So, despite appearances, the construction of these cables would seem to be very nearly as simple as possible, congruent with their design aims. Their consistency lies in their use of ribbon conductors with minimal skin effect, even if the materials differ from one function or cable to the next. Their complexity lies in effectively meeting the physical challenge of terminating those conductors without degrading their contribution.
I have gone to some lengths to describe the theoretical benefits and practical implications of these cables. That could be read as implied criticism, but that would be a mistake, because believe me, I wouldn’t have persevered with these if they didn’t deliver the goods. Instead, with a product this distinctive in its approach and different in execution, I think it’s important for readers to understand the whys and wherefores of employing them, whether that’s a question of the way they look or the implications of the way they work. Unlike Magnan, I’m not confident that most systems have gain to burn, so if you audition these cables, make sure that you pay careful attention to gain matching (using a meter at the speaker terminals is the surest method) and also playing a range of recordings cut at lower levels to ensure that you have sufficient volume to work with.
Running the test system with the full Magnan loom delivered a quick, full and full-tilt sound with tremendous presence and energy. The same day these cables entered play, the deluxe edition of Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road landed on the mat – a fortuitous arrival indeed, because Earle’s heavy roots and riff-laden melodies could have been written with these cables in mind. Their sound is powerful, smooth and solid, just like the two-lane blacktop the speaker cable so resembles. There’s weight and substance a plenty, but no sense of lag or drag in the deep bass. Indeed, the overall pace, coherence and purposeful sense of musical progression makes these engaging, involving and exciting cables. They build their performance on those well-rooted low frequencies, but they’re definitely a launching pad rather than a sheet anchor. If you want pace, substance and drive then look no further.
But all that power and drive comes with a price. There’s a noticeable loss of level on straight comparison with other cables, and whilst that can be rectified with the volume control, the attendant lack of air and dynamic range can’t. Consequently, the musical picture lacks air, depth and transparency, favouring the direct sources of sound rather than the reflected energy that defines the acoustic space. So, listening the Townes van Zandt track, TvZ himself is big, solid and present between the speakers, his guitar bold, rich and round, its lines clear and his phrasing smooth. But the guitar also lacks harmonic texture that robs the notes of length and tail, while the lack of air, the rounded sweetness and absence of edge mean that the depth between lead singer and the impromptu backing vocals is foreshortened, the sense of transparency and a single space containing the singer and his audience (along with their various contributions) is totally absent. Paradoxically, resolution is good so that the barking dog out in the yard can be clearly heard, it’s just that you can’t tell how far away it is. Likewise, the upshifts in tracks like Nanci Griffith’s ‘Listen To The Radio’ and Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ and ‘Johnny Come Lately’ are smoothed over, more muscle car than real performance machine. The swelling progression sure carries you along, but it lacks the kick in the seat of the pants you get when you floor the pedal in something with a really good power to weight ratio like a Lotus Elise.
Their sound was also remarkably consistent across systems and running the full set-up (including the tonearm cable) with the Stabi XL4/ SME 312, Connoisseurs and the RADIA produced near identical conclusions, as did the VAS Citation Sound One and Twos, two systems that couldn’t, in themselves be much more different, and an indication of the way in which this cable loom dominates (or releases) musical proceedings.
So what you are trading here is temporal coherence and an impressive sense of substance and momentum for transparency and articulation, agility and air. Neither one is necessarily right (or wrong) but they are very, very different; different enough to give one pause because if one is all right, the other is very definitely all wrong. In practice it’s more a case of which way you lean. The appeal of the Magnans lies in their particular combination of virtues, a mix it’s hard to find elsewhere. Rather like a traditional Naim system, they do things their own way to deliver a particular result – and rather like a Naim system, they major on pace, presence and musical drive. They are engaging, exciting and ever so slightly addictive, and one thing’s for sure – if you like what they do, then you’ll find almost everything else wanting. At the same time, the sheer presence and power they deliver does enough to make you wonder whether maybe, just maybe, they really are the only ones who’ve got it right.