Magico’s A series of loudspeakers is interesting for several reasons—certainly in terms of their design and sound, but also in how this series fits into Magico’s entire history of speakers. Those of you who recall the introduction in 2010 of Magico’s first Q-series speaker, the Q5 ($59,950/pair when introduced, all prices USD), will know that those who first saw and heard it thought it a groundbreaking product. Its all-aluminum cabinet was displayed at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, with one side panel removed. Attendees were mesmerized—the lattice of braces and bolts and high-tech drive units began an era of Magico’s history that saw huge growth, not only in terms of units sold but in stature within the industry. The company’s founder, Alon Wolf, was making speakers his way. They looked like nothing else, and they sounded like nothing else.
If you remember the Q5, you’ll probably also remember that the Q series then grew, both up- and downmarket. The smallest model was the Q1 ($26,500/pair in 2012), and slotting between it and the Q5 was the Q3 ($38,950/pair in 2011). The last of the Q models was the flagship, the Q7 ($165,000/pair in 2012)—the original and the Mk.II version ($229,000/pair in 2015) of that behemoth found their way into my listening room. All the Qs shared several things: cabinets of aircraft-grade aluminum, beryllium tweeters, and Magico’s proprietary Nano-Tec driver cones.
The A game
The history of Magico’s Q models—all but the Q7 and Q Sub are now discontinued—is what makes their A series so surprising, even though both lines can be described as being, essentially, aluminum-and-Nano-Tec tanks. The kicker? The A models cost considerably less than did even the smallest Q.
The A line begins with a two-way minimonitor, the A1 ($8600/pair); moves up to a three-way midsize floorstander, the A3 ($13,800/pair); and culminates in the most advanced A, the five-driver, three-way floorstander reviewed here: the A5 ($24,800/pair). For home-theater enthusiasts, there are also the ACC center-channel ($7600 each) and the ASub subwoofer ($7200 each).
The A5 is not only the largest A model, at 44.75″H x 10.5″W x 14.9″D and 180 pounds, it’s also the newest. It benefits from Magico’s latest thinking on loudspeaker design, specifically in the area of driver cones. The A5 has five drivers: three 9″ woofers, a 5″ midrange, and a 1.1″ beryllium-dome tweeter. The woofers span almost the entire width of the front baffle, and their cones are designed to move lots of air. As you’ll read below, they succeed at that, partly because of their impressive combined surface area, but also because of their massive 5″ voice coils (for high power handling and efficient thermal behavior) and 1/2″ of excursion. Magico claims that these woofers can produce 115dB SPL at 50Hz, measured at 1m.
The woofer and midrange cones are made of a refined version of Magico’s Nano-Tec material, a combination of carbon fiber and graphene designed to be super light, super stiff, and optimally self-damping. The refinement is what’s between the layers of carbon fiber/graphene: instead of the Rohacell foam previously used, the core is now a honeycomb of aluminum—a far stiffer material, but still super light. The goal is to make possible pistonic movement of the cone far beyond the range of frequencies these drivers are asked to reproduce, with no cone breakup anywhere near the drivers’ operating bandwidths.
Magico says that the A5’s midrange is its very first 5″ driver, designed and sized to closely match the 1.1″ tweeter’s dispersion characteristics—for great sound, the outputs of these two drivers must blend seamlessly. This 5″ driver also has a titanium voice coil, and a foam surround that, Magico states, “helps achieve ideal cone/surround integration, faster settling time and impressively low distortion.” The midrange is mounted in its own subenclosure within the A5’s cabinet. The 1.1″ beryllium tweeter is powered by a neodymium motor derived from that used in Magico’s more costly M- and S-series models, and is claimed to extend out to 50kHz. Magico says that the tweeter’s rear chamber is packed with damping materials to absorb the dome’s rear output.
The crossover network comprises parts made by Mundorf of Germany, including their new M-Resist Ultra foil resistors. The three-way Elliptical Symmetry Crossover design features a 24dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley filter. The A5’s sealed enclosure is similar in construction to those of the older Q models in being made of thick panels of 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum. The panels are damped to prevent ringing, and inside, the A5 is braced with more aluminum. Rapping my knuckles on a side panel produced a dull thud—the cabinet felt very inert. The finish is brushed, instead of the hard, smooth anodizing of the Qs—one of the few visible cost-saving measures in the A series.
