Magico A5 Review

JIM AUSTIN

It’s rare for a Stereophile reviewer to review two loudspeakers in a row from the same manufacturer, but then these are unusual times. Because of the pandemic, Magico’s M2s got stuck here for a year (I know: poor me). By the time they were packed up and shipped out, it was time for a long-scheduled review of the less-expensive, more-massive Magico A5 ($24,800/pair). Read our Magico A5 Review.

At $63,600/pair equipped with the no-longer-optional M-Pod footers,[1] the now-departed M2 costs roughly 2.5 times what the newly arrived A5 costs. (The A5 comes with mere spikes.) Like all current Magico speakers, both are sealed-box, acoustic suspension designs, which means that at the bottom end, the response falls off at 12dB/octave—slow enough to have useful output a full octave below where the low bass starts trending down. That’s a much slower rolloff than with the more common bass-reflex (ported) designs.

The A5 is the bigger speaker of the two, with significantly more cabinet volume, which should translate into more and deeper bass—as should the A5’s three 9″ woofers, which, doing the math, have about 2.5 times more woofer surface area than the M2’s two 7″ bass drivers.

Magico is a company that measures and that practices physics-based design based on established psychoacoustic knowledge. But it is also a company that listens; sure, Magico owns a Klippci Near Field Seamier and a laser interferometer, but it also has the second-nicest listening room I’ve visited. Science and listening need not be opposed concepts, even if, regrettably, some people seem to see it that way. Where Magico parts ways with some of the more subjectivist loudspeaker makers is in their belief that a product that measures well should also sound good. But that doesn’t keep them from listening.

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While some well-regarded loudspeakers have intentionally (or unintentionally) lively cabinets, a scientific approach to loudspeaker design requires that cabinets be acoustically inert. It’s desirable for a loudspeaker to dissipate some of the resonant energy of the air vibrating inside the cabinet, but the cabinet itself is not the best dissipator, because at least some of the energy absorbed by a cabinet will be released as sound after a time delay; that’s distortion. Absorbing energy is what mineral wool and other cabinet-stuffing material is for. Energy absorbed by those materials is dissipated as heat.

The M2 achieves its cabinet-wall inertness via carbon fiber, which is very stiff and relatively light. Stiffness means it does not absorb vibrational energy readily; low weight means it doesn’t store much energy. (In the M-scries speakers, most of the cabinet is carbon fiber, but the top and bottom caps arc aluminum.) Carbon fiber makes it expensive and labor- intensive to manufacture and to finish. Apparently, you can buy a giant chunk of aluminum alloy and machine it for much less.

The A5 cabinet is made from the same aircraft-grade, precipitation-hardened aluminum alloy used in Magico’s Q-series speakers. Tempered aluminum alloy is heavier than carbon fiber, but it’s stiff, with an advantageous ratio of stiffness to weight, which helps suppress internal resonance—as does the “complex internal bracing” (quoted from the Magico website) inside.

Aluminum makes some people think lightweight and crinkly, like foil or an aluminum can. But the A5’s aluminum chassis is massive, thick and hard. When I rapped my knuckles against the cabinet to try to detect cabinet resonances, I hurt my knuckles. The only appreciable vibrations I noticed were in my bones. This speaker is 1801b of mostly metal.

The tweeter and the midrange driver are each mounted in their own sealed chamber. Magico’s Alon Wolf told me that the A5’s 5″ driver is the first true, pure midrange driver ever to grace a Magico speaker; apparently, the 6″ drivers used in other Magico speakers extend into the upper bass. (Incidentally, the A5’s 5″ driver comes very close to being 6″.)

Just as science-based designers want stiff enclosures, they also want stiff driver cones, for roughly the same reasons:

SPECIFICATIONS

Description Three-way, acoustic suspension, floorstanding loudspeaker. Drive-units: 1.1″ (28mm) beryllium-dome tweeter with neodymium motor system and engineered back chamber, 5” (127mm) midrange driver and three 9″ (229mm) woofers, all with Graphene “Nano-Tech” cones with aluminum honeycomb core and titanium voice-coils and copper pole caps. Frequency response: 24Hz-50kHz, ±3dB. Sensitivity: 88dB/2.83V/m. Nominal impedance: 4 ohms. Recommended power: 50-1000W.

