I spent a full day auditioning the '30.7 for Condos' prototype unaware of their relatively small size, as Wendell hid the speaker behind an optically opaque but sonically transparent white scrim. The result was jaw-dropping in all the most positive senses of that term.
As it turned out, the compact '30.7 for Condos' prototypes could pretty much do everything—and I mean everything—their bigger siblings could do. However, they also add performance advantages, making them a better fit for Magnepan's mid-size sound room. Let's go down the performance checklist:
· Integrity and coherency from high-to-low frequencies and all points in between? Check.
· Consistently high resolution and focus across the entire frequency spectrum? Check.
· Extremely wide and deep sound stages? Check.
· Sharply focused sonic images? Check—although this is one area where I found that the prototype outperformed the full-size 30.7 (probably because the 30.7 ideally needs a bigger space than Magnepan has available).
· Powerful, extended, and agile low frequencies? Check— although once again, this is an area where the prototype offered somewhat better performance than the full-size 30.7 in the Magnepan room.
· Freedom from textural or temporal discontinuities between the bass modules and midrange/tweeter panels? Check. I played roughly 20 different low-bass/mid-bass/upper-bass/lower-midrange torture test tracks through the prototype system, focusing intently on textures, timbres, and timing, and observed no discernible discontinuities whatsoever.
The only two limitations of the prototype '30.7 for Condos' might be that, in an absolute sense, the smaller speaker will not play quite as loudly as the full-size 30.7 can, nor will it 'fill' larger spaces with sound quite as well as its bigger sibling does. In all other respects, though, the "30.7 for Condos" is every inch a real 30.7, which means that, like the 30.7, it is one of the most well-rounded and complete high-end loudspeakers on the planet. (I think it is one of the best things that Magnepan has ever done.) It is also a speaker system that promises to be at least relatively unobtrusive in a visual sense, which means it can potentially win friends among the thousands of listeners who crave state-of-the-art sound but possess small-to-mid-size listening rooms.
Is the '30.7 for Condos' still too big?
Even though the compact dipole dynamic woofer modules can hide in locations out of the listener's field of view, some may feel the speaker's downsized midrange/tweeter panels are still too large. Frankly, there is little that can be done about this if the objective is to offer a speaker that is the sonic equal of the mighty 30.7.
Dynamic woofers in a planar system? Can that even work?
Magnepan has gone to extraordinary lengths to build dipolar, dynamic bass modules that mimic large planar systems but some will still declare the dynamic woofers to be inferior— just because they can. This will be their loss, since if you listen with your eyes closed and your mind wide open, your might agree these dynamic dipole bass modules are entirely the qualitative equals of the 30.7's planar bass panels, and in some contexts perhaps even better.
Isn't DSP a 'tool of the devil', sonically speaking?
Audio purists believe that DSP (Digital Signal Processing) has no place in 'serious' high-end systems. The reasoning is that DSP devices can introduce a subtle layer of sonic 'haze' that can play havoc with the purity (and the dead quiet backgrounds) that many audiophiles crave. I have sometimes argued this very point, but in the '30.7 for Condos' the genius of the design hinges on the details.
Diller and team have carefully defined, designed, and refined their DSP circuits while undertaking painstaking A/B comparisons between the full-size 30.7 planar woofer panels and the new dynamic dipole woofer modules until qualitative differences between the two eventually melted away. The point is that DSP can work beautifully, provided designers take their time and listen, listen, and then listen some more until they get things right.
At this stage, it is not (yet) a given that the '30.7 for Condos' will be put into production. Before making that commitment, Diller and his wife Galena soon will embark on a US-wide demonstration tour for Magnepan's new prototype speaker and gathering feedback from prospective customers across the country. If the response is strongly favourable then Magnepan will make the investment necessary to put the new speaker into production, complete with an all-new, top-shelf industrial design that visually will set the speaker apart from anything Magnepan has built in the past.
On the other hand, if the reaction of prospective customers is only lukewarm, Magnepan will likely put this design back on the shelf, filed under "promising ideas that might have been…"
In any event, Diller believes that Magnepan's new dynamic dipole woofer system has relevance beyond use in Magnepan's speakers. So he hopes to offer it as a standalone product. As Diller put it, "I think our new dipole woofer system could address most of the reservations I've had about full-range electrostatics in the past." I would love to hear what this woofer could do in conjunction with MartinLogan's excellent but somewhat bass-shy CLX electrostatic models, for example. Just a thought…
Speaking on behalf of Hi-Fi+ listeners from the UK and Europe, I have recommended that Diller expand his demonstration tour to England and possibly Europe. If you live in the UK or Europe and would like to hear the '30.7 for Condos' prototypes, email Decent Audio Sound Distribution (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make your interest known. I feel confident in saying that an audition of this surprising new loudspeaker would be well worth your time.