Magnepan planar magnetic/ribbon speakers (or “Maggies” for short) have a dedicated following out there. Their virtues are many including producing a large and deep soundstage, having a superb transient response, and they allow for excellent detail retrieval. Maggie devotees claim that the results sound more like live music and less like a speaker playing music. Their downside is that, to produce any real bass they need to be a rather large pair of panels or the smaller panels need to be crossed to a subwoofer. This is especially true of Magnepan’s smallest model, the LRS. Enter the VPE Electrodynamics Little Dipole Woofer Model 1 and Magna Riser Airborne stands.
VPE Electrodynamics Little Dipole Woofer Model 1 with Magna Riser Airborne Stand
- Magna Riser Airborne Stands set the LRS panels at the optimal height and angle. They noticeably improved the sound of the LRS even when used on their own.
- Seamless blending of Little Dipole Woofer and LRS. Significantly increased LRS bass reach and impact.
- Almost full-range, holographic sound in a modest footprint.
- Requires a little time and patience to set up correctly.
If you are at all into cars, classic or otherwise, you will undoubtedly know that there is a huge aftermarket parts industry that offers every choice imaginable to upgrade your vehicle’s looks or performance. I tend to look at the audio accessory market with a similar eye. Whether it’s cables to isolation upgrades, OPAMP, and tube rolling to even crossover and driver upgrades. There is always someone out there making something to squeeze that extra little bit of performance or sprinkle a little extra bling on your audio system.
Don Bingaman, the owner of VPE Electrodynamics, approached us with an interesting proposition. He had noted our writer Glenn Young’s fine review of the Magnepan LRS and said that he and his team had developed a purpose-made subwoofer for the LRS, and when used in conjunction with Magna Riser Airborne stands (developed separately by Robert Raus) significantly improved the overall performance of the LRS. If he sent us a pair of Maggie LRS, a set of Magna Riser stands, and a pair of his VPE Electrodynamics Little Dipole Woofers, would we be interested to verify his claims? Although Glenn would have been the perfect candidate for this, he was already committed to a couple of other reviews, so I agreed to the evaluation. I was excited because, while I had heard various panel speakers at audio shows, I’ve never had a set in my own listening space before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. This little experiment involves the use of two different products to essentially turn a ribbon speaker into a hybrid ribbon/dynamic driver speaker. In my initial discussions with Don, we agreed that I would assess the Maggie LRS on their own first, then add the Magna Riser Airborne stands, and after a little time finally integrate the woofers into the system. So, without further ado, let the games begin!
VPE Electrodynamics LDW Model 1:
Powered slot-loaded, open baffle subwoofer.
MDF Cabinet with Internal Bracing
Single 350W 10-inch driver with Aluminum Cone. (Dayton Audio RSS265)
250W into 4 Ohms, Class-D. (Dayton Audio SPA250DSP)
1 pair RCA single-ended, 1 pair balanced XLR.
1 pair RCA single-ended, 1 pair balanced XLR.
20″ long x 12″ high x 12″ wide.
40 lbs. (each).
$795.00 (each) + $75.00 Shipping & Handling (each – UPS Ground Service)
Magna Riser Airborne Stands:
Custom metal stands for Magnepan LRS.
Black powder-coated steel.
LRS, magnepan, maggies, LDW1, airborne, riser, stands, subwoofer
The Magna Riser Airborne stands are designed and manufactured specifically to fit the Magnepan LRS panels. Magna Riser’s website shows that they manufacture upgraded stands for every model of Maggie currently sold. The stands provided for the review are significantly more substantial than the LRS stock stands. Solid and well-constructed with a high-quality black powder-coated finish. The manufacturer claims that the Airborne stands went through significant design development and tuning in order to work optimally with the LRS. Each stand is tuned for a specific speaker side (Left or Right) and the individual units are marked for their respective side of the panel. While the stock LRS stands can be adjusted, they naturally angle the panels at a gentle rake; the Airborne stands fix the panels squarely in a vertical position.
The Airbornes attach easily to the LRS with the existing bolt holes and hardware. The stands also come with what the manufacturer describes as “a pair of our proprietary, cryogenically treated replacement jumper wires.” The little jumper wires are about 3-inches long and seem visually equivalent to 12-gauge wire in size and are meant to replace the metal lugs inserts, just below the speaker binding posts.
