A Visit to the Magico Factory

Alon Wolf with the Magico M Project speakers. All photos: Jason Victor Serinus

Ever since 2013, when Alon Wolf's California-based Magico loudspeaker company consolidated its original 5000 sq. ft. Berkeley headquarters and 5000 sq. ft. San Jose warehouse into a single 20,000 ft. facility in Hayward, people have been telling me that I had to experience the company's "incredible" listening room. Ironically, it was only after I had relocated from the Bay Area to Port Townsend, WA, that the opportunity arose to take Alon Wolf up on his long-standing invitation to visit.

"It was a shame to leave Berkeley," Wolf told me at the start of the multi-hour tour. "But we couldn't find a suitable space. Already, we've almost outgrown this location. Part of our inventory is currently overflowing into what will become the Magico Museum one day."

The Magico Museum, with the Mini at the right and awards on the left.

Indeed, that Magico collection, in which discontinued models starting with the reputation-building Magico Mini (a monitor with a $32,000/pair price tag, right above) and the V3 that John Atkinson enthused about in May 2008 (center above) share space with shelves of award plaques and cover-story editions of audiophile magazines, is quite impressive. So is the fact that in just 10 years, Magico has achieved distribution in over 30 countries. The company has over 30 dealers in the US alone, and has 35 people working in the factory, plus two sales people traveling about.

The Kippel Production Analyzer in use in the Magico facility.

After seeing Magico's not-so-ancient history display, it was time to tour the facilities. Wolf was quick to point out that Magico is the only high-end speaker company in the U.S. to maintain quality control via an ultra-expensive Klippel Production Analyzer. [Many companies use Klippel analyzers in the design of their drive-units.—Ed.] He also noted that every part of a Magico loudspeaker is machined on site.

Magico has invested in expensive CNC machines.

In the next spacious room, Frank Fafek, who was only too happy to pose (with his safety goggles removed for beauty's sake), was at work machining midrange ring adapters for Magico's limited edition M Project loudspeakers ($129,000/pair). Wolf noted that the ring adapters' conical shape prevents the formation of standing waves. He also explained that he had sold all 50 pairs of the M Project, sight unseen, within 30 days after it was announced. The new Magico Q7 Mk.II loudspeaker ($229,000/pair)—"our latest and greatest loudspeaker," enthused Wolf—uses the same diamond-coated beryllium tweeter as in the M Project.

Magico builds its drive-units in-house.

Rich Bush assembles a Magico S3 speaker.

After seeing a tray filled with M Project footers—not even Magico's speaker supports are off-the-shelf—and watching employee Rich Bush assemble an S3, it was time to explore Magico's vast, 33' x 22' x 13' listening room. The room, which cost a quarter-million dollars to build, boasts a noise level of 24dB. Its outside walls are 5"-thick Quiet Rock, and the inside walls are composed of two layers of sheet rock. The floor, as you might expect, floats independently of the outer shell.

"Most of the time, when you listen to a loudspeaker, you're listening to the room," Wolf said at the start of our exploration. "It's very easy to measure a speaker above 800Hz, regardless of the room it's in. Below that, it gets tricky. Hence, the environment in which you listen to and test your loudspeakers is crucial.

"There is no 'average' room. You always have the potential to alter the environment you're in, but you can never change an abnormality in a loudspeaker. If you design a loudspeaker to work in your living room, for example, it won't necessarily work well elsewhere. So I've taken the room out of the equation. In this room, you hear the bass from the speaker alone, not from the interaction of the speaker with the room. This helps us voice loudspeakers more accurately."

As I gazed with wonder at what is unquestionably one of the finest high-end listening "laboratories" to be found, and thought of the much smaller listening room I'm building concurrently in our two-car garage, I felt overcome with fear at the thought of the cost of the room treatment alone, which was manufactured by RPG. Good Lord, I prayed, please don't tell me that we're going to need all this room treatment, because we can't possibly afford it. Furniture, wall hangings, and all the magic that Synergistic Research's Ted Denney can possibly summon forth are going to have to do the trick. But I digress . . .

The M Project speakers in the Magico listening room were driven by Soulution electronics.

"This has been a big dream of mine for maybe 30 years," said Wolf before briefly listing the equipment in the room. While components are always in rotation, the component chain during our visit was similar to that used in Magico's room in the Mirage at CES 2015, and consisted of a pair of M Project loudspeakers that were breaking in prior to shipment, Soulution monoblock amplifiers, a Berkeley Alpha DAC, Baetis music server, and a combination of Vovox and MIT cabling. Racks were by Magico, with Magico's QPods providing further support.

As I listened to jazz cuts by Suzanne Abbuehl and Kurt Elling ("Am I a Poet?"), I marveled at the system's ability to highlight maximal differences between colors of voices and accompanying instruments. I also noted that, while the room treatment did not deaden the room entirely—you could hear a modicum of ambience around our speaking voices, which sounded quite natural in the space—the sound of reproduced music was a little dry and analytical for my taste.

When we switched from jazz to classical, I marveled at how much detail I could hear as mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig sang Mahler's Lieder eines fahrendes Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) with Sir Adrian Boult and the Philharmonia Orchestra. It was extremely easy to hear how well (or not so well) the sound of Ludwig's voice in its different ranges was suited to expressing the music's emotional core. Both her vocal greatness and limitations were conveyed in equal measure.

I wanted to try to understand how much of my experience of feeling that I was sitting outside the music and thinking about it more than losing myself in it had to do with Ludwig and Boult, rather than the system's presentation in this particular space. I was dying to compare Ludwig's performance to Janet Baker's famous rendition, which I've heard many times, but the classic performances by both Baker and Fischer-Dieskau weren't part of the collection.

