Prior to this review, my experience with Magico speakers was limited to brief listening sessions at audio shows. For years I would see the latest and greatest creations from Magico and listen to my fellow reviewers sing their praises, so I was definitely curious about the company's new A Series, which was created with the goal of bringing the Magico design philosophy to a larger range of listeners at more affordable price points without jeopardizing the quality and performance that the Magico brand has spent years refining.
Four speakers were announced to be part of the new A Series. The A3 floorstanding speaker reviewed here is the biggest and most expensive of the bunch, being a four-driver, three-way design priced at $12,300 per pair. The A1 stand-mounted two-way speaker is priced at $7,400. The ACC center channel is configured more similarly to the A3, as it is also a four-driver, three-way design priced at $6,800. The last speaker in the series, so far, is the ASUB, which features a single ten-inch driver powered by a 500-watt amplifier with integrated digital signal processing for $6,500. As one would expect from Magico, each of the A Series speakers is a sealed design.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Magico's Alon Wolf at the company's headquarters in an unassuming office park in Hayward, California. We spoke for hours regarding different pieces of audio equipment and design philosophies. Magico's design philosophy places heavy emphasis on low distortion and function over form. Alon contends that the cabinet is 60 percent of the challenge in building the speaker. He is very passionate about the use of aluminum, 6061 T6 in the case of the A series, as both the cabinet wall and internal bracing material.
While I cannot do Alon's technical explanation of all of the benefits of aluminum as a cabinet material justice, the long and short is that it provides a solid mounting point for the drivers and has minimal resonance when properly implemented. Alon explained that he believes wood or resin cabinets are not stiff enough and store too much energy. This lets the drivers move as they are trying to reproduce sound, thereby adding distortion at the primary acoustic output points, as well as adding noise through additional, unwanted cabinet vibrations. On the other hand, steel, while very rigid, can be hard to dampen. Aluminum is in the sweet spot of this equation.
In this regard, the A Series is very much a Magico speaker, as the outer cabinet walls of the sealed enclosure are made of very substantial 3/8-inch sheets of aluminum, which are then reinforced by an extensive internal bracing structure. The midrange driver and tweeter have their own enclosure to protect them from the woofers' back waves. Similar construction can be found in the A Series' more expensive siblings.
Alon explained that Magico could not have produced a speaker with these cabinets five to ten years ago. Changes in manufacturing technology and, I suspect, increased purchasing power allow Magico to outsource the cabinets in sufficient quantities to produce the speakers at the targeted price points. There are some sacrifices, such as lack of color selection, though. With the more expensive lines you have color options; with the A Series you get any color you want, as long as it's black.
The cabinets are also simpler than the M, Q, and S Series Magico speakers, in that they have flat surfaces rather than curved components milled out of large blocks of aluminum. The flat front baffles mean more diffraction than with the M Series speakers. It is tradeoffs such as these that challenge designers; the question at the end of the day is whether Alon and the rest of the team at Magico made the right decisions. When I was visiting Magico, the company had just received a shipment of cabinets, and I looked at the fit and finish of a large group in case my review samples were a cherry-picked pair. All of the cabinets exhibited a very nicely grained brushed aluminum finish identical to my review samples.
The internal bracing system looks like a high-tech aluminum version of B&W's classic Matrix system, and when I knock on any portion of the A3's cabinet my knuckles are met with only a solid, dull thud. All of the A Series drivers are designed by Magico specifically for these speakers, and were engineered not only for accurate on-axis propagation but off-axis as well.
The A Series drivers share much of the design traits from the drivers in Magico's more expensive speakers. The 28mm pure beryllium dome tweeter is based on the M Series tweeter, but without the diamond coating and with a more simplified motor system. The six-inch midrange and dual seven-inch woofer cones are made from Graphene Nano-tec and carbon fiber in a multi-layer configuration that is said to provide an optimal combination of weight, stiffness, and damping. Large Neodymium magnets are used throughout.
Magico's proprietary Elliptical Symmetry Crossover integrates the drivers with a three-way network utilizing a 24db per octave Linkwitz-Riley filter that Alon explained maximizes frequency bandwidth while preserving phase linearity and minimizing intermodulation distortion.
The stated sensitivity is 88 dB with an impedance of 4 Ohms. Read this as meaning you need an amplifier that can deliver significant current without strain. Despite low frequency extension down to 22Hz, the A3 is a relatively compact speaker at 44 inches high, 11 inches deep, and 9.25 inches wide. Don't let the small size fool when you go to pick it up, though, as each cabinet weighs in at a very solid 110 pounds a piece, no doubt due to the thick aluminum walls and bracing.
The A3 has an attractive, all-black modern design, with exposed drivers. The front panel is very clean, with no seams except at the top plate and bottom plinth, which extends out about half an inch around the bottom and provides a wider stance for the four included spiked feet. Nicely finished grooves surround the side panels, but there are no exposed fasteners except on the drivers. The brushed aluminum finish is an attractive fine grain that provides luster without any annoying glare. Grilles are also available as an option, but unless I was worried about little fingers or pets causing damage I would opt for the clean, exposed-driver look.
Magico provides easy-to-follow instructions, including images that detail how to unpack the A3. The owners' manual describes how to find the best position for the speakers in your room as well as some suggested guidelines. I was able to get them in position and set up by myself, but would recommend a second set of hands. Their relatively compact size made them easy to maneuver, but at 110 pounds each, they were tiring to move around.
I experimented with placement, particularly distance from the front wall. I ended up with the backs of the speakers 24 inches from the wall and about eight feet apart. Per my discussions with Peter Mackay of Magico, I used a laser tape measure and laser pointers to do the final positioning. The tape measure was mounted on a tripod at my listening position, which allowed me to ensure that each speak was equidistant. I then used the pointer to aim the speakers to a position about eighteen inches behind me. Once I had the speakers in place, I installed the included spikes. Magico also includes a set of discs to place under the spikes to protect hard floor surfaces. I did not use them on my carpeted floor.
The rest of the review system components included a PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Network player, an Oppo BDP-95, D'Agostino's Progression Preamplifier and Stereo Amplifier, and Kimber Select cabling. I also used my venerable Halcro DM-38 stereo amplifier for a bit and was pleased that it was still up to the task.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...