McIntosh: Channel the Power of the Grateful Dead
In the world of hi-fi, few brands can boast of a rich history spanning seven decades. McIntosh, one of the most recognised and distinguished brands in hi-fi today, provided the amplification for Woodstock in 1969, and a 28,000 watt "Wall of Sound" that powered The Grateful Dead's San Francisco concert in 1974.
The New York-based manufacturer has evolved over the years, and is as distinguished today as it was in those early years. Aside from a reputation built upon high quality and outstanding sound, McIntosh's signature is the combination of blue power meters and backlit logo.
This was the brainchild of Gordon Gow, hired by Frank McIntosh in 1946 to help him design amplifiers. At the time, they were not to know that this small yet significant token of branding would become so iconic, and a trademark of virtually all McIntosh products.
Raw, free-flowing and unadulterated power, much like early Formula One racing cars, yet refined and sophisticated like a modern Mercedes-Benz, that's McIntosh. Today's product range caters for the most discerning audiophile and those after the ultimate in home cinema, but also includes lifestyle products for the small apartment. It's their flagship hi-fi system that truly inspires, however.
Beginning with the MB100 Media Streamer ($10,995), it allows you to play music from any local or network storage within your home. Just in case you run out of content, it also allows streaming from virtually all of today's providers including Spotify, Tidal, Pandora and internet radio.
The MCD550 ($10,995) will handle your CD and Super Audio CD collection, extracting every last detail with four digital-to-analog converters per channel, along with additional digital inputs, including coaxial, optical, USB for connection to a laptop or other digital source.
Rounding up the source options, the MT10 turntable ($19,995) offers the best in analog playback, delivering all the subtle nuances of vinyl LPs. McIntosh takes the hard work out of vinyl playback by including an MC cartridge and setting up the turntable from factory. In trademark tradition, an illuminated speed meter takes residence front and centre.
The heart of the system is the C1100 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier ($11,995) comprising two separate components which completely isolate the control and power sections, resulting in the lowest noise of any McIntosh preamp ever produced. It includes six balanced inputs, four unbalanced inputs, and inbuilt MM/MC phono stage inputs.
Twelve vacuum tubes power the preamp, providing all the warmth and ambience that only valves can. Who doesn't love the nostalgia and glow of a tube? Finally, the all-important amplification is taken care of by McIntosh's statement pieces, MC2KW Mono Amplifiers ($69,995).
The amp system consists of three separate modules. Two 1000-watt power modules each contain half the circuitry and a power supply. The output module houses the input and output connections, power meter, and output transformer, while also functioning as the control centre.
The MC2KW features McIntosh's Quad Balanced circuitry design. In the process of creating such extraordinary power, this technology cancels virtually all noise and distortion that may have been introduced into the audio signal. It leaves a clean, pure signal that even when amplified to high levels remains as pure as when it entered the amplifier from the preamp.
As you would expect for an investment of more than $120,000, McIntosh is built to the highest standard, featuring polished stainless steel, glass and brushed aluminium, creating the timeless look that has become truly McIntosh. The brand can be found only in carefully chosen, hand-picked specialist dealers, and for good reason. It requires specialist knowledge and careful consideration to demonstrate and tailor to the customer's needs and application.
An in-store listen is an experience you likely won't forget.
McIntosh is distributed in Australia by Synergy Audio Visual.
Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald (February 17th, 2016). Republished with permission.
StereoNET's Founder & Publisher and still buried deep in the review room auditioning everything from docks to soundbars, amplifiers to headphones. Marc also founded Melbourne's International HiFi Show.
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