Wolf then surprised me with the huge soundstage the system created on Aaron Copland's The Red Pony, and how well the hilarity of the music came through. I loved it.

Serious me then asked to hear a movement from a Mahler symphony. Wolf struggled with the search function in the Baetis software, trying multiple strategies for finding all of his Mahler collection. As I lamented the dearth of consistent metadata for classical music, and wondered why such a reportedly good server came up short in the search department, I kicked myself for not bringing along my two bags of USB sticks filled with familiar and much-loved music of multiple genres.

Finally we settled for a bit of Solti's 1966 version of Mahler Symphony 2. Not only were instrumental balances not to my taste, but what I conjecture were the shortcomings of multi-miked finagling in the control room also came through loud and clear. Picture me simultaneously dismayed by the engineering, and in awe at how clearly the system depicted the mangling of musical intent. In all fairness, since Solti could never have heard all of what the engineers were doing on the studio monitors of the period, maybe I was hearing exactly what he thought he wanted me to hear.

Whatever recording was played on this system, the sound was absolutely in control. The absence of audible distortion revealed myriad nuances that are all too frequently obscured by room reflections, cabinet resonances, crossover design shortcomings and the like. I wasn't always emotionally involved by what I heard—again, I kept longing for familiar music so I could fully grasp if my lack of involvement was due solely to the renditions I heard—but my wonder at what I did hear was constant.

Wolf might object to me talking about a sound signature, but I would characterize the system as conveying a somewhat cool, understated elegance that impressed by its essentials rather than splashy frills. How much of what I heard was due to the inherent sound of the speakers, and how much was colored by the server and amplifiers, I cannot say.

If I were a recording engineer, I would definitely hope for the opportunity to audition my recordings on Magico loudspeakers in Magico's purpose-dedicated listening room. It's no wonder that when Bay Area journalist Wilson Rothman penned his unbiased and very revealing Wall Street Journal story, "Hi-Res Audio Hijinx: Why Only Some Albums Truly Rock," he headed to Wolf's sound room, and auditioned his tracks on Magico Q7 Mk.II loudspeakers. During my time in the room, I felt as though everything the artists we listened to put into their performances, I could hear.

Something Stereophile's readers have asked for more than once: Inside a Magico speaker.

Anon2's picture

...."the most expensive speaker in America and darned well worth it."

I have had the opportunity to hear the Q5, S1, and V3 speakers in product expos. The performance of the speakers is among the very finest I have heard. At one demo I was able to touch the cabinet of the V3. This speaker had the smoothest surface of any manufactured product I have felt.

AV Showrooms has a great Youtube video of the Magico Q1 from the 2011 RMAF. Unfortunately, my Youtube searches have yet to yield a video of the Magico Mini/Mini II.

Magico speakers will never be in my budget. Nonetheless, the attention to detail, innovation, materials science philosophy, and manufacturing precision of Magico speakers are undeniable. I wrote to Alon Wolf to express my appreciation of his wares; to my surprise he replied offering thanks.

Alon Wolf's 2008 interview with Stereophile remains among the most memorable and candid assessments I have read in this publication about speaker technology. He offered an unvarnished appraisal of the speaker technology of the day. Much of what he said in this 2008 interview probably remains true 7 years later.

This interview has influenced my purchasing decisions of audio equipment. In particular this interview taught me not to look for "big differences" among speakers for those products in my more modest price range. I invite the reader to go back to this interview and draw his or her own conclusions.


Magico also deserves praise for sticking to its guns on acoustic suspension cabinetry in an overwhelmingly bass reflex/ported speaker market. Magico, and a couple other US speaker manufacturers, prove that high-value added, technologically advanced finished goods, assembled by American hands, still has viability in the US.

dalethorn's picture

Viable they are, but I wonder what viable means in this context. It must mean that they sell enough of a model, say, the $32k Minis, to make a profit on them. But I wonder how many of those Minis are purchased as primary speakers by persons who are fairly well-to-do, and how many are sold as secondary-room speakers to wealthy persons who already bought the bigger speakers.

Venere 2's picture

Saw your question on Facebook. Don't know what an AQ Jitterbug is Dale? It's only one of the most talked about audio devices of the past few weeks. It was mentioned at least 6 times on the page you asked the question!

dalethorn's picture

I see that John deleted a "flame". Of course it's not a flame as all who have followed your obsession know too well. All I can help you with is to tell you to let go and get a life.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Even if your completely evidence free conjecture that the monitors only get sold to those who already own floorstanding Magicos were true, that would not speak to whether the monitors (or the company's speakers in general) were "viable" either economically or in other ways. I don't believe you're saying anything.

Of course it's obvious from the notes about their consolisation/expansion, their selling off an entire run of speakers grossing altogether in the millions in 30 days time, from their successful overseas network that the company is viable financially. The reviews suggest they're viable in other senses than just market ones, too.

doak's picture

"At one demo I was able to touch the cabinet of the V3. This speaker had the smoothest surface of any manufactured product I have felt."

And worth paying (through the nose) for

tonykaz's picture

Hello again Jason,

Converting the Two Car Garage, hmm.

Maybe you'll get down to 50db. ambient.

Plenty of Carpeted Walls will do it.

Probably double thickness Drywall 3/4 inch or Plywood ( the better option ).

Sharing space with smelly garbage cans?, yuk but each to his own.

What in the world is that Magico guy doing with a drill-gun?, seems out of place.

