I’ve never been into tweaks. The thought of spending hour after hour replacing the supports of components or speakers with this footer and that, then straining to hear a difference, sounds worse to me than sitting in a bare room watching paint dry. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Heck, it’s been years since I reviewed even a cable. I prefer the meat and potatoes of audio reviewing: amps, speakers, and a source component here and there. The only tweaking I do -- and I don’t really consider it tweaking in the tweakiest audiophile sense -- is to fine-tune the positions of speakers, and micro-optimize the acoustic properties of my listening space, the Music Vault. I’ve found that both can lead to clear improvements in sound.
So why am I writing about Magico’s MPod support system? A couple of things convinced me to give it a try: First was an e-mail from Alon Wolf, Magico’s founder and CEO, who assured me that I would hear an improvement if I installed these bad boys under my Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers.
The second reason has to do with another problem I have with tweaks: Most of them seem so random. It’s never made much sense to me to replace a component’s stock footers with footers that were not designed to be used with a specific brand of gear. At least the MPod was engineered by the same folks who engineered my loudspeakers, and was specifically designed for use with Magico speakers. In my mind, the Magico MPod support system is less a tweak, and more an improvement on a functional part of Magico loudspeakers -- much like a tweeter upgrade or improvements to some crossover component. At least, that’s what I told myself.
What they are
The MPods are costly, especially when you consider that your expensive Magico speakers come with really nice footers as standard -- in the case of my Q7 Mk.IIs, substantial stainless-steel jobs that I’ve never had a complaint about. The eight-pack of MPods I was sent retails for $8400 USD. Since MPods can also be used under heavy amplifiers and the like (I have no experience with that), they’re also sold in a four-pack for $4200, or a three-pack for $3150 -- no volume discount on the unit price of $1050. The MPod is also available as an option for Magico’s newest speaker, the M3 ($75,000/pair), in a package that includes six MPods as well as two tripod outrigger stands of machined aluminum, for a total of $9600.
The MPod works on the principle of constrained-layer damping (CLD). According to Wikipedia, CLD is “a mechanical engineering technique for suppression of vibration. Typically a viscoelastic or other damping material is sandwiched between two sheets of stiff materials that lack sufficient damping by themselves. The end result is, any vibration[s] made on ether side of the constraining materials (the two stiffer materials on the sides) are trapped and evidently dissipated in the viscoelastic or middle layer.” CLD can be produced by combinations of many different materials -- I’ve seen speakers whose cabinets take advantage of CLD by comprising two sheets of MDF separated by a layer of damping material. Magico achieves CLD with multiple layers of machined aluminum, copper, and Isodamp, a material “specifically designed to prevent ringing in lightweight precision equipment frames or to reduce hydrodynamic vibrations in massive ship hulls, and anything in between,” according to its manufacturer. According to Yair Tammam, Magico’s chief technical officer, the MPod is a “broadband device” that works across a wide range of frequencies, absorbing and dissipating microvibrations generated by the speaker’s drive-units.
I’ll leave it for Magico to explain how much and why the MPod costs them what it does to make, and thus justifies its high retail price. What I can tell you is that the thing is beautifully machined, and built to the very highest standard that I’ve seen in a high-end device. In terms of the build quality of all its products, I think Magico is darn near peerless, which goes some way toward justifying the prices of their products. I’m fanatical about the build quality of high-end gear, and I’ve never been more satisfied in that regard than I’ve been with the various Magico speakers I’ve examined and reviewed. The MPods are no exception. Unpacking them was not unlike opening a Christmas present, discovering that it’s a Rolex watch, and handling it for the very first time: Even before I knew whether or not the things actually worked, I experienced a renewed appreciation for what Magico has produced.
If you’re installing MPods under your new pair of Magico M3s, I can’t imagine that the process will be too cumbersome. But sticking a quartet of MPods under each of my Q7 Mk.IIs by myself took about two hours. This had less to do with the MPods than with the Q7s, each of which weighs 750 pounds -- more than a third of a ton. Magico has devised a way to lift a Q7 that requires a three-point platform that sits under the speaker and can then be lifted using the accompanying three jacks. Each jack is a threaded rod attached to a machined base. Magico includes sockets and ratchet wrenches with the Q7 jacking package, which I used when I first installed the speakers, and whenever I’ve needed to use their casters (also included with purchase of the Q7) to move them out of the way to make room for a set of review speakers. This time around I used an old Makita drill instead of the ratchet, and boy, was that a time saver. Although the drill is not a Magico-approved method for jacking up a Q7 -- they strongly advise following their instructions to the letter -- it worked great for me. The key is to keep the speaker as level as possible while lifting it -- I moved the drill from jack to jack to jack, raising it by just a smidge each time, until the speaker was all the way up.
Once the Q7 Mk.IIs were off the ground, the rest of the process was simple: unscrew and remove the old footers, and insert and screw in the MPods. Here’s where Magico’s precision of manufacturing came into play -- the MPods smoothly seated themselves in the undersides of the speakers’ baseplates. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had products whose footers fit poorly, but not here. With the MPods installed, I lowered the Q7 Mk.IIs back down to earth, again keeping them as level as possible at all times, in precisely the same positions as before.
