Confusion is perfectly natural when trying to decide what model is right for you, especially when we'd all like to make the right choice the first time. I have heard all the models in their modded form and I have had a number of people here for auditions and have been able to see and hear their reactions, so I have been able to gauge certain truths about them. By answering the questions below we should be able to guide you to the correct model.
First, many of the old notions simply do not apply so get that thru your head now. Bigger for one does not mean better, it means different. If you are going to best help yourself you will answer the following questions as truthfully as possible and then use the result you get, even (and especially) if it's the result you didn't want to get. It is very easy with audio gear to get fixated on certain things, but you need to allow wisdom to overcome this desire if getting the most enjoyable sound you can is your true and ultimate goal.
There are 3 factors we need to consider and they are as follows:
All of the main production maggies can be modded this way (the MMG, MG-12, 1.6 and 3.6) and they all have a unique presentation when done. (that's presentation, not sound quality) It's been my experience every person will have a penchant for one of those presentations in particular. Forget "bigger is better" and in fact, it tends to break slightly in favor of the MMG with most people. So then Step Number One is - Find the presentation you are partial to.
How does one do this? The first and most obvious thing is to spend time listening to them stock. However their true natures are not nearly as obvious stock so it may take a long time to draw your conclusion. Adding difficulty to this is the fact that it probably will not be possible to hear all of them, let alone hear them in your own room. In fact it may not be possible to hear any at all! The most likely scenario is that you will have heard some, or at least one, maggie. If so what you'll need to do is decide what it is you really liked and what you didn't. If you don't have enough experience of this sort and can't get it, you'll have to go by my analysis below and your gut feeling.
The 3 main production types compare as shown in the following pic. The MMG is about 4 feet tall when done, the 12 a little less than 4 and a half feet and the 1.6 about 5 feet tall. In width the drivers (drivers, not the wooden frames) of the 12 and 1.6 are 1.5" wider than the MMG. The footprint is about the same for all of them. The only performance change when going to a larger size is the more bass they will have, and perhaps slightly more articulated highs. (not higher, just perhaps a shade clearer due to a larger driver surface) However this should not be a reason to make your choice because bass can be made up with a quality sub or sub system.
As far as the real differences between them, simply put it can be said that the larger they get, the more the focus is on detail and not the musical picture. In other words the MMG excells in what is called macro dynamics and it lives to highlight the musical event. Don't take this to mean it doesn't have detail, as it does. It is just not presented in your face.
The best analogy I can employ is for you to imagine the music as a beam of light shining from behind you, illuminating the speakers. The MMG would be a single, large beam (nearly as big as the beam of the 1.6 or 3 after the mod, the soundstage is what it is after all). This beam is full of wonderful, beautiful colors but they are all connected and blend into each other with the result being the picture the artist was trying to paint musically. The simile here would be a regular oil painting.
However as the maggies get larger this single beam starts getting broken into more and more individual beams, each of it's own color. You can almost think of it as you would a pixellated image. Up close it's a bunch of dots, but step back and you see a portrait of Lincoln.
I have found that some people look at these dots, instantly see Lincoln and love the detail it took to compile it. Others look and see Lincoln but not so easily, and aren't quite sure they prefer it or not. Finally some see it not at all or with great effort, and find it is not the style for them. It's been my experience slightly more people seem to prefer the MMG over the 1.6 in head to head auditions, and for this very reason.
As for detail I have not found there is less in the MMG, it is just not in your face. I have heard things on 1.6's I didn't hear on the MMG, but went back to the MMG, listened, and sure enough it was there. It just doesn't draw attention to itself. The kind of detail you start hearing on the larger models is the odd stuff, music pages being turned, a foot shuffling, a guitarist brushing the strumming guard. For some people entering this realm of "being there" means a lot, for many others it does not. Some just want their steak cooked right, they don't need to smell the grill it was cooked on.
As for the largest models the differences are more sublime. I have heard nothing else quite like the 2.7. It disected the soundstage in a way I have never heard. In fact I'm not even sure it's ideal or not, but I did buy a pair for myself because of what I heard. If I ever get them done I'll report more on them. The 3.6 is not as wild a ride as the 2.7 is, in fact it shares a lot with the MMG as it has what I would call musical detail. Perhaps it represents size and function coming full circle as it's sound is almost beams within a beam.
Simply put, the MMG is about music, the 1.6 detail, and the MG-12 is a good compromise between the two. The 2 and 3 series is another level of the playing field.
So while listening to maggies (or any speaker for that matter) try to determine if it's the musical event that appeals to you, or the micro detail, and then choose the appropriate model. If you're not sure or want both, the 12 might be your best bet.
What about models within a line? If you wonder which is better, an SMGa or MMG, or a 1.6 or 1.7 or IIIa's or 3.6's I can offer the following info. First, if you don't own anything and have to buy a pair always buy newer models and avoid the SMGa, MG-I, MG-II etc... The MG-IIIa may be OK but insure it doesn't need major work, or that you get it cheap enough if it does.
SMGa vs MMG They are basically the same. The only difference is the SMGa has a just slightly larger driver, but the MMG has a QR tweeter. The SMGa seems to do bass a smidge better, but the MMG does upper mids and highs much better. Unless you already own SMGa's and know they are functionally perfect and you need to pinch every penny, buy new MMG's.
