Magico

leading a no-holds-barred assault on what is possible in contemporary loudspeaker design from the USA.
We create industrial “works of art” that simply out-perform any custom or commercially available speaker system in the world.

MAGICO was created over a decade ago for the sole purpose of leading a no-holds-barred assault on what is possible in contemporary loudspeaker design.

Inspired by the unique vision of industrial designer Alon Wolf, every MAGICO speaker is designed against the standard of perfect audio reproduction - live music.

At MAGICO, we strive to lead in the creation, development, and manufacture of the most advanced loudspeaker systems in the world.

MAGICO uses state-of-the-art computer graphic modelling, precision real-time analysis, and the most sophisticated CAD acoustic simulators and emulators available today.

We create industrial “works of art” that simply out-perform any custom or commercially available speaker system in the world.

MAGICO is located in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California.

ENCLOSURES
Resonances in the body of a musical instrument are an essential part of defining its nature and quality. The opposite is true of a loudspeaker.

Cabinet panel resonances are a significant cause of sound coloration. Heavy bracing of a typical MDF enclosure can help reduce enclosure flex but at the cost of increased energy storage and damping factor. Although a welcome attribute for midrange outout, over damping is detrimental to bass performance (high energy storage, low wide Q and low resonances).

MAGICO has spent many years developing an enclosure system that successfully balances the 3 elements that constitute a proper loudspeaker enclosure: stiffness, mass, and dampness.

No singular material can satisfy all of the properties desirable in a loudspeaker enclosure.

As stiffness increases, moving from MDF to phenolic resin to aluminium, cabinet vibrations are drastically reduced, although a sharpened Q of the resonance results in an audible ring.

By damping the high Q resonance via elaborate constrained layer damping we have eliminated all energy storage and audible resonance from our enclosure.

MAGICO has pioneered the use of aluminium in loudspeakers design. We built our first aluminium enclosure back in 1994 and have never looked back. Extremely stiff yet easy to damp, a properly designed aluminium enclosure is the ideal platform for high-performance loudspeakers. So inert, the enclosures have no discernible coloration of their own-allowing the drivers to operate with the utmost clarity and dynamics. Though costly to implement, the use of aluminium in our enclosures plays a vital role in our design philosophy.

The chassis: Like any modern mechanical device, its effectiveness is determined by the ability of its moving parts to travel efficiently.

The new Q series is designed with the same principles applied to automobile or airplane construction.

Intricate internal framework makes up an extremely rigid chassis to which all of the mechanical, passive and active parts are mounted to maximise the efficiency of each component.

The end result is the most well adapted loudspeaker enclosure ever built.

DRIVERS

Magico is one of a handful high-end loudspeakers companies who develop and manufacture their own drivers.

Our abilities to have full control over all drivers unique functionalities and parameters, allow us to build complete systems without the typical compromises many high-end loudspeakers manufacturer have to make.

Recent advances in break-up mode control of Beryllium diaphragms combined with our MR-1™ motor system led to the development of the MBe-1. The result is a tweeter with significantly wider extension, lower distortion and greater power handling than anything available on the market today.

Our Nano-Tec® drivers are the first transducers that use carbon nanotubes in their cone construction. These cones operate as perfect pistons throughout their entire operating range. The Nano-Tec® cones exhibit extraordinary strength and are also an efficient heat conductor. Their outer carbon skins are made of one of the strongest and stiffest materials known, both in terms of tensile strength and elastic modulus respectively.

A multi-walled carbon Nano-Tec® outer skin has a tensile strength of 63 GPa. In comparison, high-carbon steel has a tensile strength of approximately 1.2 GPa. Rohacell® foam is used as the core in our Nano-Tec®-skinned sandwich-cones.

The result is a cone that displays bending strength, self-damping and attenuation of ringing that are all an order of magnitude or more higher than that of conventionally manufactured cones. it is this attention to detail and relentless pursuit of the best attainable technology that defines MAGICO.

MAGICO’s robust, under-hung motor system, comprising a 75 mm titanium voice coil and a radical neodymium SD magnet system, reduces distortion levels to a fraction of those found in even the best commercially available alternatives.

A 0.15" thick, 4.9” diameter copper sleeve encapsulates the entire voice coil gap. It decreases the inductance from a typical 3.0 mH on an 5” voice coil to less than 0.3 mH at 1 KHz! This feature substantially reduces the driver’s non-linear and intermodulation distortion while increasing its overload-handling capability.

In the development of the Q7 Drivers a colossal effort was made to minimise Eddy currents in the iron parts of the under-hung motor system. Eddy currents are created by the voice coil movement and produce a chaotic magnetic fields which is working "against" the fixed magnetic field and thus create distortions. The best way to reduce these currents is to saturate the iron as much as possible. When the iron around the coil is totally saturated no induced flex can be develop, i.e. no Eddy currents.

In order to do that a lot of design, precision machining of the parts and huge magnets are required. In the picture you can see the flux density of our 10” motor system. The colour purple represent fully statured iron, yellow is about 90% saturation. These are breakthrough performance which enables the voice coil to move without any electromagnetic obstructions ( the inductance of the woofer is measured at 0.085 mH!! )

Featured

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Awards

Testimonials

Featured

MA 01 IS QPOD 3
NZ$ 2,250.00 (incl. GST)
VIBRATION – the bane of hi-fi systems. Many a method has been concocted to banish or at least ameliorate this unwanted by-product of mechanical design, from quick-fixes like Blu-tack and wooden cones...
MA 01 IS SPOD8
NZ$ 5,250.00 (incl. GST)
The SPOD is based on the scientific design principles of Constrained Layer Damping (CLD) and provides an effective way to couple Q-Series, S-Series (MkI / MkII) and V-Series loudspeakers to the floor...
MA 02 SF S1 CA
NZ$ 27,995.00 (incl. GST)
“The S1 sounds sublime. The baby Magicos nailed the timbre of everything I heard through them. Male vocals and female vocals had a full-bodied, three-dimensional quality about them that just sounded...
This review has been a long time coming. I first laid eyes on the original Magico S1 in Las ...
MA 03 SF S3 CA
NZ$ 47,995.00 (incl. GST)
Magico S3 Mk II Floor Standing, 3-Way Loudspeaker (Four Driver) Design HAYWARD, CA – Magico, the Leader in High-Performance Loudspeaker Design and Manufacture, is pleased to announce the new S3 Mk II...
Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is pleased to announce...
MA 05 SF S5 CA
NZ$ 64,495.00 (incl. GST)
BEST SOUND OF SHOW (Munich Hi End Show)“Actively displayed for the first time, Magico’s most affordable aluminium-bodied multi-ways, the S5s, on the other hand, were tremendously engaging, utterly...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Some Magico loudspeaker systems have not been to everyone’s taste, partly because...
MA 07 SF S7 CO
NZ$ 108,995.00 (incl. GST)
REVIEWERS SUMMARY: MAGICO’s S7 M-Coat White loudspeaker accompanied by Soulution electronics, sounded absolutely solid, full-range, and musical. Their presentation is distinctively different from all...
MA 12 SW SUB CA
NZ$ 25,495.01 (incl. GST)
If you already own Magico speakers, there’s absolutely no reason now for you to look elsewhere to enhance your system’s lower reaches – the S-SUB from the S-Series line, supplementing the earlier and...
MA 15 SF M3
NZ$ 126,995.01 (incl. GST)
HiFi+ AWARDS SPECIAL: MAGICO’S Innovative M3 joins our BEST of the BEST HAYWARD, CA – Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is pleased to announce the new M3.
EXTENDED REVIEW: After complaining about the (un)availability of Magico’s superb, limited-edition...

All Products

Audio Racks & Speaker Stands

MA 01 IS MPOD3
NZ$ 5,385.00 set (incl. GST)
The original QPOD was designed to be placed under LIGHT to MEDIUM WEIGHT COMPONENTS. It was based on the constrained layer damping (CLD) principle, which Magico says is an extremely effective way to...
MA 01 IS MPOD8
NZ$ 14,360.00 set (incl. GST)
The original QPOD was designed to be placed under LIGHT to MEDIUM WEIGHT COMPONENTS. It was based on the constrained layer damping (CLD) principle, which Magico says is an extremely effective way to...
MA 01 IS QPOD 3
NZ$ 2,250.00 set (incl. GST)
VIBRATION – the bane of hi-fi systems. Many a method has been concocted to banish or at least ameliorate this unwanted by-product of mechanical design, from quick-fixes like Blu-tack and wooden cones...
MA 01 IS QPOD 4
NZ$ 2,850.00 set (incl. GST)
VIBRATION – the bane of hi-fi systems. Many a method has been concocted to banish or at least ameliorate this unwanted by-product of mechanical design, from quick-fixes like Blu-tack and wooden cones...
MA 01 IS SPOD6
NZ$ 3,995.00 set (incl. GST)
The SPOD is based on the scientific design principles of Constrained Layer Damping (CLD) and provides an effective way to couple Q-Series, S-Series (MkI / MkII) and V-Series loudspeakers to the floor...
MA 01 IS SPOD8
NZ$ 5,250.00 set (incl. GST)
The SPOD is based on the scientific design principles of Constrained Layer Damping (CLD) and provides an effective way to couple Q-Series, S-Series (MkI / MkII) and V-Series loudspeakers to the floor...

Book Shelf/Stand Mtg

MA 01 SB S15 CA
NZ$ 18,495.00 pr (incl. GST)
Equally suited to traditional two-channel or complex multi-channel applications, and with colour options making it aesthetically compatible with any décor, the S1.5 delivers design and performance in...
Book Shelf/Stand Mtg
MA 01 SB S15 CO
NZ$ 25,495.01 pr (incl. GST)
Equally suited to traditional two-channel or complex multi-channel applications, and with colour options making it aesthetically compatible with any décor, the S1.5 delivers design and performance in...
Book Shelf/Stand Mtg
MA 20 SF Q1 CA
NZ$ 44,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Replacing an iconic and revolutionary product is as much an exercise in understanding human emotion as it is in engineering. For any new generation of products, in addition to being compared to its...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Last weekend I traveled to Berkeley, CA, and spent three solid days listening to...
Book Shelf/Stand Mtg
MA 21 SF Q1 AN
NZ$ 48,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Replacing an iconic and revolutionary product is as much an exercise in understanding human emotion as it is in engineering. For any new generation of products, in addition to being compared to its...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Last weekend I traveled to Berkeley, CA, and spent three solid days listening to...
Book Shelf/Stand Mtg

Floor Standing

MA 02 SF S1 CA
NZ$ 27,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
“The S1 sounds sublime. The baby Magicos nailed the timbre of everything I heard through them. Male vocals and female vocals had a full-bodied, three-dimensional quality about them that just sounded...
This review has been a long time coming. I first laid eyes on the original Magico S1 in Las ...
Floor Standing
MA 02 SF S1 CO
NZ$ 34,495.00 pr (incl. GST)
“The S1 sounds sublime. The baby Magicos nailed the timbre of everything I heard through them. Male vocals and female vocals had a full-bodied, three-dimensional quality about them that just sounded...
This review has been a long time coming. I first laid eyes on the original Magico S1 in Las ...
Floor Standing
MA 03 SF S3 CA
NZ$ 47,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Magico S3 Mk II Floor Standing, 3-Way Loudspeaker (Four Driver) Design HAYWARD, CA – Magico, the Leader in High-Performance Loudspeaker Design and Manufacture, is pleased to announce the new S3 Mk II...
Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is pleased to announce...
Floor Standing
MA 03 SF S3 CO
NZ$ 54,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Magico S3 Mk II Floor Standing, 3-Way Loudspeaker (Four Driver) Design HAYWARD, CA – Magico, the Leader in High-Performance Loudspeaker Design and Manufacture, is pleased to announce the new S3 Mk II...
Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is pleased to announce...
Floor Standing
MA 05 SF S5 CA
NZ$ 64,495.00 pr (incl. GST)
BEST SOUND OF SHOW (Munich Hi End Show)“Actively displayed for the first time, Magico’s most affordable aluminium-bodied multi-ways, the S5s, on the other hand, were tremendously engaging, utterly...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Some Magico loudspeaker systems have not been to everyone’s taste, partly because...
Floor Standing
MA 05 SF S5 CO
NZ$ 72,495.00 pr (incl. GST)
BEST SOUND OF SHOW (Munich Hi End Show)“Actively displayed for the first time, Magico’s most affordable aluminium-bodied multi-ways, the S5s, on the other hand, were tremendously engaging, utterly...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Some Magico loudspeaker systems have not been to everyone’s taste, partly because...
Floor Standing
MA 07 SF S7 CA
NZ$ 97,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
REVIEWERS SUMMARY: MAGICO’s S7 M-Coat White loudspeaker accompanied by Soulution electronics, sounded absolutely solid, full-range, and musical. Their presentation is distinctively different from all...
Floor Standing
MA 07 SF S7 CO
NZ$ 108,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
REVIEWERS SUMMARY: MAGICO’s S7 M-Coat White loudspeaker accompanied by Soulution electronics, sounded absolutely solid, full-range, and musical. Their presentation is distinctively different from all...
Floor Standing
MA 15 SF M3
NZ$ 126,995.01 pr (incl. GST)
HiFi+ AWARDS SPECIAL: MAGICO’S Innovative M3 joins our BEST of the BEST HAYWARD, CA – Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is pleased to announce the new M3.
EXTENDED REVIEW: After complaining about the (un)availability of Magico’s superb, limited-edition...
Floor Standing
MA 17 SF M6
NZ$ 285,000.00 pr (incl. GST)
Four massive aluminums billets are meticulously machined to produce a continuously curved exterior with no angles. A thick-machined aluminium inner baffle supports the drivers, while ten aluminium...
Floor Standing
MA 26 SF Q7
NZ$ 386,996.00 pr (incl. GST)
Q7 Mk Ii - In the constant pursuit of perfection, the new Q7 Mk II represents Magico’s leading edge engineering capabilities which allows us to surpass the superb performance of the original Q7. The...
Floor Standing
MA 27 SF Q7 UG
NZ$ 82,995.01 pr (incl. GST)
Q7 Mk II - In the constant pursuit of perfection, the new Q7 Mk II represents Magico’s leading edge engineering capabilities which allows us to surpass the superb performance of the original Q7. The...
Floor Standing

Home Theatre

MA 09 SC SCC CA
NZ$ 28,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
Movies place huge demands upon a loudspeaker, from alien invasions to a pin dropping, from a thunderous soundtrack to a gentle kiss - but the most important function is the accurate rendition of that...
Home Theatre
MA 09 SC SCC CO
NZ$ 32,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Movies place huge demands upon a loudspeaker, from alien invasions to a pin dropping, from a thunderous soundtrack to a gentle kiss - but the most important function is the accurate rendition of that...
Home Theatre

Sub Woofers

MA 12 SW SUB CA
NZ$ 25,495.01 ea (incl. GST)
If you already own Magico speakers, there’s absolutely no reason now for you to look elsewhere to enhance your system’s lower reaches – the S-SUB from the S-Series line, supplementing the earlier and...
Sub Woofers
MA 12 SW SUB CO
NZ$ 29,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
If you already own Magico speakers, there’s absolutely no reason now for you to look elsewhere to enhance your system’s lower reaches – the S-SUB from the S-Series line, supplementing the earlier and...
Sub Woofers
MA 28 SW SUB15
NZ$ 37,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
Sub Woofers
MA 29 SW SUB18
NZ$ 60,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Sub Woofers

Reviews

Magico’s S1 Mk.II is where excellent materials meet excellent sound. It’s the finest two-way speaker I’ve heard.
Hans Wetzel

REVIEW SUMMARY: With its immaculately lifelike sound, sterling midrange neutrality, and soaring top end, Magico’s S1 Mk.II revealed an incredible amount of low-level musical detail without sounding clinical, and was engaging without resorting to artifice. Most impressive, it produced a good portion of the tight-fisted, concussive bass you’d expect from a small three-way design, and in that sense is the first two-way speaker I’ve heard that doesn’t sound like a two-way. Marry this to its beautifully finished, minimalist cabinet and top-to-bottom cohesiveness of sound, and Magico’s S1 Mk.II is where excellent materials meet excellent sound. It’s the finest two-way speaker I’ve heard.

This review has been a long time coming. I first laid eyes on the original Magico S1 in Las Vegas in January 2013, at the Consumer Electronics Show. I was smitten. From its B-2 Stealth Bomber matte-black finish to its tall, narrow profile and gracefully curved cabinet, I thought the S1 was the most attractive model in the company’s lineup. My experience of listening to them was equally enjoyable. I marvelled at the S1’s startling talent through the midrange, as well as its soundstaging feats. I lobbied for a pair of review samples that never materialised. But three years later, serial numbers 00001 and 00002 of the S1 Mk.II arrived on my doorstep. Apparently, patience is a virtue. Game on.

TAKE II

The S1 Mk.II is far from the least expensive two-way speaker around. Having reviewed almost a dozen other two-ways in the past few years, Vivid Audio’s V1.5 floorstander being the most expensive, I was a bit dubious about the Magico S1 Mk.IIs, which cost more than twice as much, but like every other Magico product I’ve seen at audio shows over the years, the attention to detail lavished on the S1 is extraordinary. My samples were shipped in robust, double cardboard cartons; the magnetic grilles, hexagonal aluminium footer nuts, tapered aluminium spikes, and aluminium footers -- all of which Magico manufactures in-house -- arrived in a separate container.

As I pulled the all-black, M-Cast-finished speakers from their boxes, something Magico’s founder, Alon Wolf, had told me two months before echoed in my head: “We make loudspeakers, not furniture.” In any usual sense, the S1 is not beautiful. The slender (43”H x 9.8”W x 8.5”D), 120-pound speaker very much reflects the philosophy of its creator, who sees beauty through the austere lens of material and mechanical excellence. For Wolf, flourishes of design and creative expression solely for the sake of appearance are ultimately at odds with an audio device’s intended purpose. Make no mistake, the S1 Mk.II is a tool designed for one thing: the delivery of brutal, uninhibited musical candour.

To that end, the cabinet is shaped from a single, rounded triangular chassis of 3/8”-thick extruded aluminium, and sealed with top and bottom plates. Each top plate takes 90 minutes to be machined from a block of solid aluminium in Magico’s CNC machines. That’s because it’s subtly convex -- its shape not only complements the curves of the rest of the cabinet, but also helps minimise internal standing waves. The tiny details are all accounted for: the floor spikes screw smoothly into the bottom of the speaker, the solid aluminium footers felt substantial in my hand, and the robust binding posts were a pleasure to use. Everything about the S1 just felt solid. Then there was the M-Cast finish: flawless. I saw zero imperfections in the highly textured application, in which are suspended lightly reflective specks that sparkle in direct light. I have no doubt that the optional high-gloss M-Coat finish would also have been well executed, but I’d opt for M-Cast every time.

Inside the S1 Mk.II’s sealed enclosure are a 7” M390G graphene-coated, Nano-Tec midrange-woofer and a 1” MBD7 dome -- the same tweeter that’s used to great effect in mighty Magico’s S7. Compared to the tweeter in the original S1, which had a 50µm-thick beryllium dome, the Mk.II’s beryllium dome is 40µm thick, with a 5µm-thick diamond coating applied by an outside vendor. The MBD7 also has a new motor system, while retaining its predecessor’s neodymium magnet. The 7” midrange-woofer is based on the driver used in Magico’s Q1 two-way. Compared to the midrange-woofer used in the original S1, the Mk.II’s has higher-quality neodymium magnets, and more copper in its voice-coil. The Nano-Tec cone has a different carbon-weave structure than the original, which reduces the cone’s mass, while the single layer of graphene -- an exciting new material that’s extremely light yet stronger than steel -- helps decrease the cone’s total mass by 20% while increasing its stiffness by 300%.

The cabinet’s internal braces are secured with bolts from outside, then welded to conceal the bolt heads, which purportedly yields a much stiffer cabinet. The crossover is at the bottom of the cabinet, and while Magico doesn’t reveal what sort of filter it uses, I was told that the crossover frequency is 2.2kHz for the proprietary Elliptical design, which makes use of “the highest quality Mundorf components.”

In fact, Magico publishes few specifications for any of its speakers. The S1 Mk.II’s sensitivity is a modest 86dB -- par for the course for a two-way design -- and the nominal impedance is 4 ohms. The frequency range is a claimed 32Hz-50kHz, and Magico recommends driving the speaker with at least 50W. While many readers are no doubt aware of the benefits and drawbacks of the sealed, non-bass-reflex speaker enclosures that Magico is so fond of, it’s worthwhile listing some of them. The primary benefits include better phase linearity and minimum group delay, and reduced ringing in the time domain, which results in better transient response in the lower registers, no port noise, and a slower rolloff of 12dB/octave. By contrast, a ported design benefits from a sensitivity 3dB higher while offering augmented bass response, but at the expense of a steeper (24dB/octave) rolloff.

As ever, loudspeaker design remains a careful balance of trade-offs. Having never reviewed a passive sealed-box loudspeaker before, I was eager to hear the S1’s bass performance in my own system.

SETUP

The S1s arrived at a perfect time. My mainstay integrated amplifier-DAC, the Hegel Music Systems H360, with its 250/420Wpc output into 8/4 ohms, provided more than enough power and current to whet the appetites of the moderately hungry S1s. But I was also able to make use of T+A’s PA 2000 R integrated amplifier and matching MP 2000 R DAC/network client, in addition to Gryphon Audio Designs’ biblical Diablo 300 integrated amplifier with optional DAC module. The T+A amp outputs only 100/200Wpc into 8/4 ohms, but its trick power supply provides loads of current, and it’s stable down to 2 ohms.

The Gryphon Diablo 300, meanwhile, is a statement-level model that musters 300/600/950Wpc into loads of 8/4/2 ohms. At no point did the S1 flummox any of these amps, but I can’t make promises about driving the Magicos with tubed and/or class-A gear of modest output. Alon Wolf did advise that the S1 Mk.IIs had played nicely with a 30Wpc tube amp in Magico’s dedicated listening room, so the suggested 50Wpc minimum power rating may be a bit cautious. Details of the cables and interconnects I used (DH Labs, Dynamique Audio, Nordost) can be found in the Associated Equipment box, below.

I placed the S1s approximately 8’ apart, 16” from my front wall (I had to -- I live in a narrow city living space), and slightly toed in. I found that the tweeter’s on-axis treble output leaned toward prominence, which required a less acute toe-in angle.

SOUND

The Magico S1 Mk.II didn’t sound like any other two-way loudspeaker I’ve heard. So many of the two-ways I’ve listened to over the years seemed to be trying to sound bigger and bassier than they actually were. Those that didn’t just sounded thin, as if something fundamental to the music had been left out. This has made it difficult for me to ever really fall for a two-way -- it seemed that the compromises inherent in such designs were often all too audible. But in the all-important bass, Magico’s S1 succeeded where other two-ways have failed.

The S1’s bass response didn’t sound lightweight -- as if, below 50-60Hz, its low-end response had hurled itself over a cliff. Instead, the S1 made clever use of its cabinet volume and sealed design to reproduce a linear bass curve with credible extension down past 40Hz. Now, it certainly wasn’t flat below 40Hz, but there was still meaningful output down there. Moreover, the quality of this bass performance was exceptionally tight and well controlled -- it didn’t suffer from the bloat and overhang of a bass-reflex design that’s being asked to overextend itself. No, it admittedly couldn’t pack the visceral punches to the chest, the “slam” that so many audiophiles crave. But more than any other speaker I’ve reviewed, the Magico’s low-end performance was properly concussive in nature, and addictively quick-footed. All this from a single, 7” carbon-fibre cone that covers the audio-band up to 2.2kHz. Special, that.

In February 2016, I visited Magico’s factory in Hayward, California. During my time there, with Alon Wolf at his iPad selecting the tunes, I listened to a pair of S1 Mk.IIs through some fabulously expensive electronics. But at the onset, he’d asked what music I liked.

“ELRCTRONICA . . . ?”

He seemed to inwardly wince. Not only was that the most non-audiophile thing I could have said, but electronica’s preponderance of pounding bass lines would be a torture test for something like the S1.

Wolf chuckled. “How about jazz?”

The fact is, back in my listening room, the S1s handled my extensive collection of electronic garbage better than I ever could have imagined they might.

Before he was a film and TV composer nominated for three Grammys, Englishman Rupert Parkes was a DJ known as Photek. His 1996 single “The Third Sequence” (16-bit/44.1kHz ALAC, Astralwerks) isn’t the prettiest or most sophisticated music you’re likely to hear, but when I need to see maximum driver excursion, this is the track I rely on for its throbbing bass line. As I ratcheted up the volume with my Hegel H360, the S1s’ carbon-fibre cones and substantial rubber surrounds were moving in and out so violently that I was concerned about taking a shot of Nano-Tec to the face. In fact, I was almost sure I’d hear the S1s struggle to maintain their composure.

Yet even with “The Third Sequence” at 90dB (measured at 1m), that moment never arrived. Instead, I heard a torrent of bass energy that, while less vigorous than what I’ve heard through many three-way designs, was still every bit as composed as it had been at more reasonable volumes. The sheer speed and impact of the S1’s single 7” cone, which moved with shockingly quick reflexes, were delightful. Magico has clearly opted for bass impact over bass weight; in my humble opinion, they’ve succeeded. When, within reason, I tried to abuse the S1, it doled the abuse right back at me in equal measure.

For me, what separates merely very good from great speakers are the formers’ abbreviated soundstages. The S1s painted immaculate soundscapes. In “No Son of Mine,” from Genesis’s We Can’t Dance (16/44.1 ALAC, Atlantic), a metronomic tone rings from the right channel, a guitar is repetitively strummed in the left, and lead singer Phil Collins’s voice springs to life right through the middle of the recording. Through less accomplished speakers, the three can sound a touch disconnected from one another. Yet the S1 contrived to paint a complete, coherent aural picture.

The hallmark of the S1 was its unimpeachable midrange, with the tonality of Collins’s voice the very best I’ve heard: an intoxicating combination of buttery-smooth attack and decay, with no hint of imposed edginess on the leading and trailing edges of his voice, as well as an effortless airiness to his delivery that sounded completely non-mechanical and entirely unrestrained. There was very little inherent midrange sweetness or bloom, but a virile tube amp would ameliorate that nicely. The S1’s midrange was a model of neutrality: nothing added, nothing taken away, and reference-level transparency.

However, the treble was slightly prominent. I doubt that anyone would describe the S1 Mk.II’s sound as “polite.” Yet it would be unfair to characterise the S1’s high-frequency performance as bright or edgy. It was merely . . . prominent. With “No Son of Mine,” this manifested itself in the drums and hi-hats that fill in behind Collins’s voice as the song continues; they took on a brasher, more vibrant sheen than I’m used to hearing. With Max Richter’s “recompositions” of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (16/44.1 FLAC, Deutsche Grammophon), as performed by the Berlin Concert House Chamber Orchestra conducted by André de Ridder, this treble prominence revealed itself in a different way via the violin of soloist Daniel Hope. Hope’s instrument sounded positively electric through the S1, with soaring extension, liquidity, and a wicked turn of pace. Despite pushing his instrument harder and harder as the piece progresses and the high-frequency transients become increasingly frenetic, the Magico’s diamond-coated beryllium dome never sounded hard or brittle.

While I didn’t challenge the S1s with the deafening volume levels that I save for three-way designs, not once during my listening did I hear the Magico’s even begin to compress. Given my medium-size listening space and my proclivity toward raucous music, I thought that was quite an achievement. At one point I did manage to bottom out the S1’s midrange-woofers, when I played “Why So Serious?” and its thumping, mid-30Hz bass line, from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score for The Dark Knight (16/44.1 ALAC, Warner Bros.). Even then, I heard only the slightest of struggles from the Nano-Tec cone and surround.

COMPARISON

Up to this point, Vivid Audio’s V1.5 floorstander with its 1” catenary aluminium tweeter and 6.2” aluminium midrange-woofer, had been the best two-way speaker I’d heard. Its avant-garde appearance leaves its visual attractiveness up for debate, but I thought it was a sonic masterpiece. I felt the Vivid’s defining characteristic was its speed. From the lower midrange up past 20kHz, the ported V1.5 sounded obscenely fast and light on its feet. As with Magico’s S1 Mk.II, high levels of transparency and resolution were present and accounted for, but the way the Vivid achieved them was a bit different from the Magico’s. Indeed, while neither speaker demonstrated even a hint of midrange coloration, I found the S1 to be the more honest speaker. The V1.5 sounded consistently fast, which I attribute to a dash of upper-midrange sparkle. While I don’t necessarily think that a bad thing, the S1 Mk.II just sounded “right.”

What wasn’t small was the difference in bass performance. Presented with challenging low-frequency material, the Magico’s remained calm, composed, and utterly nonplused, even at high volumes. Moreover, the integration of the outputs of their tweeters and midrange-woofers was terrific. The Vivids, however, run into difficulty, sounding as if, below 100Hz, their 6.2” midrange-woofers are struggling to keep up with the rest of the audio-band. The result is punchy, reasonably extended bass that’s nonetheless a bit lethargic and plodding in comparison to the speaker’s crystal-clear midrange and treble. I find this sort of sound common among two-way designs, which must mean that it’s a constant challenge to engineers: maximise bass reach, or maintain linearity? Magico’s real success is in seeming to have achieved both goals in the S1 Mk.II, which makes it a more complete loudspeaker than the Vivid V1.5.

CONCLUSION

With its immaculately lifelike sound, sterling midrange neutrality, and soaring top end, Magico’s S1 Mk.II revealed an incredible amount of low-level musical detail without sounding clinical, and was engaging without resorting to artifice. Most impressive, it produced a good portion of the tight-fisted, concussive bass you’d expect from a small three-way design, and in that sense is the first two-way speaker I’ve heard that doesn’t sound like a two-way. Marry this to its beautifully finished, minimalist cabinet and top-to-bottom cohesiveness of sound, and Magico’s S1 Mk.II is where excellent materials meet excellent sound. It’s the finest two-way speaker I’ve heard.
. . . Hans Wetzel

I think this model will become the sweet spot in Magico's range
Bodhi

I thought i'd post a short review of the new Magico S5 Mk2 speakers which I have on order in beautiful M-coat titanium. My pair are due to ship some time in March, so can't wait!

I previously owned a pair of S5 Mk1's which are very good speakers in their own right. The S5's have deep, tight, accurate bass, smooth midrange with nice tone, timbre & textural shadings, and a fast, smooth & resolving tweeter; qualities which are not always associated with BE domes. There is a touch of warmth, and the S5's have a slightly laid back presentation (in comparison to the Q3). Basically they are well balanced and coherent speakers. I describe them as "great allrounders".

