Amplifier Nonsense and the Magico S3

To Doug Schneider,

Reading your fantastic article on the Magico S5 in SoundStage! HiFi, I’m gaining interest to upgrade my current Sonus Faber Cremona speakers to Magico S3s. If you don’t mind me asking your valuable opinion, will a McIntosh amplifier match well with Magico? I have a McIntosh MC452 power amp and McIntosh C2500 preamplifier.

I read a number of reviews on Magico and found that hi-fi stores or hi-fi shows commonly pair Magico speakers with Vitus, Spectral, or Soulution amplifiers. None with Mcintosh.

As I’m not in US, my local distributor does not have any floor stock for demo as those Magicos have been presold before landing to the country (yes, Magico appears very popular here). The distributor advised me that my McIntosh amp will not be able to bring the best out of Magico. He suggested either I replace my amp (as stated above) or buy another brand of speakers. So should I be looking for another speaker, and what brand would you recommend? Your reply would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks and regards,

You don’t know how many times I’ve heard that with certain speakers you can only use a limited number of amps. Oftentimes, it’s from dealers or distributors who happen to sell the amp brands they’re recommending, so either that’s all they know or, more likely, they’re just trying to make a bigger sale (sometimes they tell you that you also have to change your cables as well). I haven’t looked, but if I had to guess, that distributor sells at least one of the amplifier brands being recommended, if not all of them. Whatever the case, unless someone has specifically tried the MC452 with the S3s, take it with a grain of salt.

I’ve reviewed a couple of Magico speakers (the V2 and S5) and never used a Vitus, Spectral, or Soulution amp with them. Those companies probably make fine products, but so do many others -- off the top of my head, I could list at least a dozen I’d look to. What I found that Magico speakers need most is a high-powered solid-state amp driving them. If I were to buy a pair of their speakers, I’d look for an amp that can deliver at least 150Wpc into 8 ohms, though 200Wpc or more would be better, with stability down to 2 ohms. Looking at the specs for your MC452, it’s rated at 450Wpc into 8, 4 or 2 ohms, and is supposedly the most powerful stereo amplifier McIntosh makes. If it can’t drive S3s, not much can.

I’m not going to suggest other speakers to you if Magico is what your heart is set on -- that’s as foolish as the distributor telling you that you have to automatically change your amp if you want to buy these speakers. Instead, I’m going to say that if you’re dedicated to getting a pair of Magico S3s, I recommend you do so and simply try your current amplifier with them. If you like the sound, you’re all set; if you don’t like what you’re hearing, then experiment with amps. But only do it then. . . . Doug Schneider