American products are becoming more attractive to foreign buyers because of the weaker dollar, and companies that do not have an international presence are in a very probable disadvantage. One of the companies that is able to sustain its U.S. and international market amidst our current tumultuous state of economy is McIntosh.
According to Ron Cornelius, McIntosh’s Product Manager, the company’s products continue to find their ways into American and foreign homes, despite the current state of economy. Ron is of the opinion that it is vital for the survival of any U.S. company in our current economy to export. Naturally, when the consumers begin to pinch their pennies in audio-related purchases, the final choice will always rest with products bearing the most recognized and thus, most assuring name brand.
Being one of the most well-established names in American audio business, McIntosh is not only large unaffected by the economic woes felt by many companies, it is even engaged in a continuous, vigorous R&D program.
When I wrote the first McIntosh Open House article in 2006, I bore witness to the emergence of the industry’s first $35,000, 3-chassis, single-channel, 2,000-watt MC2KW power amplifier. Ken Zelin, a consultant for McIntosh, gave one of the most inspiring demonstrations on just how much power is needed to reproduce music of uncompressed dynamics faithfully. The choice of speaker in that demonstration was naturally the company’s then-latest, $100,000-per-pair XRT2K system, a 7-foot tall, 425-pound monolith loading the room with its six 12-inch aluminum woofer, sixty-four 2-inch inverted titanium dome midrange and forty ¾-inch titanium dome tweeters.
▼ XRT2K loudspeaker system, C1000 preamplification, MC2KW power amplification
But now it is 2008, and McIntosh will certainly not disappoint its many loyal customers who have been yearning for less expensive products, and has thus distilled the prowess of its aforementioned top designs during the interval to come out with a new power amplifier. The $11,000, new MC1.2KW single-chassis monoblock amplifier outputs 1,200 watts into 8, 4 or 2 ohms, and is endowed with the same THD and IMD figures as that of the MC2KW: 0.005%. The bigger news possibly for other McIntosh fans is the release of a smaller version of the XRT2K loudspeaker system, called the XRT1K.
This latest, second-to-flagship model stands a little over 7 ½ feet and has two 10-inch LD/HP® (Low Distortion/High Performance) Extended Excursion woofers, forty-four 2-inch Black Titanium midrange units and twenty-eight ¾-inch Black Titanium dome tweeters. Ken Zelin was again available for demonstrations and the mini-seminars. According to Ken, the driver magnets used in the XRT1K is of a more advanced and compact type than that used on the XRT2K, allowing for a denser driver arrangement, which translates into symmetrical dispersion patterns that ensure a more uniform listening experience at multiple listening positions.
The best part of the news is that the tri-wiring XRT1K weighs only 170 pounds despite its full-aluminum construction, just right for the reviewer to move around for referencing purposes, and can be had for $35,000 the pair.
A piece of news that is perhaps bigger yet than the above has to be the release of the company’s first turntable, the $9,500 MT10. It features a 2.5-inch thick, 12-pound CNC platter machined from special silicone acrylic material, a magnetic air damped bearing that spins the platter in midair, a Swiss-made DC brushless motor that is monitored by a new electronic system that “references 1,595 strobe markings per revolution of the platter”, a custom tonearm of dural-aluminum arm-tube gimbaled in two horizontal sapphire and two vertical ceramic bearings for minimal friction, a custom-matched moving-coil, elliptical MCC10 stylus housed in an ebony body, external power supply, super mirror chassis finish, preset tracking force, anti-skate and cartridge positioning. Weighing 62 pounds, the MT10 from McIntosh is a remarkably thoughtful engineering feat that aims at producing superlative performance with virtually the same operational ease of a CD player.
