Magico S5 review

I've been auditioning the Magico S5's on loan from my dealer Scott Walker Audio of Anaheim for several weeks now.
The S5's are an all aluminum cabinet, a trickle down version of the Q series. They are 90 DB, 22HZ-50KHZ, 190#,and sell for $28,600. After some considerable work by Scott he got the speakers locked in perfectly.

My current system consists of Focal Nova Utopia BE speakers
($45,000), An Ayon CD-5 cd player, An Ayon Triton 2 amp,Grand Prix Monaco racks,and a slew of Synergistic Research equipment: Tranquility bases,Migs, Hologram A,D, and AC Precision power cords, Element interconnects,an 11 piece Acoustic Art system, SR fuses and even the new Ayon BT KT-88 SX tubes made in the Czech Republic

I thought I had a pretty great system......Until the S5's came into the picture. The first thing you notice about these speakers is their sealed rather than ported bass. Oh my god! I am not a bass freak but the Magicos had incredible bass.....taut with a visceral punch to the stomach on the right tracks. And this with a tube amp.On certain bass heavy tracks it was like having two subwoofers in the room.

The tweeter was smooth and delicate and completely integrated with the was like one driver.

The midrange is where the Magico Magic comes in.....a strong center vocal image (I like female vocalists), not only more "there" than my Focals but violins had more sheen, cellos sound deeper and you could hear deeper into the subtleties and nuances of the human voice. The tonal characteristics were denser and more real.

The real surprise came when I put the Focals back in the system. I was disappointed. Very Disappointed. The Focals bass in comparison to the Magicos sounded flabby and weak,midrange presence was lessened along with the Magicos wonderful tone. It was easy to discern that the Magico S5's sounded more holographic, 3D, with a smoother yet more detailed mid and top end.

Things I particulary liked about the music reproduction of the S5's:

Dark Side of the Moon: Listen to the bells and the cash register on the song "Money" Stunning.

Warren Zevon, Life Will Kill You: Warren knew he was dying and wasn't in great shape vocally but when you hear the title track you can hear EVERY nuance in his can hear all his despair and humor.

Sarah McLachlan, Surfacing: I was amazed at how good this Cd sounded, absolutely gorgeous. I heard guitars, Synths, and faint almost out of hearing range background vocals by Sarah. I heard sounds on this Cd I have never heard before.

Melissa McClelland,Thumbelina's One Night Stand: A cd with country folk sensibilties but with a sort of Southern guitar crunch to it. Listening to this on the Magicos was like having Melissa in the room.....Holographic, real vocal tones, and absolutely haunting.

So after saying all this what's an audiophile to do?
My dealer Scott Walker is taking my Focals in on trade along with a check. I understand the S5's take two months to build and get here so Scott is loaning me his demo pair for the duration. That will certainly make waiting for the next two months a lot easier.

Congratulations on your new speakers, however, I am really shocked by this post, it sounds like a Magico ad.

Would it not be logical to think that a brand new Magico design would or could best a 10 year old pair of Focals?

Why would this surprise you? The tale of the tape leads to the Magico's newer design, better cabinets, dual smaller bass units, superior build quality and drivers that have advanced over 10 years of so.

I used to sell Focal great speakers but way overpriced for the build quality at least back then and overpriced for the level of sound for the money.

Now I am sure the readers are going to ask what other modern speaker designs did you listen to?

Did you hear the new Focal's that are in the same price as the Magico's, did you listen to the Wilsons, did you hear the new KEF Blades?

If you haven't heard any of these other modern contenders than shame on you for purchasing the first new pair of speakers that were better, you may have made the right choice but without due diligence you may have found something else that is better than a 10 year old pair of Focals.
Yes, I have listened to the Q7's, the Kef blades,Avantgardes, etc and many more at the Newport show. In both price, quality, and in my home audition I felt they were the best. They worked well in my room.I did say it took considerable work to tweek them in place, right?

Not making an ad for magico....just excited about the quality of what I heard.....Of course ten years newer technology SHOULD sound better.....but I thought that was a given being the S5's are brand new and don't yet even have a professional review online yet.
Dear Mreapoe,

if you are judging on what you heard at an audio show vs a pair of speakers on loan in your own room, you have no idea if the other speakers you were looking at at the Newport show might outperform the Magicos.

I have almost never heard a product at an audio show give its best nor would you be making a valid comparison between two products set up in exactly the same way.

