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  • 1 month later...
What could be more wonderful than this $25 marvel?

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to proudly present the mighty Harman Kardon PM650 integrated amp with the futuristic push buttons!  The optional tail fins are not pictured but WILL be added at a later date.

I wonder if it'll catch fire when I plug it in?




There's also something a LITTLE further up the foodchain coming but I'll save that for another day.
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For the past few years I've been dying to get my old Stax Sigmas back in action but I've been too cheap to pay the price for a dedicated Stax headphone amp.

Last week I snagged a used harman/kardon PM640 integrated amp for the princely sum of $25.00 and the old beauty just showed up today.  The top is dented, the face is dirty and scratched and it sounds FANTASTIC!  Even the stock headphone jack sounds great. 

I'm really impressed. 

At any rate, here's the killer combo which will be paired up with a harman/kardon tuner sooner or later.  Yes, I bought a second HK F500X which the local repair shop keeps threatening to fix.

RodH got me back into the HK gear so it's all his fault!

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The SRD-7 energizer works differently than a regular Stax amplifier. It requires to be piggy-backed to a standard speaker amplifier, where it takes the current from the speaker amplifier and convert it to the necessary high voltage power for driving Stax Electrostatic headphones.


The full article can be found here:



The SRD-7 was part of a package when I bought the Sigmas new back in the early 80s from an ad in the back pages of Stereo Review. 
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Here's a review for the Planar Circle. 
I will have to work on Crapfest 2011 next weekend (vintage solid state gear which looks like hell but sounds great).
Okay, here it is.
There's been a ton of stuff about the 1.7s so a few weeks back I took a ride down to my local dealer to hear what all of the fuss was about and see how they stacked up against my 1.6s which I've listened to daily for the past three years.
I bought along Frank Zappa's Apostrophe as I've heard it a million times and it has a bit of everything on it.
What I heard at the dealer's was a bit underwhelming: a very wide soundstage, the vocals sounded great and just came out of nowhere but there was no top end whatsoever.  The guitar should sound like a razor but this was just flat. 
I stayed for a bit and then left really disappointed.  Was it the room?  Was it the equipment?  Was it the speakers?  What's the deal?

So, last week I bit the bullet and got some 1.7s.
To give some frame of reference, amps are VTL 300 DeLuxe monoblocks with fresh Winged C tubes, the preamp is a Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 with fresh tubes of some sort of unknown Russia brand from the tubestore, the CD player is a Jolida JD100 with Sovtek tubes, speaker cables are Kimber 4TC, interconnects are custom made silver, the turntable is a Well Tempered with an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge w/ a Jolida JD9 phonostage w/ Sovtek tubes and there's a small NHT sub.
It's not the latest and the greatest but it all works well together.
The room itself is a kind of an acoustics nightmare as I converted the attic into the master bedroom so it runs the length of the house and is a bit oddly shaped.  The stairwell presented more than a few problems.
At any rate, the 1.7s can be considered to be a different speaker model than simply an updated 1.6. 
The first tip off should be that the are very specific about setting up the tweeters on the inside.  You'd think that would make the sweet spot about the size of a postage stamp but that's not the case - these have a much wider sweet spot than my 1.6s which I listen to with the tweeters on the outside.
The soundstage is also deeper (if that makes any sense).  VTLs do a really good job of presenting a three dimensional soundstage but the 1.7s do it quite a bit better than the 1.6s.  Picture going from regular headphones to a pair of Stax electrostatics and you've got the idea.
For once I actually was there when the speakers broke in - at about the 5 hour mark this annoying haze just vanished.  Pretty neat.
I'm happy to say that the highs were back and Zappa's guitar had that razor blade sound to it.  The bass was pretty much the same as the 1.6s.
The midrange is MUCH better than my 1.6s and detail resolution is better, too.  Certain things that were always buried in the mix before were brought to the forefront so I was hearing details that I'd never really noticed before.  Oh yeah, there is some piano in there and I don't remember that drum bit - stuff like that.
The sound is more cohesive from top to bottom as well.  I don't know how else to describe it but it sounds like one big speaker, not a couple of different sections. 
The biggest improvement is that to make the 1.6s (and other Magnepans) sound good you need to crank the volume up a bit.  At lower volumes they just don't cut it.  With the 1.7s, they sound really good at lower volumes.
I really like my 1.6s but these are a step up - they did their homework on this one.
I should mention that the 1.6s aren't going anywhere, they're keepers.
This concludes the first installment of my thrilling review.