Dimensions 10.5″ (267mm) W x 44.75″ (1137mm) H x 14.9″ (378.5mm) D (including spikes). Weight: 1801 b (81.6kg) each.

Finish Black with matte or eggshell sheen.

Serial number of review samples 000406 and 000407. Made in the US.

Price $24,800/pair. Approximate number of dealers: 35. Warranty: 5 years from date of purchase.

Manufacturer Magico, LLC, 3170 Corporate PL, Hayward, CA 94545.

Tel: (510) 649-9700. Web: magico.net.

Magico A5 Review

They want their cones to move in and out, not to flex and vibrate internally. For years—I don’t know how long—Magico has used “Nano-Tech” drivers which coat their cones with graphene. Graphene is a high-tech material that’s lightweight and extraordinarily stiff—so stiff that its Young’s modulus (a measure of stiffness) is hard to measure, but it’s somewhere around ITPa or about 15 times stiffer than aluminum.

The A5 may be part of Magico’s least-expensive range, but it is, or was, the first Magico speaker to adopt a particular innovation: an “aluminum honeycomb core” in their driver cones. This was planned to be introduced with the flagship M9, but the A5 was ready first so got the nod. All the drivers in the A5 (except the tweeter of course) utilize this new cone construction. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The “honeycomb core” is said to make the A5’s graphene-coated cones even stiffer and lighter, which makes it more likely that they will operate (in their passband) in a purely “pistonic” manner: just moving in and out without vibrating internally. The M9, now that it’s finished, also has this cone technology.

There’s more to a driver than a cone, however: Wolf told me that overall, the M-scries drivers are more sophisticated than the drivers on the A5—another reason the M-serics speakers cost more.

Very stiff driver cones often come with steep-slope crossovers, because once they start to break up, they do so violently. It’s best, therefore, to operate them strictly in the frequency range where they’re not breaking up. Typically for Magico, the A5 utilizes, on the low-pass side, “ellipticalsymmetry” crossover filters, a topology that’s able to achieve very steep rolloff with a low parts count. And because elliptical filters have “zeros,” or “notches”—points where the impedance is effectively infinite—they’re very good, when designed well, at eliminating especially problematic frequency ranges. (I don’t know whether this characteristic is important in Magico’s designs.)

The A5 is also the first Magico speaker—Magico says it’s the first loudspeaker anywhere, and I’ve got no reason to doubt it—to use Mundorf’s new “MResist Ultra” foil resistors. Magico says they offer “greater power handling, transparency and liquidity.” The other crossover parts are also all from Mundorf.

I almost forgot the tweeter: It’s “based on the fundamental design platform and geometry of the M-series tweeters,” but the 28mm beryllium diaphragm lacks the diamond coating, which, in the more expensive speaker, adds additional stiffness but very little weight.

Cheaper than cheese

All that is factual; I should add my personal, subjective take on the A5’s physical package. In size, it’s big but not huge. It is, however, imposing. It emanates gravity—that sense of massiveness—in much the way that Egyptian pyramids do, or Alpine cliff faces (although obviously on a smaller scale). Touch it, spend time around it, and you’re impressed with its substance. Aluminum has famously low heat capacity, yet I swear these speakers took three days to warm up completely after they were brought in off the truck midwinter. (As they warmed up, their sound changed dramatically.)

For all that, though, the metal enclosure is beautifully anodized to a seemingly durable eggshell-sheen finish that’s

MEASUREMENTS

Because of the Magico A5’s bulk and weight, I drove my test gear to Jim Austin’s apartment to perform the measurements in situ. As always, I used DRA Labs’ MLSSA system, an Earthworks microphone preamplifier, and a calibrated DPA 4006 microphone to measure the Magico A5’s behavior in the farfield. (We maneuvered one of the 1801b speakers, serial number 000407, onto a dolly and rolled it so it fired across a room diagonal and was maximally distant from the sidewalls.) I used an Earthworks QTC-40 mike for the nearfield and spatially averaged in-room responses. (For the latter, the loudspeakers were in the positions where JCA had auditioned them.)

