Magico S5 Mk.II loudspeaker

"Dammit!" No sooner had I praised small loudspeakers while dismissing large speakers as potentially having "large problems," in my review of the Crystal Arabesque Minissimo Diamond in the October issue, than I had to eat my words. Only days after that issue had gone to press, Magico's VP for Global Sales & Marketing, Peter Mackay, and CTO Yair Tammam, arrived at my place to set up a pair of the Bay Area company's floorstanding—and very large—S5 Mk.II loudspeakers.

The S5 Mk.II
Like the original S5, the S5 Mk.II is a three-way, floorstanding design, 4' tall. The twin, sealed-box–loaded, 10" aluminum-cone woofers with substantial rubber roll surrounds, 6" midrange unit with a graphene-coated Nano-Tec cone, and 1.1" diamond-coated, beryllium-dome tweeter are mounted vertically in line on its black front baffle. (Nano-Tec is Magico's name for a sandwich of Rohacell, a foam composite material extensively used in the aerospace industry, and external layers of carbon fiber coated with layers of carbon nanotubes.)

The Magico's internally braced enclosure is constructed from an aluminum extrusion 1/2" thick and 16" in diameter, with the midrange unit loaded by a subenclosure made of a proprietary polymer. The top cap is machined into complex shapes, both over and under, to minimize external diffraction and internal standing waves, while the bottom plate includes outriggers at its four corners into which can be screwed heavy-duty spikes. (As supplied, sturdy wheels are screwed into the outriggers to make handling easier.) Electrical connection is via a pair of binding posts at the bottom of the rear panel.

The S5 Mk.II is available in two different finishes. With the first, called by Magico M-Cast, the speaker costs $38,000/pair. In the handsome high-gloss M-Coat finish of the review samples, the price is $42,750/pair.

Diamond–Nano-Tec–Graphene
It is its drive-units that distinguish the Mk.II S5 from its predecessor. As Yair Tammam lives and breathes drive-units, I asked him about the changes, particularly that new 26mm-diameter tweeter, which has a 40µm-thick beryllium dome coated with a 5µm-thick layer of pure diamond, and was developed from the 28mm dome first seen in Magico's statement M-Project speaker.

The first Magico speaker reviewed in Stereophile, the V3, in May 2008, used a high-performance ring-radiator tweeter, but Tammam was bothered by the fact that such a tweeter's diaphragm operates in breakup mode in the upper region of its passband—he wanted a diaphragm that operated as a perfect piston throughout its operating bandwidth. A beryllium dome is both light enough and stiff enough to behave pistonically, and was used in the Magico Q5, which Michael Fremer reviewed in November 2012. Applying a layer of diamond to the metal, Tammam explained, results in a dome with a more homogeneous surface, which both reduces intermodulation distortion and results in a more benign harmonic-distortion signature that is less like that of a metal dome. I asked why they hadn't gone all the way and used an all-diamond diaphragm. It turned out that, yes, diamond would produce a very stiff diaphragm, but the required suspension would raise the tweeter's low-frequency resonance from the desired 500Hz or so to about 1.3kHz. This, in turn, would mean that the tweeter would have to be crossed over to the midrange drive-unit at too high a frequency. Beryllium's lower mass ensures that the resonance frequency is close to 500Hz, but the diamond layer raises the dome's stiffness to extend the high frequencies.

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I asked about the Nano-Tec cone used in the midrange unit. Tammam explained that in the earlier versions of this sandwich cone, the inner layer was stiffer than the outer layers, to match the voice-coil former. There followed changes in the former material and the thicknesses of the layers, guided by finite element analysis (FEA), until, in 2014, a Japanese corporation developed a way of laying down the carbon fibers in the weave that resulted in a more even flow of the resin before the material was cured in an oven. This seventh-generation version of Magico's driver has a cone that contains 30% less resin in the carbon-fiber layers, but one that is 300% stiffer.

In Magico's prior midrange cone the front layer of carbon fibers was overlaid with carbon nanotubes, but the US company that produced the nanotubes came up with a way of coating the front of the carbon-fiber layer with a skin of graphene, a superstiff sheet of carbon just one atom thick.

It's desirable that a speaker cone be of varying thickness: thickest at the center and the boundary with the voice-coil former, thinnest at the junction with the surround. However, Magico used to use a sandwich core of constant thickness, because the foam material would fracture if the thickness varied. For their new generation of midrange units they developed a process in which the foam is carefully injected between the front and back carbon-fiber, to permit the overall thickness to vary in the desired manner.

Tammam told me that they made much use of the Klippel analysis system in the development of the S5 Mk.II's drive-units, particularly regarding the spider, to get a significantly greater linear cone excursion. Computer simulation of the driver as a complete system—cone, surround, spider, motor, and magnetic circuit—allowed them to produce a drive-unit that combined the best technologies currently available to give performance that doesn't significantly change with the rise in temperature that typically occurs after a couple of hours of operation.

