Making business decisions to bring out a new product line in today's economy takes a lot of thought, planning and perhaps prayer. Bringing out a product that is a transition to a new "format" is even more of a challenge, but Canary Audio has gone and done just that by building a new transistor stereo amplifier that does not have a single tube in its chassis. Canary Audio has a cottage industry approach to building very high quality tube amplifiers and preamplifiers, using 300Bs and El34s. They build monoblock or stereo amplifiers, which can have as many as eight 300B's or EL34's per monoblock chassis. Having owned a pair of their Reference One monoblocks which use eight Western Electric 300B tubes per monoblock, I am very familiar with their quality, build and sound. It is safe to say for the last several years I clearly have been a "tube" guy, having started with Canary's CA160 monoblocks with their eight EL34 tubes per chassis.
Sitting in front of me is a large 190 pound crate that houses the new Magnus MA300 amplifier. Pulling off eight metal clips and eight woodscrews gives me my first glimpse of this monster amplifier. At 160 pounds and dimensions of 19" wide, 9.5" tall and 27" deep, this is one large and heavy piece of metal. The designers have very thoughtfully provided lifting handles at both ends of the amplifier to move it to wherever its final destination will be. This is a very handsome amplifier that should not cause any significant-other issues wherever it is placed in your home.
The Tube Hunt
The amplifier is equipped with one balanced XLR input per channel along with one single ended RCA input per channel. A small toggle switch is used for each channel to select the XLR or RCA input. There are two pairs per channel of high quality WBT binding posts for convenient bi-wiring or perhaps vertical bi-amping. The chassis is ultra solid and no mechanical or audio sounds are ever heard, it is totally silent in operation. The amplifier has very large rubber feet to eliminate any vibration. The amplifier comes with a power cord. However, the cord that is supplied degrades bass, detail, and dynamics that quickly come out when using a good quality power cord. I am using the Analysis Plus power oval 2 and Guerilla Audio power cords with excellent results.
The Musical Measurements
If you are a fan of listening to 20Hz organ music, you have found your nirvana and perhaps the ability to make some extra money by putting your sub-woofer up for sale on Audiogon. The Magnus 300 has superb sub-bass (10 Hz to 60 Hz) performance in that it has rigid control of the woofers, providing vivid bass with a huge presence. It is both dynamic and visceral, giving you the opportunity to feel what you hear. Bass in any range, and midrange (200 Hz to 3 kHz) are simply excellent, being detailed, clear and succinct in their presence and dynamics. There is no question that if the speakers you own have the ability to produce vivid, dynamic and tight bass, the Magnus MA-300 will deliver it.
The high frequencies (3 kHz and up) is one of the magical things the Magnus MA300 really gets right. There is always the usual audio reviewer verbiage of clear, detailed and a few tried others, however, the Magnus brings a magical level of naturalness to the music that is combined with dynamics and presence that moves the music onto a raised plateau of magical truth. Keb' Mo's music always has a lively background of percussion that most audio systems barely reproduce. In Keb' Mo's Slow Down [OKeh/550 Music, BK 69376] track # 2, "I Was Wrong" there are several passages with cymbals and a triangle that were clear and detailed as presented by the Reference Ones. With the Magnus, the presentation was more vivid and dynamically present and extremely natural. Playing a few minutes of anything Eva Cassidy sings will put you in audio heaven. Her Live at Blues Alley CD [G2-10046] is simply stunning on the Magnus MA300. You would really think that in cut # 2, "Stormy Monday" that you were live at Blues Alley listening to her. The Magnus just nails all of the smallest details of the music and makes them natural in their presentation and very dynamic in its presentation.
Attack with this amplifier is quick, accurate and very dynamic. The amplifier has the drivers in a vise grip control and does not let go. Be the music soft or loud, this amplifier has the punch and control to keep the music tight and natural. This same control and grip of the music, also delicately makes decaying notes real, clear and vibrant until that last nuance when the note is softly let go. Musical to the end you could say. Inner resolution issues with the Magnus are pretty much non-existent. If the music is there, regardless of how subtle or far away from the focal point of the room and music itself, it will be presented in a clear and vibrant natural sound, though still keeping its balance within the rest of the music.
Soundscape is the system's ability to reproduce the same sound as was presented in the original rooms recorded performance. This includes the width in front of the speakers, the width to the rear of the speakers, the depth behind the speakers and the extension of the music into the room. Most of this function, as it relates to the system, is related to the speakers location and placement in the room, along with the acoustics of the room itself and the interaction of any sound deadening or enhancing material that may have been added to the room. My room is 30 feet wide, 28 feet long and 9 feet tall and is without any walls internal to the room. The speakers are five feet off of the 30 foot rear wall and do not "see" a side wall for nearly 10 feet each side. The system has a full sound presence across the front of the room and to the sides. The rear soundscape reaches behind the speakers for about four feet. The Magnus has more than enough punch and power to fill the room with dynamic, clear and vivid music.
The system images very well in that it clearly reproduces a wide balanced presentation of the music. Within that music is produced the small and lighter nuances of cymbals, percussion and other instruments that are correctly located within the presentation as originally recorded. Nothing is lost within the music, rather it is vividly and dynamically present as recorded, even when it is apparent that this was a soft passage and was far away from the microphone.
The fit and finish of the Magnus MA-300 is excellent. It is a very handsomely designed unit that conveniently has handles incorporated into the design to make moving its 160 pound weight easy. The detail work of the chassis is solid and well crafted; it is as solid as a rock. The detail of the wiring, circuit boards and soldering is impeccably done. As a result of the chassis being well constructed and the quality of components used, this amplifier makes zero noise (mechanically or electrically through the speakers). A component that costs $10,000 that can compete heads up in sound quality and build with $50,000 competitors has to be the best value for your money. In some reviews, one has to read between the lines on some performance issue of the component being reviewed. That clearly is not the case with the Magnus MA-300. It is has the performance to compete against amplifiers costing five times as much, it is a superb component. After a week of listening to the Magnus CA300 in my system, I bought it. I have also decided to buy a second Magnus amplifier to bi-amplify and bi-wire my system so I can enjoy the music even more. I think that says it all.