But there is more to the Mini Maggies system than imaging precision and soundstage depth, because the system also offers uncannily smooth and well balanced frequency response (from about 40 Hz on up), plus downright mind-blowing levels of resolution and detail. Although I know it will surely sound like an exaggeration, I think I could probably count on the fingers of just two hands the number of high-end full-size loudspeakers I’ve heard that offer as much or more resolution than the Mini Maggie system does, and all of them cost many multiples of the Mini Maggie system’s price. The Mini Maggie system really is that good.
If the foregoing statements sound like wild claims, then consider this. Magnepan has been on a roll of late, so that when our sister publication The Absolute Sound reviewed Magnepan’s 1.7 loudspeaker ($1995/pair) it was immediately proclaimed one of the greatest bargains in high-end audio (frankly, it’s the sort of affordable speaker that sounds so good that it makes you want to race out and spend $20k or so on electronics, just to have components good enough to reveal the speakers’ full potential). Then, along came the even better model 3.7 loudspeakers ($5500 pair)—models that both The Absolute Sound’s founder Harry Pearson and Executive Editor Jonathan Valin regard as arguably the greatest high-end audio bargain of all time.
Now consider this: which of Magnepan’s several world-beating speakers do you suppose the sound of the little Mini Maggie system most closely resembles? If you guessed the model 3.7, your answer is right on target, which is simply amazing. Granted, the model 3.7 loudspeakers do offer certain undeniable advantages, such as deeper bass extension, a broader overall dynamic envelope, an even greater ability to convey soundstage size (especially height), and—of course—the ability to fill large rooms with sound. But even so, when it comes to rendering musical transients, textures, and timbres accurately, the little Mini Maggie system hangs right in there with its illustrious, award-winning big brothers. As Wendell Diller put it, “the thing that makes the Mini Maggie so much fun is that it really does sound like a 3.7 that you can fit on your desktop.” I can’t speak for you, but to me that sounds like a wonderful idea, especially when you consider that the 3.7 often winds up being compared with speakers ten times its price.
As I listened to the Mini Maggie system, it dawned on me that this little desktop speaker system neatly bridges the gap between the appeal of today’s best headphones and today’s best full-size speakers. On the one hand, the Mini Maggie package offers precisely the sort of ultra-finely focused, highly detailed sonic presentation that makes world-class headphones so much fun to listen to. On the other hand, the Mini Maggie system effortlessly does what no headphone system I’ve heard really can, which is to place a large, spacious, well-focused soundstage in front of the listener (as in a live music venue), rather than having the stage unfold within the listener’s head (as with headphone systems). In a sense, then, the Mini Maggie package gives you virtually everything you would want from a great headphone (except, sadly, very deep bass extension), plus something more that really helps bring the music alive.
Are there caveats? There are a few, though it almost seems churlish to bring them up given how much the Mini Maggie system has to offer, and for such a reasonable price. First, note that the Mini Maggie system, like all Magnepan speakers, is relatively low in sensitivity and definitely likes being driven by powerful amplifiers (Diller says users have been happy with amps as small as 25 Wpc and as large as—no joke—1000 Wpc). Next, note that the Mini Maggie system is, for obvious reasons, extremely sensitive to amplifier quality (remember: this is a very revealing speaker system that incorporates a world-class ribbon tweeter). Third, note that while the system can play quite loudly in a desktop context, it does have its limits and will eventually exhibit signs of compression if pushed to really aggressive volume levels. Fourth, be aware that the system’s bass, which sounds terrific down to about the mid-40 Hz range, really doesn’t go much lower than that (most listeners will neither notice nor care, but pipe organ enthusiasts might). Finally, note that the Mini Maggie desktop modules are—like all dipole speakers—sensitive to placement. I listened to the system at a desk that was positioned well away from the walls of the office in which it was located, and in that location the system sounded superb. Still, it is conceivable that results might be less good if the Mini Maggies were positioned overly close to a wall.