With bass extension specified to plumb to 24Hz, the A5 is a full-range speaker. Other specifications include: a frequency range of 24Hz-50kHz, an impedance of 4 ohms, a sensitivity of 88dB, and a range of recommended amplification of 50W to a whopping 1000W. Adjustable steel spikes are included; grilles will set you back another $800/pair.
The A5 is boxy—the polar opposite of the sculpted marble-based cabinet of the Estelon X Diamond Mk II I reviewed in April. I like and appreciate both looks, though I can see many audiophiles strongly preferring one combination of shape and materials over the other. All drivers are mounted with exposed hardware on the front baffle, the bottom of which bears a tasteful Magico logo in bright copper. On the rear panel is a single pair of binding posts easily tightened by hand. In my room, the A5s looked terrific—fairly compact compared to most speakers I review, and with faultless build quality. They didn’t meld into the background, nor did they dominate, perhaps because of their rather “normal” dimensions.
The Magico A5s were driven by either my Boulder Amplifiers 2060 power amp or the MSB Technology S202, which I reviewed last month. I used Shunyata Research Alpha SP speaker cables and Shunyata Delta IC balanced interconnects. My digital-to-analog converter was MSB’s Discrete DAC, though I also had on hand a review sample of MSB’s Premier DAC. My source component was an Apple MacBook Air laptop computer running the Roon and Audirvana music-player softwares, and using the Qobuz streaming service exclusively. The Apple was connected to the DACs with a Shunyata Alpha USB link. Power was filtered through a Shunyata Hydra Alpha A12 power conditioner, and I used Shunyata’s Venom NR-V10 power cords for the power amps, power conditioner, and DAC. The DAC, computer, and conditioner sat on my SGR Audio Model III Symphony equipment rack. My listening room measures 21′ 9″L x 17′6″W x 9′H.
The Magicos were not fussy to set up in my room. The first hint that the Magico A5 might have smooth off-axis dispersion and a neutral tonal balance was how easy the pair of them were to set up in my room—and, as you can see in the speaker’s Klippel “spinorama” frequency-response graph (supplied by Magico), the A5 has those qualities. It’s been my experience that the fussier a speaker is to set up, the more that indicates problems in the speaker design than in the room itself. My room is well treated with polycylindrical diffusers on the front wall and absorption on the sidewalls, and has medium-height wall-to-wall carpeting.
I listened intently for changes in the sound as I inched the A5s around, looking for their sweet spots, but the Magicos ended up more or less where most speakers do in my room: 9′ apart from tweeter center to tweeter center, 42″ from rear panels to front wall, and 27″ from each tweeter center to the nearer sidewall. The speakers were toed-in so that the tweeter axes crossed about 2′ behind my head when I sat in my listening position, 11′ away.
During that setup process, I also took my usual in-room acoustic measurements. I placed a Behringer ECM8000 condenser microphone at nine positions at and around my seated listening position, along an arc described by a 20″ radius based at the center of my head. I have an MXL Mic Mate XLR-to-USB adapter that I use to connect the ECM8000 to an Apple MacBook Pro laptop running the FuzzMeasure acoustic-measurement software. I took a reading at each spot, and averaged the results to produce the graph seen here. This frequency response (20Hz-20kHz, 1/6-octave smoothing) is the flattest I’ve measured in my current room. The usual 5dB suckout I’m used to hearing and seeing between 70 and 80Hz is almost nonexistent—in my room, the A5s had plenty of audible energy in this region. There’s a slight tilt from left to right in the frequency response, the low bass 2-3dB higher in level referenced to 1kHz. The top end’s gradual rolloff is due to absorption by the carpet and furnishings.
I couldn’t wait to get the Magico A5s dialed in to my room and get my favorite bass tracks playing—this speaker’s three 9″ woofers had my ears hankering for them from the moment I read the press release. Over the past decade I’ve often written about “Magico bass”: fast, articulate, “electrostatic-like,” highly nuanced—I’ve applied all of these terms to past Magico designs. Would they describe the A5’s bass as well?
