MAGICO S5 mKII floorstand speakers in MCast finish 20Hz-50kHz 88dB

MA 05 SF S5 CA
NZ$ 64,495.00 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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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 delightful, very lifelike on lifelike recordings, and joys to listen to…Magico is going to have what I think will be its hottest seller yet in this wonderful transducer.”…..
Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound, report on Munich Show

“The S5 was robust and powerful in the bass, smooth yet detailed in the treble, with an intoxicating midrange that would seem to invite long listening sessions. The highs were airy and fast over the several cuts we heard, yet they never became harsh — the S5 seems to be voiced just right, actually. But the bass — oh, the bass. First, it freakin’ pounded. I mean, shake-the-walls and rattle-the-rafters pounded. These speakers will play loud, clean, and loud — frankly, they played louder than any speaker I’ve heard anywhere near their size. My initial reaction is that a pair of them will have astonishing dynamic range, but that they can also display finesse when needed. And they always maintained that silky smooth midrange no matter the cut we heard…...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

The new S5 Mk II silhouettes its predecessor however that is where any similarity ends. Significant performance enhancements are realised with the implementation of new and advanced transducer and enclosure designs which have been distilled from the extensive engineering research devoted to the S7.

A newly designed 1-inch Magico Diamond coated Beryllium diaphragm tweeter provides smooth and extended high frequencies along with matching sensitivity, wide dispersion and increased power handling. A robust motor system and long-throw voice coil design enables lower distortion and cutoff frequencies that enhance driver integration with the midrange driver.

A higher benchmark of measured midrange performance is achieved with a newly designed 6-inch Magico driver that is formed of Mutli-Wall carbon and Nanographene. The combined result of these two cutting-edge materials creates a new cone that is 20% lighter and 300% stiffer than the cone used in the S5. A purpose built sub-enclosure made of a proprietary polymer material provides an acoustically optimised rear chamber for the midrange to operate within. The sub-enclosure concept was first introduced in the S3 and provides noticeable enhancements in midrange control and articulation.

Newly designed 10-inch Magico bass drivers offer a new motor system with extremely powerful magnets and ultra-stiff aluminium cones that are specially coated and finished with graphene dust caps. The new bass driver is capable of producing incredibly deep, powerful and complex bass frequencies with the utmost speed and accuracy.

Specifications

Reviews

Awards

Videos

Specifications

Driver Complement:
1" (2.54cm) MBD7 Diamond Coated Beryllium Dome
6" (15.24cm) MAG6004RTC Graphene Nano-Tec Cone
10" (25.4cm) MAG10508 Aluminum Cone

Sensitivity: 88dB
Impedance: 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 50 kHz
Recommended Power: 50 watts - 1000 Watts
Dimensions: 122cm x 36cm x 38cm
Weight: 100 kg

Reviews

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 

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 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

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

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

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. 

Videos

Magico S5 + Vitus SCD-025 + SIA-025