Magnepan MG2.7i Planar Loudspeaker Reviewed

Price: $5,995.00

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Founded in Minnesota in 1969, Magnepan is an iconic speaker manufacturer in the audiophile world, its speakers instantly recognizable both visually and sonically. Today, Magnepan’s speakers (which the firm calls Magneplanars) are still designed and built in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. They are bought by audiophiles worldwide. Magneplanars come in different sizes, but all are relatively tall and wide, and all are planar dipoles, meaning nearly flat (planar) and radiating sound from both front and back (dipole). Magnepan invented the planar-magnetic driver (the main technology in Magneplanars), in which sound is generated by vibration of a large, flat, thin membrane with current-carrying elements, a membrane suspended between strong magnets front and back on their most expensive floorstanding speakers like the 30.7s and 20.7. In this case, with the Magnepan 2.7i speakers, the speakers have magnets only on one side. (Greg Handy reviewed the small Magnepan LRS+ last November) Magnepan’s more costly models use a true ribbon tweeter, a more exotic technology that generates sound through vibration of a suspended low-mass aluminum ribbon and that yields remarkably clean treble. Thus, none of Magnepan’s speakers use the conical drivers and wooden box of conventional loudspeakers. Because of the light weight of their moving parts, planar drivers are said to respond quicker than cones, and absence of a box eliminates box resonances.

A recent addition to the Magnepan line and the subject of this review, the MG2.7i ($5,995) fits between the company’s MG1.7i ($2,995), which uses a planar-magnetic (not ribbon) tweeter, and its MG3.7i ($8,995), with its larger drivers and other refinements, including a longer, lower mass ribbon tweeter. Like other Magneplanars, the MG 2.7i carries a three-year warranty. A couple of friends who are longtime Magnepan owners wouldn’t think of switching to other speakers. Could the MG2.7i inspire that kind of enthusiasm? Let’s see…

Magnepan 2.7 floorstanding planar speakers.
Magnepan 2.7 floorstanding planar speakers.

What Makes the Magnepan MG2.7i Planar Loudspeaker So Special? 

  • The MG2.7i is Magnepan’s least expensive full-range model to offer a true ribbon tweeter. Ribbon tweeters are known for delivering clean, accurate, and detailed high frequencies, and the ribbon in the MG2.7i is a fine example of this.
  • The Magnepan MG2.7i offers a see-through quality, with a big three-dimensional soundstage and exceptional presentation of image depth. Various planar speakers use different technologies, but as a group, they are known for disappearing sonically, and the MG2.7i delivers that in spades. Magneplanars in particular are known for highly spacious sound.
  • Though tall (71 inches) and relatively wide (22 inches), the Magnepan MG2.7is are relatively light (about 50 pounds each) and easy to move around your listening room. Part of the fun of having new speakers is figuring out where in your room they sound best, and Magnepans are as sensitive to placement as any speaker I’ve tried. Because of their moderate weight, I had no trouble moving the MG2.7is around to find a spot that revealed their best qualities. Setup and fine-tuning these speakers was fun, not back-breaking work, as is the case with most speakers in this class or price range.
  • The Magnepan MG2.7i can be configured to your room and tastes. Placing a speaker in the right spot shapes its sound quite a bit, and the MG2.7i gives you additional tools. Its midrange and tweeter sections have jumpers easily replaceable with small value resistors, so you can nudge the tonal balance to suit your room and tastes. I wound up using the supplied one-ohm resistors in the midrange circuits and half-ohm resistors in the tweeter circuits. This gave a response that sloped down gently with frequency and made the speakers’ bass more prominent than without the resistors.
  • The Magnepan MG2.7i’s controlled dispersion means fewer sidewall and ceiling reflections to mess up the sound. Every discussion of room acoustics emphasizes damping or diffusing those reflections, both because they can make the sound harsher, and because they can degrade a speaker’s imaging. With a dipole speaker like the MG2.7i, there is very little sound radiated to the ceiling or sidewalls, so those effects are greatly reduced.

Why Should You Care About the Magnepan MG2.7i Planar Loudspeaker?

