Magico M3 Loudspeaker

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Equipment report
Magico M3
Magico M3 Loudspeaker

In my blog about the M3’s big brother, the M6, I called that speaker the least present (in the sense of box or driver colorations), the most transparent, the most delicately detailed and simultaneously powerful and realistic Magico yet. The truth is I could say the exact same thing about the M3—the only differences between the two being that image height is slightly truncated and, as noted, midbass slam and low-bass extension are  reduced in the smaller speaker (at least they are when it is used without subs). Nonetheless, as was the case with the M6, to hear a great LP of a vocalist, like Dean Martin on the exceptional Analogue Productions reissue of Dream with Dean, through the M3 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. (To be fair to my new digital setup, I get the same “back-from-the-past” goosebumps listening to Harry Connick Jr.’s voice, Branford Marsalis’ tenor sax, and the truly magical harmonizing of the two towards the end of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” from the 1990 Sony CD We Are in Love.)

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 M3 and M6 take this all-genre sonic appeal several steps closer to perfection. The M3 is not merely gorgeous and thrilling sounding, though it is both of these things; it and its big brother are also getting the harmonic/dynamic envelope more right than other Magicos I’ve heard. I assume this is because their “invisible” boxes are letting their 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 neutral, liquid, open, bloomy, and “organic” presentation, closer to the way instruments sound in life.

Take, for instance, the M3’s reproduction of the bass drum in “Marche du soldat” from the aforementioned Pentatone recording of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire. Used as it is in this movement, as martial punctuation, it should have a sharp attack when it is struck hard (as it is here), develop clean low-frequency presence (kind of like a sonic “rebound” effect in which you hear the flex of the batter head followed by the barrel-like tone of the sound box), with all tone dying off as soon as the drum is damped by hand or knee or both. The M3 captures this harmonic/dynamic sequence with uncanny realism, without losing grip and definition, “darkening” timbre, or prolonging decay. It gives percussion the crisp, clear, powerful, unsmeared sound it has in a concert hall. And it does the same trick with the attack, tone, and decay of every one of the other instruments in the Stravinsky suite—from violin to clarinet to cornet to bassoon to trombone to contrabass.

Although the M Project was (and is) no slouch at staging and imaging, the M3 and M6 also represent a significant advance in both areas—once again, I assume, because of their improved boxes and drivers. Neither has the lifelike image size of something like the Magnepan 30.7 on big instruments such as pianos. But both have better focus and dimensionality, more stage depth and width (not height), and more visceral slam than the Maggies. But then both are a good deal more expensive than the 30.7s (and, let’s be honest, a good deal easier to house and live with in a normal-sized listening room than those giant planars).

The M3 is also “Maggie-like” (or electrostat-like) in other ways: It is a monster when it comes to transient speed and the retrieval of low-level detail—even better than previous Magicos and, as most of you know, Magicos have never wanted for resolution. Once again, I assume this turbo-boost in detail retrieval is owed to the quieter box (and improved drivers). You’re certainly not going to miss anything with these babies. Harry Connick’s very soft finger snaps towards the close of “Berkeley Square,” the rush of breath through the mouthpiece as Branford Marsalis holds onto that last note on the same name it, and it’s unmistakably there. But, thanks to the M Series’ fuller power range and better-blended tweeter, it’s there without the sulfur of the analytical—with the fuller, more natural color and dimensionality of the real thing.

The bottom line here is simple. Had I not heard the M6, I would’ve said that Magico’s Alon Wolf and Yair Tammam had painted their masterpiece with the M3. Truth is I still think they have. (The M6 is virtually the same picture, only on a larger canvas with slightly denser brushstrokes and a slightly richer palette.)

If your stereo lives in a smallish to medium-sized room (as mine does), and you have a piñata full of dineros, and you hanker for the best (the most accurate, the most lifelike, the most enjoyable) sound money can buy, the Magico M3 would be at the top of my very short list of contenders. It would be the dynamic speaker I would purchase had I the dough, blending, as it does so well, the boxless openness, speed, resolution, transparency, and seamlessness of the best planars with the color, power, and dimensionality of cones. If you have a larger room and unlimited funds…well, then the $172k M6 is every bit as much of a must-listen as the M3. (I do not know how the M6 fares in small-to-medium-sized rooms, though I may find out later in the year.)

Obviously the M3 gets my highest recommendation. It is as good a dynamic loudspeaker as you can buy. Do remember, though, that to elicit the very best from one of the most accurate and realistic transducers on the market you’ll need electronics that are just as high in resolution and as low in distortion/coloration as the M3s. In my experience that means something solid-state from the Swiss contingent (i.e., Soulution or CH Precision) or from the best American marques (Constellation, D’Agostino, etc.). I haven’t tried the M3s with tubes, but Magicos typically don’t fare as well with glass bottles as they do with silicon semiconductors (Convergent Audio Technology being the exception). All of this means that M3s aren’t just a loudspeaker purchase; they are a system purchase (including cabling, BTW). In other words, they are for the wealthy.

The rest of us will just have to “make do” with our Maggie 30.7s or Vandersteen Quatro Wood CTs or MartinLogan CLXes or (judging from what I heard at CES) KLH Model Nines. It’s not such a terrible fate, you know.

Specs & Pricing

Driver complement: One 1" (28mm) diamond-coated beryllium dome tweeter; one 6" graphene Nano-Tec midrange; three 7" graphene Nano-Tec woofers
Sensitivity: 91dB
Impedance: 4 ohms
Frequency response: 24Hz–50kHz
Recommended power: 20–500 watts
Dimensions: 13" x 48" x 19"
Weight: 320 lbs. each
Price: $75,000 per pair (optional MPod 3-point stand, $9600)

3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA 94545
(510) 649-9700

JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers: Magico M Project, Magico M3, Raidho D-1, Zellaton Reference Mk II, Avantgarde Zero 1, MartinLogan CLX, Magnepan .7, Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 30.7
Subwoofers: JL Audio Gotham (pair), Magico QSub 15 (pair)
Linestage preamps: Soulution 725, Constellation Altair II, Siltech SAGA System C1, Air Tight ATE-2001 Reference
Phonostage preamps: Soulution 755, Constellation Perseus, Audio Consulting Silver Rock Toroidal, Innovative Cohesion Engineering Raptor
Power amplifiers: Soulution 711, Constellation Hercules II Stereo, Air Tight 3211, Air Tight ATM-2001, Zanden Audio Systems Model 9600, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Odyssey Audio Stratos
Analog sources: Acoustic Signature Invictus/T-9000, Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V, TW Acustic Black Knight/TW Raven 10.5, Continuum Audio Labs Obsidian with Viper tonearm, AMG Viella 12
Tape deck: United Home Audio Ultimate 1 OPS
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Air Tight Opus 1, Ortofon MC Anna, Ortofon MC A90
Digital sources: Berkeley Alpha DAC 2, MSB The Reference DAC
Cables and interconnects: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power cords: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power conditioner: Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Technical Brain
Support systems: Critical Mass Systems MAXXUM and QXKequipment racks and amp stands
Room treatments: Stein Music H2 Harmonizer system, Synergistic Research UEF Acoustic Panels/Atmosphere XL4/UEF Acoustic Dot system, Synergistic Research ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), Zanden Acoustic panels, A/V Room Services Metu acoustic panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps
Accessories: Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic record cleaner, Synergistic Research RED Quantum fuses, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses

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