Magnepan’s LRS+ ($995 per pair) is a somewhat modestly sized planar speaker that operates as a dipolar design, meaning the room contributes to the sound of the speakers more than you’d expect with a typical pair of dynamic speakers. They’re also known to audio enthusiasts as “Speakers for One,” in that when placed correctly, they have a pretty small sweet spot. You can’t really enjoy these speakers with a room full of audio enthusiasts, as the best sound is often concentrated in a very small area. The person in that magic zone does get an engaging and organic musical playback experience.
For those who love the open sound of planar speakers, Magenpans are a must-own at some point in their audiophile journey. The updated LRS+ speakers have gotten some outside design influence that has differentiated these entry level speakers from other, more expensive offerings in the company’s product lineup. And make no mistake: the Magnepan LRS+ has its fair share of lofty audiophile industry fans who think it’s singularly the best speaker ever to come out of Minnesota. That’s how we knew that we needed them in for review here at FutureAudiophile.com. Now that we have our hands on these sometimes elusive speakers, let’s put them to the test.
What Makes the Magnepan LRS+ Loudspeaker So Special?
- When set up correctly, a pair of the Magnepan LRS+ create a very open and transparent soundstage. The imaging on these entry-level Maggies is tall and when paired with subwoofers (and yes, they need them for most genres of music) they can present some compelling sound.
- Resolving subtle sonic details is a standout characteristic of the Magnepan LRS+, showing impressive performance on acoustical instruments and specifically vocal reproduction.
- The quasi-ribbon diaphragm is fast, providing a life-like immediacy to upper and midrange frequencies.
- With careful placement, often pretty close to a back wall of a listening room, you can get respectable, but not dominant, bass performance. A modest audiophile subwoofer or two does wonders here, but if you are a fan of string quartets or small jazz combos, you might be OK without bass reinforcement.
- While the Magnepan LRS+ is a sizable 48 inches tall, it’s only a narrow 13 inches wide and an amazing one inch deep. Its dimensions have several benefits, including easier speaker placement, room integration, and easy storage when not in use.
Why Should You Care About the Magnepan LRS+ Loudspeakers?
The Magnepan LRS+ is a way for audiophiles coming from entry-level speakers to get into something more advanced without taking a beating financially. While the speakers truly come to life with subwoofers (which adds some additional cost), by no means do you need to start with a sub. You can add one and ultimately two as your system grows in complexity down the road.
The Magnepan LRS+ speakers might not be the most accurate in terms of imaging. They might not make your heart skip a beat like a Tekton Design dynamic speaker. But for those who love the sound of live jazz, classic, folk, bluegrass, and other types of acoustic music, the Magnepan experience is all shades of fun to listen to. And from a hobby perspective, there are hours of tweaking that you can do in order to find the best positioning and setup for a lower-end but still exotic setup.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Magnepan LRS+ Loudspeakers…
- The LRS+ speakers are not a plug-and-play product. They require a significant amount of time to install, tweak, and dial in. While all speakers are location sensitive, the Magnepans’ positioning within the room is critical due to their dipole design: sound emanates from the front and the back of the speaker, taking on more of a room’s characteristics.
- While off-center seating is still somewhat enjoyable, the magic occurs dead center between the speakers, making this a solo-listening speaker depending on the position of the tweeters, whereas a comparably price but more traditional dynamic speaker design allows for far better sonic performance off-axis.
- Room size directly correlates to the Magnepan LRS+’s sound pressure level capabilities. I wouldn’t place these Maggies in a huge room and expect rock concert levels of output. Bigger Maggies or other speakers are better for very large listening rooms.
- A high-current, quality amplifier will help the Magnepan LRS+ speakers really strut their stuff. It does not have to be a flashy, $30,000 amplifier from Switzerland, but a relatively high-current design with a beefy power supply is very helpful. A small integrated amp or even a mid-powered AV receiver might not have the fortitude to drive these demanding speakers the way that they deserve to be driven.
