McIntosh Labs MC2000 power amplifier Page 2
On K&D's "Going Under," the Mac set out an amazing, hugely palpable and present male vocal replete with compelling lyrics. The fully formed, 3-D imagery was a pleasure to experience. Every acoustic element was cushioned in huge draughts of air limitless in scope. Skittering left and right across the soundstage of this track is a cymbal-like effect that makes a springy, silvery latticelike sound as it whips back and forth over the lyrics. The Mac sprinkled it so far beyond the speaker boundaries I had to crane my neck to track it! The effect was mesmerizing. It was like...diamonds, a beautiful twinkling luminescence of sound.
From the same album, Lamb's "Trans Fatty Acid" is another winner, this time for lustrous female vocals gorgeously rendered. While a touch soft at the very top, once again the Mac provided an immersive, airy 3-D soundstage projected way out of the Utopias: far back behind, around, and especially forward, and almost totally surrounding me as I sat in the Ribbon Chair! Man, there's just something special about tubes: that sense of air that's so nurturing to the high-end experience. Although I've logged fewer hours with the KT88 than with other power tubes, I can hear what all the fuss is about—at least as circuited here by McIntosh.
Switching to another favorite female vocal, Pat Barber on her latest recording, Companion (Premonition/Blue Note 22963 2), I found her, per my notes: "Amazing and sexy, so silky and wondrous and present I wanna go up and hug her! The air and texture are superb. The sound of the Hammond B-3 is a burnished thing of beauty and lush tonality, existing so much in space as to defy the fact that it's reproduced sound!"
Whew. I headed back to K&D Sessions, this time setting up on "Bug Powder Dust" by Bomb the Bass, which runs a bit like "Cantaloupe" from Us3. Well, I won't pretend I don't prefer the Linn Klimax Solo 500s for their superbly tight, bombin' bass on this particular track. Boogie way down and the MC2000 gets a shade plummy. Interestingly, even at relatively high levels, the amp's meters flickered around an indicated 15-20W. While rich and rather full, this recording's nether regions sounded powerful and encompassing.
The KT88 obviously has more kick'n'grunt on the bottom than the ubiquitous, venerable, and smaller 6550 tube. I also think its midrange is smoother, and its highs are certainly less grainy.
Going for the gusto with huge dynamics and slam, I spun "Afro-Left," from Leftfield's Leftism (Hard Hands/Columbia CK 67231), and found it surprisingly fulfilling and slammin' via the Mac. In Chaplinesque manner, the big blue meters in peak-hold mode heeled, drunkenly, farther and farther to the right as I cranked the volume, indicating peaks of -5dB on the lower scale—something like 80 or 90W at full tilt. Interestingly, the MC2000 seemed to power out the bass tighter, and with greater control and authority, as levels increased past 50W or so. I'd expected it to fall on its face. But no, the MC2000 sounded more linear as levels increased. I'll be curious to see how this gold-plated love-puppy measures. McIntosh isn't afraid of Tom Norton's mighty probe. In fact, they want the world to see their measurements!
Ahem. Where were we?
The cacophony and pounding, gut-wrenching slam of "Afro-Left" was amazing to experience, everything holding its position beautifully. Suck in that gut! A-ten-shun! It was amazingly tight for a tube amp. In discussing the bass performance of other components, I've referred before to Depeche Mode's remix of "Useless" on the K&D Sessions. I've noted the big bass stroke that gathers itself at around 3:30 to its rolling-thunder, space-defining crescendo at 3:55. This interesting acoustical moment—a deep, organ-pedal-like fundamental played on a synthesizer—is quite unlike anything else I've ever experienced, and will define your system's true ability to handle deep bass. The MC2000 rumbled out a deep and cavernously spacious final power stroke, altogether real-sounding. I was astonished.
There seemed no doubt that, as I powered the MC2000 beyond its rich-sounding idle, it sounded more tight and linear, if ultimately a touch light in the bass at very high levels in comparison to the solid-state powerhouses we've listened to lately—especially the tight-as-a-drum Linn Klimax Solo 500s with their 21st-century power supply. Or the VTL MB-1250 Wotans, for that matter, but let's see...they carry 48 power tubes. Sorta puts things in perspective. The Mac was roughly equivalent in the bass, I'd say, to the AudioPrism Mana Reference I reviewed in September '99 (footnote 1).
Footnote 1: Now slightly reworked and available as the Red Rose Music Model One. Yes, Mark Levinson now owns AudioPrism, and he's selling tube amps!