To Pete Roth,
I find your reviews on Ultra Audio to be excellent and quite fun to read. They are very insightful, and always full of careful analysis.
There has been quite a bit of hype recently with regards to Magico speakers, and when they failed to disclose the electronics paired with the Q7 at CES, it made me wonder if there was something funny going on. Having just read your piece on the Q7, and your favorable thoughts on the Q1, I'd like to ask you your opinion of how the Magico lineup compares versus Vandersteen's top-three speakers. I believe you had the 5As prior to the Sevens. How does the Q1 stack up against the 5A? How about the Vandy Seven versus the Q7? I ask about the Q1 because you and your colleagues were quite amazed at its performance. It's priced the same as the Vandersteen 5A Carbon. Which would you choose? Also, are the Vandy Sevens better sounding than the Q5s? How about versus the Q7s?
Thank you in advance for your time and thoughts. I appreciate you taking the time to read through my e-mail. I look forward to reading your reviews. Please, keep up the great work!
I’m so glad you find my reviews to be fun (as well as, hopefully, informational and thought provoking). With world-class amplification from Vitus Audio, the Magico Q7 speakers were spectacular at TWBAS 2012 (look for my further thoughts on the event on May 1 in Ultra Audio).
While my written review of the Magico Q1 won’t be published for a few months yet, I can certainly divulge a little without spoiling that review. Comparing the Magico Q1 and the Vandersteen 5A Carbon is an exercise in examining differences; different goals and different strengths.
The Q1 is without question an amazing little speaker, fully capable of producing in-room bass down to the 30Hz region. They also have that magic often attributed to two-way stand-mount monitors -- they image like the dickens, and because the drivers are so closely placed, and with only a single crossover point, they are a very effective point source. The drivers are certainly state of the art. The Q1 is very much an "ultimate" studio monitor that plays way deeper than it has any right to do (it can really "rock out," while remaining exceedingly refined for almost any type of music). They do, however, require first-class power, and quite a lot of it. Coupled to the Ayre MX-R monoblocks and Ayre KX-R preamplifier in my small reference system, no other audio product has had my colleagues shaking their heads in amazement or mouths agape like the Q1s. It defies expectations.
The Vandersteen 5A Carbon, on the other hand, is truly a full-range speaker -- nothing "almost" full range about it. With its built-in subwoofer system and innovative bass crossover and room-tuning ability (it’s the same subwoofer system used in the Model Seven), the in-room response is flat to 20Hz, can be tailored specifically to the room from 20Hz to 120Hz, and never runs out of steam. The Vandersteens also require a decent amount of power (like Magico speakers, they are on the less-efficient side of the spectrum), but are rather more forgiving in this respect than the Magicos. I lived with the Model 5A for many years before upgrading to the Model Seven, and according to Richard Vandersteen the 5A Carbon gets a little over half-way there (covering the difference between the performance envelope of the original 5A and the Model Seven), which makes it a true audiophile bargain. The Model 5A Carbon is also time-and-phase correct, as a review of its impulse and step responses will show, which is a performance aspect that really lights my fire.
If you really love what minimonitors can do, but only wished they could go deeper in the bass, then the Magico Q1 is probably for you. If you love a full-range speaker that can play anything very well, but especially classical, jazz and live recordings, then I’d steer you toward the Vandersteens.
Comparing the Vandersteen Model Seven with the Magico Q5 is more of an exercise in personal taste, as they are both multi-driver speakers, utilizing pistonic drivers within incredibly high-tech cabinets. Both require powerful and refined amplifiers, with the Q5 being especially current hungry (because of its powered subwoofer system, the Vandersteen Model Seven doesn’t really need the current so much as refined power from 100Hz on up). Properly driven, I would say that the Q5 can produce a bit more "pop" or "drive," but the Model Seven is all about the waveform re-creation that is central to Richard Vandersteen’s philosophy of sound reproduction. My buddy Lynn has a simply astounding record collection, has been going to see live orchestral and operatic performances for decades, and has never heard anything closer to the live event than what he obtains through his Vandersteen Sevens (and associated Aesthetix Io preamp and Atlas Signature mono amps).
While the choice between these two speakers will ultimately come down to what you listen to, the room in which you listen, and the nature of the associated equipment, I would also throw one of the Vivid Audio Giya models into the mix. I love how the Vivid Audio Giyas totally disappear sonically and physically, and how the music seems to simply explode from them -- a very honest yet exciting speaker. In any event, I consider the Magico Q5, Vivid Audio Giyas (G1, G2, and G3), and the Vandersteen Model 5A Carbon and Model Seven to be among the very best speakers available at any price (and part of a very select few expensive speaker systems to combine exceptional engineering, unique purpose-built drivers, world-class performance and exceptional value, as opposed to snake oil).
Good luck in the hunt and have fun. . . . Pete Roth