Magnat Signature Edelstein Loudspeakers Reviewed

Magnat Signature Edelstein Loudspeakers Reviewed


Please see this post for a detailed rundown of our reference system.

PMA Magazine has a content exchange program with other publications. This article first appeared in Audio Appraisal.

Edelstein is the German translation of ‘Gemstone’ and is the moniker bestowed upon Magnat’s new signature loudspeakers. And for good reason. Founded in 1973 in Cologne, the ‘Log’ range of loudspeakers put Magnat on the map thanks to great sound, clever use of the best tech of the day, and great measurements in an industry where manufacturers were leaving technical performance to chance, and where subjectivity was starting to take over the audiophile press. Magnat was born from the original German importer of the then British Goodmans loudspeakers, Boyd and Haas.

Founder Rainer Haas, son of one of the business partners, believed he could better the Goodmans loudspeakers. Having taken over the family business, he sought a more modern loudspeaker to compete at a time when stereo was widespread, high-quality audio was a mainstay, and loudspeaker development was booming, yet Goodmans designs were steadfastly old-fashioned. He produced the Goodmans Magnat which became a success and thus the Magnat brand was born and is, today, one of Germany’s largest hi-fi manufacturers with a manufacturing facility in Pulheim. Though ‘Magnat’ sounds like ‘magnet’, the English translation is ‘magnate’.

These days, there are hundreds if not thousands of loudspeaker manufacturers on the market with models catering to every taste, room, system, requirement, and budget. But just as many loudspeakers are purposely designed to produce a coloured sound, despite their literature claiming the contrary. Many are built not with a material cost and reasonable profit margin in mind, but priced based on their position in the market. Commercial speakers costing tens of thousands of pounds with the cost of drivers amounting only to hundreds of pounds, and cabinets built from cheap fibreboards or chipboards hidden behind a thick layer of paint are not uncommon. Likewise, speakers built with high-spec components and minimal profit margins are out there. The rest of the speakers fall somewhere in between.

It was the apparent material cost that drew me to Magnat’s new signature bookshelf. Heavy chunks of aluminium and acrylic, custom drivers, lacquered MDF cabinets and a decent crossover combine in a speaker costing just shy of a grand. For their first foray into the miniature speaker market, Magnat could have built another ordinary wooden box, filled it with ordinary drivers and a bit of stuffing, glued a generic crossover to the back of the terminal plate and doubled the price, and they’d probably still have sold enough to make the venture worthwhile. But they didn’t. There’s a lot of material here for the money. But materials mean nothing if the execution isn’t up to par.

Miniature loudspeakers were once relegated to the multi-channel home cinema on rear or effects duty. Brands like Wharfedale, Elac, and Dali proved, in recent years, that mini speakers can produce a mighty sound if they’re built and tuned to do so. As such, the format has gained acceptance not just as a utility speaker, but as something that can front a high-quality 2-channel system with or without the backup of a subwoofer. I’ve always appreciated a pair of small bookshelf speakers. I’m not a bass junky, though I do like rock and I like it loud. I find I prefer the low-end accuracy and detail afforded by smaller cabinets that is considerably harder to achieve with a larger cabinet where panel resonance is harder to control.

The speakers come well wrapped in foam and the now ubiquitous cloth bags, with some moisture-absorbent gel packets and a neat document envelope adding to the presentation. My first impression was of a speaker with considerable weight for its size. The cabinets are a lot smaller than I thought they’d be, standing just 232 mm (9.1″) tall by 135 mm (5.3″) wide by 246 mm (9.7″) deep. The proportions give the illusion of a smaller speaker when viewed from the front, with the added depth making up the cabinet volume which is close to that of the classic BBC LS3/5A monitor.

The Magnats are rear ported and can benefit from some room to breathe behind them. The terminals stick out like a sore thumb, though I was pleased to note there were only two of them—no pandering to any of that bi-wiring nonsense here. They’ll take banana plugs, spades or stripped wire and are nicely spaced apart in a solid block of milled aluminium. Polarity is clearly marked with etched lettering that can be felt as well as seen, and though perhaps not in line with the rest of the cabinet aesthetically, the components are all of excellent quality.

