McIntosh Laboratories' newest audio disc player is the MCD500 SACD/CD player. Upon taking the 28 pound player out of its box it was immediately apparent that this player was a solid, well built unit keeping in the tradition of McIntosh products. The MCD500's aesthetics are pure classic McIntosh with a black glass front panel backlit with a combination of Fiber Optic Light Diffusers and LEDs and flanked with extruded aluminum side panels.
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Underneath the traditional exterior is a thoroughly modern SACD/CD chassis. In fact, the MCD500 was one of, if not the first, player to use the ESS Sabre Reference 9008 DAC. The MCD500 uses eight of these 24bit / 192 kHz DACS in a quad balanced parallel configuration. Discs are placed into a die cast transport to reduces resonances and read errors. CD's are read into a memory buffer at twice normal speed to further increase accuracy. The buffer then feeds the aforementioned DACs. The MCD500 is a DAC as well as a SACD/CD player with coax and toslink digital inputs that, according to the owner's manual accept CD signals (16 bit /44.1 kHz) only. Conversely, the MCD500 also has digital outputs if you want to use it as a transport only for CDs. Sorry, but SACDs are output in analog only. I do not think the digital outputs will be used much as the DACs and analog section are excellent.
The R-core transformer based power supply helps ensure audiophile grade analog performance which can be accessed from either fixed or variable, single ended or balanced outputs. I found the performance of the balanced outputs to be noticeably better than the single ended outputs with both the fixed and variable outputs. The variable outputs sounded extremely clean and did a good job driving McIntosh amplifiers but I preferred the sound of the fixed outputs feeding a preamplifier. The sound with the fixed outputs and preamplifier was not any more detailed or transparent than with the variable outputs feeding the amplifiers directly but it was more balanced and imaged better.
Read about the high points and the low points of the MCD500 on Page 2.