Revisiting the Magnepan SMGa Vintage Flat Panel Speaker

by | May 15, 2019 | Component Reviews | 4 comments

Flat and Big? Or, is a small open window more Real? Is Thin In? Is Flat’s where it’s at?

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Revisiting the Magnepan SMGa Vintage Flat Panel Speaker

I recently retrieved my Magnepan SMGa’s from a friend, whom I sold them to about 10 years ago.  He had moved to a smaller house and could not fit them in to his lifestyle.  So, I bought them back from him. I was skeptical about fitting them into my Near-Field Nirvana set up down stairs sound space.  In my previous article, I had identified Bi-Pole and Di-Pole speakers as a not the best choice for the Nirvana set-up.

Well, guess what?  They worked amazingly well!  I always had loved Magnepan speakers and had owned the Tympani IV A’s and the 3.7’s. They flourished like large Rhododendrons in my large sound spaces.  The SMGa’s, which were the precursors to the MMG’s and newly launched LRS’s from Magnepan, are still more than viable today. Now, I have a Bonsai garden of mini-monitor loudspeakers in my Nirvana set up. The SMGa’s are quite more like Azaleas in the Nirvana setup.

Positioning: Tweeters are on the outside of the panels. Speakers are six feet apart measured from the inside edges. Twenty-six inches from the sidewalls and 24 inches from the back wall.  SMGa’s are angled in roughly four inches (30 degrees) to the listening position, which is six feet away from the speakers. I have custom granite stands, 1.5″ high, with slider feet on the bottoms.  I find it really helps to get the speaker off the carpet or hardwood floor.

Magnepan recommends using a good class AB solid-state amplifier to use with their speakers.  For this listening session I used the Rogue Audio Pharaoh integrated amp, which is class D output with a tube front end in the preamp section.  It was a good match.  I will be trying to get the new Parasound Halo class AB integrated amp to review soon, hopefully, along with the new Magnepan LRS speakers.

The magic of Magnepan’s or other good flat panel designs is the absence of any box colorations.  It’s an open sound field, most like listening to a concert outdoors.  I find that Maggie’s work well in the most hostile sound environments. Windows, Glass and brick hard surfaces, it doesn’t matter!  Box speaker’s, which launch the sound forward, need room treatment to tame reflections and positioning for accurate bass levels.  SMGA’s not finicky about bass suck-outs regarding sitting position.

Now, of course, nothing is ever perfect and there are some listening constraints with Magnepan speakers.

Need 100 watts of power or more!

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Not as dynamic sounding as box speakers

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Large and Take up a lot space in the Room

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Listening through a small Window into a Performance

Now, let’s consider the advantages of listening to a point source mini-monitor.  There are some classic designs that can do the “magic act” of disappearing in the room! Being point sources with small cabinets can minimize wave launch sound diffractions and boomy muddy bass artifacts.  Correctly tuned designs with smart science and ears, allow you to suspend belief of listening to just HiFi and getting you a seat in mid to the back hall of the concert venue. My favorite little gems are the Rogers LS3/5A’s, Harbeth HPL3ESR’s, and ProAc Tab 10’s

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Roger’s LS3/5A’s

Imagine listening through a small window cut out from the back wall of the hall.  The sound is REAL, but the scale is a bit smaller and not actual size.

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So, what is better, Flat panels with large-scale presentation and great tonality or small dynamic speakers with a spacious realism and lively sound?  The answer is yes to both. Get both!  There is not one speaker on the planet that will satisfy all your listening Mojo.  You can spend $$$$$ for Wilsons or Magico’s, or spend a tenth of the price or less for two pairs of speakers that will please on all occasions.  I’m basically an Audio Cheapskate.  I believe you can achieve high-end sound performance by choosing wisely and passionately.

Looking Forward

Coming up next reviews on the Magnepan new small high-end LRS speaker, Parasound Halo integrated amp and the ProAc Tab 10 Signature speakers.

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Listening Instruments:

  • Rogue Audio Pharaoh integrated Amp
  • Cambridge Audio CXC CD Transport
  • Naim Audio DAC V1
  • Rega Planar P3 Turntable
  • Sim Moon Audio 110 LP Phono Preamp
  • Rega Planar 3 Turntable with Ortofon MC Quintet Cartridge
  • Chord Company Speaker Cables
  • Monster Cable Sigma Interconnects
  • Nordost Digital Co-Ax Cable
  • Black Ravioli e-Floss Pads

—Ric Mancuso

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