Turning to the front we find cloth grilles, secured magnetically to the Torx screws that secure the front baffle. Removing the grilles shows off the two-way driver configuration with a multi-layer cone mid bass driver and soft dome tweeter with a large roll surround, offering higher cone excursion than typical domes to allow for a smoother transition and lower crossover point. The tweeter is mounted to the aluminium baffle, secured from behind with a mounting bar and a blob of some kind of damping compound.

The mid bass driver is bolted into the MDF enclosure. This arrangement isolates the drivers from one another, but positions them to maintain time alignment. In theory, this should help preserve top-end detail, as the vibration of the mid bass driver will have less impact on the movement of the tweeter above. The 115 mm (4.5″) mid bass driver is a multi-layer design, sandwiching a magnesium alloy between layers of ceramic oxide. The result is a stiff, inert structure, and the use of layered material should cancel out any resonance that the materials may exhibit.

The front baffle is a solid aluminium plate. It is beautifully milled and polished to an impeccable finish. The aluminium adds a lot of additional stiffness to the secondary MDF baffle behind, and the combination of the two materials should produce an inert baffle that has excellent natural damping. There are air-sealing gaskets between the two layers. The usual knuckle tap test shows no undesirable resonance in the cabinet sides, top or back, and the front produces a dead ‘thunk’.

The bottom of the cabinet integrates an isolation system comprising several components. Key among them are aluminium and 6 mm clear acrylic plates, both isolated from the cabinet and each other via machined aluminium rings into which are set elastomer rubber isolators. The effect is dramatic, with very little vibration reaching the supporting surface even when the speakers are playing at unsociable levels. The arrangement also adds visual appeal, giving the impression that the speaker is floating above the supporting surface. The heavy base lowers the center of gravity, vastly improving stability and giving the small cabinets considerable heft.

There are additional rubber feet screwed into the aluminium base which can be adjusted a few millimetres to level the speaker, though this should really be done with the feet of the stand. The feet could be removed and those threaded holes used to mount the speakers to wall brackets if necessary.

This isolation system is perhaps not ideal from an energy dissipation point of view, as it means less energy can be dissipated into the supporting surface and thus must be dissipated by the cabinet. But it does keep the speaker isolated from the supporting surface so well that you can place the speakers either side of a turntable with minimal effect (not recommended), or you can position them on furniture that is not acoustically ideal, such as a bookshelf or side table, and the amount of energy dissipated into the furniture will be minimal. And if you prefer stands made of glass sheet with steel columns, as many do for the modern aesthetic, the speakers won’t make the bands ring in sympathy with mid band energy.

Sensitivity is rated at 90dB (1W at 1M). This is optimistic given the small ported cabinet—roughly 86dB is more accurate in my estimation. Impedance is nominally 4Ω but can reach 3Ω. These will be a challenging load for weaker amps, but nothing a decent amplifier can’t handle. Frequency response appears to be fairly linear especially through the critical mid band, with bumps somewhere around 800Hz and a hair over 4kHz, both reduced significantly by stuffing a foam bung in the port to essentially transform the speaker from a bass reflex into an acoustic suspension design. Port tuning is around 60Hz and there is unfortunately a strong port resonance at around 800Hz, hence the mid band bump.

Regrettably I don’t have an accurate system to objectively measure loudspeakers, and to measure a loudspeaker in a way that will model its behaviour to the human ear in a room presents a whole load of challenges. I do know however that my preference is for a linear presentation, and I can hear obvious deficiencies in many loudspeakers, particularly in low-end refinement and mid band detail. My primary loudspeakers are acoustic suspension designs, which I prefer over ported designs. You get less artificial bass, and the bass you get is better controlled and a great deal more musical.

