I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the entire Magico voyage unfold. Well, once they went public that is. Yet the lead-up to that stage is also quite significant. In 1994, some decade before he founded the company we now know as Magico, Alon Wolf set out to build the perfect speaker system – for himself.
Words and Photos by Greg Weaver
As Alon was putting the finishing touches on the design of his all-aluminum, four-way, dynamic-driver Reference loudspeaker, it occurred to him that he hadn’t yet explored what may be accomplished with compression drivers fitted to very large horns.
His initial experiments with such drivers proved remarkably rewarding, and these discoveries were coincident with his meeting a fellow audiophile Bob Nachtigall. Not long thereafter, spurred on by Bob and a small group of fellow West Coast audiophiles, Alon was commissioned to design and build the best possible loudspeaker that could be created. Thus began a four-year project that resulted in 2001’s the Ultimate.
But it was with the official launch of the Magico Mini in 2004, an extremely well-received $22,000 monitor with its dedicated stands, using a Scan-Speak Revelator tweeter and a constrained-layer, seven-inch vapor-deposited titanium sandwiched mid/woofer, that the company we now know as Magico burst upon the scene. I first heard the Mini a few years after its introduction, at CES 2008, because honestly, I’m not really into monitors – I’m a full-range kind of guy.
But it was with the launch of the floor standing $18,000 V2, using a pair of seven-inch Nano-Tec mid/bass drivers and the new proprietary Magico one-inch ring-radiator tweeter, followed by the larger, more refined looking and sounding $25,000 V3 in 2009 that really opened my eyes and ears to what Alon and Magico were up to and capable of.
At CES 2010 I was quite taken by the remarkable combination of the original Magico M5 driven by an entire suite of Cyrill Hammer’s Soulution electronics. It turned out to be one of the more remarkable sounding rooms of the lower floors in the Venetian; transparent, articulate, detailed, and so natural and relaxed that I was consistently drawn into the music.
Then the following January, in 2011, in my third year as a judge for the Consumer Electronics Association’s Innovation & Engineering awards, I was quite pleased to name the Magico Q5 as the winner in the High-Performance Audio category for that year. Then the following year, the introduction of the Q7 captured my Best of CES 2012 award.
These have been followed by many other remarkable introductions including the S1, the S7 with the S Series Subwoofers, the affordable A3, the M3, the M5, and the S5 MK II. As remarkable as each of these experiences was, none of them would begin to compare to my introduction to the heroic and astounding M9…Alon’s most successful design to date.
Inside the Magico M9
Now before I try to relate my M9 experience, I feel it imperative that you understand the whole of that experience; that I outline and define all the various and distinct factors that it took to create this remarkable, unsurpassed sonic accomplishment. To do so requires an examination of the construction of the exotic, heroic M9 itself, as well as a closer look into the remarkable sources, electronics, cabling, and ancillaries used to drive them, and the contributions of the exemplary bespoke space that was created in which to house all of this and allow them to articulately express their singular voice.
First, remember that we are talking about a massive, exotic, and expensive loudspeaker –at one thousand pounds per channel, the M9s retail for $750,000 per pair. Magico’s use of a broad variety of technologies, including such new and significant tools as the Klippel Near Field Scanner System and comprehensive laser vibrometry, were critical to permitting them to establish new benchmarks in several respects, so let’s take a closer look at the technologies required to realize this prodigious loudspeaker.
Standing eighty inches tall, its enclosure is assembled from three separate carbon fiber monocoques. The lower two segments, one housing both woofers, the second incorporating the tweeter and midrange, are preassembled, and shipped as one unit. The uppermost element, holding the two mid-bass drivers, is then situated atop the lower unit for final assembly at the speaker’s destination.
The lower-most portion of the assembly starts as a forty-inch diameter oval base at the floor, tapering as it flows upward, holding the two Nano-Tech fifteen-inch woofers. These ultra-stiff, ultra-light drivers employ five-inch diameter voice coils wound on titanium formers.