My local part time Dealer sells Magico stuff ( or says he's trying to ), we don't have many Donald Trump type big spenders round these parts.

Looks like they're doing a run of about 10 Pairs that some Dealers are gonna buy.

How much production can that dealer network support?

Have they had these things tested at Harmon's Spinorama?, love to see the Direct, Reflected and Room curves.

Oh well, kinda out of my reach anyway, I might as well pass right now.

Thanks for reporting.

Tony in MIchigan

ps. I did hear a Goldmund system on a recent trip to Europe, mega buck stuff is dazzling when done well.

spacehound's picture

I've got a fancy mid-engined Italian sports car. Two weeks old.

It's made in small quantities by a company with well over 50 years experience in such things.

It has a five and a half litre 600 brake horse power V10 engine and is made out of carbon fibre, aluminium, etc. and the seats are the finest leather you can get in any color you want.

The 10 pistons are matched so they all weigh the same and the 10 conrods not only weigh the same but have the center of gravity in the same position.

I could say much more.


If the first ones they made (right in the picture) were identical but $3000 a pair nobody would have paid Magico the slightest attention.

Kodak805's picture

I just cannot get past those plastic binding posts. Perhaps a minor issue if not for the price of admission. YG machines their own.

spacehound's picture

The only thing that got Magico noticed IS the price of admission.

"Oh look, here is a company with no track record selling a pair of small speakers at $32,000 so I will review them in my magazine"

And people fell for it and still do. The only thing that was in his mind when he started was high price equals high attention.

In this somewhat weird world we HiFi enthusiasts live in that's how nearly EVERYTHING works.

Such as five thousand dollars for a USB cable that isn't a USB cable at all, just a length of wire with USB-style connector on each end. Because it does NOT meet the tight specification and thus cannot carry the certification. (So it won't be what the DAC designer expected either.)

Yes, I fall for it too, but maybe not so much as many and I KNOW I'm being a sucker.

John Atkinson's picture
spacehound wrote:
"Oh look, here is a company with no track record selling a pair of small speakers at $32,000 so I will review them in my magazine"

For the record, Stereophile never reviewed the Magico Mini. See the introduction to my V3 review (linked in the report above) for the reason why not.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

gio's picture

You mean the nylon knob and spacer, which is the proper way to grip and isolate the conductive parts of a binding post, especially on a metal cabinet? Why would you want to machine these from metal, risking a short, even if coated??

Kodak805's picture

YG must have it all wrong then.

tonykaz's picture

is who should be showing this outfit.

Why is Stereophile dangling stuff like this in front of lowly us?

They might have a nice "look-see" photo shoot of Bottlehead ( up in Washington State ) or Schiit in LA. This is the gear we-all aspire to. Maybe even PS Audio in Colorado ( hello Paul ).

Speakers for the Top 1%, phew!

Do Audiophiles buy $30,000 Turntables or quarter million dollar Loudspeakers?

A nice Beech A-36 with IFR Avionics has a cost about that level.

Something's ><))))'> about $32,000 solutions to $3,000 problems.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Don't you realize we HiFi enthusiasts are crazy and rip-off merchants are taking advantage of us.

We even buy 10,000 dollar short lengths of wire. Some do, anyway. I'm not one of them

gio's picture

Yep, must hurt really bad not being able to afford nice stuff.
Not you, I am sure you can afford anything you like...
What a sad crowd, depressing.

spacehound's picture

What you can afford and what you actually buy are two entirely different issues :)

And speakers are basically simple things and development costs are relatively low compared to more complicated things and are also largely empirical.

Thus the price charged, if in the tens of thousands of dollars range is poor value.

I don't CARE that the manufacturer is small so 'incidental' costs may be high. That's HIS problem.

tonykaz's picture

Enough of you HiFi people buy this stuff to justify Advertising Dollars spent to turn your Press into "Advocates" for this kind of thing.

I wonder who the intended "Clientele" could be. Perhaps it's those Children of the Walmart Founders ( inheritors of vast Stock Portfolios ).

Is that who Stereophile caters to, these days?, a far cry from the founding father Gordon Holt's concepts.

Trying to be "Fair & Balanced" here ( a Fox News Trademarked term ), Stereophile's Publisher "is" sponsoring Tyll Herston's headphone project ( up in Montana ) where Tyll and knowledgeble personages such as Bob Katz ( the Recording Engineer ) are evaluating $1,000 to $5,000 Headphones.

Tyll's "Big Sound 2015" is exactly the kind of thing we consumers can find useful.

Tyll and his Crew are the Fun People in Audio today!

Headphones is where a person gets HUGE "Bang for the Buck"; outstanding Electronics start around $250 and range up to a couple of grand.

It's a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry that's way under reported and it's our industry, specifically for us!

Tony in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
I wonder who the intended "Clientele" could be. Perhaps it's those Children of the Walmart Founders ( inheritors of vast Stock Portfolios ). Is that who Stereophile caters to, these days?


tonykaz wrote:
a far cry from the founding father Gordon Holt's concepts.

Gordon covered expensive audio components right from the start. See, for example, his 1968 review of the Infinity ServoStatik speaker, - www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/845/index.html, which at the time cost $2000/pair. This is equivalent to nearly $14,000 in 2015, but more significantly, was almost equal to the price of a contemporary late '60s automobile like the Chevrolet Camaro.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

I think I remember that we all read about stuff like this, dolby noise reduction systems too, the Big Shops like "Stereoland" might have these in the same Room with the big Klipsch Corner Horns. I still had Mac mono Tube 35w Amps. ( I think ). These "Under-Years" may have ended with the introduction of LINN's "LP12 concept" taking hold ( the importance of the Source ).

We seemed to have settled-in to owning LS3/5s, Linn Kanns, Pro-Ac Tablettes ( my favorite ) Quad 63s & Thiel CS3 ( r.i.p Jim Thiel ).

Then Enid Lundly discovered Wire and we were Off-and-running again : Sota & VPI, MC carts. SME torn arms., Audio Research, Conrad-Johnson, Electrocompniet, Reference Recordings & Doug Sax, Tip-Toes, Monster Cable and scads more stuff to sneak home with. We became "Audiophiles" .

The CD seemed to have "Popped our Bubble". We fully bought into the Source importance. We were continually reminded about the CD being crap. As 1985 came round, our hobby ended. The Wives got their husbands back (maybe).

20 years go by, Gordon Rankin figured out DAC chipset design and we're Off-and-running again! The Youth need/demand portability, they represent the future, they buy, they love their music ( like everyone ). The Astel & Kern people build and define greatness ( still at the magic number $2,000 ), top level IEMs & Headphones @ $2,000, little Amps/DACs ranging up to about $2,000. Geez, I can be an Audiophile again. There's Hope again. CDs sound superb, even better than the better LPs which were a very "demanding" medium ( we only ever had a few that we listened to "over and over").

I now have Carnagie Hall in my shirt pocket, for god's sake!

I don't need no stinkin Giant Box Speakers no-more, I got tiny greatness. It doesn't shake the walls but it emotionally moves me, it's my personal Dopamine Delivery Device.

I'm in Heaven, anywhere!

Who are these "Rip van Winkles" that missed the 1985-2005 chapter of Audiophilia ?, who still needs room shaking Woofers? Can there be all that many of them? or are we just making Barber Shop Glossys?

Seems that we had Gordon Holt, HP, IAR, Stereophile, Audio but now have Tyll & Company reporting on a multi-Billion Dollar industry working hard to satisfy the "Global Everyman", he's becoming our next HP.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I agree with you about the Camaro Comparisons

gio's picture

Who is “we”? Speak for yourself, buddy. I can’t stand digital portable audio, were the sound is in my head and violins sounds like chainsaws (yes, even on the Astel & Kern). The youth do like something, but I would not call it music, they don’t even know what that is all about since most of them have never heard uncompressed audio signal. Not to mention that they are losing their hearing due to this “new future” of yours. Like I said, depressing…

tonykaz's picture

You're snarling anger is impressive,

You're science and logic isn't.

Tony in Michigan

gio's picture

It is not anger, it is depression.
Nice poetry, though...

tonykaz's picture


sorry for being prickly.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Here's why they're losing their hearing. And BTW, most of the sites that encourage this problem have 'FI' in their title.


dalethorn's picture

Indeed he did cover pricy systems. I bought the FMI 80's - the center unit of the big Fulton J-Mods - and those 80's were a darn fine speaker all by themselves - better in some ways than the Rogers LS3/5a's.

volvic's picture

But it is made in America and in San Francisco where labor, and costs are high, probably has to pay for health insurance for his workers and pay them a decent wage, couple that with the research and materials used to make the things and you have something made in small quantities that yes! costs a lot. Do you think he made the price figure out of the top of his head? He did his break even analysis or had someone do it for him and that is the price he came up with so that he can stay in business and make a living. This is the free market people! I tip my hat to him to have the courage to put everything into this and start it up is a tribute to the love of his craft. I have heard them at shows and think they are wonderful, beautiful works of industrial art. If I could afford I would buy. It is true as someone wrote above - some of these posts are depressing.

tonykaz's picture

I am a Manufacturer, I'm responsible for costs.

The cost of manufacture is 20% of the Retail price.

Unless you're Proctor & Gamble working at 9%.

A couple of CNC machines, no measurement stuff in sight, no surface tables, no temperature controlled enviornment, naw, we'e looking at the folks making the "King's New Suit".

Limited production?, so what, it's a CNC, every cycle is a limited production.

Sounds good at a Show, under "Dog & Pony" conditions, big deal. Can a person build a proper home environment to cope with mega watt low frequency Room Effects?, No, they can't, that takes careful "On-Site" Engineering and Careful Room Construction Crews.

However a person can have this stuff to Show-Off, which is about all a Civilian can hope to accomplish.

I do know of ONE owner: Bruce Brisson of MIT, who has a small pair on a steel shelving unit in his little lab.

Genelec make a range of Aluminum Housing Speakers, nice Industrial Art, Recording Studios use Genelec.

I don't mind little shops turning out wildly expensive, I object to their stuff being presented as significantly better without subjecting their stuff to double blind tests at Harmon's facility.

If I'm impressed it's with our Press tendencies to Worship.

Tony in Michigan

volvic's picture

Yes, they are expensive, yes manufacturing is 20% of cost but R&D, salaries, shrinking market, cash flow projections all have to be taken into account when pricing. Could he have sold them for $30K? perhaps if he could ramp up production or know that economies of scale would sell lots. Don't know, do know what I have heard and the little monitors have really impressed me and are quite impressive. Like I said if cost were no object, but admire his chutzpah for doing what he does.

tonykaz's picture

Genelec & Focal & Emotiva along with a wide range of others build and sell in this segment, which is growing.

Where $3,000 buys this level of performance ( including Amps ) sales of the $30,000 version evaporate.

20% Costs includes R&D, Salaries, Rents, depreciations, Warranty, Travel, Co-op Advertising, in-house Sales Staff and all the misc. expenses.

Competing is hard work, Sales don't come easy, repeat Sales drive the Business, Word of mouth is Gold or can be death.

