The Mega Magico/Soulution/BAD/Baetis /Vovox System

In the first system to which I took a serious listen at CES, Alon Wolf could have made no more major a statement than by pairing his Magico Q7 loudspeakers ($185,000/pair) and new active QSub-18 ($36,000) with Soulution 701 monoblock amplifiers ($150,000/pair), Soulution 720 preamp (discontinued—the current 725 line stage is $50,000), Berkeley Audio Design Reference DAC ($16,000), Baetis Audio music server, Vovox cabling from Switzerland, Magico MRack ($50,000), and superb Magico QPOD equipment supports.

The QSub-18, which weighs 350 lbs, contains two 18" drivers, and employs either a 6000W amplifier for 220V systems, or 4000W for 110V systems. In this system, it first came into play at 40Hz, and extended down to 15Hz. The QSub-15 ($24,000), which I did not hear, contains a single 2000W amp. Wolf claims that, beyond the printed specs, the system I heard was flat down to 13Hz.

In a nice size room handicapped only by its incongruous "tropical" color scheme (euphemistically speaking, of course), I marveled at the naturalness of the guitar's sound on the first track Alon played. (It's only natural that, being a classically trained guitarist, he would start off by playing a guitar track.) When the voice of Quebec songstress Annie Dufresne entered the picture, the timbres of her voice were so natural, and the presentation so relaxed and effortless, that the system's musicality was without doubt.

Listening to an upright bass, recorded at 24/192, again underscored the naturalness of the presentation. Bass pitches were impeccably controlled, with no trace of the unnatural sweetening that, on so many systems, tends to color drums, bass, cello, and everything above. Although the presentation lacked ultimate three-dimensionality, bass on the start of a recording of Copland's Billy the Kid was nothing short of fabulous.

As our playlist progressed through Gregory Porter to the great Sarah Vaughan, it also became clear that as natural as the system sounded, it was less brilliantly illumined than supremely neutral and controlled. This was not a system that stood front and center in the spotlight, calling attention to itself.

Thus did we turn to Ms. Sassiness herself, Sarah Vaughan. If you ever seek confirmation of this great artist's genius, take a listen to her recordings on a system as fine as this. Her "Lullaby of Birdland" with Clifford Brown was sensational, and a track from her 1978 album, How Long Has This Been Going On, recorded with Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Louie Bellson, and Ray Brown, was pure inspiration. Yet even as I marveled at how clearly, beautifully, and fully lower tones were fleshed out, with every nuance and shading there for the savoring in a manner unprecedented in my listening experience, I couldn't help notice that I was listening to someone performing in the lower lighting of a smoky nightclub rather than on a fully illumined symphony hall stage.

Larry Greenhill Comments: Alon Wolf demonstrated the Q Sub18 subwoofer for me by playing a selection from Patricia Barber's "Orpheus Sonnet" from her Mythologies album. Each drum stroke caused the lights in the room to dim, suggesting that the Mirage's line voltage may have been running a bit thin. I then asked Alan to play one of my favorite Patricia Barber pieces, "Too Rich for My Blood" from the Café Blue album. The combination of the Magico speakers and subwoofer played this piece at moderate levels, with outstanding pitch definition and incredible dynamics. Both micro- and macro-detail were superb.

Magico's Q7 loudspeakers and Soulution electronics produced one of the best sounds of the show.