Magico Q5 loudspeaker Page 2

Marrying the drivers' surrounds to the smoothly radiused openings machined into the massive baffle and clamping them to the baffle's back give the Q5's face an unusually clean and elegant look. However, with no grille cover, should Junior, Fido, or the housekeeper (never you, of course) poke or slice a driver or its surround, replacing it would be a big job. But according to Wolf, the benefits of having no screws or bolts to inevitably loosen over time far outweigh the hassles of replacing drivers or surrounds, which Magico's dealers are trained to do.

The four-way, sealed-box design includes Magico's new MBe-1 beryllium-dome tweeter, which features a relatively large surround. Beryllium has considerable advantages—a high ratio of stiffness to mass, and breakup modes far beyond the audioband—but it's a difficult metal to work, and very toxic as dust or when vaporized. Wolf wouldn't tell me who actually makes and/or assembles the dome and the tweeter's other parts, but the involvement of Danish driver maker Scan-Speak somewhere along the line wouldn't surprise me, given the look of the surround.

Four drivers with Nano-Tec cones, designed by Magico and assembled from parts sourced from around the world, complete the sealed-box Q5: a 6" midrange, a 9" midbass, and two 9" woofers. None has a dustcap, and all feature sandwiches of Rohacell foam coated with carbon nanotubes to produce unusually stiff yet lightweight cones claimed to behave pistonically within their operating bandwidths. The new midbass driver has a 5" voice-coil with a copper cap to give superlow inductance. The other drivers derive from those used in Magico's M5. Magico uses its Bass Mechanical Resonance Cancellation (BMRC) system to offset the drivers' acoustical centers and angles, though this is not visible from the front baffle. This is claimed to allow the Q5's low-frequency breakup modes to be acoustically canceled.

The German electronics specialist Mundorf supplies crossover-network parts built to Magico's specs. Although Alon Wolf was unwilling to reveal the Q5's crossover frequencies, Magico does provide some specs: a sensitivity of 87dB, a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, and a frequency response of 22Hz–50kHz, ±2dB. I suspect that the speaker is not a particularly easy load to drive; for best results, only high-current and high wattage amplifiers should be used. The only amp I used for the review was Musical Fidelity's Titan, which can produce high current drive and more than 1500Wpc into 4 ohms (though I think my wall power is a limiting factor).

Setting up a 387-lb speaker
While the owner's manual includes a setup procedure that is a model of written and procedural clarity and refreshingly free of hocus-pocus, I was happy to let Alon Wolf and an assistant do the job. In the real world, a Magico dealer would do it.

The Q5 is relatively compact, but carrying one is not recommended. In fact, it might not be possible because of the speaker's concentrated weight, its depth, and its somewhat slippery finish—not to mention the unprotected drivers. Wolf & Co. used a hand truck to wheel in the Q5s, and plopped them down in about the same positions just vacated by my Wilson Audio MAXX 3s.

Wolf had stopped by a few weeks earlier to check out my room and to hear the MAXX 3s, which he said sounded better than he'd ever heard them, despite my room's relatively small size. The last thing Wolf said about the Wilsons was both diplomatic and dramatic: "What you will hear from the Q5s will be very different, I can assure you."

Wolf and his assistant used a combination of measurements and subjective listening to position the speakers, though ultimately they relied less on listening and more on measuring, the latter revealing a smoother low-frequency response and diminished LF peaks when the Q5s were farther out into the room. In fact, Wolf said that these were some of the smoothest in-room measurements he'd seen for the Q5s. When he was satisfied with the Q5s' positions—about 6" closer to my listening position than the MAXX 3s, and toed in so that the tweeter axes crossed well behind my head—he and his assistant carefully tilted and spiked the speakers. The Q5's tweeter is somewhat directional; toe-in determined its overall contribution to the speaker's balance.

Wolf left them there, even though I subjectively preferred them a bit closer to the room's wall behind them, where the LF peaks were slightly higher. Wolf had seen Stereophile's in-room measurements of the Wilson MAXX 3s, which showed a boundary-reinforcement bump; and of the Vandersteen Model 7s, whose powered subwoofer had been set to mountaintop levels by Richard Vandersteen, and which I'd turned down to a subjectively smooth level (though it was still Rocky Mountain high). In other words, though I obviously like what measures as an excess of bass—even if it doesn't sound that way to me or to visiting friends, audiophiles or no—Wolf wanted me to hear the Q5s operating as smoothly as possible into the room, regardless of my preconceived notions or prejudices.

No box
While Magico's efforts to rid the Q5 of cabinet-induced resonances and colorations may seem excessive to some—and expensive to everyone—there was no denying the results. You won't know or understand "complete absence of box" until you experience it, particularly in comparison to cabinets made of MDF, I don't care how well damped they are. The Q5 was gone. While it's impossible to know whether it was due to the "absence of box," the driver technology, or both, what immediately stood out was the Q5's superior abilities in the lower ranges of checklist performance parameters, including frequencies, SPLs, and dynamics. Low-frequency performance was indisputably cleaner, more revealing, and more finely rendered than I've heard from any speaker under review. The complete absence of boxy colorations or bass overhang was immediately obvious. The Q5 was the most consistent-sounding speaker at all SPLs that I've ever heard in my room, particularly at ultralow levels, where its sound never clouded over, or delivered less than full musical resolution.

Magico, Inc.
932 Parker Street #2
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 653-8802

dumbo's picture

Any reason why there was no waterfall plot of cabinet resonance done as is usually the case with other speakers? Folks deserve to see if such an elaborate speaker cabinet was worth the effort or not considering the excessive cost I'm sure it adds to the design and the manufacturers claims of aluminum being superior to good old fashioned wood.

Anyone willing to bet that the B&W 800D cabinet plot looks better at a 1/2 the price and complexity?

John Atkinson's picture

Any reason why there was no waterfall plot of cabinet resonance done as is usually the case with other speakers?

Logistical issues. Because I had to travel to Michael's to measure the Q5, as explained in the review, I had to pack my speaker measuring gear and I mislaid the accelerometer. It's a 100-mile round trip from my place to Michael's and it wasn't possible to delay the measurements so I could return home to get it.

Folks deserve to see if such an elaborate speaker cabinet was worth the effort or not considering the excessive cost I'm sure it adds to the design and the manufacturers claims of aluminum being superior to good old fashioned wood.

From the review: "listening to the cabinet walls with a stethoscope while I swept a sinewave tone up and down in frequency, I could detect only a small degree of liveliness at 418Hz. The cabinet's heroic, all-aluminum construction is obviously effective at minimizing vibrational resonances."

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

steve59's picture

The listening remarks say the q5 doesn’t have the audible punch in the bass yet measurements show the speaker to be at least as powerful as the maxx3. Interesting