The late great bard Leonard Cohen issued a few albums that stand out on recording quality. One of those is Live in London which features the familiar Cohen troop of first-class musicians who played together for ages already. The recording scores high on dynamic range and the Magister had no problem to unpack all of it for us. We are suckers for midrange power built upon a solid bass foundation. The Magister fully satisfied those demands. It is what we like so much in our Avantgarde Duo Omega horns. There it simply takes a really big midrange horn to cater to our needs, what to say of active bass units. Meanwhile the Belgian Magister which means master or boss was equally masterful at it yet managed with a smaller footprint and just two drivers per side. Back to the Cohen recording, Hammond's contribution to music history with the B3 organ plays an important part on it. Its elegiac sound which primary lives in the, yes, midrange came through the Magister in a magical fashion. Other highlights in the recording derive from the use of the bandurria, lute, archilaud guitar and 12-string guitar which add a mysterious, gypsy-like feel to the tunes. Some may think this Cohen a bit cheesy but what's wrong with that? Life is about having fun, is it not? And what else are endorphins there for?
When we had recovered from the first massive impression, it was time to play with some adjustments. Initially we had the suspension selector on the power supply at '5'. With the Pandora amps, that proved to be the best option. Lower settings thinned out the sound and the magic drive faded. Tom had delivered the loudspeakers with a goodie bag containing some damping material for the ports.
Depending on the speaker/room interaction, damping one or more ports might improve the results. With our large room requiring lots of air to be excited, we found that damping both back ports, the top with rubber foam and the lower with a roll of synthetic wool, worked best. If possible, our jaws would have dropped even lower with what that did for the sound.
For hours on end we played music not only in the dreaded sweet spot but also at our fish-shaped dining table sitting off center toward the back of the open space. The Trio Leán's Pangea has guitar, bass and percussion instruments explore African, Mediterranean and Latin guitar pieces where the bass adds a seasoning of Jazz and the percussion meanders along.
Played back at realistic levels, all the instruments attained to their respective original size in the virtual soundscape. We connected the Zu Submissions while playing this but though the addition extended reach by a chord and a bit, it was not really essential.
Tolga During is a Dutch/Turkish guitarist who leads the OttoMani ensemble of eight hands in Italian – fitting since During now lives in Italy where he formed a quartet. Guitars including a fretless version, bass clarinet, upright bass and percussion blend Jazz with Mediterranean and contemporary influences on Gelibolu. Soobia by brothers Sary and Ayad Khalife contrasts piano and cello for Arabic Blues-based minimalist, Middle-Eastern, Jazz and classical aspects all filled with pure sentiment. With the Magister that melancholy feeling beautifully transferred to us across the room.
Pure Jazz in the duo format had brought together Charlie Haden on bass and Brad Mehldau on piano for Long Ago and Far Away. This live recording was made back in 2007 in the Christuskirche of Germany's Mannheim but only released now for unknown reasons. If you like a great recording of two wonderful improvisers working in the hallowed space of an Art Nouveau cathedral, this is it. Due to the dynamic—read fast—character of the Magister, the micro cues of the church's reverb gave us the illusion of actually being in that church. Magic again. Before we proceeded to large orchestral works, we played Unifony by Minco Eggersman and Theodoor Borger. This floating, atmospheric and transcendental musical outing completely detached from the loudspeakers and hung in the room like an aurora borealis or Northern light. On with the EMI recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti with the combined Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. Both are popular bombast numbers with everybody on the orchestra's payroll on stage. An orchestra can get quite loud and at fortissimo a large orchestra is even louder. Yet the Magister would not budge under any such pressure.
The above music selection and more also saw the other amplification on hand. A combination we really enjoyed was the Trafomatic Lara/Kaivalya. Where the 40-watt Pandora had not that much to do, the 25wpc Kaivalya needed more input swing. On the Lara's volume dial, we reached 15:00 and even a bit higher for almost full throttle and the Kaivalya's EL84 obeyed vigorously. These are true working-class tubes which pay back in high sound quality when driven hard without sacrificing subtlety. When we tried our nCore 1200 class D amps, we were least happy. The overall sound lacked that heartwarming midrange gumption which all the other amplifiers had offered. This proved again that the Magister was like a fine magnifying glass and at times merciless. In conclusion we must confess that this novel and extremely fine piece of hifi engineering stole our hearts and souls. The Magister scored tops in the looks department, room placement department and at the absolute top of the sound department. We are most glad to have lived with this sample of ingenuity par excellence for the time we were allotted. Real magic!
Publisher's comment: 40Hz-7kHz widebander. Unique floating driver tech not seen before. Heroic cabinet construction. It all would be for naught if it didn't deliver in the seat and at the ears. But as we learnt, deliver it did – and did so in perfect sync with the promises embedded in the Ilumnia driver brief. Thus this award wrote itself. Worthy of repetition too is that this terrific invention came about between two hobbyists and not from a well-funded research centre with a crack team of engineers or one of the large existing loudspeaker houses. – Ed.
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