They only began to describe what I heard. I started with “Avratz,” from Israeli trance duo Infected Mushroom’s Converting Vegetarians (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Hommega/Qobuz). This 2003 release is, um, infectious from the very first hearing. The bass line enters 40 seconds in, and I was absolutely mesmerized by it. The A5s’ bass was deep, articulate, and soooo easy to hear into. I’ve heard this track through other speakers, but the A5s nailed it best. Yes, the bass was deep and weighty, but it was also more tuneful than I’d heard before—not a hint of one-note, homogenized bass. Audiophiles are often forced to choose between weighty bass or tuneful bass, but the A5s in my room gave me both simultaneously—a treat indeed. At 1:50 into “Avratz,” the A5s delivered physical impact to my chest, and made me want to turn up the volume a bit more to hear if they’d reached their limit. Instead, they delivered even more impact, the sound and the music scaling perfectly with increasing volume level. Bass drives this song, and the A5s’ bass left me wanting nothing—I was drawn even further into the music. Through the A5s, listening to Infected Mushroom was a totally satisfying experience. But there was still more to be infected by . . .
“Avratz” is 10:23 long, and its variety of instruments and sounds, among them synth bass and acoustic guitar, make it a great test track. At about 4:20 are what sound like congas and a synthesizer—the midbass and low bass are largely if not entirely electronic. Again, the A5s handled it perfectly—the congas had ideal impact and reverberation. I could tell that the lower bass stayed linear down to the very bottom—I repeatedly got solid in-room response to 20Hz, the very bottom of the audioband. Nor was it only the lowest bass that was right—I heard and felt punchy, weighty midbass and upper bass. What I most appreciated was that, from 20Hz right on through to the range of frequencies constituting the midbass, the sound was balanced in amplitude and in quality—all that bass had detail. After playing many bass-heavy tracks, I concluded that the A5s were delivering the most linear bass I’d heard in my room. That quality alone led to some of the most satisfying listening experiences I’ve had here.
My favorite bass torture test is Bruno Coulais’s music for the film Himalaya (16/44.1 FLAC, Virgin/Qobuz), which I’ve used to test many of the best loudspeakers ever created. “Norbu” begins with huge bass-drum whacks whose sound rolls from the front of the room to the rear—right through me—the sound then smoothly decaying out of existence just as the drum is struck again. It’s been my experience that a speaker with deep, linear bass response will reproduce these whacks with even amplitude until the note starts to fade. Many speakers I’ve had over the years have left a hole of diminished amplitude at some frequency, somewhere in the sound of each whack. But the A5s perfectly reproduced all the bass in “Norbu.” And on the initial impact of mallet on drumhead, the A5s achieved room lock—that sense that the bass frequency reproduced has excited every last molecule of air in the room—and maintained it through to the end of the decay. There was no boom or overhang, but that bass was damn strong.
Things were just as good higher in the audioband. “After the Fall,” from Norah Jones’s new album, . . . ’Til We Meet Again (24/96 FLAC, Blue Note/Qobuz), sounded fantastic. Her piano was tonally perfect: weighty in the left-hand notes, dense in the higher-frequency right hand. Her voice was crystal clear, and the soundstage spread across the front of my room and was many feet deep; combined with the natural reverb captured in this concert recording, the overall effect was as if I were hearing live music in my room. Funny thing about these Magico speakers: they had plenty enough ability to dig deep into recordings and resolve their details, to let me know exactly what those recordings contained—and they were easy to listen to for hours on end. Any speaker that can simultaneously do both is a great speaker.
For a long time now, I’ve thought Magico speakers’ reproduction of high frequencies to be well balanced: in a word, excellent. Through Magicos, the crucial qualities of the highs have always, to me, just been there: the detail, the shimmer, the abilities to sparkle or to disappear, depending on what’s called for. The A5s, too, got all that right. Better still, their highs fit perfectly within the entirety of the audioband.