Magico specifies the A5’s sensitivity as 88dB for 2.83V at 1m. My estimate was slightly lower, at 86.5dB(B)/2.83V/m. The A5’s impedance is specified as 4 ohms. Using Dayton Audio’s DATS V2 system, I found that the impedance magnitude (fig.1, solid trace) did average around 4 ohms, with a minimum value of 2.6 ohms at 93Hz. The electrical phase angle (dashed trace) is occasionally high when the magnitude is low. For example, there is a combination of 3.4 ohms and -50° at 70Hz, a frequency where music can have high levels of energy. The EPDR1 drops below 2 ohms between 53Hz and 120Hz, with a minimum value of 1 ohm at 70Hz. The A5 must be used with amplifiers that don’t have problems driving 2 ohm loads.

The traces in fig.1 are free from the small discontinuities that would imply that there are resonances of some kind present. When I investigated the

Stereophile Magico A5 Impedance (ohms) & Phase (deg) vs Frequency (Hz)

Fig-1 Magico A5, electrical impedance (solid) and phase (dashed) (2 ohms/vertical div.).

enclosure’s vibrational behavior with a plastic-tape accelerometer, I did find some resonant modes on the sidewalls and top panel, at 422Hz and 547Hz (fig.2), but these are at such low levels that they will not have any audible consequences.

The single peak centered on 45Hz in the impedance magnitude trace suggests that this is the sealed-box

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1 EPDR is the resistive load that gives rise to the same peak dissipation in an amplifier’s output devices as the loudspeaker. See ‘Audio Power Amplifiers for Loudspeaker Loads/’ JAES, Vol.42 No.9, September 1994, and stereophile.com/ reference/707heavy/index.html.

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Fig.2 Magico A5, cumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from output of accelerometer fastened to top panel (MLS driving voltage to speaker, 7.55V; measurement bandwidth, 2kHz).

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available—to repeat the Ford Motor Company cliche and frequent Stereophile trope—in any color as long as it’s black. With its nonshiny black paint, the A5 also emanates darkness— and here, to be clear, I am not talking about the sound. Nothing is shiny on this speaker other than the stiletto spikes (which aren’t all that shiny), and there’s a bit of a sheen on the machined tweeter surround. Otherwise, the A5 is a place where photons go to die. Which I like.

Drivers are bolted on, the screws exposed (the better to tighten them if they get loose). There’s a single pair of high- quality binding posts—no provision for biwiring or biamping. If the boxy A5 seems utilitarian, it’s an aesthetic many will appreciate. My wife, who loves nice, natural wood, likes this package, finding it preferable to some shiny wood veneers, which can sometimes look fake even when they’re real.

The A5 may not exactly be

cheap, but at circa $65/lb, it costs less than certain cheeses and aged hams, at least at NYC prices, wliile offering much better sonics than either, and with a lifetime much longer than any cheese lasts in my refrigerator.

Setup…

… was easy: I sat in a chair and watched Magico’s Peter Mackay—who, despite being employed by Hayward, California-based Magico, lives just across town from me here in New York City—as he performed his sonic Magic(o). I sat, watched, listened, and learned. The A5s ended up a little farther back—closer to the front wall— than the M2s had been and 8′ 4″ apart, center to center. I tend to move my lightweight listening chair around a lot as I listen and evaluate, especially front to back—different recordings sound better at different distances—but also side to side, to assess the soundstage width and stability. My chair was always between 8′

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measurements, continued

tuning frequency of the woofers, which corresponds to the frequency where the anechoic response is down by 6dB. While their summed nearfield output (fig.3, red trace; the three woofers appear to behave identically) peaks a little higher in frequency than the tuning frequency, the excess of energy between 200Hz and 50Hz will be an artifact of the nearfield measurement. (This assumes that the radiators are mounted in a true infinite baffle, ie, one that extends to infinity in both planes.) The woofers’ upper-frequency rolloff is clean, before crossing over to the midrange unit around 300Hz with symmetrical high-order slopes.

The blue trace below 420Hz in fig.3 is the complex sum of the nearfield midrange and woofer responses. Above 420Hz, the blue trace in fig.3 shows the A5’s farfield response, averaged across a 30° horizontal window centered on the tweeter axis. Other than a very narrow suckout at 4kHz that will be very difficult to hear,2 the response is superbly flat and even up to 10kHz. The gentle downward slope above that frequency might have contributed to my estimate of the loudspeaker’s sensitivity being slightly lower than the specification. As with the Magico M2 that I reviewed in February 2020 and JCA reviewed in March 2021,3 the use of a pistonic tweeter with a high-Q ultrasonic dome response results in a lack of energy in the region below that resonance.

