A review of the Magnepan LRS, which is a set of affordable full-range quasi-ribbon speakers designed to give you a taste of their higher series models. They are priced at $649.99.
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Magnepan has been around for over 50 years and still going strong. There is no doubt in my mind that most Hifi’ers correlate the term Audiophile and Magnepan to go hand in hand. I am certainly one of them. When I think about HiFi, I see a big Magnepan speaker in my mind’s eye.
Originally, the inventor (Jim Winey) was an owner of Electrostatic speakers at the time and wanted to improve on the sound in his own way. Thus, a new speaker design emerged and we in the headphone world who love those Planar Magnetic designs should be saluting at the moment.
Soon after the contract ended with ARC, Jim started producing very inexpensive speakers such as the MG I. In that 50 year history, the company has produced some incredible high-end products and mostly only stuck to the more expensive side of our favorite hobby.
That is until just recently with the release of the very budget-friendly LRS at just $650. Things are changing and for the better, I say. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for this company.
Magnepan has developed this speaker with the notion in mind of emitting a sound that envelops the listening area, one that does not sound like it is being pushed only and specifically from the direction of the speaker itself.
Instead, they’ve designed it in such a way that it is hard to pinpoint the actual speaker location if you were to shut the lights off or close your eyes. Simply put, the Imaging is fantastic and does not sound like a standard stereo left and right speaker setup.
It sounds more like a complete image, where sounds in your stereo void appear between the speakers, or more to the right or left, or even deeper than you would consider most speakers to be able to portray.
These LRS’s are open back as well, so they do emit sound backward too, which certainly helps with that depth of field prowess ongoing here in this experience.
The Fabricating Process
Magnepan admits they are proud of the slogan “Made in America, sold in China” and it is certainly worth a humored giggle. But make no mistake, the quality is top-notch here.
They’ve noted that during the production proceed process, they use very thin pieces of aluminum strips that are attached to a Mylar film by hand. My research into this took me into a place where the DIY Community has expressed inability to get this done without a professional who had experience with implementing this design.
What I mean to say here is that love and master craft building experience is needed. This isn’t just wrapping wire around a magnet. The formula that Magnepan has shown me and expressed to me through long talks on the process is extreme. This is why they sound so good. And this is why they are regarded as among the best speakers out there.
The LRS comes in natural or black solid oak, dark cherry trim with off-white, black, or grey fabric.
The panels are 4ft tall by 14 inches wide by 1 inch deep(thick) and are stunning to boot. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t think these panels are simply elegant and charming in visual appeal?
They are also super lightweight and can be easily moved from one location to another! Interestingly, they are roughly the same height as my Harman Citation Tower and fit snuggly against a wall when not in use.
Having a thin design such as this allows for more space to be gained between the listening room walls. And surely, that affects the sound characteristics just a bit.
The rear of the panels houses some metal bars that you can slide along the floor that allow the speakers to be slightly angled. Each entry port for the speaker plugs can be tightened with a tiny Allan wrench.
You’ll need to pull them a good 4-5 feet away from the wall for optimization, at least, that is in my opinion and through my experiences.
I have placed them close to the rear wall and still received excellent sound quality, although the depth of field in sound staging takes a nosedive. That extra space is really vital for allowing the sound waves to travel forward and back, rear-wall bounce is quite important and I wouldn’t want any sound deadening material right behind the LRS for that matter.
But just between us, outside of the review phase, I have my LRS about 3ft from the rear wall and 1 foot from the sidewall, each angled toward me and I could not be happier. It is all preference.
Yes, these are Magnepans! And you know what that means? It means you are going to need some good power to run them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a Burson Funk that outputs a tiny 45w per channel that can still get good quality sound out of, but the volume is still pretty low through very, very low output amplifiers.
You’ll need a good power amp and I recommend starting at the 150w per channel side until you can purchase something much more potent.
I am running a 280w Harman amplifier and even then, I feel like that isn’t quite enough to really push the density factor that I know Magnepans to typically house. There is no real recommendation for power output in terms of requirements but each side is rated at 4 Ohms
The LRS is rated between 50 – 20-kHz. Generally, just by looking at that rating, you can tell it is likely to be a bass light experience and such is the case.
This is not a bass-heavy speaker. What you do get though is a very clean low end that is firm and dynamically interesting.
The general tone of this speaker is hyper-natural. By that, I mean the experience is neither very warm nor metallic and clinical. The LRS is a fantastically colorless feeling to my ears and reading so much about it in my studies seems to have confirmed this with many other enthusiasts.
This is probably the most natural-sounding speaker I’ve ever owned in my home and is a massively stark contrast to my Harman Citation speakers that are hyper warm.
The LRS is bass light. No getting around it. This is not the speaker that is ideal for heavy low-end experiences. What you get is firm, toned, lean, and precise. The bass on this LRS is lightning fast and it is really interesting to compare this directly to a few other models I have, such as this lower-end Q-Acoustics speaker set I have at the moment.
The same song tested through what I can achieve in volume matching to my ear has showcased a light switch-like cut-off for bass compared to the other models that can be audibly heard lingering and reverberating on past where it should stop.
Due to being so bass-light, the physical impact levels are relatively low and soothing. Even with the low end cranked up a bit, you don’t really get a sense of the physical strike factor in this model.
Again, quite the opposite of my Citation Tower which has enough bass to blow a hole in my wall. There are times when I want that Mjolnir lightning bolt level response in my low end and when I want a hugely deep, looming bass.