The narrower segment immediately above the woofer housing contains their sixth-generation 1.1-inch beryllium/diamond dome tweeter, which saw its first application with the M9. The extremely thin layer of diamond that is vapor-deposited on the beryllium dome affords a noteworthy increase in the dome’s stiffness with negligible impact on its overall mass. And just above the tweeter, we find the Nano-Tech six-inch midrange.
The top section continues the narrowing flaring and houses the two eleven-inch Nano-Tech mid/bass drivers. All mentioned Nano-Tech drivers are eighth generation and are fabricated from a sandwich of carbon-fiber and graphene skins over an aluminum honeycomb. Though formed over a backbone and front baffle fabricated of machined aluminum, much as the M-Series, the enclosure walls are fashioned from panels made of aluminum honeycomb sandwiched with an inner and outer carbon-fiber composite skin, and the whole structure uses a complex, triangular system of cross-bracing.
To accomplish his lofty goals for this statement design, Alon deemed it necessary to design the system to be actively bi-amplified. This led to the design of a line-level outboard analog two-way active crossover at 120Hz between the fifteen-inch woofers and the rest of the speaker. Each external crossover weighs another forty pounds and includes a sixty-pound power supply!
Magico M9 Set-Up
Along with $750,000 Magico M9s, a pair of Magico Titan-15 Subwoofers, at $32,000 each, were also employed to assist with active room correction. If you know what you are doing, additional subwoofers can be used to compensate for room resonance, allowing for the improved overall quality of bass throughout the entire room. The thing to understand is that it’s not about adding more bass; it’s about distributing it much more evenly throughout the entire space. Such multi-woofer application reduces standing waves through destructive interference, providing the most linear and consistent frequency response at all locations in the room.
Now, it should be apparent that you don’t just feed these enormous beasties any old audio signal and expect audio nirvana. No, you want to drive them with the most accomplished associated system of components available. The resulting sources, electronics, support systems, isolation components, and cabling, were comprised of a system with a retail price north of a million and a half dollars on its own.
New Zealand’s $30,000 Antipodes Oladra Music Server fed the $115,000 MSB Select DAC with its Dual Power Supply. Electronics were from Pilium’s Divine series of electronics, built in Greece, featuring the $50,000 Alexander Preamp, and using two pairs (four) of the Pilium Hercules Monoblock Amplifiers, at $85,000 a pair, or $170,000 total, to biamplify each M9. The gear rested on a mixture of several $34,500 Magico MRack-3s, and the $45,300 Magico MRack-4s. Magico Q-Pods, at $1,450 per 3-piece set, were used under all the smaller equipment, with the Magico M-Pods, at $3,400 per 3-piece set, used under all larger ones.
The system also features a pair of $5,900 AudioQuest Niagara 5000 Power Conditioners, made in the Netherlands ($11,800 total), the Taiwan-built $36,000 Telos Earth Grounding Monster, as well as an entire loom of Orion Silver Reference cables from Rome’s VYDA Laboratory Audio Solutions.
Next, all this remarkable gear was installed, set up, and painstakingly dialed in, in a custom-built, no-expense-spared, utterly optimized listening space, co-designed with SMT that, on its own, cost another three-quarters of a million dollars to fabricate. This room’s impact on the resultant sonic achievement cannot be overlooked or overstated. This room’s phenomenal contribution was immediately apparent by the overwhelming change affected in the nature of our voices during even our casual conversation as we moved from the adjoining hallway into this remarkable space. To that end, Magico created a time-lapse video over its five months of construction, which unfolds over an amazing three minutes and may be seen here.
