Magico Q5 loudspeaker Page 3

Listening to the Q5s at ultralow SPLs was as involving and satisfying as when I cranked them up to fifth-row-center levels. And the speaker's microdynamic performance was equally transparent and detailed, even at diminished SPLs. Low-level information did not melt into a gray background. The startling blackness of the backgrounds and the manner in which recorded information launched itself from that blackness reminded me of the first time I heard Continuum Audio Labs' Caliburn turntable.

Well-recorded double bass sounded harmonically and texturally more convincing through the Q5 than through any other speaker I've heard here. The sounds of the plucks had appropriately stringy, fleshy components that are usually obscured, either by a soft coating of bass or by an overemphasis of transients. The Q5's transient balance was unerringly correct and consistent from the lowest to the highest double-bass notes—even the most forcefully plucked ones, for which many speakers produce a papery transient residue (not to be confused with string slap, though that is often overemphasized as well).

Sometimes, admittedly, these are artifacts of the recording itself—but when I listened through the Q5s to Bill Evans's Waltz for Debby (45rpm LPs, Riverside/Analogue Productions 9), I eerily connected with Scott LaFaro's fingertips, traveling with them up and down his bass's neck. When he goes up for the low notes, there was a noticeable absence of bloating of the image size, and I experienced the same clarity and appropriately tight definition I heard with the higher, more easily reproduced notes, thanks to the Q5's subjectively seamless transition from the woofers to the mid-bass driver. The Q5 delivered bass where there was bass and otherwise shut up. There was zero overhang, zero warmth where none should be. Not easy feats for a nearly full-range loudspeaker.

We interrupt this review for a live-music refresher
I've just returned from the Caramoor Jazz Festival, in Katonah, New York. It was produced by my friend Jim Luce, who was kind enough to give me eighth-row-center seats. Pianist Chuchito Valdez (grandson of Bebo, son of Chucho) had dusted off his grandfather's luxurious Afro-Cuban charts from the 1950s, and here led a group that performed them with a muscular elegance that took us back to the casinos of pre-Castro Cuba. He set his piano on fire. Luce recorded the performance in mono with a single vintage Neumann tube mike, for a vinyl release to be cut by Soundsmith's Peter Ledermann for release on Ledermann's label, DirectGrace Records, the profits to go to charities that rescue children from slave labor.

The festival finale was Chick Corea fronting a group consisting of soprano saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride, and 85-year-old drummer Roy Haynes—who was stupendous. This was the final stop on the group's tour, and all celebrated Haynes, who played like a 25-year-old, though toward the end he began hitting the splash cymbals as insistently and fiercely as a devilish 10-year-old. I was sitting close enough to hear the bass and cymbals unamplified, and my iPhone's SPL meter hit peaks of +90dB.

Those splash cymbals hurt. They sizzled and shimmered, but never sounded "crisp" or "sharp"—nor did they ever get confused in a wash of high frequencies. I found myself gritting my teeth but I never covered my ears. Those splashes were somewhat painful, but addicting.

Which brings me to the Q5's tweeter. It was so clean and open, yet free of edge and grain. It was also not shy or polite. The Q5's top end was bold but not overbearing. Its high-frequency attack was appropriately and naturally aggressive without ever sounding edgy or mechanical, and its decay was as effervescently clean and complete as I've ever heard from a tweeter.

Vocal sibilants were reproduced with surgical precision, free of smear and edge. The MBL 101's true omnidirectional tweeter used to be my favorite in this regard. Now it's the Q5's beryllium dome, which combines transient speed and cleanness with a smooth, creamy overall personality that, like listening up close to Roy Haynes' live cymbal work, was positively addictive.

The Vital Middle
The stellar support it got from above and below eased the job of the Q5's midrange driver—it had few or no midbass responsibilities. If anything, the upper midrange was pushed forward ever so slightly, in keeping with the tweeter's exuberance. Women's voices were thrillingly present but never disembodied. Experienced listeners heard this slightly forward presence region, but none felt it obtrusive, particularly given the absence of peaky colorations.

After a hard day's picking, putting on a side of J.S. Bach's cantatas from Nikolaus Harnoncourt's complete traversal with Concentus Musicus Wien from the mid-'70s on Telefunken, or an original pressing of Ella Fitzgerald's Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! (LP, Verve V-4053), produced musical pleasures that obliterated analytical concerns and reinforced my conclusion that the Q5 might be the smoothest, most revealing, least colored speaker to ever play music in my room.

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