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Magico M Project Loudspeaker, Part Three

Magico M Project Loudspeaker, Part Three

As I showed you via my FFT in the last part of this blog, the M Project has, in-room, a stronger and more plentiful bass and power range than its predecessors. What I haven’t yet talked about is the quality of that bass/power-range response which, in my experience, is simply unparalleled in clarity, definition, and (for lack of another descriptor) start-and-stopability. Now, I’ve heard the bass/power range reproduced with as much (or more) power as that of the M Project. I’ve also heard the bass/power range reproduced with as much (or more) color. But, in all my days in this hobby, I’ve never heard a more natural and transparent low end from a full-range dynamic loudspeaker. Listening to the bass and lower midrange through the M Project is like hearing those octaves with surtitles of the score projected above them. Every note is as distinct as it sounds in a concert hall.

I don’t want to resort to cliché here, but the truth is that I do hear things in the bottom end that I’ve never heard before—and I hear them on every single cut I’ve played. Fender bass ostinatos, such as the ones on “One Good Man” or “As Good As You’ve Been To This World” from Janis Joplin’s I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blue Again Mama [Columbia/Speaker’s Corner]—an album I must’ve listened to at least a hundred times—are no longer big, vague blocks of color, but a series of individual notes, as clearly defined as those of, oh, Sam Andrew’s lead guitar. Ditto for complexly orchestrated passages, such as the cello, bass, and percussion lines of the intensely busy and colorful Feria of Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnol [RCA/Analogue Productions].

I want to emphasize that the M Project’s is in no way a skeletonized presentation, where transient clarity is being purchased at the cost of bass/power range color and power and solidity. On the contrary, in my experience Magico has never before come closer to the rich timbre, physical presence, and sheer slam of the real thing. Neither is this density of color and visceral power being purchased at the cost of a 15–20dB peak in the heart of the midbass, followed by a steep roll-off below 50–60Hz, as is so often the case with even the best ported loudspeakers. These Magicos go low, but they go low without the fuzzbox furriness and midbass peakiness, the enclosure/driver/port ringing, that has the same effect on music as an unsteady hand has on the sharpness of a photographic image. Lower-octave notes simply don’t keep playing because of added enclosure/driver/port resonances. They start and stop the way notes do in a concert hall, cleanly and suddenly (it is, in fact, this dramatic suddenness that gives orchestral crescendos their “jump”). Thanks to this incredibly lifelike start-and-stopability, the M Project is the polar opposite of those speakers—and some of them are quite celebrated—that reproduce the dynamic/harmonic envelop as a blurry, indefinite smear.

I suppose that these virtues may be owed, in some part, to the serendipitous way the M Project’s three woofers match up with my room. But in the main it is clearly owed to the woofers themselves—which are larger in diameter, more plentiful in number, and newer in design than those in the Q 5—and to the enclosure in which they are ensconced, which is unique in the Magico line.

Like their predecessors, the three woofers in the M Project use Magico’s nanotube-carbon diaphragms, but those diaphragms are 1″ larger (10″ versus 9″) than the two woofers in the Q5, and they are mated to an entirely new magnetic motor system that is said to be capable of one-half inch of linear movement (for 120dB SPLs at 50Hz), while maintaining a very low inductance of less than 0.15mH. (The elimination of eddy currents in the magnets of dynamic drivers has been a hot topic lately, and the Magico woofs have apparently been designed to be very well behaved in this regard.)

As carefully engineered as these woofers are, I wonder if they would perform as well as they do in my room—and if the other drivers would behave as well as they do—were it not for the M Project’s unique enclosure. One of the things Magico has become famous for is the solidity of its boxes, which, since the advent of the Q Series, have been made of thick, CNC-milled, constrained-layer-damped aircraft-aluminum plates. No other enclosures I know of pass the “knuckle-rap” test the way Magicos do—rapping them is like rapping a steel girder. As a result of their artful blend of mass, stiffness, and damping, the Magico Q Series boxes are, in all ways save one, virtually resonance-free, neither storing nor releasing any time-delayed energy at any frequency, as the waterfall plots that I printed in my review of the Q5 clearly show.

What the waterfall plots did not show, however, and the one weakness of Magico’s otherwise standard-settingly inert enclosures, is how their necessarily squared-off shape affects the sound, particularly in the treble. While the enclosures of other loudspeakers that I’ve loved, such as the Raidho D 5s, do (audibly) store and release more energy, they play this problem off against the superior dispersion characteristics of their narrow, sculpted boxes. The use of such curves and tapers just isn’t feasible with aluminum enclosures, as aluminum (unlike the various other, more malleable materials used for speaker boxes) cannot be easily bent, bowed, cast, or molded into aerodynamically curved shapes. (Oh, it could be milled into a curve, I suppose, but the cost and weight of such panels would be staggering.)