Please understand this is not an attack on you or your purchase, I am always amused at posts like yours which exclaim the virtues of one products without really knowing what the true performance of any other products unless they are under identical conditions.

Now the Magicos may be the best speakers for you, your taste and equipment, if it was me I would draw up a list of contenders and if possible get an in home audition of those speakers as well before I would commit to such an expensive purchase.

It will be interesting to see how well the new kid on the uber speaker block does compare with the Wilson, and the Blades.

Personally I think a well set up pair of Blades can outperform almost any Magico and all the Wilsons' except for the X2. Howerver, room setup is crucial, in my showroom very little bass, in the NY audio show huge bass, so as with anything else you have to weigh all the factors.
Wow, ease up audiooracle. So what if he did only listen to the Magicos. He liked what he heard and voted with his wallet. I don't get your comment. Not everyone wants to audition everything under the sun, nor has the time to.

Quite frankly, I congratulate him. We all should be so lucky to be so happy with our most recent purchase.
You are correct, the comments of audiooracle are very strange and make little sense. Mreapoe100 is obviously happy with his Magicos and there`s no reason he must justify his purchase by auditioning a certain number of 'chosen' speakers for comparison. There may be other speakers that sound as good or maybe even better,who cares. The point is these speakers please him and allow him to enjoy his music. What`s better than that? How many pairs of speakers should one audition to be considered appropriate?some feel the need for a long careful drawn out process. Others hear something they really like that moves them and just go for it.Either way is okay, it just depends on the individual.
Mreapoe100 I`m happy for you.
Congrats on your new speakers. Play music often and enjoy! Not sure why Audiooracle was such a wet blanket on your party. Perhaps he just made a mistake.
Audiooracle is just mad he did not make a sale. It's funny he would be worried about this being an ad when just about every post of his is an ad for the gear he sells.
To Sacher

I could not make a sale to this gentleman he is in a different state! Not going to happen! I have no skin in this game.

The point I am making is how so many people will extoll the virtues of a product that they have experienced, when they have not done fair comparison's under identical conditions, of the competition.

Judging speakers at a show is not the same thing as hearing them at home! This gentleman was fortunate enough to be able to get a home demo of these new Magicos. The point I am making is perhaps some other speaker might also be way better than his 10 year old Focals, and without doing a similar comparison with the rest of the $30k speakers he may or may not have purchased the best possible speakers for him.
Congratulations. You did well. Get used to the idea that ill-informed people will find it irresistible to tell you that thire crap is better than yours. The funny thing here is that here is a guy that condemns you for listening to speakers at shows, where at some of his other posts he claims to have only heard the Magico at shows (obviously he didn’t have them at his shop or house). Like I said, welcome to the mad house.
I disagree with the notion that hifi shows are useless for comparison and evaluation of audio components(why would companies invest the time,effort and expense?). It is`nt realistic to buy/borrow every piece of equitment(especially speakers) to hear them in your own system for the vast majority.

Why does he need to compare to Wilson,KEF or any other selected brands to validate his preference? Who made them the standard? I`ve heard excellent sound in various rooms at shows,some get it right and others don`t. These systems are selected and set up by rhose who presumably know them best.Certainly the enviroment is`nt ideal, but for most people this is the only practical way to hear many components up close.

