An amp is "loud and bright"? Hmmm... Check out the Emotiva site and there are test reports for each model; not sure which model you looked at. I'll just say I disagree. The UPA-200 is 125 W/ch into 8 ohms, 200 W/ch into 4 ohms. It does not have the large capacitors and transformer of a larger amp but if you look inside a class D amp you see even less. But since this thread is about Magnepan's speakers I don't plan to discuss amplifiers -- there's another sub-forum for that.
I am still curious about the ML model you auditioned. I think ML's lowest ESL model is about $2k, closer in price to the Magneplaner 1.7's than the 12's? haven't auditioned recently... I have had ESLs in my system though never owned them, and heard many in other systems over the years. ML makes some fine products, especially in the last decade or so since they solved the panel/woofer transition. Or at least improved it significantly; I still do not think it is as seamless as Maggies. but you do get more bass from the hybrid system. I have always had mixed feelings on their curved panels; they provide a more expansive sound stage at the cost of imaging, greater sensitivity to first reflections, and some loss of efficiency. It has always been a toss-up for me, but I still have my Maggies after over 30 years with them in various flavors (though I admit I have strayed at times).
Yes, they need a good subwoofer. I do like the fact that you can cross over to the sub an octave or two lower than ML crosses over to their woofer; that may be partly why I have always felt Maggies sounded better in the lower midrange and upper bass. The transition in image and soundstage always bugged me a hair with most of the ML models. The little time I have listening to newer ML models tells me it has improved, but still does not match Magnepan's to my ears. YMMV. My current wish list ESL is a Sanders systems, which is also a hybrid system but crosses over to the woofer more than an octave lower than ML's Motion ESL (but performance and price-wise Sanders is closer to the ML Summit, probably a higher-priced product than you auditioned, and the Summit also crosses over much lower than the Motion ESL).
I do wonder a bit about the set-up of the speakers you heard. The specs on the 12's are 45 Hz low end, 1.7's go to 40 Hz, and the comparably priced ML Motion ESL go to 42 Hz, a negligible difference. But, the Maggie's bass is much more sensitive to room placement than ML since the ML crosses over to a conventional woofer at 500 Hz. But you can pick up the 12's and a sub like the Rythmik F12 and have a combination that to my ears will beat the ML Motion ESL for about the same price.
Personally I would not fault either choice, but would make sure it was a real apples-to-apples comparison. That can be tough, unfortunately...
FWIWFM - Don
p.s. BDP24 -- Thanks for the kind words! My ears have gotten pretty old, however, alas. As for amps, I had a very early Phase Linear 700 that liked to self-destruct about once a year, taking out whatever speakers were connected if they were not protected.
"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley