AudioQuest, McIntosh and B&W. That almost seems like the answer to an audiophile question that begins with the words, “What would you buy if…?” I’ve met a bunch of New York audiophiles since I moved to this state more than three years ago, and people around here have a hankering for all things McIntosh Labs and not just because they’re located in nearby Binghamton. When you ask them what speakers they prefer, a surprising amount of them say “B&W.” When you ask how they’re gonna hook it all up, they’ll tell you AudioQuest. I’m not making any of this up–I know a bunch of these guys with systems made up from those three brands. When I saw AudioQuest, McIntosh and B&W together at AXPONA 2019, it seemed so natural that I almost didn’t make the New York connection until I had left the room.
Oh yeah. Those guys. No wonder it sounded so good.
The focus of the room seemed to be the magnificent new B&W 800 Series Diamond speakers ($30,000/pair) which were finished in a ghostly pearlescent white. While a multitude of blue meters stood guard over the rest of the large exhibit room, I was immediately drawn to the preponderance of McIntosh turntables now available–it seems they have been steadily expanding the line in 2019. The centerpiece of the room was the new MTI100 integrated turntable ($6500), which has a couple of green-lit tubes protruding out of the plinth. That’s because the MTI100 contains a complete turntable with arm and cartridge, preamplifier and power amplifier. It has auxiliary inputs, so you can add other sources. All you need are speakers. The McIntosh MTI100 already gets my vote for Most Fun New Product of 2019.
My Blue (Meter) Heaven
The turntable that was actually supplying the gorgeous music in the AudioQuest, McIntosh and B&W room was the McIntosh MT2, their newish entry-level turntable that costs just $4000 with arm and cartridge. Compared to McIntosh’s older, bulkier ‘tables, the new MT2 is much more streamlined and fresh in its appearance–it no longer looks like a turntable with a blue meter placed on the front. Best of all, there is very little set-up required since VTA, tracking force, cartridge alignment and anti-skate are all set back at the factory.
From the overall sound of the system, you’d never guess that the source was an entry-level product–albeit it a $4000 one. The AudioQuest, McIntosh and B&W system sounded big and glorious and warm and forgiving, the epitome of refinement and taste. The MT2 rig sounded solid and stable in the grooves, without a trace of edginess. I’ve been called a “smoking jacket” type of audiophile before, listening to jazz and string quartets and never turning the volume up too loud, but these three brands exude a certain class, a unusually fine and detailed aesthetic, a time-tested look that says you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labors, and that you deserve it.
It’s a very relaxing and very dignified sound, and I like it. Now let me fetch my slippers, my jacket and my pipe.