LA Audio Show 2017: McIntosh in a World of its Own

MC601 mono blocks in effect.

World of McIntosh is a brand name developed in 2015 by the longtime manufacturer’s parent company, Fine Sounds Group. Audiophiles who haven’t been paying close attention may be surprised to learn just how big that world is.


McIntosh, which was founded in 1949, for many decades has offered a fairly large catalog of electronics and speakers. But as it has gone through a series of acquisitions and corporate moves, it has become part of a larger family with numerous sister companies.

Some of that expanded universe could be glimpsed at the Los Angeles Audio Show. Indeed, visitors to its room may have thought they were entering the bridge of the USS Enterprise, surrounded by all the blue glowing dials.

Amati Tradition

Flanking a bank of those mesmerizing meters were several speakers from one McIntosh Group affiliate, Sonus Faber. On display were the Amati Tradition ($29,900/pair USD) and the Serafino Tradition ($21,900/pair USD). Both featured the graceful cabinet curves and gorgeous woodwork that Sonus Faber is known for.

Those transducers were being shown along with McIntosh gear that included the MT5 turntable with a Sumiko – also a McIntosh holding – Blue Point No. 2 cartridge ($6,500 USD), MP1100 phono stage ($8,000 USD), D1100 digital preamplifier ($7,000 USD), MCT 450 SACD/CD transport ($4,000 USD), MEN 220 room correction processor ($5,000 USD), MPC 1500 power controller ($5,000 USD), MC601 monoblock amplifiers ($7,000/each USD), MC275 tube amp ($7,000 USD), MCD 550 SACD player ($6,500 USD) and C2600 tube preamp ($7,000 USD).

The large McIntosh room, located on the ground floor of the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, was the first one I visited on Friday’s opening day. When I walked in, a system was playing that used much of the above equipment, with the amplification handled by the solid-state monoblocks, feeding the Amati speakers.

Digital voodoo.

The McIntosh staff cued up the new remaster of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “A Day in the Life” and the title track showed the aural cleansing and re-imaging accomplished by Giles Martin, son of the group’s longtime producer, the late George Martin.

In particular, the gear made it easy to recognize the new stereo mix, which revised the vocal and instrumental layering to be closer to what was heard on the original Beatles-approved mono mixes.

The McIntosh-Sonus Faber-Sumiko system had a lively overall sound, with a fairly extended top end, uncluttered midrange and tuneful bass.

Another selection, “Unchain My Heart” by Ray Charles, confirmed the rig’s adept reproduction of distinct vocalists. Bass on the Charles track also had good pace and melded cohesively into the sonic picture.

laas-2017-triode-banner7Not far away on the same floor, another McIntosh Group holding, Audio Research, was making good sound in a room set up by Santa Monica, Calif.-based retailer Optimal Enchantment.

Along with other umbrella brands such as Pryma and Wadia, the McIntosh universe is big indeed. And, since much of it is on display at Best Buy’s Magnolia locations as well as numerous other retailers, it might be some of the easiest high-end equipment for the average audiophile to find and audition. Definitely a world worth visiting.