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Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker

Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker

There are two things to point out here. First, most companies name the replacements to existing designs with a suffix, such as “Mark II.” Next, Magico isn’t like most companies. The company has radically reworked its popular Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker and renamed it… S3. Not ‘S3’ or ‘S3.3’ or even ‘S3i’… just S3.

Next, Magico potentially adds confusion to the mix because the S3 replaces… the S3 Mk II. The two points are related. This latest S3 is the loudspeaker Magico always wanted to build. It’s the entry tower to the S-Series, stepping beyond the already deeply impressive A-Series and drawing technology and inspiration from the top M-Series. There’s no sense in calling it a Mk III version because it’s the point where Magico starts again. If anything, it’s the S3… rebooted.

From the flagship

It’s not hard to see where the Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker gets its inspiration: Magico’s top M-Series loudspeaker. In that Series, the S3 aims high, drawing inspiration and design criteria from the M9 flagship. Easier said than done, however. To get even close to that level of performance without the M9’s three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar price tag, Magico needed to start from scratch. To most companies, that means a clean piece of paper or ‘CTRL-N’ (new file). Magico went the long way around, starting with state-of-the-art research and development facilities and a new listening room that push the envelope of listening performance.

The combination affords Magico the ability to not only analyse every aspect of the enclosure, driver, coupling system, and crossover, even down to the screws and feet but each objectively analysed parameter could also be backed up by observation and listening test. Arguably, this is nothing new; companies have had both the R&D and the listening suites deliver results. But the difference is few have had the gumption to change up both R&D and listening room simultaneously, and even fewer already had state-of-the-art facilities in both and said, “Let’s spend a few million to make them even better!” That’s the drive and dedication that Magico keeps bringing to the party.

Klippel fight!

One of the most significant changes to Magico’s measurement process was using the Klippel Near-Field-Scanner (NFS). This uses a single microphone that rotates around a loudspeaker enclosure suspended in free air. The microphone analyses the environment space first and then takes fully automated 3D acoustic measurements (on and off axis) in a minimal amount of time without needing an anechoic chamber. The 360-degree sphere of measurement points is then calculated with the initial room measurements deducted from the equation. The Klippel Near-Field-Scanner provides Magico with an extraordinarily accurate data set, allowing the company to predict each loudspeaker’s in-room reflections and response in a standard listening room environment. Klippel’s NFS is a substantial investment for any company, but it paid dividends as the new S3 greatly benefitted from the technology.

Magico also invested in a new in-house 3D laser interferometry system, which can measure up to 1,000 points at a stroke. This highly accurate analysis enables Magico to compare an enclosure’s resonance contribution relative to the acoustic output of the transducers. This allows more precise application of internal bracing and damping to optimise the overall sound performance of the loudspeaker.

30% quieter

The result is that Magico claims the new Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker enclosure is 30% quieter than its predecessor.

Magico S3

At the same time, the continued use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) allows Magico to assess acoustic, mechanical, electromagnetic and thermal properties of an enclosure or drive unit. Magico claims this testing protocol helps minimise distortions in the frequency and time domains.

Of course, this outlay on R&D and a listening suite means nothing if the company ‘knocks out’ a few mediocre products. In fairness, when a company makes a big ‘back office’ change like Magico did, you almost expect the first product out of the blocks to have a few teething troubles. This wouldn’t be forgivable at the high end, but it might be understandable. However, instead, Magico came up with the S3, a loudspeaker that delivered a performance that even outperformed the expectations of a company known for setting itself high standards.

Overnight success

One of the things we on the outside never really understand is just how much time and energy goes into these projects. We only get to see the result. Like all overnight successes, the Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker took years of effort to get there. In most companies, those ‘years of effort’ mean re-working and tweaking existing parameters. This is no easy feat; it’s like taking the same handful of ingredients that make up one meal to make a similar – but, hopefully, better – one. This design brief can produce exceptional products and is particularly useful in producing lower-end and mid-fi loudspeakers. You have a set of parameters fixed by price points, and working in such rigid conditions can produce remarkable results for the money.

Such developmental practices are less well received when the price is not such a restriction on the design brief. Unfortunately, making a pair of high-end loudspeakers by simply churning what went before is still seen even in some extremely high-end loudspeaker designs, but not in Magico’s line-up.

In Magico’s case, however, it’s more of a question, “What new methods of manufacture and new materials are coming, and how do we fold them into our next product?” The three years of engineering research into the new S3 meant developing a new generation of drive unit chassis design that improved on existing mechanical and acoustic parameters. It also meant new chassis profiles created for the S3’s midrange and bass drivers, which resulted in optimum damping and stiffness while reducing resonant modes and maximising internal airflow. So, no biggie: just relearning the mechanical engineering of loudspeakers and the physics of a sealed box enclosure. It makes you wonder what the slackers at Magico did for the rest of the three years!

Trickling down

The tweeter is one of the S3’s most apparent ‘pulls’ from the M9 flagship. The M9 used exceptionally clever modelling to create an almost-ideal tweeter diaphragm, and the lessons learned in producing that high-frequency platform trickle down to the S3. By sciencing beryllium hard, Magico increased the diamond-coated beryllium dome diameter from 26mm to 28mm without gaining weight. Upping the size of the diaphragm gives it greater power handling and lower distortion and gets it closer to that Platonic Form of tweeter in the M9.

This diaphragm combines a neodymium-based motor system, a new acoustically improved back chamber, and a customised shape that integrates into the curved front baffle. All of this makes the new tweeter far removed from the ‘off the shelf’ high-frequency drivers used by many of its peers. While the OEM route gets results, it doesn’t push the boundaries.

Taking the harder path

Magico deserves praise for taking this longer, harder path, but regardless, it justifies its place in the performance.

