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Budget integrated amplifier choices for Magnepan MMG (6Moons)

  • Throughout the coming weeks I’ll be reviewing three budget amplifiers over at 6Moons. A shoot-out it is not. There’s a twist in the assignment tail: each amplifier is only getting a run with Magnepan’s MMG loudspeaker. If it’s not abundantly clear from these words, allow me to reiterate: the MMG are possibly the biggest bang-for-buck speaker this side of a grand. Truly. I can’t think of any similarly-priced box design that could match them for speed, imaging and soundstage size.

    My MMG-amplifier journey started vintage, where amplifier price commensuration might be more forthcoming.

    Sydney-side father-son team John and Peter McKenna restore/repair all manner of classic beasts. However, they proudly specialise in Sansui overhauls. I commissioned an AU-719: dual mono, diamond differential circuit, rated 90wpc, measured 125wpc, tank-like build, sourced from eBay, re-capped to the nines. Surely this would ladle in even more lashings of agreeability than the NAD 3020?


    But no. The Sansui/MMG pairing brought no grapes to the vine, found no diamonds in the mine. It was all so very so-so, lacklustre. Some might refer to this as a synergy mismatch. But synergy ain’t no mystical black art. Engineers prepared to dig deeper into both Magnepan transduction and Sansui electronics would not doubt find concrete reasons as to why the pairing failed to gel. I suspect the Sansui is better suited to more traditional nominal 8 ohm loads. After all, the AU-417 and AU-517 both bring an unbelievable truth to Usher’s super-budget S-520 box.  Peter McKenna confirms my experiences run to parallel to those of his own:  4 ohm Dynaudio standmounts not as accommodating of 70s Sansui integrateds as Usher S-520 or Lenehan Audio ML-1.

    Turn to the back of the NAD 3020 and one sees it’s been built with 4 ohm challenges in mind.  User-switchable impedance to lift possible watts per channel to 58 from 20 (into 8 ohms). The MMGs reflect the NAD’s excellence with midrange liquidity.  It’s not the weightiest sound (in terms of musical body), but definitely pleasurable.  I could live with this combo indefinitely (if I had to).

    Just don’t say “They don’t make ’em like they used to”. Because they do: in the crosshairs for this MMG-context review are three contemporary offerings from around the globe.


    Since the preview page made its lunar landing a number of readers have emerged from the shadows with their thoughts.

    Mr M wrote in:

    “See you’re enjoying some time with the little Maggies. Tough little beasties to beat aren’t they? Enjoyed a few generations of the Magnepan line myself. A dealer in these parts had a budget set up with the (then) smaller Maggies and a Rotel/Audio Alchemy combo. Sounded quite amazing. Trouble was, it sounded too amazing. The big cone/dome plus ultra expensive rigs in the other rooms didn’t come off well in comparison. The dealer had no choice. He dropped the Magnepan line.”

    Daniel Q also chimed in with his experiences here in Australia.

    “Six months ago I got a pair of refurbished Magnepan 1.6 from Bill McLean [The Australian distributor – Ed]. I love their sound and could well relate dot what you wrote about the MMGs at six moons. They are a huge step up from my other speakers, the Quad21L2 which are now on secondary room duties.”

    “At the shop, we extensively tested the speakers with my small 2x 40 Watt Class-D amp (from XTZ). Obviously, we first had doubts about whether this amp would drive the speakers at all. However, once the music started, Bill could not hide his surprise and amazement with how well it worked.”


    Finally, Gregory C:

    “As for a good amp for the Maggies, you might want to try Redgum’s RGI35. It’s an Aussie with 70 watts into 8 Oms, but has over 120 amps of current. The sound is very close to their RGI 120 you reviewed. Just a thought. I have one for over 7 years and love it.”

    I’m one step ahead of you, bro.

    So – whilst the amplifiers under scrutiny for this assignment are already locked and loaded, I’m inviting readers to share their experiences with Magnepan amplifier choices. I’ll publish the more interesting comments on this very page.

    Run at me:  john @ digital audio review dot net dot au

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. I actually live only 15 miles (20km) from the Magnepan factory. Lucky me I can just pick up a pair. I have listened to Magnepans several times over the years and I actually prefer the older models they still sell, the MMG’s and 12’s, to their newer updated ones.
      The MMG and 12’s have a warmer sound and are not as bright as the newer 1.7 and 3.7’s are. You do give up some clarity and definition but the trade off is worth it for long hour and fatigue free listening sessions. I used to own the MMG’s and drove them with a 105 watt 9180 Hafler amplifier and the 945 pre amp. They sounded just great together. I think that the MMG’s are the best bargain in speakers anywhere. You really get true hi end sound from something that costs as much as most budget speakers do.
      However, my favorite speaker from Magnepan is actually the 12’s. They only cost a few hundred dollars more than the MMG, are just a little bigger, but give you a fuller sound will a bit more bottom end authority.
      I used to listen to the 12’s a lot at an audio store here and they sound great with older Rotel electronics circa 2000’s. That’s when Rotel had a slightly warmer sound than they do now. I still remember sitting in front of those 12’s with the Rotel electronics and thinking that this is some of the best sound I have ever experienced in my life regardless of system or price.
      I no longer have the space for Magnepan speakers in my new room, but If I did, and I wanted a great budget system, then I would get the 12’s and use a NAD 375 BEE integrated amp to drive them with. Magnepans love smooth and powerful amps. Throw in a NAD 546 CD player and for about $3000 US dollars you would be in Hi-Fi heaven!
      As with most speakers there a few trade offs with Magnepans if you want to achieve this great sound. Getting the best from them all depends on how you like to listen to music and how you want to use your speakers in the space that you have. You should use the following criteria. A) You need a smooth powerful amp for them to sound at their best. Powerful solid state amps and tube pre amp combos work well. B) You need to leave enough space behind and to the sides of the speakers. C) Most importantly you need to be sitting down to enjoy them. If you are standing up, sitting to the sides, or walking around the room the sound will change quite dramatically for the worse.
      These are not speakers to use at a party. They are intimate speakers. Just position them correctly, sit in your favorite chair or sofa, and when you are dialed into the sweet spot then there is nowhere else you would rather be.