Magico is well named, it's magic when they sell sell one, maybe they're writers for Disney.

Tony in Michigan

gio's picture

Now you sound angry...
And you know Mr. Brisson from MIT (I own his cables). You also seem to suggest that unless a product is tested blindly at Harmon's facility (I take it you know them as well), it can't be taken seriously.
Perhaps you care to tell us what it is that you are manufacturing??

dalethorn's picture

I admire Harman for what they research, and for loaning their guy to the AES, but check out their flagship AKG K812 sometime - whoever designed that could not have been following the Harman test curve.

tonykaz's picture

I suppose I am angry, good call.

I'm GM Corp., since the 1960s, I left GM in the early 1980s to Import British stuff LINN-B&W-KEF-Meridian kind of gear, I also opened and operated a High-End Shop : Esoteric Audio, I manufactured Turntable parts ( for the Audio Industry ).

As CDs came to replace Vinyl recordings, 1985 or so, I left Audio to return to GM.

Now, after 7 Decades on this Planet, I'm only Fiduciary. I do get to travel about.

About MIT : I worked with Karen Sumner who had a hand in Elecrocompaniet and MIT, I love her stuff and sold scads of the MH-750 ( wonderful stuff ), I also worked with the Monster People selling every single thing they offered, they had a marvelous line of Audiophile bits and pieces. Karen is now in Maine, making Transparent Cables for mega buck prices.

About Harmon : Floyd Toole and Professor Oliver at Harmon have a testing facility available to anyone. The provide accurate testing and evaluations, they loved the Meridian M-2s I was Importing ( which didn't sell well, here in the States ).

I suppose that I'm distressed or angry that the Show-off products dominate the Press that we need to educate our emerging audiophiles.
Music is an important component of our society, Superb reproduction capabilities are available for modest amounts.

Whilst we Spotlight the Big Wilson/VTLs, Apple is scooping up all the new-bees with the iPhone6.

We're loosing by default!

I ain't happy about it.

The Bright part is Tyll up in Montana.

Tony in Michigan

gio's picture

Appreciate your reply and I understand where you are coming from.
I am not in the high-end business, but I have been buying high-end for a long time. I am an electrical engineer by training, and do like the “under the hood” stuff, (I even read Toole’s book and I am familiar with his work). I do own a pair of Magico loudspeakers, and I would think that someone like you might actually appreciate what this company has done. This is not your typical high-end boutique, with some fancy ideas on what should work or not within the very limited, off-the-shelves components, available to all. If you wish to talk about value, I would argue that Magico products, in comparison to many other high-end loudspeaker brands, are actually a pretty good deal. Yes, they are expensive, but I can easily see where the money is going. Losing or not, Magico is one company that I am always excited to see what they will do next, if we had more companies like that in high-end, perhaps the hobby would be in better shape.

BTW, their products has been reviewed and tested by all major publications around the world. Their superb performance has been well documented, both subjectively and objectively.

Sorry, but who is “Tyll up in Montana”?

tonykaz's picture

I've lived and worked with Audio Transducer devices to the point of no longer being impressed.

On the other hand, the recorded music can be quite impressive, stunning even.

I know that I can make Bose 901s sing and dance beautifully ( not that I like the darn things or think of them as being useful ).

I've seen Pro-Ac Tablettes fool people into thinking they're large floor standing full-range devices. ( they're the size of a shoebox ) .

I worked with Jim Winey of Magnapan, at CES in Vegas to demo his little planers to show that they have scads of bass ( convincingly ).

I've sold over a hundred pair of Quad 63s that the Press loved, I made them sound wonderful in my listening room with a VPI, Koetsu Rosewood and Electrocompaniet electronics & MIT Cabling. A little secret: they're not all that good a transducer, in fact we though they were marginal and WAY over-rated.

I've learned that people trust what read and see, they don't trust themselves.

Our big Thiel CS3s had powerful lows, enough to vibrate our dampened walls but only with Mono Amps. People bought them and a Harmon Kardon Receiver that reviewers said was Ok.

Geez, I'm feeling like I'm on a Rant, I gotta stop, right now.

I'm happy for ya, you're an EE, you can handle this stuff, I don't think you've been fooled or that you tricked yourself.

I'm told that Transducers are 97% , Amps nearly 100%, Recorded music is nearly flawless, a person's hearing can be ok to bad, Room Acoustics range from acceptable to horrible but we hear a decent music system and start dancing. Our Brains adjust, we accept a certain "Clear" sounding system with happiness.

So, I'm going back to build a distribution network for Iran. fingers crossed.

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

Tyll is Editor in Chief of the Stereophile's Innerfidelty site.
It's well worth a look!

JA is Stereophile's Print Editor in Chief.

or something like that. JA will probably write something here to clarify.

Both are a must read for music loving audiophiles.

TAS is rather long of tooth.


John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
JA is Stereophile's Print Editor in Chief. or something like that. JA will probably write something here to clarify.

Not just the print magazine. I am responsible for all the content in the magazine and its website, as well as editorial policies and strategies.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

By the way, I had a Magazine stand for Hifi News & Record Review, in my Salon mid 1980s, I thought your Glossy was the best in the Business. I love those British Adverts ( especially the "Needle in a Haystack"). The British writers are glorious, I buy British today just to hear the wonderful articulations i.e.. Robin Lane Fox on Gardening & Alexander the Great.

Round these parts we stay with Hemingway's four letter words. Too Bad.

