Magnepan Magneplanar 20.7 loudspeaker Page 2

It was eerie to hear this song with a degree of transparency you don't get from conventional box speakers. Elements in the mix that are not always apparent were now in front of us, clear as day. Most startling was its treatment of voices – reminding us that ABBA comprised four very gifted people, including two fine female singers doing exquisite vocal harmonies. The girls almost became ghostly apparitions in the room, so spookily realistic was the rendition of their voices, shimmering with life.

418maggie.side.jpgBack To Work
At the same time, this loudspeaker went to work on the backing instrumentalists too, that gliding synthesiser so beloved of the band had a really tangible quality, instead of sounding opaque and lacklustre. Percussion was clear to hear, and although not particularly strong or physically impactful, it was carried with great conviction. The lacerative sound of the strummed steel guitars was brilliantly conveyed, and bass guitar was taut and supple without overpowering the proceedings.

Switching to a completely different genre of music, the Magneplanar 20.7 still served up the same dish. 808 State's 'Ancodia' [from 90; ZTT Japan XECZ-1001-1002] is another mediocre recording, yet it was as if this speaker had an X-ray scanner that penetrated behind it. Hitherto unheard backing vocals rang out, and ones I had known before were so much better resolved here. I loved the thick, squelchy sound of the synthesisers and the shimmer on the hi-hats – the like of which I had never encountered before.

All well and good, but this 'Maggie' is arguably even more impressive in the way it maintains the 'timing' of massed instruments. On the 808 State track, I was charmed by the way the cymbals on the right channel were playing off the tambourines on the left. Again, most speakers deliver a blur here, completely obscuring it.

Superb Soundstage
Similarly, Al Jarreau's cover of 'Summertime' [from Tenderness; Reprise WPCR-28174] – a rather louche jazz standard – gained new life. Suddenly everything was super taut, tight and snappy, with ultra-fast leading edges to the bass guitar and hi-hat cymbal work. The thick licks of keyboard, brilliantly syncopated with the percussion, really hurried things along and proved the lynchpin of the song. Even the vocals took on a renewed purpose.

As you would expect from large panel speakers, their soundstaging was superb. Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Theme From The Last Emperor' [from the soundtrack album; Virgin VJCP-32021] rendered the massed orchestral strings almost supernaturally large and three-dimensional. Things were wonderfully immersive – the two panels projecting a vast wall of sound turning the room into a kind of giant pair of headphones.


There's absolutely no sense of anything struggling to get out of a box. Rather, the Magneplanar 20.7 appears to be some sort of magic window into the world of music – very Through The Looking Glass! The only issue here is the size of your listening room; stood one metre out from the boundary wall in a largish (for the UK) space this speaker sounded dreamy, but bigger spaces, and bigger amplifiers, will undoubtedly help deliver an even grander sound.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Although not to everyone's taste, most music lovers will be beguiled by this exceptional loudspeaker. The Magneplanar 20.7 avoids many problems of 'box' designs, at the expense of reduced sensitivity and some slight compression at very high levels. In truth, the biggest issue is whether you have a listening room or indeed a house big enough to accommodate it. There is nothing else that sounds quite the same.

Magnepan Inc.
White Bear Lake, MN, USA
Supplied by: Decent Audio, Stockton-on-Tees
05602 054669