Sophia Electric Magik Box Reviewed
By: Terry London,
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As stated in my past review on the Sophia Electric Magic 126S-03 integrated amplifier, this American-based company located in Vienna, Virginia, produces some of the finest 300b power tubes on the market today, along with superlative handmade integrated and single-chassis amplifiers. President and Chief Designer Richard Wugang innovatively creates circuits and applications of transformers for both input devices and power supplies. Sophia Electric designs all of its transformers and hand winds them with very high-grade exotic wire in-house. The subject of this review is the Magik Box, a passive twin-based transformer that retails for $2,500. It is a device that can be put in different locations in your system. With it being so versatile, the Magik Box can go between any source and your preamp or between your preamp and your power amplifiers. In designing the Magik Box, Sophia's major goal was to bring the sonic virtues of great signal-input NOS tubes to any solid-state system.
A very attractive piece, the Magik Box has a CNC milled aluminum black base with Sophia Electric engraved on the front; on the back are two sets of high-quality RCA single-ended inputs/outputs. Positioned on top are the two aluminum-encapsulated, hand-wound exotic wire transformers. Its dimensions are four inches high by 6.5 inches wide by four inches deep, and it weighs a mere 4.6 pounds. One interesting feature it offers is that, by reversing which set of RCAs you use for either input or output, you can get either a 6dB increase or decrease in volume. This volume flexibility allows you to find the "sweet spot" on your preamp or receiver's volume control.
During my listening process, I auditioned the Magik Box in four solid-state systems and two tube-based systems to reach my conclusions regarding the sonic effects of inserting this device into different systems. Two of the solid-state systems used good entry-level electronics, and the other two were composed of very highly regarded reference-level components. One of the tube-based systems was my reference-level system composed of the new Concert Fidelity battery-powered DAC (review forthcoming) and my Melody AN 300B integrated amplifier into Lawrence Audio Cello speakers. The other reference-level tube-based system was a complete set of electronics from Purity Audio driving Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers. Both of these tube-based systems use Sophia Electric's beautiful-sounding Royal Princess 300b tubes. I used numerous musical selections (including acoustic jazz, classical, rock/pop, and finely recorded vocals) to assess what the Magik Box was doing in each system.
My initial conclusion was that the Magik Box did no sonic harm in any way, regardless of which system it was inserted into. There seemed to be no added noise, decreased transparency, or interference with dynamics at all. Secondly, it improved the overall performance of reference-level tube-based systems less dramatically but still very audibly, with improvements in the space and air around individual players on the soundstage.
Although my first two conclusions were quite impressive, my last conclusion was a show stopper: when used in the four solid-state systems and placed in between the source and the preamplifier, the Magik Box produced tremendously positive results that yielded pleasurable listening and great satisfaction.
In each of these solid-state systems, the height, depth, and width of the soundstage became more realistic, with better layering of the players to allow for me to more precisely hear their location and distance from each other. Another spatial enhancement that the device created was more air and space around each player, thus leading to more three-dimensional imaging. The Magik Box also added a touch of natural warmth and liquidity, which made the overall tonality and timbres of these solid-state systems more grain-less and natural sounding. Finally, the low frequencies up to the midrange had more heft, grunt, and weight - giving a more solid foundation to the music in an integrated and seamless manner.
• The Magik Box is built to a very high standard externally and internally. It uses in-house hand-wound transformers of very high-grade exotic wire and core material that are potted in epoxy.
• The Magik Box can be set up to increase or decrease gain by six decibels by switching your ICs into its RCA inputs. This allows you to get the widest sweet spot on your preamplifier or receiver's volume control.
• This transformer-based device never renders any sort of sonic shortcomings and adds wonderful spatial, dynamic, and tonal improvements to any solid-state system, regardless if it's an entry- or reference-level system.
• Even in the context of a total tube-based system, it improves the spatial qualities of individual players regarding the space and air around them.
• This product adds a large dollop of what great NOS input/signal tubes can offer into a solid-state system without the hassle of tube replacements and maintenance.
• You will have to purchase another pair of high-quality RCA single-ended interconnects to set up the Magik Box in your system.
Comparison and Competition
Historically, there have been many attempts by different manufacturers to build what are normally referred to as tube buffers to "warm up" solid-state systems or bright/edgy digital front ends. These all have sonic issues, such as noise, distortion, and restricted dynamics. I have tried very inexpensive pieces having a price range around a couple hundred dollars to pieces that cost more than $3,000. You still have the concern over retubing and maintenance, and none of these devices comes anywhere close to what the Magik Box does regarding its positive sonic benefits.
Sophia Electric has come up with an add-on device in the Magik Box that can give the owner of any solid-state system, and to a somewhat lesser degree a tube-based system, the wonderful sonic virtues and strengths of tubes - mainly, the natural warmth and overall liquidity, more air and space between players, more purity in timbres, and more three-dimensional imaging - without interfering with any virtues that you already have in your system. Placement in your system is easy and convenient without needing another power cord. It will be necessary to get another pair of interconnects to install the Magik Box; however, given the sonic benefits added to your system, this expense is well worth it. I highly recommend that you audition the Magik Box. You might discover the same wonderful musical changes it can potentially bring into your system.