But as good as the S5's are, the S5 Mk2 is a completely different animal. In fact, the only carry over components from the S5 are the extruded aluminium side panels & speaker binding posts. Everything else is new. Much of the technology found in the Mk2 has filtered down from the M project speakers, which was first adapted to the S7.

So what's new? The Mk2's 10" bass drivers use a lighter aluminium cone which was made possible by the hybrid carbon Nanotube / Nanographene dust cap which is 20% lighter & 300% stiffer than the previous model. Behind the driver cone, it's basically all-Q series technology with MUCH bigger & more powerful magnets. I attached a photo below showing a comparison between an S5 & S7's bass drivers (which are virtually identical to the S5 Mk2). Apparently you could lift an S5 bass driver with one hand, but it takes two hands to lift the new bass unit!

The new model also benefits from the copper woofer coupling system first used in the S7 which has a much higher damping factor than the previous aluminium mounting. In fact, the copper O-rings were so wildly successful they are being trickled "up" to other models.

The new 6" midrange uses a hybrid carbon Nanotube / Nanographene cone which again is 20% lighter & 300% stiffer than the previous model. The underhung neodymium base motor system uses two extra-large magnets which provide an ultra-stabilised magnetic field which improves accuracy and dynamics. The midrange also benefits from a similar computer-modelled polycarbonate enclosure to the S3. Marketing hype doesn't always match reality, but having heard the S3 and S7, my ears tell me that thing works a treat! Midrange clarity is definitely improved & the sound stage really opens up.

The S5 Mk2 also features a new 1" tweeter with a diamond-coated beryllium diaphragm, shorter voice coil, and slightly modified motor system compared to the tweeter used in the S5. The new BE diaphragm has a five-micron thick layer of diamond applied using a very difficult process. Alon said they broke 10 tools trying to design it! The new drivers also allowed the breakup point to be moved beyond the bandpass, which enabled Magico to remove the crossover's electrical traps necessary for controlling driver breakup, thereby simplifying the crossover & improving resolution.

Apropos which, Alon used some very nice caps in the critical position; the new Mundorf Mcap Supreme Evo Silver/Gold in Oil caps. Internal wiring has been improved & has been changed from Mundorf solid-core wire to 10 gauge stranded wire sourced from Japan wound in different geometries for (+) and (-).

The cabinet has also been revised & features a heavy machined 3D convex-shaped top plate to minimise enclosure diffraction and break-up vertical standing waves (similar to the M Pro). There is also a heavier bottom plate featuring 4-point outrigger feet like the S7 which lowers the centre of gravity & increases overall stability, resulting in a lower noise floor and increased dynamics according to Magico.

Taken as a whole, and drawing on my experience from hearing the S7, the S5 Mk2 should be a BIG step up from original S5. And with the advent of the S7, I think this model will become the sweet spot in Magico's range actually. Looking forward to sharing my 1st impressions soon!

.........Bodhi

for classical/jazz/acoustic-pop music lovers in any size room who want very close to the ultimate in transparency, resolution, and refinement…..the Q1 would definitely be the Magico ticket I’d ride.
Jonathan Valin

REVIEW SUMMARY: It goes without saying that I highly recommend the Magico Q1 to all but the hardest of hard-rock music lovers. It is, as I said, the highest-fidelity, fullest-range, most transparent-to-sources two-way I’ve come across (and I’ve heard a few). It is also, in my experience, one of the two finest speakers—the other being my beloved Q5s—that Magico has yet come up with. (I haven’t had enough listening experience with the Q3 to include it in the charmed circle, although by all reports it too may very well belong among the Magico elect.) For listeners in small-to-medium-sized rooms who can’t house (or won’t stand for) big boxes or large panels that clutter up the décor, or for classical/jazz/acoustic-pop music lovers in any size room who want very close to the ultimate in transparency, resolution, and refinement at much less than a Q3/Q5 price, the Q1 would definitely be the Magico ticket I’d ride.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Last weekend I traveled to Berkeley, CA, and spent three solid days listening to Magico’s latest aluminium-enclosed speaker, the $25k stand-mounted Q1 mini-monitor. To be honest, though I’d been invited to audition the Q1s several months before, this was a trip I’d decided not to make. The way I saw it, having reviewed the Minis, the M5s, and my current references the Q5s, I’d done enough Magico’ing for awhile. Plus I had my hands full with other loudspeaker-review projects, including the Scaena 3.4 that so impressed me at CES 2011 and the Audio Physic Avantera that had done a bit of the same thing at this year’s Munich show.

However, when my colleague Jim Hannon’s raved about the Q1 in his California Audio Show report, I got curious. Like me Jim is an electrostatic enthusiast—and for the very same reasons that I am. Up until very recently there was simply nothing in a dynamic speaker that could match the transparency, disappearing act, and, with a first-rate source, realism (at least on acoustic music) of a really good electrostat or planar—nothing with multiple cones that could compare to the seamless presentation of a “boxless” Quad or CLX or Sound Lab or Maggie, or equal their transient speed and low-level resolution. True, as I’ve noted before, big multiway cone speakers own the bottom octaves and impact on the loud side of the dynamic spectrum; they also have more three-dimensional “body” than ’stats and, sometimes, tighter image focus and wider soundstages. But, as I’ve also noted before, the price you pay for these things in octave-to-octave coherence, overall neutrality, low-level resolution (particularly at lower volume levels), room interaction, and transparency to sources can be steep—too steep, in fact, to interest a listener like me (until the M5, followed abruptly by the Q5, came a’callin’). No bass is better than lousy bass in my book (yet to be published, BTW). And even if the bass proves passable, hearing different sounds in the low end, the midrange, and the treble from ill-matched drivers in a large noisy enclosure is simply an unacceptable trade-off for an extra octave of bottom end.

Indeed, until about two years ago the only dynamic speakers that passed muster in the Valin house were two-way mini-monitors. Why? Because they sounded more like single-driver electrostats and planars (augmented by some of the virtues of cones).

Of course, it’s a lot easier to design and build a good two-way mini-monitor than it is to design and build a three-and-a-half or four-way or five-way behemoth. First, you only have to deal with two drivers and one crossover—not that this is a snap, but it is certainly simpler than wrestling with five or six drivers and multiple crossovers. Second, you only have to deal with a tiny box. Once again, engineering and constructing a really good tiny box isn’t a walk in the park, but whatever the build-quality it is substantially less difficult to make a small enclosure disappear into the soundfield than it is a large one.

All of which means that minis inherently have a leg up when it comes to driver coherence and enclosure inaudibility. In addition to this, they generally don’t produce much (if any) low bass making them a lot less likely to excite those 60–80Hz room nodes that automatically remind you that you’re listening to a woofer in a cabinet. Their much smaller footprints allow them to be placed farther away from side walls and back walls, further reducing room reflections and allowing them to throw vast, minutely detailed soundstages into which they more or less disappear.

This said, many of the same things that a mini gets right it also gets wrong. First, there is the bass issue. Minis generally don’t have any. From a room-interaction viewpoint, this is great (as noted)—from a musical one, not so much. Electrostatic Quads and CLXes and planar Maggie 3.7s may not plumb the depths below 45-55Hz, but they go down low enough to give you a fair semblance of the sound of bass fiddles, pianos, tubas, contrabassoons, etc. Oh, they may not reproduce the lowest pitches of these instruments (or all the power with which fortes are sounded), but they get the harmonics right and thanks to the way our brains and ears work we supply the missing fundamentals.

Many two-ways, on the other hand, are lucky to make it down to 80–90Hz. They often have a built-in bump at their LF cutoff, intended to give you the impression of deeper-going bass, but (minus the addition of a subwoofer, itself a very iffy proposition) a typical two-way mini-monitor cannot “imply” the bottom octaves or fill in the “power range” from 100Hz to 400Hz the way a good ’stat or planar can and does. As a result, two-ways tend to sound thin in balance, lacking the body and weight and power of the real thing. Of course, this lighter balance also makes them sound nimbler in the midrange and can foster the impression of great transparency and detail, in the same way that certain electronics that are depressed in the mid-to-upper bass and lower mids can sound more transparent and detailed.

Second, there is that soundstage. Because they only have two drivers, a (relatively) simple crossover, and tiny enclosures with much less surface area to reflect/diffract off (and much less mass to resonate), minis, as noted, tend to disappear into the soundfield more completely than any other kind of speaker, including ’stats and planars. However, at the same time that their diminutive enclosures and simple complement of drivers allow them to disappear as sound sources, those selfsame diminutive enclosures and simple complement of drivers are also constantly reminding us of their presence in the thinness of timbre and lack of weight, body, and power that I’ve already mentioned, and the miniaturisation of instruments and voices that I haven’t. Detailed a mini’s soundstage certainly is, often vast in width and depth and precise in focus. But realistic image height is almost always a problem. Now it’s true that all loudspeakers have a “size” issue—I’ve never yet heard one capable of reproducing the sheer breadth (and enormous power) of, oh, a drumkit as it is heard in life, much less a symphony orchestra—but when it comes to lifelike imaging mini-monitors typically are worst-case scenarios. They tend to shrink instruments and voices to unusually small dimensions.

Unfortunately, image size isn’t the only thing they shrink. A single 5-7" mid/woofer in a tiny box simply can’t move the amount of air that a big panel or several large woofers in a well-engineered cabinet can move. The result isn’t just a lack of low bass; it is an overall lack of dynamic range and impact onsforzandos and fortissimos and a definite SPL limit at the loud end of the loudness scale. As is the case with ’stats and planars, this dynamic shortfall on the very loud side is compensated for by superior speed of attack and greater delicacy of timbre and texture on the very soft one. Nonetheless, dynamic-range and ultimate-loudness limits are the banes of most minis.

In small rooms on a large slice of acoustic music, mini-monitors can (minus image size) sound very persuasively realistic—and very transparent to sources. But they won’t do the big orchestral stuff—or any power rock—with the verisimilitude of larger dynamic, planar, or electrostatic speakers. It is just the price you pay for what mini-monitors do well.

At least, this was the scenario chez Valin up until the arrival of the Magico Mini and Mini II about four years ago. Thanks to the superior engineering of their cabinets, drivers, crossover, and heroic T6 aluminium-and-birch stands, the Minis (which were rather misleadingly named, in that they were much much larger and more substantial than typical two-ways) began to turn the ship around.

The Minis and Mini IIs had all the virtues of two-ways—the neutrality, the low-level resolution, the coherence, the vast soundstage, the incomparable disappearing act—but they also had three things that other minis did not (or at least not in this abundance): bass, dynamics, and image size. Now when I say the Minis had bass, I don’t mean they plumbed the depths the way the M5s or Q5s do. But their carbon-fibre drivers, massive neodymium magnets, unusually well-engineered spiders and suspensions, and sealed birch-ply-and-T6-aluminium cabinets allowed them to play down into the upper-forties flatly and to roll off below that at 12dB/octave, giving them “usable” response into the mid-to-low forties and upper thirties. Many ’stats, planars, and smaller three-way dynamic speakers would’ve been proud to own the Mini IIs’ bass, for it was not only extended, it was also discriminating—a far cry from the humped-up bass of earlier-gen two-ways.

With this increase in bass extension and resolution came concomitant increases in neutrality through the power region, volume limits, and overall dynamic impact. The Mini IIs could play louder and with greater power than other minis I’d owned or reviewed. And this expansion of dynamic range made them more suitable on a larger variety of music, although they were still far short of the ideal speakers for certain kinds of rock-and-roll, electronica, and very-large-scale classical.

Whether because of their sleek tapered enclosures, their superb stands (which lifted them further from the floor than typical mini stands), their new-tech drivers and crossovers, or the combination of the three, the Minis and Mini IIs were also not “miniaturising” loudspeakers. They managed to produce closer-to-life-sized voices, violins, even pianos, and they did so without the laser-cut focus of most two-ways. They were larger and more naturally expansive-sounding, without any loss of stage width or depth or inner detail.

As good as the Minis were—and they were the speakers that put Magico on the high-end map—they weren’t perfect. Their tweeter was rather bright and although its out-of-passband breakup modes (and those of the mid/woof) were greatly reduced in the Mini II version of the speaker, the tweet was still vaguely audible on-axis (much less so off-axis). There was also a graininess—not dissimilar to the brushed-snare noise in all but the latest-gen Magneplanars—to the Minis’ soundfield that I assumed came with the cone drivers (particularly the ring-radiator tweeter). In addition, the Minis were not easy to drive. Like all Magico speakers they were a difficult low-sensitivity load that necessitated the use of the best and most powerful amplifiers, tube and solid-state, to get the best sound.

Replacing a classic is never an easy task, but Magico has made a habit of trumping its own best efforts (often with disconcerting rapidity, as in the cases of the Mini I and Mini II and the M5 and the Q5). So when Wolf and Co. showed a mockup of the aluminium-bodied, beryllium-tweetered Q1 at last year’s CES, I was sure that the new speaker would be better. What I didn’t guess was how much better.

As I started off by saying, it took Jim Hannon’s rave write-up to get me interested enough to toy with the idea of paying Magico a visit after all. As was the case with the M5/Q5, I was promised a side-by-side comparison of the Mini II and the Q1, using the same electronics (Solution 700 monoblocks and 720 linestage, with which I am very familiar) and, to further entice me, using the same analog sources—a Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable, a Graham Phantom II Supreme tonearm, and my current reference mc, the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, plus a variety of phonostages from Aesthetix, Soulution, and (the surprise of the bunch) the Tube Preamp from Dan Schmalle of The Tape Project and Bottlehead Electronics. I was told I could bring as many of my own LPs as I could fit in a carry-on suitcase and listen at length to recordings I know by heart through electronics that were until lately my references. (Magico had never showed its gear with vinyl prior to this past Munich High-End Show. Now I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Alon Wolf is nothing if not a true believer and once he finds a “better thing” he goes all out to find the best of breed. The wonder, to me, is that it took him this long to rediscover the joys of LPs, especially since he has thousands of albums in his home and in his showroom.)

Before I cut to the chase, a few words about me and Magico. There are folks out there who seem to think that I only like Magico loudspeakers (and I advise them to read my reviews of the Quad 2905s, the MartinLogan CLXes, the Magneplanar 1.7s and 3.7s, the Morel Fat Ladies, the TAD CR-1 Compact Monitors, the Nola Baby Grands, the MBL X-Tremes, etc.—and also to take a close look at my RMAF and CES show reports). Though I confess to feeling odd about reporting on yet another honest-to-goodness great loudspeaker from this little Berkeley-based company so soon after reviewing its great Q5, what should I do in the face of genuine sonic distinction? Keep mum? Pass on the opportunity? Wait till next time? Before I read Jim’s CAS report, all of these thoughts went through my head. But after reading it, it came to me that my primary job at TAS is to report on cutting-edge excellence, whatever its source. And while Magico is certainly not the only speaker manufacturer at the pointy end of today’s technology, it is one of the foremost. Ergo, this review.

So, to get the sticky part over with, let me just outright say that the Magico Q1 is the highest-fidelity stand-mount two-way I’ve yet heard. It is not just a little better than its predecessor, the Mini II, it is a whole lot better in every sonic regard. Switching from the Mini II to the Q1 (on the same sources with the same electronics) is almost exactly like switching from an LS3/5a to a Quad 57—or for that matter from an M5 to a Q5, only in a couple regards the Q1 is better than the Q5.

I suppose the first thing that stands out about the Q1 is its much lower noise floor—the virtual elimination of the upper-midrange/treble hash and grain of the Mini II. As was the case with the Q5 vis-à-vis the M5, a good deal of this lower distortion has to be attributed to the Q1’s superior, elaborately braced aluminium enclosure, which, unlike the Mini II’s birchply-and-aluminium enclosure, is not storing energy and then playing it back ever-so-faintly in a time-smeared fashion.

But with the Q1 the improvement in the cabinet is only half the story. The other half is the improvement in the blend of its 1" beryllium dome tweeter and its 7" NanoTec carbon-fiber-Rohacell-sandwich mid/bass. It is my understanding that, since the launch of the Q5, Magico has been “working on” its beryllium tweeter and, one assumes, on the crossover between the tweeter and the other drivers. I don’t know precisely what has changed here but I can tell you for a fact that this is the most seamless blend of a beryllium tweeter and a cone mid/woof I’ve heard. As a result, the Q1 come closer to sounding like a single-driver loudspeaker (on-axis) than any loudspeaker Magico has yet made. The effect is magical—like getting a Quad or a CLX (with better bass and large-scale dynamics than either) in a 9" by 14.2" by 14.2" package. Where the Q5 comes very close to this same magical seamlessness (when listened to slightly off-axis), I’m not sure that it fully matches that of the Q1 in the upper-mids and treble, where the little speaker isn’t “virtually” like a ’stat but is “fully” so. In the treble, its low-level resolution is at least as good (if not better) than that of the Q5. In fact, the only area in the upper-mids and highs where the Q5 seemingly exceeds the Q1 is transient speed—and that may be because its slightly “rougher-sounding” (on axis) beryllium tweeter is goosing up attacks. In any event, this is one very neutral, very detailed, very well-integrated, very transparent loudspeaker that not only taught me a few new things about recordings I know well but also taught me a few new things about the Soulution electronics it was being used with (for which, see below).

Let’s turn to the bass and dynamics, as those are the bêtes noires of minis. Magico claims that the Q1 is capable of 32Hz extension +/-3dB and has the measurements to prove it.

While I’m not sure that the Q1 was going quite this low this flatly when I heard it, it was certainly going lower than any other two-way I’ve auditioned—flat at least into the upper 30s. In stand-mounts only the TAD CR-1 equals it in bottom-end extension (and exceeds it in bottom-end clout)—and the TAD CR-1 is a $40k three-way with a separate 8" woofer.

Once again I’m not sure how Magico achieved this legerdemain from such a small box and driver, but musical notes that would’ve been veiled or absent on the Mini II—such as the capering contrabassoon and double basses in the Overture of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements [Decca], the thunderous pedal point of the piano in Paul Dessau’s First Sonata [Nova], and the sharp cracks of the drumkit in Reiner Bredemeyer’s Schlagstück 5 [Nova]—are here reproduced almost in their entirety.

I say “almost” because while the Q1 can supply a low-end clarity and extension that puts other minis to shame, it cannot supply all the power that accompanies these deep notes (where the much larger Q5 can). You simply don’t get the room-shaking power and utterly clear pitch-definition of Tina’s rumbling bass intro on “Take Me To The River” through the Q1s the way you do with the bigger Q5s. Let’s face it: There is a limit to the amount of air a 7" driver can move, although I think you would be surprised, as I was, by how close the Q1 comes to reproducing lifelike bass-range dynamics, particularly in the mid-to-upper bass.

Above the bass range, the Q1 is a dynamic dynamo (as was the Mini II, to be fair), although because of the unusually smooth blend of tweet and mid/woof (and the lower noise of its enclosure) that dynamism has a less roughed-up, lower distortion, more civilised feel. The new Q is also—with the right source components—a paragon of transparency and resolution, reproducing subtleties like Joan Baez’s and Melody Gardot’s tremolo with the clarity, delicacy of timbre and texture, dynamic range, and sheer “in-the-room-with-you” realism of an electrostat, albeit with more body and dimensionality than a ’stat.

Naturally, the Q1’s soundstaging is vast (when the recording permits) and the speaker disappears into the soundfield—as all minis do—so completely that you have little-to-no sense of the sound being projected from or painted on drivers and faceplates. On top of this, the Q1 (like the Mini II before it) does not miniaturise instruments, although it does focus them a bit more crisply than the Mini did. Thus something like the concert grand piano in the aforementioned Dessau LP has the height, volume, and most of the power of a piano reproduced by a much larger multiway loudspeaker.

Now let me say something about this speaker’s transparency to sources. With a couple of the phonostages we used, the Q1s had a sound that I associate with the Soulution 700 monoblock amps and MIT cables—very clear, neutral, and fast on transients but just the slightest bit “over controlled,” as if some kind of sonic brake was being applied to the duration of notes after the sounding of the starting transient. This sense of over control or restraint makes music sound slightly less freed-up, slightly less vital and lively than it does through a select few other components. Frankly, I thought this mechanisation was due to the very elaborate feedback circuit in the Soulution 700 and to the networking of the MIT cable and interconnect. But, as usual, I was wrong.

When we stuck in a third phonostage at the end of the second day of listening, the Q1s sprang into even more convincing life—transparency, resolution, delicacy of tone and texture, see-through clarity, and above all liveliness markedly increased and the vague sense of mechanisation vanished. Clearly it was not the amps or the cables that were causing the problem, such as it was (and you’d have to be familiar with the LPs and certain other very high-quality electronics to be aware of it); it was the other two phonostages. When a loudspeaker can discern this sort of thing, while also reproducing instruments and vocalists with astonishing realism, you have a transducer that will please “fidelity to master tapes” listeners and “absolute sound” ones equally. And that, folks, is quite an accomplishment.

It goes without saying that I highly recommend the Magico Q1 to all but the hardest of hard-rock music lovers. It is, as I said, the highest-fidelity, fullest-range, most transparent-to-sources two-way I’ve come across (and I’ve heard a few). It is also, in my experience, one of the two finest speakers—the other being my beloved Q5s—that Magico has yet come up with. (I haven’t had enough listening experience with the Q3 to include it in the charmed circle, although by all reports it too may very well belong among the Magico elect.) For listeners in small-to-medium-sized rooms who can’t house (or won’t stand for) big boxes or large panels that clutter up the décor, or for classical/jazz/acoustic-pop music lovers in any size room who want very close to the ultimate in transparency, resolution, and refinement at much less than a Q3/Q5 price, the Q1 would definitely be the Magico ticket I’d ride.

My time with the Magico Q1s is over, but they are not forgotten. They have left on my ears an indelible mark.
Peter Roth

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Magico Q1 is a more than worthy successor to its category-defining predecessors, the Magico Mini and Mini II. Despite its smaller exterior dimensions (yet larger interior volume), the Q1 goes noticeably lower in the bass. With its superior drivers and advanced aluminium enclosure, it leaves the Minis behind in Magico’s ongoing quest for utter neutrality. In reducing Magico’s Q series to its essence in a two-way stand-mount, the Q1 performs its own magic trick, unfolding what in lesser monitors remains miasma. Almost shocking in its ability to exceed expectations, it left agape the mouths of a string of visitors to my listening room. The visceral results ranged from tormenting to thrashing to unexpected, beckoning depths, but were most notable when the Q1s reproduced bass passages, from orchestral crescendos to hard-rock drum kits. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: When any audio component comes in for review, it’s usually several weeks before its true nature begins to fully reveal itself. Familiar recordings of different musical styles, placing different demands on a playback system, are selected to tease out the character and capabilities of the device under test. But every once in a while, the initial impact made by a component is so clear that it stands out in stark relief from the rest. In those rare circumstances, the hundreds of tracks played in the following weeks serve only to confirm that initial impression, rather than blaze a circuitous trail to its real character, hitherto unrevealed. 

One such rarity is the Magico Q1, a sealed-box, two-way, stand-mounted loudspeaker ($26,500 USD per pair, including stands). Immediately after setting up the well-traveled review samples and connecting them to my small reference system, I was gobsmacked. Here was a product that demanded I immediately pick up the phone to invite friends and colleagues to sit in the sweet spot with a teasing “You’ve got to hear this for yourself!” I finally and fully understood what the Magico buzz is all about -- an understanding that had somewhat evaded me at audio shows. Every day thereafter, the Q1 left me shaking my head, and the mouths of my compatriots agape. It is very nearly a full-range speaker crammed into a package measuring just 14.2”H x 9”W x 14.2”D. But I get ahead of myself . . . 

One serious box 

Because I review audio equipment, a steady procession of equipment boxes, cartons, and crates flows back and forth among manufacturers, their distributors, and me. And while I can’t judge a book by its cover, I can generally ascertain how committed a company is to its equipment by the lengths it goes to ensure that equipment’s safe arrival. It’s hard to find more serious efforts than those made by Magico: a coffin-sized crate containing, side by side, two supine, fully encapsulated Q1s, their integral stands already attached. The shipping weight of the crated pair is about 280 pounds; each speaker itself weighs 60 pounds, and each stand the same, for a total net weight per side of 120 pounds. Magico’s almost over-the-top effort to ensure that their machines reach their destinations intact is no doubt appreciated by its customers, but it does beg one question: Where to store the crate? 

Removing each speaker-and-stand combo from its resting place (a two-man job) grants access to a briefcase nestled in the base of the crate, in which is stored a complete set of cones and “spike shoes.” Also included is a pair of white gloves, to prevent the fingerprinting of the Q1s’ satin-like finish, and a microfiber cloth to remove any evidence of such smudges. The speakers themselves are draped in a form-fitting velvet sheath, under which awaits the final layer of protection. Given the delicacy of the dome tweeter’s beryllium diaphragm, a secured protective ring must be decoupled from the baffle, and a complement of thick masking material removed; for shipping purposes, this material adheres to each surface of the speaker that could possibly come in contact with the shipping supports of closed-cell foam. 

A chip off the new Q 

Anyone familiar with Magico’s Q series of aluminium constructed speakers will recognize the Q1’s similarities to them. Like its larger brethren, the Q1 strikes a dense, purposeful pose, and is elegant in its monolithic solidity. In fact, with the visual design interplay of stand and monitor, the Q1 is arguably more interesting to look at than all but the mighty Q7, which tops the line. The bead-blasted, hard-anodised finish is unsurpassed in my experience, and should survive a lifetime or two. The metalwork embodies an attention to detail and a satisfying luxuriousness seen only in top-of-the-line electronics from the likes of Jeff Rowland Design Group, Zandèn, and Ayre Acoustics’ R series. 

The Q1 is more austere than its spiritual predecessor, the Magico Mini, which, with its combination of stacked-birch ply and aluminium, first turned heads and ears toward Magico, and almost singlehandedly launched the category of super-premium, stand-mounted speaker. The Mini and Mini II were considerably larger, at 16”H x 12"W x 17”D and 80 pounds each (plus 120 pounds of stand). While it’s a bit of a stretch to call the Minis “minimonitors,” they certainly displayed visual character. With the Q series in general and the Q1 specifically, I’m sure designers Alon Wolf and Yair Tammam would say they’d traded out some character for enhanced purposefulness -- a necessary step in their quest to design and build “Extreme Fidelity Speakers.” Let’s see what has changed. The Q1 more closely resembles a two-way, stand-mounted version of the venerable Q3 than a successor to the Mini and Mini II. 

The Q story can be distilled into three elements: Magico’s development of an advanced set of custom drivers, the acquisition of its own machine shop in San Jose, California, and the release of the Q-series cabinet platform. 

Advanced Finite Element Analysis, made possible by a suite of development tools (COMSOL Multiphysics, ReSHAPE, etc.), was used to determine an optimal application of the enclosure and resonance management of the Q platform. In the Q1, such dynamic, multi-environmental modelling resulted in a sealed enclosure of smaller exterior dimensions and larger interior volume than either Mini, and bass response that went 7Hz deeper than the Mini II (which itself extended the bass performance of the original Mini). A knuckle-rap test of the Q1’s inert enclosure resulted in nothing but bruises, as would be expected by even a brief examination of the Q1’s skeleton. The precision machined chassis is not only formidable, but the number and location of each of the many bolts has been critically established to raise the resulting resonant frequency while narrowing the quality factor (Q) of that frequency, and greatly simplifying the capture and elimination of resonances by proven damping agents. The front baffle consists of a constrained-layer-damped sandwich: two aluminium elements separated by a viscous damping material. The remaining panels are affixed to the underlying structure in such a way that the only clues that the Q1 is not cut from a single billet of aluminium are found on the back and bottom. 

Magico also uses Finite Element Analysis in its march along the road to ever better drivers. Accordingly, instead of the 1” ring-radiator tweeter and 7” woofer used in the Mini II, the Q1 has essentially the same custom, 1” beryllium-dome tweeter found in the Q3, as well as a thoroughly engineered, 7” Nano-Tech woofer exclusive to Magico. Wolf is especially proud of the drivers he and Tammam have developed for the entire Q line, a project that culminated in the new drivers for the awe-inspiring Q7. Here is where the computational horsepower of Finite Element Analysis and simulation were concentrated, to simultaneously correlate acoustical, electromagnetic, mechanical, and thermal behaviours. One focus of the engineering team in this regard was to attain high levels of pistonic operation, to minimise distortions through the selected bandpass. As expected in this super-premium category, and with the Q1’s aspirations, Magico asserts that the crossover between the two drivers applies an evolution of the Elliptical design of the Q5, and uses nothing but premium parts. 

Shazam!

As mentioned in the introduction, the Q1 made on me an immediate positive impression -- one that summoned up the feelings I’d had at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, where I first experienced the Magico Mini (driven by electronics from Balanced Audio Technology). But unlike in 2007, I could now judge the speakers’ contributions in the context of my small reference system. For the first several days I devoured my music library, thoroughly engaged and excited by the sound. Among the selections were a handful that I returned to again and again, as I demonstrated the Q1s to friends who had answered my calls or had merely dropped by. 

First on the demo list was the title track of Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat (CD, Reprise 49975-2). This Grammy-winning 2006 album is my go-to choice for torturing systems. Through the Q1s, the opening strains of drums, electric bass, and rhythm guitar filled the room. Avoiding any sense of the sloppy flapping that can overwhelm the subsequent entrance of voices through lesser speakers, the Q1’s bass (rated at -3dB at 32Hz, in-room) was every bit as tight and controlled as its “locked and loaded,” metronomic groove. A perfect complement to Fagen’s meticulous arrangements, recording, and production, the Magicos’ reproduction of “Morph the Cat” provided exactly the propulsive support needed to establish the vibe that then is carried through the entire album. Furthermore, the composed, top-to-bottom continuity of the Q1 cut through the strata of the sonic landscape, laying bare the wit and sardonic perspective embedded in song after song. 

In their ability to transmit intact the myriad spatial cues that are rife throughout good live recordings, the Q1s proved transportive. Perfect examples abound, such as the recent Miles Davis release Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (CD, Columbia/Legacy 94053), which saw frequent replay during the Q1’s tenure. Perhaps most insightful was Mike Garson’s “Trio Blues,” from Reference Recordings’ HRx Sampler 2011 (24/176.4 WAV, Reference HR-2011), a previously unreleased outtake from Garson’s Serendipity (Reference RR20, analog master). While an early flub by Garson effects a midstream restart of this outtake, nothing diminishes the attention to detail and master-file nature of this Prof. Keith O. Johnson recording, nor the artistic command of Garson and his players. In fact, the open window on the studio shuffling and chit-chat as the ensemble resets is voyeuristic. The Q1 reproduced all of this with aplomb, displaying the deft ability to track all of these sonic masterpieces of recorded sound. 