For the lighter genres out there, such as classical, there are times where I am in awe of the low end’s clarity coming through this LRS and a modest speaker amplifier. Truly spectacular in clarity and firmness, but without an immensely deep-reaching appeal. If anything, I call it very realistic for string instruments. I listen to a lot of violin play in my listening, so this is a real treat for me.
Bass EQ Response
Toggling up a bass booster doesn’t do much for this LRS. My Cambridge amplifier has a bass switch on it that lets me add in another up to +10dB of low end, and sure, it thickens up just a little but the overall bass experience is not very changed compared to that switch being deactivated.
It isn’t until I use that switch at full power and also raise the source music players EQ a little before I can get some solid extra oomph down yonder. So, I say that the LRS is a bit finicky and unmoving with low-end alterations. It is really, really hard to make it sound bad and muddy. Sometimes, stubbornness is a good thing.
Oh my. This is quite something at the sub-$700 tier. This LRS performs so well with vocals and spoken word that I typically shelve my other much more expensive speakers when I want to listen to Podcasts, or when I am YouTube surfing.
The reason is that the LRS projects midrange so vividly well, that I have trouble justifying my nearly $3000 set of Harman Towers.
True, they are not as physically dense feeling as the Harman, which is a very warm set of speakers, but the projected vocal midrange is so blossoming, so inviting and forward feeling sometimes that I simply can no longer cease using this Magnepan LRS for specific applications.
The LRS performs admirably in physical density factor, but I do wish it had more substance. Perhaps, the bass light nature of this model is causing my ear to focus on the eerily excellent separation between the low end and the lower midrange. Almost as if there is something physical that cuts off the bass from bleeding into the midrange.
I’ve long waited for dynamism this good on a speaker at this price. I can safely tell you that my Harman Citation isn’t even close to being as dynamically layered as this LRS, not even remotely close. There is no bleed over whatsoever on this LRS, yet there is a huge mess of a blur on my Citation. However, the LRS feels thinner, of less physical substance, but still pretty good for the price.
The best feature of the midrange is the overall tonality and coloration that lacks coloration, to begin with. This is the most natural-sounding speaker I’ve yet heard but it doesn’t cross a line into clinical and overly piercing or accurate in tone. It isn’t sterile, but it also isn’t warm. It is wonderfully tuned right in the middle.
For those female vocalists that I listen to often, I get a sweet sense of presence in the upper midrange that is not present in any other speaker I currently possess. Not even those expensive Citation towers.
More so, the elegance factor here is superb, tonality is just so on point. This is the speaker I can let play behind my work and then stop working, make some tea and just relax with. If you enjoy vocals in Jazz type genres, this is a must for you.
Top Side Treble
There is certainly a bit of treble energy occurring and you tend not to notice it when you are listening to a more easy-going genre. It isn’t until I go a bit crazy and start playing metal, or guitar fusion (Eric Johnson, Guthrie Govan, Matteo Mancuso, etc.) that you begin to see the top side of the LRS is one step into what I consider bright.
But, with that in mind, never harsh or unappealing. I like that tad bit of treble energy and power. It has a good zing to it without going too far or feeling underwhelming and in this case, I want something that responds well to EQ if I need it downplayed a bit.
Treble EQ Response
The top side responds much better to alteration than the low end. I am able to drop off and add more treble in and both notice and feel a good change in quantity, but with minimal effort in changing numbers on the EQ function that I use.
Dropping off a +5dB for example really levels out the harsh tracks I listen to and those screaming guitar riffs become less interesting. If I want, I raise it up and achieve a more personalized sound, which is something I want to see as a reviewer and as an enthusiast.
I am able to add more if I want and remove some treble if I want, all while not totally ruining the appeal of the tonality. Not at all a common trait with Planars, so I am happy to see this unit is reactive to EQ in a positive manner up top.
The LRS dominated the Citation 10:1 in the soundstage department and I’ve never owned a speaker that felt this good and this aired out.
For me, the statements of a natural field sound are true. For the price, I don’t think you can beat them in the imaging department. But what is most attractive above them is their insane ability to track details seemingly off the panel.
What I mean here is that most speakers are sets you can easily tell the sound is coming out of. These LRS’s aren’t quite like that, especially not in a very large room.
When a sound plays through them, often, the stage area between each speaker is filled to the brim and you almost feel like they are emitting some sound from the empty space between them. Again though, this was seemingly intended in the design from the get-go.
Listen, for $650, the LRS for me is one of the best value speakers in the market. It is well built, carefully, and with a ton of precision. It is extremely high-end in visual appeal and looks crazy sexy no matter what the rest of your room looks like.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say this is a dead cert buy as a gateway speaker to extreme Hi-Fi. It isn’t something for bass enthusiasts, but it is exceptionally geared toward those with a love of the spoken word and desire a more easy-going listening experiences.
True, it required a bit of power to really push to its maximum potential, but you can still get excellent quality sound from a modest amplifier if that is all you have at the moment.
Magnepan created a serious value product there that obliterated the competition in the sub $1000 tier. Nothing exists on the market this good that I’ve ever heard for this price. I think it will be some time before anyone attempts to surpass its amazing value.
Magnepan LRS Specifications
- Description, 2-Way / Quasi-Ribbon
- Resp., 50 – 20 kHz
- Rec Power, Read Frequently Asked Questions
- Sensitivity, 86dB / 500Hz / 2.83v
- Impedance, 4 Ohm
- Dimensions, 14.5 x 48 x 1 inch