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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
January 2003

2003 and Beyond

As longtime SoundStage! readers know, January is the month in which we announce the products that have won our Reviewers' Choice awards for the preceding year. In the past we've tried to determine the winners based on a vote of all writers, but because we have so many writers and a good number of them review only a few products each year, we could never easily reach consensus. Now winners are determined via a vote by our editors, who base their recommendations on the reviews themselves. In the past we have awarded products from relatively little-known companies that have gone on to make larger names for themselves. In 2003 and beyond, we predict you'll hear very good things about Orpheus Labs and Amphion, two European makers whose products have consistently wowed us.

This year's crop of award winners is distinguished for sure, and it includes a couple of products I reviewed and enjoyed greatly. But the best product I encountered this year, the one that impressed me more than any other, was left off the list. It fit into a couple of our categories, but wasn't named the winner in either. Its reasonable price made me take notice, but its sound is what has had me coming back to it again and again to enjoy the way it portrays music.

What is my personal choice for the product of year for 2002? Magnepan's MG1.6/QR. These $1675 USD speakers were a revelation to me, not because they were better than any speakers I heard in 2002, but because they were the speakers I told everyone about -- fellow SoundStagers, friends, even semi-disinterested relatives. There are many things special about the MG1.6/QRs: their big sound, their coherence, their midrange transparency, their overall music-friendly demeanor. These are the causes of the overwhelming sense of musical rightness these speakers possess -- their sound is utterly correct no matter where in the house you're hearing it. If you are used to minimonitors, the scale that performances take on with the MG1.6/QRs will be most enlightening, as will the way the speakers resolve bass information. And the MG1.6/QRs look unbelievably cool, almost defying description for non-audiophiles who see them. "Those are speakers?" they'll ask. Are they ever.

I've logged many hours listening to the Maggies in the background and foreground, and at no time have I thought that their sound was anything less than pleasing. And I'm a dynamic-speaker kind of guy! I used the MG1.6/QRs with Audio Analogue Puccini SE Remote, Unison Research Unico, and Mark Levinson No.383 integrated amps, and an Audio Research 100.2 power amp. All drove the Maggies well in my 12' x 26' listening room/office area, with the No.383's 100Wpc and clear sound taking the prize. I also found that Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval interconnects and Solo Crystal Oval 8 speaker cables were ideal mates with the MG1.6/QRs because of their wideband, uncluttered performance.

I will concede that the Magnepan MG1.6/QRs are not for every speaker shopper. They are large and need at least a reasonable amount of power from an amp that can cope with their 4-ohm load. And as with any good speaker, owners will need to spend time positioning the MG1.6/QRs for optimal sound. Luckily, the speakers will let you know when you have things just right. Before the MG1.6/QRs are properly positioned, the soundstage lacks seamlessness, and the center image will hang at the front plane of the speakers. After, there's depth and seamless spread left to right, and the speakers, even as big as they are, blend into the soundstage they create.

As an audiophile, I'm often called on to give advice regarding an impending purchase. In terms of value, the MG1.6/QRs are off the charts and the speakers I recommend for under $2000. In fact, I can't think of another pair of speakers double their price that I would rather own. The Magnepan MG1.6/QRs may not have won a SoundStage! Network award, but they've certainly won my highest recommendation -- for 2003 and beyond.

...Marc Mickelson

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