Every planar speaker I’ve heard – whether electrostatic, planar-magnetic, or full-range ribbon – has had some remarkable sonic virtues. Good planar speakers have a see-through quality to their sound, creating music almost magically free of the speakers. Soundstage depth can extend behind the speakers significantly. Though planars, when used without subwoofers, may not have the sonic impact that makes traditional cone drivers so well-suited to rock & roll, they excel at clarity, delicacy, soundstaging, vocals and unraveling complex lines of jazz, a string band, or orchestral recording. (That is especially true on well-recorded material.) Planars with ribbon or electrostatic tweeters can deliver treble purity that is a joy to hear. 

In the MG2.7i, Magnepan offers a speaker with those great planar qualities, yet at a moderate price – a big piece of audiophile pie without the stratospheric price tag. Like other Magneplanars, the MG 2.7i offers strikingly spacious sound and a strong sense of envelopment by the music. What’s more, the MG2.7i is revealing in the good sense: audiophiles will clearly hear differences in gear and recordings, and you’ll notice the upgrades you make to your other gear. For U.S. audiophiles, it’s also great to have an established domestic maker who can provide support and service if needed. 

The audiophile who appreciates clear and delicate treble a spacious, see-through presentation, and who is looking for a high-resolution speaker to be used mainly for focused listening should take a long listen to the Magnepan MG2.7i. Especially when paired with a subwoofer, it might be the right choice for you.

Magnepan 2.7 speakers installed in Dr. Prager's well-treated reference audiophile listening room.
Magnepan 2.7 speakers installed in Dr. Prager’s well-treated reference audiophile listening room.

Some Things You Might Not Like About the Magnepan 2.7i Planar Loudspeaker

  • The Magnepan MG2.7i is big and needs lots of space behind it. Having speakers the size of doors can seem overwhelming, especially speakers that should be placed at least four (probably six or seven) feet from the wall behind them. But for many listeners, that concern will vanish once they hear the spacious, transparent sound. Others will simply close their eyes and enjoy the music. Making these physical changes can be a matter of personal preference and that’s part of the fun and/or pride of ownership when it comes to Maggies.
  • The Magnepan MG2.7i may not be the most sonically neutral speaker on the market. In my room, even after my best attempts at positioning and adding resistors, there was a few dB rise in response between about 500 Hz and 1,000 Hz, which added a bit of warmth and forwardness to some program material. Although the sound was still highly involving, I heard greater neutrality on piano runs and some vocals when I used equalization (EQ) to make that bump go away (I can’t rule out that this was related to my room and setup). To be fair, most others who heard the MG2.7i both ways didn’t find the EQ nearly as important as I did. Some listeners may perceive the uncorrected mild coloration, if they notice it at all, as pleasant or exciting and that is perfectly OK, as we all hear a little differently. 
  • Like most panel speakers, the Magnepan MG2.7i has a rather narrow sweet spot. This is not the speaker to fill a room with sizzling, booming dance music. Instead, the listener in the sweet spot gets exceptional sound, and listeners on either side get very good sound indeed. The MG2.7i’s forte is beauty and transparency, not spatial coverage. Pretty much any audiophile speaker has a limited sweet spot; here, it’s related to the controlled dispersion that (as noted) helps reduce sound-damaging room reflections.
  • For true full-range sound, the Magnepan MG2.7i needs a subwoofer or two. The response of the MG2.7i drops off quickly below about 50 Hz. While that’s low enough for an enjoyable musical experience, in my listening, adding a sub made a marked improvement in ambiance and tonality of bass instruments. This is not unusual – even floorstanders rated to lower frequencies usually benefit from a sub or two, which both extend bass and help fill room-induced nulls.
  • Flea-watt audiophile amplifiers need not apply. Magnepan recommends that “a powerful and/or high current amplifier(s) is best – certain exceptions apply but generally an amp ought to be able to produce at least 160 watts per channel (RMS) into four ohms in order to properly drive the MG2.7i’s.” I got great results with my reference amplifiers, which is a high-quality, new-school Class-D amp and rated at 225 watts into eight ohms or 425 watts into four ohms. For best results, I would use a high-powered amplifier with the MG2.7i. Low-wattage amps have their uses, but driving Magnepans aren’t one of them. Don’t worry, as there are so many good power amps in the market today that can drive the heck out of a more demanding speaker like a Maggie. 
  • The industrial design of Magnepan speakers is very retro. There are hashtags on social media for vintage audio, so this could be as much of a positive as a negative, depending on which audiophile that you ask. At these prices (and especially higher), one might want more exotic wood, better metalwork and more fancy fabric on their Magnepans. 
  • The speaker binding posts are maddening. I really wish that Magnepan would source better speaker binding posts for their speakers, as these can take a banana plug, but not a spade. They don’t need to run the price of the speakers up too much, but even some higher-end Chinese part options would be an upgrade. Something like a WBT or even fancier would be even better. It could change the price of the speakers, but I still feel like that it would be worth it for many audiophiles who want to make these speakers their reference transducer. 