At RMAF 2011 the Concert Fidelity/Silicon Arts-Kaiser Kawero room was fantastic!Enough rooms had good sound to make the point that it`s achievable and not a ready made excuse for poor sound(I realize there are exceptions).
Well for me the value of the review is the astute observations of a person with trained ears that can appreciate the differences between IMHO a great set of Focal speakers and a product even more transparent. i am not as concerned about something being 10 years old as the articulate descriptions this person offers. when i first started out i had real trouble hearing a lot of the subtle differences between components, and felt i was being taken for a ride by some
unscrupulous salespeople as well as other "very fussy" audiophile types.
Then one day i sent a dedicated TRANSPORT back to the manufacturer for updating and substituted a Denon CDP while i waited to get it back. Holy %#^#!!!
I couldn't listen to music anymore- it sounded really artificial. People were even arguing at the time that a transport COULDN'T make a difference in the sound quality if it was just transmitting ones and zeros over a cable. this and other similar experiences made me "keep my mouth shut" a lot of times when i "thought" discussions of audio equipment had reached the rarified level of the Tice-Clock conundrum.
but here we can at least assume that Magico certainly knows what they're doing, albeit for a big bunch of money. OTOH all i can say is $10K ought to buy
you a really great pair of speakers that can do a lot of the things mentioned in this piece. AND $30K should (SHOULD) be more than enough to buy an entire system that can reproduce music on this level. Oh, there i go again....
Something that may be lost in this discussion, and which I think deserves some comment irrespective of the virtues of Magico speakers, is the exemplary customer service given to the OP. A home audition of several weeks, and a loaner for two months? That's what all of us would like to see from a brick and mortar dealer.
Has anyone directly compared the S5 to the Q3? I'm curious about the differences in sound.
I think that dealer is nuts. I would never let someone have a home loan for that long. I don't care that he is buying them he can wait until they come and I would not leave the show room empty. This guy is not a good businessman.
You know I wanted to keep my review short and sweet but since some New Jersey audio dealer keeps hacking goes.
I remember Beatlemania. I was there.
I go to live concerts, this year so far: Diana Krall, Joe Cocker, Huey Lewis, Steely Dan, Aimee Mann, etc I have seen everyone from Sinatra to Ray Charles live.
I am a member of the LAOC Audio society. I hear new speakers and amps in a variety of locales every month.
I go down to several dealers and listen to Focals, YG's, Kefs, Magicos, etc All the time.

I have listened to the S5 Magicos in three different locations each time with different amps. I may have more perspective on this speaker than audiooracle. And yes, I think the Kef Blades are right up there with the S5's.....the difference is personal musical preference. I like the blades....I liked the S5's more.

Some rooms at shows are great others not so. I can tell the difference. I have heard GREAT speakers in bad rooms before. To a degree I can filter this.

I have owned numerous speakers since the 70's including:
Roger sound labs, Klipsch La Scala, Focal Altos and Novas, Gallo 3.1 and stradas, Pmc TB2+, Paradigm Studio 20's and their reference S8's, Avantgarde Duos, Green Mountain EOS,Micro Pure Kitaro, Bozak B300, Duevels, B&W, Shahinian Arcs, Tannoys, Ohms, etc,etc

My decision to buy these speakers was neither rash nor impulsive.Perhaps Audiooracle is now more informed that I am informed. In a few weeks the audio society is going to Bel Air to listen to some Magicos on Bob Carver Amps.Then I might have my fourth perspective on the S5's and get to meet Bob.

I didn't feel my audiophile resume was necessary in a review of the S5's. Perhaps this will ease the mind of some people who feel so concerned for my musical and financial welfare.

Thanks to those of you out there who gave me the benefit of the doubt that I might know what I was doing.
Rcprince you hit something there. I had a previous dealer that I spent over a 100K with one year and they tried to rip me nickel and dime fashion. My labrador chewed up my remote on my Meridian F80....I went to Meridians website which gave a list price of 40 dollars. So I called my dealer and asked if he had one. "Sure...its a demo...the list price is 100 dollars but I will sell it to you for 50 dollars". 10 dollars over list for used. On a three thousand dollar radio.

Scott Walker is old school professional service. He has cut me financial slack, taken things in trade I wasn't sure he would, and is always there for service. When he set up the S5's he came back three or four times and spent 15 plus hours measuring and setting up the speakers just so.To the milimeter exact with laser sighting. He spent hours resetting my Art Acoustic system to match the Magico's.
As far as loaning me the demo speakers....the only caveat he had was asking if I would let someone audition in my room in the meantime. Of course I said yes... I might meet a knowledgable audiophile who can teach me something or introduce me to new music.
Sounds like you have forged a good relationship with your dealer. There are some very good dealers out there you just have to find one. It is rare to find one with allot of knowledge that is not all about squeezing every last dollar out of you.

Does anyone know if the S5 will be shown at RMAF 2012?
You and your dealer have obviously developed a strong relationship of trust and loyalty,congratulations.

You own no one an explanation for your choices.
An in-home audition takes most of the guess work outta the equation, otherwise you're faced with aural memory from two different locations and systems obviously.

If you can bring your speakers to the dealer (like I did) that's another second choice alternative.

Congratulations on your new S5. I am a big Magico fan, owning the Mini II. The V2 and Q3 where in the best dealer demoes that I have heard. I have not yet had a chance to hear the Q1 or S series speakers.

I'm curious about how the S5 compares to the Q3. Did you ever make the comparison? Also, which color did you select?