The 1 Series These run from the 1.4 to the new 1.7. I would avoid the earlier two variants, the 1.4 and 1.5 (as well as the odd 0.5 and 0.6 models) and I'd avoid the new 1.7 as well if you intend to mod it. Click here to read why. The 1.6 maybe isn't the best one stock, but it is the best one modded. I suggest buying it, which now means buying used.
The 2 Series I've only heard the 2.7 modded and it's somewhat rare and it mods to be a wild sounding bird. If interested email me.
The 3 Series These are all pretty similar and all worth modding so long as they are in good shape. The IIIa seems to have the best bass (the 3.3 may be it's equal but I've not done one yet) but neither of those two have QR wires so the 3.5 and 3.6 have slightly better upper mids and highs. It's kind of an even trade off so let it come down to price and condition when buying used. I know nothing about the 3.7 yet and given my unhappiness with the 1.7 I'd advise against rushing in there until the facts are known.
To get right to the point, Step Number Two Is - Your Room Is The Final Arbiter. So often I see pics of tiny audio rooms with 1.6's or worse, 3.6's shoved in them or along a narrow wall. You cannot cheat physics people, and you cannot take a rowboat into your bathtub. Lets say you have determined you are partial to the 1.6 but have a small room and no bigger room can be visualized for the forseeable future. Then you have to simply suck it up and go with the MMG's, or perhaps the MG-12's. You will be far happier with a model you perhaps like less but that is playing well than one that is preferred but constricted and not right. What follows are basic guidelines, as all rooms (even those of the same size) can be very acoustically different. Keep in mind this chart is not telling you what model to get, it is telling you what NOT to get if you find your room not large enough.
MMG's if your room is under 200 sq.ft. (roughly 8-14' x 10-14')
MG-12's if your room is between 200 and 250 sq. ft. (12-14' x 14-16')
MG-1.6's if your room is over 250 sq.ft. (16'+ x 18'+)
These are of course generalized guidelines and if the room is a dedicated stereo room and can be treated however it need be then you can almost always go at least one size up. Use your common sense however and if it really seems too small, then it probably is too small. One caveat effecting the above numbers is a "long" wall. If say your room is 11" wide, but 18-20" long that width is your friend. If you set up on that wall using the width you can almost certainly use anything, even 3's as long as the room has no issues. If you think however that you're pushing your luck it is wisest to choose a model size down. Note however that the reverse is not true. Once modded they can play louder (output goes from a stock 86 dbl to about 92 dbl) so smaller models can go into the bigger rooms more easily. Therefore having MMG's should not be an issue even in a 20' by 30' room.
I have always said when it comes to power that maggies are like a whore at the docks waiting for the fleet to come in. A bit vulgar perhaps but entirely correct. You simply cannot have too much power, even for MMG's. This power is not required for volume, but for the resolution of micro detail at any volume setting. That said, we all have to make some allowances for what we can afford and the fact is the bigger the maggie the larger the power requirements will be. If the best amp you can afford would be good with the MMG, fair with the 12 and OK with the 1.6 that alone should be speaking volumes to you about the choice you need to make. This needs to be tempered however with what you plan to do down the road. If you are certain a bigger, better amp is in your future then you can make do in the short term.
People often ask if this amp or that will drive maggies. The fact is any amp will drive a maggie, even an old junky receiver. The maggies will just make it (perhaps painfully) plain that you are listening to an old junky receiver. On the other hand, the better the quality and especially the more good current (not watts) behind it the better it will sound at all volumes. Be aware however that many high end amps do not like driving maggies, even expensive ones with high power ratings. Do some homework and find out what people like, and what amps don't like maggies.
Therefore the "best" amp for any model really is the biggest one you can afford, as the tons of current will only add marvels you never dreamed of. However there are acceptable minimums (assuming as I said that the amp is up to the job) Ideally the MMG needs a good 100wpc, the 12 150wpc and the 1.6 200wpc. Yes, you can play them with less but these minimums should prevent any problems and at least allow you to take it to any volume level you want safely. Therefore....
Step Three Is - Make a Plan And Stick To It. Anticipate what your room conditions will be, what you gear will be, what gear you can afford and what your use and tastes are and use that as a guidestick to be applied to your choice from step one. It is possible your answers from steps 2 and 3 will allow your initial choice to come to fruition. However they may not and if so it's my advice to work with it, not around it. You'll be much happier in the long run. The end result should be enjoying the music, not wondering if it sounds as good as it should. Good luck with your choice, and if you need help, email me with your concerns.
Last but not least... Where do all the other models not mentioned fit in? If you already own it and you know you have the room, the gear and the taste for them (and they are in good order) then by all means, take the plunge. I can now do virtually any model so if possible then it too can be vastly improved. If however you are starting out, then I do not recommend these models that are "off the path". If maggies are a lifestyle speaker, many of these (especially the large models) are a lifestyle within a lifestyle. They have huge requirements when it comes to amps, room size and everything about them costs more. This is a journey best taken by a more experienced traveller. However if you have all the requisites and would like to start there, email me and we can sort it out.