Next weekend I'm going to lug them downstairs and see how they stack up with a pair of 3.6s.  I'm really curious to see if the soundstage will be large enough and how they'll compare with the ribbons.
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Congrats Steve.....


These must be the ones you needed to finally get that Maggie HT system going.............emwink.gif


I read your review.....they sound excellent.....could only imagine Maggies on tubes


have fun but dont hurt yourself luggin those around!
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Congrats on the new 1.7's, they are supposed to be awsome.eusa_clap.gif I was just reading about the new 3.7's, which are supposed to be even more amazing, I wish I had the scratch for those!cool0016.gif

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I think that the 3.7s are going to be some sort of Ultimate Speaker - I've been told that they sound better than the 20.1s. 

I can't swing them but if all goes well, I do get a tax refund once a year and just maybe a used set will turn up right around the time I sell my 3.6s.

A lot of stuff will have to go right for this to happen but one can always hope.

Yeah, I should have married an Eskimo woman - strong like ox.
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From audiocircle if anyone is interested.

Today I tackled the odious task of comparing the 1.7s against the mighty 3.6s to see what there is to see, so to speak. Could they do the job downstairs?

Before I did that I compared the now broken in 1.7s against the 1.6s with the earlier model in a couple of different configurations: with the mylar reversed (tweeters out), in the normal orientation with tweeters out and normal orientation with tweeters in.

In the end I settled on normal orientation, tweeters on the outside and while they sounded nice enough the 1.6s simply don't offer the same depth and coherency of the 1.7s. It struck me that the 1.6s were both a bit shrill and lacking in the midbass registers. This was a surprise as I've always considered the 1.6s to be just tremendous. Time marches on, I guess.

The downstairs system is pretty much a mirror image of the upstairs but the amps are VTL MB250s (instead of 300s), there's a real subwoofer (SVS instead of that little NHT) and an Otari reel to reel is the analog source (no turntable).



The room is fairly lively sounding but not overly so and a gentlemen brought over some frequency response software and it measured pretty well. The system sounds really good to my ears.

Enough gab.

After letting the system warm up for a half hour, I put on Frank Zappa's Apostrophe at a moderate level - preamp gain at 9 O'clock which is a notch or two lower than my normal listening level.

The 3.6s do a really great job for soundstage width and height but at this low level the recoding just sounded kind of dull but it did give me some frame of reference. I'd just burned Apostrophe from the album which I bought back in 1976 or 77 when it first came out. This copy still sounds great.

MANfully, I lugged these whales out of the room and plugged in the 1.7s and turned the amps back on. They kind of looked dwarfed


but sometimes looks can be deceiving so let's hear what they can do.

For the fun of it, here's some python eggs that I'm incubating in the living room as well.


The Crocodile Hunter's got nothin' on me. Where was I? Speaker review.

Ya know, there's no replacement for displacement! The swirling winds in the intro were on a much smaller scale and all of the performers were shrunken down more than a little bit. At this low volume level the sound quality was actually better - it didn't sound so lifeless.

Cranked up it sounded really good and did a very nice job of filling the room so enough of these little guys, let's see what the 3.6s can do.

I first tried the big ones with the tweeters on the inside (ugh!) and then swapped them around to how I had them and turned the volume up three notches which is where I cranked the 1.7s to.

Much more better (as they say in the audiophile press). Huge soundstage, midrange o'plenty and great highs.

