McIntosh MA252 tube/solid-state: Review

Say hello to the McIntosh MA252: “Hello, stranger.” In the world of high-end audio, there are solid-state tribes and there are tube tribes. Usually, the two pretty much stick to their own camps, except for scattered skirmishes when they cross paths at the watering hole. Each tribe believes theirs is the one true path, and questions the auditory capabilities of the other side. This is why I’m always surprised to see any attempts at the two co-existing in the same room, let alone the same system. Yet, one of the better sounds I heard last year came at the Los Angeles Audio Show, where a brave retail exhibitor paired a longtime tube manufacturer’s preamp with a pair of hulking monoblocks from a different company specializing in formidable solid-state power. The sound from this culture clash was remarkable. There was warmth and emotional connection in spades, combined with detail, high-frequency polish and impressive bass slam. Luxuriating in this attractive amalgam, I wondered aloud in my room review why such hybrid systems weren’t more common. There are good reasons, I guess. From a sales standpoint, you might risk alienating the stalwart members of one tribe or the other. And then there’s the fact that … Continue reading McIntosh MA252 tube/solid-state: Review