Magico V2 Loudspeakers
Category: Best Product Introduction
Digital sources -- Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova CD
player, Zanden Audio Systems 2500S CD player, Benchmark Media DAC1 HDR
Preamplifiers -- Blue Circle Audio BC3000
Mk.II, Benchmark Media DAC1 HDR
Power amplifiers -- Blue Circle Audio BC204,
Axiom Audio A1400-8
Integrated amplifiers -- Classé Audio
CAP-2100, Zanden Audio Model 600
Speaker cables -- Nirvana Audio S-L, DH Labs
Interconnects -- Nirvana Audio S-L, Nordost
In the last 14 years, Ive reviewed more loudspeakers than any other type of
audio product. Everything about them fascinates me, and particularly that they come in all
shapes and sizes, and that no two models look identical or sound exactly alike. That makes
for a never-ending range of possibilities, with always the potential for surprise.
The only frustrating thing about loudspeakers today
is that sky-high prices are not only becoming common, but often defy common sense. Too
often, Ive seen speakers costing five or even six digits per pair that look nice and
have fancy finishes, but whose performance is laid to waste by better-designed speakers at
only a fraction of the price. This happens more often than not, and makes these
high-priced speakers not genuine audio components but mere trophies of status. Of course,
this doesnt describe all high-priced speakers, and Im not saying that
Ill never touch one -- I have, in the past, reviewed some very expensive speakers, a
few of which have approached the state of the art. But too often, Ive been let down.
Ive said similar things many times in the past; none
of it should surprise anyone who reads my reviews, including manufacturers. But despite
knowing my feelings about high-priced speakers, Alon Wolf, president of Magico, sent me a
pair of his brand-new V2 speakers, which cost $18,000 USD/pair -- and the V2 is his least
expensive speaker yet. Magicos V3 costs $27,000/pair, the Mini II $30,000/pair,
and the M5 $89,000/pair. The Model 6 and Ultimate II cost so much you dont even want
to know. Some might think Wolf crazy to send me even his lowest-priced model; others might
see him as a risk taker. Whatever the case, he sent me the V2s with nary a word.
The V2s arrived in my house in tip-top shape, packed in two
big boxes. After unpacking them, I was pleased with their modest size: 42"H x
10"W x 12"D. I hate huge speakers that practically reach the ceiling.
Viewed from the side, the V2 is tilted back a few degrees,
more than likely to achieve the best acoustic integration of the outputs of its three
drivers. At 120 pounds the V2 is heavy, but its small footprint and backtilt make it not
all that stable, particularly on a carpeted floor. Stabilizing spikes are provided; these
screw into the V2s bottom plate, and I recommend using them. Once the spikes were in
place, they sat solidly.
A lot of the V2s weight is due to how the cabinet is
made. The walls are of 17-ply Baltic birch, although all of the panels arent made
quite the same. The top, bottom, front, and back are of more traditional plywood
construction -- large layers the dimensions of those panels stacked, glued, and pressed
together. The side panels, which are the largest and require the greatest strength, are
made of long narrow strips Baltic birch about 1" wide that run the height of the
cabinet. These strips are stacked, glued, and pressed together to make up the width of the
panel. As a result, the ply lines on the side run vertically -- which is what Wolf says
the V in V2 stands for.
While Magico prefers Baltic birch for the main cabinet
body, theyre adamant that wood is a poor material to screw drivers into: it
wont hold them securely enough, and the screw holes are too easily stripped, even if
the drivers are removed and reinstalled only a few times. Hence the approximately
1"-thick front baffle of "aircraft-grade 6061-T aluminum," to which the
drivers are bolted. This baffles surface is slightly convex to eliminate diffraction
on the horizontal plane (the convexity extends to the baffles edges). The
baffles finish is perfect, which is important -- the V2 has no grille or provision
for one: baffle and drivers are exposed in full-frontal nudity.
