Moving on to something with more kick in the low end, I chose Steely Dan’s ‘Babylon Sisters’ from Gaucho [1980 MCA HDTracks 24/96 AIFF]. The driving low bass notes throughout the song were there, but without the authority I am accustomed to. I switched the amp into Ultralinear mode at 80 Watts and the solidity improved. Still, I was beginning to understand where music types and genre’s along with amp pairing and room size made a more significant difference with these smaller paneled quasi-ribbon speakers. Moving on then to the PS Audio BHK250, I upped the game to 500 watts into 4 Ohms. Steely Dan was back in a good way with the extra power and current. The .7’s opened up much more, and the crisp and authoritative bass was nearly perfect in my smaller listening room. In addition, I was enjoying an almost holographic listening experience as the famous Magnepan dimensionality appeared right in front of me.
Having found the performance sweet spot of power and placement I went for the classic Magnepan experience; female vocals. Reaching into the depths of the music collection I pulled out Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. [1983 Elektra/Asylum DVD Audio 202 Warner Strategic Marketing]. The title song is a standard style torch song with massed strings and horns. Whether it is Holly Cole, Lyn Stanley, or Linda, the experience of feeling like you are in the front table at the club sitting a few feet away from the singer is, for me, always a special one. The sense of presence was exceptional. The scale of the backing orchestra was powerful yet properly controlled when placed in a supporting role for a single singer. I seized the opportunity to listen to the entire disc with this chain of excellent audio gear.
Knowing that a high-end Class AB amp paired well with the .7’s I looked around for another amp to try. Sitting in their boxes waiting to be shipped back were the Bel Canto Ref600M Class-D mono’s. 600 Watts into 4 Ohms fit the bill perfectly. I pulled them out of their boxes and put them into the system along with the companion DAC 2.7. If you are a fan of acoustic guitar you must spend time with Tommy Emmanuel. He uses the guitar as a percussion instrument as well creating a sound that is nuanced and unique. His album Center Stage (2008 Favoured Nations CD Rip 16/44.1 AIFF) offers up ‘Mombasa’, a sonic performance that takes the guitar and turns it into a drum kit and seemingly two guitars playing at the same time. I have heard this live, and it it is wonderful. You could not comprehend one person was doing everything you were hearing. However, having it reproduced on the Magnepan .7’s with the Bel Canto gear was a close second, and that makes this an exceptional audio experience.
While this is a single product review I have to comment on the synergy of the two Minnesota based brands; Bel Canto, and Magnepan. For a system that comes in at under £10,000 to sound this fantastic and to be as practical from a living space point of view is terrific. Small home owners need never look with wistfulness on their friends’ ‘Audiophile’ system again. This is not a compromise at any level. It is music.
Tradeoff’s? Magnepans will not blow your neighbours off their porch, and the Magnepan .7 being the smallest of them all is no loudspeaker for a headbanger. Also, large orchestral works will not bloom to their maximum in the lowest registers. Both of these issues can be mitigated with Magnepan’s DWM bass panels. For most music, however, the delivery will have a spaciousness and dimensionality to be savoured, so yes, “Come Here, you have to hear these things!”
The Magnepan .7’s are an exceptional value! Most highly recommended.
Type: Two Way Quasi Ribbon
Frequency Response: 45-22kHz +/- 3dB
Sensitivity: 86dB/500Hz /2.83v
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Dimensions (W×H×D): 387mm × 1378mm× 32mm
Weight: 12 kg each
Price: £1,995 per pair
Manufacturer: Magnepan Incorporated
Distributed in the UK by: Decent Audio
Tel: +44(0)5602 054669