Though the Mini Maggie system is small, it always reminded me to keep in mind the bigger picture. What I discovered is that, in essence, the Mini Maggie package is a $1490 system that sounds very much like Magnepan’s own $5500 speaker system, which in turn routinely gets compared to $50k high-end speaker systems. If you like that kind of performance math as much as I do, you’ll want to run—not walk—to the nearest Magnepan dealer to check these things out. In my opinion, they’re not just a bargain; they are a gift—especially for those who do not have sufficient space to install full-size Magnepan speaker systems (apartment dwellers take note).
In looking over my notes from listening sessions with the Mini Maggie system, I find my comments fall in three main areas: observation on the system’s remarkable spatial properties; comments on the system’s unusually lifelike reproduction of musical textures, timbres, and low-level details; and remarks on the system’s surprisingly robust dynamic capabilities. On track after track, and on all genres of music, these qualities really helped set the Mini Maggie system apart from other desktop systems I have heard or reviewed.
One of my favorite test tracks (and one many manufacturer’s have adopted as a preferred demo piece) is the Astor Piazzolla composition “Kicho” as performed by the Blue Chamber Quartet on First Impressions [Stockfisch, SACD]. “Kicho” opens with an elaborate solo played on acoustic bass, which ranges so high up in pitch that the initial illusion is of hearing a cello—until, that is, the bass suddenly plunging down into its lowest register. Later, as the piece unfolds, the bass is joined by a vibraphone, harp, and piano, which together create a delicious interplay of tonalities and textures. I wound up taking notes on an instrument-by-instrument basis, and here’s what I observed. The harp, I noted, sounded positively “luminous” through the Mini Maggie system as did the vibraphones, while the attack of the piano sounded, “lifelike, highly focused and riveting.” The bass, in turn, sounded at once “light, warm, and full-bodied” with “punchy dynamics and a powerful but never an overblown lower register.” Three characteristics struck me about the Mini Maggie’s overall presentation. First, they reproduced this well-recorded track with exceptionally low levels of grain, so that their sound was “like a great headphone, but with killer imaging.” Next, they offered truly remarkable spatial coherence, meaning that it was easy to drink in the convincing sound of the acoustics of the recording venue. Finally, the system exhibited “ballsy dynamics” throughout the track, which becomes extremely exuberant at times—capturing large dynamic swells without even seeming to be breathing hard.
The spatial characteristics of the system were even more clearly in evidence on the Michael Tilson Thomas/San Francisco recording of the Copland Organ Symphony [SFS Media, SACD], where I wrote that, “this tiny system creates a huge sense of space, complete with depth, width, and precise instrument localization—the works.” String tones were “fabulous,” finding that just-right sweet spot between clarity and incisiveness on the one had, with a buttery, golden tonality on the other. The pipe organ’s reed sounds and pipe resonances, I noted, were “very believable.” True, the organ’s very lowest bass pitches were “not entirely present,” but the bass that was present seemed so realistic that I wrote down this note: “Generally, you won’t miss the really low stuff.” While very low bass frequencies might be missing, I observed, “the Mini Maggie’s foundational mid-bass may even be more self-evident and appropriately balanced than in some of the bigger Magnepan speakers.” But the longer I listened, the more the system’s spatial characteristics continued to impress, so that I wrote, “this system is headphone-like in its intensity, focus, and detail, but at the same time it offers the precision imaging and soundstaging of a more traditional full-size speaker.” On the very loudest passages of the Organ Symphony, which I had perhaps turned up to unrealistically high levels, I observed that “the system can sound a bit strained on full-bore orchestral swells, though this may be a case where big crescendos are more OK with the speaker than with the amplifier.” Even so, it was amazing to hear the Mini Maggie package tackle very demanding orchestral material with so much gusto.