Today we are diving into my first full speaker review. I’ve always planned on expanding the mainly headphone focus of this blog into speakers, and related gear. Headphones will likely always be my main focus, but I absolutely love speakers also. Speakers tend to do things headphones physically can’t manage, and have all their own intricacies and what not also. My first pair of “high end” speakers were my Philharmonic Audio BMR’s. I then bought a pair of Sophia 2, from Wilson Audio, which I wasn’t sure if doing a full review was a good idea, as they are a much older speaker now. However, after owning the Magico A3’s for 8 months, I think that a full review is a worthwhile endeavour, as they are a current production speaker, and will likely remain that way for a long time.
Magico is a California based company and the brainchild of Alan Wolf. Since 2007 they have made steady inroads into the speaker market, largely with very high end designs. Before the A series, I reckon the vast majority of speaker enthusiasts would equate Magico speaker with high price tags. Now, thats not to say the A series of speaker are “affordable,” but they are certainly more affordable than the other lines from Magico (currently available are the A, S, and M ranges.) I believe the A series was Alon Wolfs attempt at bringing as much of the “Magico” sound to as cost conscious an MSRP he could manage, whilst maintaining the core principles of the brand. Vanishingly low cabinet resonance, cutting edge material tech, and solid design principles.
The A series all feature solid aluminum cabinets, which are sealed. Also featured are beryllium tweeters, as well as Magicos graphene/carbon based “nano-tec” cones. I’m actually not someone who outright looks for space aged materials in their speaker choices, I simply buy what I like the sound of. If it happens to be wood cabinet and pulp cone based, great! Space aged materials? Also great! With that being said, the build quality of the A3 is entirely top notch, and feels incredibly sturdy and well built. The more recently released A5 (the largest in the A series) features the new aluminum honeycomb in its midrange driver cone, but apart from that, largely follows the same design principles as the rest of the A series. I do hope I manage to hear a pair of A5 at some point, as sadly I have not managed thus far.
The A3, originally released in 2018, debuted at an MSRP of just under $10,000USD. That price has risen to $13,800USD since the original release. This is a shame as I read a comment from a dealer saying that at the original MSRP, he saw people considering the A3 jumping up from the Dynaudio Contour level speakers, whilst at the current MSRP it is now out of reach of those customers. I suppose rapid jumps in aluminum costs due to COVID has not helped matters.
In terms of sound, the A3’s deliver, fully.
The bass of the A3’s was actually the most surprising part of ownership for me. It was so prodigious, so well controlled, so impactful, that I sold my 18” Funk Audio 18.SE, one of the better sub woofers on the market. I have simply never heard a speaker of the A3’s size present such a well tuned, seamlessly integrated, and concussive bass response. I was worried that due to the sealed box nature of the A3 I may not end up with enough bass in terms of level. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was also worried that due to there only being two 7” woofers, I might lack in some areas in the low end. Also wrong. This has me seriously curious about the 3, 9” woofers of the A5. At high listenings levels, the A3’s never lost their composure, though this improved with higher quality amplification, which I will cover later. Perhaps it was just the size of my room matching the A3’s bass response very well, but it is simply the best bass I have heard in my listening room. It pressurized the room but was never overbearing. I honestly can’t think of a single negative about the A3’s bass response, and it made my old Sophia 2’s, from Wilson, look simply pedestrian.
The mids of the A3 were also very interesting. Through all my research and reading about Magico speakers online prior to purchasing the A3’s, I seemed to get the impression that people felt Magico excelled at detail and technical performance, but lacked severely in terms of their mid range response and overall “musicality.” Whilst I feel musicality is a hard term to nail down, and it likely means different things to different people, I wondered if the A3 might be a bit bright and lack fullness in the mid range. Again, I was wrong. Having not heard any of the older Q or V series Magicos, I wonder if part of this impression was from the older lines. The A3 is not a warm speaker (think some of the Harbeths) but also doesn’t have a thinner midrange. I don’t say this in terms of a thinner midrange being a bad thing, I actually think it works incredibly well for some styles of music, but on the A3 I would say the mids are just slightly north of neutral, more so in the upper mid range than the lower mid range.
