A Day in the Life With Dr.
Jim and Abigail Langham, Behold electronics
and The Magical Magico Ultima loudspeakers
There is a fifth dimension
beyond that which is known to man. It is a
dimension as vast as space and as timeless
as infinity. It is the middle ground between
light and shadow, between science and
superstition, and it lies between the pit of
man's fears, and the summit of his
knowledge. This is the dimension of
imagination. It is an area, which we call
the Twight Zone
one start when attempting to write about the
audio experience of a life-time? Fresh from
all the sights and sounds of another busy
and hectic CES, I set my sights further west
to Oakland, CA as a guest of music
connoisseur, Dr Jim Langham (who, in his
spare time, is a long time and
well-respected ophthalmologist whose worked
in the San Francisco - Bay area for over 40
experience, when it relates to listening to
something this visually and sonically
imposing - not to mention the obvious HUGE
financial outlay - proved utterly humbling.
It also served as a very rare glimpse and a
true example of what is possible in the here
and now if your musical passions runs this
deep (and you've a wallet to match).
Alon Wolf's Magico loudspeakers, in whatever
model, became industry darlings overnight.
And for good reason: they have a refreshing
look, are designed flawlessly and more
importantly produce a magnificent sound.
Wolf's most radical design is a multi-driver
horn of which only three-pair exist and Dr.
Langham is one fortunate owner. With a
retail price of nearly $400k, one can only
imagine what these behemoths sound like if
Wolf's least expensive Magico (model V2s @
$18k) gained high praise in the press along
with a huge fan base.
Now, try to
imagine my experience of hearing the Magic
Ultimas strapped to FIVE of the most
versatile high-end amplifiers in the world:
The Behold BPA-768 stereo amplifiers and the
super-sophisticated 12-channel APU-768
preamp replete with its own Digital to
Analogue converters (DACs), room-correction
and an active 10-channel digital crossover
with manual phase and time alignment
capabilities. All these features dear reader
are nestled inside a single chassis. More
impressive is each Behold amplifier houses
eight DACs per-channel: All eight DACs are
designed to cascade and thus upsample to
768-bit resolution. Steve Balliet of
Reflection Audio serves as Langham's setup
genius and trust me, after dinner with
Balliet and Langham discussing their goals
and sonic objectives via mathematical
equations - and the ensuing brain cramps the
came ala Behold's Ralf Ballmann - there' s
no question Balliet's qualified for the job
of syncing this system together and getting
it to sound its best.
sounding electronics ever? What's the best
wristwatch? Automobile? That's a silly
question often asked in this hobby.
The reality is, there's no such thing
because "best" is totally subjective.
Besides, there's always something on the
horizon that's going to up the ante anyways
which makes the entire notion slippery and
elusive at best. Most versatile? Now that's
a good question. And yes, I would qualify
the Behold series of high-end electronics as
the most versatile I've ever seen. It's no
coincidence that both Jean Yves and Dr.
Langham employ room correction in otherwise
excellent acoustic spaces (Yves using my
former reference Tact 2.2XP). Moreover, both
their rooms seem more than adequate when it
comes to size. Both, if I guesstimate, are
about 25' feet across with about 40' deep
while the listening chair and sweet-spot was
still about 10' to 12' (max) from the
amplifiers in Dr. Langham's system are
totally inconspicuous as they're housed below
in his basement directly below each
loudspeaker (I did get the chance to give
them a peak but with a very low ceiling and
no hard-hat, I dared not venture past the
doorway) Serguei Timachev's Stealth Audio
Dream Series cables are shown going through
the floor to the sublevel where five Behold
amplifiers are housed.
Langham discussing more tweaks with the
tweak-miester himself Jack Bybee.
A set of
Bybee Golden Goddess Speaker Bullets are
used to great sonic consequence on all three
Ale compression drivers, and the huge TAD
mid-bass horn. Shakti Onlines and
Hallographs were also used to great extent.
width and depth of the Magico Ultimas is far
more intimidating when you're standing next
to them. Pictures do very little justice.
Langham's nicely decorated ranch-style home
is adorned with fine African art.
When I last
visited Paris back in the fall of '04, I had
the unique opportunity to hear Jean Yves
Kerbrat's 6-way horn system. This
provided a performance benchmark from a horn
system as far as I was concerned. Clearly,
the best sounding system I've heard... until
a few weeks ago when I sat before the mighty
2000, I visited Singapore and Japan to hear
the new series of tube electronics from
Zanden Audio. Here, they were strapped to a
pair of 99-dB sensitive Sawada Audio
Tutankhamen loudspeakers which employed four
lowther drivers employed, by design, to
excite the listening space more than the
listener ala the Bose direct/reflect slant.
In many respects, and mostly with classical
music, I never heard a more honest and
harmonically true transducer.
recent experiences of walking the halls at
the Venetian and the S.H.O.W. - reliving all
the wonderful exotic sounding setups I heard
are duly documented in my show coverage. By
comparison to what I heard listening to the
Magico Ultimas with Behold electronics,
everything I heard at CES, in Paris or Japan
pales by comparison.
Wadia and Goldmund CD as dedicated
transports, the life-like sense of scale
Langham's system is capable of proved
absolutely astonishing. Dynamics? I never
heard anything this dead quiet and then
instantly LOUD. I heard voices so delicate,
yet so "there" while simultaneously other
instruments appeared further recessed into
the soundstage yet so tangible. Hard to
describe. After hearing this for more
than an hour, I developed a new-found
respect for the term three-dimensional. Big,
bold and musical, I would qualify it as the
sonic equivalent of an IMAX movie. It got to
the point where I began second-guessing if
certain sounds from songs I knew intimately
were actually coming from the loudspeakers
Yes, it got
really spooky quiet.
even as I attempt to share the experience
with you I'm just lost for words. Both Jack
Bybee and I just sat there after each song
looking at each other just mumbling to
ourselves. There are no words that can ever
fully explain what I actually felt
while listening to this system.
think, Langham says he's not finished.
There's new Behold software updates and
Scaena subwoofers on the horizon for an even
more tight and tuneful low-end. When those
are implemented he wants me back for another
would say I'm fortunate to have owned Behold
as my reference for more than five years.
Yeah, life has been good. Not as good as the
Langhams but I'm having so much fun, I've no
time to complain. Shucks, whenever I want
IMAX sound all I have to do is give the good
doctor a call.