This post is by way of a follow on from my “Any Magico users out there?” post. I was able to spare some time back in the UK this week to have a shop demo of several speakers: Focal Sopra II; Sonus Faber Amati; Wilson Sabrina and Magico S3’s. This list is more or less in ascending price with the Sopras being by far the most budget model of the 4. I currently use some old B&W 803S back home. KJ West One (thanks Jason) were able to more or less recreate my home system. This was 500 series electronics and NDS with a single 555PS as the source. I have a CDS3 at home but for obvious reasons, KJ did not have one to hand. I took along 4 CDs and the test tracks were:
Keb Mo – For What It’s Worth
Damien Rice – The Blowers Daughter
Roxy Music – Manifesto
Dire Straits – Tunnel of Love.
No real thought had gone into track selection. I knew the tracks quite well and these were ripped from CD prior to the demo. We also used Nathan East (Crazy) as a known example of a well recorded piece from the library. I would say that I have never had a chance like this to audition so many speakers. I have done home dems of 1-2 pairs for A-B which are easier tests to make sense of. I would also say that it was surprisingly hard work and I am not sure I want to hear any of these tracks any time soon. Apologies, in advance if the following description is some way short of the normal Hifi magazine hyperbole. We kept the volume the same throughout but adjusted for the Wilsons – see below.
Focals. First up and imaged very well. They had very controlled bass with Keb Mo, the acoustic guitar of Damien Rice was also excellent. Manifesto was a little tizzy on the hi-hat but solid in the lower registers. Dire Straits came over a little shouty overall but the CD is not the best recording. The sonic picture was not very cohesive on the last track. Overall a decent showing but not an edge of the chair ride by any means.
Sonus Faber. About double the cost of the Focals and provided better depth overall. Rather dark and rich in tone but provided some excellent detail, especially with Damien Rice. For my tastes, a bit too mellow but with good imaging. These were not on my short list but I was still glad to hear them. I am not sure of the vintage or release date of these but they rather sounded like last year’s technology. Possibly “better” than the Focals, depending on taste but for twice (plus) the price, they were not twice as good.
Wilsons. I really wanted to like these the most. Mainly due to their relatively compact dimensions which provides ample placement options around the house. These were a tougher load and I had to adjust the volume up to give a fair comparison. The presentation was again quite mellow but with some excellent detail on Damien O. Backing vocals here were very clear. Integration was excellent from low to highs, they were really quite seamless. There was nothing really to fault but not much to love either.
Magico S3. About 3 times the price of the poor Focals. First impression was speed, these are fast speakers. They are also quite tall units and I think I was sitting a little too close but this was room constrained. Imaging was good but not the best of the 4. Resolution, timbre and frequency extension was really impressive. The backing vocals in the middle 8 of Damien Rice were perfect. For me, these are extremely realistic speakers, a piano sounds like a piano, etc. Yes I liked these. I think these have the largest bass drivers of the 4 but control was excellent.
I took along a work colleague who is in no way a hifi addict. He owns a boom-box. He preferred the Focals, I the Magicos. Horses for courses then. Much to consider and with all these things, I can only imagine what the test would have thrown up if done in my own home. As this is a non-starter, this will remain speculation only.
Thanks again to KJ for the hospitality and hard work schlepping those speakers around. That was also the longest run of SL speaker cable I have seen. I also got to touch a statement system, but not hear. Next time possibly.