To bring this to a close, my initial impressions were correct: the 1.7s are a real step up from the 1.6s but fall short of the 3.6s.

What I wasn't expecting was for the 1.7s to sound better than the 3.6s at lower volumes but they do. If you live in an apartment, prefer listening at moderate levels or have a smaller room, the 1.7s would be the way to go. They're certainly less fatiguing to listen to over a long period and offer tremendous detail - at least on par with the 3.6s, maybe better.

I forgot one thing: if you like your music LOUD, you want the 3.6s as the 1.7s sound kind of strained at elevated levels whereas the 3.6s sound just perfect.


I'm told that the 3.7s are the same as the 1.7s but there's more of it. Now that would be something!

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Sounds like you got a good workout moving those Maggies around.


I didn't realize that pythons (actually most snakes) lay eggs.

When I was young I raised Garter and Ribbon snakes which are ovoviviparous (bear live young).
We used to bet on how large their litters would be. (Normally around 20 but varies from 5 to >80.)

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Those little guys you had were actually in a soft eggshell which bursts during expulsion from the cloaca. 

Boas are the same way and is it ever a mess to clean up - blech! 

With the python (and lizard) eggs the young have an egg tooth and they slice their way out of the shells so you KNOW that they're born to kick ass!

My neighbor says that his ducks have the same thing.  The egg tooth falls off after a few days with the reptiles, I don't know how long it takes with the birdies.
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  • 3 weeks later...
How grown men spend their spare time - from the Planar Circle:

As promised, here's the first installment of my Magnepan DWM woofer review.
When this product came out my first thought was that the company had really lost their way and had come out with a product that there wasn't a need for.
If you look at the specs from the page on their website
you'll see that the bass floor isn't very impressive

System Description: Planar-magnetic dipole woofer.
Frequency Response: 40-200 Hz*
Recommended Power: See F.A.Q. on web site www.magnepan.com
Sensitivity: 86 dB @2.83V/1 Meter/50 Hz
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Dimensions: 19.25Hx22.5Wx1.25D (inches)
Warranty: Limited 3-year to original owner
Weight: 19 lbs.
*Bass response will vary depending upon placement near walls, cabinet or furniture.
Revision-- 4-4-11

and their speakers already go down to 40hz so what good is it? They need a subwoofer, not this mini Quad looking thing.

The indefatiguable Wendell Diller at Magnepan kept telling me you've got to try it, you've got to try it, you've got to try it and, of course, I kept going Nah, Nah, Nah I don't think so.
Curiosity finally got the best of me so I asked Wendell if he could send me a loaner after all. Wendell said he had an engineering sample at his disposal and agreed. He is a good man to put up with my rudeness.
A week or so later UPS left #0002 at my doorstep


and I got in touch with my buddy, Paul Elliot, to have him bring over his ClassD amp and his measuring software to see what the deal is.
At first we hooked it up to my 3.6s and it was just about useless. I need this because why?
We then took it upstairs and tried it with 1.7s, 1.6s and finally MMGs.
We set it up roughly in the center of the speakers and forward towards the listener about 14" and with the both the 1.7s and 1.6s it made the sound worse in my room - it just confused the bottom end and made everything sound muddy.
It was almost wonderful with the MMGs but nothing to get too excited about. Maybe a real center speaker would be the answer, I thought, not this woofer. It might work with the Mini Maggie system but not with the bigger boys.
Paul left and I told Wendell that it wasn't the most wonderful thing I ever heard and he asked if I tried the supplied resistors to reduce output? Well, no....
I poked around a little bit and had a NAD 3020 integrated amp and a Harman Kardon PM640 integrated kicking around so hooked up the NAD to drive the DVM.
Note: you DON'T need a lot of power to drive this woofer but you DO need something that's comfortable with driving a 4 Ohm (and possibly lower) load. The NAD became alarmingly hot in very short order so it was replaced with the Harman Kardon which has no such issues. I was advised to use solid state for this model, by the way.
I already knew that placing the woofer in front of the speakers sounded like a baby hippo passing gas so I decided to place it inbetween the speakers as before but this time behind them. After all, that's where I have my little NHT "sub"woofer which operates at roughly the same frequencies as the DWM.
Being a planar, I wanted it out from the wall and got it up off of the floor (and above the amp) by placing it ontop of the NHT sub. I adjusted the Maggie with the HK's volume knob until the sound blended in with the big speakers (not too loud, not too soft but just right) and plopped down in the listening chair.



