• 01-18-2007, 09:05 PM
    Mike Anderson
    Review of the Magnepan 3.6Rs
    At long last, my 3.6Rs got here about a month ago, so I think I've had a decent amount of time to break them in and tweak them. Time to post a review!

    Background: I'm powering these with a Musical Fidelity kw500 integrated amp, which puts out more than 700wpc @4 ohms. They're bi-wired with magwire. The source is a Benchmark DAC1 fed by a Squeezebox 2 (with a Behringer DEQ2496 in between for room correction). So far, I'm using the stock stands, but I have a pair of Mye Stands on order (stealth model).

    My musical tests vary a great deal, but these days I listen to a lot of electronica (not trance!)/lounge/ambient/chill, whatever you want to call it, combined with a little of every other genre that exists (except for disco!) Jazz, rock, classical, blues, you name it, I listen to it. I like to listen LOUD, especially for the modern stuff with modern production values.

    Evaluation: The first thing I did after setting them up was to calibrate the setup with the Behringer unit to get a flat response from my listening position. From about 300hz on up, the response was DEAD FLAT, like within 1 db or so, roughly speaking. (The readout on the Behringer unit isn't quite that exact, but it was *flat*, believe me!) From about 40hz to 150 hz, I could get it roughly flat, but with some peaks and valleys roughly 7-8db in difference. I attribute this to my room, not the speakers, as well as the fact that the Behringer unit is comparatively inexact.

    After about a couple days or so of listening, I came to the conclusion that while this setup had fantastic resolution and detail, the sound was just too damned bright!! I can best describe it as "glare". There were certain recordings that were downright unpleasant to listen to at high volume. The treble would sort of "pierce your ears" (that's an extreme description; think of it as a gentle piercing!) and make you cringe a little. It just didn't make for that ecstatic, pleasure-soaked listening experience I've had in the past, with other setups. The result was major listening fatigue. After about an hour or so, I would just have to turn it down, and even then I felt like my ears were still cringing as I would get over-sensitized to it.

    So I tried a number of fixes. I started with the room first, re-arranging things a little to move all hard, reflective surfaces far away. My wife bought a really nice, thick, high quality oriental carpet for the room (which we both love BTW). These changes had a modest impact, but didn't solve the problem entirely.

    Next, I tried installing the 1 ohm resistors that come stock with the speakers to tame the ribbons. Well these took care of the glare problem, but they also took away a lot of the airiness and detail on the very high end. Most music sounded too dark and dull.

    I also tried an RF choke. This seemed to clean up the highs a smidgen, but didn't really stop the glare. I tried the RF choke in series with the resistor, but that again left things too dark.

    Next, I spent several days fiddling with the Behringer unit, modulating the highs at various frequencies and by various amounts. I was able to duplicate the effect of the 1 ohm resistor by simply taking about 3db off all frequencies above 2.5khz or so. To get rid of the glare completely, I dropped it down to about -5db, but this sounded way too dark.

    Finally, I discovered the solution: I got things to sound absolutely perfect by gently scooping out a range of frequencies between 2khz and 5khz (centered on 3.5khz). At the center, the dip goes as low as -5db, and gradually rises back up to flat on either side.

    Ah! That managed to completely eliminate the glare, while maintaining all the airiness and detail at the high end!

    Now... it sounds FANTASTIC!

    I can now blast this rig at very high volumes, and yet I always want to turn it up MORE! For some reason, it never really sounds that loud -- at least until my wife tries to tell me something, and I yell, "WHAT???? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!"

    And all I want to do is listen more and more! The other night I stayed up until 2 AM because I couldn't bear to tear myself away from the glorious music. Thank god for my tolerant neighbors and wife!

    The other thing is that over the past week or so, the bass has *really* opened up. Magnepan says you only get another 5hz of extension over time, but I don't think this really captures the improvement. Overall, the bass sounds like it's 20-30% more prominent than it was when I got them.

    Unfortunately, I'm still not able to flatten the bass out completely. The Behringer unit simply doesn't have sufficiently narrow EQ bands, so I end up with peaks and valleys in-between the bands. And it's noticeable in the sound. But this isn't a fault of the speakers, it's really my room and the shortcomings of the Behringer (as much as I like it overall).