The VPE Electrophysics Little Dipole Woofer Model 1 (LDW 1) is a dipole subwoofer design that is claimed to be loosely based on the Pass/Linkwitz Slot-Loaded Open Baffle (SLOB) loudspeaker concept. According to the manufacturer “It produces a super-cardioid radiation pattern with a front lobe approximately 3dB greater than the back lobe. This design matches the dipole panel speaker radiation response to the sides – minimizing early wall reflections which muddle the direct sound.” So, in nutshell, we are pairing a dipole speaker with a dipole subwoofer which should lead to a better blend versus using a dipole speaker with a more traditional sealed or ported subwoofer. The subwoofer’s onboard amplifier has DSP resources, including 5 bands of PEQ, preloaded with settings to blend the LDW 1 with the LRS for an average room, adjustable High Pass and Low Pass filters (12- or 24-dB slopes), subsonic filter, phase adjustment, and input level attenuation. The subwoofer frame is constructed from MDF board with thick textured grey paint. The subwoofer is a 10″ Dayton Audio aluminum cone woofer capable of handling 600W from their Reference Series of drivers. The review samples were certainly well-worn, and the manufacturer says that they were finalizing a smoother and more polished yet durable finish for the production versions.
The traditional method of hooking up the LDW 1 with the Maggies in a stereo system goes like this: take the L and R outputs from your preamp and route them to the L and R subwoofer inputs. A High Pass filtered output signal then goes from the sub’s amp to your LRS speaker’s power amp input and that drives the Maggies. The Low Pass filtered signal remains at the sub and drives its output. If you have a preamp/processor with bass management and independent dual subwoofer outputs, you can hook the speakers and subwoofers up accordingly and let the processor’s bass management handle the crossover and filtering duties. The LDW 1 manual has detailed connection and subwoofer gain suggestions depending on your LRS power amplifier’s sensitivity.
I found this handy as my initial attempts at using my Benchmark electronics were causing audible distortion from the LRS until I realized that I had to adjust my Benchmark AHB2 amplifier’s input sensitivity to its lowest setting (2VRMS/8.2dBu) and that did the trick.
I had paired the LRS, initially alone and then with the LDW 1, using my Benchmark HPA4 preamplifier and AHB2 power amplifier. I also tried the entire setup with the Anthem STR preamplifier and STR power amplifier and found that to also be an excellent pairing especially since it allowed direct connection of the speakers and subs along with the use of Anthem’s ARC Genesis room correction to assist with some of the bass issues that I was experiencing with my room. For sources, I used my KAB modified Technics SL1200 MK 6, along with an Audio-Technica OC9XML MC cartridge, and run through a Pass Labs XP-25 phono preamplifier. For digital, I used a DIY Raspberry Pi4 based ROON endpoint to access my music library and streaming services. Its USB output was routed through a Benchmark DAC3 B or the Anthem STR preamp. All cables used were by Blue Jeans Cable.
As this review was going to be a bit of a multi-step process, the first order of business was to get a sense of how the Magnepan LRS sounded “au natural”. After a little experimentation, I settled on their positioning being about 9 feet apart and toed in about 5 degrees and well away from the front wall. I quickly began to understand why Maggies have such a following. When set up right (with the tweeter portions to the outside in my case), the music just sounds effortless with massive and deep imaging. People have called them holographic sounding and I can certainly see how they would conclude that. Instruments and vocals also had a natural ease about them. Percussion details were especially quick and precise in their sound and very well resolved overall.
Yet even at their best, in my room, the LRS had some obvious limitations in their bass abilities. Namely, the bass level, in general, was rather polite and what bass there was, dropped off like a stone below 70 Hz. There also was an occasional mild sense of brightness in the treble that I noted, but I wasn’t ready to mess with one of the padding resistors yet because I wanted to hear what, if anything, would happen when I switched to the Magna Riser stands. After a week of stock listening, that would be the next step.
