As we all know, the golden age of audio happened in the 1970-80s. Those years saw rise and disappear such breakthrough technologies as beryllium drivers, phase linear speakers, computer controlled turntables. The industry was then truly revolutionized, so to speak it went into space and created some truly amazing products (remember Sony’s flat square woofers?) and then stood still for many years.
Of course there was a lot of progress in all things digital. But what about conventional amplifiers and loudspeakers? Rarely do we see some truly new designs. Yes, there is the Devialet, which integrates a DAC and a high end amplifier into a slim beautiful casing, easily measuring up sound wise to traditional hot and heavy analog behemoths. And today we will review really revolutionary speakers – Magico Q3.
When designing the Q series Magico’s engineers set themselves an ambitious task to make world’s best speakers. But their approach was quite different from what is widely accepted today. They decided to stick with traditional solutions but take them to the extreme. Having studied and measured many, many contemporary speakers, Magico’s team found out that cabinets played a very important role in speakers’ sonic signature. Vibrations and resonances of the cabinet distort what’s reproduced by the drivers, smearing the soundstage, altering timbres. So the solution was obvious. First of all, kill all possible resonance by making cabinets out of aluminum, notorious for its lack of self resonance. Then brace the cabinets internally again with aluminum braces – each Magico’s cabinet is comprised of 527 aluminum details. Finally eliminate bass reflex ports, opting for a sealed box design. Below you can see the measured result. Behold the cumulative spectral decay (i.e. resonance) of a Magico speaker vs. a conventional cabinet. Pictures speak for themselves.
The rest is just as impressive. The long excursion woofers are all in-house produced, their incredibly stiff and light cones are made of Nano-Tec composite. The beryllium-coned tweeter works up to 50 000 Hz. All drivers are mounted in the cabinets in what is called Bass Mechanical Resonance Cancellation configuration. The crossover network comprises only the highest grade audiophile Mundorf caps and inductors. Add to that some massive spikes and pucks and you have Magico Q3. Yes, from the outside they look quite "passe partout”, but inside they are like no other speakers on the market. Given their design, Magico Q3 may well combine the detail of electrostatic speakers and the punch of conventional speakers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Some figures now. Magico Q3 are three-way speakers 119 cm tall, weighing in a whooping 113 kg per piece (aluminum cabinets, remember?). The sensitivity is rated at 90 dB, frequency response is 26 – 50 000 Hz at -3dB. Nominal impedance is 5 Om, dropping to a minimum of 2.8 Om. Speakers can handle up to 1000 W thanks to their amazing drivers – three 18 cm Nano-Tec woofers, 1 midrange Nano-Tec driver and a 2.5 cm beryllium tweeter. As you’d expect from modern high end speakers, Magico Q3 are pretty expensive.
Caution about system matching. Although the sensitivity is specified at 90 dB, measurements show that the actual figure is around 88 dB, which is absolutely fine. However, the impedance drops sometimes down to 2.8 Om, and combined with a rated power handling of 1kWt it makes one understand that low-powered amplifiers will not be welcomed here. Ideally one should partner Magico Q3 with such amplifiers as Vitus Audio, Musical Fidelity Titan and like. We tried two Devialet models and the smaller 170 could not master these difficult speakers. So most of the listening was done using the top of the line Devialet 240, which proved to be an excellent choice, only to be bettered by two Devialet 240’s in bridge mode. As for the cables, we used different sets from Argento, Valhalla and Arkana Research and were very pleased with results.
When unpacking the Magico Q3 you immediately notice, besides the sleek appearance and the substantial weight the complete absence of protective grills. On one hand, it benefits the sound quality – any grill alters the sound to some extent, on the other hand, even though the Nano Tec drivers should do absolutely fine without protection, the naked beryllium dome seems exposed. As you may know, beryllium is quite toxic during production or when heated, but once finished it is quite safe to use at home (unless you heat it up to 2000 C or grate it with diamond abrasive). However, as per Magico’s manual, should you damage or break the dome, you are to seal the front panel with duct tape, collect all the shards, put them in a hermetically closed bag and send the speaker for repair. The main danger that the shards present is that you cut yourself or accidentally swallow them. According to other manufacturers of beryllium tweeters (such as ScanSpeak), the dome is actually very strong, so it is unlikely to break even if poked with a finger. Anyway, a small protective grille would be welcome; most other manufacturers – from Focal to Revel – always try to protect their beryllium domes.
One of the benefits of a sealed box speaker is that it is much less sensitive to placement in a room than vented designs, but there is a downside. Such speakers generally require a very muscular amplification, and Magicos are a perfect example. And since there is just one binding post per speaker, you can forget bi-amping Q3s. Another thing to consider – these speakers take a very long time to burn in and start to sound their best after a least three months of continuous use. So if you decide to give them a listen don’t expect magic right out of the box, and always ask the demo person how long they have been run in for, as their stiff suspension really requires a long time to loosen up.
The resulting sound will be absolutely worth your while. You will understand just why Magico are so praised today by audiophiles all over the world. "Best components – best drivers – best speakers ever”, such are the adjectives often used to describe their performance! Indeed, the Q3 throw a huge and deep soundstage with plenty of layers and pinpoint imaging. The complete lack of cabinet resonance makes speakers truly disappear; the room just seems simply filled with music, sometimes it even seems that sounds come from outside the walls! The high frequencies are superbly detailed, always remaining an integral part of the music rather than being pushed forward for a false sense of detail. Magico Q3 have uncommon resolving capabilities, you hear so much more into the well know recordings, but at the same time this does not distract you from the music. All the timbres are faithfully reproduced, instruments are incredibly real, you feel compelled to reach out and touch them. Yet there is no artificial coloring, speakers are wonderfully honest and transparent, one of the best in that regard. The all-important midrange is outstandingly present, making voices sound so eerily real. The bass lovers may feel shortchanged at first, but after a while you start to appreciate the cleanliness of the low registers. What you thought was bass before were just room resonance and midbass thickness. When a powerful and punchy bass line is present in a recording, Magico Q3 will hit you in chest like nothing else. The sound they reproduce absolutely belies their moderate size.
And what about emotions, do Magico Q3 convey them? Actually, one of the main strengths of any good speaker is its capability to play all kinds of music equally well. If speakers make you cry when playing your favorite jazz and classical music, but fall flat on their faces reproducing rock and hip-hop, you know you have "genre-challenged” setup. Believe me – after a while you will inevitably find fault even with how they play jazz and classical, and you will be back in the shop for another upgrade. Truly great speakers don’t have a preference for a specific kind of music, be it Dvorak of Infected Mushroom. When a recording is great, they will deliver greatness, if it’s a dud, well, they will let you hear in all its ”glory”. So, how do Magico Q3 fare? In fact, they are absolutely at home with any type of music. "Samson and Delilah” by Saint-Saens will surprise you with sheer scale and power of attack. Listening to Beethoven’s opus 27 will make you literally see a piano materialize in your room. Manowar will grasp you by the throat, just as it should, Jethro Tull are always playful and colorful, with a brilliant rhythm section. Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Rihanna, Eminem, you name it, Magico Q3 never run out of breath. But best of all, they don’t just reproduce beautiful sounds, they play music and that alone will make you want stop your painful quest for perfect sound. This is where you stop looking around and only – maybe –sometimes wonder what bigger Magicos may offer.
We like – the best of the two worlds – detail and transparency of electrostatics with a punch of a huge traditional woofer
We don’t like – very limited choice of suitable amplifiers, no protective grill on the tweeter
Verdict – one of the rare truly innovative speakers; a small step for a company and a quantum leap for the high end audio market