I'm just not seeing the big picture here.  Can someone break it down for me, or illustrate an example of how he/she would setup these components?  Thank you very much!

Chris Martens -- Mon, 10/12/2009 - 13:38


Let me ask a few clarifying question before trying to give you a response.

  • 1) Am I correct in assuming that your intent is to set up a full 5-channel (or perhaps 5.1-channel) surround system?
  • 2) If so, is your intent to use four 1.6s, plus a Magnepan center channel, or...?
  • 3) Basically, what is your thinking in seeking out an A/V receiver to complement the Magnepan MG 1.6's in the first place? In other words, what's your goal?

If that last question seemed a bit thick on my part, let me explain that I know people who enjoy two-channel home theater systems based on good universal players that provide onboard decoding for all the latest A/V soundtrack codecs. If you followed that two-channel approach, I don't see that there is much need for an A/V receiver at all, apart from the fact that you wouldn't have general purpose surround sound decoding to use when playing non-disc-based content.

On the other hand, if you are aiming for a true surround system, then using an A/V receiver (perhaps just as a decoder/preamp) starts to make a lot more sense.

Now let's talk about how the pieces go together. 

Point One: The problem with most A/V receivers with respect to Magnepans isn't that the receivers can't drive the Maggies at all, but rather that they typically can't drive the Maggies to their full potential (because Maggies are both power hungry and very sensitive to the overall sound quality of the amplifiers with which they are used). This isn't to slam AVRs, but rather to state that few of them were designed with extremely demanding loudspeaker loads in mind. 

Point Two: The reason people talk about using A/V receivers with supplementary amps to drive Magnepans is so that they can enjoy the relatively cost-effective surround sound decoding and preamplifier functions the AVR provides, while also enjoying the benefits that having a much, much beefier power amplifier on tap can provide. Another good reason to use an AVR is that some come equipped with truly excellent room/speaker EQ systems that you might want to use.

With that thought in mind, here's one basic set-up scenario you could follow:

Source Components --> AVR --> AVR's multichannel preamp outputs --> Power Amp(s) --> Magnepans

Which AVRs to consider? Let your ears be your guides. Brands that incorporate Audyssey room EQ functions include Denon, Integra, Marantz, NAD and Onkyo. Brands that offer other, non-Audyssey room EQ and/or automated speaker setup functions include Harman-Kardon, Pioneer, and Yamaha. A brand that has a good reputation among audiophiles but that does not provide auto EQ/setup functions is Rotel. But, as with choosing the Magnepan speakers, your AVR selection should be based on your own listening evaluations and perceptions of sound quality (this isn't a choice you can make based on written word feedback alone).

Chris Martens
Editor, Perfect Vision 

gadio4533 (not verified) -- Sat, 02/27/2010 - 22:00

Well articulated and thoughtful response. I think you hit it right on the head, you can get a sense of the maggie magic with an AVR. It just has to be able to deliver some serious current while not 'contaminating' the signal. Arcam deserves some serious consideration as their receivers are truely unobtrusive. I used the AVR 350 for a couple years with 1.6s and smiled the whole while.......

Jeff Glotzer (not verified) -- Sun, 02/07/2010 - 19:14

The Parasound A21 is a power amp that only powers and drives the speakers through speaker cable. It is perfect for the Magneplanar 1.6, but you would still need a 2 channel, stereo preamp (to do 2 channel only) or an A/V preamp/processor (to do 5 ch. home theater, but 2  or 3 amps are needed for more speakers in HT).  There are power amps, preamps, integrated amps and Audio Video Receivers (AVR as above), and all of them add or subtract features for quality and speciality. Generally, the simple power amp does a more specialized job at a better level of overall quality, than its integrated amplifier brethren, for instance.
The A52, not the 25, is a Parasound integrated amp that will probably drive the speakers enough for your needs, and would be less powerful (from a driving the speaker loudness  and power standpoint).  It combines the preamp for 2 channel stereo WITH a power amp, albeit less powerful in absolute terms. I don't have experience with it, but perhaps it does some A/V duties or there are others in the Parasound line that surely do, and if they include a tuner for FM radio, they would be an AVR.  
It is usually better to go with a strong 2 channel preamp that has a Home theater bypass switch that will let you connect in yet another preamp or processor for A/V duties. Combine this with a quality, powerful (over 200 watts in 8 ohms) 2 channel power amp and you are ready to add a cd player or tuner, etc.  This is probably the best building-block approach, as it allows you to find a great amp and preamp (or an integrated if you like the extra features of the A52 for instance) to pair with a single pair of Magnepans. 
Later this enables you an upgrade path to more speakers for HT (and amps, cause extra channels means extra power amps/AVR module amps, etc). A good example for a planar lover would be to use another 2 channel power amp and a pair of the smaller Magnepan MMG's for surround duties later.  Magnepan also makes a variety of center channel and surround speakers for the 5th channel (or simply the third as Magnepan likes to remind audiophiles of its virtues of going only with 3 channels in marketing print (L/R/C).