    2. I like the approach of presenting your own findings and asking readership for feedback. A pool (or pond) of collective knowledge

    3. My very first amp was the Sansui Integrated AU-101 – circa 1972. What a wonderful device. I can still feel the workings of the flat paddle switches on the front. I coupled it with a pair of Pioneer Project 60 Speakers, a Pioneer manual turntable, and one Akai and one Concord reel-to-reel tape decks. My music room in my parent’s basement became “recording central” with my musician friends. I still listen to some of those tapes to this very day. Nice to see Sansui is still going strong with the AU line. What a wonderful blast from the past!

    4. Continuing with the NAD theme, I have used a C372 as a power amp very successfully with my MMGs. If I had the chance to trade it for a C272 or C275 power amp I would do it because I do not need/use the preamp section of the C372.

    5. A restored Dynaco ST-70. May not be the best at frequency extremes, but the amp does a very good job of controlling the panels and it can delivery much needed current. Given the cost of a more recent amp, either new or restored, a restored ST70 is very competitive.

    6. That would be great if you could also mention the Master-10 and the Exposure 2010S2, just few words to say if they actually can drive the MMGs (well, the Master-10 should be able to, with 500W…)

    7. I’m sure the reviews will be interesting whichever amps you’ve chosen but I’m hoping that one of them will be a Class D or Direct Digital type as these seem likely to be types of amps whose numbers will increase and many of them compete at the bargain end of the price spectrum.

    8. What a timely article. I had thought about purchasing a pair of mmgs since its rare to see a more exotic speaker design at this price point, but had no idea what to pair with it amp wise. I’m curious if anybody has tried something from Emotiva like the XPA-200 as that seems like the other bang for the buck brand that has gotten alot of attention in recent times.

    9. Ive read in a lot of online blogs that Emotiva and Magnepan are a great combination for somebody in a budget.

    10. +1 for Emotiva with the maggies… I have had several amps from powerful t-amps, class A, and now the class A/B Emotiva XPA-2. I cant say enough about the Emotiva house sound. Very ‘high end’ and sophisticated. The opposite of what used to be the typical exciting, but fatiguing Japanese electronics sound. The highs are very precise and well controlled. Bass is strong and well damped. You would almost think that this amp is class A. I know, now, Emotiva has some class D reference amps. I’m not sure I would bite on those until some good reviews come out.

    11. Hi John,
      Really looking forward to your reviews as I’m looking for options for my Maggie 1.6s. I’ve been looking at pre/power to get the required grunt, but maybe an integrated might do the trick?.

      • Juan – sorry dude. Three amps was the brief and three amps is what I’ll be covering. Thanks for the Naim suggestion though. I used to own one and like it a lot.

    12. My mmg are powered by NAD C375 and CAYIN MA8O. MMG fitted with hifi tuning fuses (Mclean hi fi)and metal oxide resistors(sound lab). I am truly pleased with its audio presentation. For band music I use NAD amp. For vocals I use the CAYIN valve amp EL34s installed. I will be getting four KT88s to roll.

    13. I am running in a new pair of MMGs with an Emotiva XPA-200 and it is a very good match. The Emotiva can handle the Maggies and go as loud as you want.

      MMGs are very revealing though and I can easily tell the difference between a couple of DACs. The better the feed the better the result.

    14. I’ve been using the Emotiva XPA-2 amp to drive my MMGs….WONDERFULLY MUSICAL, EXCELLENT SOUND. Had a Counterpoint SA-20, previous this current adventure, before it self-destructed. Glorious sound. I’m playing around with cheap subwoofers (using a pair) and found that the super-cheap Pioneer SW-8 Mk2 (Andrew Jones designed) works really well. I lay them on their sides so they no longer fire downward. Nicely complements the MMGs. I’m feeding my amp and sub woofers using a TC Konnekt 6 hooked to a Mac; the headphone output drives my ‘woofers. The idea is to add some bass where it’s needed, but not recreate domestic earthquakes. (Can’t say enough about how great the TC Electronics gear sounds and it is really inexpensive.)

      (John- you’ve made a great page here, I usually don’t submit comments, but your thoughtful work has motivated me to communicate.)

    15. After hearing the 3 new amps with the MMG, how did the Nad 3020 compare to them? It would be interesting to know what are the difference between today’s amplifaction vs a vintage point of reference.

      • I’ll switch the NAD back in this week (some time) and see how it goes after 2 months with the other three. Existing audio memory says it’s not that far behind. It’s number one strength is its smoothness and liquidity with vocals. Probably doesn’t have the kick of the others.

    16. Hi John,

      How do Magnepan speaker handle electronic music such as Amon Tobin or Shackleton?


      • Amazing! Transparent and tight. I can’t think of another speaker under $2k that’d get close (except perhaps the KEF LS50).

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