Magic Cube loudspeakers
as reviewed by Victor Chavira, Larry Cox, and Sherman Hong
I spent quite a bit of time with the Samadhi Magic Cubes, diminutive speakers that are about eight inches square on each side. Their size belies the size of the images they create, as well asand more importantly to metheir timbre. While my ATC SCM 20s rightly have a reputation for being transparent, they also communicate the richness of wooden guitars, stand-up bass, etc. The Samadhis also bring a richness of timbre that can make a stereo a reasonable surrogate for the live experience.
Ive mentioned in these pages that Im not particularly taken by imaging phenomena. Ill recant that for now. The Samadhis image like no ones business, in a way that is really engaging, even with my girlfriends modest Sony system. Images werent razor sharpare they in real lifebut they were easily identifiable, and in a specific space.
Even Simones system produced images that were utterly disarming. Although a low-resolution system with her normal speakers, with the Samadhis her setup became a great little system for way less than $2000. I expect what a lot of readers are going to have a problem with is that, at $1300, the Magic Cubes compete with the Vandersteen 2Ces, the PSB Silver Stratus (if they are still available), the Thiel 0.5s, and so on, all of which are bigger speakers which put out more bottom end. This is undeniable, but the Samadhis are that rare treat which allows you to have a life. They dont shout AUDIO NUT, and they let you take back the space youve sacrificed to the audio altar without giving up great sound. I dont think any similarly-priced speakers exceed the Magic Cubes ability to recreate vocals. Midrange reproduction with the Samadhis is very good. Reeds sound like reeds, horns sound brassy. You dont get the same "blattiness" with a trumpet that you get with the ATCs, or perhaps the little Thiels, but you get nearly as much.
The Magic Cubes dont go deep, but they go deep enough to satisfy me, and do so pleasantly. You wont get bass wallop, and youll likely be unhappy if you listen to synthesized bass or a lot of acoustic piano. You dont get it all at any price. Ultimately you are forced to accept a compromise. What will yours be? I think that I could happily live with the Samadhi Magic Cubes and have a satisfying system for a lot less money. No, Im not selling my ATCs. I like their dynamism and ability to play loudly. The overall sound, though not the images, of the Samadhis sound smaller. Although I really enjoyed the Samadhis ability to image, which is way better than the ATCs, I dont prize that ability above the other things the ATCs do so well. In fairness, the ATCs are more dynamic than virtually any other speakers Ive heard.
There is magic in the Samadhi Magic Cubes. They are tolerant of
inexpensive equipment, sound surprisingly open and rich in timbre, with an engaging
performance of vocals, reed instruments, and brass instruments. Their size allows them to
disappear in your room. Enjoyable, easy to live with, and recommended.
The Magic Cubes by Samadhi belong to class of loudspeaker that attempts to recreate the live musical experience by casting a widely dispersed soundfield. Since the earliest days of audio, speaker designers have tried to capture the live musical experience through the use of multicell horns, open baffles, wave guides, and drivers facing in every conceivable direction. Personally, I prefer the sound of a widely dispersed soundfield over the tightly focused one favored by many audiophiles. A widely dispersed soundfield mimics the way I experience music with the musicians I jam with on a regular basis. Several speakers today utilize rear-facing tweeters to create a greater sense of ambiance. However, no other speaker maker that I know of has gone so far as to aim the woofer away from the listenertowards the ceilingas is the case with the Magic Cubes.
The Magic Cubes are surprisingly small. Each eight-inch cube contains a four-inch aluminum cone woofer on the top surface and a one-inch soft dome tweeter facing forward. The woofer is of exceptional quality, with a pointed conical phase plug and butyl rubber surround. A small one inch port is located on the rear. The Cubes perform best when placed on sturdy 28-inch stands and no more than two inches from the front wall.
Thats righttwo inches, not two feet. This close proximity to the facing wall is a critical element in the Ceiling Boundary Ambiance Enhancement (CBAE) formula. Unlike nearly all speakers in high end audio, with which judicious use of room tuning devices is mandatory, here are speakers which announce, "Give me your walls, your ceilings, your right angles." (For a complete explanation of CBAE, contact Samadhi at the address listed at the end of this review.) CBAE seems to have been developed for the typical post-war suburban ranch house like mine. The dimensions of my listening/living room are 13 feet wide by 20 feet long. The ceiling is about ten feet high, and covered with white acoustic texture. The speaker side of the room is open to the dining and kitchen area
The Magic Cubes may be radical In their design principal, but in terms of the way they played music, they sounded remarkably familiar to this listener. The sound produced by this pair of audio dice is big, open, and spacious. Dont be misled by the speakers 84dB sensitivity rating. Im positive that that number reflects a measurement taken in free space. My 40-watt Anthem amp had no problem producing prodigious amounts of dynamic sound. In reality, one doesnt listen to the Cube, but to the facing wall and ceiling. Bass response was particularly impressive, especially for so tiny a speaker. With the ceiling and wall in its favor, the bass was full bodied and robust.
