McIntosh MC501 Monaural Power Amplifier Reviewed

Published On: December 26, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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McIntosh MC501 Monaural Power Amplifier Reviewed

Ahh... the cult of McIntosh... To compare McIntosh to say Harley Davidson Motorcycles wouldn't be a stretch as both have serious followers willing to invest in time-tested performance. Read Jim Swantko's full review of these beefy mono amps here.

McIntosh MC501 Monaural Power Amplifier Reviewed

  • A veteran of, Jim Swantko also wrote home theater and audiophile component reviews for in the early days of the publication. His focus was on mid- to high-end audio brands like Mark Levinson, Classé, Noble Fidelity, Cary Audio, MartinLogan, and Paradigm.

McIntosh-MC501-MonoAmp-Reivewed.gifCustomer devotion, brand loyalty, cult following, whatever
term you choose to describe it - few companies can compare when it comes to the
passion exhibited by McIntosh clientele for the firm's products.  Many customers simply will not even
consider a product without the trademark blue power meters and green McIntosh
label.  This enviable following has
been earned by building great-sounding, no-nonsense equipment and taking care
of the customers who buy it.

Additional Resources
• Read a more audiophile tube amp reviews from brands like Audio Research, VAC, McIntosh, VTL, Decware, Lamm and many others.
• Check out an all-tube blog page at

As the name implies, the $4,100 ($8,200/pair) MC501 is a
mono amplifier that delivers a healthy 500 watts of power into two-, four- or
eight-ohm loads.  The McIntosh
proprietary output autoformer technology allows for full power at a variety of
impedances and helps to reduce distortion by keeping output devices operating
in their optimal range.  This means
that the MC501 is perfectly happy driving any loudspeaker you choose to connect
to it.  The amplifier is also
designed to protect those valuable loudspeakers with its Power Guard circuitry,
which keeps the amp from clipping and damaging drivers, specifically the
tweeters.  Lastly, McIntosh has
designed the MC501 to protect itself via the sentry monitor circuit, which
insures that the output devices never exceed their staggering 100-amp-current

After spending some time listening to the MC501, I began
to understand why McIntosh has so many devotees.  From top to bottom, it did everything extremely well.  The treble was detailed and airy,
presented in a relaxed manner that drew me in to the music rather than pushing
me away.  The midrange was as
smooth and textured as anything this side of a single-ended triode, only not
quite as euphonic, erring on the side of accuracy.  Bass grip and control were powerful and authoritative, but
also musical and capable of extracting detail in lower frequencies, which are
often missed by lesser amplifiers. 
I can't imagine ever yearning for more power than the 501 is capable of
producing. Even when playing at what seemed like rock concert levels, there was
always plenty of room left on the power meter.

Aesthetically, the MC501 is pure unadulterated McIntosh,
which means you either love it or hate it. Personally, I love it.  Styling aside, it is a beautifully
constructed amplifier that should last a lifetime and then some.

Read The High Points, the Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2


High Points
-  The McIntosh MC501 delivers excellent sonic performance and does so without ever breaking a sweat.

- McIntosh build quality is legendary and the MC501 certainly upholds this tradition.
- The MC501 is extremely flexible and will work well with any speaker that you care to pair with it.
- If you love the traditional look of McIntosh gear, you will certainly be a fan of the MC501.  All the traditional McIntosh styling cues are present, but somehow it looks modern while wearing them.

Low Points
The MC501 is a large amplifier, so finding the space for five or more for a home theatre installation will take some planning.
- Considering the current capability of this amplifier, several dedicated circuits may be required to keep the MC501s operating at their full potential.
- Love it or hate it, styling may keep some from even considering the MC501, which is a shame, since it is such a good amplifier.

The big McIntosh MC501s are very impressive amplifiers.  Sonically, they can compete with the big boys of the industry and have a heritage that is second to none.  Visually, there is nothing quite like a McIntosh, which may or may not be a positive attribute, depending on your taste.  Regardless of what you see, I can't imagine many will be disappointed with what they hear.

Additional Resources
• Read a more audiophile tube amp reviews from brands like Audio Research, VAC, McIntosh, VTL, Decware, Lamm and many others.
• Check out an all-tube blog page at

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