In many ways, the Magico Q1 was like a perfected electrostatic speaker. It displayed the qualities of detail, resolution, and transparency that electrostats are known for, yet avoided their practical limitations in terms of output levels, large-scale dynamics, and, but for the last half-octave or so of bass, bandwidth. The Q1 also had very well-controlled directivity in my room. In my experience, the only other compact speaker that can match the Q1 in these regards is the TAD Compact Reference, a stand-mounted three-way notable for its high-technology beryllium concentric drivers, a significantly larger displacement, and an even higher price ($37,000/pair).

One thing evident about the Q1 from the start was its ability to relay everything occurring upstream. I suspect that attributes often glibly ascribed to Magico speakers are rather the attributes of their associated equipment. From this perspective, the Q1 proved an exceptional monitoring device. For my last week with the speakers, I relocated my review pair of Audio Research Reference 250 monoblock amplifiers from my big system to the small. Not only did the Q1s help cement my impression of the mighty 250s; the extra smidgen of humanity on offer from the ARCs’ KT-120 tubes made it clear that there was nothing inherently antiseptic about the Magicos’ sound. 

Returning to acoustic piano -- specifically, Ola Gjeilo’s “North Country II,” from the excellent 2L-TWBAS 2012 Sampler (24/176.4 FLAC, 2L/SoundStageRecordings.com) -- was sheer delight. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, this track is a favorite of mine. As with the Garson track, the Q1s reproduced all of the resolution, tonality, microdetail, and timbre captured on the recording. Most important, the emotional impact of the music was fully conveyed. What both my ARC and Ayre MX-R monoblocks made clear, however, was that the Q1s liked to have gobs of high-quality power. 

The LeBron James of minimonitors 

A natural comparison point for the Q1 was the Crystal Cable Arbesque Minii, which I reviewed just over a month ago and which retails in the US for $25,000/pair, including stands. Both speakers have aluminium enclosures designed using COMSOL and similarly advanced design tools. Both have beryllium-dome tweeters and advanced woofers. Both are highly refined, reference-level products. In many respects, however, they could not be more different. Whereas the Magico surprised in the way its performance defied my expectations, the Arabesque Mini more closely conforms to what’s expected from a small speaker, yet does so with a refinement and a grace that reflect the philosophies of its creators. 

The Q1’s sound was much more visceral; the Arabesque Mini’s concentrates on nuance. For example, the extra bandwidth offered by the Q1 made a palpable difference in experiencing the bass thrust of Fagen’s “Morph the Cat.” In this respect, the Q1 reminded me of NBA star LeBron James, whose raw athleticism leaves fans shaking their heads in awe: “How does he do that? That move can’t be real, can it?” With the Arabesque Mini I am reminded of ballet, and talents such as Mikhail Baryshnikov. While, again, world-class athleticism is on display, it is grace and nuance that separate the masters from the merely exceptional -- and grace and nuance are what the Dutch speaker is all about.

As to which is the better value at nearly the same price, that will depend on what the customer seeks. In the States, my choice would be the Magico. Yet if I were in Europe, where the realities of international distribution result in the Q1 costing almost twice as much as the Arabesque Mini, I might go the other way. Ultimately, I think the question of value is answered less by cost and more by character. Each speaker has its own distinct character, and offers different choices. To quote Lady Gaga, “It’s good to live expensive!” 

Conclusions 

The Magico Q1 is a more than worthy successor to its category-defining predecessors, the Magico Mini and Mini II. Despite its smaller exterior dimensions (yet larger interior volume), the Q1 goes noticeably lower in the bass. With its superior drivers and advanced aluminium enclosure, it leaves the Minis behind in Magico’s ongoing quest for utter neutrality. In reducing Magico’s Q series to its essence in a two-way stand-mount, the Q1 performs its own magic trick, unfolding what in lesser monitors remains miasma. Almost shocking in its ability to exceed expectations, it left agape the mouths of a string of visitors to my listening room. The visceral results ranged from tormenting to thrashing to unexpected, beckoning depths, but were most notable when the Q1s reproduced bass passages, from orchestral crescendos to hard-rock drum kits. 

My time with the Magico Q1s is over, but they are not forgotten. They have left on my ears an indelible mark. 

. . . Peter Roth

if you buy the Q1, you get to be the audiophile equivalent of a Formula One driver.
Alan Sircom

REVIEW SUMMARY: So not only is the Magico Q1 an excellent loudspeaker, it will help bring out excellence in future loudspeaker designs. Rival manufacturers will need a solution that challenges this speaker, fast. That being said, I think I’m comfortable in saying it’s going to be some time before anyone catches up with the Q1. Few companies could even start to build with the dedication and single-mindedness that is needed to build a speaker this fantastic.

The Magico Q1 is a standmount loudspeaker with an integrated stand (which is bolted to a recess in the underside of the speaker) and is shipped as standard with this mounted in place. It’s a two-way sealed box that sits on a single column pedestal. And that is inevitably going to be twisted into “it’s not a real standmount” by rivals. Because “it’s not a real standmount” is going to be the excuse that will issue from those trying to justify their place in a post-Q1 loudspeaker world.

Their styling is bold... and none more black. The Q1s stand tall for a pair of floorstanders (the 25mm Beryllium dome tweeter is above ear height for most sofa-dwellers) and the squared off corners and thick black aluminium plates make the Q1s look like small monoliths from 2001 – A Space Odyssey. I left some Ligeti playing overnight to give them some running in and by the time I came down next day, my cats had started using primitive hand tools. Three days later, they were building a space station.

Joking aside, the Q1 are an uncompromising styling exercise for the home. Deliberately so; they make the big, bold physical statement because audio makes a big statement in its own right through these speakers. Music is an unapologetically stirring experience through these speakers and we need more things this uncompromisingly good and exciting if we are ever to reach out to a new audience.

Although you’ll never get to see inside the box (it’s a sealed box design, and they do mean sealed), it’s like a little city under the hood. The cabinet bolts to a complex cross-braced aluminium skeleton, with additional mounting plates at the front and rear of the cabinet, for the drivers and the crossover respectively. These massy plates also add stiffness to an already unfeasibly stiff cabinet. There’s constrained layer damping inside instead of anything soft and sticky, fluffy or foamy, because the cabinet is so thick and dense and non-resonant that a spot of BAF wadding or long-haired wool wouldn’t make a shred of difference to performance. This does.

The drive units could be seen as a sign of just how seriously Magico takes the whole process of speaker making. The 25mm beryllium dome tweeter and 177mm NeoTech (carbon fibre meets Rohacell sandwich) mid-bass unit have been seen before in the Q5. Except they haven’t; in the intervening time between the first and subsequent Q models, Magico has been performing a series of improvements to both drive units. Not significant enough to warrant Q5 owners returning their speakers for a new set of drivers, but specific improvements to the Q1 driver set to make the speaker all the more correct. But in a way, you can see the dedication that goes into the Q1 in every aspect of the speaker, even down to the little spike wrench the company supplies with the speaker.

The reason for the stand being an integral part of the design becomes clear if you scratch the surface (good luck with that by the way; you might want to try a diamond cutter, because that’s probably the only way you’ll get under that black coat). The stand is directly coupled to the speaker by being bolted to it. That acts as an effective damping mechanism, in precisely the opposite way most stand-mounts at the high-end tend to work; Magico feels the normal way of minimising resonance in standmounts (adding mass to the stand and decoupling the loudspeaker) is fundamentally flawed.

The result of all this development was a long time coming. A two-way sealed standmount like this, with its single-wired crossover and slightly curved front baffle, shouldn’t have taken long to engineer, given the whole Magico way of things (everything, right down to the aluminium factory, is in house or made to order). But, given the whole Magico way of doing things (no retreat, no surrender, no compromise), it actually took a surprising amount of work bringing these speakers to market. There is a lot of computer modelling, prototyping, measuring, listening, re-working and going back to the computer CAD/CAM pen tablet type thing (it was so much simpler when it was ‘back to the drawing board’).

The result is a speaker of powerful appearance. It’s a simple, timeless design in the same way a Le Coubusier chair is timeless. Functional to the point of utility, engineered at a premium for those who have no knowledge of the meaning of the word ‘over-engineered’, well proportioned no-quarter stuff. It’s the kind of loudspeaker that you want to know how to field-strip it in less than 30 seconds flat with your eyes closed. It’s all very Y-chromosome stuff; like flight-recorder boxes, boxing stats and Tonka toys.

Installation is simple, but deserves and demands painstaking adjustment to get it right. Give it some air, preferably a metre or so from side and rear walls and somewhere between two to three metres apart, with a slight toe-in. Fortunately, being sealed boxes with almost no rear or side radiation pattern, if you cannot quite achieve the rear and side-wall positioning, it’s not a big deal. Like the Mini II’s these speakers replace, they benefit from being placed in a larger room than you’d normally consider for floorstanders, but unlike the Mini II, that’s ‘benefit’, not a mandatory recommendation.

Similarly with amplifier choices, the church has been broadened. It’s a relatively low sensitivity speaker by today’s standards (claimed 86dB) but a relatively benign load by the same high-end benchmarks (five ohm nominal, with just a four ohm impedance dip at 156Hz). This means amplifiers of 50W and above will drive the Q1 well, although a couple of hundred watts of good, clean power will drive them exceptionally well. Especially as the Q1s seem to have been designed for the occasional Mr Hyde elements inside all of us that leaps out and turns the volume up to stupid for a while.

There is no such thing as an unburstable loudspeaker. Too little power played pushed into clipping, or way too much power burning out the voice coil can kill drive units. But with the Q1, you’d have to really hook the speakers up to something outrageously powerful and have scant regard for your hearing to do overpower the drive units. I played AC/DC so damn loud on these babies, I was unable to hear myself speak two rooms away and they didn’t turn a hair. For the bulk of the test, I used a Devialet D-Premier to drive them perfectly (I’d imagine two of them would drive the Q1s perfectly squared).

My listening notes on this loudspeaker are, er, brief. In fact, just two words, written big. The second word was ‘… me!’ The other word was short and earthy and not suitable for publication. The big reason for this; it goes back to that old and lost goal for audio – high-fidelity – and makes you remember why it was important. The audiophile-baiter might turn up their nose at this statement and point at a lesser loudspeaker and claim that it does the same job at a fraction of the price. And that argument has complete validity... until they get to the end of the first bar of music played through the Q1, and realise just how much closer Magico gets to that high-fidelity goal than other standmounts.

It gets voices right, making them sound like real people, not wide-mouthed human impersonators. It gets instruments like the piano right too, and it’s perhaps here where you start to get an understanding of why it is so good at its job. Of those 88 keys, I’d say 82 of them were all present and correct. Of the remaining six, they were portrayed without boost or bloat, but just didn’t have the same energy and dynamism of the rest of the left hand. That in itself is remarkable on any speaker, but on a standmount it’s worthy of high praise indeed.

But what really got me was the way it not only tied everything together musically, but made a truly huge sound in the process. Not artificially big, bloated or bounced off the side-wall expanded, but just right. So when you played ‘Flume’ by Bon Iver, you got that small, falsetto-frail voice and a real-sized guitar, and when you switched to Beecham conducting Carmen (EMI), you got all the scale of the operatic stage. And yet in both cases you could get past the scale and listen into the music. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) is particularly key here, because the recording isn’t stellar and lesser ‘audiophile’ speakers will be caught out by that. The Magico Q1 just resolves good music.

The big advantage to standmounts is they image better than otherwise similar floorstanding peers. The disadvantage is the lack of bottom end. So any speaker that can do both would be an immediate winner, but to date none do. Until now. Magico claims 32Hz at -3dB in the wild, which is deeply impressive, but I think is understatement. In my room, there was still a lot happening at 28Hz. Even the mighty Mini II it replaces couldn’t compare. The Mini II had slightly less bass and was a lot more demanding of the room it sat in. The Q1 has a good 8Hz at the bottom end in room on the Mini II (which means it has a good 8-10Hz in room at the bottom end on almost every other small speaker), and the Q1 is quite capable of being installed in small to medium room; the ideal place for a small loudspeaker to behave like a loudspeaker, which was the big limit for the Mini II.

By making a loudspeaker that works in a small room and delivers unparalleled bass response, Magico has answered the Big City Audiophile question. Those who have enough money to afford speakers like Q1s tend to make their wealth in cities. And if they live in the big city where the money happens (be it London, New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Singapore or what have you), space is often at a premium. The traditional loudspeakers the size of a garage door will not work in a room 3m wide and 4m long, but even that space may set the listener back a fortune.

This is perhaps the most important loudspeaker I’ve ever sat in front of. Why? Because it doesn’t try to bend the rules of physics. Instead, it shows us just how much more we can get out of the physics if we try really hard. Magico’s Q1 demonstrates that real-world and honest bottom-octave sound is possible from a two-way standmount sealed box loudspeaker, and from a speaker design that isn’t the size of a large fridge. That throws down a challenge to all – if the Q1 can do it, why can’t your speaker? Hopefully, others will rise to the challenge, and that suddenly raises the standard for audio across the board.

And there’s more! For those who can’t afford the Magico Q1, you should still be happy this loudspeaker exists. This is the Formula One car of our world. Things that go on inside this speaker are being watched by intellects vast and cool and sympathetic to the audio cause, just as things that go on inside a Formula One car are watched by those looking to create the next generation of production car. What the Q1 does is create a trickle down set of ideas for subsequent generations of loudspeakers (whether or not they have a Magico badge on the front). That way, audio gets just a little bit better at doing its job. Of course, if you buy the Q1, you get to be the audiophile equivalent of a Formula One driver.

So not only is the Magico Q1 an excellent loudspeaker, it will help bring out excellence in future loudspeaker designs. Rival manufacturers will need a solution that challenges this speaker, fast. That being said, I think I’m comfortable in saying it’s going to be some time before anyone catches up with the Q1. Few companies could even start to build with the dedication and single-mindedness that is needed to build a speaker this fantastic.
........Alan Sircom

A ‘tour de force’ .....Magico’s S3 in its exquisite delivery of the music.
REVIEW SUMMARY (2014 Year Book): A ‘tour de force’ is not an uncommon cry in the promotion of high-end audio, but this promise is not only realised in the materials and manufacture of Magico’s S3 but also in its exquisite delivery of the music. But you will need an amplifier of equivalent calibre.
A 'tour de force' is not only realised in the materials and manufacture of Magico's S3 but also in its exquisite delivery of the music

The guiding philosophy of Magico’s indefatigable CEO and designer Alon Wolf is along the lines of ‘if you want it done properly...’

This extends not only to the largely bespoke drivers but in particular to those famously inert cabinets, employing copious quantities of alloy, innovative scaffold-like internal bracing and constrained-layer damping.

The Magico S3 is a three-way, sealed-box design combining the same advanced MB30 beryllium tweeter and 6in M380 midrange unit seen in the S5 [HFN Dec ’12]. But it’s the implementation of the M380 that Alon Wolf describes as ‘the biggest deal of these loudspeakers’ – the driver working into its own specially shaped sub-enclosure fashioned from a polycarbonate resin. This elongated bubble enclosure provides the ideal acoustic termination, reducing distortion over a 200Hz-2kHz bandwidth by around 5dB.

The chamber also isolates the midrange unit from changes in pressure caused by the pair of newly-developed 8in woofers. These employ a hybrid ‘Nano-Tec’/aluminium cone material combined with a huge voice coil and underhung motor system.

All that noted, we consider the S3’s extruded contoured aluminium cabinet – claimed to be the world’s largest monocoque enclosure with ½in walls and having the potential to minimise diffraction effects, internal resonances and damping requirements – to represent the ‘far bigger deal’.

The tall structure is stabilised by matching alloy outriggers fitted with exquisitely-machined adjustable spikes. Cable connection is via a single set of 4mm lock-tight bananas per cabinet. Meanwhile, Magico’s standard satin-style powder-coat finish comes in a set range of colours for a £25,000 ticket, but the glossy automotive paint M-Coat finish commands figures closer to £29,000.

Just relax

The S3s took around two weeks to warm up and ‘relax’ before the music really flowed. Ah, but when it did, they sounded astonishingly quick, the bass utterly free of bloom or overhang, securing musical rhythms with the deadly authority of a nail gun.

The segue to Magico’s topmost drivers is subjectively seamless, its mid deliciously detailed, the treble sweet but so obviously extended beyond the grasp of the ear.

The S3 is analytical by design but sympathetic, musically, in its approach. Thus it revealed the layering of The Beatles’ ‘Back In The USSR’ [White Album] without tearing this vintage masterpiece to shreds. The drone of aircraft in the background remained as clear as day, setting the scene for McCartney’s slightly nasal vocals and enthusiastic percussion. The value of remastering this vintage recording was especially clear as the S3s rolled out the red carpet for the Fab Four, the boys performing with a clarity and energy that belied the tape’s humble origins.

Moreover, the S3s create a capacious and very transparent soundfield without the conspicuous presence of an archetypal ‘big box’. Like all Magicos we’ve heard, they vanish from the picture.

Verdict

A ‘tour de force’ is not an uncommon cry in the promotion of high-end audio, but this promise is not only realised in the materials and manufacture of Magico’s S3 but also in its exquisite delivery of the music. But you will need an amplifier of equivalent calibre.

Audiophiles who really want to hear their recordings, take note: Your invitation to join that club has arrived in the Magico S3.
Ryan Coleman

SUMMARY: One of the ways I found myself listening differently with the S3s than with other speakers was that I could enjoy music at different volumes and in different ways; it took me some time to put it all together. The S3s, being resolution monsters, didn’t require a higher volume setting for me to hear the nuances of some recordings, as I found when I listened to The Lumineers and, for the first time, heard the studio reverb on the lead singer’s voice in “Morning Song.” I also spent a lot of time listening at stupid-loud levels, and enjoyed every minute of that as well -- another way of saying that I never found a volume level at which the S3s didn’t like to be played.

Magico S3Reviewers' ChoiceThe floorstanding Magico S3 costs $22,600 USD per pair and measures 48”H x 12”W x 12”D, a small footprint that makes positioning them considerably easier and more rewarding, particularly in rooms not dedicated to listening. The speaker’s effective width is increased to 16” with handsome outrigger stands that, when set properly, couple the speakers to the earth’s continental shelf. Despite its modest size, each S3 weighs 150 pounds -- like all current Magico speakers, its cabinet is made of aluminum well damped to suppress any ringing. The S3 is also the largest of Magico’s S models to have a monocoque chassis, which is claimed to provide greater stiffness than the multi-piece construction of, say, the S5.

The S3’s fit and finish in one of Magico’s six basic M-Cast finishes (Black, Pewter, Silver, Rose, Bronze, Blue) is beyond reproach. For a modest upcharge, you can get the S3 in a painted, M-Coat finish. Like other Magico speakers, the S3 is made almost entirely in house. No off-the-shelf drivers for these guys; the S3 has the same beryllium tweeter and Nano-Tec midrange driver found in the S5 ($29,400/pr.), along with a pair of newly developed 8” woofers instead of the 10” model used in the S5. While I greatly admire inventors who first must invent something else in order to realize their true inventions, I sometimes wonder if it’s actually necessary, or merely marketing fluff to justify a designer’s OCD. In the case of Magico’s Nano-Tec drivers, it seems to have been necessary. Here’s why.

The enclosures of Magico speakers are sealed boxes; that is, they have no ports. A port allows the backwave of air pressure generated by a speaker’s drivers to leave the cabinet quickly, reducing internal pressures and, according to Magico, the resultant distortions on the drivers. However, every type of speaker design is a compromise between strengths and weaknesses: ports allow a speaker to play louder and with seemingly more bass -- “seemingly” because ports are tuned to augment a small narrow frequency range, and usually roll off quickly thereafter. Without expert voicing, this can result in too much bass in one area and not enough further down. In contrast, a sealed-alignment speaker, while unable to play as loud, will behave more linearly in the bass and go lower in frequency (all else being equal), but at the risk of higher levels of distortion. Magico believes that a sealed alignment is the only way to get truly accurate bass (more about this shortly), and to prevent pressure-related distortion from compromising the S3’s linearity, they’ve given it a monocoque aluminum cabinet, with braces machined in their own CNC facility. Aluminum is considerably more rigid than the medium-density fiberboard (MDF) of which many speaker cabinets are made. Finally, to fully realize the promise of a sealed-alignment design, Magico had to invent the Nano-Tec driver, currently the only driver based on carbon nanotubes that’s used in a commercially available loudspeaker. Magico’s published specifications indicate that the S3’s distortion is only 3% higher at 20Hz than at 80Hz, in contrast to the 300% higher distortion over the same bandwidth with drivers made of more typical materials.

I also found the design of Magico’s Elliptical Symmetry Crossover to be compelling. Magico was able to achieve a 24dB rolloff between drivers, but their Elliptical Symmetry Crossover allows this to be done with half the number of parts used in a traditional crossover. And as there’s no such thing as a perfect part, fewer parts usually means higher quality, all else being equal.

Two criticisms: The S3’s drivers are protected by magnetically affixed grilles that appear to be made out of aluminum. You’re welcome to listen to the S3s with their grilles on, just as you’re welcome to tour the Fine Arts wing of the Smithsonian Institution while wearing sunglasses. I’d advise against doing either, as both impose horrible colorations on artistry. Also, while the fit’n’finish of the speakers, stands, and packaging was exceptional, no physical manual was included (it is, however, available online once the product is registered). Granted, setting up the S3s was as complicated as setting up a pair of lamps, but still -- nothing?

Listening

“Music is beautiful the way it is. It needs no help or enhancement.” -- Alon Wolf, President, Magico.

As I’ve said in multiple prior reviews, the cabinet that flexes least sounds best. You’ll bruise your knuckles if you knock them anywhere on the Magico S3’s cabinet of 0.5”-thick aluminum, and while the S3s made some beautiful music, rest assured: their cabinets did not sing along with the tunes. The Magico S3 demonstrated a remarkable ability to play cleanly and loudly at the same time -- that’s what a stone-dead cabinet will do for you. Precious few manufacturers make genuinely inert speaker cabinets, and of those that do, few of their models have as small a footprint as the S3’s -- and I can’t think of a single full-range model that costs less. That’s not to suggest that the S3 is a one-trick headbanger’s speaker (it’s not), but it is to say that, to ensure that the dynamic range of music is properly expressed, a speaker cannot resonate and thus add distortions to the music at dynamic peaks, regardless of what sort of music it’s reproducing.

The S3 was linear and predictable, as I found when listening to “The Battle,” from Hans Zimmer’s score for the film Gladiator (CD, Decca 289 467 094 2). Overall volume levels within this track range from soft to stupid loud, and depending on the volume setting, the only change I noted was in terms of room resonances (stuff on the walls started to rattle). The S3’s sonic character never flinched with the volume setting. Sure, when I pushed them to jet-landing-in-my-room levels, the frequency balance tilted upward; that wasn’t distortion per se, but the sealed-box design demonstrating its limits -- the bass output will lag behind the ultimate output levels of the midrange and tweeter. But again, that happened only at stupid-loud levels -- or in a room much too large for the S3s, and more suited for the larger S5s.

I frequently host other audiophiles for listening sessions. Many folks whose ears I trust stopped by to listen to the S3s, and invariably described them as clean (i.e., non-distorting) and resolving. And if I had to sum up the S3’s sound in just two words, those would be the words. The S3s were among the most resolving speakers I’ve heard in mine or anyone’s home, and those that may have had a smidge more resolution have cost exponentially more (as have the associated gear). In my own room, there was no question about the S3’s superiority of resolution vs. prior residents. Listening to “Bag’s Groove,” from Jerry Garcia and David Grisman’s So What (CD, Acoustic Disc ACD-33), a track I’ve used as a demo for years, I heard a wealth of information that was new to me -- not just the ringing, but the fretting of Garcia’s guitar strings, the decay and inner detail of Jim Kerwin’s double bass, and the space between the notes of the handheld shakers (I heard each rattle as a distinct sonic object) -- all this from a track I’ve heard hundreds of times. The S3s revealed new things about long-worn recordings to a degree that I hadn’t thought possible this long and far into the audiophile game.

I found it impossible to point to any single reason why the S3s sounded heads and shoulders above the rest -- a system’s sound is a function of every element in the chain, as well as of how the speakers interact with the room. But in terms of resolution, let’s not gloss over the laundry list of technologies that may have contributed to the S3’s world-class resolution: superstiff monocoque cabinet with sealed-alignment for the bass, the new midrange enclosure (found only in the S3, and purported to reduce distortions to a fraction of those found in other types of enclosures), the proprietary Nano-Tec drivers and Elliptical Symmetry Crossover, and the extensive QA process by which all these technologies were optimized. The sum total of the Magico S3s -- the technological tour de force that they are, and how they interacted with my room -- left me awestruck by how much more info was conveyed from each shiny disc I put in.

And while the treble and midrange were both stunning for their transparency, the part of the audioband that really stuck out for its paradigm-shifting resolution was the bass. There was not “more” bass with the S3, nor did the bass sound deeper, despite frequency-response plots telling me otherwise. What the S3 did that no other speaker I’ve had in for audition has done was deliver degrees of bass texture, definition, and transient fidelity that I hadn’t known existed. Magico is firmly in the camp of those who believe that a sealed alignment is the only way to get accurate bass, and given that I’d never heard such accurate bass as I heard from the S3, I can now only agree with them.

Listening to the SHM-CD remastering of the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72 (CD, Warner Bros. 3WX 2668), I found myself nodding along with any instrument I focused my attention on (again, that superior-resolution thing). But it was when I focused on the virtuoso lines of bassist Phil Lesh that I realized how far the S3 had raised the bass bar. The Magicos got it all: the minor tonal differences of notes close together in harmonics and in time, the rapid-fire acceleration followed by a tempo change and lingering decay to nothingness, and above all, the weaving of the electric bass into the fabric of the entire performance -- the S3 delivered. Was it the sealed alignment, the advanced technology used throughout the S3s, or the unique way the S3s coupled to my room that provided such clearly superior sound? I can only say yes to all three, while assigning a special weight to none -- they all mattered. In short, the Magico S3 is the first loudspeaker to let me hear what was really going on in the bass. Such an experience is not to be missed -- and, once heard, it won’t be easily given up.

That’s not to say that the S3’s bass was without flaw. Physics got the better of it with some ultradeep (sub-30Hz) bass lines, which I heard (or didn’t) in some staging cues, the decay of kick drums, and some organ parts of orchestral works. Two 8” woofers in a sealed box can move only so much air, and while the electric bass was represented throughout its ranges of weight and depth, some harmonics were missing during the decay of the kick drum in the title track of Steely Dan’s Aja, as the second verse ends. While the frequency-response plot would indicate that the S3 puts out bass into the bottom octave, the level down there was attenuated. I’d estimate that more than 80% of the decays were there, but the last bit was rolled off. This, along with the absence of a ported design’s frequency bump, will no doubt have some listeners thinking that the S3 doesn’t have as much bass -- which I didn’t find to be true.

When I threw on “Paper Tiger,” from Beck’s Sea Change (CD, Geffen 493 393-2), one visitor commented, “Where did all that bass come from?” There really isn’t much musical information below 30Hz, particularly on pop or rock records, and the S3s could still rock, covering those genres with all the heft and depth that rock instruments deliver in real life -- but no more. The S3 didn’t sound as thick in the bass as ported speakers do, but whether or not ported speakers’ bass is accurate is a separate matter. All this means that, for the uninitiated, the S3’s bass may sound a bit less grounded than that of a ported speaker. But good luck finding a ported speaker with as much bass definition as the S3 -- or as much midrange definition, for that matter, for they’re interrelated: bass bloat smears midrange resolution and transparency. The S3s delivered levels of transparency and resolution in the bass and midrange that I’ve never heard from ported speakers.

The Magico was about as transparent and uncolored a loudspeaker as you’re likely to hear, and extremely responsive to changes in upstream components. While the S3s will limit their owner’s choice in amplification -- they loved power, preferably class-A solid-state, another byproduct of a sealed alignment; owners of flea-watt, single-ended-triode tube amps should look elsewhere -- all other changes I made upstream in my system were clearly audible with the S3s in place. A great example (my editor will hate me for this) was when I began playing with footers under my TG Audio power-conditioning boxes. When I played “Zombie,” from Fela Kuti’s The Best of the Black President (Megaforce/Knitting Factory KFR1001), the horn section went from having a tonally bleached quality with my homemade footers under the TG boxes to a more accurate tonality with the Stillpoint footers, which maintained all the blat of the saxophones while removing the whitish treble, which I found objectionable. Surprisingly, adding the Stillpoints also improved the bass depth and heft, which I would never have expected from merely using different footers under a power conditioner. While this is an endorsement of the Stillpoints, it’s also a statement of the exceptional transparency of the Magicos -- the sonic signature of footers, cables, AC outlets and plugs, etc., were all laid bare with the S3s in my system, while lesser speakers often didn’t indicate any difference in the efficacy of these tweaks. OC-type audiophiles (i.e., 98% of us) will love that the S3s can be “tuned” in this way. Of course, the S3s aren’t changing at all; they’re simply telling you all that can be told about what you’ve put in front of them -- and that will be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your system and your willingness and ability to fine-tune it as needed. But I dare say the Magico S3s themselves will never sound bad, for that would imply that they have a sound -- and to my ears, they did not. However, if they’re installed in a system that hasn’t been optimized and the overall sound is bad . . . well, if you don’t like the message, don’t blame the messenger.

The combination of the S3s’ increased resolution and narrow front baffles, the latter minimizing diffraction effects -- i.e., soundwaves from the driver that are reflected off the front baffle and compromise staging and tonality -- led to a greater sense of soundstage depth and dimensionality, while also making it easier to follow individual performers on that stage -- both their instrumental lines and their onstage positions. This was obvious when I listened to “My Old Timey Baby,” from The Most of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks (CD, Epic EK 65481) -- I sensed greater amounts of space around, between, and behind the performers, while also being able to follow their individual instrumental and vocal lines, and gain great insight into their musicianship. While it was easy to forget all the audiophile mumbo-jumbo and just listen to music through the Magicos, it was also easy to hear and see how the parts comprised the whole.

One of the ways I found myself listening differently with the S3s than with other speakers was that I could enjoy music at different volumes and in different ways; it took me some time to put it all together. The S3s, being resolution monsters, didn’t require a higher volume setting for me to hear the nuances of some recordings, as I found when I listened to The Lumineers and, for the first time, heard the studio reverb on the lead singer’s voice in “Morning Song.” I also spent a lot of time listening at stupid-loud levels, and enjoyed every minute of that as well -- another way of saying that I never found a volume level at which the S3s didn’t like to be played.

