Among the wide variety of Hi-Fi speakers we have come to listen to, most of them use moving coil speakers, which are the most mainstream products on the market. However, there is another category that is a flat speaker, including the Electrostatic, Ribbon, and Planar-Magnetic speakers that many people know. Their unique shape and sound features distinguish these three types of flat speakers. And in this post, I will review the Magnepan MG 12 floor-standing planar-magnetic speaker.
Electrostatic vs Ribbon vs Planar Magnetic
The most common electrostatic speakers are Martin Logan in the United States and Quad in the United Kingdom. It is to install a diaphragm made of polyethylene between the two electrodes, and the two fixed electrodes form a capacitor structure with the diaphragm, respectively. The electrostatic speaker has a simple design without magnets and low cost. Its diaphragm is exceptionally light, so it has excellent resolution and pure sound.
The disadvantage is that the electrostatic diaphragm will attract dust, EHT (Extra High Voltage) power supply must be installed, and the amplitude is limited. As a result, most of the new generation of electrostatic speakers use a hybrid design of mid-high electrostatic speakers plus a bass moving-coil woofer to get a better low frequency. But this often causes problems in the connection of high and low sounds, resolution, phase, and speed.
The aluminum ribbon speaker uses a very thin corrugated aluminum ribbon as the voice coil and diaphragm, placing between the two poles of the magnet. This design was invented very early, but due to material and cost reasons and the limitation of replay frequency, it is generally only used to make tweeters.
There is another problem with the aluminum strip unit. If the single unit area is made large, the impedance will become very low, and the speaker becomes unfriendly to the amplifier. Apogee is a famous manufacturer of aluminum ribbon speakers. Its speakers that often drop below 1 ohm can be called “power amplifier killers”. Back then, Krell’s amplifiers became famous worldwide because they could efficiently drive the Apogee speakers.
Although there are some inherent shortcomings, the sound of the aluminum ribbon is very pure, the high-frequency extension is ideal, the instantaneous response is excellent, and the distortion is very low. In addition, it is a perfect single-piece design.
Nowadays, many famous speakers have adopted Raven’s aluminum ribbon tweeters, such as the flagship 20T of Verity Audio from Canada and Aerial Acoustics from the United States. Raven’s treble aluminum ribbon tweeter has superb treble quality, but it is expensive. Its top R3.2 treble costs $1790 each!
The Planar-Magnetic speaker uses a very thin Kapton or polyester film as the diaphragm and is fixed on the surrounding edges. Behind the diaphragm is a magnet. The voice coil is printed or pasted on the diaphragm and is located in the magnetic field. When the voice coil receives the audio current delivered by the amplifier, it drives the diaphragm to sound.
Electromagnetic flat-panel speakers have low distortion and excellent resolution. In addition, because the diaphragm area can be made large, the frequency response is more expansive than an aluminum ribbon tweeter. As a result, this electromagnetic flat-panel speaker is an excellent representative of Magnepan in the United States.
In addition, Magnepan’s high-end speakers it is a combination of Ribbon and electromagnetic Planar-Magnetic tweeter. This kind of design can be called a masterpiece.
Magnepan is a pure flat speaker manufacturing expert. Its speakers do not add an active bass woofer in order to strengthen the low frequency, so there is no problem with the connection of high and low sounds in tone, resolution, speed, phase, etc. As a result, the sound is very pure and loose. The power is excellent, the transient response is outstanding, and it is the essence of a flat speaker.
Magnepan MG 12 Design
MG12 is Magnepan’s most miniature product. Its diaphragm looks like a single-piece panel, which looks like a transparent plastic film. It is a unique polyester film called Mylar, very light, and has a thickness of the only 0.0005mmm. The wire is pasted on the diaphragm. The appearance of MG12 is unique.
It doesn’t have an independent aluminum ribbon tweeter design, but its treble design and bass are different. Illuminated by a flashlight through the mesh grille, it can be seen that the ribbon tweeter of the MG12 has a denser wire. This is because it uses a flat ribbon-shaped aluminum foil as the voice coil wire, and the bass diaphragm part uses an aluminum wire. And the density of wiring is not as dense as the high-pitched part.
The sound area of Magnepan MG12 is quite huge. The panel area of the treble is 38 inches long, 2 inches wide, about 490 c㎡. The diaphragm area of the mid-bass is 43.5 inches long x 8.5 inches wide, and the area is about 2385 c㎡.
If you have no idea about this size, let me tell you that the vibration area of the famous Scanspeak D2905/9900 flagship tweeter is 8.5c㎡, and the diaphragm area of the mid-high frequency part of the MG12 is about 58 times that of it! This area is also much larger than the average aluminum ribbon tweeter.
Let’s take a look at the area of the mid-bass diaphragm. The vibration area of the famous Scanspeak 18W/8545 7-inch mid-bass unit is 145c㎡, while the diaphragm area of the MG12 mid-bass section is about 16 times that of it.
