Magico Q5 Loudspeakers
There is a new paradigm in loudspeaker design and performance. Magico just raised the bar to a completely new level. The Magico Q5 loudspeaker is the best loudspeaker I've ever heard anywhere. There isn't a single product on the market today that's capable of this level of performance. The design and engineering that went into creating the Q5 are second to none and the results are sonically extraordinary. The Magico Q5 is absolutely over the top. No hesitation or qualifying statements are needed with this opinion. Think of all the superlatives in the book and they'll work wonderfully in a sentence with the Q5 loudspeakers. There are good reasons the Q5 loudspeakers are the best I've ever heard. There is no MDF or any other "traditional" material in the speaker cabinet. The Q5 consists of an all aluminum enclosure that weights nearly 400 pounds per channel. Sure the weight of the speaker doesn't mean anything in and of itself, but it's one indication that Magico has something special in the Q5. Magico's Alon Wolf brought me to the production floor where he has a Q5 without a side and rear panel. This allows a view into how much engineering and build quality are in the Q5. I've seen cross sections and the inside of many loudspeakers over the years, but nothing compares to the Q5. The all metal internals make all speakers built with wood instantly obsolete. This new design nearly removes all sympathetic resonances from the cabinet. I use the term "nearly" because it's impossible to remove all cabinet noise just like it's impossible to remove all jitter from digital components. But, the resonances coming from the Q5 cabinet have no effect on the sound because they are reduced to miniscule levels and are only present in the inaudible frequency ranges. Listening to hours of great music it was even better than listening to Alon Wolf backup all his design decisions with objective measurements. The measurements are 100% necessary, but not nearly as fun as listening. We started the listening session with some Reference Recordings 24/176.4 HRx files from the Dallas Wind Symphony. Never before have I heard anything like this. Top to bottom the highest highs and lowest lows had tremendous separation and were clear as can be on every track. At low volumes one can hear the crash of a cymbal, the bang of a drum, and the tap of a xylophone all at once. On many systems all these sounds get bunched up into a loud boom with no delineation of instruments or at least nothing close to the clarity and separation of the Q5. The Q5s start and stop quicker than anything I've ever heard before. They don't memorialize an event or transient with a slow decay that's not present in the recording.
While there are other aluminum loudspeakers on the market none of them come close to the sound quality of the Q5. One major reason is the Q5 is not a re-hashed old speaker design and it does not contain inexpensive off the shelf drivers like many other loudspeakers. It contains all new Magico designed drivers. A single six inch Magico Nanotech cone used in the Q5 costs more than all the drivers put together in many loudspeakers. New to the Magico lineup is a Beryllium tweeter. After listening to the Q5 for hours on end I must say this tweeter is one for the ages. I didn't feel one ounce of listening fatigue the whole time. Frequently Beryllium tweeters get a bad name for being far too bright. The Q5s didn't have a scintilla of brightness during any recording. The mid-bass and woofers are also stellar and what I've come to expect from Magico. All new designs must not only be better than the competition, but better than previous versions of Magico designs. In addition to the visible aspects of the Q5 I was fortunate enough to see the new Q5 cross-over. This is one very impressive cross-over that has components sourced from the best manufacturers on the globe. Spending hundreds of dollars on a single piece of the cross-over network is standard fare for Magico and the Q5. After seeing all that goes into its speakers and Magico the company one can begin to separate the wheat from the chaff in high end audio. Perpetual improvement and investing heavily in research & development is what Magico is all about. The success of Magico's M5, announced at last year's CES, has allowed Magico to reinvest in the company and bring all cabinet fabrication in-house. This has allowed Magico to price the Q5 at $54,000 instead of well over $100k. This isn't an inexpensive loudspeaker but I am willing to bet my reputation that the Q5 is the best of show at CES next week. I predict it will beat all loudspeakers at the show including those costing double and triple the price of the Q5.
Merging Technologies Mykerinos Audio Card
In addition to spending time at Magico I spent a considerable amount of time at Marutani Consulting. Readers may remember Tim Marutani was a co-sponsor and major part of the Computer Audiophile Symposium held last summer at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. Tim is a very unique audio dealer. He invests a considerable amount of time and money every year in research that elevates the level of playback he is able to provide his customers. Over the last several months Tim has been a beta test site for Reiff Audio and the Merging Technologies Mykerinos audio cards. Readers may be familiar with Merging and Mykerinos as part of a Pyramix digital workstation used in many top mastering facilities around the world. However, the solution Tim has been testing is an extremely customized version of the Pyramix software and hardware. In fact one could not purchase this solution today with any amount of money. It's simply not available ... YET. In addition to Marutani Consulting, The Audio Salon has become a beta test site for the Merging/Mykerinos solution. These two dealers will be testing hardware and software for Reiff Audio and Merging Technologies and hope to have a retail product in the near future. Reiff Audio is working directly with Merging Technologies, based in Switzerland, to refine its products for the high end home market. Reiff awarded Marutani Consulting and The Audio Salon the first two dealerships in the country. At the time of this writing the software and hardware solution should be around $12,000.
Over the last couple days in the Bay Area I listened to the Mykerinos cards with Pyramix software extensively. I've concluded without a doubt this solution is part of a new reference level of playback in computer based audio. The music server I listened to most was a Zalman TNN300 with Windows XP and a Mykerinos card with Pyramix software. I can't stress enough that this solution is not an off-the-shelf Pyramix workstation like the ones in used at mastering facilities all over the world. It has the same lineage but is vastly different. Readers chomping at the bit to pick up one of these solutions will only be disappointed if they purchase a Pyramix workstation as configured for the pro audio market. Back to the sound. The sound I heard the last couple days was extremely detailed and lacked any obvious digital noise. The sound coming from the Zalman server was the music only without extraneous digital hash. Before hearing the Mykerinos Pyramix solution I had no idea that my current Lynx based solutions had so much noise mixed in with the audio. I still think the Lynx AES16 cards are the best available in the sub $1,000 category, but they don't hold a candle to the Mykerinos solution I heard this week in the Bay Area. Merging Technologies not only manufactures the Mykerinios cards but also develops the software used with the cards. This total control over playback is likely a big factor in the sound quality. The software solution is designed to work specifically with the hardware and vice-versa. Neither one works without the other. In a way it's like an active loudspeaker designed to work perfectly with the amplifier onboard. One can achieve an incredible synergy between the components.
I hope to have one of the Mykerinos cards and Pyramix software in about one week. I will keep the Computer Audiophile readers abreast of what I consider the best card available for computer based playback. Readers interested in hearing one of these systems sooner rather than later will have this opportunity at CES next week. The TAD suite and Magico suite will each feature a music server with a Mykerinos card running Pyramix software.
The Matan Server
In the Bay Area I was also able meet up with Matan Arazi. Matan has been working on an incredible music server that I believe has no equal in terms of sound quality and build quality. Attendees of the CA Symposium were able to hear a somewhat early version of the server and see an unfinished chassis. After many man hours that number well into the four digits Matan has finally finished the server. I examined the over forty lbs. chassis and was in awe. It's a solid aluminum airtight enclosure that's second to none. The server is even pressurized and has different chambers housing the components. There is copper shielding for the audio card and a second chassis is available for disk storage. I was not able to hear the final version of the Matan server. I've heard it several times in the past and each time was amazed at what I heard. I can only imagine how well this final product sounds. Matan did not have the final price of the unit worked out. I'm sure the unit will not be inexpensive, but when was the last time the best of anything was affordable by all? I know I can't afford a Matan server, but I look forward to reviewing one in the not to distant future.
Please visit the following sites for much more information about the aforementioned products and many others each manufacturer has to offer.