To secure the baffle to the cabinet, three rods of
stainless steel extend through the cabinet from the rear panel, their threaded ends
screwing into the back of the baffle. These are tightened by turning three big, exposed
aluminum pucks on the rear panel. (Magico supplies a rod with which these pucks can be
tightened.) Where the rods enter the cabinet, gaskets ensure that the sealed enclosure
The V2 has a 1" ring-radiator tweeter and two 7"
woofers governed by whats called a "two-and-a-half-way" crossover: The two
woofers work together in the deepest bass region to get the most output down low; however,
only one of these woofers is assigned to also handle the midrange before handing off to
the tweeter. Magico doesnt talk much about the details of their crossover, but I did
squeeze this out of Alon Wolf: the top woofer transitions to the tweeter at just over
2kHz, while the bottom woofer goes up to 300 or 400Hz before its rolled off. Magico
says they design their speakers for smooth frequency response both on and off axis. That
response is a claimed 32Hz-40kHz.
The woofers, Magicos own design, are made of
something they call Nano-Tec. According to their literature, the cones comprise an
"asymmetrical sandwich composite of several different weights of carbon fiber
intricately woven and bonded to a Rohacell core. The bonding is done under tremendous
pressure using thermo plastic mixed with carbon nanotubes as the bonding agent." The
cone, shaped to improve dispersion, is reported to be extremely light but with a high
level of tensile strength, meaning it wont easily deform. Magico says that the
Nano-Tec cones first breakup mode is at least two octaves above the range the upper
woofer is asked to handle. This is combined with a robust motor system, also designed
in-house. The result, claims Magico, is a driver that has high output capability and low
Like all Magico speakers, the V2 is a sealed design.
Sealed-box speakers have been around for eons, but these days are increasingly rare --
most modern designs employ a port to augment the bass. However, Wolf is firm in his belief
that a sealed box is the way to go for the tightest, most accurate bass reproduction.
Magico says the V2s impedance is 4 ohms and its
sensitivity 89dB/2.83V/m; they recommend power amplifiers in the 40-300W range.
Theres only one set of very-high-quality binding posts on the back; the V2
wasnt designed for biamping or biwiring.
As I said, Im suspicious of very expensive speakers,
and the Magico V2 is definitely a luxury item. However, no speaker at a lower price
thats come into my listening room has been built this well. The V2 is one of the
best-made speakers Ive had here, and its construction quality is commensurate with
its price. Also, the fact that I prefer the appearance of the V2 to that of any other
Magico speaker Ive seen has a lot to do with its size. Magicos bigger
speakers, particularly the M5, can look blocky and overpowering. In comparison, the V2 is
subtle and elegant.
The only complaint I have is a small one, and has nothing
directly to do with the V2s quality of construction. The warranty is just three
years, whereas the industry standard is five. Given the V2s price and the fact that
its clearly a robust, high-quality design, I feel that, for $18,000/pair, Magico
should at least match the industry standard.
Once I had the Magico V2s set up correctly -- about
3.5 from the sidewalls and 5 from the front wall -- its strengths were readily
apparent and its deficiencies negligible. Now for the details.
Whenever I discover that I have a reference-level piece of
equipment in my listening room, I pull out the demo recordings that Ive been using
for years. One of my favorites is Blue Rodeos Five Days in July (CD,
Discovery 77013), in particular the seven-minute opening track, "5 Days in May."
This track has well-recorded vocals, natural-sounding instruments, and a rich, vibrant
tonal balance with an excellent capturing of recorded space.
Ive heard this track sound startlingly good through
many other speaker systems, but it never sounded as impressive as it did through the V2s.
The bass was superdeep, with great resolution and weight, laying a firm foundation that
not only gave the music heft, but contributed to the outstanding sense of space that
enveloped my room. Greg
Keelors and Jim Cuddys voices sounded a touch more transparent through the JansZen Model One
speaker I reviewed at the end of 2007, and they sounded just as effortless and clear
Acoustics Integris Active 300B speaker, which I praised in 2006, as they did
through V2. (The Model One and Integris Active 300B are both active, or self-powered,
speaker systems, and each cost $30,000/pair at the time I reviewed them.) But never had I
heard these singers voices sound as rich, robust, and textured, while still sounding
natural and real, as through the Magico. The V2s midrange also had the uncanny
ability to sound full and detailed but never analytical or harsh.
