McIntosh MHA50 Portable Decoding Amplifier: Mc attack on the portable market

The McIntosh Labs MHA50 Portable Decoding Amplifier.

“Well I’m always on the run… alwaaaaaays on the ruuuuuuunn.” – Lenny Kravitz

I can’t keep up with everything anymore. I’ve accepted it, and despite protestations from my medulla oblongata (read: lizard brain) that I must keep up, (burdened as I am with an Irish work ethic) I’m actually (really, I mean it) becoming OK with not keeping up to the bleeding edge of everything in life. That doesn’t mean I’m not running around constantly. I am. So when I’m doin’ this, and I’m signin’ that it’s nice to have a slick DAP (Digital Audio Player) for listening to my music with. I hadn’t really been bitten by this particular audiophile bug until recently after spending a week with a very high-end portable device, and over-ear headphones. Once you’ve experienced this type of sound when you’re on the bus, grabbing groceries, working from your laptop while at a café, or just popping out to grab a cuppa, you can’t go back to your iPhone or Android ever again, and not be disappointed by the drop in SQ. So, when I saw this press release from the crew at McIntosh Labs, and learned that the big blue iron was muscling its way into the portable market with the brand new $700 USD/$870 CAN MHA50 Portable Decoding Amplifier, I needed to know more (keeping up again).

Take it with you.

The new player boasts Bluetooth® 4.1 with aptX™, a 32-bit DAC which supports 192kHz files, DSD256 and DXD384, and features asynchronous-USB capability. From a visual standpoint the MHA50 shares classic McIntosh lineage styling cues from its bigger brethren. Everything gets pushed out via a 3.5mm gold-plated analog jack which makes the MHA50 desktop friendly for computer audio, and I’m sure many will choose to also use it as a DAC for their big rig. Paired with a set of the McIntosh MHP1000 Headphones​ this would be a potent on-the-run combination for the music lover, and audiophile who just can’t stay tethered to a desk.

–Rafe Arnott

Connectivity galore via wireless, and wired inputs.

Press release below:

Binghamton, NY – September 27, 2017 McIntosh, the global leader in prestigious home entertainment and ultimate-quality audio for over 65 years, is proud to announce the MHA50 Portable Decoding Amplifier.

Nearly everyone walks around with most if not all of their music library in their pocket or bag where it’s readily accessible via a pair of headphones. While convenient, it likely doesn’t sound as good as it could. The new handheld MHA50 Portable Decoding Amplifier from McIntosh can make your music sound its best – and likely better than you’ve ever heard it before – through your headphones.

The MHA50 includes wired inputs for Apple® iOS devices as well as Android devices that are compatible with USB On-The-Go technology plus Mac® and Windows® computers. It can also wirelessly connect to these devices via Bluetooth® 4.1 with aptX™ technology that ensures you receive the highest possible sound quality from your Bluetooth source device. Featuring a high-performance 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC), it decodes music files from almost any digital source and outputs audio that is superior to what your device alone can produce. It supports 32-bit/192kHz hi-res audio, DSD256 and DXD384 files as well as asynchronous USB audio. Its 3,000 mAh rechargeable battery provides up to 6 hours of playback on a single charge when connected via Bluetooth; playback can last even longer when using the wired connections.

Comparably sized to smartphones, the MHA50 is compact and lightweight for easy portability with a beveled case that fits comfortably in your hand or pocket. Its sleek design features a glass front panel with a touch sensitive volume control knob inspired by the classic knobs found on countless McIntosh products. It’s built primarily from durable extruded aluminum which also has some inherent noise shielding properties to help block external interference. Two gain settings allow the MHA50 to work with all types of headphones from small in-ear models to large over-ear studio type designs like the McIntosh MHP1000 Headphones​ (sold separately); it can drive headphones with impedances ranging from 8-600 ohms. Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®) brings added dimension to your music in a natural sounding way and can be easily turned on and off depending on your preferences. All audio is output via a gold plated 3.5mm jack. This jack can also connect to a pair of powered desktop speakers, allowing the MHA50 to serve as a desktop DAC.

The MHA50 comes complete with three USB adapter cables to connect various devices, a leather carrying case, and a wall mount charger with USA plug and adapters for Europe and Japan.

Pricing and Availability
Orders for the MHA50 can now be placed with Authorized McIntosh dealers with shipping expected to begin in October.

Suggested retail price (VAT, shipping and any customs duties related to current standards of individual countries are excluded): $700 USD

About Rafe Arnott 389 Articles
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream