However, choose your system carefully remains the key phrase here and wellchosen systems will return a stunning performance. There’s a sense of ‘active relaxation’ here, that you will struggle to find elsewhere in audio. No, really… most speakers at this level stress the ‘active’ or the ‘relaxation’ side, producing a sound that is laid back or monitor-like. Not that there’s anything wrong with either accent, but the Magico adds a new set of instructions to the audiophile’s guide to life.
It’s a strange thing; these speakers bypass all those intellectual bits and grab you by the music gland. You’ll mostly notice this when you switch off a track, if you can. There’s a sense of loss, real loss if you have to pull yourself away from the music. If you are playing a piece of music and decide to change tracks midway through, everyone in the room (including you yourself) will moan at you like a sullen teenager. Even on your own, switching off a piece of music while it’s playing seems like an act of musical debasement. Moreover, you’ll find it impossible to listen to one piece of music, or one genre, one track simply leading to another. On came Leslie Feist, which through some strange intraroogalation of the anterior musicmix organ, led oh so naturally to the late, great Jeff Healey playing ‘Jambalaya’, which begat Jerry Lee Lewis playing the same thing, and that brought us round to Ray Lamontagne and that begat… and so on through protracted listening sessions that went through the collection sideways, backwards, up, down then flipped back for another go at sideways again.
This speaker makes the sort of deepnoodle modern jazz that I sometimes listen to palatable to non-jazzers. Well, sort of… at the very least, it makes it less vexatious. There’s a stopwatch test with hardcore jazz; on mere mortal hi-fi, it can take a minute or less before people start looking round, checking watches, shuffling feet and asking polite questions. Occasionally, you might get a couple of minutes before the shoe-gazing kicks in. Here, the inability to pull away from the music made even the likes of The Blessing get well into a whole track before anyone begin to twitch.
Now this really is rare stuff. The very, very live Popa Chubby rendition of ‘Red House’ via the V3s is remarkable on so many levels. First, there’s the fact that they can handle it at almost gig sound pressures. Then there’s the fact that they can define all the information (and there’s one heck of a lot of that, everything from Chubby’s Pro Reverb amp straining to live through the night, to the sheer intensity of solos setting off the snare drums’s spring, plus all the hiss and crowd noise) but do so in a way that makes you just wish you were there, watching the fat boy spank that Strat. But, perhaps more than that, it’s the way you can get to hear the way the drummer works his way around the cymbals so cleanly and clearly. You know when he hits the crash, and it sounds clearly different from the splash. This cymbalrelated inner detail happens with other speakers (and in fairness, this level of detail doesn’t just apply to cymbals, it’s just that they are usually lost in a sea of vaguely cymbal-related noise) but often in an analytical, sterile way. Here, the music is simply kept in pace by the rhythm section.
You feel you have to drag yourself back to the real world to even begin to talk in audiophile terms, and it almost feels an affront to the sound of the speaker to do so. It is supremely detailed, masterfully so. It presents an image as good as you’ll find in audio, it’s coherent, articulate, keenly dynamic, precise and temporally spot on. It does all the things you want to hear in audio and then some. From a hi-fi buff perspective, it has all its ducks in a row.
It just has more ducks. Those audiophile sensibilities add up to a fraction of what this speaker does. There’s a level of musical communication that fails to make it into word-form; an atavistic hairs-onthe- back of the neck experience that we get when we listen to music on some level far beyond the cerebral. This is music – whatever music – at its most fundamental, moving us on levels that only occasionally stir in hi-fi. It’s not just foot-tapping on some common time slice of 1970s rock; it’s there throughout. It’s there when you listen to impassioned folkie ballads, leaving you moved almost to tears despite having heard the same track dozens of times in the past. It’s there in spade-loads when playing Thomas Tallis devotional music, which could turn the most trenchant atheist into a febrile God-botherer. You couldn’t even start to play Wagner without the desire to sweep majestically eastward and annexe something. Consider this a warning. Do not, under any circumstance, sit down to listen to a piece of music through the Magicos if you are hungry, tired, thirsty, in need of a comfort break or have some work to do. Because if you do, you’ll sit in rapt discomfort unable to drag yourself away from the music for as long as the music is playing. This is no small point; I listened to the whole of the Isle of the Dead with a painfully three-coffee full bladder, absolutely unable to back away from the musical experience. Those were simultaneously the longest and shortest 20 minutes I’ve encountered in a very long time.