The M Project is the first “statement” Magico (since the M5) that does not use an all-aluminum enclosure. It is also the first “statement” Magico with an aerodynamic shape.

How this has been accomplished without sacrificing the resonance-canceling blend of mass, stiffness, and damping of the all-aluminum boxes involves a neat (and costly) bit of engineering. The M Project enclosure has a newly designed curved shape that tapers gradually from front to back, eliminating the parallel walls and sharp, potentially diffractive edges of Magico’s traditionally “squared-off” aluminum boxes. Instead of employing thick aluminum plates for sidewalls, the M Project uses sidepieces of carbon fiber (one of the stiffest materials around). According to Magico, these curved carbon-fiber sidewalls minimize internal resonances and greatly reduce the amount of damping that is required. (The M Project enclosure still uses Magico’s elaborate aluminum-skeleton topology throughout its interior, to ensure absolute rigidity.)

In addition to its curved sideplates, the massive aluminum front and rear baffles have been milled into curves, while the massive (two-inch-thick) aluminum top and bottom plates have been CNC-machined to have edgeless contours. In other words, the M Project enclosure has been designed to have the lowest number of potentially diffractive surfaces of any statement Magico since the Mini and Mini II. It is also, far and away, the most beautiful looking Magico since the Mini and Mini II.

Judging from the sound, top to bottom, it is obvious that Magico’s incredibly expensive new box is a better idea. The phenomenal clarity in the bass and power range that I’ve remarked on, the unparalleled (in my experience), naturalness with which the drivers start and stop, and the remarkable resolution in the midband and the treble owe more than a little to this enclosure.

Perhaps the most obvious way the new box is affecting the sound is in the top octaves, where all traces of “beryllium brightness” have been erased. This is the best—which is to say, the most invisible—Magico tweeter since the dual-ring-radiator in the M5. Clearly most of this improvement is owed to the driver itself—the diamond-coated beryllium MDD28, which because of its larger size and greatly improved diaphragm and magnetic motor is lower in distortion and fuller in range than Magico’s brightish beryllium tweet. This new tweeter, in itself, makes for better dispersion (since, as previously noted, the midrange doesn’t have to play “up” as high into the upper mids and treble as it used to.) But I have to think that some of the improvement is also due to Magico’s magic box, with its less diffractive joints and surfaces. In any event, the differences are there to be heard—and heard easily. For instance, in Nights in the Gardens of Spain Falla uses a softly struck, undamped cymbal to double the violins. The wonderful color that the cymbal’s overtones are adding to the color of the strings is revealed as if, once again, the music were being reproduced with surtitles describing the orchestration. It is an effect, dare I say it, that I’d never noticed—and yet there it was, clear as day.

In the final installment of this blog, I will have a few more words to say about how the M Project handles a variety of music, how it compares with other contenders I’ve heard, and a bit of a summary.


By Jonathan Valin

I’ve been a creative writer for most of life. Throughout the 80s and 90s, I wrote eleven novels and many stories—some of which were nominated for (and won) prizes, one of which was made into a not-very-good movie by Paramount, and all of which are still available hardbound and via download on Amazon. At the same time I taught creative writing at a couple of universities and worked brief stints in Hollywood. It looked as if teaching and writing more novels, stories, reviews, and scripts was going to be my life. Then HP called me up out of the blue, and everything changed. I’ve told this story several times, but it’s worth repeating because the second half of my life hinged on it. I’d been an audiophile since I was in my mid-teens, and did all the things a young audiophile did back then, buying what I could afford (mainly on the used market), hanging with audiophile friends almost exclusively, and poring over J. Gordon Holt’s Stereophile and Harry Pearson’s Absolute Sound. Come the early 90s, I took a year and a half off from writing my next novel and, music lover that I was, researched and wrote a book (now out of print) about my favorite classical records on the RCA label. Somehow Harry found out about that book (The RCA Bible), got my phone number (which was unlisted, so to this day I don’t know how he unearthed it), and called. Since I’d been reading him since I was a kid, I was shocked. “I feel like I’m talking to God,” I told him. “No,” said he, in that deep rumbling voice of his, “God is talking to you.” I laughed, of course. But in a way it worked out to be true, since from almost that moment forward I’ve devoted my life to writing about audio and music—first for Harry at TAS, then for Fi (the magazine I founded alongside Wayne Garcia), and in the new millennium at TAS again, when HP hired me back after Fi folded. It’s been an odd and, for the most part, serendipitous career, in which things have simply come my way, like Harry’s phone call, without me planning for them. For better and worse I’ve just gone with them on instinct and my talent to spin words, which is as close to being musical as I come.

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