- While I would not say the Magnepan LRS+ speakers are unattractive, they very much evoke a 1970s design statement. Companies like PSB, NAD, Technics, JBL, and others are all in the vintage-look audiophile game today. Magnepan never left. They will appeal to some but not all buyers. Unlike MartinLogan, whose hybrid electrostatic speakers are at least conceptually similar to Maggies in some respects, there is no custom shop to make your speakers bespoke to your aesthetic desires. There are slim pickins for finish colors, upgraded hardware, and so on. That’s how Magnepan has always been but we’ve been told by fall of 2023, there will be some significant aesetic upgrades coming from this classic speaker company but that’s a bit of a secret now.
- The upgraded Maggie stand ($289) or similar aftermarket stands would be a smart investment to help the Magnepan LRS+ show off their capabilities. Additional stands will increase the total cost to around $1,300, which is still an absolute bargain.
- If you like hard rock or heavy metal music and like to play your music loudly, these planar speakers might not be the best match for your musical needs.
Listening To the Magnepan LRS+ Loudspeakers
At first, while streaming music through a Bluesound Node, I struggled with the Magnepan LRS+. My initial impressions were unfavorable, owing to what I perceived as a thin overall sound and tin-like character right out of the box. This was before I plugged the Maggies into a serious amplifier and started to work on their physical positioning. After switching to a pair of Pass Labs XA 60.8 monoblocks, I began tweaking the position of the speakers. The included instruction sheet provides worthy insight on this topic, but is only a starting point. The Magnepan LRS+ speakers come with a -1 or -2 designation which deals with the position of the tweeter thus there is no left or right speaker per se based on how you like the tweeters (inside or outside). However, as in my room, swapping panels incredibly improved everything. The bass locked in, which was astonishing considering what I originally heard, along with a larger image and fuller sound, with extended resolution up and down the frequency range.
In my 14-foot wide by 13-foot deep room, the LRS+ speakers had a nine-foot span between each other, with approximately two and a half feet between each speaker and its nearest side wall. My listening position was nine feet away, which defied Magnepan’s suggestion that the speaker spread should be 60 percent of the listening distance. Raising the speaker’s height by approximately eight inches by placing them on wooden boxes enlarged the image. Another essential adjustment was to lean the speaker forward to be more vertical. It is worth noting that the included stands have a standard leaned-back angle but a drop-down dangling “flipper” reminding me of a hoop earring that allows the speaker to stand more upright if engaged. I found this feature a nuisance, since the ring would quickly become disengaged. I also determined a more significant vertical position than the stock stands could offer with the flipper ring engaged improved overall imaging. But to accomplish this, I had to rig some shims under the back of the stands and on top to prevent the speakers from falling forward. Your experience may be different.
Using Tidal streaming through a BlueSound Node streamer and integrated amp (buy at Amazon), one standout track was Elton John’s “Candle In the Wind,” which benefited from a nicely projected floating bass line throughout the track that was more noticeable or perhaps more forward than I remember. Also, the bass line could be slightly felt in my chest, which is not what Magenpans are typically known for, and offered an engaging, live-sounding presentation. Overall, the imaging was excellent, assuming I was sitting dead center. Vocals and instrumentation were fantastic, with a natural forward projection and decay revealing Elton’s occasionally deep and throaty vocal presentation and savvy piano skills.
Next, I streamed “Big Yellow Taxi” by Counting Crows, which showcases a combination of acoustic and electric instrumentation and Adam Duritz’s vocals. The Magnepan LRS+ loudspeakers did a fantastic job resolving the image with an airy and snappy presentation. The soundstage was large and wrapped around the room beyond the speaker’s locations, along with height to match, making the overall presentation an utter standout.
I took a run at the LRS+ with some mild-to-moderate rock at reasonable volume levels, and I especially liked what I heard on the Kings of Leon track “Use Somebody.” A pattern was developing consisting of a vast sound stage in height and width that also resolved with clarity and an excellent projection into my listening space. But still, on this track, I felt the lower bass frequencies were a miss, even at higher volume levels.
I connected a pair of highly regarded, but somewhat modestly priced, REL T/7x subwoofers that retail for $1,099 each to deal with the low frequency issue. The T/7x employs an eight-inch active and ten-inch downward-firing passive woofer. They are primarily designed to integrate with speakers for music. However, they will also work well for home theater (full review pending). Once connected, I listened to the tracks mentioned above again, and boom, the Magenpans LRS+ literally came alive sonically. That extension below the 50 Hz point completes the presentation, but now adds $2,200 to the package price of around $3,200. Oh, I almost forgot – add $289 for upgraded stands for a total package price of about $3,500. Of course, performance will depend on many factors, such as placement, subwoofer quality, and repositioning of the LRS+. Regardless, the results are impressive for a total package price of $3,500.
