McIntosh Straddles Digital and Analogue
McIntosh has neatly sidestepped the debate over the merits of Digital versus Analogue by releasing a new Digital preamplifier and an analogue phono preamplifier.
You’ve got to admire the model designation used by McIntosh to highlight the difference of the new model’s circuitry. It’s assigned a capital “D” for the digits only D1100 preamplifier and the letters “MP” for the MP1100 phono preamplifier. The “P’’ no doubt denoting it’s phono. But what the “M’’ stands for is a bit of a mystery but it may relate to “M” for moving coil or moving magnet cartridges.
Model numbers aside, both new models are sure to set the pulse of McIntosh devotees racing thanks to their iconic styling and feature set.
McIntosh D1100 Digital Preamplifier
McIntosh regards the D1100 preamplifier as a reference class stereo preamplifier. High praise indeed since preamplifiers seem like a labour of Hercules for many designers who find it hard graft to yield truly great sounding models.
The challenge of designing circuits for low-level audio signals remains as much of a hurdle as it has been throughout audio’s history.
McIntosh says it has risen to the challenge with its D1100 model that also cleverly incorporates a high quality digital to analogue convertor (DAC) making it thoroughly modern and very useful in this era of digital downloads.
The D110’s 8-channel, 32-bit DAC is delivered in Quad Balanced mode with 50 per cent of it assigned to the left audio channel and logically the other half for the right channel. McIntosh says the D1100 is exceptionally accurate and musically authentic.
So much so, the brand regards this DAC as leading edge and its most advanced to date.
Connections on the D1100 abound. There are nine in total and these comprise 3 optical, 3 coaxial along with 1 each of MCT, AES/EBU and USB inputs. The latter will handle up to 32-bit/384kHz signals and it supports DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DXD 352.8kHz and FXD 384kHz playback.
The remaining inputs are also hi-res compatible and will handle up to 24-bit/192kHz signals.
There’s also good news for audiophiles chasing low-noise connections with the D1100 offering a choice of three sets of balanced outputs. And for those that don’t like the sound of balanced connectivity the D1100 has three unbalanced stereo outputs.
Ease of use was high on McIntosh’s bucket-list so all inputs can be renamed and its 4 data ports and 4 power control triggers are easily and fully programmable. IR and RS232 external controls are also provided.
Build quality of the D1100 is the stuff of audio dreams. It’s built into a highly polished stainless steel and hairline brushed black Titanium stainless steel chassis, and has a finish that makes new Porsche owners envious.
Headphone functionality and performance has wisely been addressed using McIntosh’s Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD) technology said to add better depth a sense of greater space to any soundstage.
Pricing is not yet confirmed, but expected to be around $13,995 RRP.
MP1100 Vacuum Tube Phono Preamplifier
The MP1100 is flexible and McIntosh have ensured it can be used separately or connected to the brand’s all analogue C1100 tube preamplifier using the provided umbilical cable making the C1100 the overall control unit.
McIntosh’s foray into digital doesn’t mean the brand has ignored its illustrious analogue heritage. The MP1100 valve, phono preamplifier is an analogue model built for high-end performance. McIntosh insists it is capable of immense level of detail and musical veracity. The MP1100 is also the brand’s first fully balanced valve phono stage.
Tubes used in the D1100 are a quartet of 12AX7A valves that are much prized by audiophiles. Many prefer them over the now commonly used 6922 tube pointing out that all things being equal, the 12AX7A is a much more sweeter and musical sounding valve. Two of these tubes per channel are used in a fully balance mode a configuration used for its lower noise potential.
Connections comprise 3 sets of RCAs inputs and 1 balanced XLR input. Provided as well are a pair of balanced and unbalanced high-level inputs. And yes, all phono inputs can be adjusted for resistance and capacitance values with 6 resistance settings and 8 for capacitance.
The MP1100 will provide gain for Moving Coil and Moving Magnet cartridges. It has also been programmed for McIntosh’s MT10 and MT5 turntables.
Flexibility is assured with a choice of five additional profiles and each can be fully customised and assigned to any input. Included are RIAA, LP, NAB, AES and 78 analogue equalization cures along with rare but useful analogue and rumble and scratch filters. A Mono setting has also been included.
The MP1100’s all important gain range covers 40dB to 64dB.
The MP1100 has a dual mono circuit and it can be used with any preamplifier, integrated amplifier or home theatre processor that has a volume control.
Pricing is not yet confirmed, but expected to be around $14,995 RRP.
McIntosh is available from Specialist Retailers.
One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, if there's a speaker he's likely heard it or owned it at some point in his career. Peter was formerly the audio-video editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades.
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