Dense, all-metal speakers from Magico are wowing audiophiles all over the world.
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
I recently dropped by EarsNova's spacious new high-end audio store, which has the best-looking showrooms I've seen in a long while. The vibe was relaxed, and the demo rooms' sound was pretty special, but it was the little Magico Q1 speaker that bowled me over.
Were my eyes deceiving me? How could this big sound come from such a small speaker? The sheer physicality and beauty of the sound required some recalibration of my senses to take it all in. Most bona fide high-end speakers are big, imposing things that dominate a room. They're so huge that only audiophiles would want to share living space with them, but the Magico Q1 is small enough for any music lover to easily live with.
How small is it? Just 14.2 inches high, 9 inches wide, and 14.2 inches deep. Rap your knuckles against the side of the cabinet, and you'll know this is no ordinary speaker. The look and feel is completely different than the typical medium-density fiberboard cabinet with a slick wood veneer. The Q1's cabinet is made from thick aluminum plates, fitted to an interior metal chassis. The cabinet is free of resonance and feels inert, and those qualities play a large role in the sound you hear from the speaker's proprietary 7-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. Each speaker weighs 60 pounds, and its matching floor stand weighs 60 more. Magico claims the little speaker can produce seriously deep bass, down to 32Hz. I didn't measure it, but the Q1 definitely makes more and better bass than I've ever heard from a speaker of this size.
It's not there. The Q1 "disappears" as a sound source, and there's no strain or hardness to the sound; the music just appears fully formed and full of life. That, more than anything is what distinguishes the best audio from merely good hi-fi. It sounds like humans playing music. So it's not that you're hearing more detail or resolution per se, and even when I hammered the speakers with uncompressed drum test recordings the Q1 took them all in stride. The speaker came alive with the Black Keys' raunchy blues, and the sweet sounds of Gillian Welch's ethereal voice and guitar were awfully pretty.
I'm no opera fan, but I listened spellbound to a soprano voice on the Q1, which again played beyond my expectations. Solo voices can sound constrained and hard, but here over the Q1s, the voice was a living thing. Tonality was pure and natural. I can't stop thinking about this speaker.
The Magico Q1 may be small enough to fit in the average size living room, but you have to be pretty wealthy to buy them. The Q1 runs $24,950 per pair, and to hear it at its best, you'd need to invest at least that much on the rest of the system. I heard them at EarsNova in NYC, but Magico has a healthy number of dealers across the U.S. (and the world).