EL PERFECTO! or was I imagining things? I turned the HK volume all the way down, went back to the chair for about 30 seconds and then turned the HK volume back up.
No, I wasn't imagining things. I went back and forth for 15 minutes or so adjusting the volume and finally settled on about the 9:30 position for the DWM.

Here's what it does: I initially thought that what it did was to fill in the midbass but those who know better told me that I was mistaken:

It doesn't necessarily fill in the midbass. If it is strictly additive, you will get the bloated bass you experienced initially.
Are you familiar with how mulitple subwoofers are used to smooth the deep bass? This technique applies all the way up to about 200 Hz. You may be getting some filling of holes at your listening seat, however, when the bass seems more "right", you have more linear bass/midbass.

With such an oddly shaped room to deal with, I have no doubts that there's linearity issues o'plenty.
To my ears it deepened the soundstage considerably - you get more of a 3D, holographic effect with the DWM.
I'm told that it's simply because the midbass response is now more linear at my listening position. It could be - I just know for sure how it sounds.

Here's what it doesn't do: it's not a sub and if you position it the wrong place or crank the volume way up on it the imaging, soundstage and bottom end all go south.

Just to experiment, I positioned the DWM closer to me, further away and finally right up against the wall. I got it right the first time by earbone and by eyeball: 46" behind the speakers, 46" out from the wall.
That's what worked in the upstairs room, you'll have to try moving it around in your own place until you find what works for you. You'll know when you have the placement and the volume setting correct as it'll just sound right. There's no mistaking it when you've got it set up correctly.
I guess if I had to describe it, I'd say that listening to the stereo without the DWM is like losing a finger from your hand - it's not the worst thing that could happen to you but it's better when you have all of your fingers.
Earlier in this review I mentioned my little NHT "sub"woofer which is currently being used as a DWM riser. They both bottom out at around 40Hz so for the fun of it I decided to compare the NHT to the Magnepan. The NHT sounds like a little box going thump thud bump thump by comparison. The only way I can make the Maggie sound anywhere close to that bad is to stick it right up against the wall. The Magnepan still sounds better that way. Maybe if I put a couple of pillows in front of it...
This portion of the review was undertaken using 1.7s; now that I figured out how to set things up this weekend I hope to do some fooling around with 1.6s and MMGs and see what the results are and once that's done, see if I can't manage to get it to integrate with an SVS subwoofer.

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  • 1 month later...
The 3.6s are gone and the 3.7s have taken their place in the downstairs system AND my 1.6s made it to Norway in one piece.  The fellow from Norway wrote "thank you for bringing Heaven to my living room" so all is good.  I'm surprised that no one here jumped on them but they went to a good home.


The 3.7s are undergoing break-in and will be changing sound quite dramatically for the next few days and will be fully broken in after a few months.  Even so, they do things that neither the 1.7s nor the 3.6s can do.


For example, on this one song on 801 Live Eno's synthesizer was doing an expanding sound trick with the sound system: it came directly out front of the speakers on both sides of the stage and then went wobbling out off to the side speakers and the sound kind of throbbed around a bit as it wobbled between the outermost speakers and the ones directly in front of the audience (if that description makes any sense). 

I never heard that before when I listened to this CD but with the 3.7s it was REALLY pronounced.  These do the old sound appears to be coming from an impossible place trick (like from a couple of feet from outside of the room which would mean outside of the house).  The 3.6s would do that on occasion but they never did with this Eno cut.