The high frequency of the A3, provided by the pure beryllium dome tweeter, was again, not as bright and sharp as I thought it might be. Having extensive experience with Focal’s Utopia headphones (which also have a pure beryllium dome) I wondered if there might be some similarities in terms of tone and timbre. Not so much, as it turns out. The A3’s highs were superbly extended yes, and did have some sparkle. Again, I would say they are slightly north of neutral, being energetic, but not BRIGHT. This does help bring excitement to certain genres, but if you are treble sensitive you may be better suited with a darker sounding speaker. One thing I found interesting about the A3’s tweeter was how effortlessly it played at high volume levels. The RAAL ribbon tweeter in my Philharmonic BMRs is great up to medium loud levels, but past that it increasingly looses its composure, and starts to sound thin, grating, and harsh. The A3’s tweeter maintains a very similar profile regardless of how loud you listen, helpful for those times when you really want to rock out.
In terms of dispersion and overall position of the speakers, I experimented a lot, and found some things worked better than others. Overall, the A3’s take less effort to get them positioned well and sounding good than my older Sophia 2’s. They also sounded best with at least a foot of breathing space behind them with up to two and a half feet sounding optimal in my medium sized room. The closer you go to the back wall, the more muddy and collapsed the soundstage will sound in my experience. If you are lacking bass response, going closer to the wall will help bring up the level of bass, but at the expense of other areas. I would recommend experimenting with this, and positioning in general. I found slight toe in helped greatly vs a straight ahead positioning, but too much toe in again caused more harm than help in terms of sonic quality.
In terms of technical performance, the A3 was certainly the most detailed and technically competent speaker I have personally owned. Obviously, other high end models will improve on this area and do certain things better, but I do think you will have to pay to play in that sense. The A3 is extremely competent, and I found they coped very well with dynamic swings, being able to convey micro and macro contrast of whatever genre you throw at them. I’m curious what the new midrange in the A5’s brings to the table, as perhaps a midrange with more clarity and detail would create an even more lifelike type of sound, but I will have to wait until I can get ears on a pair to know for sure.
The build quality of the A3 is rock solid. Extremely well put together, and “premium” feeling. They do weigh about 110lbs per side, but I found moving them by shuffling them on two corners alternating worked well enough. The WBT binding posts are a nice touch, and also work very well.
In terms of driving the A3’s, they are 4 ohms with 88db sensitivity. This means they are neither hard to drive, nor easy to drive, splitting down the middle quite nicely. I drove them from a variety of amps and sources, and found they scaled well with each jump. I first tried them with a 50WPC Marantz receiver for home theatre type duties. It drove them in an alright way, and certainly worked for everyday home theatre type uses. I then tried them with my Kinki EX-M1 integrated, Rockna Wavelight DAC, and this was much better than the Marantz. It brought out a lot more of what the A3 are capable of in terms of speed and bass response. Subsequent detail levels also improved. The best combination I tried was my Boulder 866 integrated (with DAC.) Even at very spirited listening levels the Boulder did an extremely good job at controlling the A3’s drivers, and presented the most neutral and involving sound I heard from the A3’s. I am curious how the A3 would fair with some stronger tube hybrid amps, but I don’t think they would be a good candidate for fleawatt type pure tube gear. They seemed to enjoy a fair amount of power behind them, though certainly not as much as some speakers.
Overall, if you are in the market for $10K plus pair of speakers, but are not ready, or don’t want, to go into the more stratospheric type pricing market of speakers, the A3’s certainly make a very strong case for themselves. They seem to strike the right sonic balance between accuracy and “musicality” whilst being a fairly small and easy to live with form factor. Their detail and technical performance is the best I have heard at their price range. Whilst other speakers may do certain things better (perhaps magnepans or similar in terms of an open airy soundstage, or warm speakers for a more “romantic and involving” sound signature) the A3 is more of a consummate all rounder, type of speaker. For someone who wants a competent and capable “one and done” speaker, I honestly can’t think of something much better. Although the A3 doesn’t offer the value proposition it did at its original MSRP, it still is very much worthy of consideration if you are shopping in its price bracket. As always, if you can, its best to hear them for your self, but I find it hard to believe someone could be entirely disappointed with the A3.
Overall, the A3’s get an enthusiastic two thumbs up from me. Highly recommended listen, and buy, if they are within your budget 🙂