RMAF 2018: McIntosh Labs, Sonus Faber and a Gorgeous Sea of Binghamton Blue

Can I talk about McIntosh Labs without mentioning the beautiful blue meters? Can anyone? Should I even bother?

As I wandered down the corridors at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, those ubiquitous blue meters beckoned me to enter the two Mac rooms and bask in that legendary glow. I can’t resist this timeless gear, mostly because I’ve always had a secret lust in my heart for Mac ever since I first set the loading for my cartridge on a borrowed McIntosh MC2300 preamp via the remote control. I once stood at an audio crossroads, McIntosh this way and single-ended SETs the other, and it often occurs to me that I went in the wrong direction with the flea-powered amplification. I should have bought a MC275 when I had the chance.

The Big System

The first McIntosh room, the one usually referred to as the BIG room, featured that huge, familiar rack of McIntosh products bracketed by two of their largest tower speakers, the XRT2.1Ks, and a huge pair of MC1.25KW monoblocks with the equally BIG blue meters, the ones that seem to cover the whole faceplate. (It creates a mood I like to call “Moonlight in Binghamton.”) McIntosh’s Ron Cornelius was sitting in the corner and playing music through the server, adding a few trivia questions here and there in relation to the tunes being played—to my chagrin, I knew none of the answers–and he suddenly asked the packed room how much they thought the entire system cost. One person came up with $500,000, which was a perfectly reasonable guess considering the epic blueness that coated every inch of the room.

“$120,000,” Cornelius replied and yes, we all felt a tinge of reverse sticker shock. I was particularly impressed with the big loudspeakers—despite the fact that McIntosh usually pushes their speaker designs up against the back wall for show demos, I was able to enjoy plenty of soundstage depth along with all that sheer power and impact.

The Smaller But Still Pretty Big System

The smaller room was even more illuminating (Get it? Blue meters? Illuminating?), with a McIntosh MA8000 integrated amplifier and an MCT80 CD/SACD transport mated to a pair of the new Sonus Faber Electa Amator III loudspeakers, a gorgeous new model that marks the 35th anniversary of the original Electa Amator. The combination was warm and romantic and irresistible, and in the best possible way—that classic McIntosh sound with a pair of beautiful Italian 2-ways produced an emotional, compelling presentation that was considerably seductive.

McIntosh debuted a plethora of new products at RMAF including the monoblock MC2301 (the first Mac tube amplifier to use their Quad Balanced design), MCD500 CD/SACD player, MA6600 integrated amplifier with TM-2 tuner module and the MPC1500 power controller.

1 Comment

  1. Yes, I’ve always been skeptical of speakers with tweeters that seemingly number in the hundreds, but the big McIntosh room sounded incredible. The sound stage on the large scale choir they were playing was awesome. Also, great dynamics and tonality.

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