Fig.4 shows the A5’s horizontal dispersion, normalized to the response on the tweeter axis, which thus appears as a straight line. (The physical limitations

Fig.3 Magico A5, anechoic response on tweeter axis at 50″, averaged across 30° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response, with the nearfield responses of the midrange unit (green) and woofers (red), and their complex sum (blue), respectively plotted below 420Hz, 600Hz, and 420Hz.

of performing the measurements in JCA’s room restricted the off-axis measurements to 45° to the sides rather

  1. Unlike Magico’s M2, which has a baffle with smoothly rounded edges, the A5 has a sharp-edged baffle. This will result in reflections from the tweeter’s output that will interfere destructively with the output when the distance between the tweeter and the edges is an odd number of half-wavelengths. The wavelength at 4kHz is 3.4″ and the distance between the center of the tweeter dome and the edges of the baffle to its sides is 5.25″, ie, very close to three half-wavelengths at this frequency.
  2. See stereophile.com/content/magico-m2-loud- speaker and ‘content/magico-m2-loudspeaker-jim- austin-march-2021.

Fig.4 Magico A5, lateral response family at 50″, normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front: differences in response 45°-5° off axis, reference response, differences in response 5°-45° off axis.

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and 11′ from the baffles of the two loudspeakers, measured with a laser mounted on my forehead as I sat in my chair. Toe-in was modest, perhaps 12°.

When Peter was finished with the setup, the center was well-filled, and recordings with the right information performed impressive soundstage pyrotechnics. Playing Roger Waters’s Amused to Death, recorded in QSound, the A5’s produced sounds that seemed to come from above my head and 90° out to the side. Tones were rich and Rill, and

sounded good. This is not an amplifier review, so this will be my only amplifier- related observation.

Listening

Followingjohn Atkinson’s rigorous example, I started with test tones. First up: warble tones from Stereophile Test CD, the first one.

At the listening position, warble tones were hill-throated and even (with modest volume fluctuations, perhaps 5dB, due to room effects) down to 25Hz. Magico specifies a lower frequency-range the bass, though abundant, was never boomy. In several jazz acoustic bass solos I played, the notes were even and prominent.

Amplification duties were performed mainly by the Pass Laboratories XA60.8 monoblock power amplifiers. Though putatively 60W, Pass amps are underspecified to an almost absurd extent. (That’s not a complaint.) JA’s measurements found that the XA60.8 can deliver 380W into a 2 ohm load; I judge this sufficient to drive the A5, which has a specified nominal impedance of 4 ohms and sensitivity of 88dB/2.83V/lm. JA’s measurements will show how low the impedance goes.

For a week or two, I also used the darTZeel NHB-108 Model Two stereo amp for an alternative perspective. The NHB-108 Model Two is specified to deliver 225W into 4 ohms. The two amplifiers sounded different, but they both limit of 24kHz, but the 20Hz warble tone was easily heard, although down a few dB from the 25Hz tone. This is a fullrange speaker.

Listening to pink noise—actually hearing what’s going on with pink noise—I’ve found is a skill you learn with repeated, concentrated listening. At first listen, it’s a wash of undifferentiated sound, but you can learn to parse it into its constituent parts. There’s a lot going on in 10 octaves of random sound.

What I heard was an even distribution of sound, rolled off a little at the highest frequencies (above 10kHz or so is my estimate; in-room, HF rolloff is expected, for reasons JA explains in every loudspeaker review, including this one). Toward the bottom end, I heard an excess of bass between— again judging by ear—150Hz and 50Hz or so. That surfeit of bass could go lower, and it could go as high as 200Hz or so.

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measurements, continued

than my usual 90°.) The loudspeaker’s radiation pattern is smooth and even, though with a slight excess of energy to the sides in the presence region and a slight lack of energy off-axis above that region. The tweeter doesn’t become as directional in its top audio octave as I was anticipating from my measurements of the M2. Fig.5 shows the Magico’s vertical dispersion, again normalized to the response on the tweeter axis, which is 41″ from the floor. Usefully, the response 5° below the tweeter axis, which will be close to JCA’s listening axis, is similar to the tweeter-axis response. The usual off- axis suckout in the crossover between the midrange unit and tweeter doesn’t make its presence known until 10° above the tweeter axis. Don’t listen to this speaker while standing.

