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Gryphon Diablo 300

Reviewers' ChoiceIn June 2016, when I reviewed Magico’s S1 Mk.II loudspeaker ($16,500/pair; all prices USD), I loved it. “The finest two-way speaker I’ve heard,” I declared. In late 2017, when Magico announced their new entry-level model, the A3, I was cautiously optimistic. The A3 struck me as a vitally important product for Magico, which had built its reputation on speakers whose performance ceilings were exceeded only by their sky-high prices. As with everything else in life, if you want the state of the art, you have to cough up the dough. The A3’s original price of $9800/pair put it in direct competition with models from many hi-fi heavyweights. And there was something else: Would the A3 look and feel like a Magico speaker? Most important, would it sound like a Magico?

First, the elephant: Although, according to Magico founder Alon Wolf, the A3 was “selling very well,” the economic landscape of the US ca. 2019 forced Magico to raise its price to $12,300/pair -- a 25% increase. But when my review pair, strapped to a shipping pallet, landed on my stoop and I found myself solely responsible for getting them indoors, I was left in little doubt that the A3’s new price was probably fair. I’m built like a waifish middle-school girl. It took all of my fortitude to muscle through my front door the two 110-pound speakers, whose thick, double cardboard boxes probably added another ten pounds each. That done, I cracked open their boxes, tried to pull one out as I would any tower speaker, and was met with stonily resolute resistance. To say that the A3 is a dense, inert loudspeaker is akin to suggesting that André the Giant was slightly larger than the average human being. Rapping a side panel was like slamming a knuckle against a rock face -- there was just no give. If you value hi-fi by the pound, you won’t feel short-weighted by the A3.

Magico

Having at last, slowly and deliberately, worked each A3 out of its shipping carton, I examined them from top to bottom. I liked what I saw. While the A3 doesn’t boast the curved, extruded-aluminum enclosure of the more costly S1 Mk.II, it still very much embodies the Magico aesthetic. It looks better in person than in pictures, and with dimensions of 44.4”H x 9.3”W x 10.9”D, its shape is fairly squarish. The cabinet panels, machined from 3/8”-thick 6061 T6 aluminum, have an anodized finish instead of the powder M-Coat of Magico’s pricier S models, and are bolted together seamlessly. The A3 is offered only in matte black, and in that color and texture it looks sleek. The build quality is outstanding -- I found nary a flaw, scuff, scratch, or gap on either cabinet. Magnetically attached grilles are available separately for $600/pair, but I wouldn’t mar the A3’s clean lines with grilles unless I absolutely had to. The cabinet is strengthened with robust internal braces, and the midrange driver occupies its own sub enclosure, to isolate it from resonances generated by the two hardworking woofers lower in the A3’s sealed enclosure.

Strapped to the back of one shipping box was an accessories kit featuring floor spikes and floor savers of solid aluminum, a cleaning cloth, and a USB thumb drive containing the user manual and warranty information. The warranty is for 90 days, extendable to five years if the buyer registers the A3s with Magico within that first 90 days.

The three-way A3 has an all-new, 1.1” beryllium-dome tweeter. Greatly based on the tweeter used in Magico’s far more costly M loudspeakers, this one lacks that dome’s bigger motor system and diamond coating. That tweeter was a welcome sight -- could the A3 really be a Magico speaker without a beryllium dome? Farther down the cabinet are more familiarities, in the form of three of Magico’s Nano-Tec drivers: a 6” midrange and two 7” woofers. But while these look an awful lot like the cones used in Magico’s S line of speakers, Wolf assured me that they’re all new, with “different motor structures, new cone layers, and sandwiching techniques to meet the price point of the A3.”

Magico

Graphene, of course, is the wundermaterial that’s a hundred times stronger than steel, harder than diamond, very efficiently conducts heat and electricity, yet comprises a layer of carbon only a single atom thick. Magico builds up its Nano-Tec cones by depositing multiple layers of graphene atop a base of carbon fiber; this results in radiating diaphragms about 300% stiffer than plain carbon fiber while adding to them virtually no mass. Each of the A3’s four drivers has a neodymium magnet, and the three Nano-Tec cones have pricy titanium voice-coils. Magico sourced the components for its Elliptical Symmetry Crossover from Mundorf of Germany, while the crossover network uses fourth-order Linkwitz-Riley slopes (24dB/octave) at its hand-off frequencies of 325Hz and 2.5kHz.

