Without a doubt the White Bear Lake, Minnesota-based firm Magnepan has been on a roll over the past few years. First came the 1.7 floorstanders ($1995/pair), which Jonathan Valin described as “the most lifelike speakers I’ve heard in their price range—or anywhere near it.” Next came the even more impressive 3.7 floorstanders ($5500/pair), which Mr. Valin described as “the best buy in hi-fi at the moment,” and that our founder Harry Pearson called “the best buy in hi-fi of all time.” Now, Magnepan has rolled out its new flagship 20.7 floorstander ($13,850/pair), of which TAS’ Jacob Heilbrunn has written, “I defy you to find (a speaker) at up to five times the cost with the scale and realism of the 20.7.” All three of these tall, thin, dipolar loudspeakers are capable of delivering a big, pure, life-like sound that is eerily coherent, and of doing so while delivering exceptional value for money. But strangely enough, the firm has also recently released a fourth new model—the compact, three-piece Mini Maggie desktop speaker system ($1490), which for some reason has gone largely unnoticed. This review will explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Mini Maggie system and explain why—for certain listening scenarios—it just might be the most desirable Magnepan of all.
At the heart of the Mini Maggie system are a pair of small (9.625" x 14.25"), two-way “satellite” dipole speakers, each featuring a 4.5" x 8.5" planar magnetic midrange driver and a .8" x 6.7" ribbon tweeter (a shortened version of the very same tweeter used in the more costly 3.7 and 20.7). Like the large Magnepans, the Mini Maggie satellites are built as a mirrorimaged pair, so that listeners have the options of listening with tweeters oriented outward or inward. Then, to complete the package, Magnepan includes its moderately sized (19.25" x 22.5") DWM single-panel, dual-channel, dipolar mid/bass module. The DWM includes built-in crossovers that enable it to work with the Mini Maggie (and several other Magnepan products), so that the game plan is to connect both your left- and right-channel speaker cables to the DWM, and then run “stub” cables out from the DWM modules to the left and right satellites.
One key point to understand is that, from Day One, the entire system was designed specifically for ultra-high-performance desktop listening applications. In practice this means the satellites would be placed on the desktop and toed-in toward the listener, while the DWM panel would be placed on the floor below the satellites, within the footwell of the desk. In short, the Mini Maggie rig is meant for near-field listening environments, where the listener would be seated roughly two-to-four feet away. Some listeners (and Magnepan dealers) have wondered whether the Mini Maggie package might also be used as sat/woofer system for whole-room listening scenarios and we will tackle that question later on. But for now, let’s focus on tips for getting best results from the system on desktops.
Set-up requirements for the system are very simple, but there are some practical guidelines listeners will want to bear in mind. First, note that the Mini Maggie satellites, like Magnepan’s larger dipole speakers, need a fair amount of “breathing room” to sound their best, meaning it’s best to avoid scenarios where the satellite panels are backed up to within a few inches of nearby walls. Ideally, the Mini Maggie satellites should have several feet of open air space behind them for best sonic results. If, however, your room/desk arrangement is such that near-wall placement is necessary, contact Magnepan beforehand to seek advice. The firm may be able to recommend (or perhaps supply) suitable damping materials that could be placed on the walls behind the satellites to help tame early reflections.
Next, note that the compact, floor-standing DWM mid/ bass module is more than just a “woofer” and that, as a dipole speaker, it absolutely does not behave the way a box-type woofer would. Because the DWM contributes a significant amount of discrete left- and right-channel midrange information to support the system’s satellites, you’ll want to make a point of positioning the DWM in a central location, so that it is equidistant from the two Mini Maggie satellites. I’ve heard anecdotal reports of some listeners (and even dealers) trying to push the DWM off to one side of the room or the other—an approach that in my experience gives unsatisfactory (indeed, unacceptable) results. Remember, then, that the DWM must go in the center and below the satellites (any other location can cause imaging to become skewed and incoherent).