The Consumer Electronic Show is the grand daddy of home entertainment shows. Manufacturers from all over the world come to show their newest toys. Magnepan, a small Minnesota company, introduced the Magneplanar 1.7 at $1,995 pair during CES 2010 which created all the fuss. $2,000 pair may not be in the budget for some consumers, but, “best bargain” is a relative term. Subsequent reviews have all said something similar and raised our curiosity. Stay tuned for a review from our staff later this year.
There is more to this Minnesota company that caught our attention than a “bargain” speaker for $2,000 pair. Home entertainment electronics are dominated by offshore companies. Magnepan boasts that the Magneplanar 1.7 is “American-made with virtually all American-made parts”. How do they do it in the bare-fisted competition of the global market?
Magnepan said their “secret” is simple– clever engineering and frugality. With a touch of humor, Magnepan told us that the company president rides his bike to work– even during Minnesota winters. It seems that frugality permeates Magnepan’s corporate culture. Their marketing manager drives a car that has 425,000 miles– he says, because it refuses to die. They are proud that their cost-conscious philosophy allows Magnepan to compete in a global market– even selling speakers in China. No corporate airplane or conspicuous consumption at Magnepan which means a better deal for you.
Magnepan has been in business for 41 years, yet most consumers have never heard of Magneplanars. Why, if they offer such a good value, have you never heard of them? Well, the product is just as unusual as the company. The Magneplanar 1.7 is a full-range ribbon speaker– and it is BIG compared to a Bose. These folks at Magnepan are fanatics about the sound and they insist that the laws of physics make it difficult to reproduce an orchestra from a tiny speaker. For the illusion to work best, Magnepan says a large speaker still does a better job (No offense to small speaker manufacturers.)
The Magneplanar principle is a “kissing cousin” to the better-known Martin Logan electrostatic speakers. A ribbon speaker uses a thin ribbon or membrane to move the air like an electrostatic speaker. But, the force is magnetic instead of electrostatic. There is one more difference between the “cousins”. The Magneplanar 1.7 is a full-range ribbon speaker while most all Martin Logan speakers are a hybrid design that uses a box speaker for the lower frequencies. For more specific technical information, go online to www.magnepan.com.
Magenpan has been making rather large panel speakers for 41 years. To reach a wider market, they have some new designs to be released later this year. For desk top or small room applications, they will be introducing a “Mini Maggie” that is nothing more than a miniature Magneplanar designed to sit on your desk or bedroom dresser. And for the custom market, a motorized on-wall ribbon speaker and thin-film Magneplanar woofer (which masquerades as an end table). Magnepan claims that the rear sound waves of the speaker should not be trapped in the wall (or a box), so, they have chosen to motorize the speaker so it can “breathe” when playing and then retract for a stealthy appearance. (The modern Scandinavian end-table in the photo below is the Magneplanar Woofer and the on-wall speaker above it is the motorized Magneplanar MMC 2 speakers.)