Magico S5 Loudspeaker

A New Direction

Equipment report
Magico S5
Magico S5 Loudspeaker

Now, after nearly two years, I am finally in a position to give a full report on the S5 and, by extension, the S Series in general. I have had the benefit of both extended, quality time with the S5, as well as multiple exposures to the S3 and S1. What I can now confirm is that the Magico S Series does indeed have a new sound. To these ears it is a better sound, and I’m going to tell you why.

But first, let’s begin with Magico’s foremost calling card: resolution. Thanks to their remarkable solidity, high-grade drivers, and effectiveness at banishing extraneous vibrations, Magicos have always been a shoulder or two above most other speakers in extracting inner detail. Sure enough, the S5 is a detail-unraveler nonpareil. For those who savor audio components that unearth previously obscured details—and who in this hobby doesn’t?—the S5 is a decadent treat.

One of the first things I played through the speaker was the seemingly bottomless (detail-wise) “Mercy Street” from Peter Gabriel’s masterwork So. The S5 disclosed a previously unheard—even on highly revealing speakers—cornucopia of tiny components in the song’s ever-fascinating percussive underpinning. An already riveting track became even more so.

Furthermore, the inner detail delivered by the S5 manifests itself—without a trace of edginess, mind you—from top to bottom. Too many speaker designs do well with midrange detail, but their top or bottom is a relative blur. Not so with the S5, which is revealing of every nuance no matter where it falls. Further, the S5 doesn’t just produce transient-based detail like the aforementioned percussion; it is equally adept at unearthing timbral information. This is a distinct and complementary type of detail, one whose resolution makes instruments sound more real.

New details are one thing, and I don’t mean to diminish their impact. But for me a far more thrilling experience is hearing how multiple musical lines and sonics, having been retrieved, layer one atop the other to create a whole. In truth, this is a much tougher test of a speaker, because one detail or musical event can easily overshadow—or completely obscure—another. Revealing everything at the same time requires not only superior resolution but also near-perfect linearity and timing. The S5 meets these additional requirements, and consequently pulls off the layering feat with unusual aplomb.

By way of illustration, consider that in “Mercy Street” there are actually two vocal lines being sung in unison rather than what at first appears to be one. The second vocal is a double of the first, one octave down. Gabriel has explained that this was done very purposefully to emphasize the downward depressive spiral of the song’s subject, poet Anne Sexton. Depending on the system, the lower-pitched vocal usually falls somewhere between inaudible and subliminal. Through the S5, it was more distinct and independent than I have ever heard it. An already profound track became even more so.

Of course, resolution of this caliber is no stranger to Magico speakers. What I particularly like about the S5, though, is its ability to not only deconstruct the music, but to put it back together again into a cohesive, organic whole. If I had to choose between ultimate resolution and this ability to present the sum of the musical parts, I would opt for the latter. As it turns out, with the S5 there is no need to choose.