Bruce E. (not verified) -- Tue, 02/16/2010 - 01:16

Chris is a well known golden ear. He won't steer you wrong. I've lived with tall Maggies since 1972. Depending on the size of your listening room, a Denon AVR in the $1000 to $1800 price range like mine will give you years of sheer listening joy. My listening area is 16 X 17 feet but it's open plan, not a closed room. If you're a jazz or movie buff you'll also want to
add a fast sub. Mine is a Titanic kit from Parts Express. Well satisfied with its ability to growl and give an impressive end to low bass instruments.

Keeping your Maggies set out from the wall behind them is imperative and can be tried at various distances from two to three feet outwards. That wall should also have some means to break up the reflected back sound. I've used several items ranging from light to heavy pleated drapes, but now using two panels 50 X 72 inches behind each right and left main Maggie speakers. These panels are comprised of 12X12 inch acoustic ceiling tiles glued to the wall and painted off white against the light brown wall for a nice visual effect.

Carefully placed (inner edges) about 83 inches apart and slanted slanted very slightly inwards towards your primary listening chair or couch position, you can eliminate the need for a front center channel speaker by setting your Denon AVR to " no center speaker" within its setup menu. The Denon AVR will create a phantom center channel mix which is very accurate. You will, however, need to plan on hours of experimentation. Moving your Maggies as little as 1/4 to 1/2 inch can make loads of difference achieving a virtual center channel. I use female jazz singer, Sue Matthews song, "I Fall in Love Too Easily" to set my virtual center. Using an old-fashioned yardstick, make sure you maintain equal inner and outer edge distances from the behind wall for both speakers.

Place your rear speakers on the rear wall behind your listening chair opposite of your front Maggies or slightly outward. I've added a smaller 8 inch sub halfway between my rears. If you're a movie or music buff you'll appreciate the rear sub- especially when a helicpoter flies overhead in a movie. Ideally the rears would be a pair or three of the new 4 foot Maggies wall mounted, but I'd like to try them mounted on a spring loaded pole some what further away from the wall.

Something on the wall behind you to break up sound will be appreciated. I have plantation venetian blinds angled. Maggies produce a huge soundfield. You will on occasion hear virtual instruments coming out of your side wallls on surround sound music when everything is finally set up correctly. Patience setting up is the big payoff. Your female singer's voice voice should appear from a standing position dead center in front sharply focused, not widely spread between your front main Maggies and not overlapping. Try 1/2 inch steps adjusting your front Maggies, then narrow or exoand their differences in 1/4 inch steps. Recheck things another day. You'll be exhausted the first attempts. Pschoacoustics work their way in.

Once setup, mark your Maggies positions on the floor. I tape around the soeaker's feet with medium stick masking tape on the carpet. Next move the Maggies away then apply tape between your first taped markings. Then remove your first taped markings and set your Maggies back in place.

P.S. Your AVR is switch-central for all components including you DVD or Blue-ray player which also play your CD's. Toss your old CD player away or use it somewhere else. Your set top TV cable or satellite box is your
sound source for TV. Connect it to your AVR. Hooked up correctly your
entire system should feed your HDTV with only one HDMI cable. Finally, set your HDTV to external sound source to turn off its built in speakers.

MakersMark (not verified) -- Thu, 03/25/2010 - 23:08

 Hope you figured it out as I have the 1.6's along with the parasound A21 and a parasound JC2 preamp. My wish would be to go to the Jc1 Mono blocks - one amp per speaker for the real kick your butt, make those maggies sing system!

JKStraw -- Wed, 07/14/2010 - 01:48

 I have the A21 and shortly had the JC2 before selling it as a reseller. How do you like the JC2 with the A21? My goal/dream of the JC1's is the same. I plan on feeding my DAC from the JC2 with my computer based music. I hope it is as good as I think it will be know Curls deign of this piece!

JKStraw -- Wed, 07/14/2010 - 01:51

 MakerMark - are you employing any type of sub? I had the 12's and after they broke in I never felt the need for a sub. My 1.6's are yet to be there and I sometime wonder if an added sub my enhance some aspects?

Ejcj -- Fri, 03/30/2012 - 23:44

 My current system is a pair of maggie MG 12s a Parasound A 21 and P7 with a paradigm sub crossed over around 50 hertz.  I would advise first listing to movies in two channel before even going to a reciever.  I have an integra in another room that I brought in to try.  I used a Bryston 4 B first to power a center and then a Krell KaV 500 hundred to go to a full surround system still using the parasound in the front.  I found that I preferred the sound of the system in stereo to the sound of the system in surround.   I run my video player straight into the tv using an HDMI cable and the sound in analog stereo into my preamp.  The center imaging is so great I simply don't need the other speakers and I think the room acoustics get so complex that the sound is degraded.  
If I were going to use a reciever though I would probably use an Anthem.  Their new recievers sound great and their room acoustic mechanism works really well though it is not as easy as Odyssey (IMHO).   I should mention that some time ago I built my own listening room and the space sounds pretty good.  The room is probably the most important thing I have done for audio/video.

 The Big Blueberry

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