I agree with those who have written that you don't need to explain your buying decisions. I wonder if dealers do themselves a disservice when they chime in sounding overly aggressive or critical of brands which they do not represent. I once asked about the Mini II on these forums and got a private email from a manufacturer saying that I could do much better with his brand of speaker. This was a completely unsolicited contact and told me a lot about the guy.
Yeah I've written off that dealer too
Peterayer, I did not compare the S5 to the Q3.I compared the S5 to the Blades and a lot of other speakers - the bass, by the way, of the Magico goes lower than the Blades and I feel is more articulate.

As far as the paint.....Go for the graphite flat black (no paint)This is the first time Magico is painting their speakers....give them some time. When my dealer peeled back the industrial tape off the top of the speaker two paint chips came with it. The flat black will also be more resellable.
I looked up audiooracle and found him to be a Kef dealer, what a shock! He may not "have any skin in the game" but he is clearly invested in Kef.
Lets all jump on a pair NOW!!
I think Kef Blades vs S5s would be an awesome demo. Sign me up in LA if possible. I heard both at THE Show and intrigued enough to hear a better demo.

I was at Scott Walker Audio yesterday for Magico day and Scott's a nice guy.
How does the Magico`s presentation/perspective differ from your Zu DEF IV speaker given the very different design approach?
The one part of this nice review that is underemphasized is the role Scott Walker had in allowing the original poster to hear the Magico's at their best. Both rooms Scott exhibited at Newport 2012 were best rated. He knows Magico's like few others and how to obtain their peak performance. Like getting Caroll Shelby to tune your Mustang in the 1960's
I just received a pair of Magico S5's three days ago to replace Avalon Opus speakers. I had auditioned the V3's over a year ago and the Q3's earlier this year. However, I decided to go ahead with the S5's even before listening knowing I could pull out of the deal if dissatisfied. Bottom line: they are a major step jump up from my Avalons (BTW: all Spectral components). The overall resolution, detail, soundstage and overall sonic impact are spectacular. What amazes me is that the listening volume can be turned up a fair bit without feeling overwhelmed, which I believe is due to instruments/vocals being so well defined (imaging) in the soundstage and producing more 'individual' sounds rather than a more amalgamated sound. I decided to go with titanium as a fairly neutral color instead of the flat black which was featured on the Q3's I had auditioned. I am actually very surprised they perform so well in my listening room.
Magico much better than Zu its not even close.
Charles1dad- Magico is my favorite speaker outside of Zu
historically. I chose Def2s over demo pair of V3s even
albeit at much different pricing points.

I think for 30-35k, Magico M5s would be my choice IF they
could be driven by a 100 watt tube amp. However, that
doesn't appear to be the case. That's probably my dream

Magico has so much resolution coming from blackness and a
very seamless presentation to me as opposed to my Wilsons of
old. I love the build quality and the technology. They are
more musical than Wilsons to me, without any loss of detail
if that makes sense. They are the Porsches of speakers to
me from an engineering perspective.

Magico/Vac is the combo to own btw, not the Soulution,
Spectral, or other SS amps commonly used.
Ebm- your statement is incorrect. If you hear Def4s, please let me know your opinion. For 12k they compete very favorably to the S5s. The Radian supertweet has really taken them quite a step up and the dynamics- most importantly micro dynamics is what xover speakers just can't do. I wouldn't trade my Def4s for S5s (or Sashas), despite my affinity for Magico.

If I went to a "super speaker", I'd choose Magico M5s most certainly if I could find a good amp solution.

Look no further :-)

Olympia AX

And yes I do make them

Good Listening

Thank you for your impressions.I`d prefer the big VAC rather than the Soulution also. Based on your expressed taste it does`nt seem a mega size/power solid state amplifier is what you`d settle down with ultimately.
Hi Hickory,


I am very interested in the S5 too and am considering the choice of colour.

Is the titanium paint of your pair OK? It's scary that the paint of Mreapoe100's pair came off so easily.

Many thanks!

We had seriously considered black, but fortunately the dealer demo pair was in titanium (dark grey), which both my wife (an important opinion given the expense) and I liked and agreed would fit nicely into our reasonably well furnished family room without being visually too offensive. The S5's are significantly larger than the Avalons, which arguably looked like nice furniture. If we had a more informal listening room, I might have opted for another color; likely the dark red. What is most interesting, my wife even commented that she hardly notices the speakers since the sound field behind and between the speakers is so well resolved (i.e. the 'disappearing speaker phenom). I have had no indication the paint might peel or flake off as it seems like a very hard clearcoat finish. I wonder if Mreapoe's experience might have been due to a flaw at which the speakers might have been struck. Finally, I am pushing to get front grills, mainly to protect the speaker cones. The optional grills have yet to be released.
Hi Hickory,

Thanks a lot for your info on the paint of S5. It's reassuring. And the Titanium colour looks great for sure!