Aussies like Darko & "Lachlain likes a thing" seem way better than us, why is that?, Edgeamaktion, I suppose. Better vote for Clinton this time round.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Iran is complaining that they are the only Nuke Power that is required to Cut Back on the Doomsday Clock, all the rest of us are Racing ahead. hmm. I'm trying to sell em Chevys and Schiit.

volvic's picture

To suggest a $3000 speaker can compete with a higher end Magico or MBL or Wilson or Verity Audio is laughable. Even my 50 year old ears have been impressed by the higher end stuff. Armed with similarly priced equipment and source components they are capable of magic. Most of us compromise and try to get the most bang for the buck but even I know my Linn Kans and Klout cannot compete with the more expensive MBL's, Magicos and Vitus to suggest otherwise is a pipe dream.

tonykaz's picture

Have you ever double blind tested any of this stuff?

Show us some science.

Magic is a pipe dream, a crack pipe dream.

But maybe you're trying to re-create Fleetwood Mac's Road-Show PA for your living room, a Yellow earplugs experience, my neighbors with the Pool do this sort of thing.

Tony in MIchigan

dalethorn's picture

Assuming you have a system with plenty of headroom, and when you turn up the volume a lot you don't hear obvious distortions, then the best thing you can do at that point is grab the equalizer and smooth out the serious peaks and suckouts. That will restore your soundstage better than a million-dollar component upgrade.

tonykaz's picture

Eq can only be properly effective with direct axis, as in headphones.

Loudspeaker reflected axis needs room corrections ( as in non reflective surfaces i.e. anechoic treatments ),
Standing waves in the low frequencies require the Woofer parts to be separate and movable for placement, sometimes a Center Woofer is needed to nullify Standing Waves.

Every single object in the room can go into sympathetic vibration creating a chorus of issues. ( We were able to get the dishes in kitchen cabinets to dance on their shelves ).

Those big Woofer Amps have enough power to vibrate the Walls ( Sound Studios are built with cement Block ) .

Get it right and those speaker systems can't be identified, a person only hears music. ( the Bob Katz studio system ). A person can't tell if it's the Full Lipinski array, or Bob's Revels or what it is, the speakers simply dis-appear, they vanish, poof!

I've been taking the Phonak people's recommendations on Equalizing earphones. I've been able to make every headphone ( I've dabbled with ) sound wonderful.

Transducers have a sonic quality ( much like professional singer's voices ), some sound like Bonnie Rait some like Pavarotti, I like em all. Sennheisers seem like Joan Sutherland type of voice ( which I love ). Audeze seem more like the Germanic Baritone ( which I also love ) .

I haven't had my hands on any AKG, it's a German outfit that Harmon Imports and distributes. They make an entire Wireless IEM system for Stage Performers that I'm considering.

Good morning,

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

There are people like myself who have 40-plus years experience with EQ, yet whose names are not well known. But of course you could google...

Anyway, I won't borrow on other experts' reputations to pad my own - suffice it to say that flattening out the big (or AKG K812 really big) peaks and dips in headphones not only makes the sound smoother and more pleasant, but it makes the wonderful soundstage of the music pop out in a most endearing way.

The speaker and shelves-rattling argument is misplaced. You can certainly add "rattling" to the distortions I already mentioned as a pre-qualification, before reaching for the equalizer.

tonykaz's picture

or even more.

All Phono had RIAA equalizations as do the recordings themselves. The recording engineers rolled everything below 120hz into Mono with Eq so that it would fit the Groove cutting requirements.

The Dish & Glass rattling is just something Big Amps & Woofers do, it's a fun showiness kind of thing but it does illustrate how a house resonates ( as does everything ) , people in the listening room won't notice it.

Although, we would provide customers with white styrofoam coffee cups, the cups would have annual ringlets showing as the music played. Another showiness gimmick. Our Speakers would blow-out a Bic lighter ( customers will show off this trick in they're own homes ). Sales silliness which is what is necessary to get those wallets opened-up. I felt like a Carnival guy.

I digress,

Apple & Google are the NEW "& improved" Pharaohs, the Music Industry is shifting to our new requirements, again.

We have to catch the curve or get left behind.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'd love to try the 812s and the other stuff AKG offer.

dalethorn's picture

I had the large Advents and a Crown DC300a, and the room I listened in had a long dimension that allowed a 30 hz wave without cutting it off or building up a standing wave/resonance etc. But it had a large opening, so I procured a temporary and sturdy plug for that opening, which allowed the deep bass tones to sound and feel like they did in the church where the pipe organ was recorded. Down to 30 hz anyway. Once I had that "fix" I was not plagued by rattling or ringing or annoying resonances, however, where there were room nodes higher up in frequency, the equalizer tamed those perfectly. I think as long as people understand the basic acoustics involved, they'll be better off. Dick Heyser of CalTech/JPL hit a homerun with his analysis of earthquake waves as acoustical phenomena back in the 70's, which is a great place to begin understanding bass waves and so on.

tonykaz's picture

Nice story, nice solution, nice result.

I haven't heard the name Dick Heyser in years, maybe decades.

Those years I was working on Forged Connecting Rods for large displacement Diesel Engines. ( 149 cu.in. per cylinder )

I'll pay you everything I own to go back.

Tony in Michigan

ps. go back to being youth again, not diesel stuff again.

tonykaz's picture

I just had a return look at your K812s that Tyll gave a nice to very nice review.

Wonderful musically but have Impulse Response issues.

Back then, I wrote to him that he must have a bad sample!, of which he responded with agreement but said : the second example that Harmon sent out displayed the same problem.

I let it go, it's wasn't any sort of factor impacting me.

Tell now.

