MAGICO S3 MkII floorstand speakers in MCast finish 24Hz-50kHz 88dB

MA 03 SF S3 CA
NZ$ 47,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
Magico

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

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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. 

"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

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)
M-Coat (smooth high-gloss paint).

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Specifications

Driver complement: 
Tweeter: 1x1" MBD7 Diamond Coated Beryllium Dome 
Midrange: 1x 6” M390G XG Nanographene Cone 
Bass: 2x 9” M905G XG Nanographene Cone

Measurements: 
Sensitivity: 88dB 
Impedance: 4 ohms 
Frequency Response: 24Hz – 50 kHz 
Minimum Recommended power: 50 Watts 

Dimensions: 1220H x 300D x 300W mm
Weight: 77Kg

Reviews

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).

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

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

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.

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.

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

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     

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.

Videos

S3 experiance at high-end show

Scott Walker Experience S3