Otherwise, the A3’s spec sheet is decidedly sparse. The specified frequency range is 22Hz-50kHz, the nominal impedance 4 ohms, the sensitivity 88dB, and the recommended range of amplification 50-300Wpc. To coax the best out of a pair of A3s, I suggest a high-current, high-power, solid-state amp.

Magico

At last May’s High End show, in Munich, Germany, Magico introduced the A3’s companion models: the A1 minimonitor ($7400/pair), the ACC center-channel ($6800), and the ASUB subwoofer ($6500), all of which should be available before the end of the year.

Setup

Manhandling the A3s into place and affixing their floor spikes should probably be a two-person job. Magico calls for the towers and listening position to describe an isosceles triangle -- all that means is that, however far apart you place the speakers, they should be equidistant from your head. I obliged. They also state that the speakers’ rear panels should be at least 20” from the front wall, which, due to the shape of the listening room in my century-old inner-city home, proved impossible. I was able to offer only 12” of breathing room between the A3s and the wall behind them -- something that has hamstrung every other speaker I’ve reviewed in the last few years. Hooray for city living . . .

More than I do with most speakers, I played around with the positioning of the Magico A3s due to their sealed-box design, which loads my unusually shaped room quite differently than does your average bass-reflex speaker. I had to push the towers a few inches closer together than I otherwise would, to eliminate a serious suckout in the upper bass. Careful placement involving trial and error is mandatory for any loudspeaker, but proved especially important with the A3s.

I wired the A3s to my Hegel Music Systems H590 integrated amplifier-DAC using single runs of AudioQuest Rocket 33 speaker cables (the Magico’s single set of binding posts precludes biwiring). My primary source component is an Intel NUC computer running Roon, connected to the Hegel’s USB input with a DH Labs Silversonic USB link. I also use a Google Chromecast Audio linked to the Hegel via a generic TosLink interconnect to stream Tidal HiFi from my Apple iPhone 7.

Listening

Miserere mei, Deus was composed by Gregorio Allegri in the 1630s for exclusive use in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel during the Tenebrae service, given the three days before Easter. The story goes that while the Vatican forbade removing the manuscript of the score from the chapel, 14-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, on a visit to Rome in 1770, heard the piece once and, later that day, transcribed it from memory. He then helped turn Allegri’s Miserere into one of the best-known works of the renaissance, and it was the recording by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Coro/Tidal) that I played through the Magicos shortly after their arrival.

It took my breath away. Unlike the Magico S1 Mk.II, which had a tweeter whose contribution to the sound I described as “prominent,” the A3’s beryllium dome is one of those rare tweeters whose sound positively sails while remaining utterly composed and smooth, even at high volume. It added no forwardness or sparkle to this recording, instead revealing a cavernous soundstage that seemed to extend well beyond my room’s front wall. The A3s’ “disappearing” act was one of the best I’ve heard in my listening room -- they provided a clear window on the music. The Hegel-Magico combination was staggeringly transparent, with a to-die-for stereo image. And when I swayed from side to side in my listening seat, the soundstage remained entirely coherent -- that tweeter’s dispersion, on and off axis, was strong and consistent.

Magico

Compared to the forward-sounding S1 Mk.IIs, which put me closer to the voices of The Sixteen, the A3s sat me several pews farther back. This combination of flat in-room tweeter extension and ever-so-slightly-recessed midrange made the A3’s tonal balance differ from that of its more expensive stablemate. With Allegri’s Miserere, it meant that the voice of the solo soprano -- who reaches the top of her range in glorious fashion several times in this 12-minute piece -- sounded richer, more full than she had through the S1 Mk.IIs. Frequency response is a funny thing, a dB here or there potentially having a profound impact on the music. To my ears, Magico has danced the tightrope to near-perfection in the A3 -- it retained the obscene powers of resolution, imaging, and clarity that Magico speakers are known for, while also having, overall, a more relaxed and refined sound that will probably appeal to a wider audience of audiophiles.

While the A3 may not sound quite as vivid as its progenitors, I think it takes the Magico sound a confident step forward. Consider “Film Credits,” the standout track of 32-year-old composer Ólafur Arnalds’s Living Room Songs (16/44.1 FLAC, Erased Tape/Tidal), recorded in the Icelander’s apartment. The string quartet played from left to right, and the recording’s raw, unfiltered sound was a joy to hear through the Magicos. The mournful first violin, to left of center, sounded sublime. There was texture and detail by the bucketful, yet the instrument sounded robust, locked in space, its aural image suspended effortlessly in space between the black monoliths. As mechanical as the A3 looks, its sound remained remarkably organic as the three other strings entered and I sat back, full of respect for the totality of its sound. If you want romance and coloration, find another speaker. Much like Alon Wolf, the A3 tells it like it is.