Yair Tammam summed up his goals in drive-unit design as achieving linearity not just with large excursions but with very small movements, so that the speaker's character remains the same at low sound-pressure levels as it does at high SPLs.

Listening
After Mackay and Tammam had used the excellent Dayton OmniMic v2 system to position the S5 Mk.IIs in my room and declared themselves content, they left for home. The speakers' front baffles were about 80" from the wall behind them and 98" from my listening position; the left speaker was 38" from the closest sidewall, the right 48" from its sidewall. I settled down for some critical listening, beginning with the PS Audio DirectStream DAC (Yale operating system, which I prefer to the earlier Pikes Peak) directly feeding my Pass Labs XA60.5 monoblocks, and the Magicos hooked up to the Passes with Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables.

The low-frequency, 1/3-octave warble tones on my Editor's Choice (ALAC file ripped from CD, Stereophile STPH016-2) played cleanly down to 25Hz, with the 32Hz tone not exciting the lowest-frequency mode in my room as is usually the case. Although the 20Hz tone seemed quieter than those immediately above it, the Studio Six SPL meter app on my iPhone, used with Studio Six's iTestMic, registered it as being equally loud. That it seemed quieter was due not only to my reduced hearing sensitivity in the very low bass, but also to the fact that distortion, which would produce harmonics that would be more audible, must be low in level.

COMPANY INFO
Magico, LLC
3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA 94545
(510) 649-9700
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COMMENTS
low2midhifi's picture

I heard these speakers at a show and was impressed. These speakers, while out of my price range for sure, have kept a lid on price (albeit a high one), and are a product that is chock-full of technology and thoughtful engineering.

The remarks from the manufacturer in this review are reminiscent of the first review I read of the late great Magico Mini. To quote this early review, and the same open disclosure exhibited in this review of the S5: "His [Alon's] ingredients and assembly protocol are an open book. You know exactly what you're getting and how it works." I could be wrong, but I don't recall many other speaker manufacturers who provide as many technical insights into their expensive products as does Magico. This review shows a continuation of this "open book" approach to Magico's engineering and design process.

Another question I'd pose is that Magico seems to be consistent in its use of advanced materials (and aluminum) for its drivers. These materials would seem to be durable and long-lasting, in addition to their acoustic properties. Other manufacturers, meanwhile, are going back to paper and textiles (the materials of the past, whatever positive traits they have as transducers). We need more information on what the expected longevity of materials is for expensive speakers. The purchasers of these high investment products must be asking these questions if I am.

Still, this was a fine review. The Magico product I am most curious to see tested is the Q1 stand-mount. The Magico Mini (or Mini II) never seems to have made it to a full test bench. Perhaps Stereophile can test the Q1 at some point.

Here's the link for the early review of the first generation Mini. The listening room pictures featured in this article stand among the most memorable ones I've seen:

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/magico/mini.html

Here's a video clip for the Q1 from a RMAF of a few years ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeRO_piB4lU

If anyone has a video clip of the MIni or Mini II, please post it.

HC63's picture

the reason many of high-end loudspeakers manufacturers are using old fashion cone materials like paper and silk is due to the fact that most of the off-the-shelves driver manufacturers, which is what most of these companies use, do not offer any advance solution to the stiffness/dampness cone conundrum and have been dumbing down their available selection due to shortage of R&D funding and market demand. The lack of unique drivers design in most high-end loudspeakers is alarming. Magico has been quite unique in their pursuit of real solutions to the challenge of taming a true pistonic cone.

tonykaz's picture

How many do they batch before they do another Revision?, I'd like to know what issues they correct for the MK.111

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

Wow, you're still enjoying this wonderful recording. I got mine from Karen Sumner & Electrocompaniet who were spreading them around at CES 1984 ( I think ). I gave away quite a few.

I'll betcha, you & I are the only two folks still playing it.

Kinda makes me wish we could go back to those heady Analog Vinyl days. At the time, I didn't realize how wonderful it was.

Of course, I wasn't making any serious money at it, it's a poor man's vocation, I think it still is.

Tony in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I'll betcha, you & I are the only two folks still playing it.

What I had not realized (or had forgotten) was that the LP was cut from a digital master. Bob Stuart was given access both to the master and to the unique digital recorder with which it was made. He is working on correcting the digital-domain problems with the early A/D converter and is planning to make an fully restored MQA version available.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

Geez, I love that Meridian Active gear and the Company. Interesting that Stuart is the third Toneff lover that I'm aware of.

Thank you for letting me know this, I'll certainly buy it ( and have a closer look at the Meridian Catalog of Recordings. Linn Recordings too, for that matter. I'm hunting for "Songs of the Hebrides" that I had on vinyl and loved. We may be entering the Golden Age of availability for all of these wonderful niche performances.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Thanks for mentioning Radka

scottsol's picture

"I'll betcha, you & I are the only two folks still playing it."

You Lose!