Conclusion

The Magico S3’s uncolored sound and virtually nonexistent sins of commission have made it one of the easiest products to review in my experience. Is it perfect? Of course not -- as mentioned, the bass below 30Hz isn’t particularly satisfying, and I’d have preferred a bit more dynamic aplomb and foundational heft, and the grilles are sonically intrusive. Those criticisms are mostly of sins of omission in a small floorstanding speaker that punches well above its weight. But when it came to all the sins the S3 could have committed, well, it just didn’t.

I’m not surprised about the lack of such errors. One of the things I respect and admire about Magico is the lack of variability they introduce to the entire pursuit of reproducing music in the home. Musicians and the people who build instruments will tell you the value of a good piece of wood in the making an instrument, as there’s no consistency in the batches of wood from suppliers -- let the musicians, not the speaker builders, pick the wood.

Clearly, Magico has invested several million dollars in fixed assets to maximize the sound of every speaker model they produce -- models are designed, tested, measured, adjusted, retested, remeasured, readjusted, ad infinitum, solely to alter the signal as little as possible. That’s why Magico pursues (and achieves) vanishingly low levels of distortion in their speakers.

Some will say that Magico speakers don’t have a soul, as if that’s a criticism. I agree: Magicos do what the upstream components and signals tell them to do. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, I can assure you that it’s not the speakers’ fault -- it’s what you’re feeding them. They’re just doing what they’re told to do, within the context of what, thanks to Magico’s relentless drive to minimize distortion, they were designed to do: reproduce music with reference-level resolution.

Audiophiles who really want to hear their recordings, take note: Your invitation to join that club has arrived in the Magico S3.
..... . . Ryan Coleman

Although more expensive than the S1, S3 belongs to the best speakers in the market.....
RUUD JONKER…..MUSIC EMOTION ,,,,Hifi.nl

REVIEW SUMMARY: The S3 is just as perfect as the speaker S1. The S3 does not necessarily fits only in larger rooms. In the smaller room where the S1 is functioning properly, can also be an S3. Which then provides the necessary extra body to specific types of music. In principle, here and there with the known exceptions, there is a relationship between the speaker and the size of the room. You'll never be able to hear more than what can be a Q7 or other larger systems without the required space. The purchase of too large reproducers, in view of the available space, is so costly overkill. Therefore, the S3 is an excellent solution for the average living up to roughly 80 square meters. Although more expensive than the S1, S3 belongs to the best speakers in the market and can still defend and accessible option for a musical arrest system. Much more quality and a much better value for money than most of the priceless nonsense products that plague the market. With S3 and good (affordable and appropriate) electronics'm just ready. In all fairness there is little to be desired. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Last year in June 2013 published the review of the Magico S1 in Music Emotion. Meanwhile Magico the S3 has put on the market. Why would you, given the perfection of the S1, S3 still go for? The following listening experiences to formulate an answer.

Magico belongs to those innovative companies that actually advance the loudspeaker technology. The discussed last year S1 for consumers with a Dutch living room of an average of forty square meters the ideal transducer. In a decent acoustics and with matching electronics there is hardly anything to be desired. The S1 is a closed two-way very modest dimensions. In fact the ideal construction principle. At the key features hear the phenomenal homogeneity, dynamic capabilities, the holographic presentation of the soundstage and very deep and linear continuous layer. With the S1 base and carefully chosen electronics there is an ultimate system for the music to roughly 20K.

That is serious money in absolute terms, but for those looking for perfect viewing a viable option. Remember that it is very easy to hi-country to buy an absolute mess for 150K. A potential problem could arise with the S1 as the listening room is very large and vigorous program material must be turned at full strength. With a sensitivity of 86dB and a recommended capacity of 50 watts, is no speaker in a room of one hundred square meters of an electrical power of 300 watts can convert into 120 dB sound pressure level over the entire frequency range. Actually, the S1 is a mini-monitor with a superior quality coating system. Suitable for almost all music, except when it comes to Mahler, hard rock, modern dance music and organ. At least, if that really needs to be shown with big volume.

Magico S3 is put in the market to cater to consumers with larger listening rooms and musical wishes to place extra demands on reproducers. Physically, the S3 on all sides roughly 5 cm larger than the S1. Technically speaking, the S3 is a three-way system with two bass drivers, a midrange and a tweeter. The sensitivity is 89 dB, the lower limit frequency is 22 Hz (S1: 32 Hz) and the recommended amplifier power of 50-1200 watts. That seems reasonable "vandal-proof", but there are those customers who get everything broken. Since each hi-fi dealer can write a book about it. It is in any case containing a starting point in larger spaces, with music that a lot of low-frequency information to be able to perform well. Because of the other technical architecture of the S3, there are, of course, to be expected sound technical differences with respect to the S1.

For a variety of logistical issues, the less likely was to listen to the S3 here in the studio. Then, as the fog-controlled acoustics, the ability to measure and to match it with a large number of disposal amplifiers. So this time no super-optimization trick. On the other hand, this is not a problem. There are basically no 'reference amplifiers "and" reference images "to be able to hear what a speaker. Any experienced importer, retailer and technician can hear in almost any reasonable amplifier and a CD of the Kermisklanten what a speaker. As long as you listen to the properties' of the speakers. Therefore, the S3 is heard at four international locations ...

The last listening session was held in The Hague, after Barack Obama was gone and the whole street had caught her security rushes. Chattelin Audio Systems offered benevolent its recently upgraded acoustic listening room to, along with a number of adjacent electronic components. They are listed here in exceptional cases. Music Emotion has not, the task to advise the optimum system match to be made around a speaker. That task belongs to the expertise and (extra) services of audio retailer. Many consumers think that they themselves can create the ideal system match and acoustic conditions. But, be honest but that is not so. The S3 was driven by the Soulution 501/520 combo with a CEC TLO 3.0 Transportation and dCS Debussy converter.

The comparison between the S1 and S3 is similar to the game of 'spot the ten differences. Obviously the familial similarity between the two Magico's obvious. But there are also differences. The main difference concerns the "level of maturity". The S3 is the extent to which a room-filling 'live performance' can be put down larger. The S3 also does powerful presence felt in the lower frequency regions and simply about 10Hz deeper than the S1. Who really looking for a wall of sound may continue to scale up in a large room for a Q7 or Q5. Although the S3 can put a convincing stage, it remains a relatively reproducer of modest dimensions, therefore a high degree of acceptance within interiors where vigeren other values.

so the S3 has an ideal quality / WAF ratio. Another difference is that the S3 is richer in low and midlaag. The degree of holographic spaciousness for the S3 a dash less exuberant than the S1. Clearly, these small differences, which also are dependent on the acoustics, placement and control. Along with the Soulution set the S3 sounds musically neutral 'with a beautiful sound, excellent balance and very dynamic. Fairly close to a studio monitor. And recently brought a captured image of the St. John Passion was allowed to hear Magico's very similar to the output from the studio mastering system. The latter shows more detail hear compared to the Magico, but that has less to do with the S3 than the control. In which direction is also a choice. The Soulution set sounds quite neutral, musical, but unfussy and precise. Anyone looking for additional sound some extra 'bloom' and a deeper harmonic interpretation, can operate with a tube of Sands or something.

S3 allows effortless hear all the differences and the choice is 'up to you'. What is striking is that the S3, in any case, in comparison with the S1, a dash is 'more musical'. Modern speakers, developed using computer technology, taking sometimes the criticism that they (too) sound neutral and clinically. It will well be a "clinical" and cool sounding transducer designed. However, the use of modern design technology does not automatically sound speakers and clinically uninvolved. Then goes namely something wrong somewhere. Comments, which are sometimes made on the S1, being it would sound these speakers 'clinical', here are therefore not recognized. If S1 is controlled well, let them hear what exactly happened during the shooting and communicates flawlessly all existing richness of sound.

The problem usually sits to the side of the listener. A number of music lovers and audiophiles are not accustomed to speakers that give a much better and fairer picture of recording reality. It is too focused on their 'own sound' and should sound an own misinterpretation of the music. In a few years will perform identical virtually all speakers. That's the way it is supposed to be. A speaker must emphatically do not own character, except in scale and it depends on how big those things may be. Display differences should emerge from the recording and not from speakers. Magico S3 comes another notch closer to what the recording offers. Call it "more musical", but that is not the right concept. It also does not mean that the S1 is not "musical". 

Conclusion 

The S3 is just as perfect as the speaker S1. The S3 does not necessarily fits only in larger rooms. In the smaller room where the S1 is functioning properly, can also be an S3. Which then provides the necessary extra body to specific types of music. In principle, here and there with the known exceptions, there is a relationship between the speaker and the size of the room. You'll never be able to hear more than what can be a Q7 or other larger systems without the required space. The purchase of too large reproducers, in view of the available space, is so costly overkill. Therefore, the S3 is an excellent solution for the average living up to roughly 80 square meters. Although more expensive than the S1, S3 belongs to the best speakers in the market and can still defend and accessible option for a musical arrest system. Much more quality and a much better value for money than most of the priceless nonsense products that plague the market. With S3 and good (affordable and appropriate) electronics'm just ready. In all fairness there is little to be desired. 

RUUD JONKER…..MUSIC EMOTION ,,,,Hifi.nl

My jaw literally dropped when I listened to The Weavers at Carnegie Hall,
Jonathan Valin
REVIEW SUMMARY:
All told, the M3 is the most exciting new product from Magico since the revolutionary M Pro, whose legacy it continues and, in many important ways, improves upon. For those of you hungering for the virtually un-obtainable Pro (only 50 pairs of which were built, most of them pre-sold), Wolf and Co. have finally provided an option that 
can be listened to and purchased. Whether you’re in the market for such an expensive item or not, this is a loudspeaker you need to hear—something wonderful made better. I will have a full report on the M3 when I receive review samples.

EXTENDED REVIEW: After complaining about the (un)availability of Magico’s superb, limited-edition, $129k M Project loudspeaker , I am happy to report that Alon Wolf has done something to make things better. No, he hasn’t built more M Pros, but he has launched an entirely new line of loudspeakers based on the driver and enclosure innovations first seen in the Pro.

On a visit to the Bay Area in late August, I spent the better part of two days listening to my own vinyl (I brought some 20 LPs) and select digital files through the first offering in Magico’s new M Series lineup—the US$75k (excl sales tax) M3 three-way, five-driver, sealed-box floorstander—and if this new speaker is representative of what’s in store for Magico fans, you’re going to want to give the M’s a long listen.

Wolf claims that the NEW M3 is the most technologically sophisticated speaker he has made. In fact, he thinks it is his best work—but then he always thinks his newest babies are his best work. This time, however, he might be right.

The M Pro aside, the M3 certainly sounds different than previous Magicos in ways that are, to my ear, entirely for the better. Though neutral in balance and still blessed with the ultra-high transparency, speed, and resolution that are Magico hallmarks, the M3 has the same strong taste of natural timbral warmth and sweetness from the bass through the treble that I’ve grown used to with the Pro. However, it does something else that even the Pro doesn’t do to the same extent—the M3 pulls off a disappearing act that sets a new high for Magico multi-ways, and a soundstage of dimensions that set a new standard for me in all-dynamic floorstanders.

My jaw literally dropped when I listened to The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, a record that (God knows) I’ve heard heard a few times, as the seemingly vast reaches of Carnegie opened up behind the M3s with a width, depth, height, and volume unparalleled from a three-way cone loudspeaker. For once, Carnegie actually sounded like Carnegie. Venue, audience, musicians, and instruments were equally “there”—the hall huge and filled with joyous listeners sitting at various heights and depths, running from the orchestra level up to “glee club” in the top tier of old Carnegie’s wedding-cake layout, the timbres warm and natural, the transients with the genuine snap of gut-and-steel strings, and the individual voices and instruments imaged as clearly as if you were staring at them in a large-format photograph. This is the kind of densely populated, three-dimensionally immersive, wrap-around stage that I’ve only heard in the past with the MBL 101 X-treme Radialstrahler and the slim-line, quasi-line-source Raidho D5.1 (both of which cost a quarter-of-a-million dollars)—and I’m not sure either of those were quite this immersive.

Of course, Wolf’s custom-made, reflection-free listening room clearly had something to do with this extraordinary staging and imaging. And I’ll have to wait to get the M3s in my own reflection-filled listening room to see if I can duplicate the feat. (For the record, I can’t quite do it with my reference M Pro/JL Audio Gotham system, which costs considerably more than the M3, or even the M3 paired with QSub15s.) But a good deal of this standard-setting soundstaging has nothing to do with Magico’s bespoke digs and everything to do with the M3’s new enclosure, which is clearly the best the company has engineered.

Derived from the Pro (with an added fillip taken from the S Series and a new innovation in driver coupling), the M3’s box uses Magico’s traditional, massive, damped aluminium front, rear, and bottom panels—and its elaborate, bolted-together, aluminium latticework/substructure inside the cabinet—but adds curved carbon-fibre side panels à la the M Pro and a brand-new aluminium top cap (not found in the M Pro) that has a machined-in curve to it. The physical result is the most aerodynamic, diffraction-free enclosure Magico has yet come up with, and the sonic result is the standard-setting disappearing act and soundstaging I just reported on.

There is an additional benefit to Magico’s best-ever, lowest-diffraction enclosure that can be heard in the seamless blend between the tweeter and the midrange and the natural warmth of timbres (orchestral strings, such as those on the great RCA recording Rhapsodies with Stokowski and the RCA Symphony of the Air, are simply and breathtakingly gorgeous), though this may also be due to refinements in the driver complement. Indeed, while similar to the M Pro, the M3 uses somewhat more sophisticated drivers than the Pro—its three 7" woofers, have later-gen graphene diaphragms (said to be 20% lighter and 300% stiffer than the nanotube-carbon cone material used in the Pro)—and a new and improved driver mounting system that employs a solid copper gasket to maximise coupling to the chassis and minimise the transference of resonances. The large 28mm diamond-coated beryllium tweeter (the same one used in Q7 Mk II) is also an improvement over the tweet in the M Pro. The other driver in the M3—the 6" graphene-diaphragm midrange—is the same as that in the Pro, and Magico has included the same polymer sub-enclosure for the midrange found in the Pro (and derived from the S Series), which is said to enhance control and articulation, not that Magicos ever wanted for such things.

The fact that the M3 uses three 7" woofers, rather than the three 10-inchers found in the M Pro, makes for a slight difference in power-range fullness and low-bass extension (the M3 is said to play on its own into the upper 30s) vis-à-vis the Pro, though the difference is surprisingly small and can be completely eliminated by adding a pair of $22k QSub 15s or $12k JL Audio Gothams to the package, crossed over around 45-55Hz. (For all sorts of reasons, I’m all in favor of using really good subwoofers, like the Magico Qs or the JL Audio Gothams, with full-range loudspeakers.) With the QSubs in and Soulution electronics driving the entire she-bang and TARA labs Zero & Omega Evolution SP audio cables hooking it all up, I would be hard pressed to say that I heard a substantial difference between the M3s and the M Pros on a powerful, deep-reaching pop cut like “I’m the Man to Be” from El Vy’s Return to the Moon. No, you don’t get all the mid-bass slam you may be used to from a ported loudspeaker, but you will still get goose bump raising power, sub-20Hz extension, lifelike tone colour unobscured by port resonance, and the peerless bass-range clarity of a sealed box.

All told, the M3 is the most exciting new product from Magico since the revolutionary M Pro, whose legacy it continues and, in many important ways, improves upon. For those of you hungering for the virtually un-obtainable Pro (only 50 pairs of which were built, most of them pre-sold), Wolf and Co. have finally provided an option that can be listened to and purchased. Whether you’re in the market for such an expensive item or not, this is a loudspeaker you need to hear—something wonderful made better. I will have a full report on the M3 when I receive review samples.

BEST OF SHOW (COST NO OBJECT) CES 2014 – THE ABSOLUTE SOUND
 
The Magico S3/Vitus/Synergistic/dCS system. thought far from the most expensive, proved the most all round enjoyable”
 – Alan Taffel, The Absolute Sound, April, 2014

“The sound that the Magico S3’s produced was absolutely stunning; it was immediately discernible how good these speakers were. Everything sounded right, from the fast, tight bass, to the extremely wide and deep soundstage that sacrificed nothing in terms of imaging, to the effortless ease with which the speakers filled the very large room with the sense that I was “there.” What’s more, the S3’s kept ripping me out of “reviewer mode” and made my hands clammy with passion. Yes, this is how it’s supposed to be done; precisely the emotional response that makes you fall in love with a speaker…. Maybe it’s the new polycarbonate midrange enclosure, or the newly developed 8″ woofers, or the superb overall design concepts at Magico, but the S3 is the epitome of “the most bang for your buck.”
 – Spencer Holbert, CES 2014 Show Report, The Absolute Sound

“I want to share with you an experience we had last night listening to Magico S3 Loudspeaker for the first time. This is not something I normally do, but as it turns out, the S3 is quite special – even by Magico standards. As you know, the S3 has a newly developed internal midrange enclosure. This new housing has been created with the latest state-of-the-art simulation software. The unique shape and carefully chosen materials, when combined, create the ultimate “sound pressure absorption device.”  The results are nothing short of amazing, both in terms of measurements and performance. I was shocked to hear the clarity and palpability achieved with this new design in place. This is a major benchmark that is moving us even closer to the original recording. It is not everyday that I hear such an improvement. It only took one note to realize there is something new and special here… We are very excited about these new guys and look forward to you all hearing them very soon.”
 – Alon Wolf, President, Magico LLC

“The Magico S3 Loudspeaker does astronomically priced speaker performance without the Apollo Space Mission speaker price… this makes for the perfect ‘now’ loudspeaker; highly accurate, designed for modern life and without any of the fake ‘niceness’ or ‘impressive’ tailoring that normally comes with a high-end design. Highly recommended!

  – Alan Sircom, HiFi+, Sept., 2013      

My prediction? Magico will sell more of these speakers than any other model in the company’s history. They are that good for a price that is that right!”
 – Jeff Fritz, The Soundstage Network (read the review)

Overview Magico S3 Loudspeaker
Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is proud to announce the expansion of its award winning S- Series with the addition of the S3. The Magico S3 Loudspeaker is a full range, floorstanding loudspeaker that offers cutting edge technology and unparalleled performance at its price. According to Magico CEO and chief designer Alon Wolf, “By drawing from our technological well and in-house manufacturing capabilities, we are now able to deliver a remarkable value proposition in the S3, one which will become a new benchmark in its category.”

Magico S3 Loudspeaker shares the same engineering heritage of its two siblings, the S1 and S5, and sits squarely between them. As with all Magico loudspeakers, the S3 is uses an acoustic suspension enclosure, one whose further refinements include a new uniquely designed sub-enclosure for its midrange. The polycarbonate enclosure utilizes a combination of advanced materials as well as a specially developed shape. Both of these features when combined create the ideal acoustic properties and control for a sub- enclosure in a loudspeaker cabinet. Its contoured extruded aluminum cabinet – the world’s largest monocoque enclosure at 16″ in diameter with 1/2″ aluminum walls – minimizes diffraction effects, internal resonance, and damping requirements. Structurally, the S3 is mechanically sound and without any weak points. A tour-de-force of new technologies, the S3 utilizes the same advanced MB30 Beryllium tweeter and MB390 midwoofer that Magico uses in the S5, coupled with two newly-developed 8” woofers. These new advancements contribute towards the S3’s capabilities of delivering the lowest octave of bass performance combined with both the speed and accuracy we are known for.

As always, the anticipation is high for any new Magico product release. The S3 doesn’t disappoint and is a standout performer, with high quality ingredients, state-of-the-art driver technology, the most mechanically solid and rigid cabinets, and the most sophisticated crossover network. The elegant S3 is a gifted precision instrument that is available in over a dozen different finishes, thus making it able to deliver a bravura performance while aesthetically fitting in any environment.

About MAGICO
Magico was created over a decade ago for the sole purpose of leading a no holds-barred assault on what is possible in contemporary loudspeaker design. Inspired by the unique vision of industrial designer and accomplished musician Alon Wolf, every Magico product is designed against the true standard of perfect audio reproduction-live music. At Magico, we strive to lead in the creation, development, and manufacture of the most elegant and technologically advanced loudspeaker systems in the world. Each product expresses our passion to craft uncompromising devices that reveal the music as never before.

The Magico S3 Mk II is now my loudspeaker reference.
Andrew Quint

SUMMARY: The S3 Mk II.... can easily be compared to speakers that cost three times as much. 

The Magicos, manifesting a degree of truthfulness that’s unusual with audio gear, communicated the joyfulness of collaborative music making in contrast to the solitary.

If you’re not careful, you may end up characterising the Magico S3 Mk II’s sound as analytical. That would be a mistake, as this is a word that carries a negative connotation in an audio context—analytical, as in cold, clinical, hyper-detailed, or even etched. That’s not what I hear with the new S3, and with other current Magicos. Rather, I hear them as revealing, in the sense of displaying fully the endless range of musical expression.

The soundstage was broad and continuous, and depth was more than satisfactory. In the third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, the off-stage “post horn” (actually a flugelhorn) really sounded like it was coming from a distant place, on Michael Tilson Thomas’s 2002 live recording. The sound of the instrument was soft, not because the soloist was playing softly but because he was far away. The S3 Mk IIs maintain their coherence when the music gets complex and loud, whether it’s the Finale to the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony or one of Gordon Goodwin’s exuberant big band arrangements.

Bass was immensely satisfying in its impact, speed, and pitch definition. With organ recordings possessing prodigious low-frequency energy—Jean Guillou’s two-CD Franck set for Dorian, for instance—the S3 Mk IIs remained articulate when the deepest pedal stops were called into service, an especially impressive feat given that the recording has a great deal of room sound, having been recorded in a large Parisian cathedral. Lesser speakers, even those that claim low-end extension into the mid-20s (Hz), can render this challenging material as an undifferentiated rumble. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: When Magico, LLC announced the imminent introduction of the S3 Mk II loudspeaker late last year, it wasn’t exactly shocking news. After all, two other members of Magico’s S Series, the S1 and the S5 models, had been updated to Mk II status and the top-of-the-series S7 already incorporated the diamond-coated beryllium tweeter and nanographene midrange cone that represent Magico’s latest thinking on driver design. So, the important changes seen with the S3 Mk II—compared to the original S3, which first shipped in early 2014—parallel those found in the new S1 Mk II, reviewed in Issue 270. In addition to the 1" MDD7 dome tweeter, 6" M390G XG graphene midrange, and a pair of new 9" M905G graphene bass drivers, the top and bottom pieces of the sealed box enclosure have been revised. Although the size and shape of the speakers hasn’t changed much—on end, the profile is still that of a rounded trapezoid, wider in front than behind—the cabinet is now more effectively braced, with bolts extending through the ½" aluminium shell to connect to stabilising internal braces. As with the original S3, the main component of the Mk II’s monocoque enclosure is a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminium, produced at a factory in Ohio that makes the largest such extrusions in the world. (The metal part for both original and Mk II S3 is 16" in diameter; the Ohio plant can now manufacture an 18" extrusion.) The midrange driver has its own internal compartment and a new German-sourced damping material, known at Magico as “angel hair,” is employed in the sub-enclosure. There is, as well, a foam/vinyl adhesive that coats the inner surface of the metal shell, plus some strategically deployed “stuffing,” also new. The crossover has been reconfigured to elevate the speaker’s impedance and make the S3 Mk II easier to drive than its predecessor.

As with other Magico speakers, the S3 M2 is available in two finishes, the finely textured anodised M-Cast option and the high-gloss M-Coat—both in a choice of six colours. The pewter M-Cast S3s I’m listening to now arrived in sturdy cardboard boxes; the M-Coat S3s are shipped standing up in wooden crates to assure that nothing can rub against the speaker and mar the high-gloss paint. Magico founder and CEO Alon Wolf allowed that the additional expense of fabricating wooden crates and the consequential increase in shipping weight are a significant part of the price differential between M-Cast and M-Coat versions, around $4000. Magico provides highly detailed instructions for safely unpacking the speakers with the owner’s guide emphasising that two people are needed to get these 170-pound beasts out of their boxes. If you end up with a punctured woofer or a crushed finger, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Magico also provides specific advice regarding positioning its loudspeakers. It’s suggested that the S3s be initially placed about 20 inches from the front wall and then moved out toward the listener in six- to eight-inch increments until the speakers’ bass performance is optimised. Equally detailed instructions follow for siting the S3s vis-à-vis the sidewalls, and for toe-in. In my 15' x 15' room (a hallway off one sidewall obviates serious standing wave issues) the S3s wound up 24" from the wall behind them and about 8' apart, centre-to-centre. The front of each speaker was approximately 9' from my ears; toe-in was such that imaginary lines extended from the front baffles intersected a foot behind my head. Once positioned, the supplied spikes were attached to the four outrigger extensions of the enclosure’s bottom piece, and the loudspeakers were carefully levelled. In my case, the spikes pierced the carpet and underlying soundproofing material to make contact with the concrete slab beneath. Magico does provide metal discs to receive the points of the spikes if the S3 Mk IIs are situated on a hard surface that you don’t want to damage. There’s also the option of replacing the spikes with Magico’s pricey QPods that are machined from aluminium, steel, and copper into a structure said to have exceptional vibration-dissipating properties. The speaker’s metal grilles are held in place by an invisible magnet system—the User’s Guide describes them as “optional” so it’s safe to assume that Magico feels that you should do your serious listening without the grilles on.

The S3 Mk IIs were assessed using much of the same associated equipment I used to put the S1 Mk IIs through their paces last year. Mostly, either a pair of David Berning Quadrature Z amplifiers (200Wpc) or two Pass XA 60.8 monoblocks provided amplification. Continuing upstream, the control centre was my usual Anthem D2v. Only digital sources were used, including an Oppo 93 disc player (functioning as a transport) and the Baetis Reference 2 music computer, which played files stored on a Synology NAS. Both sent PCM output to the DACs in the Anthem; non-converted DSD files were also played through a T+A DAC 8 DSD. I also had on hand an Aurender A10 (review in progress) that’s equipped to handle MQA-encoded files, as streamed from Tidal. The bulk of the interconnects and speaker cables were Transparent, save for a high-performing yet quite reasonably-priced Revelation AES/EBU wire employed between Baetis and Anthem. As usual, I ran DSP room correction with the Anthem’s ARC software and, after inspecting the room response curves, used equalisation up to 2kHz.

Considering the usual sonic metrics, the Magico S3 Mk IIs performed exceptionally well. (See sidebar for Alon Wolf’s perspective on how S Series loudspeakers contrast with the company’s more complex Q Series models.) High-frequency musical information was open, airy, and non-fatiguing in the fashion of a good electrostatic, but with better dispersion. Upper register divisi violins at the beginning of the Act 1 Prelude to Wagner’s Lohengrin had the kind of texture one appreciates in life—there was a clear sense of many unique instruments being played, rather than a synthesiser-like homogeneity. With a recording of a Balinese gamelan ensemble of flutes, gongs, and a range of metallophones, the Magicos reproduced the singular overtone structure of these instruments very characteristically. Tonal neutrality and accuracy were apparent in the critical midband. It wasn’t difficult to distinguish a Stradivarius from a Guarneri del Gesù violin, Renée Fleming in 1996 from Renée Fleming in 2016, or a bass clarinet played at the very top of its tessitura from a regular B-flat clarinet operating in the middle of its range. Top-to-bottom tonal balance was preserved through the Magicos—darker recordings vs. more brightly lit ones maintained their yin vs. yang qualities.

Bass was immensely satisfying in its impact, speed, and pitch definition. With organ recordings possessing prodigious low-frequency energy—Jean Guillou’s two-CD Franck set for Dorian, for instance—the S3 Mk IIs remained articulate when the deepest pedal stops were called into service, an especially impressive feat given that the recording has a great deal of room sound, having been recorded in a large Parisian cathedral. Lesser speakers, even those that claim low-end extension into the mid-20s (Hz), can render this challenging material as an undifferentiated rumble. Electric bass had plenty of punch and percussive slam, but only when it was present on the original tape—these loudspeakers do not editorialise. Certainly, you won’t regret what a high-powered amplifier will do for bass heft and mass but the 60Wpc Passes didn’t find the S3s to be an especially difficult load, in terms of generating orchestral weight or rock ‘n’ roll gutsiness. Even in my smallish room, by the way, the S3 Mk IIs did very well with a subwoofer (Magico’s S Sub, in this case). Alon Wolf feels strongly that subwoofers are meant to be used with full-range main speakers—he maintains that attempts to integrate one with a smaller loudspeaker will inevitably “pollute” that speaker’s output. Though I did experiment with rolling off the S3s in the 50–60Hz range and letting the S Sub operate up to 60Hz or so, the best results, by far, were achieved when the S3s ran full-range and a high-pass filter for the sub was applied at 40Hz. Authoritative power was added to the bottom octave and spatial cues about the recording space were better demonstrated.

When it comes to spatiality, I won’t trot out the old saw that these speakers “disappear” in the way small, stand-mounted mini-monitors can—although in a larger room than mine, they might. Still, the soundstage was broad and continuous, and depth was more than satisfactory. In the third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, the off-stage “post horn” (actually a flugelhorn) really sounded like it was coming from a distant place, on Michael Tilson Thomas’s 2002 live recording. The sound of the instrument was soft, not because the soloist was playing softly but because he was far away. The S3 Mk IIs maintain their coherence when the music gets complex and loud, whether it’s the Finale to the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony or one of Gordon Goodwin’s exuberant big band arrangements.

So there you have my assessment of the S3 Mk II’s sonic attributes, parameter by parameter. But can that truly tell you what you need to know about a loudspeaker’s character? Is its overall performance more or less than the sum of its parts? If you’re not careful, you may end up characterising the Magico S3 Mk II’s sound as analytical. That would be a mistake, as this is a word that carries a negative connotation in an audio context—analytical, as in cold, clinical, hyper-detailed, or even etched. That’s not what I hear with the new S3, and with other current Magicos. Rather, I hear them as revealing, in the sense of displaying fully the endless range of musical expression.

Well into the review period, I listened to an album I’ve enjoyed for 40 years, Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything—that musical polymath’s best-selling release over a long and artistically expansive career. Three of the four sides of the original LPs were all Todd: He played every instrument and sang every vocal track, a tour de force that displayed the workings of an exceptionally creative, yet disciplined, musical mind. The songs are good (“I Saw the Light” was Rundgren’s biggest hit), but there’s something a little stiff and mechanical about those three sides of the album, as much as one admires the artist for putting it all together. Side 4, however, has Todd performing live in an NYC studio with a group of instrumentalists and singers who were clearly enjoying themselves. The effect is profoundly different: The songs here seem much richer and more emotionally meaningful. The Magicos, manifesting a degree of truthfulness that’s unusual with audio gear, communicated the joyfulness of collaborative music making in contrast to the solitary, if über-competent efforts that comprise the bulk of Something/Anything.