McIntosh’s launch of the MT10 has caught one particular Dagogoan’s attention: Phillip Holmes. Upon reading the specifications of the MT10, he has the following to offer: “I’ve had a Well Tempered Record Player and Versa Dynamics that used unconventional bearings, both of which were very quiet. I’m sure the MT10’s magnetic air damped bearing is even quieter. DC motor is good since AC cogging seems to send a 60Hz musical signal into the platter. Massive platter is always good for its mass in a platter and/or base. Solid plinth has speed stability that spring suspensions lack. I’ve been working on a TD124 project which is solid plinth, my other two tables are a Denon DP80 with SME V and the Versa Dynamics. For me, the primary sound of any turntable combination is the arm/cartridge match. If you’ve picked a cartridge that matches the compliance of the tonearm, then sonics are going to be very good. That’s followed by a well built chassis/base/plinth to hold everything in relative position and prevent feedback from outside stimuli. If the motor is good and the speed stable and the bearing quiet, then it comes down to the tonearm/cartridge combination. Obviously the platter/record interface is very important, but no two people can agree on whether it is better to clamp, screw or weight the record down, whether it is good to have vacuum hold-down or a periphery ring, whether the mat be rubber, felt, leather, glass, metal, etc…. As long as the platter isn’t full of vibration, the owner can always tweak and use clamps/mats as final tuning devices to get the sound just right.”
The MT10 is simply perfect for the digital audiophile to get into serious vinyl collecting without having to worry about name brand worthiness and matching the turntable with the right tonearm and headshell and cartridge. It is also noteworthy that McIntosh is the first company to break the faceless turntable category and give the vinyl source a full front-panel treatment. Very savvy. McIntosh holds illustrious past in its MC240 and MC275 amplification offering, and loyal McIntosh owners now will have a turntable with the faceplate to match.
McIntosh also introduced a more version of the 3-chassis, C1000 preamplification system introduced in 2006, dubbed the C500. Similar to the C1000 system’s arrangement, there is the $6,000 C500P solid-state chassis and a $6,000 C500T tube chassis for partnering with the $6,000 C500C, dual-chassis controller. I didn’t have a chance to audition the C500P with either the “P” or “T” section; but I was able to listen to the $10,000 C1000C reference preamp controller with both the $10,000 C1000P solid-state stage and the $10,000 C1000T tube stage, and I thought the solid-state stage had markedly more expeditious dynamic transients and microdynamics. The C1000T tube section, on the other hand, transformed the entire amplification system, with a pair of the 3-chassis MC2WK solid-state monoblocks and the XRT2K loudspeaker downstream, into producing a distinctly silky, reverberating sound with massive dynamics that many SET aficionados would love to have.
▼ Top to bottom: C500C, C500T, C500P
For readers looking for a single-chassis solution, there is the $6,000 C2300 tube preamplifier. The C2300 offers built-in MC and MM phono Inputs supported by separate pairs of 12AX7a-based dual triode tube circuits, memorized Bass, Treble and Mono settings for each Input and three power-amplifier Outputs. User can even adjust cartridge impedance and loading while the record is playing.
▼ Left to Right: MC2300 tube preamplifier, MC252 solid-state stereo power amplifier
Ken Zelin devoted considerable portion of his mini-seminar to introducing the $6,000 MS750 Digital Music Server. This machine comes with a lifetime subscription to Gracenote, an online music store, for access to over 4 million CD titles to date, and the MS750 owner can store the music in the unit’s 750 GB internal hard drive and burn it to disc via the built-in CD burner. In fact, the staff of House of Music took my piano CD and uploaded the contents into the MS750 for demonstration purpose. Interested readers now can ask the staff to play my favorite disc, if it has not been deleted yet.
▼ MS750 Digital Music Servier
In the Owner’s Manual, McIntosh proclaims the MS750 as “a complete media solution for storing, managing, and listening to your music.” (Owner’s Manual, 19 MB pdf file)
For readers who have read Dagogoan Doug Schroeder’s review of the $3,000 (now $4,000), MA6300 solid-state integrated amplifier in this Issue (April 2008, Top-Of-The-Month), there is the $8,000 MA7000 for the power-hungrier loudspeakers. The MA7000 weighs in at 98 pounds and outputs 250 watts at 8-, 4- and 2-ohm loads.
▼ MA7000 integrated amplifier
It has been a while since the last time a company launches such an impressive array of products, most especially in the state of economy we’ve been in for the last few years. McIntosh is to be congratulated. I can’t wait until the next time McIntosh holds another open house.
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