Magico, Spectral, Audio Research, MIT, Tim Marutani Consulting, Bill Schnee, Blue Coast Records: Awesome!

Though they were also seen at the Munich Show, Magico’s Q1 monitors ($24,950/pair) are making their US debut here at the California Audio Show. The speaker incorporates much of the technology and design philosophy used in Magico’s Q5, reviewed by Mikey Fremer, but puts it in a smaller package. Like the Q5 and Q3, the Q1 is a sealed-box design with extensive internal bracing.

Magico’s Alon Wolf explained that he strives to create a speaker which highlights no single aspect of the presentation, but instead offers a strong, top-to-bottom coherence. I asked him about the differences between designing a small speaker and designing a cost-no-object model. “They both have their issues and their triumphs,” he said. “The idea is not to lose anything.” When listening to a smaller speaker such as the Q1, Wolf wants you to forget what you’re missing. The speaker should couple with the room, providing a clean, extended, balanced overall sound, which is exactly what I heard in this smallest of Magico rooms.

The system was completed by Spectral’s SDR4000SL CD processor, DMC-30SS preamplifier, and DMA-360 monoblock power amplifiers. We listened to Triple Concerto & Music for Trio with Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussein, and Edgar Meyer, and the sound was clean and fast, with well-extended highs and lows, and a detailed midrange. Whereas many exhibitors at this show seemed to be making compromises for their rooms, Magico was able to build a system that to seemed perfectly suited to the room. The system seemed truly locked in to the room, offering that tight, well-extended bass, and great spatial effects. The Q1 speakers effortlessly disappeared and the system filled the room with engaging music—fast, detailed, and robust.

Good stuff.

Very similar qualities were also present in the two larger Magico rooms I visited. In the Bayside Hall, Magico’s Q3s were part of a system featuring Audio Research amplification: Reference 250 monoblock power amplifiers ($25,590, making their US debut), Reference Anniversary preamplifier ($25,000), and Reference Phono 2 phono stage ($11,995). Discs spun in either an Audio Research Reference CD-8 ($9995) or Accuphase DP-700 SACD player ($27,000). Berkeley Audio’s Alpha DAC ($5000) and Auraliti’s L-1000 music file player ($3500) were also involved. On the analog side, there was the Transrotor Orfeo ($17,000) with Graham Phantom tonearm ($5995) and Air Tight PC-1 moving-coil cartridge ($6000). Cables and power cords were by MIT (a popular choice at the California Audio Show), the equipment rack was by Rix Rax, isolation devices by Magico, and room treatments by ASC (another popular choice here at the show).

In this much larger room, the Q3 seemed to achieve the same level of overall coherence as its “crazy, little brother,” the Q1. There was a remarkable sense of scale and space, with well-extended highs and very good low-end impact. We were listening to digital at the time, but the system had a very analog-like sense of ease.

In the Plaza Ballroom, Tim Marutani Consulting built a mega-system comprising Magico Q5 loudspeakers ($59,500/pair), Constellation Altair line preamplifier ($65,000), Constellation Hercules monoblock power amplifiers ($140,000/pair, but at least you get two of them), Continuum Audio Labs turntable system ($100,000), Bottlehead Tube Phono phono preamplifier ($10,000), and a custom computer source. Recording engineer Bill Schnee (Amy Grant, Michael Bolton, Whitney Houston, Steely Dan...) gave a fascinating and insightful presentation, detailing some of the behind-the-scenes mechanisms of capturing sounds and working with musicians, and began to demo some of his latest Bravura Records projects when, sadly, the lights flickered and the sound went out—the perils of demming in a hotel. Up until that point, however, the sound was as good as any I'd heard here or elsewhere.

In an adjoining room, Blue Coast Records' Cookie Marenco was hosting live performances, recording them direct-to-DSD, and making them immediately available as free DSD downloads. Awesome!

music guy's picture

...and have spent large amounts of money in the pursuit of the musical ideal but my threshold is near to a peak...(and I'm not the typical guy to whine about high priced audio...I have a Berkeley DAC, MIT cables, Levinson, etc ...some of the spooky stuff like Shunyata power chords, among other things) but the price of this little Magico two way, at $25,000, is, I must confess, truly obscene.  

robertbadcock's picture

Yeah, I know...  hater hater hater... 