I'm going to give that cut a listen with the 1.7s but I don't think that they can throw the same monster soundstage.


They're also exposing a lot more detail on Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Flesh CD; there was a lot of stuff going on in those cuts which was just buried before.  He must have spent forever dicking around in the studio when he made those albums.


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Thank you.  I can't believe that I actually bought brand new speakers with that price tag but once I heard them my peabrain went TILT!!! and I was done for.

I have to do something for the MMGs for the boob tube and then I've had enough of buying stereo gear for a bit.

Did I tell you where the MMGs sound best?  Way up in the air off to the side of the cabinets in the living room.  I have to get some piano hinges so I can mount the little buggers and then swing them out of the way when they're not in use and angle them out when you want to listen to them. 

I plan on using that Maggie woofer in the center and then that SVS sub and it should sound pretty good.

And then I get to watch American (UGH!) Idol with Lynda. 
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  • 2 weeks later...
Reprinted from audiocircle
Last Fall I got to thinking about the various audio reviews and how they all seem to gush over how superlative everything is.  Could this possibly be the case or were these people just trying to flog some new junk to keep the industry going?
This led me to do some fact finding of my own by running down to The Listening Room in Towson, MD where one thing led to another and I now find myself enjoying a set of Magnepan 1.7s (a disappointing demo which turned out to be a tremendous speaker in my home - go figure).
Not too long ago I decided that it was time for Lynda and myself to take another trip down to The Listening Room to see what the deal is with the 3.7s.  My 3.6s were no slouch so were the 3.7s all that the reviews were making them out to be?
I brought along two favorites: Zappa's Apostrophe' and Maria Muldaur's A Woman Alone With The Blues.  Both are recorded really well and I know the Zappa piece by heart - within 30 seconds I can tell if I like something or not with Apostrophe.
The equipment was warmed up for a little bit, we were seated and on went the Zappa. 
I kept the volume at a moderate level where you could talk over it (a bit loudly) and be heard.  My biggest complaint with the 3.6s (and the 1.6s) was that you had to lean on the volume to get them to come alive.  At high levels they sounded great but they just don't cut it at lower levels.
The swirling snowdrifts on Apostrophe sounded great and the first thing I noticed with the 3.7s was that the soundstage was more three dimensional - Frank was back in the mix with the action going on out in front of him. 
Tina Turner's background vocals came out of nowhere and by the time that CD was done and Maria Muldaur came on doing her version of Fever the system sounded tremendous.  For the demo the equipment used was a 90W Rogue tube amp, an Audio Research preamp which I covet and a Cambridge Audio 840 Azur CD player which is a nice piece.
By the time Fever was over I was giving the 3.7s some serious consideration so did a little dickering and left saying I'd think it over a bit but probably nothing would happen until 2012.  Maybe I can find a used set by then, I dunno...
After dinner that same evening I let my stereo warm up for a bit and put on Maria Muldaur's Fever at roughly the same volume level as I'd heard it on the 3.7s.  Coming out of the 3.6s it was well, less than wonderful.  It just seemed kind of flat sounding and all disconnected somehow SOOOO after a little sniveling about how life was unfair I made up my mind.
That Monday I ordered a set of 3.7s in the exact same natural oak with black socks as my 3.6s had and began the mad scramble to make damned sure that I wouldn't be caught short of pennies when they showed. 
They arrived four or five weeks later, I had the dough in hand and the good people from The Listening Room not only delivered them but insisted upon setting them up.  That's service.
They were initially set up with the ribbons on the outside (which is how I had the 3.6s set up) and resistors were installed in the midrange and tweeter slots per Magnepan's advice.
I spent three days being pretty much of a shut-in listening to them and the longer they played the more I noticed that something was off.  No amount of Q-tipping could get the sound right to my ears although I did succeed in having the cleanest ear canals in the county.
I flipped the speakers around so that the ribbons were on the inside which I found to be a big improvement and then removed the resistors one at a time.  Better and better yet but still not right.  WTF sez me?  Why do they sound so weird?  Maybe they're still just breaking in?  The 1.7s didn't have this weird haze to them when they were breaking in...
Then it hit me - I had purchased some small fans to keep the amps cool in the summer and the amps were never hitting their designed operating temperature.  Could that be it?
I shut the fans off and fifteen minutes later that wonderful VTL sound was back and the speakers sounded perfect.
What I've found is that they have that great 1.7 coherency where everything is seamless (or balanced) but there's a lot more of it.  You could really just have a one sentance review:

