Magico M6

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Magico M6

I’m going to start this blog by repeating some of what I wrote about Magico’s limited-edition, tenth-anniversary M Project loudspeaker, since Magico’s new M Series flagship, the M6, wouldn’t exist without it. After this, I will delve into how the M6 differs from its superb predecessor (and it differs quite significantly) and how those differences affect its presentation.

I might as well say at the start that the M6 is, IMO, the best loudspeaker that Magico has yet made—the most transparent, the most detailed, the most invisible, the most seamlessly of a piece, the most startlingly lifelike. It is also the best dynamic loudspeaker I’ve yet heard (and I’ve heard most of the competition, the Wilson WAMM Master Chronosonic being a big exception). At $172,000 the M6 is expensive—far more money than the fabulous $29,000 Magnepan MG30.7, which the M6 resembles sonically, exceeding it in most critical areas but also, arguably, not equaling it (or certainly differing from it) in a few others. Many of these differences come down to the differences between large unenclosed planars and smaller enclosed point sources, although the way that Magico has bridged the gap between boxed and boxless honestly has to be heard to be believed.

But we will come to that in time. In the nonce, if you’re in the market for the most realistic transducer that the high end currently has to offer, have enough space to house huge (four feet wide and seven feet tall), two-panel-per-side planars, but are relatively limited in what you can spend, then by all means go for the Maggie 30.7. If, on the other hand, money is no object and you want the most head-slappingly realistic speaker no-object money can buy, I would purchase the M6. 

The M Project 

So…let’s talk a little Magico history.

As you probably know, I’ve been following the progress of this skyrocket of a company from the moment I first heard the original Mini in 2006. Since then, Magico has gone from titanium-sandwich drivers, ring-radiator tweeters, and stacked-birch enclosures to nanotech carbon-fiber drivers, beryllium dome tweeters, and massive aluminum enclosures to what has become the current M Series platform of graphene carbon drivers, diamond-coated beryllium dome tweeters, and carbon-fiber-and-aluminum enclosures. What has stayed the same, however, is Wolf and Co.’s ongoing pursuit of perfection.

Of course, the first of many thorny issues with such a quest—which is certainly what Magico is on—is what is meant by “perfection.” For Magico the answer to this question is, and has always been, the lowering of distortions of every measurable kind. Every advance that the company has made has been accompanied by an audible reduction in noise (from drivers, crossovers, and cabinets) and a concomitant increase in resolution and transparency. For Magico, the perfect speaker would be no speaker (or no sense of one)—a pure, uncolored conduit from source to listening room.

This said, not everyone has loved Magico’s ultra-transparent, ultra-neutral, ultra-low-distortion sound (or bought into its pursuit of measurements-based perfection). Let’s face it: One man’s neutral, low in distortion, and transparent is another’s cool, lean, and analytical. And cool, lean, and analytical is precisely the way some listeners have heard Magico Qs.

To be fair to their critics, Magicos in general are not warm, cuddly, forgiving speakers, like Raidhos or Wilsons. They appeal to listeners who value transparency to sources—or what others call “accuracy”—above all else. If a source is well recorded, Magico Q Series loudspeakers come as close to the real thing as any speakers on the market, now or in the past. If it is not, well, they tell you so—not in an overly insistent way, but nonetheless in a straightforward one.

I happen to like this kind of “just the facts, ma’am” honesty, but I’m in the minority. Most listeners, I think, prefer drama to documentary. They want a transducer that thrills them the way music—live or canned—thrills them, and could care less about how much coloration it takes to consistently deliver those goosebumps or how close the result comes to the sound of acoustic instruments in a real space. I call this (majority) group “as you like it” listeners, but it’s just as fair, and less faintly pejorative, to call them “musicality-first” ones.

In between the accuracy and musicality listeners is the absolute sound contingent, whose search for those recordings and components that best preserve the sound of real acoustic instruments in a real space was the ideal upon which TAS was founded. To an extent, both of the other streams feed into this central pool, albeit on a kind of a contingency basis. Accuracy-first listeners are searching for the recordings and equipment that deliver the most convincing semblance of the real thing, too, provided that they don’t also turn sow’s ears into silk purses by grossly coloring the sound. Though they may not have an overriding interest in acoustic instruments played in a real venue (i.e., in classical or acoustic pop and jazz), musicality-first listeners are also delighted when something sounds “real,” because when something sounds “real” (while at the same time sounding beautiful and exciting) it just adds to the thrill quotient.

It has been my contention that no listener is purely one of these three types: that a delight in accuracy, musicality, and realism are common to all listeners, although one of these three “biases” tends to predominate (or at least it does most of the time). The trouble is that it is next to impossible to find a single transducer that will please all three palettes in equal measure. So where does a lover of Béla Bartók, Ray Brown, and The Beatles go to get the essential piece-performance-venue-and-recording detail, the lifelike tone color, weight, and transient response, the thrilling dynamic range, particularly in the bass, and sheer SPLs that each of these composers and musicians requires in significantly different proportions?

