Magico S1 Mk II Loudspeaker

Strong Family Resemblance

Equipment report
Magico S1 Mk II
Magico S1 Mk II Loudspeaker

The sound—or lack thereof—of the diamond-coated dome tweeter is alluring, with a lack of hardness and harshness at the top of the audible frequency range that surely indicates good mechanical behavior of the driver well beyond that point. The Act I Prelude to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin begins with a high-flying harmonized theme for violins divided into eight parts. It’s rare to hear that ethereal sonority realistically recreated on disc. Through the Magicos, I did, with the Esoteric SACD reissue of Herbert von Karajan’s EMI program of Wagner Overtures and Preludes. Not only did the strings register as individual players joining to produce an ensemble sound, but it was possible to hear that other high-pitched instruments—flute and oboe—were in the mix as well. Cymbals on good jazz recordings (Patricia Barber’s Café Blue, the M & K RealTime Records direct-to-disc LP For Duke) weren’t splashy, and it wasn’t hard to distinguish among cymbals of different sizes. It’s not just the extended, linear output of the tweeter that makes the top end of this loudspeaker so beguiling; it’s the seamlessness with which it hands off to the graphene mid/bass cone—a device that clearly can keep up with the high-frequency driver it’s paired with in the S1 Mk II.

Bass performance from this sealed-box system was tight, tuneful, and punchy on recordings having an abundance of such information, say, “Brite Nightgown” from Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat. In an attempt to embarrass the modest-sized Magicos, I assembled an electronica playlist on the streaming service Tidal—tracks like “Strobe” (Deadmau5), “Spannered in Pilton” (OTT), and “Heartbeat” (The Knife)—and turned the volume up to an un-neighborly level. The Magicos held their own, with more than a suggestion of gut-wrenching bottom-end impact. You can’t open a dance club with S1s. But I do expect to hear from the condo association.

Because all Magico speakers are sealed-box designs, they are capable of producing deep bass—but at the price of decreased sensitivity. Accordingly, I tried the S1 Mk IIs with a well regarded, moderately priced 200-watt stereo amplifier of yore, the Parasound HCA-2200II and, yes, with program material having lots of low-frequency information, the beefier amp provided better bass control (and a sense of greater dynamic headroom). But the S1’s owner’s manual recommends a minimum of 50 watts per channel and I think that’s fair, if those 50 watts are good ones. The Pass XA 60.8s didn’t sound underpowered; it’s just that one won’t regret having a big amplifier to drive any Magico loudspeaker.

Spatially, the speed and continuousness of the two drivers serves well those who relish dimensionality in the listening experience. SACDs and Pure Audio Blu-rays from the Norwegian 2L label often provide seating diagrams for the musical forces as they were recorded, including a program of wind ensemble pieces performed by the Royal Norwegian Navy Band (Symphonies of Wind Instruments). For works by Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Rolf Wallin, there are two semi-circles of woodwinds closest to the conductor, a ring of horns, percussion and tubas behind them and, across the back, a straight row of trumpets, cornets, flugelhorns, and trombones. Morten Lindberg’s recording is simply miked and the Magicos recreate the disposition of the players just as depicted in the liner notes. Soundstaging is similarly impressive, whether the recording is out to represent a real space (Kingsway Hall for Decca’s La Fille mal gardée) or an intoxicatingly expansive artificial one (“Why Worry” from Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms).

Needless to say, Magico’s S1 Mk II isn’t a perfect loudspeaker. While the S1 Mk II is undeniably a full-range speaker, it’s still a relatively small one, and if your room is big, and your taste runs to large-scale music, and you like to listen to that music at life-like levels, you’re going to be disappointed. More existentially, we all know that there is no such thing as a “perfect loudspeaker.” That transducer would have to produce sound that, objectively and subjectively, was indistinguishable from the real thing—and that ain’t happening, at least in my lifetime. Because of this inescapable fact, we audiophiles find ourselves having discussions about the merits of speakers voiced according to “taste” as opposed to those designed strictly by the numbers. All the finest loudspeakers, of course, employ both approaches. But more successfully than most, Magico begins with theoretical constructs and then undertakes a lengthy and methodical course from computer to test bench to factory to listening room. They create products that both measure well and excite the brain’s pleasure centers as effectively as loudspeakers of the “as you like it” school, to use JV’s terminology.

Magico has steadily moved its family of products forward in its entirety. Remember, there was a time when Magico’s enclosures were made primarily of wood; now they’re all-aluminum, save for the M Series (which uses carbon fiber and aluminum). For the S Series and Q Series, Alon Wolf has his “platform” established and continues to advance the performance of the drivers and other components he puts into these optimized enclosures; significant engineering accomplishments achieved in the most exalted Magico models will ultimately inform the design of all the speakers produced in the Hayward, California, factory. The Magico S1 Mk II is, indeed, as much of a Magico as the S7 or the Q7, and must be a top consideration for anyone in the market for a loudspeaker up to $20k. As the saying goes, it “comes from a good family.”

Specs & Pricing

Type: Two-way, sealed box enclosure
Driver complement: One 1" diamond-coated beryllium dome tweeter, one 7" graphene Nano-Tec mid/bass cone
Frequency response: 32Hz–50kHz
Impedance: 4 ohms
Sensitivity: 86dB
Dimensions: 8.5" x 43" x 9.75"
Weight: 120 lbs.
Price: $16,500 (M-Cast finish), $20,295 (M-Coat finish)

3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA

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