Will the Magnepan LRS+ Speakers Hold Their Value?
You have to wait in a eight to 10 week line to get a pair of Magnepan LRS+s, one of the few Magnepan models that can be purchased directly from the company. Given their retail price, with a performance far exceeding the cost, I foresee few owners willing to sell them but rather holding on to them to tweak and fine-tune. You will be better off getting a new pair directly from the factory. But, in short, yes, I predict the LRS+ will hold its value more than the industry average.
What Is the Competition for The Magnepan LRS+?
The LRS+’s older and larger brother, the Magnepan .7 at $1,995, would be a logical alternative, especially if the bass response of the LRS+ is just a bit shy for you or if your room is a bit larger. If your music preferences do not dictate super heavy bass requirements, the larger .7 may save you money and space by alleviating the need for subwoofers. The older Maggies don’t have the same technology that the LRS+ have, which is odd in that most speaker companies trickle-down their technology. Magnepan is building their hockey team from the goal crease out – a somewhat unique plan in loudspeakers (but not NHL hockey).
The MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESL is on the entry-level side of this somewhat similar audiophile speaker lineup. The hybrid electrostatic MartinLogans are not planar speakers; they’rea mix of a more traditional dynamic bass driver with a curved electrostatic panel sitting on top. The entry level MartinLogans come with a retail price of $2,800 per pair, and as such are much more expensive than the Maggies alone, but less expensive than a system that really allows the Maggies really shine, which is paired with the REL subwoofers. The MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESLs are far easier to place in a room. They require far less positioning work, and because of the curved electrostatic panel, the sweet spot is a little wider than the Maggies, but neither are very good speakers for getting a big, sonic sweet spot that can cover more than the area needed for one listener.
The GoldenEar Triton Two could be an interesting comparison. At $2,750, it has a folded ribbon tweeter, similar to a magnetic planar sound, and includes a powered subwoofer to compete with an LRS+ and subwoofer combination. The benefit may be less fussing with speaker location. There are many other speakers using AMT tweeters like this, such as options from RBH and MartinLogan. They are appealing as they deliver some of that open sound in the highs and mids but don’t have the setup issues that a true electrostatic, hybrid electrostatic, or planar speaker does. These speakers are a safer, land-in-the-middle option that is less exotic but often a good compromise.
Final Thoughts on The Magnepan LRS+ Loudspeakers…
The Magnepan LRS+ is an outlier with a potentially staggering performance, providing characteristics of a much more expensive product and carrying on the Magnepan legacy at a very reasonable price. The LRS+’s ability to capture your interest musically is undeniable. I will not say that the LRS+ will replace my Focal Kanta No. 2s, which retail for $11,000. Still, they are so intriguing I will purchase the LRS+ and invest more time experimenting with subwoofer integration to see how far I can take the system, perhaps improving upon the Kanta’s in certain areas.
Ultimately, I will determine the best stand for my room; whether that ends up being the upgraded (factory) Magnepan stand or a third-party version remains to be seen. The fact that the Magnepan LRS+ is easily stored allows me to bring the pair out when yearning to explore more of the Magnepan experience, as it has just been a lot of fun to explore what these unique speakers can do in my system. Many audiophiles who are just getting into a little bit more of the esoteric side of the hobby should consider the Magnepan LRS+ speakers for this reason alone. They could easily be a seasonal or part-time speaker in your system as they pack up flat in a box and can easily be stored in the back of a coat closet with little fuss or muss. At the same time, the Magnepan LRS+ is an aspirational way for new audiophiles to get one step closer to a more exotic sound and musical experience. Is the sound from the Magnepan LRS+ speakers mastering-lab accurate like I get from my Focals? Nope, but they are a hell of a lot of fun and a great step for some audiophiles looking to move out of truly entry-level speakers into something with an award-winning legacy and a unique sound.