Most audiophiles worthy of the name have heard (or at least heard of) Magneplanar loudspeakers and know of their reputation for delivering exquisite sound quality and exceptional value. Many of us have, at one point or another, fallen for the firm’s famous planar magnetic, dipolar loudspeakers, which look very much like large, thin fabric-covered room-divider screens that—somewhat amazingly—produce clear, pure, ultra-coherent sound that is exceptionally lifelike. Nevertheless, the fact is that many “interior designers” (yep, that’s a euphemism, which you’re free to interpret as you see fit) are sufficiently put off by the “large, thin, fabric-covered room divider” aesthetic that they rule out Maggies on the grounds that they (take your pick) are too large, too weird-looking, or that they tend to visually dominate the spaces in which they’re placed.
The sad part about this is that Magnepans can—especially for home theater applications—get rejected as a viable option (on purely visual grounds) before they ever get a chance to strut their formidable sonic stuff for would-be owners. Being a “sound-first” kind of guy, I regard this as a veritable tragedy, but I can see how a roomful of Maggie floorstanders in a full-on surround-sound configuration might be a bit much for some homeowners to take. But happily, all is not lost, since the good people over at Magnepan have, very quietly and almost secretively, been cooking-up the elements of an easy-to-live-with, visually unobtrusive on-wall Magnepan system geared specifically for home theater/multichannel music application where big Maggies simply wouldn’t fit.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news, however, is that almost nobody knows that Magnepan’s on-wall system even exists, which is part of why I’m doing this review. (Actually, most Magnepan dealers are aware of the on-wall system, though few have the space to demonstrate it in their showrooms. But stay tuned; Magnepan is looking at possible solutions, including alternate demo options.).
MMC2 On-Wall Dipole Speaker
What are the core elements of the Magnepan on-wall system? The key element is an ingenious, motorized, on-wall, planar magnetic/quasi-ribbon type, 3-way, dipolar speaker called the MMC2 ($1995/pair). To give you some idea of speaker’s size, let’s note that the MMC2 panel measures 52” high x 10.25” wide x 1” thick. Thus, the panel is fairly large, but the cool part is that it seems almost to shrink (in a visual sense) once it’s mounted against a wall surface.
What’s up with the motorized aspect of the design? Well, let’s begin by acknowledging that the MMC2, like all dipolar speakers, outputs sound both from the front and back sides of its panel. The purpose of the motor, then, is to provide a simple, foolproof mechanism that allows the thin, slim MMC 2 panel to swing out from the wall when the speaker is in use, giving the speaker plenty of room to “breathe,” but then to retract flat against the wall when the listening session is done, giving the room a clean, uncluttered look. (Magnepan offers a power supply box, which can be controlled by 12V signals from an AVR or A/V processor, and that can drive the motorized mechanisms of up to six MMC2's.). It’s a very clever idea that works beautifully in practice.
How good is the MMC 2 compared to Magnepan’s vaunted floorstanders? Let’s just say that it leverages technologies drawn directly from the firm’s award-winning MG 3.6 loudspeaker (Magnepan’s next-to-the-top-of-the-line model), but that is configured in a significantly more compact form. Magnepan’s Wendell Diller observes that the MMC 2 midrange driver “has similar wideband characteristics to the midrange of the 3.6.” The MMC 2 covers frequencies from 100 Hz on up to 24 kHz.
Avid students of up-and-coming products may also find it interesting to note that the MMC2’s midrange driver technology will likely reappear in an upcoming high-end desktop speaker Magnepan has planned, which will be known simply as the “Mini Maggie.” Watch AVguide.com for news of that new model to appear at some point in the (we hope) not too distant future.
Where did the MMC2 come from? There is really a two-part answer to this question. First, Magnepan realized there were prospective customers who sought the “Maggie sound” for use in home theater/music systems, but who would not or could not embrace the looks of traditional Magnepan floorstanding speakers. Second, Magnepan saw an opportunity to bid on a project to equipment the high-roller suites at the Mandalay Bay Resort/Casino in Las Vegas, NV. So, in a sense the Mandalay Bay project (for which Magnepan’s winning bid was accepted both on sonic and aesthetic grounds) gave the company the opportunity to create an on-wall system worthy of the Magnepan name.