Installation is easy… just get someone else to do it! No, really – the speakers weigh enough that moving them to get good positioning isn’t really an option, so it’s better to get a team of experts to move and install the speakers. While it’s probably somewhat impolitic to mention this, the best way of installing these speakers is ‘vowelling in’, a method of installation developed by Wilson Audio (it’s also known as ‘voicing the room’ or simply WASP: Wilson Audio Set-up Proceedure). This works by speaking to the rear and side walls at the point where the speaker would likely end up. At first, your voice sounds artificially chesty and thick due to boundary interaction. Mark where that point begins, and keep walking until your voice begins to sound thin and hollow. Do the same with the side wall and do the same to for the other speaker. Make an half-inch grid within these parameters and adjust the speakers for the best possible bass in the room, from the listening position. This gets less easy to do when you have a loudspeaker weighing in at close to 180kg per speaker (that’s almost 400lb, or nearly 28st), so call in expert help.
The Magico needs that millimetre-tight installation precision – and necessitates good quality audio equipment feeding it – because it can give so much. The amplifiers need to be as quick as they are powerful when it comes to driving this. This is why successful partnerships are to be found in products from the Spectral and especially the DarTZeel range, but it was also more than comfy with the excellent Devialet D-Premier category-busting integrated power DAC. Of course, bolted on the end of nigh on £150,000 worth of DarTZeel monos, you’d expect something special. What you get a sound so dynamically unfettered that you expect to catch a cone or two as they go whizzing past your ears. This comes with a warning – do not play chicken with an amp that can go from zero to 1.5kW in an eyeblink and a speaker that can handle that sort of wallop; eventually something will give, but it’s more likely to be you than the amp or speaker. I have heard a drive unit get fried this way, but only trying to recreate the sound and sound pressure of rock concerts that gave half the audience tinnitus. Otherwise, these speakers are fundamentally unburstable. I know… I tried and it hurts.
It’s easy to lose the message in the medium when it comes to hi-fi and high-end in particular. We’ve become so used to having sounds with a distinct tonal balance, that when you hear something that’s inherently flat, it can sound ‘flat’. We struggle to get past remarkable flatness of frequency response, because it’s not something we are used to outside of live events with unamplified instruments. So, at first flush the Q5 will sound laid back to some, edgy to others. The reality is, those first impressions don’t count, because they are tempered by our preconceptions and the albums played there.
A sure sign of that Q standing for ‘Quality’ comes in the Q5’s shape-shifting qualities. It’s as good as your discs, and no better. That sounds like damning it with faint praise, but is the key to quality. Swap from The Fall to Charles Mingus and there should be a huge change in recording quality; different production values, studios, engineers, musicians and mastering. That disc-to-disc differentiation stands out with uncanny clarity here.
The other side to this is plain; don’t go expecting the Q5 to make a silk purse out of a Lady Gaga album. If it sounds congested, constricted, forward or laid back in the recording, the Q5 will make that apparent. This will mean some of your hitherto ‘wonder’ recordings will sound less ‘wonderful’ than you originally thought. And yet, curiously, this honesty doesn’t get in the way of the musical content. That’s the joy of really, really honest loudspeakers; you get to listen through the recording chain. It sounds like nothing is acting as impediment. Of course, when you get the really, really good recordings that happen to be musically significant too… then you start to see why music is such a vital aspect of so many people’s lives.
Here’s a perfect example. Among the line-up of recordings played, I pulled out the MoFi version of Dixie Chicken by Little Feat. I’ve heard this recording hundreds of times over the years; it’s one of those albums – like Dylan’s Desire and Traffic’s Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory – that keep cropping up in my life. It’s rare to have that album to have the same affect it had when I first heard it almost 30 years ago round at the parents of a very cool hippy chick artsy girl, who I was sort of dating at the time. A combination of teenage-grade hormones and copious amounts of claret made that a monumental event, despite my complete failure to get anywhere monumental with said hippy chick artsy girl. No subsequent replay of that album can match the weighting of that first listen, but the Q5 gets as close enough to conjure up the heady mix of white musk and patchouli oil.