I’ve lately had London Grammar’s Californian Soil (24/44.1 FLAC, Metal & Dust/Ministry of Sound/Qobuz) in heavy rotation, and the A5s reproduced this album in all its glory, leaving me nothing to complain about. For instance, “Baby It’s You” begins with a man’s deep voice far off to the left of and behind the left speaker, with light percussion just to his left and more upfront. In reproducing a soundstage that I could “see” into with great specificity, the A5s let me precisely map these sounds. On that stage, instruments and voices were tonally spot on and appropriately sized. I could ask for nothing more.
In the marketplace
So where does the Magico A5 fit in the current loudspeaker marketplace? A pretty enviable place. The fabulous Estelon X Diamond Mk IIs produced slightly more shimmer and sparkle in the very topmost frequencies—that diamond tweeter is a gem [ahem]. Then again, in my room, the A5s were just as neutral in the mids, their bass was actually more linear—and I never yearned for more HF detail. In my opinion, the Estelons are worth every penny of their price of $78,000/pair—which is more than three times the price of the Magico A5s.
My long-term reference speakers, Vimberg’s beautiful Tondas have always sounded super neutral in my room, where they’ve consistently produced huge soundstages. I’ve always considered the Tondas a stone-cold high-end bargain at $38,000/pair, and they’re built with amazing attention to detail—the Tonda is one of my favorite speakers ever. But the Magico A5s played lower in the bass, and matched the Vimbergs in soundstage size and the ability to “disappear” in the room, for more than $13,000 less per pair. Never thought I’d say that.
Appearance and build quality must also be considered. The Estelons’ amazing finish and beautiful shape looked better than any other pair of speakers I’ve had in my room—including the Magico A5s. The Vimbergs come in a finish of glossy paint or wood veneer, both of which are stunning—Vimberg’s finishes are second to none. On the other hand, the five-driver A5 weighs virtually the same as the X Diamond Mk II, is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and is manufactured with fanatical attention to detail in assembly and testing, just like the Vimberg. I’ve always admired Magico’s military-grade construction practices, a tradition continued in the A5. But you, and maybe your partner or spouse, will have your own opinion on what looks best.
My point is that the A5 competes with some mighty fine loudspeakers that cost much more. Revel’s Ultima2 Salon2 ($21,998/pair)—an industry benchmark for performance and value—costs about the same as the Magico, but, as I wrote in a blog for SoundStage! Global, the A5 is better built, and uses more cutting-edge materials. I haven’t heard these two models side by side, but I’d love to.
Anyone who pays Magico $24,800 for a set of A5s gets a pair of cabinets of aircraft-grade aluminum stuffed with some of the industry’s most advanced drive units, crossed over to each other with a filter made from expensive German Mundorf parts, all assembled and measured in a state-of-the-art factory loaded with cutting-edge test and measurement gear. That sounds like a recipe for a speaker that should cost $50,000 or even $100,000/pair—and many companies wouldn’t be able to produce such a speaker at any price. But a pair of A5s can be had for $24,800. And we’re not done yet.
All of those details wouldn’t matter if the sound quality wasn’t there—and that’s the best part of this story. The A5 produces deep, linear, weighty, detailed bass; clear, neutral, present mids; and highs that always reveal and never detract from the music. The A5s produced soundstages that could be vast, and images on those stages that were precisely placed and sized just as you would imagine they should be. I loved listening to all types of music through these speakers for hours on end, and at wildly varying volume levels. In all those hours, I heard no weaknesses in their sound.
The Magico A5 is the best deal in high-end loudspeakers today.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- Speakers: Estelon X Diamond Mk II, Vimberg Tonda
- Amplifiers: Boulder Amplifiers 2060, MSB Technology S202
- DAC-preamplifiers: MSB Technology Discrete and Premier
- Source: Apple MacBook Air laptop computer running Audirvana, Roon, Qobuz
- Interconnects, speaker cables, power cords: Shunyata Research: Alpha USB link, Delta IC balanced interconnects, Alpha SP speaker cables, Venom NR-V10 power cords
- Power conditioner: Shunyata Research Hydra Alpha A12
- Rack: SGR Audio Model III Symphony
Magico A5 Loudspeakers
Price: $24,800 USD/pair; grilles, add $800/pair.
Warranty (parts and labor): 90 days; with registration, five years.
3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 649-9700