This held true when I then turned to womens voices. I
played Fado singer Marizas Transparente (CD, Times Square TSQ-CD-9047), an
album that I find very useful as a reference disc: its very well recorded, and
Ive heard Mariza perform these same songs live in a simple setting, sometimes
without electronic amplification. Like the men of Blue Rodeo, Mariza sounded natural,
present, and realistic through the V2s -- their reproduction of her voice was the closest
Ive heard in my room to what Ive heard from her in concert. I was also
impressed by the dimensionality of the voice, which more or less hung there in space like
a tangible object -- something I attribute to the V2s subtle midrange richness.
Thrilled with all of this, I tried a brand-new recording
Id just received, of a band Id never heard of before: Madison Violets No
Fool for Trying (CD, True North TND529). Two women, Brenley MacEachern and Lisa
MacIsaac, are the lead singers, and the songs have a country feel. This recording is
thinner than Transparente, with more sibilance, and those flaws were readily
apparent through the V2. However, while the V2 clearly revealed those problems in the
recording, it didnt emphasize them as some speakers do, and certainly added no
objectionable character of its own. What I noticed was that the V2 had an amazing way of
revealing detail while always conveying a musical and "listenable" sound. I may
not have liked the way some recordings were made, but I was never put off by what I heard.
The transition between the top woofer and the tweeter was
seamless, the highs extending sweetly and unobjectionably far past the upper range of my
hearing. I can hear flaws in most tweeters, regardless of price. Often theres undue
hash and edge, which rears its head in the sound of cymbals; other times theres a
metallic sound that shows up with guitar. But with the V2, the only objectionable sounds I
heard were those in the recording itself. Whereas I end up criticizing most speakers for
being dry, brittle, or edgy in the top end, the V2 was clean, clear, and thoroughly
effortless, leaving me nothing to criticize -- a rare thing.
My reference loudspeakers for creating a large, spacious
soundstage are the Mirage OM Design OMD-28s (no longer available; $8500/pair when
reviewed) -- large floorstanders that employ Mirages unique Omnipolar technology, by
which each speaker can splay sound in a controlled manner through a full 360 degrees. The
OMD-28s cast a wider, deeper soundstage than any other pair of speakers Ive had in
my room -- in fact, they were awesome in that regard. Bad news: The Magico V2s
couldnt quite match the size of the Mirages stage. Good news: The V2s came
surprisingly close -- which speaks very well for their dispersion capabilities and their
ability to get the sound "out of the box." That said, the V2s cast a
tremendously wide stage that often squeaked outside the speakers outer side panels,
with depth that extended past the front wall of my room.
And in terms of imaging precision, the Magicos bettered the
Mirages -- while the V2s stage wasnt quite as big, it was tighter and better
focused. However, it wasnt so tight that things sounded lean or constrained. Even
with thinner-sounding recordings, such as the Madison Violet disc, there was enough
spaciousness and heft to make the soundfield seem tangible and real.
An area Ive so far touched on only briefly is resolution
-- in particular, the way the V2 balanced a wealth of detail with maintaining all the
pleasing musical qualities described above. This, I believe, is what made the V2 not just
good but great, and is a quality it shares with the Aurum Acoustics Integris Active 300B,
which I consider one of todays great speakers. Like the Integris Active 300B, the V2
is a high-resolution speaker capable of conveying astonishing amounts of detail from the
bass through the highs, but never sounding clinical, dry, or in-your-face. This is not an
easy balance to maintain -- some speakers sound very pleasing but arent resolving
enough, while others have sky-high resolution but are too emphasized in some region, and
arent always the easiest to listen to. The Magico V2s balance was spot-on.
I tried the V2s with four different amplifiers, all significantly
different from each other in design topology and power rating. The biggest differences in
sound resulted from the differences in these amps power outputs. Zandens
all-tube Model 600 integrated amplifier, producing 30Wpc into 8 ohms, just wasnt
powerful enough for the V2. The midrange was slippery-smooth, which is what the Zanden is
known for, but the overall sound was thin and the bass very weak. In my opinion,
dont even bother with low-power amps, tubed or solid-state, with the V2.
