Visit to Magnolia Proves Interesting

I had a good 2 hours of alone time (wife took the kid to the pool) and ran over to Magnolia.  Let me just note that in the 2 decades that I've been visiting high end audio stores, I've not been too keen on listening at big box stores because the seem to be pushing brands that face serious competition elsewhere. 

I listened to B&W 804s, Martin Logan electrostatics, and Sonus Faber Olympica IIIs through an McIntosh MC452.

Here are my takeaways:

1.  The Sonus Faber sounded better than the B&W 804s through the Mac.  The Sonus Fabers had more of a holographic picture, better bass, and did not try to dissect the music into little pieces for me to put back together, yet I could hear the individual parts well if I wanted to.  The B&Ws were impressive, but sounded a bit clinical in my book. 

2.  Nothing I was hearing by either loudspeaker felt like much of an improvement over what I have--PSB Imagine T2s, running through either a Roksan Radius (Ortofon 2m Black) or Tidal pushed through my Creek Evolution 100A's DAC or through my Bluesound's DAC.   

Now if I were in the market for new stuff (who kind of isn't even when we say we're not), I wouldn't necessarily run to Magnolia.  I happened to be close and it was convenient.  I would, however, potentially consider Mac, B&W and Sonus Faber as possible upgrade paths.  

Well, I left feeling like my Creek integrated and PSB Imagine T2s are just splendid--they compete so nicely with the near $10k Mac and $8K B&Ws and $13k Sonus Fabers.  

That made me feel pretty good.  I am now convinced that my best short term upgrade path--as someone on Audiogon said to me--is to get a better phono preamp than my Creek Sequel.  

It seems, however, that for digital playback I may have reached a pretty good plateau.  The law of diminishing returns is quite real for me right now.  

I'm thinking that Creek, PSB, Roksan and Bluesound--oh wait, don't forget Ortofon--all deserve business because they make superb products for the price...not that they are cheap. 

I'm still thinking about my next upgrade path.  And, I'm ever-so-curious to see what the PSBs would sound like with gobs more power.  All of this said, I'm really in a good spot to just enjoy the music and keep collecting vinyl. 

I welcome any thoughts you all may have.  Thanks in advance to such a wonderful community!

Nice that you're happy with your system.
Regarding Magnolia, how good is their sound room; acoustically speaking?
Was the staff knowledgeable and did they know how to position speakers?
I forget which Martin Logan speakers I demoed. It was an electrostatic pair with a powered bass driver. They sounded great.  Really nice soundstage and airy feel to Mudd and highs. I definitely liked them. No boxiness to the sound. 

The Magnolia staff were ok. They were young (under 30) and didn't know a thing about my components--they hadn't heard of the make. 

The staff slso pushed their own demo music.  They were friendly. I was surprised, but not put off, by them asking me what I do for a living. 

One of of the guys knew the product lines well. The other guy did not. 

I got the sense that they were just showing off their stuff and not too concerned about my actual objectives. They assumed that both speakers would be a viable upgrade for me based on price alone---that was a bit silly. I think the Sonus Faber may have had a bit more finesse than my PSBs, but this didn't feel like I was in a different league.  

Big props to my Creek integrated. It really sounds nice even even I'm comparing it to a dedicated amp with gobs more power. 

In relation to the T3 compared to the other speakers you auditioned, I agree that you got an excellent deal. I have not heard the T2. These speakers are a homogenous group;. There are more interesting designs around $10k;  unfortunately they harder to hear in the shrinking world of audio.

I agree.  I'm not so seasoned at this hobby because--for many years--I didn't have funds to really do much.  I bought a pair of Monitor Audio bookshelf monitors in 1997 (I was 24).  I ran them through a Denon receiver as a preamp and a Carver power amp, with a Rega P2 turntable and modest cartridge.  There was no much I could do in terms of upgrading.  

After grad school, I had more money. I bought a pair of Totem Arros and couldn't believe the value for the money. Next I bought a Creek 5350 integrated and dumped the Carver--even though it allegedly had something like 3x the power and more current.  Now, I'm back at it and love what I'm hearing. 

I think you're right on the homogenous group of loudspeakers in that price range.  It seems if you are spending $300-$1000, stuff is easier to weed through.  Things get closer together in terms of sonics when I moved north of $2k.  

I haven't heard the PSB Imagine T3, but I'd bet it sublime--especially for the money.  The T2 is really something.  
Magnolia staff does not know how to make speakers and electronics sound good - They simply cannot match the conditions you have at home.
I have tried to listen to some b&ws and I was so not impressed that I thought it could not be the fault of the speakers.
I broke down and went to Magnolia couple weeks ago to take a look.  The high end gear and speakers demo room was what was expected, good stuff.  The Staff were children who didn't have a clue about anything, even the gear they sold.  Sad and unfortunate.  

I guess the Internet has essentially killed the "local audio shop" to a large degree.  I live in Atlanta and it's dismal.  I've tried hard to "buy local" but unless you're willing to pay full retail with no service of any kind then forget it...  

Magnolia was a local, small chain here in the Seattle area until they were bought our by Best Buy a few years ago.  Did you go to a Magnolia Design Center?  There are a few in the Best Buy stores in the Seattle area, and they're set up more like a small high end store within a store, and have mostly staff from the independent Magnolia stores before they were shuttered a couple years ago.  In general they're quite knowledgeable about the products.