Until Magico’s introduction of its five-driver, three-way M Project loudspeaker in 2014, I didn’t think there was a single-transducer answer to that question. But the M Pro came close to being The One—or at least closer than the other dynamic loudspeakers I was then familiar with. Though Magico claimed that the M Project didn’t measure substantially differently than its other speakers—and on a global level this was clearly true—on a local level the differences between it and other Magicos were plain to hear.

Once mounted on its MPod feet (a must, BTW), the M Pro simply didn’t sound like its Q or S brethren—or at least it didn’t sound like them when it came to tonality. Oh, the M Pro had the same standard-setting (for dynamic drivers) low-level resolution of timbres and textures and the same lightning reflexes with transients as the Q Series speakers—and even lower distortion—but overall it was substantially fuller, richer, darker, and more powerful than the Qs, making for a presentation that was far more likely to appeal to musicality-first listeners, without entailing sacrifices that would limit its appeal to Magico’s traditional audience—the transparency-to-source and absolute sound crowds. Indeed, the M-Pro’s appeal to both of the latter was only increased, thanks to its denser and more lifelike tone color.

What had changed? In two words, the box. The M Project was the first “statement” Magico (since the M5) that did not use an all-aluminum enclosure. It was also the first “statement” Magico with an aerodynamic shape.

How this was accomplished without sacrificing the resonance-canceling blend of mass, stiffness, and damping of the all-aluminum boxes involved a neat (and costly) bit of engineering. The M Project enclosure had a newly designed curved shape that tapered gradually from front to back, eliminating the parallel walls and sharp, potentially diffractive edges of Magico’s traditionally “squared-off” aluminum boxes. Instead of employing thick aluminum plates for sidewalls, the M Project used sidepieces of carbon fiber (one of the stiffest, strongest materials around). According to Magico, these curved carbon-fiber sidewalls minimized internal resonances and greatly reduced the amount of internal damping that was required.

In addition to its curved side plates, the massive aluminum front and rear baffles were milled into curves, while the equally massive (two-inch-thick) aluminum top and bottom plates were CNC-machined to have edgeless contours. In other words, the M Project enclosure was designed to have the lowest number of potentially diffractive surfaces of any statement Magico since the Mini and Mini II.

Judging from the sound, top to bottom, it was obvious that Magico M Pro’s new enclosure was a better idea. The phenomenal clarity in the bass and power range and the remarkable resolution in the midband and the treble owed more than a little to this cabinet, which was simply allowing the drivers to sound more “freestanding” and less like drivers in a box.

The M6

Like the M Project, the new M6 is a five-driver, three-way floorstanding loudspeaker with a sculpted carbon-fiber-and-aluminum box. While the driver complement is the same as that of the M Pro (one 28mm diamond-coated beryllium tweeter, one 6" graphene-carbon midrange, and three 10.5" nano-graphene woofers), the drivers themselves have been improved (I’ll have more to say about this in a moment). More importantly, the monocoque enclosure has been considerably improved, making for what Magico claims is its quietest cabinet ever. By using the purest carbon fiber for its sidewalls, milling the top and the bottom caps into even more diffraction-free curves and arches, and further smoothing all the joinery, Magico has created a seamless, almost egg-shaped, carbon-skinned-aluminum enclosure that, when sitting on Magico’s remarkable constrained-layer MPod feet, allows the drivers to propagate with audibly less interference, as if they were floating in free space. It is, in large part, this uncanny sense of “boxlessness” that makes the M6 sound so much like the Maggie 30.7, albeit a 30.7 with a fuller power range, less sting in the treble, and more realistic top-to-bottom power, punch, and three-dimensionality.

As noted, the M6 drivers have also been improved, particularly the 28mm diamond-coated beryllium tweeter, which is now powered by a new motor system and is seated in an acoustically improved back chamber. As good as the diamond-coated beryllium tweeter was in the M Pro (and it was better blended than all of Magico’s previous high-frequency drivers, save perhaps for the dual ring-radiator in the M5), this one is considerably more of a piece with the midrange, exhibiting phenomenal power handling on hard transients, like strong, repeated, unchoked, closely miked strikes on sizzle cymbal, without a trace of the bright metallic aggressiveness that previous Magico Be tweets have often shown, or of the forwardness that the great Maggie ribbon sometimes exhibits on hard treble-range transients, or of the presence/brilliance range suckout of Raidhos and certain Wilsons.

I imagine part of this superb blending of tweeter and midrange is also owed to the graphene-cone 6" midrange, which is now seated in a carbon-fiber back chamber, tapered to function like a reverse horn. While I’m not sure what all has been done to improve Magico’s three 10.5" nano-graphene woofers, which were already phenomenally fast, rich, detailed, extended, and powerful, I do know that Magico has worked hard to further reduce the eddy currents created by voice coil movement, which produce “chaotic magnetic fields that work against the fixed magnetic field of the driver’s motor and thus create distortions.”

