Magico vs Kef vs B&W vs. VSA

    I am in the hunt for  floorstanders in the range of $30,000 or less. My candidates are the following in order of preference:

1. Von Schweikert Audio Vr 44 mk2 Aktiv ( used )
2. Kef Blade
3. Magico S3 or S3 mk2
4. B&W 800 d3

    I have not heard all of them ( and the ones I have where at the shows ) but they are the only ones in this price range I can do a home audition. I would have placed the Magico's at a higher rank but I'm afraid my Audio Research Ref 75 SE may not be able to make them sing ( the wife will no longer agree to a change in amplifier ) . Also, if I go the S3 mk2 route I will not be able to audition them since they are on order basis only at my dealer. Hence, my top choice would be the VSA VR 44 Aktiv's  which on the other hand  do not have  too many reviews.

  My current speaker's are Harbeth SHL5+, however in my heavily dampened 35 sq. meter room ( originally for HT use and acoustically treated for that ) they do not have enough bass and cannot seem to fill the room with sound. Though I will be auditioning the speakers in my place as I have made the mistake of purchasing equipment based on the demos at the dealer's, I just want the opinions of those who own or have heard them for prolonged periods of time. Please do not suggest any other speaker cause as I have stated above these are the only ones that will allow a home audition.

  My listening preferences are mostly vocal jazz, some 80's rock and New Wave music. The rest of the system is composed of 

ARC LS 28 Pre-amp
ARC Ref 75 Se
Esoteric K07 SACD/CD player
VPI Prime with Benz Micro LPS-MR
Simaudio 610 lp phono stage
IC's and speaker cables -  full loom MIT
PC's all Shunyata 

 Replies appreciated. Thanx.


I heard the Magico S3 MKII | Magico S5 MKII | Parasounda Person 5F | KEF Blade 2 all on the same day at the LA Audio Show a few days ago.

I was shocked at how much I liked the Magico S3 MKII. I spent a lot of time with them. So much so that I searched out the S5 MKII at the show. I did not like the S5 MKII as much but that could have been attributed to the VAC electronics | room | or music being played through them. The S5 MKII is likely the better choice for a bigger room. I was never a huge Magico fan in the past even after hearing their more expensive speakers with excellent electronics.

I spent about an hour with the Parasound  Persona 5F, mainly by myself. I wanted to get the general idea of the Persona sound since I was interested in the Persona 9H. I did like the sound but I was not enthralled as with the Magicos. Now these 5F Persona's were in a terrible room with electronics I would not have considered. They did have a wide soundstage and disappeared pretty well. The 9H in a better room with good electronics would likely have driven more interest in me.

My favorite speaker at the show was the KEF Blade 2 driven by Hegel electronics. I was lucky again to be able to listen for about a 1.5 hours mostly by myself again (Friday is a good day to go). A few years earlier, I had heard the Blade 1 with the much more expensive top end Chord gear and they sounded better than the Hegel gear. However, even with the Hegel gear the Blade was still my favorite. The soundstage was massive, the speakers totally disappear, with layers of music. The Blades also look awesome to me and the enjoyment factor was through the roof (this last point is the one that matters most). Do not get me wrong the Hegel gear was also very good. I am considering buying the Hegel ROST amp for the bedroom to drive KEF LS50's.

I was also lucky to be able to hear the Luxman C900u preamp and a Luxman 1000f monoblock amp driving the $93K Vivid Spirit speaker. Lucky, because I was considering matching the KEF Blade 2 with the Luxman C900u and M900u (amp). These 2 pieces are $15 MSRP, the 1000f was $60K. After this listen I am confident that the Luxman C900u and the M900u will be a great match for the Blades.

Not sure if this helps but I would be happy with the Magico or Blade 2 for long term
    Thanx for all your inputs/replies. I was at the Magico dealer today to do a preliminary audition prior to a home one as I do not want to waste the dealers time as well as my own. Anyway, the S3's  were paired with a Vitus pre and a Vitus 50 watt class A power amplifier and sourced by a  Naim streamer ( I'm not sure which models ). I was only  able to get a glimpse of how the s3's sound despite the excellent gear that they had as their room is known to be very bass shy ( worse than mine ). Without the bass, the sound was not very coherent. Soundstage was pretty flat and I could here the sound from each individual driver. No speaker disappearing act here. Mids and highs were pretty clean but a bit overwhelming, though not bright. I attribute this to the lack of overall bass for a better and balanced l sound. Home demo for this is a must cause I've heard the smaller S1 mk2 at another dealer and it was quite a treat to listen to ( though with different electronics).

       Before I home demo the S3's, I've got an appointment with the VSA dealer tomorrow. I wonder why nobody has said anything about this speaker as  it seems to have  cult like following in other forums.I guess I have to find out for myself.
**dealer disclaimer**
With each listening session, the Magico S3 MK II has been impressing me more and more.  The precision, the most mesmerizing imaging, the control, they are stunning in every way.  Front end is a UDP-205 and Vanguard integrated and they drop jaws and put smiles on the faces of all that have listened.  They are hard to find fault with.  If you have the opportunity to listen to them, they are hard to stop listening to.  Each time they are played, twice as much time is spent as was allotted.  It's like hearing your music for the first time.  
I have never heard the Magico but it is a speaker I have always wanted to hear. The best speaker I have heard is the Legacy Aeris and it falls into that price range. The dealer told me it compared to $100k speakers and the only $100 speakers I have ever heard were some of the Wilsons. I actually think the Legacys were better. Sadly, I could not afford them. Has anyone been able to hear the Magicos vs the Aeris? I am wondering how they might compare.

The only speakers on that list I have heard myself are the B&W speakers. I liked them, but I thought they were voiced to emphasize the high end. Lots of pop to them. I actually like them whereas some people do not. I am not sure they are the most accurate, but I enjoyed the listen. I think they may fatigue after a while or with some types of music that already lean towards highs. Not sure that helps a whole lot.
Bowers Wilkins 800D3 are in totally different league compared to the any brand mentioned here, if.... you know what live music sounds like .... Other models just sound what many audiophile prefer... IMHO of course :) If you live in Europe, or willing to take a chance, the Chario Serendipity are fantastic as well...

Truth be told the B&W 802D3 s are phenomenal as well, especially for the 35 sq m room . The most musical (forgiving to the poor quality recordings) among the new D3 line up is 803D3 model , 15 grand too :). With the B&W the Cardas Golden Crosses in shotgun bi wire mode sound the best. For the amp I would recommend the german Symphonic Line RG4 MK4 monoblocks (much better match than your ARC amp).So if you are a music lover (as most audiophools claim they are of course ;) ) listen to the B&W or Charios...

Heck, for $2500 you can get Eminent -Tech 8bs, which are as good as any here on their own if used with highly refined power amp (such as Symphonic Line rg4 or rg 7, as they need power) , if not MUCH better ..... Add a pair of REL ref (10 inch only) subs with good external crossover and for about 15 grand US you are talking reference system comparable to any system at any price! :) (no kidding). But we all know too well that the pride and ego dominate this hobby :) ....