The White Bear Lake, Minnesota-based loudspeaker manufacturer Magnepan never takes the launch of a new flagship model lightly and this is especially true in the case of the recently released four-panel 30.7 dipolar loudspeaker system ($30,000/pair in the US). For readers who have never seen Magnepan loudspeakers in the flesh, it helps to know that they are tall, wide, thin, and completely ‘boxless’ dipolar, panel-type speakers that look much like tasteful room divider screens. I have long used Magnepan speakers in my reference system and – to be candid – visitors who see the ‘Maggies’ for the first time often find it difficult to believe they even are loudspeakers (as in, “Riiight, they’re ‘loudspeakers’ if you say so—now what are they really?”). After a few well-chosen musical tracks, however, disbelief typically turns into the good kind of shock and awe. My point: Magnepans don’t look like typical box speakers and don’t sound like them either.
For more than a decade, Magnepan’s models geared for two-channel applications have used a single, multi-driver speaker panel per channel. In earlier years, however, Magnepan offered top models such as its Tympani-series speakers (culminating in the famous Tympani IVa) that employed three vertically orientated panels per channel. In fact, the largest variant of the Tympani (the Tympani IIIa) used an astonishing total of eight panels (two tweeter/midrange panels on the left, another two on the right, and four bass panels in the middle), which meant that in most rooms it was a literal ‘wall-to-wall’ loudspeaker.
While undeniably legendary in their day, the Tympani models required very careful set-up and equally careful selection of ancillary components in order to sound their best. What is more, they took up so much space that they probably set records for generating spouse acceptance problems (“Look dear, you can’t seriously be planning to put those things in our lounge; not now and not ever.”). Even so, the sound of the late, lamented Tympani’s was so compelling, so realistic, and so unforgettable that enthusiasts have been pestering Magnepan ever since to create a modern-day Tympani equivalent, but updated with 21st century materials and technologies.
This is precisely where the model 30.7 comes in. The 30.7 is by far the highest performance loudspeaker Magnepan has ever made and though it is a large speaker, it seems visually more compact than the original Tympanis. Nevertheless, through extremely space efficient design the 30.7’s manage to offer fully 22% more driver surface area than did the Tympani IVa. Each 30.7 speaker consists of a large bass/lower-midrange panel and a considerably narrower midrange/tweeter panel, where the tweeter/midrange panel is designed to stand beside and a little behind its companion bass panel (this in order to achieve proper time alignment). Like most Magnepan speakers, the 30.7’s are built in mirror-image pairs, thus giving users numerous set-up options through which panels can be positioned to optimise greater imaging focus and specificity, broader and deeper soundstages, or—in the best cases—both.
The 30.7 model is so new that Magnepan has not yet published the new model’s manual nor finalised its specifications, but through discussions with Wendell Diller, Magnepan’s head of Marketing and Sales. I was able to learn much about the design. The 30.7’s large bass/lower-midrange panel, says Diller, is the same size as Magnepan’s 20.7 loudspeaker (that is, 79 × 29 × 2.062 inches or 200.7 × 73.7 × 5.2 cm—H×W×D). The tweeter/midrange panel, in turn, is the same height and depth as the bass/lower-midrange panel, but a bit more half the width (it is 16 inches or 36.8 cm wide).