The S5’s imaging also follows Magico custom, which is to say that this speaker is an imaging champ. Few speakers are as adept as the S5 at creating the beguiling illusion of a soundstage wholly independent from its enclosure. An example is Decca’s wonderful LP set of Porgy and Bess. Through the S5, the proceedings unfold on an airy stage suspended, as if by invisible ties, between the two speakers. Singers and players are exactly where they’re supposed to be, yet without any “Hey, look at me!” hyperbole and, significantly, without drawing attention away from other musical elements. With the S5, imaging is seamlessly woven into the overall sonic portrait.
One change I do hear between Q and S models is in the area of bass. Many reviewers have hailed the tight bass of Magicos, but I have always found them a bit too tight and controlled. This is in keeping with what I hear from most sealed-box speakers. I tend to prefer the free-flowing ease of good vented designs, even if that means a tad less control. But the S5 offers a nice mixture of ease and control. In my room, once they were settled in, warmed up, and properly positioned—they like to be far apart and not very toed in—these speakers never once sounded forced. While always maintaining control—slop is anathema to Magico—the S5 unfailingly lets music flow without effort or strain. Neither the speaker nor the electronics behind them ever feel like they’re working hard to get the goods out—a significant and agreeable change. (Bye the bye, the S5 also has higher sensitivity than most other Magicos. Coincidence? I suspect not.)
The S5 is equally impressive in other matters of bass. As best I can tell, the move from Q to S has not compromised extension in any material way. The S5 is unequivocally a full-range speaker. As I noted in my recent review of the Rockport Atria, the last, deep note of the obbligato bass motif that ends “Mercy Street” is often a punch pulled. It certainly was for the (less expensive) Rockport. In contrast, the S5 tosses off the entire line with such assured fluency, it’s as if the speaker is saying, “Excuse me, but is this supposed to be hard?” Further, the still-tight bass lends these speakers an indefatigable, propulsive sense of rhythm.
If I were being picky about the S5’s bass, which I’m actually paid to be, I would say that in comparison to my reference speakers the S5’s low end is a bit less airy and dynamic. The S5’s low notes don’t breathe and bloom quite as marvelously as do notes elsewhere in its musical palette. However, I found that I was only aware of this on the grandest orchestral material.
We now arrive at the category where I hear by far the biggest change between Q and S Series models: voicing. Call it what you will—richness, sweetness, warmth—the tonality of the S5 contrasts with Magico’s standard strictly-neutral aesthetic. This sweetness is what stole my heart in Newport Beach, and it immediately made its presence obvious in my own listening room. As I indicated earlier, I find a warm tonal balance to be consonant with the sound of live music—so long as it is not overdone. The S5 has no difficulty walking that line; its warmth is completely natural sounding and certainly not euphonic.
Listening to the culmination of the S5’s sonic virtues can be quite a mind-blowing experience. That definitely was the case for me when I dropped the diamond on “Mars” from the marvelous new 45RPM ORG pressing of Mehta commandeering Holst’s The Planets. The ability to hear every single thing that every player is doing, to understand how all their written parts and performance-emphases layer and intersect, and to be in the throes of the slow but incessant sonic buildup proved, for me, an overwhelming combination. It takes a “complete” speaker to deliver such a complete listening experience.
The S5 now takes its place not only atop Magico’s new model range, but as the standard bearer for the company’s new sonic direction. With the S Series, Magico delivers a newfound tonal lushness, freer-flowing bass, and an emphasis on organic musicality. The beauty of the S5 is that it achieves these fresh attributes without sacrificing Magico’s way with resolution, imaging, bass extension, and rhythm. I have to applaud Magico for finding a way to create speakers that are more affordable and more overtly inviting than its flagship line, without losing the essence of the brand. I encourage you to listen for yourself. Even if you are someone who has loved every Magico to come down the pike, you may well be as surprised and delighted as I was.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: 3-way, dynamic driver, floor standing loudspeaker
Driver complement: Two 10" woofers; one 6" midrange; one 1" tweeter
Frequency response: 22Hz–50kHz
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Dimensions: 15" x 48" x 14"
Weight: 190 lbs.
586 Spruce Head Road
Hayward, CA 04858