Vancouver 2015: Hi Fi Centre and McIntosh Labs


by Rafe Arnott

Vancouver-Audio-Show-CustomImagine my surprise running into Tom Cruise at the Vancouver Audio Show.

OK, well it wasn’t exactly Tom Cruise but Andrew Ward of McIntosh could pass for the Risky Business star and he was rocking the Wayfarers while serving up some fabulous white-guy moves no matter how many times his McIntosh co-worker Scott Newbrough begged him to stop.

He would not be stopped.

I don’t blame him, the room was absolutely rocking at stadium-volume levels (plus I was egging him on to Moon dance).

Ward and Newbrough served up the funnest room at Vancouver 2015 in the Hi Fi Centre‘s all-McIntosh set up. These two were riffing like a pair of AM radio, early-morning, mid-’80s disc jockeys and spinning an eclectic mix off a MacBook streaming Tidal and I’m here to tell you; it sounded pretty damn good.

Andrew said one of the goals of the room was to show how good a McIntosh system could sound with a stripped-down set-up (as much as McIntosh can be stripped down) using a laptop and a streaming source.

Utilizing the somewhat-iffy hotel wi-fi the two managed to succeed in making mp3 files sound way better than they had any right to.

The set-up I heard consisted of everything plugged into a PC-1500 power controller ($5,000) a pair of MC 301 mono blocks ($5,000 each), driving a pair of XR-100 speakers ($10,000), a C-2500 DAC/pre-amplifier ($7,000) and using all AudioQuest cabling.

The sound was a rollicking good time that I would describe as the ultimate college kegger: big, loud, expansive and detailed with a slightly euphonic tinge that served to reveal the tubed pre-amp and warmed everything up.

The XR-100s served up excellent soundstaging and never hinted at strain, especially in the highs, despite the really, really, really loud SPLs going down.

Distortion was non-existent despite the low-res source files being used. A testament to McIntosh’s Quad Balanced Autoformer design in the 300w amplifier.

And you can’t help but sit there in a bit of drugged state just taking in all that glowing green and black goodness that defines McIntosh to so many.

I can see why budding audiophiles turn to the black and green when they start to put together their first systems, it’s a true classic with great sonic attributes that ticks a lot of boxes for many people and seems to age well and has incredible resale value.

While it’s difficult for me to truly comment, ultimately, on the sound this system was capable of reproducing due to the mp3 files being used, I enjoyed myself immensely during my time in the room.





About Rafe Arnott 389 Articles
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream

1 Comment

  1. Hi Rafe

    I wasn’t there but it was most likely they were using Tidal’s 16 bit cd resolution streaming service not MP3 s

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