Listening to the Magnepan MG2.7i Planar Loudspeaker… 

After getting the MG2.7is into my basement listening room, I set about finding the right spot for them, relying on measurements and on my ears. After considerable moving here and there, the speakers wound up 6.5 feet from the wall behind them and 6.75 feet apart (center to center), with each of my ears 6.75 feet from its corresponding speaker. The MG2.7is were toed in to face me, and positioned with ribbon tweeters towards the outside. Altogether, this arrangement was close to Magnepan’s suggested placement.

The subwoofers in my reference system were disconnected during my review listening. However, after a Monitor Audio Anthra W15 subwoofer (read the review) arrived for review, I did some listening with it hooked up. The MG2.7i’s sound was enjoyable and satisfying without the sub, yet still better with it. Sub and mains blended seamlessly, with listeners unable to tell when the sub kicked in. We all heard the soundstage (including bass) in front of us, even with the sub placed behind the listening chair. 

As years go by, I find more and more exceptions to (J. Gordon) Holt’s Law, which I’d state as: “The better the recording, the worse the musical performance – and vice-versa.” One obvious exception is Patricia Barber’s album A Distortion of Love. Barber’s take on Smokey Robinson’s “My Girl” showcases Barber’s sexy voice, an excellent and sensitive accompaniment, and the strengths of the MG2.7i. Barber’s voice came across natural and expressive, clearly separated from the bass to our left and finger snaps on the right (beautifully presented by the ribbon tweeter). The bass reproduced by the MG2.7i was impressive and distinctive – it had a taut yet fat quality that I really loved. Listening to this track (and Barber’s mesmerizing “Summertime” on the same album) reminded me that Barber is not just another female vocalist, she’s an original, imaginative singer with a superb voice. As to the speakers, to showcase their reproduction of voices, percussion, and musical detail, I’d reach for this album. It was a huge treat. 

My Girl on YouTube.com

Up next was Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti (A Summer Without You)” from his album of the same name. No one would mistake this for an audiophile recording or live performance – it’s studio and electronics all the way. The MG2.7i did a great job on the bass line at the start and resolved the electronic echo on the singer’s voice with reverb that seemed to go on forever. Synths were impressive and as spacy as can be. I admit that reggaeton and hip-hop usually aren’t on my list, but I get a kick out of this track – one great line is: “Tomorrow I go to therapy, tomorrow I party” – and listening to it on the MG2.7i was a lot of fun.

During the audition period, I also listened to classical music, ranging from solo piano through string quartets to symphonies. The MG2.7i handled them enviably.

Will the Magnepan 2.7i Planar Loudspeaker Hold Its Value?

The used market for Magneplanars is supported by a large and growing community of audiophiles who enjoy their unique qualities. Also, Magnepan’s dealer network across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and worldwide has allowed many audiophiles to hear their speakers – and want to own them. Another plus of the dealer network is that, if you should want to swap your MG2.7i for one of Magnepan’s larger models, your dealer might take yours in trade.

In the online used market, the MG2.7i is too new to have much presence, but a handful of MG3.7is were on offer at asking prices of half or more of MSRP, depending on age. That’s impressive.

The hitch in selling used, of course, is the MG2.7i’s size and weight and the associated shipping costs. My review pair arrived by freight, strapped to a pallet, and they were pristine. So even if demand is good, sellers without easy access to freight shipping may prefer a local sale with pickup, or trading with a local dealer.

A look at the rear of the Magnepan 2.7s
A look at the rear of the Magnepan 2.7s

What is the Competition for the Magnepan 2.7i Planar Loudspeaker?

As potential competitors to the MG2.7i, I looked for speakers using planar drivers for midrange and treble and planar, or cone drivers for bass. In the general price range of the Magnepan MG2.7i, I found only a few options for the audiophile who wants a planar speaker.

The MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESL X (buy at Crutchfield) is based on electrostatic technology, a driver technology developed before planar-magnetics, and a technology still widely admired. The MartinLogan ESL X ($4,999.98) offers a curved electrostatic main driver and two eight-inch cones to handle the bass. It’s more efficient than the MG2.7i (recommended amplifier power is 20-400 watts), its frequency response is specified as 41-22,000 Hz (±3dB), and it carries a five-year warranty.

Also using electrostatic technology and cone woofers is the compact, stand-mounted JansZen Carmelita Passive ($4,890 or $5,239 with stands). Here, the electrostatic panels are mounted in a cabinet, so their back wave is absorbed, resulting in a less spacious presentation, but more precise imaging and easier placement. Bass is handled by two seven-inch cones, and a side-mounted ring radiator, run at a low level, adds spaciousness. Like Magnepans, JansZen speakers are designed and made in the USA. Recommended amplifier power is 40-400 watts, specified frequency response is 30-40,000 Hz (±3dB), and the warranty is five years. 

To find more options in planar speakers requires moving to higher price brackets. Magnepan offers the MG3.7i ($8,995) and MG2.7x ($10,000), among other models. The latter has components and construction upgraded from the corresponding “i” model, as do other entries in the Magnepan “x” line. Either of those Magneplanars will provide an upmarket version of the spacious Magnepan sound.

At similar price points, JansZen offers their biamplified Carmelita Active – which incorporates preamp, ADC, DAC, and power amp – at $7,890 ($8,239 with stands). JansZen also offers the larger, floorstanding Valentina P8 (my current reference speaker) at $9,250.

From MartinLogan, the step up would be to the Masterpiece Impression ESL 11A at $11,999.98 (buy at Crutchfield). Its refinements include compatibility with Anthem Room Correction software, used to smooth the bass peaks that occur in virtually all rooms.

SoundLab, another U.S. firm specializing in electrostatic speakers, makes curved, full-range electrostatic speakers that have been on my radar for decades. Their least expensive model, the Majestic 545PX ($21,000), measures 56 by 24 by 5.5 inches, with specified frequency response of 32 Hz to ultrasonics. The warranty is two years.

Finally, England’s QUAD was a pioneering producer of electrostatic home speakers and makes highly-respected ones to this day. Their smaller model, the ESL-2812 ($9,995) carries a three-year warranty.

Fuses can save you from blowing up a pair of Maggie 2.7s if you push them (or your amp) too hard.
Fuses can save you from blowing up a pair of Maggie 2.7s if you push them (or your amp) too hard.

Final Thoughts on the Magnepan MG2.7i Planar Loudspeaker…

Different groups of audiophiles seek different sonic illusions. Some of us look for a “you are there” experience: the illusion of being at a performance, with the musicians onstage. Others look for a “they are here” experience: the illusion of the musicians in the room with you. In that divide, Magnepans deliver a “they are here” illusion, with the musicians bigger than life in your room. Indeed, Magneplanars are known for sonic spaciousness, a characteristic I definitely enjoyed during my time with the MG2.7i. The genius of Magnepan is to make planar speakers that perform remarkably well (even better when a sub is added) and that still cost less than many alternatives.

If you want sound that can convey the size (though maybe not quite the volume) of a symphony orchestra or big band, sound that is nuanced when it should be, that is not anchored to the speakers and, most of all, sound that can provide moments of real beauty, the Magnepan MG2.7i ($5,995) may be the speaker for you.

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Barney Vincelette

You can still drive Magnepans with a single ended triode amplifier. You just have to transformer couple a 45 SET to the grid of an 833-A triode stepping down Lundahl 2765 transformer. The cathode of the 833A needs pure DC at 10 Volts and 10 Amps which required a pre-charged 4 Farad final filter capacitor. The grid at zero or ground bias is right for 1000 Volts on the 833-A plate. The output transformer is a Hammond 1642 SE. This is more than enough to drive Magnepans and you get that pure SET sound.

Mike Prager

I’m glad you found a way to get what you want.

Mark

If the speakers sounded too warm, why use resistors on the midrange and treble? Wouldn’t that cause a warmth problem?

Mike Prager

The resistors affect the speaker’s balance in broad bands. I used them to bring down the mid and treble (as measured at the listening position) to my preferred balance with the woofers. Different people with different ears in different rooms will choose other resistor values, or none at all.

The reference to warmth was to a specific small region (500 kHz – 1000 Hz) that I preferred when taken down slightly with an equalizer. Others who listened didn’t care, one way or the another. Even I only cared on certain specific program material.

