For a company that has kept the style of its gear virtually unchanged for decades, McIntosh maintains a steady of flow of innovative products. They resemble past units, of course, but all seek to offer something new. The latest intriguing project from the company, a tubed integrated amplifier, blends vintage and modern technologies.
A preproduction model of the McIntosh MA252 was on silent display at the RMAF. The MA252 channels the look of McIntosh products of yesteryear, with exposed tubes and stainless-steel trim, while also incorporating the illuminated blue-on-black lettering of later models.
RMAF was the U.S. sneak peek for the MA252 (it has been shown in Japan), so naturally I was inquisitive. McIntosh hasn’t even formally announced the product yet, so I called spokesman Mark Christensen for the 411.
While there were a few details he couldn’t discuss yet, I did get the basics. The MA252 actually is a hybrid, with 100 watts per channel of solid-state power, coupled with a preamp section that utilizes four tubes (two per side). The integrated amp will come with two unbalanced inputs, one balanced input, an MM phono input and a headphone jack. Cost and the release date have yet to be nailed down, but customers won’t have to wait too long.
“We’ll probably announce the MA252 soon, and it’ll likely ship before the end of the year,” Christensen told me.
So, there’s your scoop. As far as what was actually playing in Denver in the room, McIntosh – as usual for the company at shows – unleashed its big guns. The rig included MC601 monobloc amplifiers (600 watts/channel, $7,000 USD each), D1100 preamp/DAC ($6,500 USD), MT5 turntable ($6,500 USD), MP1100 phono preamp ($8,000 USD), MCT 450 transport ($4,000 USD), MEN220 room correction ($5,000 USD) and MP1500 power conditioner ($5,000 USD).
Speakers were the Amati Tradition ($29,900 USD/pair) from a McIntosh sister company, Sonus Faber. McIntosh increasingly has been showing its electronics at shows with Sonus Faber models. The combination, for two companies that developed separately before being brought together by a corporate merger, seems to be working well sonically.
At RMAF, I heard a variety of test tracks, including a classical piece and Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” The orchestral composition benefited from the unrestrained dynamics of the hefty monoblocks, while the Young selection showcased the Amati Tradition’s exceptional smoothness, midrange texture and liquidity.
McIntosh certainly isn’t lacking in interesting products. The solid-state system it displayed in Denver was appealing, while the glimpse of the new MA252 hybrid integrated amp whet my appetite to hear a final production model. Maybe at the next show? Or, maybe before then, in my listening room? I’ve got an ask in to Christensen.