Magico M6

Crossing the Threshold

Equipment report
Magico M6

The three MPod feet that support the tripod on which the enclosure rests are very sophisticated devices that do more than couple the speaker to the floor. Magico calls the MPod a “noise-channeling support system.” Cones and spikes perform the important function of coupling the speaker to the floor so that the cabinet vibrates less. This anchoring effect makes the cabinet more resistant to moving in response to driver motion. But cones and spikes don’t dissipate vibrational energy. The ideal loudspeaker-to-floor interface would thus provide the anchoring effect of spikes, along with vibration dissipation. That’s the theory behind the MPod. The device employs constrained layer damping that is tuned so that the MPod provides solid coupling to the floor below 300Hz, but attenuates noise and vibration above that frequency. The damping material, which was reportedly developed for NASA, is so thoroughly researched that the designer using it can specify the precise frequency at which the material begins attenuating vibration. Note that the MPod’s lower hemisphere isn’t connected with hardware to the speaker, but rather through the constrained layer damping mechanism. The MPod is usually shipped with a pin inserted through the device that is removed once the MPod is installed. Removing the pin engages the constrained layer damping structure. It is thus possible to hear the effect of the device by pulling the pin. Unfortunately, the review samples had made the rounds of audio shows and weren’t shipped with pins, so I was unable to hear this comparison.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about the M6—and certainly the most telling—is that for the first three months of living with this speaker I believed that the tweeter was an all-new design with dramatically lower distortion than the already smooth tweeter in the Q7 Mk.II. I had lived with the Q7 and Q7 Mk.II for many years, and knew their sound intimately. No one told me the tweeter was new, but I had assumed it was because the M6’s treble sounded significantly smoother and more relaxed than what I had heard from the Q7 Mk.II. In fact, one of the M6’s defining characteristics is that you simply don’t hear the tweeter. And I was using the same electronics, the reference-quality Constellation Altair 2 linestage and Hercules 2 monoblocks.

How could the same tweeter sound so different? The enclosure shape. According to designer Alon Wolf, the M6’s smoother treble, more expansive soundstaging, and greater ability to disappear are all the result of lower cabinet diffraction realized by the new enclosure shape.

Disappear is a word that aptly describes the M6, on many levels. Visually, the M6’s rounded shape makes it appear smaller than similarly sized rectangular speakers, allowing the M6 to better blend into its environment. Tonally, the M6 disappears because of its utterly smooth and liquid sound, lack of coloration, and top-to-bottom coherence. And the M6 disappears spatially like no other dynamic speaker I’ve heard, throwing a huge and precise soundstage that gives no indication of the sound’s origin.

But most importantly, the M6 disappears musically. It gets out of the way with a transparency to the source that is utterly beguiling. Although the M6 doesn’t quite have quite the midrange transparency of a good electrostat, it nonetheless has a greater overall transparency to musical expression than a full-range electrostat because it sounds of-a-piece from top to bottom, with no nagging idiosyncrasies that shatter the illusion of hearing live music-making. It goes back to Jonathan’s observation that the sense of realism in reproduced music doesn’t result from an analysis and mental assembly of separate sonic components (regardless of how well each of those individual elements are reproduced) but from our holistic, unconscious reaction to how our minds group those components. That frisson of lifelike realism we sometimes experience from a stereo system isn’t the result of analysis of the sound’s component parts, but rather from a more primal response that bypasses critical thinking.

The M6’s overall character is another step in the same directional path that Magico has been following since I reviewed the company’s V2 back in Issue 202 (a hundred issues ago!). That direction is toward increased tonal warmth, denser and more saturated tonal colors, a greater sense of ease, and a smoother and gentler treble. Earlier-generation Magico speakers seemed willing to sacrifice relaxation in favor of resolution, two qualities that are often mutually exclusive. The M6’s great achievement is delivering all the harmonic beauty, tonal richness, warmth of tone color, and overall ease of actual music while simultaneously increasing resolution. The M6 reveals a wealth of fine timbral, dynamic, and spatial cues, but in a relaxed context that encourages you to lean into the music to hear more deeply. I could cite any number of instruments or recordings to illustrate this, but I’ll choose three recordings with acoustic guitar that were revelatory for me. The first is the all-acoustic trio album The Rite of Strings with Jean-Luc Ponty, Al DiMeola, and Stanley Clarke. I’ve heard this album on a wide range of systems, but never before has DiMeola’s guitar been so free from glare, hardness, and mechanical character. His instrument sounded more organic with the metallic patina stripped away. The second guitar recording is Paco de Lucia’s Live in America, the rapid-fire virtuoso flamenco playing perfectly articulated and vivid, yet without edginess. At the other end of the spectrum was the extremely subtle and gentle guitar work during the piano solo on “Harpo’s Blues” from Phoebe Snow’s eponymous album (Analogue Productions 45rpm vinyl). Through lesser speakers, the guitar tends to get lost in the mix, its understated contribution to the almost hypnotic rhythm diluted. The M6 perfectly portrayed the guitar’s gentle character and the way it was played, yet fully revealed its important musical contribution. In recording after recording, I was struck by the way the M6 immediately put me at ease with its smoothness and liquidity, and then proceeded to infuse the presentation with very finely filigreed information that reveals so much about the instruments, performances, and venues. It’s a rare ability, and one that allows the M6 to consistently cross the threshold from great sound to a completely immersive musical experience.

The M6 has the second-best bass performance I’ve heard from a loudspeaker (the best is Magico’s Q7). The three 10.5" woofers in the sealed enclosure deliver exceptional pitch definition, clarity, dynamic agility, and resolution of inner timbral detail. Some loudspeakers with these qualities can sound a little thin and light in the bottom end, realizing speed and articulation at the expense of weight and authority. The M6 manages to provide an enormously rewarding power, body, and muscularity through the bottom octaves without sounding overly ripe. Brian Bromberg’s remarkable bass playing on his new album Thicker than Water (Qobuz 96/24) perfectly illustrated everything what’s so right about the M6’s bottom end. His instrument had color, body, texture, and weight on the one hand, and tremendous dynamic expression and agility on the other. The M6 locked into the deep, funky grooves laid down by this great band in a visceral way. It helped that the extreme bottom end was quick and tight, starting and stopping with terrific speed and precision. No slop, no overhang, and no bloat. The Q7 moves more air, extends deeper, and has greater dynamic impact, but the M6 is close behind.