I ended Day 1 of RMAF with my first visit ever to the MC room. Although the MC-501A CD/USB player ($3995) and MC-701 integrated amplifier ($4595) were initially driving MC’s RL-21 loudspeakers ($3495/pair) too loud, generating an unwelcome host of small room interactions, the system did an exceptional job, at more realistic volume, playing a recording of a traditional jazz trio. Not only did the music sound very alive and in the moment, but the piano also had a special illumined quality absent from many systems that cost far more than this one.
I have no idea exactly what was in use in the McIntosh room, because both times I paid a visit, the exhibitor was too involved in demonstrating the system's "Room Correction" component to stop to chat. Regardless, the sound was very, very goodjust what you'd expect from a McIntosh system that can control challenging hotel acousticsand the demo far more convincing than my mother's apple pie.
No one needs me to detail the strengths of McIntosh equipment, not the least of which is its consistently smooth midrange. But in a system that included the McIntosh C2500 tube preamp ($6500), MEN220 Room Perfect room correction ($4500), MC452 power amp ($8500), MPC1500 power controller ($4500), MCD1100 CD Player ($10,000), and XR100 speakers ($10,000), the tightness and impact of the bass was nothing short of startling. Call it the “Whoa! Factor.” Equally noteworthy was the very warm, large, and all-enveloping presentation.
McIntosh’s Carl Porter was in the midst of demming McIntosh’s MEN220 room correction system ($5000) when I snapped this photo. I’ve heard this baby in action several times, and was not surprised by the positive effects its room correction, custom-EQ, and 2-way crossover had on a recording by Alison Krauss.
Gary Kumpf did a whole lot of talking between selections, but nonetheless I managed to be blown away by the sound of the no-pun-intended McAire ($3000). This one-piece unit, complete with built-in speakers and a downward firing woofer, offered superb stereo imaging as it projected an amazing amount of impressive sound well into the room. Compatible with all existing digital technologies, it seems like a fantastic buy for the price.
I can never tell what's new in the McIntosh line, because everything retains the company's same classic look. In this case, attention turned to the new MA8000 integrated amplifier ($10,000), introduced at the 2013 CEDIA, that merges the MC302 power amp and C50 preamp ($14,000 total) into a single chassis and, I'm told, sounds "pretty much the same" as the separates.
Michael Lacomba of Southern Cinema, with stores in Cumming, GA and St. Augustine, FL, was having a great time demming several joyful systems that combined tried and true with fresh and new. Almost as fresh and new as Michael, who at age 26 laments, "People my age don't know this stuff exists." Not that Steve Davis and the small and dedicated Axpona crew didn't do everything possible publicity-wise to bring in a fair amount of curious collegiates, some of whom were actually heard to mutter, "I'm going to have to rethink my whole iPod thing after hearing this."
Count on McIntosh to invariably dem something new, albeit in chassis that maintain the company’s distinctive aesthetics. This time around, Ron Cornelius showed the new MCD550 SACD/CD player ($6500) with volume control, headphone output, asynchronous USB 2.0 input, and 32-bit, “192kHz PCM/SD digital to analog conversion”; and MA8000 300Wpc integrated amplifier ($10,000) with MC/MM phono inputs, five digital inputs that decode music up to 32/192, home-theater bypass, and headphone amplifier. In an all-McIntosh set-up, the system delivered the classic warm midrange and solid bottom end I’ve come to expect. Highs, at least in this small hotel room, were a touch metallic, however.
After much too long a hiatus, Stereophile again pierced the digital shield with the return of its “Meet the Editors” panel. Although a poorly publicized schedule shift from Friday to Saturday afternoon diminished attendance in the seminar room, those present asked about everything from Stereophile's influence on the High End and integrity amongst audiophile publications to our favorite rooms at the show. While an objective report is impossible as far as I know, there are no prices on our heads that we can listit's fair to say that attendees got a pretty good sense of who we are as both dedicated listener/reviewer/critics and as human beings. Seen in the photo are (left to right): senior editor Michael Fremer, editor John Atkinson, and yours truly.
An editor’s job isn’t always light and easy, but not every moment during Saturday’s hour-long panel (repeated on Sunday) was. Yours truly, who could only stay long enough to snap a few photos, listened closely as John Atkinson spoke about what he wants and does not want from his equipment reviewers. Pictured, left to right: Dave Clark and David Robinson, Positive Feedback Online; JA and Michael Fremer, Stereophile; Robert Harley, Paul Seydor, and Neil Gader, The Absolute Sound.