Even it is a 12-inch woofer. Its equivalent area is usually around 515 c㎡. For example, the Vifa 12-inch woofer M30WO-49-08 used on the Harbeth M40 flagship speaker has a vibration area of 513 cm2. On the other hand, the vibration area of the 12-680/62Hex, which is usually advertised as the 13-inch Eton top-level bass, is 515c㎡, which is only a fraction of the bass diaphragm of the MG12. And that is the most entry-level product of Magnepan.
Of course, the movement of the planar diaphragm is very small, so it is not entirely comparable with ordinary moving coil speakers. But such a considerable vibration area and minimal vibration weight, coupled with a small linear displacement, bring flat speakers’ unique charm: loose, pure, realistic texture, and highly transparent!
Listening to Magnepan MG12 is an unforgettable and enjoyable process. It is said that it is extraordinary because the sound of these speakers is unique. It is pleasant, that is because its performance is excellent. In regards to low-frequency, its pure and noble sound quality, perfect resolution and texture, natural sound reproduction makes many ordinary dynamic speakers much more expensive than it loses the shine.
Although MG 12 does not have a very incredible low-frequency power, its continuity is perfect. Considering its price, it is worth recommending.
Because the MG12 is a flat panel speaker with an ultra-thin design, the setup is straightforward. However, if you want to get a more stable low frequency, it is recommended to adjust the speaker.
The background of the MG12 is pure, so it will feel like listening to high-end headphones, which is difficult to achieve with ordinary active speakers. In addition to its unique giant and light diaphragm, it does not have a cabinet. That design can avoid the sound interferences of the cabinet resonance. Considering the price of the MG12, it can be said that it is one of the purest speakers in this price range.
Outstanding Mid-High Frequency Performance
Magnepan MG12 has a large diaphragm area, a small weight, and a minimal moving stroke, so its transient response is unattainable by a dynamic speaker. The mid-to-high frequency of MG12 has very clear, natural, loose, smooth, and transparent. There is no unique coloring on the sound. Everything is very transparent, fast, and direct as if listening to monitor-level headphones. The whole performance of the frequency is very realistic and excellent.
Its bandwidth is 45Hz-22kHz (-3dB), but its continuity is very good, and the details are restored naturally and realistically. Unfortunately, especially in the mid-high frequency range, its performance can make many bookshelf speakers inferior.
MG12, which has an inherent advantage in the diaphragm area, has unique benefits. It can distinguish the details of a group of string instruments and will not easily submerge each other. And it has the thickness of a string group, which is normal. On the other hand, small speakers are challenging to restore sound.
If you feel that the high frequency is too much, you can also use the resistor provided by Magnepan to connect to the Tweeter Attenuator under the wiring hole. The manufacturer has prepared this interface and attached two 10W/1.2Ω resistors for supply. It is used for fine adjustment to facilitate the needs of different environments and equipment matching.
Smooth Frequency Response Range
Magnepan has a giant diaphragm and is responsible for full-frequency playback. Therefore, it does not have a moving coil woofer to supplement and strengthen the low frequency, so there will be no problem with high, middle, and low-frequency disconnection.
The entire frequency range of the MG12 is very smooth, so at first, I even thought it had no crossover. However, I didn’t know until later that Magnepan speakers have a crossover. The crossover point of the MG12 is 600Hz.
Because the sounding area of Magnepan is on the same plane, and the propagation of sound waves is on both sides, it is similar to the sound of a real musical instrument. And its resolution is very high, and the details and overtones are rich, so it often feels like being on the scene.
MG12’s low-frequency dive is good, and the speed is outstanding.
The lines are clear, and it is better than many small bookshelf speakers. But its low-frequency power is not much, and the impact strength of the mid-low frequency is slightly weaker.
The low-frequency characteristics of MG12 may not be enough to play pop, rock, or pop-classical music, but it is very facsimile and vivid when replaying general string music. Vocals are also very presented naturally. The sound is not beautiful, but it is very lifelike, and the distortion is very low.
In addition, I also found that MG12 replays some Jazz music very well.
Its comprehensive frequency response, great details, fast speed can reproduce the smoky atmosphere of the “Jazz at the Pawnshop ” well. But, of course, its low frequency is not strong enough, as mentioned before.
After all, MG12 is an entry-level product. And it is recommended to be used in a smaller room. In my listening room of nearly 40m2, I often turn the volume up unconsciously because of the large area and low distortion of the MG12.
When encountering more low frequencies, the MG12 will be overwhelming. It would help if you turned down the volume at this time. After all, it is just a pair of speakers suitable for use in the small listening space.
Finally, I hope that you will know and appreciate Magnepan because it is beautiful and unique. It is very attractive, and it is an irreplaceable charm. Coupled with its reasonable price and high cost-effective, it is very rare today when audio products are steadily rising.
At the same time, I also hope to hear more prominent and better Magnepan speakers in the future!
Magnepan MG12 Specs
- Type: 2-way Quasi-Ribbon
- Frequency response: 45Hz-22kHz
- Sensitivity: 86dB, 500Hz/2.83V
- Impedance: 4 ohm
- Dimensions (inches): 17 wide x 51 high x 1.5 deep