How probable will an optional grill be released? Any release schedule/date?
It's very important for protecting the drivers from my careless kids.
For those who are thinking SS amps aren't right for Magicos, I assure you the large Pass Labs XA.5 series are a very good match. If you prefer large tube amps, the XA.5 are certainly an alternative to the Solution/Spectral sound.

I'm still curious to hear from those who have heard both the Q3 and the S5. How does their sound differ? Thanks.
I have heard the Q3 and the Q5 and the S5. I bought the S5. All Magicos
are state of the art IMHO. I currently own new Magnepans. I will be selling
them. Might sound like S5 speaker almost beats two
magnepans, and I didn't think I would find anything that would sound better
than my maggies. Amazing clarity and extension, absolute fidelity, without
any edge/analytic sound. I am using the VAC 450S which is incredible,
especially with Magicos.
Not to criticize your very well written review, but I just wanted to note that in the 3 instances I heard the Nova Utopia Be speakers I strongly felt the bass was a weak point, a bit overblown and diffuse. I actually liked the bass of the original Utopia better, which seemed tighter and less of something that called attention to itself.
Just my 2 cents since you mentioned that the bass was much better in the Magico than the Nova Utopia.
Thanks again for the great review.
Podeschi, Thanks for posting and congratulations on your new speakers. Could you describe how the two Qs sounded different from the S5 and why you decided to buy the latter? Did you hear them in the same system? The S5 is the least expensive of the three and as you prefer the sound of the S5, it surely is a great value.
Thanks - I did not hear them in the same system or same room. The Q series struck me as having a tiny bit of a bleached analytical emphasis in comparison to S - Q definitley is super detailed and fast like a planar speaker and huge sound stage with exceptional imaging. I prefer the S5 since its center of gravity is more in the midrange and bass but transparent and fast. Will have more to say in a few months when broken in and fully dialed.
I am using the VAC 450S which is incredible,
especially with Magicos.
Tell me what doesn't sound incredible with VAC? :-)

I believe VAC is one of the companies Alon Wolf use to develop Magicos.
I agree. The Novas have a great midrange and a very detailed tweeter and I think its weakest point is its bass.....good but not great.
I am a VAC addict. The 450S is incredible...last amp I will own. The VAC Renaissance MK III preamp is incredible as well. Beautifully built, and superbly functional. I recently owned the Conrad Johnson GAT preamp. I ran the VAC and GAT side by side with different amps (VAC tubes, CJ Premier 350 solid state). The VAC won every time. Not to take away from the great CJ GAT, but the VAC is even better.
Podeschi, congrats on your new toys. Your system must sound WONDERFUL. I have a VAC Sig MKIIa pre so I understand your enthusiam.

Depending on my next speakers, I'm considering the VAC 450 monos and FINALLY call it a day too. :-)
VAC sig preamp plus 450 monos = nirvana. Lucky u.
I heard the s5 in munich with devialet in May and I had a long session with them today. I am doing my best to like these speakers and for a while considered purchasing them but the highs are so forward and detached from everything else that it is almost mid-fi to my ears. The mini as well as the v & q series are much more balanced speakers IMHO not to mention the m5. I am looking forward to hearing from owners what their longer term impressions are
My experience mirrors that of Mcduman. I find the S5's highs to be too forward and tipped up for "my taste". But then again, I prefer the V series to the Q series so personal preferences may come into play (I never like the Berrylium tweeter, whether on Rockport or Magico). I am a V series owner itching for an upgrade. Still looking...
I'm surprised that you were able to drive S5 with your amp. What tubes are you using ? KT88 or 120 ?

According to HiFi News review, S5 are only moderatly sensitive at 87.4dB (Magico is 3dB optimistic) and their minimum modulus of 2.5 Ohm at 62Hz is accompanied by high impedance phase angles at low freq, resulting in a minimum EPDR (equivalent peak dissapation resistance) of just 1 Ohm.
I heard them in the Netherland on a the Nagra 845. Bliss is the word that comes to mind. The dealer told me that Nagra actually uses the S5 in their demo facility.
Why are so many people selling Q3&Q5 already?