Swapping the original stands for the Magna Riser Airborne stands was a simple matter and the switch took only minutes, paying attention to the correct orientation as outlined in the instructions. At this point, I also swapped out the stock metal jumper lug on the Maggies with the special jumper wire included with the stands. With the LRS panels in the same position but now oriented vertically instead of being canted back with the stock stands, the sound did noticeably change, and in my estimation, for the better. That hint of upper-level brightness that I noted previously was now diminished. There was still plenty of sparkle in the treble, but that area just below where all the “tinkly” stuff that we hear is, wasn’t waving for my attention anymore.
That especially made some female vocals and horns sound better to my ears. The other notable change was that there was a higher level of bass coming from the LRS now. The reach didn’t extend any lower but what bass there was had noticeably more impact. Both electric and acoustic bass lines along with drums now had a little more presence and “oomph” to them.
To see if what I was hearing could be quantified, I went ahead and took average in-room measurements of the Magnepan LRS frequency response, both with the stock stands and then with the Magna Riser stands. Sure enough, it looks like with the Airborne stands, and the LRS’s new subsequent vertical orientation, the bass, and lower midrange, from 70 to 250 Hz, increased in level. Along with that, we see a little bit of midrange fill between 500 – 700 Hz. We also see a little reduction in energy from 2 kHz – 4 kHz which accounts for the reduction in brightness that I noted.
Next comes the integration of the VPE Electrophysics Little Dipole Woofers, which I first tried using my standard Benchmark Media Systems gear and configuring the high and low pass filters, crossover slopes, level, and phase adjustments on the LDW1 plate amps. The amps each had factory preset PEQ values for the average room that I retained because they seemed to make for a good starting point. Connections went according to the top figure in the image below.
After some significant experimentation and checking with REW measurements, I was finally getting the subs to play nicely with the panels and, with that, felt some of that missing gut punch that I thought the LRS needed to take them to the next level. The integration of bass to panel initially seemed promising but I found that the LDW 1 subs were exciting a significant room mode at 110 Hz which I have never encountered before. This was muddying up the sound enough so that some upper bass was unacceptably prominent. No amount of tweaking with the subwoofer’s resources would appear to completely tame that mode.
Adjusting the phase on the right sub to 90 degrees helped a bit but the results weren’t ideal. Still, it was clear that the overall sound was favorable and LDW 1 was on the right track as being a bass solution for the LRS panels, if not for the intransigence of my room. The question now became what other tools did I have to help with the persistent room mode? I then decided to see if using the room correction and bass management capabilities of my Anthem STR preamp and amplifier combination might help with the situation. As the preamp supports independent stereo subwoofers using balanced connections, I hooked everything up according to the bottom figure of the earlier connection image. This connection method also has the advantage of doing away with the A/D and D/A conversion stage for the High Pass frequencies incurred when the subwoofer plate amp does all the filtering. All the sub amps settings were either defeated or at bypass settings.
Once ARC room correction had done its thing (it set the crossovers to 95 Hz) I selected an upper correction limit of 350 Hz to leave the panels mainly untouched and then took a listen. Ahhhhhh! Now, this was what I was after! Subwoofers and panels had now meshed seamlessly and there was no bloat or muddiness in the bass region at all. Just quick, deep, and solid bass response with significantly lower reach than the panels alone. What was also impressive was that the speakers did not sound like a panel/dynamic driver hybrid. The bass sounded just as effortless as the panel and as if it were coming from the panel itself. Quite a remarkable trick. Going by my ears alone, I would say that the Maggies were now completely transformed into a far more complete and impressive loudspeaker.
Just to correlate what my ears were telling me with what was really going on, I took another average in-room measurement of the whole system and overlaid the result over the previous measurements for comparison. Bass now has real extension down to 40 Hz. Response from 120 Hz to 400 Hz, a region some call the “power band”, is nicely consistent. Ironically enough there is now a narrow dip at 110 Hz. Go figure.
While we’re talking measurements, I also went ahead and took an impedance sweep of the Maggie LRS speakers on their own. The results show a consistent 3 to 4-ohm load across the entire bandwidth. You will need a real amplifier with solid power delivery and reserve capabilities to get the most out of these speakers. My Benchmark AHB2 and Anthem STR power amplifiers were more than suitable. Do not expect a run-of-the-mill receiver to do the same job.
