Magico S7

Accuracy and Excellence

Equipment report
Magico S7
Magico S7

In some ways, the better a speaker is, the harder it is to review, and this is especially true of a speaker that is clearly designed to be as accurate and neutral as possible. The Magico S7 meets all of these criteria. It is one of the best speakers I have ever encountered. It provides an exceptional level of detail at every frequency with every form of music, and it has a neutral timbre that is not affected by any reasonable level of dynamic contrasts from the deep bass to beyond any rational definition of human hearing.

The practical problem is that such words don’t really describe the most critical aspects of the Magico S7’s performance in actual listening. The ability to resolve detail without exaggeration is always relative, and the only way to really understand the exact level of performance is to hear a given speaker perform over a wide range of music.

Anyone who has evaluated high-end audio equipment knows that the subtler aspects of audible superiority often require you to actually hear and conclude that one really good speaker is clearly superior to another really good speaker in given areas. This make it even harder to describe the S7’s level of excellence, as the speaker costs some $58,000. The S7 may not be the top of the Magico line, but it has to be compared against some of the best speakers in the world and judged a major investment.

Moreover, reviewer ego aside, deciding on the best of the best in any given price category is difficult to impossible. There are no ways to legitimately rank really great speakers in written words, given the problems in judging nuances in sound, valid real-world differences in taste, and the problem of somehow weighting different aspects of sound quality. In practice, the real issue is whether a given speaker is good enough to be one of the best of the best, and be judged as such, even at a price level where true excellence is the price of admission for a given speaker to even be considered.

That is still an extremely demanding standard to attempt to address in words, and fortunately the Magico S7 is a really great speaker! It represents one of the leading efforts at speaker design and innovation I’ve ever been exposed to. It builds on past Magico models to which my colleagues have given almost universally excellent reviews, and it combines an emphasis on technology with an equal emphasis on listening to the result. Both efforts pay off in every aspect of the S7’s performance. The proof is still in the actual listening and not in my words, but I would hope that reading the review will convince you that the S7 deserves the high-end equivalent of a Michelin three-star rating: “Exceptional, worth a special journey”.

Let me begin with an aspect of the S7’s performance where words are adequate: its features. These are simple in both basic set and actual operation. You connect a speaker cable to the two speaker terminals at the rear. There are no bi-wiring or external crossover options, and no adjustments other than finding the right location and leveling the feet on the support frame. (One caution, each speaker weighs 300 pounds. So sucker someone else into moving them!)

The S7’s unusually flat impedance curve makes it easier to drive than most speakers. It is also less sensitive to unusual speaker-cable loads—if still very revealing in exposing real-world sonic differences in given cable designs, as well as the sonic nuances in every other element in your system.

Its nominal 4-ohm load also gets the maximum safe power out of solid-state amplifiers. Although the S7 is not particularly sensitive I’d want an amp of over 100 watts with serious power reserves, good damping, and the ability to deliver the kind of outstanding dynamics this speaker is capable of. My Pass XA 160.8 (160Wpc) was fine. So was a PS Audio BHK300, and a friend’s restored ARC D-150 tube amp reminded me of how good older designs can be—but don’t skimp on either power or quality.

When it comes to setup, finding the right location does require the same careful experimentation and set-up alignment as any other speaker, but room placement is simplified by the fact that the S7’s sealed enclosure is much less sensitive to room interaction in the frequencies below 200Hz than a ported enclosure, and far less sensitive to room interaction and listener position than a dipole.