If you've read anything about hi-fi you'll know that electrostatic loudspeakers are something esoteric, something special. But there's another type of panel loudspeaker – the magnetic planar – that's also trying to grab our attention. They are altogether a rarer animal, even though technically easier to build than an electrostatic. Like electrostatics – and for the same reason – they must be big to develop deep bass.
Well, the Magneplanar 20.7s we review in this issue – see p10 – were to me eye-poppingly big. Moreover, they needed all of our 25ft long listening room to sound correctly balanced and produce deep and even bass. But once in position they offered a glorious sound and there was some discussion amongst us all – and bemused visitors – as to which was best: the 20.7s or the sizeable Martin Logan Renaissance electrostatics I reviewed last month.
There wasn't agreement on this: some loved the smooth and consistent sound of the Maggies, others leaned toward the visceral analysis of the Martin Logans, tolerating the obvious sonic difference between electrostatic panel and box bass. Irrespective, I feel they both are exemplars of alternative loudspeaker technologies that could trickle down to become more easily affordable and more common as a result. About time too since Gilbert Briggs, founder of Wharfedale, devoted a chapter to Baffle 'speakers in his book Loudspeakers, published in 1948.
Loudspeakers continue to confuse us; I hope you like our review of the new super-Maggies all the same, and I also hope you get to hear them sometime. If you do, please write to tell us what you think.
The room has at last stopped moving around me as I write. As jet lag brought on by a short and very intense four day visit to California recedes, I can check to see that what I wrote about this show wasn't similarly wobbly! Both the USA – and Canada up the road – continue to innovate and intrigue in high fidelity, I was to find from this visit, as you'll see in my report on p54. And where do those big panel loudspeakers I talked about earlier come from? The USA of course.
What did you vote a few weeks ago on June 23rd? Writing this just before the Brexit referendum – and totally undecided about what to vote – I wonder what we will all be thinking after the vote. I am assailed by one thought from my 16 year old son who's studying politics – it doesn't matter whether we are in or out because the EU in current form is unworkable and will have to be reformed. I hope he is right and Europe will move forward, irrespective of the Referendum's outcome. What follows afterwards will be crucial.