Magico Q5 loudspeaker Page 4

Currently on the turntable is Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman's Duets for Two Violins (LP, EMI ASD 3430), from 1978—admittedly after EMI's golden age, but the recording, produced in London's Temple Church, built in the late 12th century, demonstrated the Q5's exceptional tonal and textural purity, and its ability to reveal without overanalyzing. The Temple Church's warm, reverberant acoustic was allowed to bloom behind and around the violins, which don't sound particularly closely miked. Played at realistically moderate levels, the bodies of the instruments didn't get lost in the reverberant wash—even in the lower notes, which seemed to increase room excitation. Recording two violins (and, in one work, a violin and viola) in a reverberant space can often lead to watery, mushy boredom. Not here. Credit the engineer, of course, but also the Magico Q5s for capturing and reproducing cleanly the bodies of the instruments in three-dimensional space and the reverberant field beyond, without confusing the two.

Handel-Halvorsen's Passacaglia and Sarabande for Violin and Viola in g features pizzicato playing that the Q5s reproduced with the same noticeable correctness of attack that they managed with plucked double bass. The lack of boxy colorations allowed the Magicos to consistently produce delicate instrumental images that floated freely in three-dimensional space.

Piano Music in a Church, Endre Hegedüs's recital of solo-piano works by Chopin and Debussy (CD, Tone-Pearls TPRCD1)—I hope it's still in print—revealed more of this "Almost Analogue Digital" recording's tape hiss than I remember hearing through either the MAXX 3s or the Vandersteen 7s, yet the piano sounded neither hard nor bright, though I distinctly remember the Vandersteens reproducing more of the church's reverberant field than the Q5s did. That was one of the 7s' stand-out abilities in general. However, the applause preceding Chopin's Prelude in c, Op.28/20, sounded eerily real through the Q5s. If you love solo piano, you need to find this disc!

The perfect loudspeaker?
There's no such thing, of course. Although, as I've described above, in some ways the Q5 exceeded the performance of any other speaker I've heard, in one area they did not.

While waiting for a rock concert to start, have you ever watched the drummer sit down at his kit, and give it a run-through to test the instruments' physical positions, functioning, and miking? A good example is at the beginning of Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus (LP, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 2-013): after the band shares a joint and warms up by singing backstage, the microphones follow Lowell George and the Feat onstage. The late Richie Hayward sits down at his kit and gives the kick drum a few wallops, sending shock waves through the PA that fill the hall. There's a familiar sound and feel to that—a visceral punch—that the Q5s didn't do, and I don't think it was a function of my room. I just don't think it's in the speaker's DNA.

The Q5's bass was texturally and tonally superb. No, it was better than that—in most respects it was the best I've heard, but the tradeoff to get that textural and tonal perfection was a lack of the visceral impact that I believe is contained by many recordings—rock, jazz, and classical—not to mention live music. Some recordings are intended to punch you in the stomach. The Q5 can't do that. It's soft and polite. That works well for many recordings, but not all. The ability of other speakers to reproduce that visceral impact is not a hi-fi distortion caused by vented or powered woofers. It's real. In this respect, both the Wilson MAXX 3 and the Vandersteen 7 have it all over the Q5.

If you listen to a lot of rock, you will not be disappointed by the Q5's upper-frequency response or, particularly, by the cleanness of its transient reproduction of electric guitars, where it is spectacularly revealing. But the bottom-end weight and drive needed for hard rock is not there. I also felt that this paucity of weight sometimes affected the Q5's ability to capture the growl of the cello's lowest notes. When my stomach should have begun to churn, it did not. But above the churn region, the Q5 was exceptional.

Despite its 11"-wide front baffle, which otherwise might have been expected to produce diffraction artifacts—I couldn't hear any—the Q5s produced a magnificently stable, deep, wide, and appropriately tall soundstage. Even when I sat unusually close to them, the Q5s "disappeared" to leave an open, airy, transparent, uncluttered stage populated by solid, three-dimensional images.

Overall, the Magico Q5 was the smoothest, most detailed, least mechanical-sounding speaker I've heard. It sounded that way at what I used to think were impossibly low levels, and it sounded that way at uncomfortably loud levels, leading me to believe that a pair of these relatively compact speakers could easily fill a very big room. Its micro- and macrodynamic capabilities were unlimited, with the exception of the bottom octaves, where they lacked visceral punch. But elsewhere in the audioband, I never wanted more of anything, though a little less in the upper octaves might have produced a more accurate balance, if perhaps not as much pleasure.

If you listen exclusively or mostly to acoustic music, you'll find the Magico Q5 sets new standards in many areas of speaker performance—transparency, resolution of low-level detail, and freedom from boxy colorations—the Q5's overall freedom from obvious colorations and mechanical artifacts and its audible lack of "box" put it in a league of its own, in my experience. The Q5 imposed on familiar recordings the least amount of its own personality, and overall had the least "sound," of any speaker I've heard. It was chameleon-like in that regard, and its ability to produce pleasing sound with even poor recordings was in no way due to its homogenizing the input signal—in fact, quite the opposite. It revealed more variations in recording quality, yet somehow, even the poor ones were made more bearable, perhaps because they didn't trigger mechanical artifacts inherent in the speaker—much as the best turntables seem to suppress pops, clicks, and other record defects.

As a work of industrial art, the Magico Q5 is beautiful, though to some it might look cold and uninvolving. But that's a more personal issue than the sound itself. When you first listen to it, the Q5 may also sound uninvolving because it has little or no personality of its own. But in a loudspeaker, that's what you want. The longer I listened, the more I appreciated the Q5's ability to get out of the way and let the recording's own personality assert itself.

I can't imagine anyone who's in this game for the music and not the gear, and who's okay with the Q5's subtler bottom octaves, who wouldn't want to own a pair of Magico Q5s—particularly if they listen mostly or exclusively to acoustic music.

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