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So, who is Alon Wolf? The short version takes note that he left his native Israel after entering the prestigious air force academy. He'd taken advantage of its Physics and aerodynamics training courses before a deep-seated resistance to taking orders and being shoehorned into a line of command took over. Having visited his Americanized dad during his youth -- getting picked up from the airport in a gleaming black Lincoln with leather seating and automatic everything to discover color television -- had ruined Alon for Israel. "After my first visit to the US, I was depressed for a month coming back home. I nearly didn't get out of bed."

Like most greenhorn immigrants, Alon's dreams of golden opportunities and steep career developments initially met with the usual reality bites reactions. His time as 4.50/hr car wash attendant in Van Nuys ranks among his most frustrated memories of gloomy defeat, ever. But Alon's a tough nut of significant resourcefulness who held firmly to his dreams. His first turn at advancement occurred by way of a start-up hi-tech company that was in the process of developing a solicitation sales force for its two-way video security interface. Working his way up to becoming the top producer within the first year, he was asked to spearhead the opening of a Santa Barbara branch. His rapid success there made him a lot of money and compelled Alon to start his own securities firm in the Bay Area. Now making serious money as his own boss, he decided to begin integrating his old ambitions at speaker design. He purchased a $50,000 state-of-the-art computer and a $45,000 piece of cutting-edge 3-D software to explore complex cabinet shapes. Teaching himself how to use it, he soon grew into unexpected demand as an industrial design consultant and graphics animation artist. He has worked on movies like the original Shrek and Antz and with companies like Disney, Sony, Lucas Arts, Electronic Arts and DreamWorks.

Alon began loudspeaker design like most everything else he's ever tackled - as auto didact, reading every book available, asking tough questions, working his way through every single driver extant (including the Japanese Gotos), building one-up enclosures for them, testing them with sophisticated software that presently includes measuring driver behavior under high power (i.e. with 50 watts of RMS input rather than the ubiquitous 2.83 volts). Even most very highly regarded transducers, according to Wolf, display some highly non-linear unacceptable behavior when tested under real-world power inputs rather than the usual test bench protocols of weak test tones.

Initially targeted at $12,000/pr inclusive of stands, the Magico Mini -- envisioned to becoming a widely sellable ultra-performance monitor for space-challenged 'philes rather than yet another one-up hyper effort at super-heavy, large full-range speakers [above] -- the Mini suffered at the hands of Alon's stern denial to cut corners. When the final bill of goods presented itself, it had grown to $20,000/pr, with the maker's profit margin less than one third of what is customary.

The reasons for these costs are many. The 7" mid/woofer is the only one in the world to combine Titanium skins with a bonded foam layer for self-damping. There's only one man on the planet willing and capable of making it. Consequently, parts cost is 10 times higher than a really good equivalent Scanspeak. The front baffle is solid aircraft-grade aluminum machined into bowing contours that take 6 hours of CNC time per baffle. The cabinet uses stacked bonded premium-grade Birch ply rather than MDF or HDF and is a bear to finish to the requisite levels.

Lateral full-length bolts connect the aluminum front baffle and the equivalent rear insert under precisely administered torque. Tolerances are excessive to guarantee gas-tight seals for the acoustic suspension.

The 3rd-order crossover nests in an interior well of the bottom panel and uses ultra-expensive German Mundorf capacitors and foil inductors. The tweeter is Scanspeak's top ring radiator. All internal wiring is low-gauge ultra-pure solid-core copper.

The internal cabinet surfaces are lined with very thick hi-tech foam especially formulated for audio applications. Like with everything else he does, Wolf is exceptionally hostile towards voodoo claims, fancy marketing bullshit disguised as white papers, impossible crossovers, unobtainium parts and the like. His ingredients and assembly protocol are an open book. You know exactly what you're getting and how it works. Here it includes solid aluminum stands more than 100 lbs heavy, constrained between bonded Ply stacks and designed to complement the speaker in appearance and construction while providing a precisely angled 2.7-degree, tripod ball-bearing interface pedestal for proper driver alignment.

To demonstrate what the Mini -- unassisted by a subwoofer -- could do in a truly cavernous space, Alon took me to his friend and client Peter who runs 150-watt BAT tube monos and Rockport's famous turntable.

While Alon uses Nelson Pass' new X350.5 and various Jeff Rowland amps in his own setup (fronted by the mighty mbl transport and a Pacific Microsonics professional mastering DAC running into Paul Weitzel's extreme Tube Research Labs triode preamp with an outboard valve power supply the size of Ken Stevens' biggest CAT mono), he was keen to present the Minis in a completely different system so I could hear them in two environments to take their pulse and decide whether to accept the proposed review assignment. (At 6moons, that's part of our upfront "due diligence" process and here became relevant because I had overlooked to visit Alon's CES exhibit prior to the last day. The closed door then reminded me that he'd specifically told me in advance how he'd have to cut his show attendance short by one day due to an unavoidable business meeting that he had to make first thing Monday morning back in the Bay Area.) I don't know about you but
reviewing a $20,000 Mini does mandate some prior exploration to make the prospect comfortable. Nothing is less pleasant than bitching about performance and price once you've committed to going forward no matter what. For me, this was an opportunity to read the fine print before I signed on the dotted line.

The "stand-in" demo in Peter's neo-gothic wing cast such a capacious soundstage filling a completely counter-intuitive cubic volume -- and at very happy levels -- that if Alon had any reservations about me getting the concept of the mondo monitor, they were gone with the proverbial wind. Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!

While expensive as sin without apologies or guilty confessions, my first impressions in Oakland have me convinced that even under serious fire -- i.e. John Corigliano's Chaconne for solo violin and orchestra based on his score for The Red Violin -- the Magico Minis don't falter to telegraph the usual limitations of two-way speakers. They act far more like good conventional three-ways except for the lowest bass. Due to their sealed alignment, it attenuates rather rapidly below 40Hz especially when deprived of any room gain as in Peter's space. With their ultra performance and good looks ascertained, I also found myself satisfied when asking the tough questions about where and how a prospective customer's money has been spent. Having worked in loudspeaker manufacturing, I have some context. After Alon itemized the cost sheet, I can tell you categorically that this speaker is well underpriced. But then, its designer is realistic enough to concede that even so, it still poses quite the perceptional hurdle to most potential buyers - until they actually hear one. He's thus resigned himself to marketing an expensive loss leader that should spread the word about Magico's corporate culture of pursuing the extreme. (Corporate culture my ass. Alon's far more the corporate anti Christ).

After weighing my auditory impressions and perceived real-world implications, I've committed to a formal review and should take receipt of a loaner sample later this month. Anyone pu(ni)shing the envelope like Mr. Wolf has made it his business deserves fair publicity even if the old check book response might be more restrained. Nobody complains when Porsche or Ferrari go to town. Hence, I shall disregard my own far more - er, proletarian roots and mingle with the what-if crowd for this occasion. One, it's fun. Two, it's educational to learn what can be done when the usual constraints of cost have been discarded like rusty prison shackles. Three, this is the kind of insane passionate stuff that used to propel HighEnd Audio to excel and stretch. Four, 6moons is in the audio news business. If this ain't news, my instincts just died a sad and horrible death. So come back to learn more about what taunts us here as being perhaps the most radical two-way two-driver monitor ever stuck into a small box.
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