Most companies have a best value or "best bang for the buck" product in their lineup and I'm wondering if you feel that it might be the Avior in Rockport's case, assuming for a moment one's room has enough volume for any of them. Even though you have ranked the Magicos and Rockports in the very top tier of "speakerdom," when it comes to my eventual purchase, the Rockports are going to be an easy winner. That's mainly because Andy Payor has adhered to a basic tenet in engineering when it comes to his enclosures -- the KISS principle. As for the Q7s, I’m sorry, but I'm going to have to go on a rant here: Wasn't it Einstein who said "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler"? Just one. Just one errant bolt among the literally hundreds of fasteners that go into assembling a Magico speaker is all it would take to make a perfectly great-sounding speaker like the Q7 into a veritable cabasa (a musical instrument that sounds like ball bearings rattling inside a tin can). Of course Magico surely must use Loctite or similar products to secure their fasteners but I feel that it’s just a matter of time before we hear about issues related to their overly complex structures and joining techniques, if there aren't some already. Given the Q7's evident success, it might give one pause to argue with Alon Wolf's approach -- the proof-is-in-the-pudding sort of thing. But how long will the pudding taste good is what I'm wondering about and not willing to take a chance on.
Returning to the Rockports: If I am not mistaken the Altair and Arrakis do not yet enjoy the use of the latest Andy Payor-designed drivers, do they? Do you think that Mr. Payor might eventually develop his new drivers for his two top-of-the-line speakers or do you think that they are just fine the way they are? I think that there is a second version of the Arrakis already. Finally, there seems to be no real consensus among audiophiles about the use of subwoofers. Would using two good ones like REL Gibraltars along with the Aviors be almost as good as having a pair of Altairs or Arrakis?
You’ve asked a number of good questions and I’ll try to answer all of them. To address Rockport first: I certainly think the Avior is one of the highest-value loudspeakers Andy Payor has yet designed. The performance capabilities of that product are sky high, and compared with a lot of other speakers on the market that sell for the Avior’s price, or even considerably more, there is no question that the Avior represents a terrific buy that can be considered a “last purchase” for many audiophiles. I personally would not use a subwoofer with the Avior and would not suggest that you consider it either -- at least not at the start. The Avior is capable of very deep bass and I think it would be a mistake to assume that it needs help in the low frequencies. Integration issues with a sub could ruin the sound, in fact. If my experience with the smaller Atria is any indication, the Avior should be more than sufficient in the bass department for most any listener. Give it a shot. Would an Avior with subs equal an Arrakis? Most definitely not -- the Arrakis would be better across the board.
As to whether the Altair and Arrakis use Payor’s latest drivers, I know that the Avior and Atria use “ground-up” Rockport-designed drivers whereas the Altair and Arrakis use a hybrid design: Rockport cones coupled with Audiotechnology motor systems. I’m not aware that any changes are afoot in that regard.
As for Magico and the Q7 specifically, this answer will be longer because there are many implications not just for that brand but for the industry at large. The first thing that I will tell you is that you cannot look at the apparent complexity of a product and determine whether it will or will not have problems. Obviously, in terms of manufacturing, exceedingly complex products like automobiles and jumbo jets can be made to operate near flawlessly. By the same token, I’ve unboxed a kid’s bicycle -- certainly a simpler form of transportation than a plane or car -- and had issues with it right from the start that precluded its use. Why? It all comes down to the processes that are in place to ensure that when the product is manufactured there are consistent assembly and quality-control measures. The company must simply have a commitment to a very rigorous testing and QC protocol in order to ensure the consistently excellent results high-end buyers are paying for.
I’ve been a reviewer now for about 16 years and have experience with a huge cross section of products at virtually every price point. I can’t tell you how many times I have been excited to review a new product only to have my enthusiasm deflated once the item is actually in my room. Specs are great, photos and press releases can be instructive, but until you examine the actual thing in person you really don’t know what you’re getting. Many times I’ve been appalled by the lack of quality control in high-end audio, even from products that seem relatively simple to put together. From an expensive speaker with a dead driver right out of the box to cracked finishes and missing bolts, I’ve seen a ton of issues, even from some of the high-profile brands that many people know.
Back to Magico and the Q7: Do you realize that Magico has a Klippel system in their factory for the purposes of quality control? I can count on one hand the number of loudspeaker companies in the upper end of the market that go to that length to ensure that their speakers’ acoustic outputs are nigh-on perfect before they leave the factory. If Magico attends to even the smallest flaws that a system like the Klippel will expose, you can rest assured that they tighten all the bolts precisely and use methods to guarantee that the structural integrity of the product is sound. I can tell you that I’ve never heard of a bolt coming loose in a Magico speaker nor have I had any issues at all related to the quality of Magico’s products that have been through my room. Here’s a challenge: Call some of the luxury speaker brands and ask them all the same question: “Do you acoustically test every speaker that leaves your factory?” Prepare for gasps as they try to answer. You’ll suffer no issue like that with Magico. They do it the right way.
In summary, I do obviously hold Magico and Rockport at the top of my personal superspeaker hierarchy, and I could see listeners gravitating strongly toward one or the other brand depending on sonic preferences, aesthetic considerations, etc. But either way, what I can also tell you is that in terms of quality control, these two companies are as good as it gets in our industry. Let’s put that one to rest for once and for all. . . . Jeff Fritz