Nuance, subtlety, and fair play to the Magico A3. Meeting the challenge of standard audiophile fare is all well and good, but how would the A3 handle hip-hop? Kid Cudi’s “Day N Nite (Nightmare),” from his Man on the Moon: The End of Day (16/44.1 FLAC, Universal/Tidal), is my go-to track for hammering speakers. With its monster midbass bass line -- cone-excursion city, sweetheart -- and a deliciously naked voice floating square at the center of the soundscape, it’s a track best enjoyed loud. I played it early on in my time with the A3s, and wasn’t in love with the Magicos’ reproduction of the powerful synth -- it sounded 1 or 2dB down in level. Moving the A3s just a couple inches closer together seemed to shift them out of a dead zone in my room -- when I replayed the track I heard exquisitely taut impact and weight. While bass in my room can often sound a bit ambiguous -- after all, soundwaves of frequencies below 100Hz are generally nondirectional in your average room -- it was startling to hear how specifically positioned in space the bass now was: centered directly behind Cudi’s voice in his muttered intro. The A3s’ sealed cabinets, which permit greater bass depth, courtesy a 12dB/octave rolloff, than a bass-reflex design’s sharper 24dB/octave rolloff, pressurized my room exceptionally well once I’d found their ideal positions. I hadn’t expected such virile midbass, a characteristic I’m used to hearing from big, three-way, ported towers -- my hat’s off to Yair Tammam, Magico’s chief technology officer and lead engineer. I suspect that nine out of ten people listening to a pair of A3s side by side with a pair of S1 Mk.IIs would prefer the A3s. Whatever millimetric improvement the newest S1 can boast in terms of airiness and shimmer from its diamond-coated beryllium tweeter was more than made up for by the A3’s nearly full-range sound.

Magico

Curious about just how low the A3s could go, I played some warble test tones and found that the speaker had healthy output down to 35Hz; the 30Hz tone was a bit down in level, but by 25Hz the bass output had fallen off considerably. This is very impressive for a midsize tower speaker. Admittedly, at high volumes, the A3 sounded a bit looser at the very bottom of its range, from 35Hz down. This is why Magico makes bigger three-ways, such as the Mk.II versions of the S3 and S5, to say nothing of their newly announced subwoofer with 10” driver, the ASUB ($6500). But for a small or midsize room, the A3 should be more speaker than most will ever need.

“Rise,” the final track of Hans Zimmer’s score for the film The Dark Knight Rises (24/44.1 MQA, WaterTower Music/Tidal), has a bit of everything: sweeping string melodies, roaring drum interludes, occasional moments of repose, even a brief, haunting female vocal. For its full gravity to be reproduced requires full-range loudspeakers playing at their very best, and the A3s exceeded my expectations. When I challenged them with the massive drums’ ultra-low rumble, I expected them to stutter. They didn’t. When I ratcheted up the volume, I thought they might compress the sound. Again they held true. The A3 could pivot from thundering to tiptoeing, from linebacker to ballerina, with shocking ease. $12,300 is hardly spare change, but you could spend a lot more and get a lot less.

Comparisons

Technics’ Grand Class SB-G90 floorstanding speaker ($4999/pair) and Magico’s A3 present a study in contrasts. While the matte-black Magico is cold and tactical in appearance -- more sniper’s rifle than diviner of beauty -- the Technics is more, well, beautiful, with a finish of piano-black lacquer, and terrific attention to detail in such subtle design flourishes as hidden driver-mounting hardware. As I noted in my review in October 2018, “I got the distinct impression that no detail had been overlooked, that every aspect of this speaker’s design had been fretted over by multiple furrowed brows.” Despite weighing 40 pounds less and costing less than half the A3’s price, the Technics speaker looks classier to me. For all its talents, the A3 looks utilitarian. Alon Wolf once told me, “We make loudspeakers, not furniture.” There you go.