Fig.6 shows the Magico A5s’ Vio octave-smoothed, spatially averaged response in Jim Austin’s room. (The spatial averaging4 tends to average out the peaks and dips below 400Hz that are due to the room’s resonant modes.) I have not shown the in-room response below 45Hz, as this was affected by the presence of subsonic noise from his building’s heating/ ventilation system. This could not be turned off on the morning that I was able to perform the measurements.5

Fig.5 Magico A5, vertical response family at 50 ”, normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front: differences in response 15°-5° above axis, reference response, differences in response 5°-10° below axis.

  1. Using MLSSA, I averaged 20 1/io-octave- smoothed power spectra, individually taken for the left and right speakers, in a rectangular grid 36″ wide by 18″ high and centered on the positions of Jim Austin’s ears.
  2. The subsonic noise from the system’s intermittent fan, while not high in level, is loud enough to render serious, analytical listening difficult or impossible. The fan operates for hours at a time during the coldest weather but far less when it’s warmer, and it’s turned off completely between early May and late October. JATs measurements were performed on a cold morning at the end of March—Jim Austin

Fig.6 Magico A5, spatially averaged, Vio-octave response in JCA’s listening room.

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From 200Hz up to 10kHz or so, the sound to me seemed remarkably even.

Bass tends to bounce around a room; this is why loudspeakers need to be sized appropriately for the rooms they occupy, appropriate for both the size of the room and the amount of absorption it contains. Apparently, the A5’s three 9″ woofers put out a little bit too much bass, strictly speaking, even for my large, irregularly shaped room (32′ long, as wide as 24′ but 16′ at its narrowest with 9′ 9″ ceilings).[2]

Moving on to listening to music. If you listen to a lot of small-group jazz or—especially—chamber music, timbre is of great importance, but then so is another thing: While I have on occasion heard chamber music in very large chambers (such as David Geffen Hall), chamber music is most often heard in smaller spaces. Chamber music in small spaces sounds layered, with certain instruments positioned in front of other instruments (although the audibility of that depends on the hall and your seats). Realistic-sounding recordings of chamber music capture that; and good speakers (served well by good components) can reproduce it. The A5 did so consistently, including on Libby Larsen’s “Blue Piece for Violin and Piano,” performed by violinist Moonkyung Lee and pianist Martha Locker (oddly uncredited on the record cover or in the sparse metadata provided by Qobuz, Tidal, and Roon), which is from the album Parts to Play (CD, Navona Records NV 6165). The two musicians are close together, but each is in her own front-to-back plane. This music is a random example; you’ll hear this on most well- made chamber music recordings.

Indeed, the imaging is the first thing I noticed about the A5. These speakers don’t only disappear under optimal conditions; they disappear always, including when the volume of the music is extremely low. Turn it down as far as you like. The image shrinks at very low volumes, but it shrinks toward a point halfway between the two speakers and not toward the speakers themselves: a phantom radio on a phantom shelf, a ghostly sensation.

Off-axis imaging was exceptional, too. I could move my chair to any point between the two speakers and still hear a stable stereo soundstage; when my chair was directly in front of the right speaker, the soundstage stretched all the way to the left speaker (this, for example, on “Smiling Phases” from Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ first album, Qobuz 24/176.4 FLAC, a new version of which is due out in a few days as a MoFi One Step LP). This off-axis imaging performance is great for social listening, with actual friends, something the CDC has now endorsed as long as everyone’s been vaccinated. I’ve heard otherwise excellent speakers that can’t do this off-axis imaging trick, some of them quite expensive.

I’m not a huge coffee drinker—usually just one cup, first thing—but I am always on the lookout for good, fresh- roasted coffee. Recently, a new coffee place went in a few blocks south of me on Broadway—Blue Bottle Coffee, where a standard pour-over costs $4.25. One day, after a traumatic morning, I stopped by for a cup and left with a bag of beans, a blend, or roast, or whatever it is, called Giant Steps.[3] This morning I had a cup. It was very good, and it put me in mind of the album it was surely named after, so of course I put it on. I don’t have any interesting vinyl issues of this recording, so I stayed in my chair and called up a FLAC

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measurements, continued

The noise did not affect the farfield and nearfield measurements shown in figs.3-5, which were made with windowed impulse responses, but did affect the power spectra I measured to create fig.6.

