A few months ago I got to hear some of the best loudspeakers in the world, all based in the Bay area. I'd like now to take a glance back at them.
The first speaker was the Rockport Hyperion, owned by Michael Grellman, who covets the Arrakis (described recently by TAS editor Robert Harley, who had a chance to hear them in action in Maine). The Hyperion was the most sensual of the loudspeakers I heard that day--silky smooth, never abrasive, and beautifully coherent. Coherence to die for, in fact. But I wanted a little more zap.
Did the Wilson Alexandria X-2 provide it? Yes, but not quite as you might expect. Ardent audiophile Stephen Williams played me his system which includes the Playback Designs CD/SACD player and Gotham subwoofers. Why a pair of subwoofers with the Alexandria? Interestingly, the subs seemed to provide less punch than ambiance--the sound was very dynamic but also gobsmackingly vivid and smooth. Williams has now upgraded to the Lamm ML-3 amplifier as well as the new four-chassis Lamm preamplifier. He's likes them a lot, so he indicates.
Last came the Magic Ultimate, the $400,000 horn system that has evoked some controversy on this forum already. Tom Martin discussed the Magico in a recent issue of TAS. He did something that some churlish readers are wont to complain reviewers never do--he suggested it might not be the perfect loudspeaker despite its hefty pricetag. Yikes! Not perfect?
Yes, it's still a collection of drivers and wire, in the end. But what does $400,000 get you? Short of hearing it in your own home, it's hard to say with precision. But what I heard accords, I think, with Tom Martin's assessment: a sizzingly speedy, transparent, and dynamic loudspeaker that might scratch your every audiophile itch. Still, if I recollect rightly, it was a little tricky to know exactly what it would sound like in a bigger space--the room at the Magico factory was just a tad small to do this amazing product justice.