As I said at the start, the net result of these changes is, IMO, the best big Magico yet—the least present (in the sense of box or driver colorations), the most transparent, the most delicately detailed and simultaneously powerful, the most realistic. To hear a great LP of a vocalist, like Dean Martin on the exceptional Analogue Recordings reissue of Dream With Dean, through the M6 is not just to hear a wonderful singer singing wonderful songs in wonderful sound. It is to hear Dean Martin, gone now almost 23 years, live again—there in front of you, standing in the studio he was recorded in, with that U47 hanging a few inches above his face. It is to bring back the past wholly intact.

The M6 is a non-discriminatory re-animator. It does this same horripilating “back from the past” trick with fiddles like Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg’s Guanerius on Prokofiev’s firelight-on-frosted-windowpane First Violin Sonata [MusicMasters], grand pianos like Sandra Rivers’ gorgeous Baldwin on this same Prokofiev disc (Rivers’ sforzandos are simply phenomenal—translated by the M6s with goosebump-raisingly realistic power and absolutely no thinning of tone color), drums, bells, and other idiophones such as the big ensemble of percussionists who add their shifting colors and rhythmic accents to the Klangfarbenmelodie of Luigi Nono’s Polifonica—Monodia—Ritmica [Time], cellos and basses such as the choirs in Britten’s Four Sea Interludes [EMI] with their mournful ebb and flow punctuated by the bright sea-bird cries of flute and piccolo. The M6 even does this trick—though we had to send Alon Wolf out of the listening room to find out—at very loud level on hard-hitting rock ’n’ roll, reproducing the disco-licious bass guitar, drumkit, and synth on Blondie’s Parallel Lines [Chrysalis] with the same magical realism it brought to acoustic instruments.

The M Project was, IMO, the first Magico to add fully lifelike power-range beauty and muscle to Magico’s transparent and neutral palette, which made it the first Magico with equal appeal on every kind of music from rock to Rachmaninoff. The M6 takes this all-genre sonic appeal several steps closer to perfection. The M6 is not merely gorgeous and thrilling sounding, though it is both of these things (at times it reminded me a bit of one of Andy Payor’s superb Rockport speakers, albeit with better bass extension); it is also getting the harmonic/dynamic envelope more right than other Magicos I’ve heard. I assume this is because its “invisible” box is letting its improved drivers do their work more accurately. As a result, attacks, sustains, and decays are extremely naturally reproduced, with neither starting transient nor steady-state tone nor stopping transient being overemphasized by resonances added by the enclosure (or by the drivers themselves). This makes for an astonishingly beautiful, liquid, open, bloomy, and “organic” presentation, closer to the way instruments sound in life.

Although the M Project was (and is) no slouch at staging and imaging, the M6 also represents a significant advance in both areas—once again, I assume, because of its improved box and drivers. The way the percussion in the aforementioned Britten piece lit up Kingsway Hall, the way the string, wind, and brass choirs were embedded in ambience on the same music created a remarkable sense of being transported to a different venue whose dimensions extended front-to-back and side-to-side.

Conclusion

Having just come off the mind-boggling experience that is the Magnepan MG30.7, I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to yet another dynamic speaker in a cabinet. Once heard, the big Maggie’s boxless, “freed-up” presentation—with its lightning transient response, sensational resolution of musical detail, and uncannily natural tone color—is indelible. But the M6 matches it, strength for strength. Indeed, it exceeds it in the treble and the power range and the bass, where, as superb as they are, the MG30.7’s true ribbon and huge twin bass drivers are comparatively limited in power-handling and dynamic range (due to driver-excursion limits). While it is true that the M6 does not have quite the same lifelike size as the 30.7s on really big instruments (such as Clifford Curzon’s concert grand on the great Decca recording of the Brahms First Piano Concerto with Szell and the LSO [ORG]), it has much fuller low end and power-range color and impact (startling impact on tuttis). Moreover, unlike the Maggies, the M6 doesn’t make smaller instruments or voices sound outsize or bring them forward in the mix or add excessive sting (once again due to excurision limits) to high-pitched instruments played very loudly. In sum, it is far more naturally robust and faithful-to-sources and, ultimately, realistic.

Of course, it is also far more expensive. And it has competition. I’m not going to go through a list of contenders, as I did with the M Pro, and what they have to offer that equals or is superior to the M6, and that is because (this time around) I don’t think any of them is superior to this Magico. But I understand that most of you: a) don’t have the money for this marvelous contraption; b) are already happily living with alternatives; and c) resent having your babies called ugly. Well, I’m with you. I don’t have the money either; I’m quite content with the Maggies; and it wasn’t easy to say that I think the M6s are a good deal better. However, my job is to call ’em as I hear ’em, and the way I heard this one—throughout three days of close listening to my own recordings—left me feeling there’s a new sheriff in High-End Town.

Obviously, I’ll have more to say about the M6 if and when I actually get them into my own listening room. But I kinda doubt the bottom line’s gonna change. If you've got the dough and the Right Other Stuff (I was listening to a combo of Soulution, CH Precision, Clearaudio, Kronos, AMG, DS Audio, Berkeley Audio, and MIT—I won’t even guess its cost), and hanker for the very best that can currently be had, the $172k M6 is the speaker I recommend.

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