Magnepan MG 1.7: Unqualified Triumph

Magnepan MG 1.7
Magnepan MG 1.7: Unqualified Triumph

Alongside the Magico Q5, the Maggie MG 1.7--the successor to the speaker I have long considered to be the best buy in high-end audio, the Maggie MG 1.6--was the product I most looked forward to hearing at this year's CES. Unlike some folks, Maggie doesn't come out with a new improved model every year. In fact, it doesn't come out with new improved models every decade. Thus, the 1.7--Maggie's first "all-ribbon" (well, actually, all-quasi-ribbon) floorstander with quasi-ribbon bass, quasi-ribbon mid/tweet, quasi-ribbon super-tweeter, improved crossover (with higher-quality parts), and all-aluminum frame--was big news, especially considering that it costs a mere $100 more than the speaker it was replacing.

I am delighted but not a bit surprised to report that it is an unqualified success, both as a two-channel speaker and as a surround-sound speaker. (Maggie demo'd it as both with equal success.) Everything about the 1.7 is an improvement over the 1.6--and the 1.6 was anything but chopped liver. Here we have a $1995 speaker whose staging, focus, and low-level resolution are not just much better than that of its excellent predecessor but downright superb by any standard short of a CLX or an M5, with detailing in bass choirs that was so good it reminded me of the Maggie 1-Us (which had the most lifelike detail in the mid-to-upper bass I've ever heard). The 1.7s, at least driven by Bryston 28Bs, also have astonishing power in the low end, which seems to extend down to somewhere around 35-40Hz. When's the last time you heard a sub-$2k speaker reproduce not just the pitch and timbre but the genuine growl of an electric bass? And the genuine size of an electric bass? This one does!

Like the Magico Q5s, the 1.7s was a shade dark in balance (maybe this was the largish room it was in or the Brystons), but that didn't keep its top end from shining. This new Maggie has absolutely lovely treble (fully integrated with its mids and bass, BTW) and its high end did seem, as Maggie claimed, to have better dispersion than that of the 1.6s.  I thought I detected a little added bite in the upper octaves in the room we listened in, but I'm not sure because I wasn't familiar with some of the music being played. Moreover, the bit of bite wasn't present on most cuts, so it might have been the digs (which were undamped) or the amps. I can tell you this with certainty: The 1.7 was wonderfully realistic on "Rainy Night in Georgia," reproducing Captain Luke's rumbly-grumbly voice with just the right about of bass and just the right about of baritone and genuinely lifelike presence.

In my opinion the 1.7 was clearly the most important introduction at this year's show, simply because it offers truly lifelike sound at a price that most of us can afford. No, it doesn't go as low as the bigger boys. No, it is not a Q5. But, brother, does it play well where it plays. So well, in fact, that It will be a strong contender for my Best of Show Award.