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Sardinia 2016: New from McIntosh Labs, with hands-on


Here in Sardinia, we got treated to another demo room fronted by Sonus Faber, but this time powered by McIntosh Labs electronics.

The display was an opportunity to see, hear and touch some of the newest gear from McIntosh, including the new C2600 preamplifier ($7,000), a single-box “trickle-down” version of their class-leading C1100 two-chassis pre, released last year. “Downscale” the C2600 may be, but it’s still rather very imposing in-person, with connectivity out the wazoo. This is a pre to build around. Tubes are all up-top, so don’t tuck it too far into the rack — you’re going to want to see those LED-lit tubes as they flick from yellow (startup) to green (all clear). Availability is scheduled for August.

From the press release:

The C2600 is a versatile preamplifier with an expansive set of 16 inputs to connect virtually all analog or digital music sources. Analog inputs include 3 balanced, 4 unbalanced plus 1 each dedicated Moving Magnet and Moving Coil phono inputs. Digital inputs consist of 3 optical, 2 coax, 1 USB and 1 McIntosh exclusive MCT connection. Three sets of balanced and unbalanced analog outputs connect the C2600 to the rest of the system. The C2600 features a 32-bit/384kHz, DSD digital-to-analog-converter (DAC) and is capable of decoding and playing DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 plus DXD 352.8kHz and DXD 384kHz. For headphone listening, the addition of Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®) brings an added dimension to the music. Home Theater Pass Thru allows for seamless integration into a multi-channel home theater system.

Also new, the MP100 phono preamplifier ($2,000). Note the small (relative) size; the footprint is commensurate with the McIntosh MHA-100 ($4,500) headphone amplifier. Think: personal audio stack! My understanding is that the MP100 is the first McIntosh stand-alone phono pre — and it’s pretty slick. It includes separate moving coil and moving magnet RCA inputs, with front-mounted mono switch and cartridge loading options, plus balanced and RCA outputs. The MP100 also includes one particularly unusual feature — a USB output. Yes, the MP100 also includes an analog-to-digital converter, so you can hook the pre right up to your computer to rip your needle drops at 24bits/96kHz. Availability is scheduled for August.

The last in the announcement section was the MVP901 ($5,500), perhaps the last disc spinner we’re likely to see from McIntosh in a world increasingly turning to streaming.

The MVP901 is a Blu-Ray player, and can all other audio-disc formats (including SACD). Disc decoding includes the latest home-theater audio codecs, but the player is a “bridge” in the sense that it isn’t 4k native (not surprising, as there really aren’t many ways to do that from disc), but it will upsample video to 4k for use with an out-board processor.

From the press release:

Blu-ray players are an integral part of any home theater system and the McIntosh MVP901 is designed to provide years of home entertainment enjoyment. With its ability to upsample 1080P and lower resolutions to 4K Ultra HD, it can breathe new life into a vast movie library and is a perfect complement to the 4K compatible McIntosh MX122 or MX160 home theater processor. Built in decoding of Dolby® True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ will put the viewer in the center of the action. The MVP901 can also pass the latest object-based 3D audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X™ and Auro-3D® to the compatible processor for truly encompassing surround sound. It fully supports 3D Blu-ray discs while state of the art processing power allows for ultra-fast playback start speeds. A variety of advanced adjustments can be made to color, image detail and video performance to improve picture quality. Not limited to just movies, the MVP901 is also great for listening to music. CDs, SACDs and DVD-Audio discs can be enjoyed via an 8-channel, 32-bit/192kHz DAC that’s used in stereo quad balanced mode to produce high fidelity audio. The HDMI output can be used for multi-channel music playback. A triple laser optical pickup uses one objective lens for the different wavelengths and is optimized for various disc types. Three USB ports allow playback of audio and video files from flash drives. Network streaming and BD-Live is available through the ethernet connection.

Probably the most interesting McIntosh product in-play at the moment, however, was the one found at the top of the audio rack and actually in-play, the MB50 Streaming Audio Player ($2,000). The MB50 is the same form-factor as the MP100, which brings to mind daydreams of a desktop-friendly personal audio stack, but the MB50 has some very sophisticated features. Yes, it’s a streamer — and it’s perfectly capable of pulling Tidal from either it’s included Wi-Fi or Ethernet interfaces. But where things get interesting is that it’s also a wireless target — that is, you can send to it directly from your … whatever. And not with Bluetooth. Instead, the MB50 uses the new DTS Play-Fi system, which lets you stream over Wi-Fi up to 24/48. That is, it’ll do this today. This summer, Play-Fi will see an inline upgrade to 24/192 — and then we’ll be cooking with gas. A free IOS/Android app is all you need, and Tidal gets flung via Play-Fi to your rack — losslessly hi-res, baby. Nice. The MB50 includes RCA and balanced outputs, as well as a headphone jack, too, just in case.

The presenters this week made a big deal out of Play-Fi and how it’s not only found in the MB50, but also in the RS100 personal audio system and the new Sonus Faber SF16 (the first run of which, apparently, is already sold out), which makes Play-Fi something of a de facto standard across the rather influential McIntosh Group.

Side note: the MX160 will be getting v2.0 software in August as well. Keep an eye out for the list of upgrades there.

All of this was in-room, parallel and next to the Audio Research demo happening next door. Here, the setup was ver similar. Shunyata cables wired up the McIntosh audio rack to the imposing Lilium loudspeakers ($70k/pair). I’ve not had much opportunity to fondle ogle listen to flagship-level Sonus Faber loudspeakers, so this was quite a treat. The monster speakers, which like the smaller Il Cremonese, is a 3.5-way speaker with a rhomboidal cabinet, differs here in both size and capacity — the Lilium is reportedly able to reach down to 20Hz and up to 35kHz, and features an up-firing “infra woofer” to help achieve that goal. I might have drooled on this speaker, a little.

The room itself was identical to the one next door, so again, I was expecting “show conditions”, but that wasn’t to be. With the MEN220 room correction system ($5k) in-place, the room was irrelevant and the sound was full, enveloping and luscious. Also in the rack, the C1100 preamplifier ($13k), the MPC1500 power conditioner ($5k), a pair of massive MC601 monoblocks ($7k each), a D150 digital preamplifier/DAC ($3k) and an MCT450 disc player ($4k).

I’ll offer that I’ve heard all-McIntosh setups before. Many times, actually. This was better. This was excellent. Man oh man, those blue meters (the exact shade of which, I’m told, is trademarked) and those green back-lit logos and fat little knobs are sexy. WANT.

About Scot Hull (979 Articles)
Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.

1 Comment on Sardinia 2016: New from McIntosh Labs, with hands-on

  1. The food and wine of Sardinia and the opportunity to enjoy cool new HiFi components. I am jealous!

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