I’d seen somewhere that Alon Wolf has described the S3s as occupying the “sweet spot” of the entire Magico loudspeaker line—a product range that begins with the $16,500 S1 and ascends to the $229,000 Q7 MkII, a product that’s obviously out of reach to all but a tiny number of individuals. I asked Wolf to elaborate. “I’m fully aware of the price categories that our products are in,” he said. “Although I know that we give incredible value for the price, knowing how much it costs to actually build these things, it does become a different market above a certain number, which is around US30,000 (excl sales tax). The S3 Mk II sits right below that with performance that can easily be compared to speakers that cost three times as much. There is a lot of value in that. People really respond and we can see it in sales. It’s the question of performance vs. value that creates the ‘sweet spot’ for it.”

Sounds like a promising business plan to me. The Magico S3 Mk II is now my loudspeaker reference.

The S3 Mk.II is simply an outstanding accomplishment and based on what I’ve heard out there, I feel I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better performing speaker at their price point.
Josh Givorshner

SUMMARY: Magico are one of only a few loudspeaker manufacturers that design and produce their own driver units, allowing them absolute control on the realisation of quality and functional design parameters. Driver performance both during the development phase and in their final configuration have been exhaustively tested and optimised using Finite Element Analysis simulation equipment. As with all Magico designs, the drivers fitted in the S3 Mk.II are quite exceptional and have been meticulously integrated using Magico’s exclusive ‘Elliptical Symmetry Crossover’ topology, containing only high quality Mundorf components.

The bass possessed a sense of smoothness and a liquidity that is rarely captured in speaker designs (particularly at this price-point) so that complex bass tunes were delineated and could be followed with such ease. Macro- and micro-dynamic changes were effortlessly audible and imbued the system with a communicative authority that it didn’t have with the Dynaudios. On pop or rock genres, the Magicos loaded the room with powerful, deep bass that would be enough to satisfy any listener who likes it loud and in rooms much larger than this one. There was no audible bass compression, stress or distortion.

Though the Mk.IIs excelled at bass, I think one of their main strengths was in the midrange and treble regions. What the designers at Magico have produced with the carbon fibre/nanographene midrange in combination with the diamond-coated beryllium dome tweeter is really something very special. The phenomenal imaging and transparency of these drivers allowed soundstage dimensions to extend far wider, taller and (to a slightly lesser extent) deeper than with the Dynaudios. The ambient cues of room boundary reflections in the recorded space and the decay of instruments was very impressive, and combined with the tonal authenticity and speed of the mid and bass drivers to create exceptional palpability and density in images. The presence regions of male and female vocals were beautiful and at no time could I detect any handing over of work between the drivers at their crossover frequencies… Driver integration was indeed first class! The superbly built and extremely rigid cabinet no doubt had a lot to do with all of these merits and although admittedly it isn’t the most inert cabinet I’ve yet experienced, it comes very close. Over the course of this review I never felt as though my appreciation of what was coming from the drivers was pervaded by a noisy cabinet.

With the exception of a certain handful of dome designs that I generally prefer the sound of ribbons. I’m sure many readers wouldn’t agree, and that’s OK… all that being said, this Magico tweeter has gone a very long way to change my mind. This tweeter is simply revelatory and I think it’s the best part of this speaker! It is capable of producing some of the most eerily present, dynamic and fast treble I have heard and yet at no time did it make itself obvious. Perhaps I can be clearer about what it does so well by noting all the things that it didn’t do? It wasn’t spitty and it didn’t accentuate sibilance or noise although it also wasn’t soft-sounding, dark, or lacking in detail. It didn’t draw your ear to the fact that itwas making the sound; and finally, it never sounded like it was getting stressed at high volumes. It always maintained its composure and provided just the right amount of ‘sparkle’ that a tweeter should. Put simply, it was the most sonically invisible and musically satisfying dome tweeter I have yet heard. It is a real achievement, and the fact that Magico make structurally similar yet even more technologically superior tweeters is virtually mind-boggling.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the S3 Mk.IIs, they have consistently provided me with an engaging, emotionally communicative and musically satisfying experience. They are the finest speakers I’ve heard in this review system, and they allowed me to much better appreciate aspects of my equipment that just weren’t apparent with my reference speakers. They do so many things just right and try as I might, I don’t really have anything negative to say about them. From the moment they took residence in my listening space, the Mk.IIs have impressed ........The S3 Mk.II is simply an outstanding accomplishment and based on what I’ve heard out there, I feel I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better performing speaker at their price point.

EXTENDED REVIEW: It’s often thought that loudspeakers are the easiest component to evaluate. Why? Well, I find that all other variables (electronics, cables and ancillary equipment) kept constant, a swap-out for a different set of speakers almost invariably makes a profound and manifestly apparent change in the performance of the system. As the final step in the reproduction chain and the acoustic transducer (responsible for the conversion of electrical to sound energy), the speakers act as a bottleneck to what the system, however good it otherwise may be, can achieve.

While a brilliant loudspeaker system will allow relatively mundane or mediocre electronics to perform at their respective peak (notwithstanding the deleterious reciprocal effects of those electronics on the speakers performance), poorly designed or manufactured loudspeakers will curtail, mute and restrict the performance of even the finest audio electronics. The dynamic range, distortion, compression, power handling, tonal characteristics, cabinet resonance and crossover design (I could keep going) of the loudspeaker system all interact to influence the final sound quality, and in my experience, usually do so in a not-so-subtle way. So to review that product, all that one need do is then describe those changes in as much detail as possible. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let’s see…

The Magic(o) Legacy

Magico is an audio company that (for most high-end enthusiasts) needs no introduction. For over a decade, they have been successfully building exceptional loudspeakers that consistently surpass in performance, style and build quality those models that preceded them. Under the direction and vision of their chief industrial designer Alon Wolf and CTO Yair Tammam, Magico implement the most state-of-the-art computer-aided design, real-time analysis and vibration simulations in an endeavour to create the most technically advanced loudspeakers available in a “no-holds-barred assault” on what is possible within the realms of loudspeaker design.

Over the past several years, Magico products have received a great deal of press generally extolling praise and reverence for their sophisticated, heavily-engineered and ingenious cabinet, crossover and driver designs in what are widely considered very impressive loudspeakers. Those who audition any Magico speaker (or who are fortunate enough to own a pair) benefit from a treasure trove of trickle-down technology derived from the company’s flagship ‘Ultimate’ horn system, the highly-lauded ‘M-Project’ or the monolithic Q7 speakers, therefore inherently benefiting from Magico’s incessant and obsessive drive to create the very finest of audio transducers. To that end, and without giving too much away, my own recent experience was no exception, whilst I have had the pleasure of spending the last several weeks in the company of one of their newest designs, the S3 Mk.II.

The S3 Mk.II

The second generation of its kind, the Mk.II develops upon the impressive standards set by the first iteration of the S3. Although admittedly pricey the S-series is actually the most affordable of the Magico line up, and the S3 Mk.II (AU$42,500), sits just above its smaller sibling the S1 Mk.II to come in as the company’s second-most inexpensive loudspeaker. For the more well heeled audio-obsessed, Magico offers the larger S models – the S5 MK. II and S7, as well as the more complex and albeit more expensive Q and M series. But I digress.

The S3 Mk.II (henceforth referred to as the Mk.II) is a floorstanding loudspeaker of moderate proportions. It stands 122cm tall with a footprint of 30 x 30cm. Each piece weighs in at a hefty 77kg, so installation necessitates the presence of at least two people blessed with healthy intervertebral discs and concomitant strength. Claimed sensitivity is 88dB with a nominal impedance of 4W. Given those specifications, those owning amps with very low power outputs need not apply. Magico recommends amps of at least 50W output to get the job done properly.

The body of the Mk.II is formed from a one-piece 3/8-inch-thick extruded aluminium tube, giving it a highly inert, rigid monocoque construction. The superior face of the speaker consists of a gently curved convex aluminium cap that assists in minimising enclosure diffraction and in breaking up vertical standing waves. Internally, a complex aluminium cross-bracing system provides additional structural support and enhanced rigidity, while a complexly curved proprietary polymer sub-enclosure designed with the aid of computer simulation serves to isolate the midrange driver from the sound pressure generated by the bass drivers located near the bottom of the speaker. A thick single-piece aluminium baseplate adorned with four outrigger-style feet supports the speaker from below and provides a sturdy grounding whilst lowering the Mk.IIs overall centre of gravity. The newly designed highly rigid baseplate is stated to lower the noise floor and thereby increase dynamic range as compared with the original design. The front face of the speaker is flat with a gentle curve at the lateral edges, meeting a roughly parabolic lateral rear profile that elegantly envelops the posterior of the speaker. The cabinet features no port, assisting in the production of tight, tuneful and detailed bass, while still impressively boasting frequency extension down to 24Hz at -3dB.

A small but smart-looking Magico crest adorns a modest gold nameplate near the speaker base. Around the back, a single set of binding posts are set at a similar level from the ground. The posts accept both spade and banana terminations and provided a reassuringly firm grip on my cable spades without the use of any other tools except my fingers alone. The banana receptacles provided a similarly tight fit when tested.

A gently curved perforated metallic grille comes as standard, which may be fitted to the front if you wish (not used in the context of my listening).

The review samples sported Magico’s ‘M-Cast’ satin/matte metallic finish in black (a tasteful selection of other gorgeous colours including cobalt blue, bronze, silver and lilac may also be had at your discretion). The fit and construction quality of the Mk.IIs is superb. Painted gloss ‘M-Coat’ finishes are available in a variety of colours at additional cost should you (or your partner/domestic CFO) so choose. I’m going to mention here that the ‘M-Cast’ finish is absolutely divine! Combined with the minimalistic yet almost austere elegance of the Mk.II’s general aesthetic, this finish was the proverbial icing on the cake. Photos of this product just don’t do it justice, and while this relatively simple and more traditional design might not be everyone’s cup of tea, seeing it in reality was something altogether pleasantly different from what I anticipated. I was admittedly left gushing over them for several days until their beguiling sound finally helped to distract me from their stunning appearance and finish.

Magico are one of only a few loudspeaker manufacturers that design and produce their own driver units, allowing them absolute control on the realisation of quality and functional design parameters. Driver performance both during the development phase and in their final configuration have been exhaustively tested and optimised using Finite Element Analysis simulation equipment. As with all Magico designs, the drivers fitted in the S3 Mk.II are quite exceptional and have been meticulously integrated using Magico’s exclusive ‘Elliptical Symmetry Crossover’ topology, containing only high quality Mundorf components.

The Mk.II boasts a newly in-house designed MBD7 1-inch diamond-coated beryllium dome first featured in the S7. This new tweeter demonstrates matching sensitivity and dispersion characteristics, while increasing its power-handling as compared to the original S-series designs. The all-aluminium magnet structure housing assists in the minimisation of mechanical resonance thereby improving the vibrational isolation of the dome assembly, while the new robust motor system with long-throw voice coil contributes to lower distortion and optimisation of the cutoff frequencies to facilitate better integration with the midrange driver.

In development of the Mk.II, Magico have pushed the boundaries of available driver technologies and created a proprietary 6-inch driver, the M390G, with a multi-wall carbon fibre configuration augmented with an XG nanographene layer. This novel material combination has yielded a 300% improvement in driver stiffness with a 20% reduction in mass over the previous generation of S-series drivers (MB390).

Bass in the Mk.II is handled by two 9-inch units (M905G), featuring the same carbon fibre multi-wall / nanographene technology as found in the midrange driver. These units feature a powerful redesigned magnet configuration with a 5-inch pure titanium voice coil capable of linear excursions of up to half an inch. In the pursuit of maximal musical enjoyment at realistic volume levels, these new drivers are touted to produce smooth, distortion-free bass at SPLs of 112dB (50Hz at 1m).

Setting Up

The S3 Mk.IIs were delivered in two large cardboard boxes (and one smaller box containing accessories) atop a wooden forklift palette. Once in the house they were moved around easily enough one box at a time. Due to the logistics of carrying these rather large and rather heavy bad boys down a very narrow set of stairs into my larger listening space, my auditioning was done exclusively in the smaller of my two listening rooms (3.0m W x 3.6m L) with the speakers firing down the long axis of the room. I should note here that the smallest box should be opened first. It contained a very well-machined set of spikes (four for each speaker), an equal number of locking nuts and spike-shoes (or floor savers as they were referred to in the instructions); and a very svelte-looking Magico-crested USB stick containing the unpacking and usage instructions as well as all the warranty material. All of these goodies were wrapped up neatly in an Hermes orange-coloured microfibre cloth. The instructions were comprehensive and contained a number of photos, making them exceptionally straightforward to follow… this is speaker setup made easy for even the most novice listener!

The speakers were removed from their respective boxes with great ease and they were easily positioned into what became more-or-less their final positions – further minor adjustments were carried out over another couple of days – throughout the course of my auditioning. The final placements were following the rule of 3s and 5s, with the midline of the speakers front baffles 1/5 the width of the room out from the side walls (~50cm) and 1/3 the length of the room out from the front wall (120cm). I found that positioning gave me the best imaging and bass performance from the S3 Mk.IIs within that space. Final toe-in was set so that I could just see the edge of the inner rear outrigger feet from my listening position 2m from the speakers. Once the position was finalised, the spikes were easily set into the outriggers and the speakers levelled. The design of the feet, spikes and locking nuts made the whole process as easy as one could have hoped.

Although I should say that straight out of the box, the Mk.IIs performance was very commendable, I left the system running mostly night and day for a few weeks with a variety of different musical genres before forming any lasting impressions. Suffice it to say that every parameter of the S3 Mk.IIs performance improved considerably over that time (and I should think would have continued to do so over at least another few months). Allowing sufficient break-in time with the S3 Mk.IIs, as with any loudspeaker is essential!

Listening (and Enjoying)

I think I already let it slip that I liked these speakers. Well, I really did!
Before getting into the specifics, the S3 MkIIs delivered one of the most top-to-bottom coherent soundscapes I had heard from a speaker at any price. They aren’t small and I was at first concerned that their bass might overwhelm my relatively small room. It didn’t.

In fact, throughout the auditioning, the Mk.IIs bass drivers were held in a sublimely vice-like grip by the Halcro dm68 monos. Over their break-in period, this characteristic lingered while allowing the bass (and in fact all the drivers) to become more harmonically developed. In comparison with my reference speakers for that room, the Dynaudio Confidence C2s, the Mk.IIs bass was far more articulate and refined. On classical and acoustic music, the subtle reverberation and decay of drum skin and the finest tonal shifts in the bass elements of strings (particularly massed strings) was remarkable. Not only was the bass much deeper that what I’m used to in that room, I was very impressed at how seamless it was. There were no hollowed or sucked out frequency bands, and by the same token, there was no pervasive mid bass hump that often accompanies many ported designs.

The bass possessed a sense of smoothness and a liquidity that is rarely captured in speaker designs (particularly at this price-point) so that complex bass tunes were delineated and could be followed with such ease. Macro- and micro-dynamic changes were effortlessly audible and imbued the system with a communicative authority that it didn’t have with the Dynaudios. On pop or rock genres, the Magicos loaded the room with powerful, deep bass that would be enough to satisfy any listener who likes it loud and in rooms much larger than this one. There was no audible bass compression, stress or distortion.

Though the Mk.IIs excelled at bass, I think one of their main strengths was in the midrange and treble regions. What the designers at Magico have produced with the carbon fibre/nanographene midrange in combination with the diamond-coated beryllium dome tweeter is really something very special. The phenomenal imaging and transparency of these drivers allowed soundstage dimensions to extend far wider, taller and (to a slightly lesser extent) deeper than with the Dynaudios. The ambient cues of room boundary reflections in the recorded space and the decay of instruments was very impressive, and combined with the tonal authenticity and speed of the mid and bass drivers to create exceptional palpability and density in images. The presence regions of male and female vocals were beautiful and at no time could I detect any handing over of work between the drivers at their crossover frequencies… Driver integration was indeed first class! The superbly built and extremely rigid cabinet no doubt had a lot to do with all of these merits and although admittedly it isn’t the most inert cabinet I’ve yet experienced, it comes very close. Over the course of this review I never felt as though my appreciation of what was coming from the drivers was pervaded by a noisy cabinet.\

It is at this point that I have to make a special mention of the tweeter. Those who know me will know that I am a big fan of ribbon tweeters. Due to their low moving mass and relatively large surface area, they are typically capable of creating a very fast, airy treble with exceptional dynamism and impact. Their dispersion characteristics also mean that they suffer less from ceiling interactions, perform a better disappearing act and provide a better off-axis listening experience. In comparison, I find that many dome tweeters tend to make themselves known and because they are a point-source emitting high frequencies (which are generally easier to localise anyway), are just simply less invisible than their ribbon counterparts. Lastly, their larger mass means that they can’t stop and start as quickly, and are therefore not as fast, articulate and sound comparatively blunted (and less airy) in the very upper registers. It is therefore with the exception of a certain handful of dome designs that I generally prefer the sound of ribbons. I’m sure many readers wouldn’t agree, and that’s OK… That’s just my subjective opinion.

All that being said, this Magico tweeter has gone a very long way to change my mind. This tweeter is simply revelatory and I think it’s the best part of this speaker! It is capable of producing some of the most eerily present, dynamic and fast treble I have heard and yet at no time did it make itself obvious. Perhaps I can be clearer about what it does so well by noting all the things that it didn’t do? It wasn’t spitty and it didn’t accentuate sibilance or noise although it also wasn’t soft-sounding, dark, or lacking in detail. It didn’t draw your ear to the fact that itwas making the sound; and finally, it never sounded like it was getting stressed at high volumes. It always maintained its composure and provided just the right amount of ‘sparkle’ that a tweeter should. Put simply, it was the most sonically invisible and musically satisfying dome tweeter I have yet heard. It is a real achievement, and the fact that Magico make structurally similar yet even more technologically superior tweeters is virtually mind-boggling.

My final note about these speakers is that, as one should expect from a high caliber speaker, they were very transparent to changes in source equipment. Switching CD transports from the Meridian 800 to the Mark Levinson No. 31 demonstrated all the signature differences between the two disc spinners that I expected. The No. 31 possessed a more rhythmically engaging sound, with slightly greater macro- and micro-dynamic swings. Image density and dimensionality improved, as did imaging specificity within the soundstage. The soundstage itself grew physically larger, likely due to a better ability to localise elements within the sound field. By contrast, the 800 yielded a slightly more laid back presentation, owing to a reduced sense of drive and punch. Dynamics took a little hit, as did the almost tangible pinpoint localisation of instruments within the soundstage (both laterally and in terms of layering) albeit to a slightly lesser extent. Despite sounding more laid back due to the relative reduction in immersion and involvement, the soundstage itself was apparently more forward, yet the overall depth wasn’t greater than with the No. 31. Where the Meridian really shone, however, was in the sustain of decay and in its rendering of very low energy sounds, allowing them to emerge from the mix of large scale orchestra unscathed. Of the two transports, playing classical music through the 800 was certainly my preferred choice.

While I routinely make this jump between sources, the S3 Mk.IIs permitted me to far better appreciate these differences than I ever had before in this system. In my opinion, excellent components including speakers are masters of playing an extremely complex game of Chinese whispers. They receive information and are supposed to pass it on to the next link in the chain without alteration, so that the intelligibility and the meaning of the original statement are left intact. Music is all about communication – of the artist’s message, emotion and feelings. The ability to transfer the nature and character of any source component through to the audible finish is therefore what any good high-end component should hope to do. Speakers are no exception to this rule and are in fact one of the most important links in the chain. I’m happy to report that the Mk.IIs excelled in this regard.

Comparisons

When comparing two things, I like to compare apples with apples. I’ve already mentioned several times that I prefer the S3 MkIIs to my reference Dynaudio C2s in essentially every respect. While the magnitude of the difference in performance levels was generally large, there were other areas such as imaging, where the performance nexus was actually not so great. That being said, the S3 MkIIs come in at roughly double the price of the Dynaudios, so it’s basically what you’d expect… Not really a fair comparison, but I’m just writing about what I heard over the last few weeks.

I could write about how the Mk.IIs stack up against my reference speakers from my other system (the Evolution Acoustics MiniTwo), or how the Mk.IIs compare to other AU $40k loudspeakers that I’ve heard in the context of other systems for generally very short periods, but I won’t. I haven’t listened to the Evolutions in my smaller room with that system and they also (at least in this country) come in at a very different price point to the Mk.IIs. Finally, I don’t think it’s justifiable to make comparisons to other speakers heard in other systems for what were only comparatively short listening sessions. Like I wrote earlier, I’m all about keeping it apples vs. apples.

What I can say is that although I heard them in a different room, with a different system, quite a number of years ago is that I don’t remember the original S3 doing the sorts of things for which I’m praising the Mk.II. While at the time, I remember feeling that they were competent (as in they technically did all the right things for their price point), I didn’t find they communicated with me the same way the Mk.IIs have. From my limited impressions of the original S3, I think the S3 Mk.IIs have come a long way.

Conclusions

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the S3 Mk.IIs, they have consistently provided me with an engaging, emotionally communicative and musically satisfying experience. They are the finest speakers I’ve heard in this review system, and they allowed me to much better appreciate aspects of my equipment that just weren’t apparent with my reference speakers. They do so many things just right and try as I might, I don’t really have anything negative to say about them. From the moment they took residence in my listening space, the Mk.IIs have impressed and challenged some of the preconceptions I had about their appearance (from looking at photos) and their performance (from what I heard of the S3). Kudos to Mr. Wolf and the team from Magico!

The S3 Mk.II is simply an outstanding accomplishment and based on what I’ve heard out there, I feel I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better performing speaker at their price point. While they may not suit everyone’s taste either musically or aesthetically, if you’re hunting for your next speaker and have about AU $40k to spend, I would sincerely encourage you to give the Mk.IIs an audition. In fact, I think you’d be silly not to.

 . . Josh Givorshner

Magico S5 Mk.II joins those speakers as ones I could live with when I'm done with this reviewing business. It may indeed be large, but, as I found out, it had no problems, large or otherwise.
John Atkinson

SUMMARY: My congratulations to Magico's Alon Wolf and Yair Tammam for producing a speaker that offers full-range, uncoloured, low-distortion sound coupled with superbly stable and accurate stereo imaging

 The amps kept superb control of the Magicos' woofers without sacrificing low-frequency power. The speakers' clarity in this region made it possible for me to maximally differentiate between the sounds of the bass guitar and the kick drum—they didn't seem to be competing with one another. The deep-pitched, low-F purr from Dave Holland's double bass that leads into the entrance of Norah Jones's unmistakable voice in "Court and Spark," from Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters was viscerally satisfying in a way that some say you can't get from sealed-box speakers. The sub-40Hz notes in my 2014 recording of Jonas Nordwall performing the Toccata of Widor's Organ Symphony 5 at Portland's First United Methodist Church literally shook the walls of my listening room without sounding bloated or boomy.

As well as offering full-range envelopment, uncoloured vocal and instrumental sounds, and a spacious, stable soundstage, the Magicos could play loud without low-level details becoming obscured. In Benjamin Zander's recording of Mahler's Symphony 2 with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the climaxes seemed more climactic without the quiet passages sounding in any way exaggerated or given short shrift. And again, the Magicos loved the sound of the solo women's voices in this recording: mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and soprano Miah Persson.

 .....the fragile images of the string quartet were set forward in the soundstage, with the rich, warm string orchestra behind them. The wonderful reprise of the big tune with the full orchestra after the fugue, and then the joyous coda three minutes before the work's conclusion, were presented by the MBL-driven Magicos with maximum dynamic fervour.

 the fragile images of the string quartet were set forward in the soundstage, with the rich, warm string orchestra behind them. The wonderful reprise of the big tune with the full orchestra after the fugue, and then the joyous coda three minutes before the work's conclusion, were presented by the MBL-driven Magicos with maximum dynamic fervour.

Those last two recordings are 59 and 54 years old, respectively, but the Magico S5 Mk.II's full-range transparency and resolution maximised the ability of my audio system to act as a time machine, allowing me to disregard the obsolete technology with which these recordings were made to focus on the music.

EXTENDED REVIEW: "Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the Oct issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.

THE MAGICO S5 Mk.II

Like the original S5, the S5 Mk.II is a three-way, floorstanding design, 4' tall. The twin, sealed-box–loaded, 10" aluminium-cone woofers with substantial rubber roll surrounds, 6" midrange unit with a graphene-coated Nano-Tec cone, and 1.1" diamond-coated, beryllium-dome tweeter are mounted vertically in line on its black front baffle. (Nano-Tec is Magico's name for a sandwich of Rohacell, a foam composite material extensively used in the aerospace industry, and external layers of carbon fibre coated with layers of carbon nanotubes.)

The Magico's internally braced enclosure is constructed from an aluminium extrusion 1/2" thick and 16" in diameter, with the midrange unit loaded by a sub enclosure made of a proprietary polymer. The top cap is machined into complex shapes, both over and under, to minimise external diffraction and internal standing waves, while the bottom plate includes outriggers at its four corners into which can be screwed heavy-duty spikes. (As supplied, sturdy wheels are screwed into the outriggers to make handling easier.) Electrical connection is via a pair of binding posts at the bottom of the rear panel.

The S5 Mk.II is available in two different finishes. With the first, called by Magico M-Cast, @ NZ$54,995/pr (incl tax) the speaker. In the handsome high-gloss M-Coat finish of the review samples, the price is NZ$64,495 (incl tax)/pr.

DIAMOND-NANO-TEC-GRAPHENE

It is its drive-units that distinguish the Mk.II S5 from its predecessor. As Yair Tammam lives and breathes drive-units, I asked him about the changes, particularly that new 26mm-diameter tweeter, which has a 40µm-thick beryllium dome coated with a 5µm-thick layer of pure diamond, and was developed from the 28mm dome first seen in Magico's statement M-Project speaker.

The first Magico speaker reviewed in Stereophile, the V3, in May 08, used a high-performance ring-radiator tweeter, but Tammam was bothered by the fact that such a tweeter's diaphragm operates in breakup mode in the upper region of its passband—he wanted a diaphragm that operated as a perfect piston throughout its operating bandwidth. A beryllium dome is both light enough and stiff enough to behave pistonically, and was used in the Magico Q5, which Michael Fremer reviewed in Nov 12. Applying a layer of diamond to the metal, Tammam explained, results in a dome with a more homogeneous surface, which both reduces intermodulation distortion and results in a more benign harmonic-distortion signature that is less like that of a metal dome. I asked why they hadn't gone all the way and used an all-diamond diaphragm. It turned out that, yes, diamond would produce a very stiff diaphragm, but the required suspension would raise the tweeter's low-frequency resonance from the desired 500Hz or so to about 1.3kHz. This, in turn, would mean that the tweeter would have to be crossed over to the midrange drive-unit at too high a frequency. Beryllium's lower mass ensures that the resonance frequency is close to 500Hz, but the diamond layer raises the dome's stiffness to extend the high frequencies.

I asked about the Nano-Tec cone used in the midrange unit. Tammam explained that in the earlier versions of this sandwich cone, the inner layer was stiffer than the outer layers, to match the voice-coil former. There followed changes in the former material and the thicknesses of the layers, guided by finite element analysis (FEA), until, in 2014, a Japanese corporation developed a way of laying down the carbon fibres in the weave that resulted in a more even flow of the resin before the material was cured in an oven. This seventh-generation version of Magico's driver has a cone that contains 30% less resin in the carbon-fibre layers, but one that is 300% stiffer.

In Magico's prior midrange cone the front layer of carbon fibres was overlaid with carbon nanotubes, but the US company that produced the nanotubes came up with a way of coating the front of the carbon-fibre layer with a skin of graphene, a super stiff sheet of carbon just one atom thick.

It's desirable that a speaker cone be of varying thickness: thickest at the centre and the boundary with the voice-coil former, thinnest at the junction with the surround. However, Magico used to use a sandwich core of constant thickness, because the foam material would fracture if the thickness varied. For their new generation of midrange units they developed a process in which the foam is carefully injected between the front and back carbon-fibre, to permit the overall thickness to vary in the desired manner.

Tammam told me that they made much use of the Klippel analysis system in the development of the S5 Mk.II's drive-units, particularly regarding the spider, to get a significantly greater linear cone excursion. Computer simulation of the driver as a complete system—cone, surround, spider, motor, and magnetic circuit—allowed them to produce a drive-unit that combined the best technologies currently available to give performance that doesn't significantly change with the rise in temperature that typically occurs after a couple of hours of operation.

Yair Tammam summed up his goals in drive-unit design as achieving linearity not just with large excursions but with very small movements, so that the speaker's character remains the same at low sound-pressure levels as it does at high SPLs.

LISTENING

After Mackay and Tammam had used the excellent Dayton OmniMic v2 system to position the S5 Mk.IIs in my room and declared themselves content, they left for home. The speakers' front baffles were about 80" from the wall behind them and 98" from my listening position; the left speaker was 38" from the closest sidewall, the right 48" from its sidewall. I settled down for some critical listening, beginning with the PS Audio Directstream DAC (Yale operating system, which I prefer to the earlier Pikes Peak) directly feeding my Pass Labs XA60.5 monoblocks, and the Magicos hooked up to the Passes with Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables.

The low-frequency, 1/3-octave warble tones on my Editor's Choice (ALAC file ripped from CD, Stereophile STPH016-2) played cleanly down to 25Hz, with the 32Hz tone not exciting the lowest-frequency mode in my room as is usually the case. Although the 20Hz tone seemed quieter than those immediately above it, the Studio Six SPL meter app on my iPhone, used with Studio Six's iTestMic, registered it as being equally loud. That it seemed quieter was due not only to my reduced hearing sensitivity in the very low bass, but also to the fact that distortion, which would produce harmonics that would be more audible, must be low in level.