I've never gone into a Magnolia/Best Buy anywhere else so I can't speak to them.
Wow... your Magnolia experience mirrors mine of about 2 years ago..... I still listen to 25yr old B&W matrix 801-S2's.... and I've tried several times to replace them.... to no success yet....  The Magnolia sales rep was great to me though... I brought my own stack of CDs at 2pm on a weekday when they were least busy... and he happily let me listen to my tracks through the B&W 802D's, Martin Logan SummitX, and the Sonus Faber Olympica's.... all 3 pairs are in the $12-15k range...... My least favorite of the three..... the 802D's...... I want to love them so much.... and just don't.  I've heard them at 3 different audio dealers now, and never like them.  The biggest surprise were the Olympica's.... but simply not enough low end for me at the $13k price.  The Summit's were simply gorgeous and transparent sounding, but more reserved dynamically.... all these driven by big MAC amps through miles of speaker cable in a terribly boomy room.  I'm experienced enough to be able to tune some of the room out... and it was still a good demo experience.    

I am a magnolia customer. Bought a pair of 802d3 and have a pair of Sonus faber Olympica 3. The staff are very nice to me and very accommodating. I have borrowed from them some audioquest cables for the past 2 months... They let me walk out the store with approximately $5,000 worth of audio cables without batting an eye.

the room is good, take the demo with a grain of salt, tough to get completely right with multiple set ups in 1 room.

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I would like to learn more about why Audio Alternative merged w/ HiFi Buys?  A similar situation occurred w/ HiFi Buys Nashville TN ?
Historically, yes, Atlanta has dropped the Audio shop ball.
Not too long ago, there were many, many Audio operations in our 6th largest U.S. City?
Interesting conversation. A few month ago I was actively looking for monitors to replace a set of GMA Europas and snell type d floorstanders. First off yes I do have sellers regret with the Snells. But anyway, living in northern Virginia I had traveled to several audio shops to test drive speakers of which Magnolia was one. It was the design shop in Fairfax. Long story short I ended up purchasing a set do sonus faber chimeleons. Returned them and purchased a set of ML motion 35 st monitors. Like them a lot, the folded tweet is easy on sensitive ears. But to the point both of the reps I dealt with where very knowledgeable and felt comfortable working with them. Both had very respectable set ups at there homes. And was able, if I wanted to take the ML motion 15xts home to demo. They recognized the limitations of their listening rooms and tried to shift things around to improve the environment. In all a very good experience with knowledgeable folks, low pressure, and willing to understand my needs as the buyer. One of the guys had a set of SF Cremona and was working to move to the Auditors and was waiting to go for training at sumiko school so that helped demonstrate to me that there was a professional and enthusiastic interest beyond just a job. No connection with Magnolia, just had good experiences with them. Take care, Dave

We recently purchased several major kitchen appliances at a local Best Buy. Not that it was planned, but I wandered over to the Magnolia section which in fact was a Design Center store. They had 4-5 listening rooms and my staff person was "somewhat" knowledgeable about audio, but was unfamiliar with my Kharma Midi Grands and Krell FPB 450 mcx monoblocks. He didn’t ask me what I did for a living. I auditioned the Sonus Faber Olympus III’s and then the B&W 803 D3’s with Mac gear.... unfortunately without my own listening material. I was genuinely impressed with the B&W’s. Last time I auditioned B&W were the Nautilus series 802’s 12+ years ago... they’ve come a long way since then. Anyway, long story short, I walked away ordering a REL S/2 sub at 1/2 price for a secondary system. FWIW.
Chlv0ter and jafant, you are mostly correct about the Atlanta hifi market. There are some options you may not know about. I own and operate Wolfsong Audio in Dawsonville. We show a full line of Bryston, Rogue Audio, Ryan Speakers, Kii Audio, Thoerns, Nerve Audio cables, Soundsmith phono carts. And Target A udio stands. Look up Wolfsong Audio and give us a call

(((I would like to learn more about why Audio Alternative merged w/ HiFi Buys?))
  Alan, Owner Audio Alternative took the name on Hi Fi Buys runs a class act operation and is well worth seeking out.
 Many folks that relocated or moved from the Northeast find him to be superb.
 Best JohnnyR 
To Seattle area residence tired of listening to the same stuff we have a nice little shop in Bellingham selling really unique and wonderful sounding products. 

I would strongly suggest you look into Devore Fidelity and or Vandersteen speakers then consider any change in amplification requirements. 

Your current speakers are very good performers for their price point which means spending considerably more for an improvement that will be satisfyingly worthwhile. 

Devore designs open the door to the possibilities of low wattage amplification. Vandersteen offers what becomes the distinctive presentation of correct time and phase. After living with them you'll begin to notice just how wrong many other dynamic speaker designs are. 

If Best Buy's Martin Logan's become your siren call I'd recommend a must listen to Sanders Sound Systems the entire system.

And please, get Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" and dance with your child to an uncorrected musical production.
The best way to audition components is to recreate your listening room (and your home audio rig) at the retail location. This involves driving around with a moving van filled with exact replicas of your furnishings and gear, and must include heavy portable walls to replicate the ambient tone of your home vibration storage characteristics. You will need to hire a good theatrical set designer and a crew to help schlep the stuff, but it is utterly worth the trouble if buying any component over $300. Remember to spend at least a week at the retail location to insure that any new components really fit with your lifestyle.

Absolutely. If more people would live in a tent it would be much easier to recreate those exact conditions, except the weather. 


A film studio effects crew can replicate weather conditions with artificial rain and wind machines, although "artificial" rain and wind are actually real albeit "controllable" things. Tent dwellers can set up in the Magnolia parking lot and get their audio gear auditions going, as well as shopping for cameras and washing machines.
Have been priveleged to spend a few hours in the Bellingham store mentioned above (while visiting our friends in Seattle) listening to vinyl and it was time well spent.