But don't they kinda look like a pair on 600S3 s' from B&W....  


dmid94's picture

How can this speaker cost so much?

It is baffling to me indeed!

I admit it's been a while since I checked the state of the art but that seems beyond obscene... sorry.

Can anyone explain or point me in a direction to find?

volvic's picture

with all the above comments and I too have spent a large sum of money trying to reach sonic nirvana, yet I have decided that if they want to charge this much and there is a demand more power to them.  In the end the market will decide whether or not their pricing structure makes sense.  Audio history is full of companies that made exceptional prodcuts that came and went; Tandberg, Hovland, Sonic Frontiers etc., something tells me those companies won't be the last. 

volvic's picture

this is not to imply that Tandberg, Hovland and Sonic Froniters closed doors due to overpriced products, simply that the "invisible hand" was the final arbiter.  High end companies charge based on their fixed and variable costs.  In the end it is up to us as the consumer to judge whether or not it is worth all that mooula!  A few years ago at the Mtl hi-fi show I heard an Audio Research CD player and integrated amp with a Verity Audio speaker.  It was way cheaper than the all MBL kit in another room and in my opinion sounded way better.  Others may disagree.  $24,950.00 for mini monitors ? Perhaps, but I reckon I could do just as well with a cheaper alternative.   

firebook23's picture

I am sure that these sound good. But for the price of a good car i am sorry, I am out. Great speaker designers know about the 10/10 rule. It stats that you need to spend 10x more money to get 10% more performance. So this Speaker would give you about 10% more performance then a 2500$ speaker. I would rather get a speaker by PSB Speakerswharfedale, paradigm or many others. Then just buy a second car.

passion4sound's picture

I would encourage each of you to consider the following; while it may be true that the Q1 is at a similar price to a new Ford Focus, in five years the Q1 will be worth 12k and the focus, well.......about 6K or less (I'm guessing). Also, please know that I have "High End" equipment from 1989 that cost more than the  BMW M3 I bought that same year....... While I still own (and enjoy) the equipment,  the Beemer has long been recycled (probably into a new Ford Focus) for the value of the iron. This brand new car I would not want to own at any price! What are we here for people? I say it's Audiophilia........we're after the best sound we can afford. Today, we are fortunate to have people out there (name your manufacturer here) pouring their lives into a hobby just for us to enjoy! Instead, we throw rocks at the effort. Keep that up and its over!!!

I listened to the Q1 for several hours while the people from Magico allowed me to play disc after disc. Ultimately, I have decided to sell my Magico V3's (which replaced my Watt/Puppys), to enable the purchase of the Q1! The designer (Alon Wolf) was there and took the time to explain to me that among the many internal breakthroughs Magico is bringing to the listener,  the considerable machining costs of all aluminum parts used to make an inert enclosure with a (near) defraction free front baffel looks easy but is far from it. No ugly foam or strands to get in the way of the sound, no woofers close to the floor overwhelming my "smallish" listening area. Just pure pistonic efficiency. I was impressed beyond my ability to write about it.

The method of assembly (endoskeleton) was on display, for all of us to see in the adjacent room. It is due to this design execution that the Q1, while costing more than a bevy of other speakers two, three or even four times the size, the little Q1 sounded big, controlled, dynamic and was to me ~ among the top four rooms of the show!!!!

music guy's picture

...your reply is intriguing and clearly overflowing with the excitement of a great listening experience.  Enjoy. WDW

volvic's picture

My bimmer 3 series is 23 years old and still going great!!! and passion4sound I would take care of that M3, that was the all time best.  I cannot disagree with you, these speakers brought you immense pleasure and Alon Wolf no doubt a great designer, has made an extraordinary speaker, but there are many ways to design a loudspeaker and his is just one way.  Others can and do design speakers for a lot less that offer just as much satisfaction; Joseph Audio, Usher etc, Verity Audio (smaller ones).  Question of taste, budgets and priorities. Like I said above, if you love them and can justify the price then by all means enjoy!!! That is what I meant about the market deciding.  Long live suppy and demand.

hamza123's picture

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