But listen to the two models and it’s easy to hear why the Magico costs so much more. The SB-G90’s sound is notably more colored, with a polite top end, a warm and golden midrange, and punchy bass in the 50-80Hz range. I enjoyed the Technics, but I always knew that its darker sound was, well, an interpretation of the musical signals sent to it. I couldn’t hear as deeply into recordings, while voices and instruments like the violin sounded richer but ultimately lazier. The SB-G90 bettered the A3 only with bass-heavy pop and electronica played at very high volume. But to get that kind of output, as noted above, one need only plump for Magico’s bigger S3 or S5 Mk.II. In all other regards, the A3 was on another planet from the SB-G90, with a far more linear treble response and an altogether more transparent tweeter; a cleaner, tighter midrange; a better-defined stereo image; and faster, more concussive bass. You pay more than twice as much for the Magicos, and it’s not hard to hear why.

Magico

At the other end of the price spectrum is Vivid Audio’s Giya G4 ($30,000/pair). In my review of it in May 2014, I wrote that the Giya G4 offered “reference-level sound” and was “nothing short of extraordinary” for its size. Each four-way speaker has two horizontally opposed, 5” woofers that enable it to play flat down to 40Hz, with credible extension down to about 35Hz. While it’s unlikely the same buyer would comparison-shop the Vivids and Magicos, the Giya G4 nonetheless offers a strong point of comparison to the A3, which delivers a very similar level of performance for a lot less than half the price. What the Vivid’s higher price buys you is a four-way driver array compared to the Magico’s three-way. While Magico makes military-grade cabinets with monster bracing, Vivid offers speaker enclosures made of glass-reinforced composites that are light yet superstiff. These are equally valid ways of reducing cabinet resonances.

Despite such dramatically differing approaches, the Magico A3 sounded pretty similar to the Giya G4, with incredible clarity and purity through the all-important midrange, married to an uncannily articulated stereo image. Both pairs of speakers projected a wide-open soundstage that let me focus on any aspect of a recording. No, the A3s didn’t “disappear” from my room with quite the ease of the far costlier Vivids, and they lacked the Vivids’ hallmark urgency and . . . well, vividness of sound -- like every other Vivid speaker I’ve heard over the years, the Giya G4 sounds exciting. But an exciting-sounding speaker is a speaker with a sonic signature. It might not be an outright tonal coloration, but I suspect that many buyers dropping five figures on a pair of speakers will want to avoid any signs of a sound that’s less than neutral. In terms of ultimate bass extension and control, the two speakers are on a par with one another up to 90-95dB, though the little Giya remains more consistent as the volume rises above that level.

But bottom line, I’m shocked at how narrow is the difference between these two speakers’ sounds. The Magico A3 punches far above its fighting weight.

Conclusions

After years of making loudspeakers that most people can only dream of owning, with the A3 Alon Wolf has tried to deliver the genuine, full-fat Magico experience to a far wider range of audiophiles. Luckily, those who can afford $12,300 will find their investment handsomely rewarded. The Magico A3 offers sensational midrange clarity, and its beguiling beryllium tweeter proffered immaculate soundstages that extended well beyond the front wall of my listening room. Those qualities are married to taut, precise bass that extends below 30Hz, and it all coalesces into the kind of holographic, lifelike sound that should satisfy all but the most stubborn listeners.

The finest loudspeakers don’t merely reproduce the music -- they transport the listener and transcend. In that respect, the nearly full-range Magico A3 brought me closer to my music than any other speaker I’ve reviewed in the last five years. The A3 is Magico at its very best.

. . . Hans Wetzel
hansw@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment

  • Speakers -- KEF LS50, Sonus Faber Electa Amator III
  • Earphones and headphones -- NAD Viso HP50, PSB M4U 4
  • Integrated amplifier -- Hegel Music Systems H590
  • Digital-to-analog converter -- Benchmark Media Systems DAC3 HGC
  • DAC-headphone amplifier -- Oppo Digital HA-2SE
  • Sources -- Intel NUC running Roon and Tidal HiFi, Google Chromecast Audio, Apple iPhone 7
  • Speaker cables -- AudioQuest Rocket 33, DH Labs Q-10 Signature, Dynamique Audio Caparo
  • Analog interconnects -- Dynamique Audio Shadow RCA, Nordost Blue Heaven LS (XLR)
  • Digital link -- DH Labs Silversonic (USB)
  • Power conditioner -- Emotiva CMX-2

Magico A3 Loudspeakers
Price: $12,300 USD per pair.
Warranty: 90 days; five years parts and labor with registration.

Magico
3170 Corporate Place
Hayward, CA 94545
Phone: (510) 649-9700

Website: www.magico.net