Two key questions: knowledgeable listener will surely ask two important questions about the Magnepan on-wall system. First, does the MMC2/CC5/DWM combination yield a truly well integrated sound? Second, how well do the imaging and soundstaging properties of the system work, given that the MMC2 must be—by definition—attached directly to the listening room walls. Let me tackle these questions independently.
Coherency and integration: the fact is that the MMC2/CC5/DWM combo integrates surprisingly well, yielding a sound that—as I mentioned above—is approximately as coherent as that of an MG 3.6 floorstander, though perhaps not at perfectly all-of-one-piece as Magnepan’s reigning coherency champ: the new MG 1.7 loudspeaker. There are, however, some keys to achieving this well integrated sound. First, make a point of positioning the front MMC2’s and the CC5 on one common arc relative to the listening position. Second, experiment with the swing-out angle(s) for MMC2’s until you achieve maximum transparency and openness. Third, experiment with the exact positioning of the DWM's until you achieve both a coherent sound and good bass output levels. Fourth, carefully follow Magnepan’s set-up procedures for the CC5, so that it sounds balanced relative to the MMC2/DWM pairs. If you follow these steps, you’ll get exemplary sound from the MMC2/CC5/DWM combo.
Imaging and soundstaging: Many audio enthusiasts believe that dipole speakers need to be positioned well away from the sidewalls of rooms to achieve best results, but frankly the MMC2’s are the exception to this rule. In fact, I found the Magnepan on-wall system, once carefully dialed-in, could produce wide, deep, wraparound 3D soundstages that were as good as—and in some respects better than—those achieved by Magnepan’s full-range speakers positioned in the normal way.
To verify this, I tried substituting a pair of Magnepan MG 1.7 speakers in place of the front MMC2/DWM pairs in the test system and found that, while both systems were very good, the on-wall system seemed to enjoy some practical advantages that I found enchanting. Specifically, with the on-wall speakers in play, the MMC2’s did an even better job than the MG 1.7’s did of coupling to the room, so that the front soundstage (always a strength of Magnepan systems) was seemingly able to bend and wrap right around to the sides and rear of the room in a remarkably seamless way.
Let me give this point the emphasis it really deserves by stating that Magnepan’s on-wall system is one of the best 3D imagers and soundstagers I’ve ever heard at any price. I can count the systems that might surpass this one’s 3D soundstaging capabilities on the fingers of my two hands, but all of them cost far more money (think high five- to low six-figure price ranges) and are more complicated, to boot. That’s how good this Maggie rig really is.
What of potential drawbacks? I can think of only two. First, the Magnepan system does—as noted above—entail some specialized setup procedures. These aren’t hard procedures to follow by any means, but they do involve a certain amount of thinking and acting “outside the box.” Second, the elements of the Maggie system are not terribly sensitive, and therefore require powerful (and I mean really powerful) amplification to give of their best. Even so, the limiting factor in most rooms will be the DWM woofer modules, which sound great and can play fairly loudly, but whose diaphragms will, when pushed beyond their limits (for example, by humongous bass sound effects from action movies), actually bottom out, thus causing a temporary, and thankfully non-destructive, flatulence-like noise. On possible solution, here, is to go with three (or more) DWM’s, using one each for the front left and right speakers, plus one for the center channel. Another solution is to contact Magnepan, who can either supply or recommend an easy-to-install capacitor solution that will deliberately give the DWM a slightly higher rolloff frequency (with this solution, you would of course use a correspondingly higher crossover setting for your powered sub).
Apart from these (to me) minor limitations, however, the Maggie system sounds great, both for movies and for music.
One of the greatest things about the Magnepan on-wall system is the uncannily realistic and natural way that it handles normal sounds and everyday conversations in movies. To appreciate what I mean, put on the film Crazy Heart and the listen carefully to voices of country musician Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) as he grants a post-show interview to reporter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Craddock asks Blake “Who’s real country?” and then invites him to comment on his former protégé Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), who has since gone on to become a superstar.