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Positive Feedback ISSUE 4
december/january 2003



MG12 loudspeakers

as reviewed by Ed Morawski






Alon Capri.

Plinius CD-LAD preamplifier and SA-102 amplifier.

Resolution Audio Opus 21 CD player.

Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope interconnects, AudioQuest Slate speaker cables, and DIY power cords.


Hanging around Audio Asylum for many years, I’d often read comments about "Maggie" speakers. I had no idea what they were, but they had a fanatically loyal following. Every time someone asked about good speakers in the under-$1000 or under-$2000 price range—or at any price—the Maggies were suggested. As time went on, I learned that they were planar magnetic speakers made by Magnepan Audio. I had never seen, let alone heard any, so I visited their web site and learned of a rather good offer. One of their smallest speakers, the MMGs, are sold factory direct for only $550 a pair, and you can return or trade them in if you don't like them.

This was intriguing to say the least. I did some more research and found that more Stereophile readers own Magnepans than any other brand. Though I also learned that Magnepan has sold more than 200,000 pairs over the years, I still found it difficult to buy them without an audition, so I looked for a local dealer on Magnepan's website and found one right in my backyard. The dealer happily set up a pair of MG12s for me. Though I was interested in the MMGs, those are only sold direct. The MG12s are the next model up, and are only sold through dealers. There were many other customers listening to box speakers. Then the dealer turned on the Maggies, and all heads—and ears—swung in their direction. The sound was so alive! The box speakers sounded fatiguing and closed in, while music just sprang out of the MG12s.

I bought them on the spot, before anyone else did, since the dealer only had one pair in stock. Later I found out that the MG12s are stepchilds in the Magnepan world, and are almost never mentioned or reviewed. After transporting them home I quickly set them up. The dealer figured they had about a hundred hours on them and suggested another hundred, but they sounded pretty good. You must read the manual! The speakers are mirrored, and Magnepan states that the tweeter should go on the outside. I moved them around, settling on positions about three feet from the rear wall and two feet in from each side, with a slight toe. That's where they locked in, with a tremendous, seamless soundstage. Keiko Matsui's Deep Blue was thrilling—dynamic, alive, and full of life, filling the room from corner to corner. I was very surprised at how good the bass was. One of the frequently heard complaints about Maggies is their bass and their need for power. My Plinius SA-102’s 100 watts seemed to be doing the job quite well, with excellent control.

I let them play through the next week and then did some serious listening. In my opinion, Diana Krall's When I Look In Your Eyes is one of the best recordings out there, so it was my first choice. Never, never have I heard it sound so musical, smooth, balanced, and alive. The MG12s produce music in a way you have probably never heard in the privacy of your home. They really make reproduced music sound like live music. When you crank up the volume, the musicians are there with you. Even when you get up and walk around, the music envelops you.

I had been worried about the bass, but there is more than enough. There is no lag, no sloppiness, and no booming. The bass is tight, controlled, and very musical. A lot of Magnepan users opt for a sub, and in a large room you may want one, but if I had a large room, I'd just get a bigger set of Magnepans. It would be a challenge to find a sub as fast as the Maggies.

Someone at Audio Asylum mentioned that Maggies should not be tilted back, but should be upright and off the floor. The stock legs only allow a five-degree tilt, so I propped up the speakers with some wood. What a difference! Bass and dynamics improved immediately, I suspect because of my nearfield listening position. The little connection panel with its fuse and tweeter link lends itself to much modification and experimentation. I eliminated the fuse (at my tweeters’ risk) by simply moving one jumper, and was rewarded with even cleaner sound. My next step will be upgrading the crossover and speaker cable connections.

After spending time with the MG12s, I find it difficult to believe they retail for $1095. If there is a better bargain in speakers, I haven't found it. I believe that once people hear them, few will ever go back to box speakers. I also believe that a panel such as the Magnepan transmits sound closer to the way it should be transmitted. Its huge surface area is able to move air much more convincingly.

There is really nothing to complain about with these speakers. They are a different experience, and may be too different for some. For me, they are the closest thing to live I can get. The whole spectrum (except the part below 40hz) is seamless and well integrated. Don't pass them up because of the price. Try the Magnepan experience first hand.

As I write this, The Coors Unplugged is playing. It sounds like they are in the room. I walk behind the MG12s and it is like going to the bar to refresh my glass. No speakers could possibly do more justice to female vocals, piano, and strings. Try them and you'll end up a fanatic, too. I just bought another pair for my home theater! Ed Morawski




MG12 loudspeakers
Retail $950

web address:
TEL: 1. 800. 474. 1646