To Jeff Fritz,
I read with great interest your review of the Magico Q7. They certainly seem to be rather special. Would it be possible for you to comment on how they compare with Wilson or Avalon speakers in terms of reproducing instrumental timbres? I have always found the Wilsons (haven't heard the new XLF or Alexia yet) to be rather lean and clinical sounding, lacking the natural richness of instruments.
Sonus Fabers typically sound rich but lack transparency and low-level detail especially at the back of the soundstage. I currently have the Ascendo System M-S speakers and use them with CAT amps and Transparent Reference cables. My wife and I listen to a huge variety of music with equally varying sound quality and lean/clinical equipment just makes such recordings unlistenable. How do the Q7s work with poorer recordings? ARC and CAT amps seem to have the ability to be transparent while being kind to less-than-perfect recordings so I am hoping the Q7s have a similar characteristic.
Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
This is a complex question because it involves many variables, but I'll try to answer your question completely. First, regarding the speakers you currently own: I reviewed the Ascendo System M-S back in 2007 and I think really highly of it. I would not, personally, replace a pair with any model from the Wilson or Avalon lines that I have heard. Although some of those competing speakers might do a few specific things better than the Ascendos -- like play loud in the case of the Wilsons -- I do think the Ascendos are more neutral overall, as well as balanced tonally in a very pleasing way. So I would think twice before you replace them, at least with Wilsons or Avalons.
The Magico Q7 is different. On the one hand, it is as neutral as any speaker available today and is probably the most resolving speaker you can buy. This means that it doesn't sugarcoat bad recordings the way some speakers do. The big Magicos will reveal what is on the source without editorializing. On the other hand, the Q7 doesn't suffer from the distortions and nonlinearities that most other speakers do, and this characteristic removes what I believe to be a number of sonic irritants that cause listening fatigue, especially during extended listening sessions. So although the Q7 is not kind to poor recordings per se (which by definition would mean that it would also mask good recordings), neither will it produce harshness and grate on your nerves because of design flaws. I find the Q7s extremely listenable for long periods.
The other attribute that the Q7 has that you can take advantage of is the fact that it is very revealing of upstream components. It is very easy, therefore, to fine-tune your system's sound with the electronics of your choice -- the CAT and ARC amps would work very well, I think. The high sensitivity of the Q7s (94dB/W/m) will give you the flexibility to experiment with all sorts of amplifiers too.
Not a simple answer, but I hope that helps your decision. . . . Jeff Fritz