The bass guitar on Editor's Choice had nice weight, but without the blurring of attacks that can happen with high-Q reflex speakers. However, over time I felt that the Magicos' bass was a little too fat with the Pass Labs amps. Substituting MBL Corona C15 monoblocks gave better control of the low frequencies. With "Another Brick in the Wall Parts 1 & 2," from Pink Floyd's The Wall (24-bit/96kHz FLAC files, Columbia), the MBL amps kept superb control of the Magicos' woofers without sacrificing low-frequency power. The speakers' clarity in this region made it possible for me to maximally differentiate between the sounds of the bass guitar and the kick drum—they didn't seem to be competing with one another. The deep-pitched, low-F purr from Dave Holland's double bass that leads into the entrance of Norah Jones's unmistakable voice in "Court and Spark," from Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters (24/96 Apple Lossless files, Verve/HDtracks) was viscerally satisfying in a way that some say you can't get from sealed-box speakers. The sub-40Hz notes in my 2014 recording of Jonas Nordwall performing the Toccata of Widor's Organ Symphony 5 at Portland's First United Methodist Church (24/88.2 AIFF file) literally shook the walls of my listening room without sounding bloated or boomy.

The dual-mono pink-noise track on Editor's Choice was reproduced by the S5 MkIIs with a very narrow, stable central image, and none of the splashing toward the speaker positions at some frequencies that would imply the existence of resonances. However, while the Magicos sounded hollow and nasal when I stood up, as expected from the speaker's measured vertical dispersion (see "Measurements" sidebar), I found I needed to sit on the tweeter axis (42" above the floor) to get sufficient mid-treble—an experience that conflicts with the measurements. The top octave also sounded shelved down if I sat in my chair in my customary slouch.

But when I sat at attention, I was impressed not only with the solidity of the Magicos' stereo images but with the sheer believability of the sound. The delicate fragility of the late Radka Toneff's voice in her reading of Jimmy Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," from her Fairytales (24/192 AIFF needle drop from LP, Odin LP03), was fully preserved. I'd made a number of needle drops of this track using Linn Linto, Channel D Seta and Liberty OA9 phono preamplifiers, with Ayre Acoustics QA9 A/D converters. As I listened to the files through the Magicos with peak levels equalised, the differences between the various phono preamps and converters was more apparent than I remembered hearing when I made them.

Returning to Editor's Choice: The half-step spaced tone bursts on this CD sounded very even at the listening position. However, listening to the speaker enclosures with a stethoscope, I could hear, on the sidewalls level with midrange unit, some liveliness between 450 and 500Hz and between 600 and 800Hz. This behavior was at a low level and didn't color the sound of Wayne Shorter's soprano saxophone in "Court and Spark," which has a lot of energy in these regions. Joni Mitchell's husky contralto in "The Tea Leaf Prophecy," also from River, was presented by the Magicos with maximal pitch differentiation—what Linnies back in the 1980s used to call "playing tunes." And the haunting high-register piano intro that leads into the late Leonard Cohen's resigned spoken basso in River's "The Jungle Line" sounded perfectly natural, as did the parallel-fifths figure between the verses.

As well as offering full-range envelopment, uncoloured vocal and instrumental sounds, and a spacious, stable soundstage, the Magicos could play loud without low-level details becoming obscured. In Benjamin Zander's recording of Mahler's Symphony 2 with the Philharmonia Orchestra (24/192 Apple Lossless file, Linn CKD 452), captured by the old Telarc team of engineer Michael Bishop and producer Elaine Martone, the climaxes seemed more climactic without the quiet passages sounding in any way exaggerated or given short shrift. And again, the Magicos loved the sound of the solo women's voices in this recording: mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and soprano Miah Persson.

The 1958 recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade by Ernest Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra (16/44.1 rip from CD, Decca) has a rather close-sounding balance, but the Magico S5 MkIIs handled with aplomb this work's big dynamic sweeps, such as the one three minutes into The Story of the Kalendar Prince, and the drum strokes and cymbal crashes in Festival at Baghdad lit up the recording acoustic. Nevertheless, such small details as the sound of the snare wires in the drum pattern in The Young Prince and the Young Princess were readily apparent without being thrust forward at me. On the 1963 recording of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, with Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Sinfonia of London and the Allegri Quartet (16/44.1, Apple Lossless rip from CD, EMI Classics CDM 5 67240 2),

1981 chamber-music concert in which I performed my own transcription for bass recorder of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, with Hi-Fi News & Record Review's then editorial assistant, Felicity Mulgan, accompanying me on piano. The Magicos plunged me 35 years back into the dry acoustic of that London hall—there I was, onstage, playing this most Romantic of music on a decidedly non-Romantic instrument: a large-bore Renaissance recorder from which I'd removed the top cap so that I could blow straight onto the fipple to better control the intonation.

Yes, the higher the quality of the system, the better it can transport the listener back in time—even when, in the case of my Rachmaninoff recording, the curtains on the machine's windows might have been better left closed.

SUMMING UP

My congratulations to Magico's Alon Wolf and Yair Tammam for producing a speaker that offers full-range, uncoloured, low-distortion sound coupled with superbly stable and accurate stereo imaging. At US$38,000–US $42,750/pair, the S5 Mk.II is not too dissimilar in price to the Wilson Audio Alexia (US$48,500/pair) and Vivid G3 Giya (US$39,990/pr).  The Magico S5 Mk.II joins those speakers as ones I could live with when I'm done with this reviewing business. It may indeed be large, but, as I found out, it had no problems, large or otherwise.
.........John Atkinson

it had a profound effect on me, and it should be heard by one and all to make that effect more commonplace. It was clear from the first bars that this is one of the most important loudspeakers I’ve reviewed
Alan Sirocm

SUMMARY: How special? Whatever you play through the M3 sounds like you selected it specifically for the Magico M3, as if it were playing to its strengths. When you realise that you’ve looked at the same loudspeaker as being the ultimate Roots Reggae loudspeaker, the ultimate choral music loudspeaker, the ultimate soft jazz club loudspeaker, you realise that either someone’s been secretly swapping loudspeakers in front of you, or that the M3 is capable of playing everything, and playing it well.

Another way of looking at this is a product like the Magico M3 throws down a gauntlet to the rest of the audio industry. It says loudspeakers can be made with lower distortion than hitherto thought possible, and shows a way it can be done. Right now, those who benefit are those who have the depth of bank balance to cope, but it sets a standard that extends above and below that lofty price tag. It means, loudspeaker makers don’t have the excuse to dismiss distortion-laden designs anymore. And that will have a trickle-down effect, both within Magico’s own line, and without. Other makers will be forced to rise to the challenge. And that makes the Magico M3 deserve the highest recognition and recommendation!

EXTENDED REVIEW: t’s a harsh truth of the audio business, but a truly honest loudspeaker is as rare as a truly honest politician. The Magico M3 is a truly honest loudspeaker. And it’s only when you hear what the M3 can do with music – all music – that you realise not only how big a paradigm shift underlies that simple statement.

The Magico M3 is a direct result of the company’s M-Pro; a limited edition, 50-loudspeaker, six-figure thank you to Magico’s most loyal supporters over the first ten years of the company from the company boss, Alon Wolf. But more than that, the M-Pro (more accurately, M-PROject) was effectively Magico’s ‘concept car’. It was the project that developed ideas and concepts that would form the next generation of loudspeakers from the brand. We hear that a lot, but the reality is few companies walk the walk. Magico is one of the rare exceptions: the research that went into the M-Pro helped create the M3 in a clear trickle-down effect, and it’s likely that trickle-down effect will just keep on going through the Magico line. It’s also possible that the M3 is the start of a new M-Series line for the brand, one that could ultimately unseat the Q-Series in its position of King of the Magico Hill.

The talked about changes that the M-Pro brought to the Magico brand were all about the drive units, for good reason. The M-Pro was the first speaker to sport that combination Beryllium and diamond tweeter, the 28mm MBD28, and the first loudspeaker to use graphene in its midrange and bass cones. This forms a core part of the second generation S-Series models, and it now begins to permeate the upper eschelon in the M3, with its single 153mm MAG6004RTC Graphene Nano-Tec midrange unit, and trio of 178mm MAG7012RTC Graphene Nano-Tec bass drivers.

It’s worth reflecting on those drive units before moving on. There are diamond tweeters, and there are Beryllium tweeters. Making a Beryllium coated diamond tweeter is rather like trying to make an alloy out of iron and cookie dough. It’s not a ‘done thing’ in the audio world, even if the individual properties of each material in combination would make for a driver that combined the tonal honesty and reliability of Beryllium tweeters with the speed and precision of diamond. Most people – when faced with ‘can’t be done’ try a few times and give up, if we’re being honest about this. Alon Wolf didn’t give up, he just broke a lot of tools finding how to do it!

Graphene is a more ‘doable’ thing, with only the one caveat. At the moment this genuinely new material (invented in Manchester, UK 12 years ago) is extremely hard to source, and not – by any stretch of the imagination – cheap. It would be slightly cheaper to make those drive units out of Hermès scarves than it would choosing graphene at this time. But once again... Alon Wolf.

But now we come to the bit everyone forgets about the M-Pro. Magico’s loudspeakers are made of sheets of aluminium, hanging off an aluminium spaceframe that forms the loudspeakers ‘skeleton’. Magico hasn’t always been a conspicuous consumer of aluminium, as its first models all featured layers of raw birch ply. But in recent years, it’s been aluminium all the way... until we get to the M-Pro, and now the M3. With these designs, the loudspeaker becomes mainly aluminium, but with carbon-fibre sides, which allow you to create the curvature in an easier way than if Magico made it from pure aluminium. The carbon-fibre also adds a fair amount of damping: it’s basically a carbon wing, having a core of foam, which itself also acts as a good damping material to the aluminium enclosure. You still get to tighten the loudspeaker from the rear with a precise torque wrench adjustment to get the level of internal force just right.

The loudspeaker itself sits on a three-footed plinth, with oversized at the front of the M3 to aid stability. Although previous designs used four feet on individual outriggers, three is the magic number for optimum stability... just ask any photographer with a tripod, like Alon Wolf. There seems to be a theme, here!

At the base of each of these three corners is an ‘M-Pod’. This is essentially Magico’s Q-Pod constrained layer, low-pass filter foot used for audio equipment, built to a scale capable of supporting the M3. M-Pods are available separately for loudspeakers, and the Q-Pod remains for equipment, but the  best place for the M-Pod is under the M3, naturally!

Similarly, every last aspect of the M3’s design is treated to the same uncompromising gaze. Whether that’s the selection of high grade parts for the crossover, the use of the unique and proprietary Elliptical Symmetry Crossover technology, nothing is built down to a price, but instead up to a standard. Of course, a loudspeaker of this calibre deserves, demands, and gets partnering electronics of commensurate performance. Yes, you could run these loudspeakers from a single-ended triode amplifier, but the M3 is at its best when it hangs out with the best. You’ll likely hear the M3 on the end of systems that sport names like ‘Constellation Audio’, ‘dCS’, or ‘Soulution’, and it’s that performance grade that allows the Magico M3 to show precisely what it can do. Scrimp on the equipment, or the room, and the M3 won’t expose weaknesses like some kind of audio tyro, but it will Clark Kent its powers. Instead, let it be Superman!

There’s a medical condition known as ‘White Coat Syndrome’, where a person’s blood pressure increases simply because they are having their blood pressure taken. The parallel in audio reviewing is ‘White Page Syndrome’, where the process of writing up listening notes in audio are compromised by the listening test. In other words, you are too busy listening to write. This is a rare condition and only happens when you are sitting in front of products that push the envelope of what is possible in audio. Sitting in front of the Magico M3, I had to force myself to write notes between tracks. It’s a sign of the quality of the M3 that the drive was not to make more notes, but play more tracks. When you have gone through the fourth track in a row where the only time your pen sees action is to act as baton for a spot of air conducting, you know you are on to something really special.

How special? Whatever you play through the M3 sounds like you selected it specifically for the Magico M3, as if it were playing to its strengths. When you realise that you’ve looked at the same loudspeaker as being the ultimate Roots Reggae loudspeaker, the ultimate choral music loudspeaker, the ultimate soft jazz club loudspeaker, you realise that either someone’s been secretly swapping loudspeakers in front of you, or that the M3 is capable of playing everything, and playing it well.

A lot of this starts from the top down. That tweeter that changed the game in the M-Pro is back, and this time, it’s even better than ever. This tweeter manages to be at once extended up into the bat-eared regions, super accurate, and yet not ascerbic, sharp, or ‘etched’. And although practically every disc highlights this, it was playing ‘The Lover of Beiruit’ from Anouar Brahim’s The Astounding Eyes of Rita [ECM]. This atmospheric track, is always a room filler and a crowd pleaser, but here the interplay between oud and bass clarinet was both profoundly captivating and absolutely sonically focused. The combination of materials shines through here, although ‘here’ seems to apply universally to anything played on the M3; the mid and top end of this loudspeaker have the great mix of openness, extension, and just the right amount of richness and authority

One of the truly remarkable things about the M3 is just how undistorted it is, unless you are really caning the volume control. You can happily sit back, play ‘Georgio by Moroder’ from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories [Columbia] relatively loud at the outset, then as the volume level of the track increases, you don’t notice it getting louder because it’s a ‘clean loud’. Pretty soon, you are playing at well over 100dB and don’t care. A lot of this comes down to that incredibly dead cabinet. Here’s a test: play something fairly loud, with deep bass and strong dynamic shading. The usual earth-mover stuff. Now walk up to the loudspeaker and gently rest your fingertips on its flank. In ‘most’ cases (practically every loudspeaker I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a lot), you will feel some degree of cabinet movement beneath your fingers. Sometimes, you’ll feel the cabinet resonance so profoundly, you could put your less sensitive palm down on the side of the loudspeaker and still feel the music pulsing through the cabinet like bone conduction. But not with the Magico M3; nothing, nada, bugger all. If you are careful, you can balance a coin on the top of the M3 (it’s a curved top, so it’s not easy), and it will stay in place no matter the sonic output.

It’s not just about playing impressively loud. In fact, that cabinet coupled with the drivers make this a deceptively subtle loudspeaker at all volumes. The tonality of the M3 doesn’t change whether you are playing at a whisper or at the point where you should be considering your hearing. Magico loudspeakers have always been good at delivering a consistent sound across the volume levels, but there was always a roll-off point where at very late-night levels, you began to feel like the bass drivers were in their ‘resting’ phase. Not so here, and this loudspeaker is outstanding even playing at a whisper. All the subtle textures and interplays between musicians that you usually hear at higher listening levels hold at more quiet levels.

But when it comes to ‘interplay’, you can’t get much better than King Curtis Live at Filmore West [ATKO]. recorded just a few days before his tragic death, the opening track ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ is a firm favourite of mine. It is a simple, untampered mix straight off the live listening desk, it starts relatively subtly (with just a bass line) and builds to a full touring funk band sized contingent taking the stage. The M3 takes this in its stride, to the point where the electronics and transducers simply melt away. This still isn’t the real thing, but it gets closer than most.

As mentioned before, the M3 is derived from the M-Pro, and precisely what do those lucky 50 owners get that edges out the M3? Simply this; bottom-end authority. The combination of a sealed box and a trio of 178mm drive units makes for a tight, ordered bass in the M3, but the M-Pro brings that tight, ordered bass into the bottom octave. Those used to the sort of grunt a ported cabinet with a 250mm paper cone driver will find that sort of air movement wanting in the M3, but equally, those used to more refined, dry, and precise bass control would find that kind of ‘phat’ sound flabby and uncontrolled. And yes, those obsessed by full-range demand sub-20Hz frequency response, and the M3 sets its lowest point at 24Hz, but if they thought about it a little more, many would rather have a more precise and controlled roll-off (because it tends to create less problems in room, and can be augmented by a good subwoofer) than something deeper but more wayward. Personally, I’d take that elegant midrange, effortless top end, and precise bass over deeper, but less well controlled bottom end any day. Is it possible to get both? I’d say yes (up to a point), but to get to yes doesn’t come cheap, and as we are already looking at a loudspeaker that costs £99,998 per pair, the term ‘doesn’t come cheap’ takes on some pretty heavyweight financial considerations.

The aforementioned ‘up to a point’ is key, though. Because what the mid and top of this loudspeaker does is near impossible to replicate in other loudspeakers. It has the combination of a seeming point source imaging, electrostatic-like clarity and openness, and dynamic loudspeaker energy and scale. In other words, the best of all possible worlds from about 35Hz on up.

My time with the M3 was all too brief, but it had a profound effect on me, and it should be heard by one and all to make that effect more commonplace. It was clear from the first bars that this is one of the most important loudspeakers I’ve reviewed. OK, so an almost £100,000 loudspeaker limits the significance of that statement, in the same way as what happens in the most important Ferrari isn’t as significant to most people as what goes on in a new Fiat. But, another way of looking at this is a product like the Magico M3 throws down a gauntlet to the rest of the audio industry. It says loudspeakers can be made with lower distortion than hitherto thought possible, and shows a way it can be done. Right now, those who benefit are those who have the depth of bank balance to cope, but it sets a standard that extends above and below that lofty price tag. It means, loudspeaker makers don’t have the excuse to dismiss distortion-laden designs anymore. And that will have a trickle-down effect, both within Magico’s own line, and without. Other makers will be forced to rise to the challenge. And that makes the Magico M3 deserve the highest recognition and recommendation!
....Aln Sircom

The Magico S5 Mk.II joins those speakers as ones I could live with when I'm done with this reviewing business.
John Atkinson 

SUMMARY: The Tea Leaf Prophecy," also from River, was presented by the Magicos with maximal pitch differentiation—what Linnies back in the 1980s used to call "playing tunes." And the haunting high-register piano intro that leads into the late Leonard Cohen's resigned spoken basso in River's "The Jungle Line" sounded perfectly natural, as did the parallel-fifths figure between the verses.
As well as offering full-range envelopment, uncoloured vocal and instrumental sounds, and a spacious, stable soundstage, the Magicos could play loud without low-level details becoming obscured.
The Magico S5 Mk.II's full-range transparency and resolution maximised the ability of my audio system to act as a time machine, allowing me to disregard the obsolete technology with which these recordings were made to focus on the music.
The Magicos plunged me 35 years back into the dry acoustic of that London hall—there I was, onstage, playing this most Romantic of music on a decidedly non-Romantic instrument: a large-bore Renaissance recorder from which I'd removed the top cap so that I could blow straight onto the fipple to better control the intonation.

EXTENDED REVIEW: "Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the October issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.

The S5 Mk.II

Like the original S5, the S5 Mk.II is a three-way, floorstanding design, 4' tall. The twin, sealed-box–loaded, 10" aluminum-cone woofers with substantial rubber roll surrounds, 6" midrange unit with a graphene-coated Nano-Tec cone, and 1.1" diamond-coated, beryllium-dome tweeter are mounted vertically in line on its black front baffle. (Nano-Tec is Magico's name for a sandwich of Rohacell, a foam composite material extensively used in the aerospace industry, and external layers of carbon fiber coated with layers of carbon nanotubes.)

The Magico's internally braced enclosure is constructed from an aluminum extrusion 1/2" thick and 16" in diameter, with the midrange unit loaded by a subenclosure made of a proprietary polymer. The top cap is machined into complex shapes, both over and under, to minimize external diffraction and internal standing waves, while the bottom plate includes outriggers at its four corners into which can be screwed heavy-duty spikes. (As supplied, sturdy wheels are screwed into the outriggers to make handling easier.) Electrical connection is via a pair of binding posts at the bottom of the rear panel.

The S5 Mk.II is available in two different finishes. With the first, called by Magico M-Cast, the 2nd choice is the handsome high-gloss M-Coat finish of the review samples

Diamond–Nano-Tec–Graphene

It is its drive-units that distinguish the Mk.II S5 from its predecessor. As Yair Tammam lives and breathes drive-units, I asked him about the changes, particularly that new 26mm-diameter tweeter, which has a 40µm-thick beryllium dome coated with a 5µm-thick layer of pure diamond, and was developed from the 28mm dome first seen in Magico's statement M-Project speaker.

The first Magico speaker reviewed in Stereophile, the V3, in May 2008, used a high-performance ring-radiator tweeter, but Tammam was bothered by the fact that such a tweeter's diaphragm operates in breakup mode in the upper region of its passband—he wanted a diaphragm that operated as a perfect piston throughout its operating bandwidth. A beryllium dome is both light enough and stiff enough to behave pistonically, and was used in the Magico Q5, which Michael Fremer reviewed in Nov 2012. Applying a layer of diamond to the metal, Tammam explained, results in a dome with a more homogeneous surface, which both reduces intermodulation distortion and results in a more benign harmonic-distortion signature that is less like that of a metal dome. I asked why they hadn't gone all the way and used an all-diamond diaphragm. It turned out that, yes, diamond would produce a very stiff diaphragm, but the required suspension would raise the tweeter's low-frequency resonance from the desired 500Hz or so to about 1.3kHz. This, in turn, would mean that the tweeter would have to be crossed over to the midrange drive-unit at too high a frequency. Beryllium's lower mass ensures that the resonance frequency is close to 500Hz, but the diamond layer raises the dome's stiffness to extend the high frequencies.

I asked about the Nano-Tec cone used in the midrange unit. Tammam explained that in the earlier versions of this sandwich cone, the inner layer was stiffer than the outer layers, to match the voice-coil former. There followed changes in the former material and the thicknesses of the layers, guided by finite element analysis (FEA), until, in 2014, a Japanese corporation developed a way of laying down the carbon fibers in the weave that resulted in a more even flow of the resin before the material was cured in an oven. This seventh-generation version of Magico's driver has a cone that contains 30% less resin in the carbon-fiber layers, but one that is 300% stiffer.

In Magico's prior midrange cone the front layer of carbon fibers was overlaid with carbon nanotubes, but the US company that produced the nanotubes came up with a way of coating the front of the carbon-fiber layer with a skin of graphene, a superstiff sheet of carbon just one atom thick.

It's desirable that a speaker cone be of varying thickness: thickest at the center and the boundary with the voice-coil former, thinnest at the junction with the surround. However, Magico used to use a sandwich core of constant thickness, because the foam material would fracture if the thickness varied. For their new generation of midrange units they developed a process in which the foam is carefully injected between the front and back carbon-fiber, to permit the overall thickness to vary in the desired manner.

Tammam told me that they made much use of the Klippel analysis system in the development of the S5 Mk.II's drive-units, particularly regarding the spider, to get a significantly greater linear cone excursion. Computer simulation of the driver as a complete system—cone, surround, spider, motor, and magnetic circuit—allowed them to produce a drive-unit that combined the best technologies currently available to give performance that doesn't significantly change with the rise in temperature that typically occurs after a couple of hours of operation.

Yair Tammam summed up his goals in drive-unit design as achieving linearity not just with large excursions but with very small movements, so that the speaker's character remains the same at low sound-pressure levels as it does at high SPLs.

Listening

After Mackay and Tammam had used the excellent Dayton OmniMic v2 system to position the S5 Mk.IIs in my room and declared themselves content, they left for home. The speakers' front baffles were about 80" from the wall behind them and 98" from my listening position; the left speaker was 38" from the closest sidewall, the right 48" from its sidewall. I settled down for some critical listening, beginning with the PPS Audio DirectStream DACn Yale operating system, which I prefer to the earlier Pikes Peak) directly feeding my Pass Labs XA60.5 monoblocks, and the Magicos hooked up to the Passes with Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables.

The low-frequency, 1/3-octave warble tones on my Editor's Choice (ALAC file ripped from CD, Stereophile STPH016-2) played cleanly down to 25Hz, with the 32Hz tone not exciting the lowest-frequency mode in my room as is usually the case. Although the 20Hz tone seemed quieter than those immediately above it, the Studio Six SPL meter app on my iPhone, used with Studio Six's iTestMic, registered it as being equally loud. That it seemed quieter was due not only to my reduced hearing sensitivity in the very low bass, but also to the fact that distortion, which would produce harmonics that would be more audible, must be low in level.

The bass guitar on Editor's Choice had nice weight, but without the blurring of attacks that can happen with high-Q reflex speakers. However, over time I felt that the Magicos' bass was a little too fat with the Pass Labs amps. Substituting MBL Corona C15 monoblocks gave better control of the low frequencies. With "Another Brick in the Wall Parts 1 & 2," from Pink Floyd's The Wall (24-bit/96kHz FLAC files, Columbia), the MBL amps kept superb control of the Magicos' woofers without sacrificing low-frequency power. The speakers' clarity in this region made it possible for me to maximally differentiate between the sounds of the bass guitar and the kick drum—they didn't seem to be competing with one another. The deep-pitched, low-F purr from Dave Holland's double bass that leads into the entrance of Norah Jones's unmistakable voice in "Court and Spark," from Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters (24/96 Apple Lossless files, Verve/HDtracks) was viscerally satisfying in a way that some say you can't get from sealed-box speakers. The sub-40Hz notes in my 2014 recording of Jonas Nordwall performing the Toccata of Widor's Organ Symphony 5 at Portland's First United Methodist Church (24/88.2 AIFF file) literally shook the walls of my listening room without sounding bloated or boomy.

The dual-mono pink-noise track on Editor's Choice was reproduced by the S5 Mk.IIs with a very narrow, stable central image, and none of the splashing toward the speaker positions at some frequencies that would imply the existence of resonances. However, while the Magicos sounded hollow and nasal when I stood up, as expected from the speaker's measured vertical dispersion (see "Measurements" sidebar), I found I needed to sit on the tweeter axis (42" above the floor) to get sufficient mid-treble—an experience that conflicts with the measurements. The top octave also sounded shelved down if I sat in my chair in my customary slouch.

But when I sat at attention, I was impressed not only with the solidity of the Magicos' stereo images but with the sheer believability of the sound. The delicate fragility of the late Radka Toneff's voice in her reading of Jimmy Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," from her Fairytales (24/192 AIFF needle drop from LP, Odin LP03), was fully preserved. I'd made a number of needle drops of this track using Linn Linto, ChannelD Seta L, and Liberty Audio B2B-1 phono preamplifiers, with Ayre Acoustics QA9 and Benchmark A/D converters. As I listened to the files through the Magicos with peak levels equalized, the differences between the various phono preamps and converters was more apparent than I remembered hearing when I made them.

Returning to Editor's Choice: The half-step spaced tonebursts on this CD sounded very even at the listening position. However, listening to the speaker enclosures with a stethoscope, I could hear, on the sidewalls level with midrange unit, some liveliness between 450 and 500Hz and between 600 and 800Hz. This behavior was at a low level and didn't color the sound of Wayne Shorter's soprano saxophone in "Court and Spark," which has a lot of energy in these regions. Joni Mitchell's husky contralto in "The Tea Leaf Prophecy," also from River, was presented by the Magicos with maximal pitch differentiation—what Linnies back in the 1980s used to call "playing tunes." And the haunting high-register piano intro that leads into the late Leonard Cohen's resigned spoken basso in River's "The Jungle Line" sounded perfectly natural, as did the parallel-fifths figure between the verses.

As well as offering full-range envelopment, uncolored vocal and instrumental sounds, and a spacious, stable soundstage, the Magicos could play loud without low-level details becoming obscured. In Benjamin Zander's recording of Mahler's Symphony 2 with the Philharmonia Orchestra (24/192 Apple Lossless file, Linn CKD 452), captured by the old Telarc team of engineer Michael Bishop and producer Elaine Martone, the climaxes seemed more climactic without the quiet passages sounding in any way exaggerated or given short shrift. And again, the Magicos loved the sound of the solo women's voices in this recording: mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and soprano Miah Persson.

The 1958 recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade by Ernest Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra (16/44.1 rip from CD, Decca) has a rather close-sounding balance, but the Magico S5 Mk.IIs handled with aplomb this work's big dynamic sweeps, such as the one three minutes into The Story of the Kalendar Prince, and the drumstrokes and cymbal crashes in Festival at Baghdad lit up the recording acoustic. Nevertheless, such small details as the sound of the snare wires in the drum pattern in The Young Prince and the Young Princess were readily apparent without being thrust forward at me. On the 1963 recording of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, with Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Sinfonia of London and the Allegri Quartet (16/44.1, Apple Lossless rip from CD, EMI Classics CDM 5 67240 2), the fragile images of the string quartet were set forward in the soundstage, with the rich, warm string orchestra behind them. The wonderful reprise of the big tune with the full orchestra after the fugue, and then the joyous coda three minutes before the work's conclusion, were presented by the MBL-driven Magicos with maximum dynamic fervor.

Those last two recordings are 59 and 54 years old, respectively, but the Magico S5 Mk.II's full-range transparency and resolution maximized the ability of my audio system to act as a time machine, allowing me to disregard the obsolete technology with which these recordings were made to focus on the music.

Time machine? Years ago, I'd transferred to digital a cassette recording of a 1981 chamber-music concert in which I performed my own transcription for bass recorder of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, with Hi-Fi News & Record Review's then editorial assistant, Felicity Mulgan, accompanying me on piano. The Magicos plunged me 35 years back into the dry acoustic of that London hall—there I was, onstage, playing this most Romantic of music on a decidedly non-Romantic instrument: a large-bore Renaissance recorder from which I'd removed the top cap so that I could blow straight onto the fipple to better control the intonation.

Yes, the higher the quality of the system, the better it can transport the listener back in time—even when, in the case of my Rachmaninoff recording, the curtains on the machine's windows might have been better left closed.

Summing Up

My congratulations to Magico's Alon Wolf and Yair Tammam for producing a speaker that offers full-range, uncolored, low-distortion sound coupled with superbly stable and accurate stereo imaging. The S5 Mk.II is not too dissimilar in price to the Wilson Audio Alexia and Vivid G3 Giya, which I reviewed in Dec 2013 March 2014, respectively. The Magico S5 Mk.II joins those speakers as ones I could live with when I'm done with this reviewing business. It may indeed be large, but, as I found out, it had no problems, large or otherwise.

The S5 MkII may be said to punch well beyond its weight. The clarity, resolution, forward drive and effortless timing somehow appears to remaster one’s whole music inventory, extracting more excitement, more detail, more performers, more spatiality......
MARTIN COLLOMS

SUMMARY: While the excellent sound quality is the key to these conclusions, it has also been fascinating to track the technical differences which explain how the outwardly very similar MkI and MkII versions of the Magico S5 sound the way they do. While the MkI is a leader for low distortion and won many awards for sound quality, the MkII goes an extra mile with substantially less – indeed state of the art – self generated noise and distortion. Furthermore, transient decays are faster, for cleaner dynamics and greater transparency, and the acoustic outputs of the drivers are better blended, integrating more uniformly over the listener space. 

For the science-based reviewer, it is great to see theory so accurately translated into the listening experience. While the S5 MkII may not immediately impress with whizz-bang auditioning, it has power and majesty, excellent resolution, natural timbres, deep, dynamic, authoritative and very well timed bass, combined with huge well focused stereo images. Easy on the ears, you can listen for hours on end to this rhythmically involving and highly musical design.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Some Magico loudspeaker systems have not been to everyone’s taste, partly because most of the models intentionally have very little sonic flavour. They can sound colourless, even dull, and lacking in overt dynamic expression. This can make them awkward to install in a system, and they will ruthlessly show up any unwanted ‘character’ in other audio components. 