Now music sounds incredibly complete. Big soundstage, near holographic presentation, clear non-fatiguing details, and power. Rock music, Jazz, and big orchestral works now had substantially more impact and drive with the LDW 1 in the mix. The Anthem STR preamp exercised complete and thorough control of the whole system while the STR amplifier had more than ample reserves to keep the LRS panels moving precisely as instructed.
Alan Broadbent Trio, New York Notes, Savant Records, 24/88.2 FLAC via Qobuz.
Listening to New York Stories by the Alan Broadbent Trio was just a treat. The Magnapan/LDW 1 combo filled the room with a big, effortless soundscape but there was enough detail and precision in the presentation to place the trio in their proper space. The piano notes had a nice tone and ring to their sound, while the brushes on the drum skins had a quick and snappy character to them. The acoustic bass had real weight to its string plucks. They sounded deep and quick without any hint of bloat to them. The track “I Fall in Love Too Easy” was particularly satisfying to listen to through this new union of subs and panels. Everything just sounded complete and especially cohesive.
Holly Cole Trio, It Happened One Night, Blue Note Records, 1995, CD.
Holly Cole’s It Happened One Night, is a regular favorite of mine for a live performance. “Get Out of Town” sounds open and spacious, with plenty of reverb and spatial cues from the Montreal performance venue that were clearly projected around me. It also has a great, deep rumbling bass line to it that the LDW 1 subwoofers just ate up and rendered with alacrity and authority. Cole’s voice on “Train Song” just floated in space between the LRS panels sounding as live and tangible as can be with the sound of shaking maracas well outside the left and right speaker boundaries.
If you’re intent on buying a pair of Magnepan LRS speakers, just count on buying the VPE Electrodynamics LDW 1 subwoofers and Magna Riser Airborne stands to go along with them. They are necessary and desirable accessories in my book.
- Effective, substantive additions to the Magnepan LRS Speakers.
- Dipole subwoofers for Dipole speakers.
- A few different setup options.
- Magna Riser stands are sturdy and well made.
- A variety of finish options for the LDW 1.
- Some rubber feet or strips to help keep the LDW 1 from sliding around too easily on hard floors.
Magnepan LRS ribbon speakers are both interesting and have impressive-sounding qualities, in the right conditions. After spending time with them it is easy to see why the company’s products have the following and regard that they do. For myself, I would not be a suitable candidate for the LRS simply due to their inherent lack of ability in the bottom octaves. The addition of the VPE Electrodynamics Little Dipole Woofer Model 1 and Magna Riser Airborne stands completely changes the equation, however. I would consider them almost mandatory additions to the purchase of a pair of LRS if moving to larger Maggies is not an option. If you have the time and patience required to get the setup just right, you will be rewarded with an immersive and effortless sound that will have people doing double-takes when they see the thinness of the LRS panels. If you just don’t care for bass, or you just want to build the system incrementally, the Magna Riser Airborne stands are an excellent and recommended addition to the panels alone.
Personally, the overall, souped-up results are so transformative, that once you’ve heard the LRS panels and LDW 1 subwoofers together and working properly, I defy anyone to go back to the panels alone. They’re like Nitrous Oxide and some headers for your Maggies!
Thank you for a very fair and comprehensive review. Below are a few notes and updates that have been made since the review was conducted.
- Magna Riser manufactures a wide variety of stands for all Magnepans except for the Model 20.7 and 30.7. Listeners may also want to consider the Multi-Riser Mk. 7’s for the LRS which offer variable height.
- The LDW 1 Cabinet is constructed of high-grade bonded and fastened MDF with PVC banded edges and a basic finish of dark gray textured paint. Custom LDW 1 Cabinet Finishes are available at extra cost in a variety of colors and textures
- The LDW 1 Cabinets now come with 3-point, 3/8″- 16 threaded inserts and screw-in footers and are compatible with user-supplied spikes/cones with this thread specification.
- Acoustic Room Correction is very useful for accurate bass for full-range systems in nearly every listening room. If your preamp does not offer this feature, we recommend the miniDSP DDRC-24 System which provides for DIRAC Live acoustic room correction using a small Analog Devices SHARC DSP processor that is inserted between your preamp and your LDW 1 / power amplifier inputs. The miniDSP DDRC-24 System includes a calibration microphone and is programmed by your Mac or Windows computer via a supplied USB cable and software.