McIntosh MC2000 Power Amp Reviewed

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Giovanni Faccendini is the kind of guy who, if he hadn't chosen to sell high-end audio equipment, could have walked into Francis Ford Coppola's office and a role in. Instead, he's one of Italy's heaviest honchos, for some time via the APAF organisation responsible for the TOP Audio show in Milan. When you meet him at the show, you feel not unlike like the poor schlepper who, cap in hand, went to Don Vito and asked for help in restoring his daughter's honour. So when he insisted that I follow him into the show's rotunda to see a new McIntosh amplifier, I couldn't refuse.

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Why McIntosh? It's arguable that Faccendini's company, MPI, is the most loyal of McIntosh's distributors, having handled the line for through thick and thin, and the New York firm respects tradition. Hell, 'tradition' is McIntosh's middle name. Therefore, it was no surprise that Faccendini would have the honour of hosting the European launch of the MC2000 last September. He also managed to snag around a dozen of 'em, quite an achievement when you consider that production will probably top out at 550 examples, and one dealer - no, one in New England personally shifted 10 of them. When you see the thing, let alone hear it, you'll understand why its �12,900 price tag is no deterrent. It's safe to assume that Japan alone could have taken the entire run. And I certainly never expected to get to play with one, for - at the time - McIntosh had no UK distributor.

Now it does.

As you'd expect, the '2000' denotes millennial import, but the real raison d'etre is McIntosh's 50th Anniversary (1949-1999). The company wanted to mark the occasion with something truly memorable, so, to this end, they 'coaxed out of retirement' one Sidney A. Corderman, the man responsible for some of the company's greatest triumphs - not least the MC275 power amplifier. Considering that the MIT-educated engineer was involved in the design of every McIntosh product from 1951 to 1993, it's only fitting that they turned to him to create this statement. What he's provided is the essence of McIntosh. The MC2000 could be a McIntosh.

Weighing a scary 135lb, or roughly a half-pound per watt, the MC2000 occupies a space measuring 11x17.75x18.75 (HWD) and - even if you switched off the massive blue-lit meters - dominates a room. It was amusing placing it next to the MC275; it made the latter look like a scale model. The chassis is made from stainless steel, finished in titanium gold, and the frame behind the fascia carries the engraved plaque reminding you that you own a limited edition. The black glass front panel is classic Mac with two gilt-edged knobs for power on/off and setting the watt-reading meters for peak or hold, with or without illumination; the meters are also used by engineers when biasing the tubes. Two huge handles flank the meters; above them is a window through which you can view the eight KT88 tubes for its 130W/ch output, four 12AX7A input tubes and two 12AT7 driver tubes. The valves occupy the front half of the unit; they fit into luxurious ceramic valve bases with gold-plated contacts and an air-pipe cooling system beneath.

McIntosh packs the valves in a separate box, with its foam insert cut to house each tube. The unit also comes with white gloves, a certificate of ownership, a comprehensive manual and a black mesh cage for the tubes' protection. But most users will probably prefer them al fresco.

Behind the glassware are four massive transformers, followed by a huge upside-down-U-shaped bar which acts as a carrying handle; it also protects the sockets. Positioned in mirror image from the outside-in are both single-end phono and XLR-balanced inputs, sturdy, gilded WBT multi-way binding posts for 2, 4 and 8 ohms, switches to change the sensitivity for balanced or single-ended operation, fuses, an IEC mains socket and one for connecting remote switch-on when used with McIntosh pre-amps.

Because I was able to hang on to this rare beast for over a month, I was able to try all manner of combinations, but did my serious listening with either the McIntosh C22 Reissue, GRAAF GM13.5B or the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista pre-amps, while sources included the SME 10/SME V/Lyra Lydian analogue front-end and the Marantz CD-12. Speakers? This aroused the Wilson WATT/Puppy 6 like a kilo of rhino horn, and did things with the Sonus Faber Guarneri which border on the salacious. Which leads me to believe that an amp - as much as a source component or pre-amp - can be an .

You have to appreciate that I have hundreds of hours with the associated components and feel that they hold no more surprises. Indeed, I'd used the very same components as a reference set-up with countless assorted power amps. I know the sound of the 'package' as well as can be expected. What wasn't anticipated was the way that the MC2000 made everything sound bigger, bolder, richer, more dynamic - I swear it even extracted additonal bass from the Guarneris.

Read more about the MC2000 on Page 2.

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