To Jeff Fritz,
It’s always a pleasure for me to read your insightful articles, reviews, and answers to letters from readers, especially when you compare different devices you have or had under review. And like you, I think two of the most impressive companies at the moment are Magico and Devialet (not to forget YG Acoustics and Vivid Audio).
My stereo consists of an EMM Labs DAC2X/TSDX [digital combo], Audio Research Reference 6 [preamp], Soulution 710 [power amplifier], and a pair of Magnepan 3.7 [loudspeakers] with modified speaker terminals. Interconnects are from Tara Labs, speaker cables are from Siltech, and power cables are from Stealth. The room isn’t ideal (16’W x 18’L x 11.5’H). And with the help of Stillpoints, Cerapucs, and a Symposium Isis rack and amp stand with Rollerblocks and Ultra platforms, the sound is pretty amazing to my ears. The music I listen to goes from pop/rock to electropop, but also classical and especially old music and, rarely, jazz.
Magico and Devialet got me thinking about whether these devices would be a real upgrade to my system. In the area I live it’s not easy for me to hear Magico or Devialet in my home, so I’m hoping for your experienced thoughts and advice.
I have lived with dipole speakers for nearly 20 years now, beginning with the open-baffle Triangle Octant, then Magnepan 1.6, and now for some years with Magnepan 3.7. And I still like the soundstage, speed, timbre, layers, and especially voices, along with the dipole openness with my Maggies. The only drawback is the loss of really deep bass. I know Magico is a specialist with deep and tight bass, but do you think they are overall better than my 3.7 speakers? And I fear I will miss the open-baffle sound.
Which Magico model would you suggest for my room? My favorite model would be the new S5 Mk.II. The S7 is surely better, but I think it would be too much for my rather small room (and it costs a lot more). I think due to the new midrange and tweeter in the S5 Mk.II and S7, the older Q3 is out of consideration, but I don’t know really. I know from older letters that the Q3 is more refined than the first-generation S5. From another article or answer to a letter I know that you have the S5 Mk.II under review at the moment, so I’m hoping you can share a point or two from your findings of the new S5 in comparison to the S7 and Q3.
My Magico dream speaker would be the all new M3, but to afford these amazing speakers I have to sell my gear. This leads to the next point.
Do you think a Devialet 400 is, sound-wise, nearly equal to or even better than my system? (I know the Devialet is clearly more versatile.) If you think yes, this would be an opportunity for me to sell my amp, preamp, DAC, and interconnects and buy a Devialet, and then I could afford the M3 or S7 speakers.
I don’t know if you had the chance to compare the Devialet 400 to the top model, the 800. But do you think besides more power with the 800 (and double the price) that the sound quality is also better? I don’t listen to music very loud, but the Magicos are power hungry; maybe the 800 plays with more ease and intensity with double the power.
Many thanks in advance and best regards,
Michael, you’ve asked a number of questions here, so I am going to jump right in. First, generally, I do think the Magico brand would be a good upgrade possibility for you. You’ve no doubt heard about its “electrostatic-like” bass, and I do believe it is the one dynamic-driver loudspeaker brand that would most satisfy those audiophiles who love electrostats, ribbons, and the like. Its “quick” sound mimics that of those types of speakers and, as you say, adds deep, taut bass.
As for which Magico, that is a great question. First, I don’t have the new S5 Mk.II in for review. When the new M3 was announced, the plans changed. I’ll get the new M3 this fall if all goes well. Do understand that I have not heard the M3, but have heard the S5 Mk.II and S7. I also own the Q7 Mk.II. Before I answer your question you should know this: I believe the loudspeaker is, by far, the most dominant component in the chain in terms of dictating the ultimate sound quality one can achieve. Yes, the loudspeaker should mate well with the room, and you need a proper amplifier to drive it, and you need to feed it good signal -- but ultimately the speaker is what you hear literally everything else filtered through. So having said that, I would always buy speakers first, and get the best ones you can get your hands on.
So, although it might be considered by some to be audiophile heresy (I don’t care), I would buy the M3 based on the fact that it has a thoroughly updated Q3-like size and form factor (good for your room, I think) with M Project technology throughout (midrange, tweeter, carbon fiber, etc.). I have heard the M Project many times and know it to be light years beyond the original Q3. So as good as the Magico S speakers are, and as good as the Q3 was when I reviewed it, I would bet the farm that the M3 will be significantly better than any of them.
Some more audiophile heresy: If buying the M3 means you have to sell your electronics and go Devialet, I’d say do it. The Expert-line amplifiers from Devialet are superb and, although you could go with a full Soulution or Boulder or Gryphon setup and likely better them, for the money nothing else is close. Important: look out for an announcement from Devialet before you place your order, though. I can’t say any more than that at the moment.
So there you go. Get the Magico/Devialet combo and be done with it. That’s what I’d do if I were in your shoes. Let me know what you decide to do and how it works out. . . . Jeff Fritz