Magico S5Recommended Reference ComponentThe most important thing about any product we list as a Recommended Reference Component is its sound. But in the case of the Magico S5 loudspeaker ($29,400-$32,500 USD per pair, depending on finish), reviewed last month by Doug Schneider, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also say something about its construction, which sets a new standard for speakers around this price.

Doug said this about the S5’s construction and its 195-pound weight: “Much of the S5’s weight is attributable to its all-aluminum enclosure, which measures 48”H x 15”W x 14”D. Its sides and back form a single, continuously curved surface, and inside, it’s extensively braced with more aluminum. This elaborate structure is exceptionally well made, but words can’t do justice to the way it’s constructed, particularly the way the rear and side panels are attached to the skeletal internal frame. But pictures can -- I recommend looking at the photos of the S5’s interior and exterior to get an idea of what’s involved.

“Probably most relevant for this review is the cabinet’s density. With all its concentrated weight, the S5 sits rock-solid on the floor when the supplied spikes are screwed into its base, which is the entire purpose of this exercise in military-grade speaker design -- because Magico’s designers want the drivers, not the enclosure, to make the sound, the enclosure must be stable and nonresonant. It seems to work -- the S5 is as sturdy a speaker as I’ve seen.”

The S5’s sound impressed as much. In his review, Doug describes how the S5’s two 10” woofers, in their large, sealed enclosure, provided “bass depth that plummeted toward 20Hz with spellbinding control.” Our own measurements, taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada’s National Research Council, indicate strong output to below 40Hz, and a -10dB point nearing 20Hz. That kind of low-end output capability caused Doug to conclude: “I can’t imagine anyone thinking they’ll need to add a subwoofer.”

As notable as its bass was for a sealed-box design, it was the S5’s extreme neutrality and resolution, particularly through the midrange and highs, that most captivated Doug: “The S5’s midrange and highs were not only superneutral -- more so than those of my reference speaker, Revel’s Ultima Salon2 ($22,000/pair) -- but the Magico also sounded exceptionally clean and ultra-resolving of the finest details, particularly when the components upstream were good enough to pass them along. For instance, when I installed in my system EMM Labs’ DAC2X digital-to-analog converter, I was rewarded with a marked increase in detail. Even the most subtle inflections in Willie Nelson’s and Paula Nelson’s voices in ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain,’ their beautiful duet on Willie’s To All the Girls . . . (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Columbia/Legacy), were reproduced with state-of-the-art clarity.”

The superb clarity Doug mentioned was the audible result of the S5’s ultra-low distortion, which our measurements also confirmed -- overall, it was the lowest distortion that we’ve ever measured in the anechoic chamber at an SPL of 95dB at a measuring distance of 2m (equivalent to an SPL of 101dB at 1m!).

Magico S5

The only words of caution Doug had were in regard to the S5’s highest frequencies: “Like the mids, they were exceedingly clear, but they were also designed to be neutral -- there was no subtle rolloff in the highest frequencies, as there was with the [Magico] V2, which was a tad polite up top. As a result, the S5 sounded quite lively on top, even a little hot, depending on the recording. This wasn’t a problem in my room, which is very large, and has a carpeted floor that absorbs some of the highs. What I experienced with the S5s, even when listening on the tweeter axes, was a clean, thoroughly extended top end not at all unlike the XO Cericas’, which was also prominent. In a room more reflective than mine, the S5’s lively top end might have to be compensated for with speaker placement (less toe-in, meaning listening farther off the tweeter axis), and/or absorptive materials.”

Doug found the Magico S5’s sound so accurate that he felt the speaker could do equal service as a domestic loudspeaker and as a monitoring tool, and its remarkable build quality sets a high standard for speakers at this price, as well as much higher. Such attributes are why he concluded that the S5 “is likely the best available, and among a handful of great-sounding speakers at any price” -- praise that led to a Reviewers’ Choice award at the time of review, inclusion in our Recommended Reference Components list this month -- and, to cap off 2013, a SoundStage! Network Product of the Year award in the category of Outstanding Performance: Stereo Loudspeakers. In all respects, Magico’s S5 is a topflight, reference-grade loudspeaker.

Manufacturer contact information:

Magico LLC
3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA 94545-3916
Phone: (510) 649-9700