I had much better results with Classé Audios
solid-state CAP-2100 integrated, claimed to deliver 100Wpc into 8 ohms. I could have lived
with this setup -- the V2s went loud enough, things sounded fleshed out, and the bass was
more than respectable. Still, there wasnt that sense of effortless ease and openness
that I got when I moved up to the Blue Circle Audio BC204 power amp, rated at 150Wpc -- thats
when the V2s really began to move me. And things improved that much again when I hooked up
Axiom Audios A1400-8 power amp, which has a linear power supply, a switching output
stage, and can deliver up to 350Wpc into 8 ohms or 700Wpc into 4 ohms. Power-wise, the
Axiom was overkill, but with the V2 Id rather have more than less. While Magico
recommends power amplifiers rated from 50 to 300Wpc, I suggest that, for best results, you
err on the high side and start with an amp that puts out at least 150Wpc.
. . . Doug Schneider
My very positive impressions of the V2 shouldnt give
you the impression that this speaker was without fault, and one of those faults was in its
bass performance. As Ive said, the V2s bass was extremely well controlled and
had a lot of texture, and its depth -- down to 30Hz or so -- exceeded my expectations. On
the other hand, despite going so deep, the V2s bass lacked a bit of punch -- that
upper-bass "sock" that some speakers give. I attribute this to the V2s
being quite linear down low, in stark contrast to many of todays speakers. Its
not uncommon to see a speaker with a few decibels worth of emphasis in the 80-120Hz
range. (If you go to www.speakermeasurements.com
and look at all the speakers weve measured, you can see which these are.) Emphasis
in this region can give a subjective impression of "punch" or "sock"
that is particularly noticeable -- POW! -- with something like kick drum. From what
I could tell the V2 avoided that, instead choosing the path of accuracy over a touch of
upper-bass excitement. So if youre used to that emphasis, it might take you a while
to settle in with the V2s sound. But once you learn what truly deep, linear bass
sounds like, you might not be able to live with that emphasis again.
These days, its not uncommon to see speakers that
cost in excess of $100,000 -- weve reviewed some of them here. But Im a
commonsense guy, and when speaker prices get that high, it gives me cause for
concern. I start asking, "Should a pair of speakers really cost that
much?" In the case of the Magico V2, the $18,000 question is, "Is it worth
While the V2 cant better every other speaker out
there in every respect, no other speaker Ive reviewed thats built this
way and has this quality of performance, with next to no weaknesses, costs less. The only
other speaker system that impressed me as much is the Aurum Integris Active 300B, and for
pretty much the same reasons. But unlike the passive (i.e., unpowered) Magico V2,
the Integris Active 300B is an active (i.e., powered by a built-in amplifier)
speaker system that, at the time of the review, cost $30,000/pair. It received not only
our "Reviewers Choice" nod, but the top honor of our 2006 "Edge of
the Art" award as well. Thats the kind of company the V2 keeps, and its
an indication of how much it achieves. Color me impressed.
I dont have $18,000 to spend on a pair of speakers,
but I have strong advice for those who do: If topflight sound from a moderately sized
floorstander is what you want, Magicos beautifully built V2 more than delivers. It
delivered deep, tight, superbly articulated bass down to about 30Hz; it had a gorgeously
fleshed-out midrange with a hint of richness; it revealed a wealth of detail without ever
displaying any excess bloat or unnecessary weight; and it had a clean, delicate top end
that, insofar as dynamic drivers go, was beyond reproach in terms of cleanness and that
elusive audiophile quality of "air." It may carry a five-digit price tag, but
the V2 is more than a mere status trophy -- its a true audiophile-grade
performer with an overall sound quality that makes it the best passive loudspeaker
Ive ever reviewed.
. . . Doug Schneider
|Magico V2 Loudspeakers
Price: $18,000 USD per pair.
Warranty: Three years parts and labor.
932 Parker Street, #2
Berkeley, CA 94710
Phone: (510) 649-9700