As for limitations, the four mentioned above are about it. Now, however, let’s focus on the LRS’ sonic strengths, which are many.
From the moment they were first powered up, the LRS’s created one overriding impression, which is that they sound far, far more costly than they actually are. One’s eyes register the presence of two small, tasteful, yet unassuming speaker panels, but one’s ears tell a different story. On good recordings, there are broad, deep soundstages to enjoy, sharply focussed imaging, layers upon layers of nuanced musical textures and timbres, dramatic levels of overall resolution, and breathtakingly quick transient speeds to savour. The mind reels when trying to take in all these positive qualities at once, so that one might be forgiven for thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening.” But it is, fellow music lovers, it is.
On well-recorded and intensely atmospheric live recordings such as ‘Anabasis (Live)’ from Dead Can Dance In Concert[Pias, 16/44.1] the LRS’s convey an uncanny impression of both the acoustics of the concert venue as well as the expectant hush of the audience as the song begins. ‘Anabasis’ features juxtaposed high and low percussion rhythmic figures that propel the song forward and the little LRS’s do full justice to both, capturing the delicate, richly textured shimmer of the cymbals and (most of) the depth and weight of the low-pitched bass drum. Against this backdrop, the song’s gorgeous midrange synth washes and evocative, middle-Eastern themed vocals spread out upon an impressively broad, deep stage. It is the sort of vivid, expansive and self-assured sound one might expect from loudspeakers carrying four- or more likely five-figure price tags, but it is stunning to hear them pour forth from speakers of this size and price.
The LRS’s articulacy and dynamic agility are outstanding, too. To appreciate what I mean by this, try Rodrigo y Gabriela’s rendition of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from their album of the same name [Universal Imports, 16/44.1]. Folklore has it that this song has been so over-played that it has been banned in most every music store in the known world, but Rodrigo y Gabriela’s flamenco guitar interpretation is so energetic, expressive, and finely crafted that one can’t help but stop and listen. Happily, the LRS’s do their part to bring the music alive. First, they capture the sharp transient attacks and the fiery but also warmly rounded timbres of the guitars in a highly realistic way. Next, the speakers effortlessly keep pace with the performers’ often fleet-fingered runs of notes while also making it easy to appreciate differences between the guitarists’ playing styles. Most importantly, though, the LRS’s show this guitar duet is truly a conversation between two world-class musicians who both have a lot to say.
Finally, the LRS’s can work wonders with vocals and (to a point) bass instruments. A perfect illustration would be the song “Uh, uh, uh, uh, uh” by the Spanish singer Bebe (María Nieves Rebolledo Vila) from her album Y. [EMI, 16/44.1]. The song is an intimate duet between Bebe and bassist Javier Rojas and features Bebe’s delicately inflected (and at times almost child-like) voice accompanied by Rojas’ solo electric bass (which is simply recorded through a closely mic’d studio amplifier). Through the LRS’s Bebe sounds almost physically present in the listening room, as does Rojas and his bass amp. The LRS’s are capable of terrific musical immediacy thanks to resolution that just won’t quit and bass that, though not deeply extended, offers absolutely top-shelf transient speed, punch and pitch definition.
Stated simply, Magnepan’s LRS is the most expressive, revealing, resolving, sharply focussed, and well-balanced loudspeaker at or anywhere near its price that I have ever heard. It is brilliant, too, at imaging and rendering spacious three-dimensional soundstages. It may also be the only Magnepan small enough to potentially find favour with décor-sensitive family members—something the bigger Magnepans often fail to do. Put these factors together and you’ve got arguably the finest ‘entry-level’ high-end speaker money can buy.
Magnepan LRS loudspeaker
Type: Two-way, quasi-ribbon-type, planar dipolar loudspeaker
Driver complement: one quasi-ribbon bass/midrange driver, one quasi-ribbon tweeter
Frequency response: 50Hz – 20kHz
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Dimensions (H×W×D): 48 × 14.5 × 1 inches;
121.9 × 36.8 × 2.54cm
Weight: Not specified
Frame trim: Natural or black solid oak, dark cherry
Fabric: Off-white, black, and dark grey
Price: £1,195 per pair
Manufacturer: Magnepan Incorporated
Distributed in the UK by: Decent Audio
Tel.: +44 (0)5602 054669