After talking to you, I had a look at the Video coverage of the AKG factory, the manufacturing processes around building the 812. The AKG place is a precision outfit, they use instrument manufacturing machinery, they have trained and experienced staff, they can measure and use superb quality controls. They build beautiful product and seem to know exactly what they're doing. This is a no fooling around outfit!

So, how did our Tyll get shipped defective product for an International Review?

I asked our NVH guys for their impression. They felt the Driver had been removed and replaced with over tightened fasteners; the driver got warped a tiny bit.

Still, the Factory should've gotten involved but didn't.

I'd put it down to Importer problems, again.

But it does suggest that these things shouldn't be serviced outside the Factory. kinda like Hasselblad Cameras and Electron Microscopes.

Anyway, Tyll reports a wonderful musicality from the 812s, I better have a pair, I love musicality!

Thanks for mentioning this.

Tony in Michigan ( mostly )

ps. look at these AKG videos compared to the snaps of the Magico outfit -- $1,000 items are being built.
The Sennheiser Plant looks like an Intel Chip facility clean room. phew.

Our GM engine plants are filthy ( by comparison ), we don't brag to visitors, we apologize.

dalethorn's picture

The K812 can be good if you have a really crack equalizer, but for most people, the horrible tonality caused by that enormous 4 khz peak is intolerable.

For example, my EQ curve (a forgiving curve at that): http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Akg_K812.jpg

Note that the vertical separator lines for 300 and 3000 hz are missing. This correction (green line only) is in direct comparison to 50 or so headphones, including the Senn HD800, several Beyers, ......

tonykaz's picture

Hmm, very clever.

I'm rather old school, I use an Antiquated BSR 10 Band analog device. I nearly got around to buying a dbx 31 band 2 Channel but the elderly BSR seems acceptable for my Sennheisers & my own hearing curves ( Audiologist supplied from live testings ).

This is basic stuff, anyone can do this, it should be a feature of our Headphone Amplification Systems.

Should be but it's a total Taboo amongst "high end" folks. ( except you of course )

Anyway, do your 812s have impulse issues? as Tyll reports about in his test samples. Have you read his review commentaries? Just wondering.

My ODAC into my BSR into my Schiit Asgard2 into my Sennheiser HD580 is so beautiful that I've come to a confident place. I could take this darling little system to the Desert Island.

However, I'm an Impulsive buyer that buys up all the gear I'm impressed with, I buy something after every headphone meet. I Ebay it after it doesn't work out, most stuff doesn't quite make it.

I collect the World's Music, I keep 90%, some CDs aren't worth my shelf space. I'm also taking 24 or so Teaching Company Courses ( interesting time-gap fillers for my travels or work day ), a few minutes of Viking history, Robert E.Lee or Dead Sea Scrolls will refresh for the next round of Data discussions which I'll begin with a nice Quote from what I just learned. These Courses I never would've considered in School but now that I have the easy access I find myself loving them, I buy these 6 at a time. Wonderfull stuff.

I think you'd be a good candidate for the Big Sound 2015, I hope you consider it.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

I would guess that the K812 "impulse problems", if that's what it comes down to, is a cause or the cause of the slightly rough or grainy sound. That doesn't bother me a lot. But in working with the parametric equalizer over the past 2 years (7 bands only, user-settable), I've discovered that the major colorations in most headphones are caused by sudden and large changes in amplitude from one frequency to the next. And those colorations are soundstage killers. In most cases I can take a $100 headphone that's harsh and gritty and within a few minutes clear those colorations up and open up the soundstage in a marvelous way. But an uneven response at the beginning that's corrected by an equalizer will gain even more uneven areas, albeit those won't be as large of peaks and dips as before. But it won't make the sound smooth or 'liquid'-like unless you can do 30 bands of adjustment by ear, and spend a month or more getting each adjustment perfect.

A person needn't be an expert to use a 7-band parametric equalizer. They might want to keep a couple of well-respected flagship headphones at hand for reference purposes as they work, but the key to this is to NOT think of EQ this way as redesigning the response. The key is to find the most obvious peaks and dips that are the source of the colorations, and try to fix those to restore a more natural sound. Most headphones I EQ sound a lot more natural** after just 10 minutes of effort, but when they don't, I've been known to start over from scratch a couple more times if necessary, to get the more natural sound. That's because the headphone's response is complex, and just because it sounds as even with test tones as the best flagships, does not mean it's right.

**One thing any audiophile who wants to get good at EQ should add to their training is the walkabout test. Pick a route of perhaps 2 miles, going through a park, a moderately busy street, a marketplace, and other varying environments with different types of sounds, including people talking close by. Listening to different things on the headphone at volumes comparable to the environment, remove the headphone every so often and ask yourself if the headphone sounds natural. If your hearing is good, you'll have to have some really good headphones and program material to approach the sounds of real life.

tonykaz's picture

I was about to try one of these as well.

I stumbled across the BSR 10 band and got lucky.

Crisis over, move on.

However I was considering the dbx unit and the Parametrics that Sweetwater offer.

Just now, the Plug-in Eq systems can equal the Analog devices . Bob Katz reveals these things in his Innerfidelty series.

I have squeaky wheel projects requiring attention, this Audio stuff is a nice few moments of escape.

But I'd like to focus on it for an even better result.

The Phonak People are offering me an IEM system that's pre-Eq'd to my hearing curves, able to iPhone, and able to auto-adapt to environments, I'm tempted to try/accept their clever engineering.

We have an ever widening range of solutions for sound reproduction interfacing with our ears & brain. All of it came during our lifetime.

My family began with actual metal needles in 78 Grooves.