Magico S3

The single 127mm midrange driver and two 227mm bass units are both Generation 8 versions of the company’s Graphene Nano-Tec cone, a honeycomb aluminium core sandwiched between inner and outer graphene layers and carbon fibre. This enables broader dispersion characteristics and results in greater midrange transparency. In the midrange, the advanced cone is supported by a custom basket assembly and foam surround, with an all-new underhung neodymium-based motor system featuring two extra-large magnets and a pure copper pole cap. The new bass unit meanwhile incorporates oversized components, including a 127mm pure Titanium voice coil and copper cap with 13mm of linear excursion.

Strong and stable

The new S3 enclosure is assembled from four separate extruded aluminium panels ranging in thickness from 13mm to 50mm. Each panel, including the front baffle, is carefully machined to make the enclosure practically edgeless. A massive machined curved top plate has an upward pitch to limit enclosure diffraction and break up vertical standing waves. Then, a stronger and more substantial baseplate with a new three-point outrigger system and a new foot design helps lower the centre of gravity of the speaker and increases its overall stability.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that in the new S3, Magico has returned to its sources. It draws inspiration and technology from the flagship loudspeaker in the lineup, but the core of what has always defined Magico in the first place is a core of solid engineering.

The intervening years

The years since Magico was the enfant terrible of the high-end audio world have been well spent, and the technology used in developing not only its loudspeakers but also the research tools to investigate better that technology has helped create loudspeakers like the new Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker.

The S3 is a remarkably low-distortion loudspeaker. That single sentence should be all you need because every loudspeaker produces orders of magnitude more distortion than amplifiers or sources. So, a loudspeaker like the S3 that strips away a great deal of the resonance of an enclosure or the distortion of a drive unit is automatically on the side of the angels. And in listening to the S3, you can hear that lower distortion and absence of cabinet resonance in every note you play. The S3 images are like a point source but have a three-way midrange clarity and a gut-puncher bass. All the while, you are listening ever deeper into the music because you are unfettered by box, cone, and dome limitations.

Changing toothpaste

It doesn’t matter what music you play; you get the best. A midrange so open and articulate, you’ll know if the singer changed toothpaste brands between tracks. A loudspeaker that starts and stops so quickly, even the most delicate brushwork on a hi-hat, is easy to define. When driven well, its grip and authority instil a sense of wonder in the listener.

We’re all trying for that elusive dopamine hit that happened the first time we listened to a good system. We buy something new; we recreate that ‘first time’ audio feeling again, and then it fades all too quickly. But with the S3, it doesn’t fade. It moves from album to album, from track to track. The standard test recordings come out, followed by those you retired. Each one acquits itself well and shows you why you chose them.

So, out comes the music you like to play for you, not for assessment purposes. And it satisfies just as much as it ever did. Once again, the time machine effect of good audio is strong here, as you willingly rewind the clock to your earlier listening tastes. I rewound the clock to ABC’s Lexicon of Love and Quiet Life by Japan. They were some of the first records I bought, considering how they sounded and pure music quality, and again, they were as new.

Today’s standards

Sure, the over-produced early-80s mix is harsh and jangly by today’s standards, but the S3 reproduced them with such effortless clarity, dynamic range, staging and sheer ‘rightness’, I couldn’t help but smile.

Magico S3

Where the S3 improves upon the, er, S3 is in its incredible sonic disappearing act. The music is vibrant, dynamic, and very out-of-the-box. Voices—human and instrument—are articulate and rooted within a three-dimensional soundstage that sits around and yet also slightly forward of the speaker boxes. Its power handling is improved enough to play louder with a higher margin of safety and a lower overall distortion.

The Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker does ‘mellow’ but is informative ‘mellow’. And those who like a relaxed ‘pipe and slippers’ sound will probably take their dinner jazz elsewhere. While the Magico S3 resolves this music well, it draws you into the music, it doesn’t help you slip into a coma.

I tried to find fault with the S3, but it eluded me. But it’s part of the gig. So, to satisfy those who think no review is complete without criticism… the S3 has too many ampersands per metric parking space. Happy now?

Simply the best

We don’t have the vocabulary to describe the best loudspeakers. Their limitations constrain our terminology because we listen to all our equipment through loudspeakers. Reduce or remove those limitations, and the vocabulary closes down, too. We don’t discuss observational parameters about the system’s sound; we describe the music played on that system. The S3 is such a loudspeaker. Its low levels of distortion, coloration, enclosure resonance and improved power handling all combine to make something extremely special. You can get ‘different’, but to get ‘more’ of the same is difficult… and extremely expensive!

Magico S3

The Magico S3 floorstanding loudspeaker is an awesome product. It moves the needle of performance, not simply at the price point. It represents a significant step change over the previous models to such an extent that it’s no wonder this isn’t an S3 Mk III. It’s a full reboot of the S3—and it’s fantastic!

Technical specifications

  • Type: Three-way sealed box floorstanding loudspeaker
  • Driver Complement: 1.1″ MB5FP Diamond Coated Beryllium Dome (×1), 5″ Gen 8 Midrange driver (×1), 9″ Gen 8 Bass driver (×2)
  • Sensitivity: 88dB
  • Impedance: 4 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 24 Hz–50 kHz
  • Recommended Minimum Power: 50 watts
  • Dimensions (H×W×D): 112 × 43 × 30cm
  • Weight: 101kg per loudspeaker
  • Price: From £56,998 per pair (M-Coat)

Manufacturer

Magico LLC

www.magico.net

UK distributor

Absolute Sounds

www.absolutesounds.com

+44(0)208 971 3909

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Tags: FLOORSTANDING LOUDSPEAKER MAGICO S3

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