The synergy created by the convergence of these three exceptional, exotic, and remarkably costly conditions simply cannot be ignored when considering the spectacular sonic results that left me near speechless on first listen, and are considerations that will clearly present limits to the number of listeners who will have the opportunity to live with, let alone hear such an amazing system. But I cannot overstress to you here that, as presented within this exceptional setting, the M9s were permitted to present the least colored, most authentic sounding, and musically engaging performance of any loudspeaker I’ve yet experienced. Hearing the massive, supremely engineered marvels that are the M9s – in their exceptional, dedicated, installation – has established a new benchmark for the performance of an electro-mechanical transduction system, allowing it to accomplish that grandest of deceptions. Their unmatched resolution, and the resultant transparency into the recorded event that it wrought, imbued them with an ability to all but vanish from the perceptual experience of listening to a recording, leaving only the more convincing sensation that I was in the presence of live music, and is unsurpassed in my experience.
If you’ve followed my YouTube channel, the audio analyst©, you’ll recall just how dumbfounded I was, to the point of being nearly unable to form complete sentences, during E96: Talking with Magico’s Alon Wolf, recorded with him immediately after our remarkable listening session. I feel completely justified in describing the Magico M9 to be an unparalleled audio engineering marvel, a technical accomplishment so remarkable that words alone may simply be inadequate to capture it accurately. They really must be experienced to begin to be understood in any manner.
No matter the music played, jazz, country, new age, pop/rock, dance, ambient, hip-hop/rap, singer/songwriter, classical, which, by the way, was all file-based, no streaming, left me rapt with the degree to which these immense loudspeakers vanished from this venue, completely getting out of their own way leaving only the music. Their overall clarity, a result of the elevated level of resolve that I touched upon earlier, and the supremely refined, heightened sense of expressiveness that it affords them, was irresistibly compelling, shining nuance and detail into every space and note of any recording they were asked to reconstruct.
One of the more tangible experiences that I can share with you to give you a sense of just how clearly they eclipse the performance of other top-tier, flagship loudspeaker offerings, came in how they reacted – or more precisely, didn’t react – to the regeneration of the infrasonic bass lines that permeate James Blake’s popular Indie Electronic/Alternative hit, “Limit To Your Love.”
With this track playing at significant volume, I walked around and laid my hands on the M9’s woofer enclosure, expecting to detect some degree, no matter how slight, of the sympathetic vibrations of the baffle walls to these deep and powerful bass notes. None existed. Read that again… NONE! I do not mean they were modest or minute in size, making them difficult to perceive or identify – I mean they were non-existent. I could perceive absolutely no sympathetic cabinet motion anywhere on the entire M9’s baffle or enclosure, even with this demanding, deep bass playing at volume, causing other items in the room, like the listening chairs, or my pant legs, to pulsate in consonance. No other speaker in my five decades involved with this industry has had its enclosure this effectively silenced.
Magico M9 Conclusions
This experience joins a special and concise list of similarly memorable audio watershed events for me. Jon Dahlquist’s demo of the DQ-10s in the fall of 1973. Hearing John Curl’s game-changing Vendetta Research SCP-2 for the first time in the early 1990s. The Von Schweikert Audio VR-11 at Richard Beer’s renegade The Home Entertainment Show 2004. The surprising Granada UB II loudspeaker at CES 2010. The original Magico Q7 at CES 2012. The revelations of the new era of Von Schweikert Audio, unveiled with the introduction of the ULTRA 11 at AXPONA 2017. Hearing the sui generis KRONOS Discovery turntable in the fall of 2021 or the Discovery RS tonearm in the spring of 2022. Each of these events represented irrevocable advances to the state of the audio arts.
This was an experience that not only reset the bar for the level of fidelity that I have experienced from the playback of recordings on an electroacoustic transducer system, but also left me wondering how, or even if, I would be able to find and apply words from our argot fitting enough to express the degree of sonic achievement realized by Alon’s masterwork, the Magico M9s. I’m still not sure I’m up to the latter, but…these remarkable and arresting loudspeakers have established a new pinnacle, both for their unsurpassed accomplishments and for the efforts and imagination of Maestro Alon Wolf. Bravo.