Conversely, many more tonally colourful loudspeakers may greatly benefit from careful timbre balancing, for both the room and the matching ancillaries, to achieve a reasonably neutral and musically well balanced result. However, having achieved an optimised combination it can subsequently prove awkward to substitute other components, as all such substitutions need to be in character and musically consonant with that particular system voicing. 

Looking back at my experiences with Magico in previous years I feel that my initial experiences at UK shows may have been somewhat blunted by the frequent use of Devialet electronics, as the presentations had relatively little impact on me. My first formal review encounter, with the classic Q1 compact stand-mount, was also flawed, due to a partial failure on my part to recognise just how neutral it was (HIFICRITIC Vol6 No3). With hindsight, this highly transparent reproducer had ruthlessly exposed the varied timbres and character traits of the components in my reference system, but I had tended to blame the loudspeaker for some of what I heard. The review was by no means negative, but I knew later that I had missed some of the particular aspects of sound quality which had been successfully addressed by the designers. And I also felt that driving my 25 by 35 foot open plan lounge was a step too far for these small speakers, particularly when following the then resident floorstanding Wilson Audio Sophias. 

I was game for a bigger Magico better suited to my room, even though the larger S5 had already been around for some two years. With the S5 that contentious system matching aspect reappeared, and once again the integrity of our reference audio system came under scrutiny. The great transparency and low colouration inherent in the S5 was uncovering previously unidentified and highly subtle characteristics in every audio component, including cables, anti-vibration supports and equipment frames. The reference audio system was fully broken down and painstakingly rebuilt, these travails finally leading to a markedly better understanding of the S5, and ultimately led to a highly positive review outcome (HIFICRITIC Vol7 No4). Some months later I tried the S3 (Vol8 No3), a downsized S5 (which I hoped might become a reference), but its alloy outrigger support bars exhibited some resonant behaviour on my floor, adding undue mid-bass richness. (I note that since my review the S3 has been found to perform well on more conventional floor constructions so it could be worth another look.) 

In any case the S5 review was more than sufficiently positive to acquire a pair, though by the time these arrived another 6 months had passed, subsequently followed by extended running in (an intrinsic aspect of the marque). I consider that Magico’s S5 has qualities well beyond its price, including huge power handling (over 500W peak programme), accurate neutrality, exceptional timing, plus great focus and clarity, a combination that is particularly useful for an audio critic. Running in brought still greater clarity, integration and dynamic resolution, allowing me to take the Naim Statement amplifier close to its sound quality and power limit. Auditioning this truly great combination was also shared with many colleagues. 

In December 2015, Magico announced the S5 MkII. This did involve a substantial price rise but based on past experience I nevertheless requested a pair, anticipating delivery in early Feb 2016. (They finally arrived in May!)

Once again the long process of running in began, and although publication might have been possible in the June issue, we deliberately held them back until after some more months of heavy use had moved them to a higher and more stable quality level. The MkI experience had shown that small gains in subtlety were discernible up to nine months after first use, due to the technologies employed, such as the exotic Mundorf capacitors in the crossover networks. 

Comparing our well run-in MkI with the factory fresh S5 MkII over a single day, the latter immediately sounded more punchy, extended and dynamic in the bass, with still firmer control, plus enhanced fluidity and delicacy through the mid and treble. The midrange was considered a little cooler, if more precise, more detailed and transparent at this early stage, while the treble was perceptibly more open, clearly providing improved detail and transparency. 

It was also obvious that the new enclosure design provides considerably better stability than the MkI, thanks to oversize solid alloy base plates some 4.5cm thick. These plates provide a much larger physical footprint than before, with four large 5cm (2in) diameter stainless steel pads, so the floor coupling arrangement is substantially improved. The pads are fitted with 12mm diameter, locking, stainless steel spikes. The spikes mount in turn to large stainless steel inserts forged into the alloy base plate. Besides increasing the physical presence of the loudspeakers in the room, the new footprint is some 40% larger, resulting in substantially improved stability. 

The new model represents a 40% increase in price over the original, but you can see right away where some of the extra money has been spent, both in this sculpted alloy base with its black satin textured finish, and in the contoured alloy top panel that’s machined from the solid. Its distinctive curves will help disperse any minor reflections resulting from some loudspeaker output interacting with the ceiling, which might otherwise cause a mild standing wave. And like the MkI, the convex side panels will have a similarly dispersive effect on the reflections excited by the loudspeakers onto each other and from the room front and sidewalls. 

Magico founder Alon Wolf explained that by the time they had finished the aluminium alloy S5 MkII, apart from some bolts and connectors, the only parts in common with the original were those half-inch thick curved alloy side panels. 

Although the design team, led by Chief Engineer Yair Tamman, had particular objectives for the S5 MkII improvement programme, developments resulting from research on models higher up the range also became available. The S5 MkII and the S7 therefore have much in common, and the extra 10in bass driver fitted to the S7 is only really needed for very large rooms. 

The S5 MkII driver array looks very similar to the MkI. Splitting hairs, the beryllium tweeter dome looks a little darker owing to a charcoal grey, 5um diamond-graphite reinforcing deposition. Most other improvements are hidden. A new 165mm pistonic midrange now has a fractal, anti-resonance rear enclosure, and the pair of new 250mm (10in) diameter (equivalent to a 14in unit) long throw improvements to the motor, and super tough graphene is used to reinforce the diaphragms of all three cone drivers. The alloy enclosure comes in two alternative finishes with a wide range of colours: M-Cast is a textured powder-coat; M-Coat is a high gloss lacquer at an extra cost. 

Magico specifies a sensitivity of 88dB; a 4ohm amplifier loading; a suggested amplifier power from 50W to 1,000W; and a nominal frequency response from 22Hz to 50kHz (but with no limits stated). Each weighs 100kg (220lb) and is 122cm high by 38cm wide by 36cm deep. Single wire connection is via heavy duty Mundorf copper binding posts for spades and 4mm connections. 

Sound Quality 

The sonic picture began to change after a few days of heavy use; the subtle first impression of a mild lack of coordination began to fade, and new confidence in the more dynamic sound delivery took hold. It was already sounding more powerful, crisper, more focused, more open than the Mk1. The S5 is well known for its very low self noise levels, deep stereo images and deeper silences, but perhaps surprisingly the MkII already sounded an order of magnitude improved in these key areas. Dynamics were quite excellent, and image focus had begun to stabilise. As the weeks elapsed this more open and articulate timbre suggested changing to a toe-in alignment rather than the near straight ahead formation (axes crossing about 0.5m behind the listener) which best suited the MkI. Now some of that inner potential was becoming apparent in the shape of greater coherence for far depth imaging though with a narrower overall image width, noting that at this stage for the install process the central images were not quite as pin point as I have experienced. 

A clue to sound quality can often be found when listening in the corridor to the largely integrated room driven sound, which was surprisingly lifelike. We also found that the S5 MkII could play almost impossibly loud with near perfect clarity and no perceptible hardening, textural crowding or dynamic compression. The most difficult and densely scored material was handled with sweet clarity and with particularly low fatigue, a strong indicator of inherently low distortion together with exceptionally uniform frequency responses. 

Bass percussion is noticeably more tactile than the MkI, more expressive, dynamic and tuneful, sounding faster with better controlled percussive impact, and more apparent power from 30 – 50Hz. Percussive slam is rendered without boom, and low frequencies clearly show improved transparency. These observations were clearly heard when using a CH Precision A1 power amplifier

Even before running in the mid and treble regions had exceptional clarity, depth and micro detail, and these are now extended to the bass, adding abundant image depth and transparency with a heroic sense of scale. It goes beyond opening a window onto the performances, now sounding as if the whole wall had been taken down and the auditorium extended out into the street. The deep field imaging is close to stunning and is imbued with power, detail and dynamic expression, patently not just the usual vaguely spacious wafting so often encountered with lesser systems. 

The MkII remains clear, stable and sweet at very high sound levels that had previously verged on annoying with a number of high end loudspeaker systems. My system could now be played several notches louder without fatigue, a hallmark of true quality founded on very low distortion and minimal resonant colourations. 

Musical expression was impressive from the off, the sound drawing one in with consistently high and steadily improving levels of fine detail. Highly expressive kettle drum dynamics rewrote the performance standard for this price category, and drum transients and pitch were perfectly clear. Complex bass percussion was well separated and delineated, and each bass instrument demonstrated colour and character. 

Those substantial spikes provide significant scope to alter the azimuth, fine tuning the mid-treble timbre to taste, and aligning the S5 MkII for the particular ear height. As the system settled, a rather larger soundstage became possible, so I reverted to the classic Magico alignment, with the loudspeaker axes crossing 0.3 – 0.6m behind the listener. The S5 MkII expands all the image dimensions, and also focuses out of stage localisation more clearly. It revealed subtle changes in location, acoustics, vocal mics, the type and quality of reverb used, and not least the character of each venue, particularly classical concert halls. 

The S5 MkII will ruthlessly and cruelly expose a poor choice of system components, but once brought into balance it becomes highly sympathetic to the music. Many albums I had long abandoned have now become satisfying. 

Some classic tracks help to illuminate this. The S5 MkII revealed wonderful insights into Michael Hedges performances and playing on Aerial Boundaries highlighting the amazing forward drive generated by his innate rhythm and timing. 

The massive soundstage production of complex material such as Pat Metheny’s Cathedral In a Suitcase (from Secret Story) was fully revealed, matched by a forward driving momentum leading to a web of complex interlinked musical lines composed of varied and well differentiated percussion. Layers of low level detail are beautifully revealed while the recovery of spatial effects is significantly superior to the MkI, and recorded spaces are clearly illuminated and sharply focused. This illumination is achieved without false edge or hardness, and if anything the tonality is sweet and flowing compared with much of the competition. As it ran in, the already very good upper range showed increased subtlety and detail, with delicate traceries of transparent treble. 

This Magico sound does not jump out of the box; rather it follows the now clearly heard perspectives inherent in the wide variety of recordings tried. Performers sound more natural, more familiar, more like themselves, their inner character is more clearly revealed, while the ambient imaging can be spookily spacious, seemingly more like a full surround system than just two loudspeakers. 

Steve Reich’s mallet instrument works can be a trial, often with excess hardness and emphasised percussive ringing, blocking detail and adding fatigue. But not with these Magicos, which fluidly brought out the full timbres and rhythmic complexity with excellent timing and no trace of hardening. 

Tough cuts such as Rickie Lee Jones’ A Lucky Guy (from Pirates) was the best replay of this track yet experienced. On Jan Garbarek’s In Praise of Dreams, his saxophone was rendered fluid and expressive but without the often experienced ‘shriek’ and false hardness. Or consider Alabama 3’s opening track (from Exile on Coldharbour Lane) which is quite dense, with subtle low level detail and timing, easily masked. The S5 MkII reached deeply into this soundscape offering perspective and content not previously heard, allied to a firm, rocking, undertow beat. 

With appropriate material it offered nearly effortless image depth, with very good focus, while the additional use of a 500W/ch Constellation amplifier showed just how well it handled high powers. The S5 MkII may be said to punch well beyond its weight. The clarity, resolution, forward drive and effortless timing somehow appears to remaster one’s whole music inventory, extracting more excitement, more detail, more performers, more spatiality, with great power and definition at the frequency extremes. 

Conclusions 

While the excellent sound quality is the key to these conclusions, it has also been fascinating to track the technical differences which explain how the outwardly very similar MkI and MkII versions of the Magico S5 sound the way they do. While the MkI is a leader for low distortion and won many awards for sound quality, the MkII goes an extra mile with substantially less – indeed state of the art – self generated noise and distortion. Furthermore, transient decays are faster, for cleaner dynamics and greater transparency, and the acoustic outputs of the drivers are better blended, integrating more uniformly over the listener space. 

For the science-based reviewer, it is great to see theory so accurately translated into the listening experience. While the S5 MkII may not immediately impress with whizz-bang auditioning, it has power and majesty, excellent resolution, natural timbres, deep, dynamic, authoritative and very well timed bass, combined with huge well focused stereo images. Easy on the ears, you can listen for hours on end to this rhythmically involving and highly musical design.
.......MARTIN COLLOMS

SECOND OPINION: JON HONEYBAL 

The problem with moving the state of the art forward is that it is a voyage of discovery, hearing entirely new instruments, and with reproduced acoustics becoming clearer than before. Things start to get quite spooky on modern pop or jazz music, where the individual acoustics around each instrument or vocal part are laid bare. This is especially true when effects like reverb are separately applied to each instrument in the mix phase of a production. 

Hearing ‘more’ can actually be quite disturbing, as you realise that the sound space around one instrument is neither the same size nor in the same context as the sound space around another. And yet they are overlapping in the physical space in front of you. This can be quite disconcerting, when the loudspeaker resolution allows for such easy and stress-free clarity. 

This is what has happened in the move to the S5 MkII speaker from the S5. The improvement in clarity has enabled a precision of analytical listening to the soundstage presentation, to the point that any production falsification is laid bare. It’s like looking at a high resolution photo only to discover that you can actually see each brick – and discern the crumbling mortar between each layer.

This is what the S5 MkII does. It goes deeper into a soundstage, and defines it more cleanly than anything I have ever heard, including the finest ribbons and electrostatics. This has come about because of Magico’s obsession with the computer modelling and analysis of vibration and energy flow within the speaker, to a level that seems to be streets ahead of anyone else. 

This is not an overly etched sound, brought on by a slightly rising frequency response adding a “two lumps of sugar in your tea” artificial sweetness. This is the absence of smear, of trapped delayed noise, and of resonance. 

The combination of S5 MkII/500DR amps clearly sets a new high level for every aspect of power amp/speaker performance. And it’s what it doesn’t do which is so significant. Truly less is more. It’s the clearest definition of ‘non-sound’ I’ve ever experienced.
…….. Jon Honeyball

LAB RESULTS 


Frequency Responses It was interesting to compare the response curves for the MkI with those for the MkII. As before, tight ±2dB limits contain the axial response, though the MkII shows a small +1.8dB prominence at about 6kHz on the upper mid-to-treble axis. Despite equalisation, the MkI had a +7dB treble peak at 34kHz, while the new and better damped tweeter peaks at just +3.5dB (at the same frequency, and without equalisation). The original’s equalisation meant that its impedance fell to 1.4ohms at higher frequencies, while the new version avoids this difficulty with a more comfortable 4ohms for frequencies beyond 20kHz. 

In the bass, the MkI’s -6dB is at 28Hz, while the MkII goes down to 24Hz – giving a surprisingly audible improvement. The acoustic output in the vertical plane of the MkI was essentially symmetrical above and below the main axis. For the revised MkII voicing, the above axis output now decays a little, dipping by 6dB at 3.4kHz in the crossover region. 

Responses for the vertical angles from the listener region and below are now held close to the primary response. The lateral off-axis responses (at 7.5, 15, and 30 degrees) now mirror the axial result within 1.5dB all the way to 10kHz, while output remains a pretty accurate ±2dB 30Hz – 10kHz even at 60 degrees off-axis, so lateral room reflections should still sound very natural. And the usual crossover region dip, which here is just beginning to show in the extreme 60 degrees off-axis trace, dips barely -2dB. Clearly the driver outputs are particularly well blended.

In-Room 
Averaged Responses The in-room averaged response trace again shows subtle improvements over the MkI, with greater uniformity from 20Hz to 20kHz, plus improved deep bass extension that is still powerful down at 20Hz. Even with room averaging, output measured 55Hz – 18kHz ±2.5dB, plus bass extension to 22Hz, -6dB, which is an exceptional result. 

Sensitivity and Pair Matching 
There was no significant change in sensitivity, the figures remaining at a slightly above average 88dB per 8ohm Watt. This is combined with a fairly good 4-6ohm impedance, indicating the possibility of high power drive from a fairly load tolerant amplifier of up to 1kW peak program capacity. A pair of these speakers will be capable of delivering a seriously loud 113dB maximum when operating in a medium sized (eg 80m3 ) listening room. Closely toleranced pair matching is known to sharpen image focus, and here the S5 MkII delivered state-of-the-art ±0.75dB L/R agreement from 50Hz to 36kHz (despite some local measurement difficulties from the room environment). 

Load Impedance 
While the impedance may be seen dipping to a fairly low 3ohms resistive at 70Hz, the more awkward moment is at around 45Hz where a 4ohm magnitude is combined with a moderately high 50 degrees phase angle, suggesting a momentary worst case amplifier load value of about 2.2ohms in the bass. The nominal loading is 5ohms from 35Hz to 45kHz, along with moderate ±30 degree phase angles. Valve amplifiers will drive this load from a 4ohm matching tap, and good solid state designs should have no trouble at all. Measured before fully run in, the system low frequency resonance was a desirably low 29Hz (and will likely settle to 27Hz). 

The Grilles 
The well made and elegant magnetically retained, perforated steel protection grilles do slightly affect the output, audibly and measurably, the latter if only by narrow band ±2dB ripples seen on high resolution analysis. However, I only install them for children and non-enthusiast visitors. The grilles are so easily fitted and detached that there seems no good reason not to detach them when listening critically, as the sound is sweeter, faster and better focused. Aesthetically they also look fine, if a bit technical, with the grilles removed. 

Decay Results 
The ‘waterfall’ decay results indicate a desirable nearlinear-phase initial amplitude response, with the very rapid decay clearing associated with a fast transient quality and high transparency. High frequencies are particularly good, decaying rapidly by 40dB all the way to 25kHz within a millisecond. The transient response of the new composite midrange driver is not far behind, and again is notably improved over the MkI. (The decay analysis cannot include low frequencies for which true free field conditions are required, but the extended bass sealed box alignment found here is known to deliver superior decay behaviour with commendably low group delay.) 

Distortion 
Noting that harmonic distortion is always greater in the bass than the mid and treble, a high 10W sinewave input at 100Hz (generating a serious 98dBspl) gave excellent results with the S5 MkII. Second harmonic was an essentially inaudible 0.3% (the ear has more inherent distortion than this). The subjectively important third harmonic was an excellent -64dB (about 0.065% and frankly inaudible). The fourth harmonic was vanishingly low, and the fifth read a tiny -72dB (about 0.025%). 

It could accept more than 22Vrms at a very low 20Hz before mechanical overload. Audible doubling at 20Hz did not occur until an input of 50W of sinewave, at which point the whole house was vibrating in sympathy. By 30Hz it was comfortable with 29Vrms (200W/4ohms) short term, and here second harmonic remained a very tolerable 1.5%, while third harmonic was also exceptional at just 3%. At 50Hz it would accept 70W continuous sinewave without complaint, literally thundering away. 

At 98dBspl, 100Hz results were again exceptional: 0.25% second, 0.07% third, and just 0.03% of fifth harmonic. This is truly state-of-the-art bass reproduction. At 500Hz, 10W, the figures were very similar: 0.13% for second harmonic, while third (in the region where this harmonic is expressed as the vowel ‘ow’), it was amazing at just 0.08%. For a fairly loud 1W, 88dBspl above 200Hz, it gave only 0.03% second and 0.1% third harmonic, with no further contributions higher than 0.02%. These are figures that might be expected from good electronics, not a piece of machinery. 

At a decently loud 88dBspl, the bass distortion was typically better than 0.1% from 60 to 150Hz – as yet unheard of results. Moving up into the more aurally sensitive midband showed progressive improvements. 

Precise measurement over the vital midrange band 500Hz – 2.5kHz (where the residual resonant behaviour of the new fractal-type midrange enclosures will be active) showed that the third harmonic distortion improved steadily with frequency above 800Hz. The new design averaged a 6dB advantage over an octave of the midrange; every little helps! 

Just for the record, at 88dB and frequencies above 75Hz, the overall distortion never exceeded 0.1%. For 80% of the span below 20kHz it measured just 0.04% second and 0.03 % of third harmonic. These are amazingly linear results: put simply, it produces still less noise when operating, aiding transparency and promoting natural timbres. 

DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY 

Many design and manufacturing improvements found in the MkII are relevant to observed sound quality advantages. The build practice resembles aircraft engineering, and is somewhat different from simply bolting drivers into relatively elastic wood-based constructions. When the S5 drivers are bolted in with torque-calibrated tools, the resulting registration of the driver to enclosure remains closely coupled and stable, essentially for its operating life.

While the bass from the S5 remains of truly substantial power and quality, four years of subsequent development with computer modelling has led to significant gains in magnet and motor design. These have now ‘trickled down’ to the S5 from the S7 series flagship, but there still has to be some further explanation for the S5 MkII’s important improvements in bass articulation, slam, definition and power. 

One clue lies in revised build specifications, where the linear throw or excursion of the bass drivers has been increased, along with advanced electromagnetic modelling of the complex behaviour of magnetic flux in the gap. The intrinsic magnet and coil construction has been extensively revised to reduce higher order distortion products. Variations in the force factor Bl (equivalent to engine torque) with excursion have been reduced, and the excursion limit for a given Bl decrease has almost doubled. 

Of particular interest to me (as I feel it’s crucial to clarity), the variation of driver coil inductance for a given maximum displacement is important, and has now been improved by 2.5 times. In addition the linear excursion range for the suspension returning force has been doubled. Chief engineer Yair Tamman is attempting to create low frequency drive here that sounds similarly transparent to the midrange, a quality that has so far eluded all but full range electrostatics. 

Put an ear to the new bass driver at low volume and notice substantially better clarity, and an absence of the usual mechanical clanking and ringing sounds commonly encountered. (In practice, these sounds are often masked by the midrange section.) Although masked, there remains some loss of detail, depth and transparency from a kind of gray aural fog, which also compromises natural dynamic expression. 

The new bass drivers have very rigid alloy cones plus enhanced pistonic rigidity thanks to the enlarged central dome section. The pistonic cap structure is further reinforced by tough graphene platelets enhancing the existing carbon nanotube matrix. The bass driver pair is rated for a massive 115dBspl at 50Hz. They drive the ultra rigid 12mm thick alloy sealed-box enclosure, with high damping and a near linear phase output. 

The S5’s midrange driver now has a moulded polycarbonate back box to create an essentially non-reflective sealed volume. Its basic purpose is to block back pressure from the bass section, including residual lower frequency internal standing waves. It has an unusual spatial geometry with fractal equations determining a complex irregular shape. All the internal acoustic paths from the back of the mid cone to the box walls have different values, avoiding standing waves and leaving a single fundamental frequency. The traditional alternative is a plain rectangular box filled with fibrous absorbent. However, the stuffing can inhibit subjective speed and timing accuracy, yet still fail to suppress all trace of the internal modes. The overall midrange noise floor is typically improved by 8dB over a standard box. 

Still more technology has been applied to the new midrange driver, including graphene reinforcement of the existing carbon-nano-fibre-skinned, Rohacell cored, composite cone (first developed for the exclusive M Pro model). The graphene, applied in quite small proportions as platelets, does offer an intrinsic 20% mass reduction with a 3x increase in stiffness for the cone, helping shift the first breakup frequency upwards some 500Hz and avoiding the need for the upper resonance compensation previously employed. 

Third harmonic distortion is further reduced here, significantly reducing the higher order intermodulation products. Magico uses an underhung 75mm voice coil with a titanium former; inductance is controlled by a massive copper pole cap. Together these improve many of the complex intermodulation distortion products generated in the midrange by up to 10dB. These tend to mask transparency and add perceptible grain and timbre shifts to the sound quality. And the neodymium based motor uses two oversize magnets to provide a stable and linear magnetic field. 

The new MB7 diamond/beryllium composite treble driver now has smooth extension beyond 35kHz. The peak in the previous monolithic beryllium version was compensated by an electrical network that subtly smoothed the sound character, but at some small cost in dynamics and clarity, and with more severe amplifier loading. 

The revisions have allowed a 5% reduction in voice coil length, reducing mass and inductance for the high frequency unit. Distortion has also been reduced, as a new neodymium motor has been designed for increased linear coil excursion. While it cannot be seen directly from the frequency response, the slightly larger, diamond reinforced dome no longer requires equalisation. Thanks to computer simulations and laser scans the assembly is also seen to be more pistonic at very high frequencies. 

New internal wiring from Japan is a multi-diameter formulation to reduce any frequency emphasis. Furthermore, to avoid terminations and solder joins, electrical connections are unbroken from the input terminals to the drivers, save for the series connection of some crossover components. The circuit is star-wired to avoid possible coupling and cross modulation. Closely toleranced Mundorf crossover components maintain accuracy and provide close pair matching. (The reference grade oil-impregnated film and foil capacitors are wound slowly and tightly for lay accuracy and to avoid air layers; the resulting tensions and stray polarisations take time and use to dissipate, and are a factor in the running in process.) Mundorf builds these customised crossovers for Magico. The complete loudspeaker system is fully modelled to a symmetrical elliptical filter alignment for good phase response in and out of band. 

The inductors are also Mundorf’s top grade copper foil and polypropylene film designs, with very low resistance and a high saturation ability, thanks to grain-oriented, insulated, eddy-current-free laminar alloy cores. For some key positions, especially the high frequency section, Mundorf MCap Supreme EVO Silver/Gold in Oil capacitors. (Phew! – Ed) are used. However, the improvements in midrange and treble drivers have also allowed a small simplification of the previous crossover.

Magico S3 Mk2 Loudspeaker testimonials

BEST OF SHOW (COST NO OBJECT) CES 2014 – THE ABSOLUTE SOUND

The Magico S3/Vitus/Synergistic/dCS system. thought far from the most expensive, proved the most all round enjoyable”
 – Alan Taffel, The Absolute Sound, April, 2014

“The sound that the Magico S3’s produced was absolutely stunning; it was immediately discernible how good these speakers were. Everything sounded right, from the fast, tight bass, to the extremely wide and deep soundstage that sacrificed nothing in terms of imaging, to the effortless ease with which the speakers filled the very large room with the sense that I was “there.” What’s more, the S3’s kept ripping me out of “reviewer mode” and made my hands clammy with passion. Yes, this is how it’s supposed to be done; precisely the emotional response that makes you fall in love with a speaker…. Maybe it’s the new polycarbonate midrange enclosure, or the newly developed 8″ woofers, or the superb overall design concepts at Magico, but the S3 is the epitome of “the most bang for your buck.”
 – Spencer Holbert, CES 2014 Show Report, The Absolute Sound

“I want to share with you an experience we had last night listening to Magico S3 Loudspeaker for the first time. This is not something I normally do, but as it turns out, the S3 is quite special – even by Magico standards. As you know, the S3 has a newly developed internal midrange enclosure. This new housing has been created with the latest state-of-the-art simulation software. The unique shape and carefully chosen materials, when combined, create the ultimate “sound pressure absorption device.”  The results are nothing short of amazing, both in terms of measurements and performance. I was shocked to hear the clarity and palpability achieved with this new design in place. This is a major benchmark that is moving us even closer to the original recording. It is not everyday that I hear such an improvement. It only took one note to realize there is something new and special here… We are very excited about these new guys and look forward to you all hearing them very soon.”
  – Alon Wolf, President, Magico LLC

“The Magico S3 Loudspeaker does astronomically priced speaker performance without the Apollo Space Mission speaker price… this makes for the perfect ‘now’ loudspeaker; highly accurate, designed for modern life and without any of the fake ‘niceness’ or ‘impressive’ tailoring that normally comes with a high-end design. Highly recommended!
  – Alan Sircom, HiFi+, Sept., 2013     

Truly less is more. It’s the clearest definition of ‘non-sound’ I’ve ever experience.
Jon Honeyball

The problem with moving the state of the art forward is that it is a voyage of discovery, hearing entirely new instruments, and with reproduced acoustics becoming clearer than before. Things start to get quite spooky on modern pop or jazz music, where the individual acoustics around each instrument or vocal part are laid bare. This is especially true when effects like reverb are separately applied to each instrument in the mix phase of a production. 

Hearing ‘more’ can actually be quite disturbing, as you realise that the sound space around one instrument is neither the same size nor in the same context as the sound space around another. And yet they are overlapping in the physical space in front of you. This can be quite disconcerting, when the loudspeaker resolution allows for such easy and stress-free clarity. 

This is what has happened in the move to the S5 MkII speaker from the S5. The improvement in clarity has enabled a precision of analytical listening to the soundstage presentation, to the point that any production falsification is laid bare. It’s like looking at a high resolution photo only to discover that you can actually see each brick – and discern the crumbling mortar between each layer.

This is what the S5 MkII does. It goes deeper into a soundstage, and defines it more cleanly than anything I have ever heard, including the finest ribbons and electrostatics. This has come about because of Magico’s obsession with the computer modelling and analysis of vibration and energy flow within the speaker, to a level that seems to be streets ahead of anyone else. 

This is not an overly etched sound, brought on by a slightly rising frequency response adding a “two lumps of sugar in your tea” artificial sweetness. This is the absence of smear, of trapped delayed noise, and of resonance. 

The combination of S5 MkII/500DR clearly sets a new high level for every aspect of power amp/speaker performance. And it’s what it doesn’t do which is so significant. Truly less is more. It’s the clearest definition of ‘non-sound’ I’ve ever experience.
...….. Jon Honeyball 

Magico S3 Mk2 Loudspeaker - OVERVIEW

Magico, the leader in high performance loudspeaker design and manufacture, is pleased to announce the new S1 Mk II.

At first glance the S1 Mk II appears similar to its predecessor however, it is an entirely new design and incorporates distilled elements from Magico’s ground breaking engineering accomplishments found in the S7.

The S3 Mk II nestles in between the S1 Mk II and S5 Mk II and features all of the advanced design elements of the S-Series Mk II models, including a new 9-inch bass driver with the lowest measured distortion born from the design and engineering theories applied to the limited edition, 10th Anniversary M-Project. The S3 Mk II’s superlative high frequencies are provided by a 1-inch Magico diamond-coated beryllium-diaphragm tweeter that offers matching sensitivity, wide dispersion, and increased power handling over the original S-series tweeter. A new aluminium housing for the magnet structure minimises overall resonance and improves the isolation parameters for the tweeter dome element. The long-throw voice coil enables lower distortion and optimal cutoff frequencies that enhance driver integration with the midrange driver.

Magico’s extraordinary midrange reproduction is attained from a proprietary 6-inch driver that also sets a new benchmark for measured performance. The cone material is formulated using MultiWall carbon fiber and a layer of XG Nanographene, which when combined is 20% lighter and 300% stiffer than the previous S-series cone designs. The purpose-built sub-enclosure is made of a proprietary polymer material which provides an isolated and optimised environment for the midrange driver to operate within.Deep, powerful, and accurate bass frequencies result from two newly designed 9-inch Magico bass drivers that are produced with advanced manufacturing techniques using the same new Multi-Wall carbon, Nanographene cone. The powerful magnet structure controls a 5-inch pure Titanium voice coil that has a 1/2-inch of linear excursion and produces clean, undistorted sound pressure levels up to 112dB @ 50Hz/1-meter.