How do the Magnats sound? Quite astonishing, actually. My reference Hypex Nilai500 amplifiers provided the power, fed by the Topping A90D / EXT90 preamp combination. Sources were the WiiM Pro Plus, Topping D90LE with a Cambridge CXC CD transport, and a MacBook Pro for digital music, and the Technics SL-1200G turntable fitted with an Audio-Technica VM540ML and RigB LNR cartridge / headshell combination. The phono stage was the Classic Audio MM Pro. The system is about as linear as it gets, with almost immeasurable distortion and noise and a flat frequency response well beyond the audio band.

The Magnats sound a hell of a lot bigger than they are. I might not be a bass junky but I do like to feel some low end, and to be able to hear low end detail. I’m a drummer, a pianist, and a guitar player, and I know how those instruments react when you slam the beater into the kick drum, turn up the intensity with the left hand traversing the low octaves of the keyboard, or pluck and slap heavy gauge strings on a bass. There’s a feeling when that beater hits the drum and the air is forced against the resonant head. A piano, under the fingers of a competent player (which I certainly don’t claim to be) can reverberate the air in a way that makes music an almost tactile experience. A bass, through a big amp, or a power chord through an amp stack, can knock a person back. These aren’t feelings that small speakers can replicate.

At least, I didn’t think they could. The more I listened to the Magnat signature, the more I realised how cohesive and engaging it is. It can’t reproduce the thunder of a grand piano at realistic levels—not because of any deficiency in its design, but because of physics. But the bass that these tiny boxes can produce is genuinely astounding. Small active boxes use DSP to artificially boost the low end at the expense of distortion and a lack of amplifier headroom. Mini passive bookshelf speakers on the ends of perhaps the world’s most linear amplifiers usually sound a bit thin in comparison. Not the Magnats.

I like rock, and I like it loud. The Magnat signatures lapped up everything from Kiss to Rainbow, to Halestorm to Shinedown, and filled the 3M (10′) x 4M (13′) room without missing a beat. The top end, which extends to over 40kHz, is brimming with detail that carries right down through the mid band where the reproduction of vocals and stringed instruments is sublime. Tracks like “When I Reach The Place I’m Going” from Jessie Buckley’s Wild Rose soundtrack ably demonstrate the Magnat Signature’s every strength. The constant bass line underpinning the song is delivered with impeccable timing; the vocals hang in space between the loudspeakers; and the guitars and backing vocals, when they join the ensemble, fall perfectly into a cohesive presentation. The way the Magnat is able to separate musical layers and maintain cohesiveness is commendable. Every backing vocalist is given space to shine; every distinct tone and character is clearly audible.

The Magnats are not completely linear in the room. I noticed some mid band emphasis that brought vocals, particularly female vocals, to the forefront. Likewise violins, saxophones and the middle octaves of the piano. The midrange is forward slightly, but not so much that it makes the Magnats sound boxy, nor does it detract from the refinement of the low end or the glorious level of detail at the top end. They’re musically engaging if not strictly accurate. They’re the kind of speakers you can just listen to for hours on end, with all kinds of music, from rock to pop, from classical to country. Their character doesn’t change in low-volume listening, though the low end suffers a bit as is quite typical of small speakers. They do benefit from a bit of power behind them to perform at their best. An amp with a bit of ‘oomf’ (current and headroom, not just inflated power) is something I would advise.

As someone who appreciates engineering, I am always interested in any manufacturer in the audio industry who applies material science in their designs, not just clever marketing to resell old concepts as is too often the case. I requested the sample of the Magnat Signature Edelstein without giving any thought to how the speaker might sound, simply because I was impressed by Magnat’s use of material in an attempt to solve some of the real physical limitations most loudspeakers suffer. Not only does the Magnat’s material value and quality of construction far exceed my expectations, but so too does its performance. The Signature Edelstein are wonderful loudspeakers that deserve to be front and centre of a two-channel system. These are mini speakers with a massive sound and which represent something unusual in audio—genuine value for money. Highly recommended.

Copyright Audio Appraisal 2024.

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