Take the 1.7s, stretch them in every direction and that's the 3.7s

What that means is that there is a much larger and deeper soundstage, a better top end thanks to the ribbon and considerably better bass.
These speakers really brought out just how good the Magnepan's bass is.  Listening to Paul McCartney on the remastered Beatles CDs or Jack Cassidy on the 180gm vinyl Airplane releases on the Sundazed label  demonstrates not only how good those two guys are but how realistically these speakers reproduce the bass guitar.  It's not overbearing, it's not anemic, it's just right.  They do the bass frequencies so well that I don't use my sub anymore.  If anything, it just screws up the sound with it's farting away over against the wall.
Detail with these speakers is much better than anything I've heard before.  On certain recordings you're aware that there's a lot of stuff going on in the background but it's kind of lost in the mix so it's kind of a sonic blur.  Not with these - the more complex the piece, the better the sound.
When I had the ribbons on the inside with the 3.6s the sweet spot was fairly small.  That is not the case with the new ones - I agree with TAS in putting the ribbons on the inside.  You get better detail and the soundstage is still really wide.
If you want to hear what these speakers can do, one album that really stands out is the 180gm vinyl double album edition of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by David Byrne and Brian Eno.  I think that you can still get it on Amazon.com, it's really well recorded and it'll make your eyes pop open with these speakers.  It's kind of an intense album and will probably give sensitive people nightmares.
One of the major plusses for me is that these speakers do sound good at low to moderate levels (as do their smaller siblings, the 1.7s).  Now your wife can bitch you out for spending $5500 on a set of speakers you big idiot what the hell were you thinking you selfish bastard don't you care about blah blah blah and you can still enjoy your Maggies at the same time.
Associated equipment is the usual: VTL MB250 monoblocks with Winged C tubes (and no fans!), Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 preamp with unknown Russian military tubes, Jolida JD-100 CD player with Sovtek tubes, Harman Kardon F500x tuner with the stock tubes(!), APC power conditioner, Otari B5050-II reel to reel deck, Kimber speaker cables, silver interconnects, Supra LoRad power cords and my much maligned Bedini 4 CD Clarifier.  I use CD-Rs on this system burned on an Hhb 830 BurnIt Plus as the Well Tempered turntable is on the upstairs system.
The SVS subwoofer is being relegated to MMG duty.
I found best results to be 50" out from the rear wall, 20" out from the side walls with moderate toe-in.  Any further back and the bass becomes a bit overpowering.
The only modification that I can forsee these speakers requiring is to chuck those totally inadquate little feet in favor of some Mye stands or something custom made which is the route I'm going. 
So, the question is were the reviews correct and are they worth the dough?  Yes and god help me, yes.  They're that good.
No more crossover boxes
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Very well written Steve. Me thinks you missed your calling as a consumer electronics reviewer.
(Getting paid to play with shiny new toys has been my dream job since I was a teenager.)
Glad you are getting your money's worth out of the 3.7's.
What did you promise Linda to get her to agree to spend your kids college funds? emwink.gif
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Thank you.

I certainly wouldn't make it as a photographer as everything always looks like it's sliding into a sinkhole.

I promised Lynda that she could enjoy listening to them, wouldn't that be wonderful?
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