Blogging on Audio
- Written by Jeff Fritz Jeff Fritz
- Parent Category: BloggingOnAudio BloggingOnAudio
- Created: 21 July 2021 21 July 2021
My visit to Magico LLC at its Hayward, California, factory on July 16, 2021, was all about the company’s new M9 flagship loudspeaker ($750,000 per pair; all prices USD). You’ve seen the M9 press release. Maybe you’ve seen a few of the available M9 photos. My goal was to dig into the heart of it. I wanted to see the guts of the M9: cabinet, drivers, nuts, and bolts. And once I had all of that digested, I wanted to hear it.
I got my wish.
What is the M9?
The M9 is a four-way, six-driver tower—it probably fits the term tower better than most—that measures 80″H x 40″D x 29″W and weighs 1000 pounds. The external analog crossover, the Magico MXO, weighs in at 40 pounds and 60 pounds, respectively, for the main unit and external power supply. This is some serious hardware.
The fully balanced MXO—a bespoke Magico design—takes in a full-bandwidth input signal and outputs a high-frequency signal to your main amplifier(s) and a low-frequency signal to your bass amplifier(s) (120Hz crossover point, 24dB/octave slope). To power a stereo set of M9s, you’ll need two stereo amplifiers, four mono amplifiers, or one stereo and two monos. After the high-frequency signal exits the MXO and partnering amplifier, the M9 uses a passive internal crossover for the midbass-to-midrange transition and midrange-to-tweeter transition (via 24dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley filters). The MXO’s external power supply regenerates AC for the main crossover unit.
The M9 is said to be a 94dB-sensitive, 4-ohm loudspeaker, with a rated frequency response of 18Hz to 50kHz. Power handling is specified at 1000W.
The cabinet comes in three sections: the bottom section is the largest, and it houses the two 15″ woofers. The top section is the second largest, and it houses the two 11″ midbass drivers.
The middle section is the smallest, and it houses the 6″ midrange driver and 1.1″ diamond-coated beryllium-dome tweeter. The eighth-generation Nano-Tec cones of the mid, midbasses, and woofers feature carbon-fiber-and-graphene skins sandwiching honeycomb-aluminum cores.
The three M9 cabinet sections are constructed of carbon-fiber layers separated by aluminum-honeycomb inner cores, with integral carbon-fiber bracing. The multilayered, constrained-layer-damped aluminum front baffle affixes to even more internal bracing and tensioning rods, this time of the machined variety, that also connect to the speaker’s aluminum rear panel.
Magico founder and CEO Alon Wolf with an aluminum front-baffle piece
The result is a cabinet in which the carbon-fiber walls are essentially decoupled from direct transmission of driver movement—not that the massive baffle structure is going to move or flex all that much. Damping materials line the inside walls of the cabinet and the carbon-fiber midrange sub-enclosure. The cabinet’s construction is but one example of the extreme nature of the M9. As I examined all the parts and pieces of the M9, I couldn’t help marveling at the complexity of it all compared with every other speaker I’ve ever seen.
The M9’s drivers are, of course, custom Magico designs. The 15″ woofers can plumb the depths of bass that only the best subwoofers dare to attempt, but can also play higher in frequency and with greater fidelity than any subwoofer driver, according to Magico.
The 11″ midbass drivers feature compact motor systems powered by N52-grade neodymium magnets. The geek in me told Alon Wolf, Magico’s founder and CEO, “If drivers can be beautiful things, these are.”
If you look deep into the clearcoat finish of the M9’s polished carbon-fiber cabinet walls, you’ll get a great view of the carbon fiber itself, not veiled by the tint you often see in the material’s finish. Alon Wolf told me that this tinting can hide flaws. He’s confident in the perfection of his carbon fiber.
How does the M9 sound?
The system used to audition the M9 consisted of some of the best gear the world has to offer. I spotted Pilium amplification and MSB Technology source components, to name but two, but this was all about the M9. Magico has steadily improved the massive listening room at its factory to provide the best acoustic platform for auditioning and testing its various loudspeakers. Wolf served up the playlist, and away I went with my private audition of the mighty M9s.
The first track we listened to was “Pathway” from Elixir by Jan Garbarek and Marilyn Mazur. Immediately, I heard the vastest sense of space I’ve ever heard when listening to reproduced music—the “sound” of the listening room morphed into a performance space. The experience was almost like that of a good planetarium—the soundstage didn’t exist as an entity in front of me; it was a continuous space, unbroken by boundaries that would define depth or width or height. This was beyond simply room-filling. It was space-defining.
Although I’ll have lots to say about the bass, the first thing I actually noticed was at the opposite end of the audioband. The percussion in “Pathway” was reproduced in a fashion that absolutely defied what you might think a 1.1″ tweeter could reproduce. There was no compression in the highs. I thought to myself, After this, hearing any other high-frequency reproduction will seem stilted by comparison. I could not believe my ears—it was simply the finest high-frequency sound I’ve ever heard.
The mids were all about clarity and ease. These speakers must be so far from their limits, I thought—it wasn’t effortlessness in the sense that I’ve written that term before. This was force-of-nature powerful. The placement of images within the vast soundscape was pinpoint accurate not only in terms of width and depth but height as well. I marveled at what I saw in front of me.
Next up was Holly Cole’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (Temptation). I could not believe how far into Cole’s vocals I could hear via the M9s. I wasn’t just hearing vocal inflections and microdynamic shifts within those vocals; I was gaining a microscopic view into the performance that I’m not sure even the artist could have known was there. I marveled at how closely I could “watch” the singer, how awesomely transparent the midrange was. I can’t even conceive of how any distortion—certainly not of the audible variety—could have crept into the reproduction of this tune. It was the best I’ve heard it by far.
Third up was Avishai Cohen’s “Signature” from Duende. The bass and piano were kept separate in space, almost as if they were being reproduced by separate speakers—I can’t imagine this speaker ever being congested. The scale and sense of power that the system produced with this track were beyond anything I’ve ever heard. As a former owner of Magico’s former flagship speaker, the Q7 Mk II, I thought to myself, This is no incremental upgrade over the Q7 Mk II—it’s truly a game changer in every sense. The bass seemed limitless in terms of output capability and frequency extension. It would completely undervalue the M9s to compare the bass power to what I’ve heard from the world’s best subwoofers. The four 15″ woofers play with a sense of power that must be experienced to be believed.
The last song was “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake from his 2011 self-titled album. The bass power was, again, essentially limitless. The entire room flexed with the energy that the M9s were projecting. I walked up and placed my hand on the woofer cabinet as the bass was rattling my brain and felt . . . nothing. The cabinet was completely at rest, even as the entirety of the room was struggling to contain the bass power. This was the deepest, most intense bass I’ve ever heard. Sense a trend here?
The best, that is. Yes, it’s the best sound I’ve ever heard. What’s really crazy about my experience is that I don’t feel I tested the limits of what a pair of M9s can truly do.
I think the M9s’ capabilities might outstrip the electronics feeding them, and maybe even the source material’s sonic fidelity to the performance—although I don’t believe in hearing too much. Here’s my takeaway: this Magico M9 may dominate the high end’s stratospheric speaker wars for the next decade-plus.
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