The monocoque enclosure of the S3 Mk II is formed from a single piece of extruded aluminium that is 3/8-inch thick and 12-inches in diameter. The new aluminium top plate is machined into an elegant 3D convex shape to minimise enclosure diffraction and break-up vertical standing waves. A massive base plate incorporates a newly designed 4-point outrigger support system that lowers the speaker’s centre of gravity and increases overall stability, resulting in a lower noise floor and increased dynamic range.

All four drivers in the S3 Mk II are acoustically integrated using Magico’s exclusive Elliptical Symmetry Crossover topology that utilises state-of-the-art components from Mundorf of Germany. The dividing network maximises frequency bandwidth while preserving phase linearity and minimising intermodulation distortion. Individual driver performance and the loudspeaker in its final form are tested and optimised for acoustical, mechanical, electromagnetic, and thermal behaviours using the latest state-of-the-art Finite Element Analysis simulation testing equipment.

The S3 Mk II is available in two separate finishes: M-Cast (textured satin coat) and M-Coat (smooth high-gloss paint).

These Magicos are staying put -What the S5s will do—if neutrality and bringing the sound of the original recording into your listening room is your goal—is bring the listener several steps closer to real music.
Myles B. Astor
SUMMARY: the Magico S5s–unlike the majority of speakers out there—possess a rare and remarkable ability to capture and reproduce both macro- and micro-dynamics. That elusive ability to slam you over the head with The Tape Project's 15-ips release of Arnold Overtures while at the same time finesse you to death on the tape release of Bill Evans Waltz for Debby

A unique ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds that is coupled with a dynamic coherency from the top to the bottom of the frequency spectrum as well as a function of loudness levels. Even more impressive is the S5s ability to render low frequency microdynamics, microdetails and subtleties associated with cellos, double basses and drums. While the S5's dynamics can be positively breathtaking, it's in the areas of quietness and settling time (two terms more commonly associated with electronics than speakers) where the Magicos really break new ground.Not only can you see to the very back of the Village Vanguard but there's an amazing ability to hear and clearly understand what the audience is saying. And when the audience applauds, the reverberation of their handclaps fills the club.While the Summit-Xs captured the triangle's decay, the Magicos take it to the next level. All of a sudden, missing textures and shimmering appear out of nowhere. But there's no better example of the S5s tweeter's freedom from compression and breakup than on the wonderful Erato recording of Marius Constant's ensemble piece for unusual instrumentation 14 stations pour percussion et six instruments (Erato STU 70603). The gongs and cymbals release a tremendous amount of energy and there's no evidence of hardening until the cartridge, in this case the soon to be reviewed Transfiguration Proteus, shows some strain.

The S5s are extremely well balanced and no one quality stands out in contrast to another. On one hand, the speakers resolve all of a recording's nuances and at the same time pay homage to the music. Every record and tape played through the Magicos was a new experience. No, the Magicos won't add pleasing collocations to your less than ideally recorded recording. What the S5s will do—if neutrality and bringing the sound of the original recording into your listening room is your goal—is bring the listener several steps closer to real music.

EXRENDED REVIEW: This is a ground breaking review in more ways than one. To start with, this is the first Magico S5 speaker review using only analog recorded material. More to the point, it's my first review using the extraordinary VPI Classic Direct turntable and 12-inch 3D printed arm (geez reviewing might have been so much easier had this table been around two decades or so earlier) along with either the Lyra Atlas or Transfiguration Proteus cartridges. And if that wasn't special enough, the remainder of the analog source material was 15-ips, 2-track, reel-to-reel tape, arguably still the finest and highest resolution source available. (OK, there's 30-ips and ½-inch tapes but those sources are rarer than a US$100,000 bill). Second, and perhaps most importantly, this is the first review of the Magico S5 speakers driven by tube amplification. 

For whatever the reason, many audiophiles—perhaps in large part because Magico almost exclusively uses solid-state amplification at high-end audio shows—wrongly assume that Magico speakers and tube amplifiers are mutually exclusive. But nothing could be further from the truth. (In fact Alon Wolf, designer of Magico speakers, made it abundantly clear in our conversations that he appreciates the qualities of both technologies to drive his speakers.) And the cj ART amplifiers didn't disappoint. Not only did these 275 wpc tube behemoths easily drive the S5s with none of the sloppiness in the lowest octave that Alon feared might happen, but the ART monoblocks and Magico speakers were a match made in heaven! The ART amplifier's liveliness, huge soundstage and unique ability to unravel the complex overtones of instruments and singers especially on reel-to-reel tape never came across better. In fact, there's a very special synergy going on between the ART monoblocks and the S5 speakers in the mid- to upper bass region. Take the renowned Badal Roy's tabla solo on "Calcutta Sunrise" from the simply mindboggling Yarlung Records tape release Suryodaya. (Also available on CD and 88/24 download from HDtracks.) Roy literally with his use of beats makes the tabla resonate, ring and literally sing in his hands and the cj/Magico combination brings the recording to life. Would a solid state amplifier been slightly more extended and tighter in the lowest octave? Would the right solid-state amplifier contributed to an even lower overall noise floor? Possibly. But the cj ART tube amplifiers and Magico S5 speaker combination was truly something to behold.

The Beginning of the End

Perhaps the real take home message from the time spent with the Magico S5s is that we [audiophiles] often are far too hasty to judge the sound of a component based upon one quick listen at a high-end audio show or dealer's showroom. That old adage about hearing a component in your own system before making any legitimate judgment (s) often takes a backseat in the rush to compare listening notes with your audiobuddies or online friend. Let's be honest. Audio shows (and/or dealer showrooms) are more often than not simply a poor substitute for a home audition. Case in point: Magico speakers. Despite hearing Magico's Q-series speaker at several shows—not to mention two local Magico dealers—I was baffled by the praise heaped upon the speakers. 

Now was it the rooms (or showroom), primarily SS amplification, digital sources, etc. that colored and clouded my judgement? For that matter, the Magico magic didn't begin to reveal itself until Bob Visintainer, owner of Rhapsody Music and Cinema in New York City, kindly invited me to drop by and listen to the 50 watt Absolare SE tube amplifiers driving the new Magico S5 speakers. Then the S5s once again captured my imagination and curiosity at the 2014 CES and made my list of standout show rooms. In fact, I even commented to Peter Breuninger in our "Reviewers View" CES show wrap for AVShowrooms.com that the "S" in S5 stood for soul. Then due to fortuitous circumstances, Magico was able to shake loose a pair of S5s for review in PFO. And they're leaving my room over my dead body! 

Love at First Listen?

Looking back now, there were many reasons for my nearly two decade long love affair with electrostatic speakers. Foremost among those reasons is the electrostatic speaker's ability to capture microdynamics and bring music to life. That spellbinding and simply captivating sense of musical nimbleness and sense of ease. Then there's the panel's low level resolution, lack of boxiness and completeness of harmonic overtones that reveals the smallest nuances of instruments. While dynamic speakers are unquestionably better at reproducing macrodynamics—and the Summit-Xs were a bit ahead of most panel speakers in this regard—box speakers never said buy me. It was painfully obvious what was missing every time the electrostatics supplanted the dynamic speakers in my system. Well not this time. 

The Magico S5s–unlike the majority of speakers out there—possess a rare and remarkable ability to capture and reproduce both macro- and micro-dynamics. That elusive ability to slam you over the head with The Tape Project's 15-ips release of Arnold Overtures while at the same time finesse you to death on the tape release of Bill Evans Waltz for Debby. A unique ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds that is coupled with a dynamic coherency from the top to the bottom of the frequency spectrum as well as a function of loudness levels. Even more impressive is the S5s ability to render low frequency microdynamics, microdetails and subtleties associated with cellos, double basses and drums. Sadly, the S5s really illustrate that the Martin-Logan's have a very difficult time showing just how compressed some rock LPs from 60, 70s and especially later on are relative to their tape counterparts.

While the S5's dynamics can be positively breathtaking, it's in the areas of quietness and settling time (two terms more commonly associated with electronics than speakers) where the Magicos really break new ground. In fact, the lowering of audio system's noise floor through judicious attention to equipment, cables and especially AC supply is one of the biggest breakthroughs in high-end audio in recent years. Now add speakers to the list. The S5s are simply the quietest sounding speaker by leaps and bounds that's been in my reference system to date and retrieves more information off the software without having to resort to that fake, jacked-up, hyper-detailed upper midrange of but a decade or so ago.

Fully appreciating the speaker's quietness and everything that Alon and company have truly accomplished in the design of the S5 speakers—namely the rigid enclosure, specially designed drivers and matching crossover—demands both the finest in upstream components and software. Not to mention it's a two-way street since the speakers reveal more information about these records and tapes than ever imagined. (Of course you can listen to any type of music on the S5 but to really test the speaker's performance ceiling requires the best in software.) 

And there are arguably few better recordings and sonic blockbusters than The Tape Project's release of the 1991 Reference Recording Arnold Overtures (TP-003). Here the tape delivers what the LP only hints at. There's simply zip, zero, nada, read no comparison between the two medium. The Tape Project release exhibits less brightness, a far better sense of individual instruments and unparalled dynamics, harmonics, transparency and sense of space compared to the LP. Through the S5s, Keith Johnson's ability to capture the unrestrained dynamics and sense of ambient space of renowned Watford Town Hall in London on "Commonwealth Christmas Overture," comes through loud and clear. Brass sounds brassy without going anywhere near that shrill territory. The whole atmosphere of the recording shifts on a dime when Arnold shifts into his Caribbean calypso theme. While the Magico S5s are far from a small speaker, they still play bigger than you would expect on this and other recordings. 

Another simply spectacular recording—and one of my all-time favorite Tape Project releases—is Bill Evans live '61 recording Waltz for Debby (TP-008). (When will the TTP release the companion release Sunday at the Village Vanguard—or is the master tape in really bad shape?)! Hit the tape machine's play button and exit room and walls and enter Evans' trio. Not only can you see to the very back of the Village Vanguard but there's an amazing ability to hear and clearly understand what the audience is saying. And when the audience applauds, the reverberation of their handclaps fills the club. (Oh yes, the silence is deafening on those pieces recorded that Sunday before the audience arrived.) But the beauty of the S5s is more than skin deep. There's just something really special about how the S5s communicate the emotion, harmonic shadings and romanticism of Evans's playing. Evans' absolute precision and mastery of the piano with never a note out of place. A simply amazing sense of articulation and lack of smearing of notes without that somewhat mechanical quality often associated with the LP issues. The piano's overtones simply envelop the instrument. That remarkable interplay between Evans and LoFaro! That's why he was the master! 

Just as, if not more impressive sounding than the aforementioned pair of recordings, is my 2013 PFO Product of the Year Smoke and Mirrors tape (Yarlung Records). While anyone with one ear could hear through the Martin-Logan Summit-Xs that this Bob Attiyeh produced and recorded album was a sonic spectacular, there was simply no inkling what was to come when listening to this amazing performance and recording through the Magico S5s. To begin with, the ML Summit-Xs don't come close to the S5s in reproducing the prodigious and extended low end of Harrison's Canticle No. 3 on this recording. Two, the speaker's (and system's) low noise floor produces an unbelievable sense of transparency, resolution and spaciousness. Finally, there's the S5's ability to articulate and communicate without adding or subtracting from the repeating patterns of, for example, the marimbas on Reich's Nagoya Marimbas.

Before proceeding any further, however, it's important to mention that current (or prospective) S5 owners should when listening ensure that their ears are positioned roughly midway between the tweeter and midrange driver. While this tweak probably proves more beneficial for height challenged listeners like myself, those with listening chairs with low seat will also benefit from this free tweak. Accounting for seat height significantly impacts and improves the system's already amazing transparency, resolution, harmonic structure and bass integration.

Love is A Many Splendored Thing

Electrostatic speakers have, despite all of the improvements in dynamic speaker design, technology, parts, etc, continued to reign supreme for decades because of their midrange purity, coherency and resolution. Interestingly, in the case of hybrid electrostatics like the ML Summit-Xs, their midrange quality is directly traceable to the panel's lightness and responsiveness to the electrical signal. The midrange purity and resolution of the S5 on the other hand, appears to derive in part from the speed and control of the specially designed Magico midrange drivers, in part from the lack of colorations emanating from the speaker cabinet and in part to the bass being better integrated and not mucking up the midrange. Nor is there any better example of the S5's midrange resolution and neutrality than Essential Elvis, Vol. 2 (Analogue Productions APP 057-45). This album has converted more than one digital lover into an analog enthusiast and receives my vote for the best LP reissue of all time. The Magicos on either "There'll Be Peace in the Valley" or "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," reveal the smallest nuances of Elvis' voice as well as the vocal range of each and every Jordanaire. The conversations between Elvis and the engineers in the control room (perhaps a more appropriate title for the album is "Elvis Raw") are rendered with uncanny resolution. Not to mention, the Magicos give a new meaning to Elvis (as well as the Jordanaires) is in the room. One thing is for sure though. Don't blame the Magicos if this recording doesn't come to life. 

When all is said and done, however, the S5's best quality might well be (when the speakers are optimally positioned and toed-in) its upper octave performance. If I've heard "The Worried Drummer" cut from Mallets, Mayhem and Melody (Columbia CS8333) once, I've heard it a thousand times. Yet with the Magicos, it was a totally difference track. Take for instance part way into the piece where the triangle is struck and the instrument resonates and decays for a period of time. While the Summit-Xs captured the triangle's decay, the Magicos take it to the next level. All of a sudden, missing textures and shimmering appear out of nowhere. But there's no better example of the S5s tweeter's freedom from compression and breakup than on the wonderful Erato recording of Marius Constant's ensemble piece for unusual instrumentation 14 stations pour percussion et six instruments (Erato STU 70603). The gongs and cymbals release a tremendous amount of energy and there's no evidence of hardening until the cartridge, in this case the soon to be reviewed Transfiguration Proteus, shows some strain.

Lastly, the low end performance of the Magico speakers has been the subject of some discussion and even some disagreement among reviewers. Make no mistake. Play great recordings through the S5s and the bass is extraordinarily clean, uncolored, defined, dynamic and tight. Play less than reference albums and all bets are off. On the best recordings, there's none of that low frequency overhang that we've become so accustomed to that we accept it as real (not any different than doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result). Except these colorations don't exist in real music. There is on the wonderful Kip Dobler direct-to-disc recording Reaching Out from the Inside (Cardas CR5813) or Arnold Overtures with its big bass drum a slight loss of the slam in the lowest octave. But that loss of slam is more likely attributable to the tube amplifiers than the speakers; clearly a solid-state amplifier might be the answer here if you're a bass freak.

But there's real magic happening just a hop, skip and jump further up in the frequency spectrum. Take Elinor Frey playing Bach's Suite No. 1 for solo cello in G major from the Yarlung Records reel-to-reel release Diagloghi. Through the Martin-Logan Summit-Xs Dialoghi is a very good recording; through the Magico S5s, I challenge anyone to find a better, more realistic sounding cello recording. The instrument's textures and marvellous tone. The sound and feeling of Frey's specially made baroque bow moving across the strings. The precision and the timing of the music. The vibrant richness of the cello without crossing over into the area of romanticism or bloating. It's all there in spades. Not to mention this is the first speaker that has successfully captures a real sense of space between the cello/piano. So much you feel you could drive a truck through it. Well at least a small SUV. 

A Match Made in Heaven

Magico's stated goal for the S series line, "was to utilize the technology developed for their Q-series of speaker and make it available to wider audience." And the S5 is a tribute to the success of this approach. The S5s are extremely well balanced and no one quality stands out in contrast to another. On one hand, the speakers resolve all of a recording's nuances and at the same time pay homage to the music. Every record and tape played through the Magicos was a new experience. No, the Magicos won't add pleasing colorations to your less than ideally recorded recording. What the S5s will do—if neutrality and bringing the sound of the original recording into your listening room is your goal—is bring the listener several steps closer to real music.

Are the S5s perfect? Is any speaker perfect? Where the S5s primarily falls slightly short of ultimate is in their scale of performance and resolution. Yes, its bigger brethren and other speakers will move a little more air in the lower octaves. But these are simply minor nitpicks and the S5s really deliver the goods.

This is hardly the final word on the S5 speakers. These Magicos are staying put and hopefully down the road, I'll have an opportunity to report on them being driven by a top and possibly even a bigger wattage solid-state amplifier. Stay tuned.

Technical Highlights

Alon Wolf and Magico have a very simple and noble design philosophy: Solve the fundamental issues without creating new ones. 

It makes more sense, though, since HIFI Critic, Soundstage.com and HIFI+ (see Magico's website) have already more than adequately covered the technical details about the S5, to explore some other questions about Magico speakers.

Possibly one of the most common questions relates to the differences between Magico's no holds barred Q- and their newer "second," S-series speaker line. (Also see upcoming interview with Alon Wolf.) "Both series," Alon answered, "are really from the same family. The S-series," added Alon, "is small in stature and big in sound." (Well it is about 500 lbs less anyway.) "No, the S-series is not built to quite the same rigid tolerances as the Q-series," Alon continued, "but they are not different animals either. Basically both lines follow a common theme when it comes to the design of the speaker enclosures, crossover and drivers." Indeed, there's a common theme of transient attack, realism, dynamic range, low noise, etc. across all Magico speaker reviews. 

The Q-series offers more refinement, better crossover parts for lower distortion and noise floor and a custom tweeter that handles a bit more power. "While the S-series isn't quite as robust as the Q-series, the curved enclosure allows for," Alon points out, "better standing wave control inside the speaker than its cousin Q- series." On the other hand, the Q-series is more advanced with its massive bracing (or say the 1000 parts that go into Q7) that contributes to the speaker's lower noise floor. 

Alon also pointed out that, "it's important to remember that the S-series is a three-way as opposed to the Q-series that is a four-way speaker design." The dedicated mid-bass driver used the four-way design produces a more linear bass and a fuller presentation. 

Perhaps the bigger story or accomplishment is, though, is how Alon Wolf balances the different speaker design parameters and produce a great sounding speaker like the S5s? For example, why and how did he trade-off some efficiency for low end frequency extension? Or as he says, "there is no free lunch."

How many hours do the S5s require to fully break-in? According to Alon, the S-series requires around 600 hours, the drivers are partially broken-in in house during the QC process. The principal parts that needs to break-in according to Alon, "are the caps and particularly the chokes that need the additional time to optimize their magnetic field saturation.

When it comes to set-up, the Magicos were certainly no more difficult and in some ways because they're sealed enclosures, even easier to set-up, than other speakers. It was easy to get 80+ percent of their performance in a couple of hours using the old Cardas rule of thirds. Since the speakers arrived from the previous stop on the review tour sans owner's manual , I fine tuned the S5's positioning eg. relative to the side-walls using (1:3, 1:4, etc.) using the Q5 instruction manual. Once the speakers are situated, then it's especially crucial to toe the speakers in to balance the tweeter (using a Bosch laser digital). After all was said and done, I ended up with the speakers toed-in about 2 inches and sitting in roughly an isosceles triangle. Then as previously mentioned, listening seat height was used to fine tune the sound of the speaker. I can't, 1) comment upon speaker break-in time since this review pair was well used; and 2) the sound with or without the grilles because the miles had taken their toll and the ability of one of the grilles to magnetically attach to the baffle. 

Finally it's important to carefully consider the speaker cables used with the S5s. Given the speakers strengths, I would definitely opt for a very low noise speaker cable with extended and tight low frequencies, great resolution and excellent spatial qualities. While I would have liked a bit more time to experiment with a few other cables lying around the apartment, The MIT Matrix cables (MIT 2C3DMI1 recommended by MIT) sent back a couple of months ago would  be worth investigating. 
......
Myles B. Astor

the Magico M3 represents the almost clichéd term ‘state-of-theart’ in a way that few speakers can truly claim…..this is a top-to-bottom piece of loudspeaker art. Magic.
Edgar Kramer
Playing familiar material, the M3 presents an outgoing personality that demands your listening attention. No sweetness or bloat or ‘warmth’, just pure neutrality. The M3’s class-leading dynamics and bass control and detail – no doubt partly due to the sealed enclosure and partly due to expert crossover design – are phenomenal. It’s an effortless low-end that hits in the chest while providing extraordinary levels of micro-detail, be it bow on strings, from acoustic to finger-picking electric bass. And don’t even bring up the kick drum… a truly concussive experience. 
 
The tweeter and midrange have been superbly integrated. It’s a coherent top-to-bottom assimilation of drivers allowing true timbres and throwing a large sonic soundfield with outstanding depth perspective and precise image population. A case of speakers disappearing... 
There’s a feedback loop within product design. As a brand expands its market reach, its profi le and cachet grow. And in parallel with such an advance, the natural progression of product design may take things to a point of re-evaluation. A good engineering based company will then analyse its position, reassess its technologies, and perhaps engage and energise the Research and Development department into a re-examination of existing products and, with the required budgetary injection, further advance them with a view to reinventing the brand flag ship. With a new flag ship in place, that new tech can trickle down to new lower-rung models... and so the circle continues. 

Since its inception, Magico – headed by industrial designer and musician Alon Wolf with his committed team of engineers – has dedicated intense efforts into developing highly-engineered drivers and heroically inert enclosures, with each generation of products featuring further refinements. This steady progress led to development of the limited-edition M Project in 2014. The speaker’s implementation of the company’s best technologies positioned it at the very cutting edge of loudspeaker design. 

The M Project garnered accolades and universal admiration but, alas, at its near US$130k sticker, ownership was attainable only by a privileged few. Further exclusivity was ensured via restricted production of just 50 pairs. But Magico’s ongoing success led it to develop a somewhat downscaled M Project. The new design was to incorporate many of the M Project’s technologies – some even further refined – in a more affordable speaker with wider availability as a result of a standard production run and normal product lifespan. Enter the Magico M3.

THE DRIVERS 

Magico has developed five bespoke drivers for the 3-way M3 using diamond-coated beryllium for the tweeter and, in a world first, graphene for the midrange and bass drivers. 

The 28mm MBD28 tweeter is a Magico design combining a diamond coating over a beryllium dome. The combination of diamond and beryllium construction provides an ideal balance of stiffness and extreme light weight over either material, if used primarily on the entire dome. It’s a long excursion, ultra-low distortion, wide dispersion driver using a large “neodymium based” magnet system which is said to be optimised for the speaker’s sensitivity and power handling. 

Exotic? Indeed, but how about graphene? This is a carbon allotrope, forming as atom-thick layers of pure carbon hexagonal nanotube sections. Although first observed in the 1960s it has only come to be isolated and used in the last decade, in electronics and semiconductors and – as here – in exotic composite materials which, simplistically, are considered a hundred times stronger than steel while being extremely lightweight. And that’s pretty much a description of the ideal material for speaker drivers. 

The graphene diaphragm material – Magico calls it ‘Graphene Nano-Tec’ – is used in the M3’s MAG6004RTC 150mm midrange driver and a trio of 180mm MAG7012RTC bass drivers. In conjunction with the high-tech drivers, Magico’s ‘Elliptical Symmetry Crossover’ – itself carefully constructed with ultra-high quality components – provides a system impedance of 4 ohms and a reasonable sensitivity of 91dB. The speakers’ frequency response spans from 24Hz to 50kHz (no ± parameters provided) with recommended power of between 20 watts and a high 500 watts.

THE CABINET 

The newly released M3 continues the departure – as first introduced in the M Project – from Magico’s previous all-aluminium enclosures. The massively-constructed cabinet is reinforced via a skeleton built around a three-axis aluminium frame structure, encapsulated in a sandwich carbon-fibre skin. A relatively new introduction to Magico speakers – as also applied across the new S series models – is a specifically-shaped proprietary polymer sub-enclosure housing the midrange driver. The entire enclosure has been carefully engineered to wring the maximum performance from the drivers by providing a solid platform totally annulling deleterious vibrations and resonances. 

The massive aluminium baffle’s design allows the drivers to be mounted from behind, which provides a smooth rounded profile free of unsightly mounting hardware. A shallow machined aperture curvature provides beneficial diffraction properties, and Magico has developed a special coupling system using copper gaskets said to dramatically reduce vibrational distortions. The rear panel is also constructed of machined aluminium and features a single set of high quality copper binding posts. 

Despite the light weight of carbon fibre in general, as used here on the side walls, the combination of massive aluminium baffle, top and bottom panels and the comprehensive bracing skeleton system translate to a speaker weighing in at around 145kg despite having moderate dimension of 1200mm high by 490mm deep and 340mm width. 

Magico includes a solid spiking system with the M3. However, in a substantial $14,900 optional extra, the company offers its tri-point base and M-Pod ‘noise-channelling’ vibration dissipating system, said to provide ideal coupling while offering substantial benefits in low-end transient attack and dynamic expression.

SHOWROOM SESSION

O K, off the bat and purely subjectively: the M3s are among the most physically attractive speakers this writer has seen. Few would debate this, surely. They are visually commanding – yet with room-friendly stature – while being constructed to the highest levels with quite obvious obsessive attention to detail. 

I’ve visited the premises of Absolute Hi End on a number of occasions, becoming familiar with the acoustics of the demonstration rooms. Each studio is minimalist in terms of furniture and equipment, and is acoustically treated. As always, Absolute Hi End’s proprietor, the affable Boris Granovsky, guided me through the system components and then left me to my own devices for an extended listening session. 

Playing familiar material, the M3 presents an outgoing personality that demands your listening attention. No sweetness or bloat or ‘warmth’, just pure neutrality. The M3’s class-leading dynamics and bass control and detail – no doubt partly due to the sealed enclosure and partly due to expert crossover design – are phenomenal. It’s an effortless low-end that hits in the chest while providing extraordinary levels of micro-detail, be it bow on strings, from acoustic to finger-picking electric bass. And don’t even bring up the kick drum… a truly concussive experience. 

The tweeter and midrange have been superbly integrated. It’s a coherent top-to-bottom assimilation of drivers allowing true timbres and throwing a large sonic soundfield with outstanding depth perspective and precise image population. A case of speakers disappearing... 

Note pitch, decay and leading-edge transient attack across the entire bandwidth is superb. The music is propelled in a way that provides true definition to the term PRaT while piano notes wane with open, natural upper harmonics. Especially satisfying is well-recorded snare, where the snap cuts through the mix without disrupting the whole. I’m talking profound resolution capabilities here, where dense mixes are cut through with scalpel incision. 

This is, remember, an in-situ evaluation at the distributor’s demonstration facility, not a full formal review – which would have necessitated having the speakers within a different context, that of my own listening room and system support. Even so, it was clear that the Magico M3 represents the almost clichéd term ‘state-of-theart’ in a way that few speakers can truly claim. From the enclosure construction and stunning finish to the advanced proprietary drivers, this is a top-to-bottom piece of loudspeaker art. Magic. 
…… Edgar Kramer

Awards

MAGICO S5 MkII - winner of the 13th Annual Positive Feedback Writers' Choice Awards for 2016

Magico S5 Mk. 2 Loudspeakers

When all's said and done, the only resemblance between the new S5 Mk. 2 and older Mk. 1 versions (that I enthusiastically reviewed) is their shape. And even there the S5 Mk. 2 version uses newly developed, rounded end caps to break-up vertical standing waves within the cabinet. The latest Magico S5 Mk. 2 features a new nanographene midrange driver that is 20% lighter and 300% stiffer than the S5 Mk. 1's original 6-inch driver. A new 1-inch Be/diamond coated tweeter. A new, lower slung, lower centre-of-gravity, 4-point base for the speaker cabinet. New 10-inch bass drivers replete with nanographene dust caps. Maybe most importantly, the introduction of the midrange driver sub-enclosure originally developed for S1 and S3 Mk. 1 model speakers.

Sonically, the biggest difference between the two speakers lies is the midrange. Yes, the speaker is quieter, cleaner and more resolving than the earlier version; most significantly, though, the midrange now better matches the transparency of the upper and lower octaves. The low end is tighter and more detailed, yet has an uncanny ability to capture the sound of say cellos or basses. The upper octaves are smoother, less brash and more linear. There's a marked improvement in the speaker's ability to focus that centre image. The S5 Mk. 2 might very well be the sweet spot in the Magico speaker line providing a bit of the flavour of Magico's more expensive M3s without quite the level of the new M3's refinement and quietness. 

Testimonials

I never dreamt when I first contacted you that I would end up with the system that we now enjoy!

Hi Terry,

Many thanks to you and the delivery team for getting those magnificent speakers safely installed on Tuesday, they certainly are impressive in both appearance and sound!

 

You always wonder if you have made the right decision and if the new equipment will live up to your expectations especially an item as significant as this. After only 2 days the answer is a very definite YES!! 

 

I have always believed that the true purpose of a high end system is 2 fold – primarily to give enjoyment to the listener/s, but secondly in so doing it is to bring the artist or artists into the living room, if you were to close your eyes you should be able to imagine the performers right there in front of you.
The Magico S7 do that and much more. The sound is so clear and clean, a very wide sound stage and brilliant imaging. The resolution is so good that you are able to pick out each instrument and the timbre of each note. But it seems more than that as everything blends together into a brilliantly enjoyable experience.

 

I have played a number of tracks now but there were 2 in particular that had been played a number of times on my previous gear and were enjoyable but played through the Magico’s gave an amazing WOW it has never sounded like that before!! I’m finding that you do hear notes and tones not heard before, right through the range.
The reason for choosing the S7 was the base extension, and so far it is exceeding expectations, very tight, strong and extended but thankfully not overdone. The base is there when needed and is very precise and deep.

 

It’s a wonderful combination from the MSB DAC & UMT/ Acoustic Arts Mono III’s and now the Magico S7’s. Judy and I are looking forward to much enjoyment and many very pleasant hours exploring.

 

Thanks Terry for your advice over the last almost 2 years, I never dreamt when I first contacted you that I would end up with the system that we now enjoy!

 

Kind Regards

David

LOVING these MAGICOs

David took possession of his beautiful Magico S3 MkII Red MCast speakers today.

Received this txt: 
LOVING these MAGICOs Terry, they are settling in and sound sensational. Everything I hoped for and they look fab in the evening sunshine. Why did I think I wanted black. Anyway thanks you for sorting, Awesome. Have a great weekend. 
......David

.....will blow your mind

Terry need to tell you:
"Just listening to Pink Floyd."Welcome to the Machine" off album "Wish You Were Here".
The opening couple of minutes of sound track will blow you mind on the Magico S3s......

David