Other than an excess of energy in- room between 45Hz and 150Hz, which I suspect will be due to the Magicos exciting the low-frequency modes in JCA’s room, the balance at the listening position is impressively even, meeting ±1.4dB limits between 180Hz and 5kHz. I can’t recall measuring an in-room response this good! The A5s’ output in the top two octaves smoothly slopes down, but as I have written before, a loudspeaker that offers a flat on-axis response and well-controlled lateral dispersion does give a gently sloped- down treble in the spatially averaged room response. This is primarily due to the increased absorption of the room’s furnishings and the contribution from the loudspeaker’s power response. (A speaker that has a flat measured topoctave output in an in-room measurement will sound as if the highs are tilted up.)

In the time domain, the A5’s step response on the tweeter axis (fig.7) reveals that the tweeter, midrange unit, and woofers are all connected in positive acoustic polarity. The decay of the tweeter’s step smoothly blends with the positive-going start of the midrange unit’s step, and the decay of the midrange unit’s step blends smoothly with the positive-going start of the woofers’ step. This implies optimal implementation of the crossover.

Fig.7 Magico A5, step response on tweeter axis at 50″ (5ms time window, 30kHz bandwidth).

(The apparent DC offset in this graph is due to the fact that calculating the loudspeaker’s step response from the measured impulse response integrates the subsonic noise.) Other than a narrow ridge of delayed energy at the frequency of the narrow suckout in the farfield response, the A5’s cumulative spectral-decay plot (fig.8) is clean.

As with the other Magico loudspeakers that have been reviewed in Stereophile, the A5’s measured performance indicates excellent audio engineering.—John Atkinson

Fig.8 Magico A5, cumulative spectral-decay plot on tweeter axis at 50″ (0.15ms risetime).

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rip of the original CD as mastered for digital (in stereo) by Stephen Innocenzi in 1987 (Atlantic 1311-2).

I’ve long thought of this recording as somewhat harsh- sounding, but I found myself enjoying it with the Magico A5s. The soundstage was realistically sized, with realistic width and depth, as in a jazz club. I heard inflections in John Coltrane’s tone that I’m not sure I’d noticed before. (I hadn’t listened to this particular recording—this version—in a while, so consider this a fresh impression and not a before/aftcr thing: I had the impression of hearing unfamiliar nuance, not heard before. That’s notable by itself.)

Despite its fairly early provenance, this turns out to be a pretty good recording. The bass is rounded and full—not a lot of string-popping transient, but that’s how it was recorded and probably how it was played. The image of the bass was palpable and stable, perhaps 8′ behind the plane of the loudspeakers. There was, in any case, little harshness here.

I reviewed the Pass Labs XA60.8 amplifiers, which I’m using now, in the December 2017 issue of Stereophile. During that review, I repeated a test JA had done when reviewing the amplifier’s predecessor, the XA60.5. John listened to Benjamin Zander’s rendition of Mahler’s Symphony No.2—to a moment not quite 10 minutes into the third movement. John heard some muddiness—a loss of resolution—in the rumbling bass drum and concluded that the XA60.5 couldn’t quite provide the current those speakers needed to resolve that detail. I tried it again with the XA60.8 and heard the same thing—but when I tried it again with the much more powerful BHK 300 monoblocks, that bass drum still wasn’t fully resolved. I concluded that it was recorded that way.

There was, though, another possibility: Maybe it was the speakers. John and I were using different speakers, but both pairs were bass-reflex. Could a very good acoustic-suspension speaker resolve that passage when several bass-reflex speakers couldn’t? I put on Zander’s Mahler 2.

The opening timpani notes of the third movement were promising; I don’t recall hearing them so crisply rendered. The pizzicato strings and woodwinds were light and airy; the timbres of the various instruments accurate and distinct. The soundstage extended beyond the edge of the speakers, big and round with convincing depth. Also: tall. I decided long ago that the sound of a hall is rendered in part by bass below 40Hz—that is, below where there are any actual notes, except on a pipe organ. When the bass drum played in the minutes leading up to the passage in question—again, it sounded promising. I could hear the skin, the ring, the boom—the whole drum hit. Boom without boominess.

