What to do with My CARES Act stimulus payment?

Magnaplanar LRS Stock image courtesy of Magnepan.

The CARES Act, in an effort to keep US residents whole during the early days of the SARS-COV2 pandemic, gives each tax payer and social security recipient $650 to spend as they will. Not needing it to make ends meet, I decided to direct my stimulus grant to a US company that makes things here in the US and was able to continue operating during the state’s shelter in place order.



So What is it?

I ordered a pair of Magneplanar LRS (little ribbon speakers) from Magnepan in Minnesota. These speakers are magic. And they only cost $650. And they are sized for use in small rooms like those in mid-century modern ramblers like mine. They are 14.5 inches wide and 48 inches tall and need to be out into the room as shown. Those I ordered are off-white with dark cherry trim similar in color to the kitchen cabinets. The pair shown are charcoal with dark oak trim.

Shows a pair of LRS in a lounge setting
Magneplanar LRS loudspeaker

My history with Maggies

This will be my first pair but I’ve heard the Tympany 1D, the SMG, MMG, and 1. and 3. speakers at various audio shops over the years. Magne-planar speakers have a common sound up and down the product line. The larger speakers are made for larger rooms and have a bit more bass extension than the LRS. But all sound like my Dhalquist DQ-10s. The magic is in the image. Maggies, all of them, brilliantly locate sounds in space left and right and front to back like my Dhalquists do but they do it a bit more precisely and the low frequency sounds and overtones are in phase.

When will they come?

I expect my pair to be delivered in late August, official backlog is 12-14 weeks but they may beat that. Magnepan builds to order. They accumulate orders until they have enough for a build run of a given size. They set up the tooling, make a bunch, test them, and ship them.

Everything happens in house starting with wood, wire, plastic film, magnets, stator perforated sheet metal, and cloth. They machine the panel from MDF, make the driver membrane from Mylar film, and make the magnet panels for the stator, sandwich up the panel, rear stator, membrane, and front stator, cover, and apply the edge treatment. They then box and ground ship for home delivery. There is also a crossover to build from air core inductors and film capacitors.

What if I jones for the bigger ones?

Magnepan offers an exchange deal for any of the larger speakers but for a small room like mine, there is no real need to trade up. The voicing is pretty much the same from one to the next. The image might be a bit tighter in the higher end models which have true ribbon tweeters and midrange. The LRS is the sweet spot in the product line offering Maggie magic for a hard to beat price. The LRS humbles speakers selling for several times the cost or at any cost.

I’ve also heard Wilson Watt Puppies at a high end shop in New Haven. And Ariel 9s and several Vandersteen Model 2 at a good shop in Columbia SC. I’ll take the LRS over the lot. The Vandersten Model 2 similar in sound and image to the LRS. Natural sound like you would hear in the near field in a good hall. Although they still make the Model 2, newer product is significantly up market.

The Watt Puppies and Ariel 9 were shouty, overly focused and bright. They exaggerated the applause opening the Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall record. That sound is not my taste but it is where the expensive stuff had gone to part the rich from their money.

How to buy

Magnepan sells the LRS factory direct. If there is no dealer in your area, they’ll sell the up-range products factory direct in exchange for your audition LRS pair.

They price everything the same whether bought from a dealer or factory direct . They collect tax and charge shipping in addition to the product price so there the company is not competing against their fifty or so dealers. Nobody stocks speakers so even buying from a dealer, you’d be waiting for yours to be made and drop-shipped to you.

Magnepan has a number of “show rooms”, that is cooperating activities willing to maintain a Magneplanar listening room where you can hear the high range products and have your questions answered before ordering from Magnepan. Eric will also answer questions when he takes your phone order.

What were my questions?

What happens if it does a face plant? Rocky is a bit of a bull in a china shop at the moment and I was worried about one making a greyhound assisted face plant. The LRS is the only model able to fall flat on its face. The larger speakers all have some base forward of the face that would hold the panel up off of the floor.

The answer is unknown but the pressure wave could rupture or stretch the diaphragm membrane. This is not a field repair so a replacement speaker is the likely way out.

My other concern was Rocky autographing of this nice new monolith. Fortunately Rocky wees horse-style rather than cocking a leg. It appears to be a challenge replace the cloth yourself but, given the procedure and material, a local upholsterer should be able to do the work.

What about amplifiers?

Maggies present a fairly neutral (resistive) load to an amplifier but are four-ohm devices so demanding of output current capability. They can be driven well by any high quality amplifier capable of supplying the needed current. This would include most well-regarded 35-60 watt per channel tube amplifiers and most well regarded solid state amplifiers that are rated for both 4 and 8 ohms. In solid state amps, look for the output power into 4 ohms to be twice that into 8 ohms. The Schiit Audio Vidar amp works well with these speakers.

What about amplifier power?

Maggies, all of them, are inefficient. Their sensitivity is 86dB / 500Hz / 2.83v. So, they’ll want about 1-2 watts of drive for my normal jazz/folk listening level. Remembering to allow 20 db of headroom, any amplifier capable of 100 watt peaks into 4 ohms should not be clipping. But, if the power supply is sketch, it may not quite make the peaks.

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.