Now it feels like I'm watching Genies appearing from bottles.

My company knows exactly where I am and where I've been.

I can be in Frankfort in 8 hours, properly prepared.

My Cardiologist knows my blood pressure and can run an EKG on me without me knowing ( at any time ), my little iPhone transmits this data.

What will the next decade bring?


Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

BTW, one thing I've found important in EQ'ing that also applies to A/B or "blind" tests is to NOT toggle on/off or A/B while tones are playing! I get much better results using music (ex: Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens) that has "segments" where the toggle can be done between 2 segments - for example, between "Morning has broken" and "Like the First morning". As long as the tonality is the same in the 2 segments, then the differences can be more clearly heard than toggling in the middle of a tone or phrase.

volvic's picture

Have you ever double blind tested any of this stuff? - Nope no need, have a great memory

Show us some science - Logic works both ways you haven't shown any, you first.

Magic is a pipe dream, a crack pipe dream - I have no idea what you are talking about.

But maybe you're trying to re-create Fleetwood Mac's Road-Show PA for your living room, a Yellow earplugs experience, my neighbors with the Pool do this sort of thing. - Now you're just babbling.

I think you're trapped in an era of good hi-fi long long time ago that was great at the time and just have difficulty accepting that good stuff advances and costs. Yes six figures is high and ridiculous but there "lower end" stuff is in line with other competitors. Ok, nuff said on this topic. Done here !

JUNO-106's picture

If one spends $229,000 for a pair of speakers where will one ever find suitable recordings that were also made on equipment costing six figures?

You know, weakest link in the chain and all...

Considering the marginal quality of 99.9% of available recorded music, isn't this like buying a Lamborghini and then driving it on dirt roads filled with potholes?

volvic's picture

I have taken poorly recorded CD's from the early 80's and played them on mega equipment and it made no difference; nothing could save that music. But there are many other great recordings available. If you have a great computer audio setup or CD player or even better great vinyl rig there are still plenty of great recordings out there and every year I am surprised every time I bring a good CD, how much better it sounds as the equipment improves. Can you make intelligent purchases? Yes! Can you get a great bang for your buck? Yes! If I won the lotto would I pay $229K for Magico speakers? No because I would have to buy hyper expensive gear to match it and I am too budget conscious, but if a Magico Mini came up on the used market I would buy it because I know it would make my recordings sound better. I understand and respect Wolf's decision to make statement speakers that provided he can sell, allows him to stay in business and pad his bank account so that he can continue to make his less costly models. To that I say more power to him.

JUNO-106's picture

I have no problem with someone selling a $200k pair of speakers. I have no problem with people buying them either.

But here is my question, let's say I spend $400,000 on an absolute top of the line high end system. What am I going to play on it to realize it's absolute full potential when the vast majority of recorded music is recorded mediocre at best?

Were even the top of the line audiophile grade recordings recorded on equipment costing $400k?

Even if they are how limited of a selection would you have?

Reading the article there is no doubt that Magico takes great care in making their products. But if the recordings you are playing on them were not made with that same amount of care, on equipment made with equal care, then isn't this like eating a McDonald's hamburger off of Waterford China?

volvic's picture

I think in classical, jazz and opera there are plenty of great recordings from the 50's, 60's and maybe even the 70's to justify the cost, if you have that much to pay. Even classical recordings from the 90's onwards are quite good in my opinion. For my tastes in music this is not much of an issue. I think laws of diminishing returns, proper matching components, room placement are bigger issues to ponder when paying this much money.

Point is these Magicos are great speakers and judging from the photos a lot of money and thought has gone into making the factory and the speakers. They make cheaper models, the monitors that I have heard are very impressive, at the time I think they were 23k, I know the S3 was around 23k as well (I think) and reviewers and people I know and who I respect heard them and were very impressed. I wish I could afford a pair of those monitors.

B9at627's picture


spacehound's picture

Spot on. Magico pricing is a nonsense.

And we have to remember that magazines are merely advertising vehicles. They just have to have enough 'reviews and articles' to get us interested enough to buy them and look at the ads. Free online ones just support the main magazine.

Reviewers? They are PAID to keep the HiFi pot boiling so they do.

Nellomilanese's picture

of fat, lonesome, angry crowd.
Is your life that worthless to get so worked up about a guy and his PRIVATE company using his own money/resources/passion/talent/time to sell loudspeakers? Is he putting a gun to ur head or something? that u feel the need to vent against his products here?
Get a life....call a freakin' 6 foot tall escort for a few hrs rather than upgrade your cables again. Then your whole view on life, Alan Wolf and his speakers will change LOL
Seriously though....I have met Alan in Lisbon (Portugal).
Also I listened to 3 of his top speakers at Imacustica Lisbon (one of the best hi-fi stores in continental Europe).
In SOME systems the sound was priceless IMO...i'm saying this after I listened to top of the line Sonus Faber and biggest Focal Utopia.
Other systems they sounded like indeed not worth the premium price but still excellent.
Alan is just driven by his passion...there's no one "BEHIND" thinking let's screw the audiophiles by jacking up the prices xtimes over. Sure, he needs to turn a profit...but he's not out there trying to screw you.
Start your own company building loudspeakers, deliver the loudspeaker with 100 k sound for 1 thousand $ THEN we can talk again.
P.s. he got word-of-mouth endorsed by Tom Cruise who convinced Jimmy Fallon to get a hi-fi system...that's priceless and an immense satisfaction.

Stereophile-R's picture

$129,000/pair LOL I'd compare my $ 17,000 PMC's with those with no sweat... anytime !