    Some things to criticize about the speakers: The stock stands are way, way too flimsy for speakers of this quality. And the external crossover unit strikes me as awfully cheap. I have to wonder how much the sound suffers from this. I've read all the MUG and Audio Asylum tweaks on this score, and I used to thing these people were crazy, but now I'm not so sure, and I'm thinking about replacing it myself.

    Also, I've ordered the Mye stands. Based on my experience with the Mye stands for the 1.6QRs, I expect these will tighten up the bass noticeably. I'll report back when I get them.

    The bottom line from all this is that I learned that a perfectly flat response at the listening position does NOT necessarily sound good! There were certain recordings for which it was fine, but many recordings in my collection sounded way too bright, particularly at high volumes. This was a minor/rare problem with the 1.6QRs, but the 3.6Rs really bring the problem to light.

    However, once addressed, the speakers sound awesome!! The sound is HUGE. The bass is rich and tight. And I know it will just continue to get better from here.

    Personally, I'm looking into some EQ/room correction solutions that will let me implement several different curves and manipulate them from my listening chair as I switch from one track to the next. I think there's just way too much variation in production quality from album to album, especially listening to old recordings versus new ones, to allow for a one-size-fits-all solution.

    Finally, while I thought the kw500 was simply a fantastic match with the 1.6QRs, I don't know if it goes as well with the 3.6Rs. The bass is quite strong and tight (and will be more so with the Mye stands), but I suspect some tube amps might have a somewhat smoother, more liquid midrange and high end. I think perhaps there's something about the ribbon that doesn't necessarily lend itself to a brutal, high-powered, muscle-bound, SS amp like the kw500. (The bass, on the other hand: Yum!)

    I'm going to let it break in a while longer, tweak things a little more, try out some other EQ options (I'm looking at the DEQX unit, possibly bi-amping), and will re-evaluate soon.
  • 01-19-2007, 01:08 AM
    And so the path that i layed down before you years ago is comming and blooming like a wild flower. Let some years pass into the lands and you get used to the 3.6's and you grave for a 20.1 and buy it. Then a few more years and you hear a Apogee and the bug will bite......* grins
  • 01-21-2007, 01:09 PM
    ohh yeah, congrats man, I can't wait 'till I move up the ladder of this hobby... My paradigm atoms are just...too small now... time to upgrade soon!!!
  • 01-21-2007, 06:18 PM
    Great review, Mike, and thanks for telling your story. Congrats on the new toys (new toys are always the best aren't they?)

    Tubes, eh? Why do I feel another review coming in the near future.
  • 01-21-2007, 09:50 PM
    Mike Anderson
    It'll be a while, if so. The last couple of nights (and tonight) I've really loved the sound of my kw500.

    But I do have some Class D amps on order that I'm going to compare with it, in a bi-amping configuration. And even if the amps are of comparable quality, the ability to bi-amp and do phase correction may well add up to a big improvement, so we'll see.
  • 01-22-2007, 09:41 AM
    congrats man,

    I just wish I had the room, and money for such speakers...

    Keep them spinning,
  • 01-22-2007, 11:14 AM
    I've got Magnepan envy! My wife wants me to upgrade our Q1.6 to the 3.6's but I'm not ready to do so at this time. I better not let her see your review. I agree with your review about the glare of the magnepans. I'm using an adcom amp and find its a little too bright. Magnepans match well with NAD amps and tube amps due to their warmer sound. I'm thinking about selling my adcom for this reason. My local audio store matches the magnepans with all their warmer sounding amps and they sound wonderful.

    Hope you get years of enjoyment from those babies!
  • 01-22-2007, 11:25 AM

    Originally Posted by blackraven
    I've got Magnepan envy! My wife wants me to upgrade our Q1.6 to the 3.6's but I'm not ready to do so at this time.

    you must have THE most supporting wife ever :cornut:

    these things cost tons of money here in Belgium...

    Keep them spinning,
  • 01-23-2007, 12:27 AM
    I live 20 minutes from the Magnepan factory in white bear lake minnesota and yes my wife is the best. She loves to listen to music and the sound of the Magnepans. I come home from work and she's always sitting in our music room with the music blasting listening to Rock and Roll. She keeps saying that if the music sounds this good on the 1.6's think how much better it will sound on the 3.6's. I recently bought a musichall CDP trying to be cost conscious and she asked why I didnt spend more for a better CDP. Now I',m spending $700 to have it modded.

    Damn I love that woman!