Newport 2012: The Audio Salon presents Magico, Constellation, Widea Labs, Brinkmann, SonoruS, MIT Cables
Magico is an oddball brand. On the one hand, they’re renowned for putting out extremely high-tech product. On the other hand, they’re also known for pricing those products in a way that can be generously described as “stratospheric”. And on the gripping hand, the level of envy, lust and concomitant anger and frustrated rage in folks commenting on the first two points is about as high as I’ve ever seen it. Whoever you are, and wherever you fall on the economic scale, if you’re an audiophile, you’ve heard of Magico — and you have an opinion about their speakers — even … well, even if you haven’t actually heard a Magico.
I confess: I don’t own a pair of Magico speakers, nor have I had the pleasure of having a pair of Magico speakers grace my man-cave. Because of these two facts, I really ought not to have much in the way of an opinion about the brand, or their approach to audio reproduction, other than what I’ve gleaned in the uninformed drive-by-shooting experiences an audio show offers. Some day, perhaps Irv and Alon will cargo-cult me a pair of Q1s — an event which would be celebrated by a YouTube video, with me, worshiping at the pedestals — but until that Great Day, all I have are limited if burnished impressions.
But I will say this — I like what they’re doing.
Look, it’s not enough to slap a driver in a box and call it done. Not if you’re going to sit there with a straight face and charge new-BMW prices. There’s a sucker born every day, to be sure, but it literally and actually pains me when I come across brands that don’t even try to create value. I hate walking around audio shows feeling like a manufacturer only sees the letters A-T-M stamped on the face of those trying to push into the room.
Anyway, to make a long story short, Magico isn’t one of those brands.
That said, Magico isn’t cheap. I used the word “stratospheric” for a reason — their shit is crazy-expensive. Sure, yes, there are brands that cost more — even way more. But I don’t have the feeling, looking at the marketing material and reading the websites, that there aren’t many other brands that spend as much time really unraveling the whys and hows of sound reproduction. Magico truly seems to give a shit about their products and the designer really seems to be trying to do something other than make a statement about how gullible audiophiles are and how willing we are to part with our hard-earned cash.
Want to dig into Magico? Feel free — if you haven’t already. But I suspect you already have. You’re an audiophile, after all.
Okay, so that was a long way to go to make the following point — I respect the brand. I don’t necessarily love or hate the sound, but the R&D is impressive and the products are equally so. For example, I wasn’t surprised when the $60k Q5 got rave reviews. Ditto the raves when the eye-wateringly expensive Q7 ($165k for a pair) hit the market, but given the price, I, like most everyone else, merely blinked and moved on. Magico was on track to creating monster speakers that no one real could ever afford. Oh well.
And then they did something weird. Case in point, the $28,600 Magico S5 speaker.
This isn’t a Q5 with a better paint job. It’s a whole new thing — extruded cabinet structure, instead of CNC’d — even if the drivers are Magico (except that beryllium tweeter). Soundstage has a short write up here.
Say what you want about the brand. Say what you want about their pricing. Say what you want about value and feel free to rage about the injustice of being passed over, yet again, by that damn Lotto Fairy (I do, and daily). But one thing I know — here at Newport, the S5 was a spectacular sounding speaker.
Maier Shadi of The Audio Salon was kind enough to help me out with a parts/price list for the room, so let me put that up here before I forget:
- Constellation Audio Centaur 250W/ch: $24,000
- Constellation Audio Virgo Preamplifier: $19,000
- Constellation Audio Cygnus media player/DAC: $24,000
- Constellation Audio Perseus phono preamplifier: $19,000
- Brinkman Balance table, arm, cartridge: $44,000
I don’t have much in the way to offer on the Constellation Audio gear other than to say: “wow”. The attention to tiny finishing details on this gear is crazy. Every surface is finely textured, contoured, and cared for. If you’re okay with absently and compulsively stroking your audio gear, then Constellation will be a good brand to try. And this gear is all from their low-end “Performance” line of audio products. Egads.
Maier tells me that the cables are all MIT: “MA-C interconnects, with interfaces optimized for Constellation Amplifiers; MIT Oracle Super High Definition Speaker Cable, the worlds first adjustable articulation speaker cables with Fractional Articulation Technology”.
Check it out — A Pacific Microsonics Model 2! Don’t see that every day. This is the DAC that my reference Berkeley Audio DAC is based on. They were $18,000 new, but if you don’t already have yours, too bad.
A $16,500 Nagra CD Transport and the new $15,000 Aurender W10 by Widea Labs was on display. There’s not much out yet on the W10, but this is supposed to be the top-of-the-line thinking from the Widea.
The major features are:
- Ability to send up to 24/192 AES signals over the dual or single wire standard.
- S/PDF output via BNC
- Master clock capability
- New dedicated 24/192 Asynchronous USB output card.
- 3 TB music storage
- 240 GB solid state drive for playback and logic
- Billet aluminum compartmentalized and isolated chassis structure.
- OLED front display
A $13,000 SonoruS ATR-10 tape deck was also on hand, along with a suite a tapes from The Tape Project.
On the way into the main suite, The Audio Salon team set up a small listening station with a $7k Aurender S10 source feeding a $2,500 Lynx Hilo DAC, here used also as a head-amp/pre-amp feeding a pair of $2k Audeze LCD-3 headphones. The price mismatch is a bit extreme, but the sound was mouthwateringly good — I’ve never heard anything like this out of a pair of headphones.
All told, the gear in the main room retails/retailed for over $400k. Of course, not all of it was in use — hard to use a both a $15k and a $24k media server at the same time, or to use a $13k tape deck output while also using a $44k vinyl playback system. So, more probably, the actual playback chain was limited to closer to $300k … not that it helps much, but there you go.