I like that by using the resistors, the audiophile can adjust broad frequency balance to their own taste. To me, getting the sound you want is a big part of what our hobby is all about.

Trevor

Magneplanars, a great open baffle speaker. I just wish my hearing was better & I had a big enough room to try an LRS+ with a good stand, GR_Research component upgrades & modern high current amplification to experience open baffle sound?

Ron

Unfortunately, Magnepan does not supply a wide enough enough range of resistors with your speaker purchase to really allow you to best tune your speakers to the room and to your own preferences. I purchased the LRS+ from them a year ago and they sent a 1 ohm and a 2 ohm resistor pack. The 1 ohm resistor made it sound like you were listening through a heavy blanket….the 2 ohm was unlistenable.

I found that you could buy the same resistors from Parts Connexion, and since they are inexpensive, I purchased them in 0.1 ohm increments from 0.1 ohms to 0.9 ohms…and after some trial listening with different resistors, ended up with 0.22 ohm as providing the sound I best preferred for my room.

As this is such an inexpensive tweak, it is one worth remembering for anyone that owns Magnepans:

https://partsconnexion.com/search?type=product&q=jantzen*+ceramic*+resistors*

Mike Prager

Good point, Ron!

Michael

May I ask if your new review style is gaining traction? It seems like an ineffective grab for the short attention span folks. I for one enjoy longer more in depth reviews. They afford the nuance that fits well with the subject matter. Furthermore, asking the repeated question “will (product X) hold its value” is really not necessary. We are all capable in this hobby of making our own justifications for our purchases. And in the best of cases, the joy these components bring is priceless.

Jerry Del Colliano

I don’t see us moving to a print-magazine style any time soon.

Things are going pretty well so far.

Ron

Jerry,

What a I really appreciate is that you guys do something that Herb Reichert…and a few others do…provide comparisons to other equipment which allows the reader to better triangulate on what the gear might actually sound like to them in their system.

I’ve owned or tried some of the gear you guys have reviewed and pretty much found that your review commentary aligns with my own experience.

Todd Reitz

I think you read the manual wrong. If you are going to toe the speakers in that much, the tweeters should be on the inside. The tweeters should be a little further from you than the mid/woofer.

Also, why are you making 2 connections with your speaker wires? I see the wires in your plugs held with a set screw, then you connect those into the speaker? Why not take the wires off your plugs and connect them directly to the speaker terminals?

Try these 2 things and I think you’ll get even better sound.

Mark

You are correct. According to Magnepan (and my experience with .7 and 1.7i speakers), with the tweeters on the inside, a lot of toe-in is required. A good starting point is to aim the speakers at the listener. I sit in an equilateral triangle setup, and I have the speakers aimed to cross just in front of my nose. Conversely, with the tweeters on the outside, only a modest toe-in is required. The idea is to get the tweeter section an inch farther from the listener’s ears than the bass section. That’s supposed to somehow time-align things, but it also produces a smoother, flatter frequency response.

Mike Prager

Guys, do you think I didn’t try it the other way (tweeters in)? I did, and in my particular room, the setup I reported was the best I found. Everyone will have to experiment for themselves to find what works for them.

By the way, during the review period, I asked Magnepan about this, and they said: “tweeters on the inside or tweeters on the outside […] is oftentimes a room-dependent issue or personal preference or both. […] You can experiment with this to find out the best results for your room.”

So I have no doubt you both like your Maggies (probably not 2.7i, though) with tweeters on the inside, and I also have no doubt that many aspects of speaker positioning do not generalize across models, rooms, and tastes in sound.

Thanks for raising the question so we could have this discussion!

Mike Prager

Please see my response to Mark, below.

Ron

Mike,

I absolutely love this quote of yours “Some of us look for a “you are there” experience: the illusion of being at a performance, with the musicians onstage. Others look for a “they are here” experience.”

And I agree that the Maggies give you a great “they are here” sound.

What “affordable” speakers have you found that give you the you are there experience…I think it would be fun to buy a pair of those and try them side by side with the Maggies…do you have any recommendations for us to try?

Mike Prager

As you know, what is affordable varies a lot across audiophiles. To me, the Janszen speakers mentioned in the review give more of a “you are there” presentation. Since one of the Janszen models is my ongoing reference, I found using the Maggies quite a study in contrasting versions of excellent sound.

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