The last thing to do before listening was to engage the CLD mechanism by removing the installed pin that keeps the various layers of each MPod separated from each other. When the pin is removed, the layers then, effectively, float on the Isodamp, as intended. Although it took a bit of time to get the MPods under the Q7 Mk.IIs, the process went smoothly and without incident -- no small blessing when you’re dealing with a pair of 750-pound speakers all by yourself.
Because it took me two hours to swap out the Q7 Mk.IIs’ stock footers for the MPods, it was impossible to do quick A/B comparisons of the speakers’ sound qualities using the two sets of different footers. So, immediately before installing the MPods, I did what I always do: I listened. Specifically, I listened to a few tracks that I know extremely well, taking detailed notes on what I heard. Then, after installing the MPods, I listened to the same tracks again, noting the differences. It wasn’t an ideal listening test, but I was surprised how easily I could hear differences. But before I tell you what the MPods did, I want to tell you what they didn’t do.
One of the main things I was listening for but didn’t hear were improvements in the bass. Perhaps this is speaker dependent -- would I have heard better bass with the MPods under Magico’s M3s or S7s? I don’t know. But with the MPods supporting my Q7 Mk.IIs, the bass seemed to be no tighter, deeper, or firmer. The Q7s have always coupled to my room ideally, to produce the most electrostatic-like bass I’ve ever heard. In the five years they’ve occupied the Music Vault, the only problem I’ve had is making sure that whatever amplifier I use is up to the task of adequately driving them throughout the audioband. And in the years the Soulution 711 stereo amplifier has anchored my system, that has been no problem at all -- the bass is profound. With the MPods under the Q7s, it was no less so.
Things were much more interesting in the midband. I’ve long listened to Eva Cassidy’s cover of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” from her Live at Blues Alley (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Blix Street/Tidal). The opening handclaps gave me the first indication that the MPods had improved the sound -- I could hear each clap more distinctly than before. Granted, I’m talking about two seconds’ worth of sound; I had to repeat this brief passage at least 20 times before I fully understood the difference I was hearing. But I’m so familiar with this track, and how it sounds through the pre-MPod Q7s, that I’m completely certain: There was a general clearing of the space around each handclap, which made this recording sound just a bit more “live” than before. One way of thinking of this is as a lowering of the noise floor -- before, the system’s noise had unnaturally filled the relative silence between claps. Now the claps were more distinct events connected not by noise, but by their reverberations in the acoustic space they shared. The second improvement I heard was 53 seconds into the track, when Cassidy’s voice sails just a touch higher as she sings “in his arms.” It was as if there was a wider range of dynamics than before, with Cassidy’s voice louder and more freely rendered in this passage. It made her singing of the line more expressive, and thus made her performance of the entire song sound more authentically live.
Next, I wanted to examine what, if anything, the MPods were doing to the highs. I cued up what has been my de facto reference for high-frequency purity for the last decade or so: pipe organist Mary Preston’s Crown Imperial, with Jerry Junkin conducting the Dallas Wind Symphony (24/176.4 WAV, Reference HRx-112). I know this track extremely well, and the orchestral bells about 2:25 into the track tell the story. I remember comparing the CD of this recording with this high-resolution version when it was first released, and this passage in particular convinced me that hi-rez recordings could offer substantially better sound quality than their 16/44.1 “Red Book” counterparts. The bells sound clearer in hi-rez, with less blurring of the lines between strokes. Well, lo and behold, the MPods made the sound even better. There was no question that I could more easily discern the initial stroke from the faint decay, which gave me a clearer aural picture of the fundamental tone vs. the overtones, or harmonics. This was quite something! Again, I listened repeatedly to this brief passage to be sure of the difference: It was obviously better with the MPods installed.
As I continued, listening to more reference tracks, I came to hear that the MPods were improving subtle yet significant aspects of the sounds of individual elements of recordings that I know all too well. It wasn’t so much a night-and-day difference in which I noticed an improvement in every element of a recording, but when I listened closely to the small things in pristine recordings -- particularly in decays of struck bells -- the improvement was always there, and easy to hear. As my fellow SoundStage! reviewer and tweakmaster extraordinaire Howard Kneller says, once you’ve heard these things, you can’t unhear them. He’s right.
Conclusion and considerations
I’m no tweaker, but Magico’s MPod footer system has improved the sound of my Magico Q7 Mk.II speakers. The difference in sound quality is far greater than I’d expected, and the improvements in the midband and highs are unmistakable. The sound is clearer and more distinct, with lower noise and wider dynamic range.
What does this mean for other owners of Magico speakers? With the caveat that I’ve heard the MPods only under my own Q7 Mk.IIs, I can now more thoroughly answer a recent question from a reader (“MPods for the Magico M3s?”). If you’re going to go to the considerable expense of buying, placing, and powering a pair of Magico speakers -- some of the most revealing speakers ever made, if not the most revealing -- why forgo that last drop of possible higher sound quality? It’s real, and once you hear it, you won’t be able to go back.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- Speakers -- Magico Q7 Mk.II
- Amplifier -- Soulution 711
- DAC-preamplifier -- Soulution 560
- Sources -- Apple MacBook Air running Sierra 10.12.1, Roon, and Tidal streaming service; Oppo Digital BDP-103 universal BD player
- Cables -- Nordost Valhalla interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords
Magico MPod Support System
Price: $1050 USD each, sold in packs: $8400/eight, $4200/four, $3150/three.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 649-9700