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The heavy-metal-speaker man

Alon Wolf is a brave man; he started an American high-end speaker company in 2005.

I interviewed Magico's Alon Wolf a few months ago when he visited his NYC dealer, EarsNova.

Like so many audio entrepreneurs I've talked with over the years, Wolf had started building speakers for himself years before he officially got into the business in 2005. Mastering engineer Paul Stubblebine was one of Wolf's first customers; he heard something in a Wolf speaker he couldn't get anywhere else.

Alon Wolf at EarsNova playing his speakers. Steve Guttenberg

Wolf was only interested in building the very best speakers he could without cost constraints, and that's his market niche. Thing is, it's also the most demanding market, and going up against established high-end speaker brands like Wilson Audio and Sonus Faber is almost impossible in the best of times, but in a down market Wolf's chances for success were near zero. But not only has Magico survived, it's prospered. Alon Wolf must be doing something right.

Wolf's speakers have always been massively built creations, and over the last few years his all-metal cabinets are crafted around complex and rigid frames. The speakers are labor-intensive to build, but the goal is to make speakers where the only moving parts are the drivers--the tweeter, midrange, and woofer--so only they create the sound you hear. That stands in sharp contrast with most box speakers, where the cabinet "sings along" with the drivers, and muddies the sound. To better understand what that means, play loud music over your speakers, and rest your hand on the cabinet; you will feel a lot of vibration coming from the cabinet. Those vibrations are audible.

In fact, in a Magico speaker the drivers are attached not to the cabinet, the tweeter, midrange and woofers are fastened to the aluminum frame. Certain areas of the interior of the cabinet are strategically "damped" to hush resonance. Wolf is an analytical man, and he sees the speaker's main job as converting electrical music signals into acoustic energy, as accurately as possible. As Wolf put it, "How much will be lost in the conversion process?" He's fascinated by the science of making sound, and he feels that conventional medium-density fiberboard speakers, no matter how well they're designed, lose as much as 30 percent of the music. That's no hype; when you listen to a Magico speaker, you hear significantly greater resolution than from other box speakers.

Magico's tweeters and woofers are proprietary units, and elements of their designs come from Israel and Europe; it's a global effort. Wolf's quest for perfect sound isn't over.

"Reproducing the sound of live music is an impossible task, we're not there." He played violin for six years when he was a kid, and still plays classical guitar and studied in a conservatory, so he knows that the gap between recorded music and the real thing is still there.

Magico speakers are expensive; the little 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 the Q1 at EarsNova in NYC, but Magico has a healthy number of dealers across the U.S. (and the world).