I’m going to tell you right up front that I am not someone who has loved every Magico to come down the pike. I fell hard for the original Mini and have admired its descendants. But other models have sounded a little “forced” to me. I could not escape the sense that the electronics, no matter how powerful, were struggling mightily just to get the drivers moving. (As, indeed, they were, as testified by Magico’s traditionally low sensitivity.) At times, despite the exemplary resolution and other virtues Magicos encompass, this one trait burst the illusion of reality for me. Because live music, of course, flows effortlessly.
It’s also fair to say that most Magico models fall squarely into JV’s “accuracy” camp. I wouldn’t call myself an “as you like it” kinda guy, but I do feel that some natural warmth is lost in the recording/playback chain, so a speaker that burnishes the sound a smidge is actually enhancing realism. Magico’s stringent adherence to accuracy is clearly not a failing—many rightly consider it an asset. But for me the parsimonious warmth level means that while I greatly admire Magicos, I haven’t always loved them.
Now comes not only a new model, but an entire new line of Magico speakers. The S Series hews to the company’s immutable design principles, notably including sealed cabinets made of ultra-rigid aluminum, yet delivers them at significantly lower price points than comparably-sized Q Series models. What corners have been cut? Not many, it seems. The Q’s have more internal bracing to lower the ultimate noise floor (and yet the S’s have benchmark-setting noise specs), and the Q’s cabinets are made from solid aluminum sheets whereas the S models must make do with the extruded variety (but the S cabinets gain rigidity through the greater curvature of their enclosures).
The Q’s also feature across-the-board higher-grade parts, but you wouldn’t know it from perusing a list of S-model components. These include anodized aluminum-alloy woofer cones, Nano-Tec midrange cones, a beryllium-domed tweeter, crossovers with copper-foil inductors and Mundorf caps, and single-strand internal wiring throughout. The S Series may be Magico’s volume leader, but radical compromise simply isn’t in the company’s DNA.
Atop the new lineup stands the S5, a four-driver, three-way design that was also the first S model to be introduced. (Since the S5’s unveiling, Magico has released the S1 and, most recently, the S3.) The S5 occupies the lucrative, crowded, and hotly contested $30k weight class, which includes stellar entrants from the likes of Rockport, KEF, and Wilson. Yet Magico’s Alon Wolf, a preternaturally confident man, is not cowed by these rivals. Indeed, he makes no secret of the S5’s mission as a competition-slayer.
I first heard the S5 way back at the 2012 T.H.E. Show Newport. My reaction, given my admiring but tempered stance toward the brand, took me completely by surprise. I freaking loved the speakers. I loved them so much I was literally crying during the audition. I loved them so much, I didn’t want to leave the room. It seemed to me that on the way to building a less expensive speaker, Magico had—either intentionally or serendipitously—come upon a new sound. I knew immediately that I needed to spend more time exploring these speakers and Magico’s new direction.
Those explorations, however, had to wait. What followed that initial audition was a huge time lag before the speakers hit my loading dock (a.k.a., garage). Alon’s wish was to couple the S5 review with the first press visit to the company’s new manufacturing and test facility (see sidebar). Since we at TAS have trouble refusing a scoop, I readily agreed. The problem was that, as so often happens, moving into that new space took Magico longer than expected—a year longer. Eventually, Magico completed its move in, I flew to San Francisco to check it all out, and a few days thereafter a very glossy and very heavy pair of S5s took pride of place in my listening room.