Then the moment came—and there was still muddiness, but now I was sure that it was on the recording. Now I could definitively hear that it was. It’s a hard thing to explain, but you know what I mean: The A5 had done better than to resolve the bass drum strike; it had resolved the recording well enough that I could sort it out.

As the bass drum rumbled on, growing quieter, the moment passed and I heard more skin and less boom. The A5 was resolving more oj the bass. Maybe it’s only because the level of the bass was a bit elevated—because the bass is louder; still, it counts. Plus, in the buildup to that climactic moment just before the 10-minute mark, I experienced some serious drama and excitement and some lovely delicacy. Great music, beautifully played, and beautifully rendered.

I put on Cecile McLorin Salvant’s The Window (24/96 FLAC, Mack Avenue 1132), specifically the Arthur

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT

Analog sources Thorens TD124 turntable (reconditioned by Schopper AG) with Thomas Schick 12″ tonearm; Orto- fon Xpression cartridge; SME 30/12 turntable with V-12 tonearm and Ortofon Windfeld Ti cartridge (in for review). Digital sources Intel NUC computer with SSD drive running Roon Optimized Core Kit; Denafrips Avatar CD transport; Synology DS918+ Diskstation 4-bay Network Attached Storage device with 16TB; TP-Link 8-Port Gigabit network switch (unmanaged); PS Audio DirectStream DAC.

Preamplification Auditorium 23 Standard step-up transformer, Sutherland Engineering prototype phono preamp, Pass Labs XP-22 line preamplifier; Zesto Leto Ultra II line preamplifier.

Power amplifiers Pass Labs XA60.8, darTZeel NHB-108 model 2 (in for review).

Cables Digital AudioQuest Carbon & Cinnamon & Coffee, Comprehensive Connectivity DXLRP-DXLRJ-6EXF (all USB). Interconnect: Auditorium 23, Clarus Crimson (RCA, XLR). Speaker: Auditorium 23.

Accessories PS Audio Power Plant PIO power conditioner, Oswalds Mill Audio slate plinth (under turntable), Butcher Block Acoustics RigidRack.-Jim Austin

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Schwartz/Howard Dietz song “By Myself.” And there she was, corporeal, warm-voiced, ever so slightly breathy, enrobed and ennobled by Sullivan Fortner’s piano. Then, courtesy of Roon Radio, came her “Growlin’ Dan,” which just loved the extra bass the A5’s provided—in the upright bass (played by Paul Sikivie), in the bass drum (kicked by the late, lamented Lawrence Leathers, who was senselessly murdered in 2019 the day before I saw Cecile play a brave and fascinating standards concert, with pianist Fred Hersch, in Princeton, New Jersey), and in the piano’s (Aaron Diehl’s) left hand.

I queued up (virtually; it’s on Qobuz, 16/44.1 FLAC, 37d03d) the first track, “Alarms,” of Bryce Dessner’s new release, Impermanence/Disintegration, with the Australian String Quartet. The cello growled.

The wrap

So far, this rather descriptive, seemingly dispassionate review has failed to communicate one crucial thing: just how much I enjoyed listening to these speakers. They were consistently a joy. The Magico A5s could be my musical companions for a long, happy life.

The most notable characteristic of the Magico A5’s in my room was a pleasant abundance of high-quality, nonboomy bass. Like their predecessors in my system, these Magico speakers conveyed timbre accurately and subtly, revealing crucial differences in the sounds of distinct instruments, players, and recordings. Spooky, corporeal images and a robust, imperturbable soundstage rounded out the experience

Big orchestral recordings, like the Zander Mahler 2, were produced at nearly full scale and with, I would say, the full dynamic impact of a live performance, or very close. I could play these speakers as loud as I dared, and they never lost their cool. The A5 would work as a studio monitor, in a big room, or for a party, with dancers. Just be sure to keep the speakers out of harm’s way; you wouldn’t want some hapless dancer smashing into them and getting hurt. ■

  1. Apparently, given a choice, no one bought the M-series speakers without the M-Pods.
  2. If the bass was 3-5clB higher, it would be too much. But the amount of extra bass on offer here was thoroughly enjoyable.
  3. It occurs to me that in the wider world, few people actually listen to jazz, even here in NYC. And yet jazz is so cool that they name expensive coffee after it.

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