The Perfect Vision Review System
Our review system consisted of four MMC2’s (two for L/R mains, and two for L/R surrounds), a CC5 center channel speaker, a pair of DWM woofers (used in conjunction with the front pair of MMC2’s), and a superb JL Audio Fathom f112 subwoofer (which we used to provide the aforementioned touch of very low bass “frosting” that makes the system complete).
As readers may have gleaned from some of my comments above, the Magnepan on-wall speaker package constitutes a very special kind of surround sound system that, perhaps predictably, requires special setup procedures. I’ll try and explain those special setup requirements in some detail, and to explain how (and why) Maggie system setup differs from the approach you might use with conventional speaker systems.
No Room EQ, Please
For starters, let’s note that Magnepans are dipolar speakers that produce sound to the front and to the rear, but not to the sides of, their thin panels. As a result, Magnepans tend to interact less with rooms than conventional piston-type loudspeakers typically do. They also exhibit very different volume fall-off characteristics as the listener moves farther away from the speakers (with Maggies, volume falls off at 1/x, where x is the distance between the listener and the speakers, where with conventional speakers volume falls off at 1/X2).
Given factors like these, the fact is that Magnepans tend not to respond well when used with most automated speaker setup/room EQ systems (most of which were designed with the characteristics of conventional speaker systems in mind) so that Magnepan strongly advises against using them. In practice, this means you’ll need to manually adjust speaker distance and channel level settings. Note: this is a simple task that is made easier if you have two tools on hand: A) a good tape measure, and B) a simple, cost-effective sound pressure level meter (of the kind you can easily pick up at your local Radio Shack).
Let the Maggie Woofers Carry Most of the System’s Bass Workload
With typical speaker systems, it’s normally a good idea to hand off much of the system’s overall bass workload to a powered subwoofer, but with a Magnepan system this is not the approach you’ll want to take at all. The reason, as mentioned above, is that Maggies are so fast and so pure-sounding that they make most subs sound thick, slow, and sluggish by comparison—except in situations where you use the sub only to provide extremely low frequency bass support (roughly from 40 Hz on down). In practical terms, this means your best option is to route most of the system’s bass workload through real, fast, dipolar Magnepan woofers.
In The Perfect Vision review system, here’s how we accomplished that goal (you can use a similar approach in setting up your own Magnepan on-wall system):
• Step 1: Use a pair of Magnepan DWM woofer modules to provide bass support for the left and right front MMC2 speakers, with one DWM connected to the left MMC2 and the other connected to the right MMC2. Place the DWM’s so that their panel surfaces are perpendicular to the sidewalls of the room, with the flat surface of the woofer panels facing the listening area.
Important note: by combining the DWM with the MMC2 you have created what are in essence a pair of near full-range speakers that will—as you’ll see in a moment—serve as the “bass anchor” for the entire system.
• Step 2: Using a special Magnepan-mastered test DVD disk supplied with the DWM’s, check to make sure that the DWM’s are operating in phase with the MMC2’s and with each other.
• Step 3: In the setup menu of your AVR or A/V controller:
⇒ Set your left/right main speakers (the font MMC2/DWM pairs) as LARGE speakers,
⇒ Set your center channel (i.e., the CC5) as a Small speaker, and
⇒ Set your left/right surround speakers (i.e., the rear MMC2’s) as SMALL speakers.
⇒ Finally, chose the NONE setting (or equivalent) for the subwoofer*.
Important note: by making these adjustments, we are causing the system to redirect the system’s bass workload to the two DWM woofer modules used in the front two channels, which is our goal.