One difference I did notice between the Cubes and traditional two-way monitors is in the Samadhis imaging abilities. The Cubes provide plenty of contextual clues across the soundstage, which spans the breadth of the wall behind them. However, they did not produce a virtual, holographic image illusion in the manner of a reference-caliber mini monitor or panel speaker. Under the right conditions (well-recorded small groups and vocals), speakers such as Quads or Maggies are literally magical in their ability to clone a performer standing in free space. For me, this is the distinguishing factor in high quality audio. Your non-audio friends (normal people) will always have more of this or that. But when I want to introduce someone to the merits of high quality audio, its the way that my system renders the illusion of performers and instruments that makes an indelible impression.
One area in which the Magic Cubes outperformed my Maggies was with horn sections. The Cubes reproduced horn sections with spaciousness and air, in contrast to the sometimes beamy nature of my reference. Take, for example, the recent Miles Davis compilation called Love Songs. As rendered by the Cubes, Miles trumpet had an open and round quality, while bass, though not lacking, was ill-defined. My Magnepans will faithfully put an upright bass in my room. The trumpet, however, sounded thin and beamy by comparison. Another area of strength for the Magic Cubes was their high Wife Acceptance Factor. Even though I have the second-smallest Maggies in the line, they visually dominate the room when set up for listening, whereas the Cubes are up against the wall and out of the way, permanently. Youd have to go into the wall to find a more unobtrusive speaker. This is the Magic Cubes greatest appeal. The fact that these speakers capture most of what audiophiles listen for, in a package that doesnt take up prime living room real estate, should bring relief to a lot of tense relationships.
An area of concern about the Cubes is their sky-facing woofer. The speakers sounded best with their circular grills removed, but since the woofers have no true dust cap, airborne dust particles and pollution may find their way into the voice coil gap and compromise performance over time. Also, the Magic Cubes rosewood vinyl veneer seemed out of place in a speaker at their price point. In fact, judging from their merits alone, I believe the Magic Cubes are too expensive. As a result, I recommend them with some reservation. If Samadhi can find a way to build Magic Cubes at a lower price point, or license their design to a more efficient manufacturer, I would recommend them wholeheartedly. They are enjoyable and noteworthy speakers. Victor Chavira
Are you kidding? I thought Id received one speaker, not a pair, until I opened the box and inspected the Samahdi Magic Cubes. The Samahdis are definitely the tiniest high end speakers Ive ever seen. They may be small, but they are heavy for their size. The driver configuration can be disconcerting to audiophiles; the tweeter faces forward and the woofer faces up! The Cubes have beautiful binding posts and a tweeter level control. Leafing over the manual, I experimented with a medley of arrangements. Placement seems especially finicky with the Samahdis, as a quarter of an inch shuttled them from jangle to harmony. My preference: 3 feet from the back wall, 39 inches from the side walls, the tweeter level control at neutral, and the tweeters aimed directly at the listening seat.
I was smitten by the performance of these little tots. Their build and musical accomplishments were simply smashing! The Samahdis transformed my conception of the capabilities of small speakers. On disc after disc, the music projected beyond the confines of my listening area. The soundstage was deep, wide, and life-sized. It was hard to imagine that these diminutive cubes were the source of so much sound. On the reissue of her self-titled album, Helen Merrill was enlivened. Her abrading but soulful voice was mesmerizing. On the Fairytales CD, Radka Toneffs vocals, along with Steve Dobrogoszs piano, were eerily present. Inflections in both voice and piano were exhibited effortlessly.
Although the dimensional aspects and transparency were not as exemplary as with my reference speakers, the authenticity of the presentation was inspirational. Only a handful of small speakers are capable of displaying such poise. The Samahdis are right up there with the Watts, the Ensemble Reference, Acoustic Energy, ProAc, etc.
The Magic Cubes exhibited manners similar to planar and ribbon transducers. The forward-facing tweeter and upward-firing woofer worked in unison, with no shrillness that could strain or contract the music. Ample detail and extension are offered, though lacking was the silky sheen that Im accustomed to. The Samahdis swift coherent nature beautifully recreated subtle changes in tempo. Astonishing bass output passed through the Lilliputian Cubes. The bass quality and quantity were copious, even for cabinets twice their size. The KEF C-35s in my study have less to offer. Drums on Outlandos DAmour by the Police were in attendance; so was the low end assault on Cracked Rear View by Hootie & The Blowfish. The bass was acutely taut and tight, though a bit bodiless and buoyant compared to my reference. The Samahdis didnt pretend to register the abysmally deep synthesizer notes on Enyas Watermark, but the obtainable yield was poignant. For a bass lover, closer proximity to the back wall or incorporation of a subwoofer could enrich the Samahdis, but that manifests an entire new set of scenarios. On most music this configuration will suffice.
Im beyond amazement at the Samahdis. For me, the Cubes set a new criterion for
mini-monitors. Genuinely surprising were their life-size presentation, suave
synchronization, and their fabulous vanishing act, in addition to the bass magnitude.
While I had several amplifiers on hand, the Acoustic Masterpiece M-101 (reviewed
previously) was an angelic match. Other mid- to high-powered amplifiers worked in similar
manner. For all but techno/rap music lovers, the Samahdis deserve an earnest audition.
Dont let their size deter you. As with most things in life, more is not always
Samadhi Acoustics' Magic
Samadhi Acoustics, Ltd