McIntosh Labs MC2000 power amplifier Page 3

But I'm a Libra, and for me, life is all about balance. If the MC2000's wasn't absolutely the tightest bass I've ever heard, I can live with it. Take the vibes on disc 1, track 9 of K&D. The MC2000 laid them out airy, shimmering, and seductive, the female vocal floating over the powerful, swaying beat, the ultra-lush midband squeezed out of the tube for the listener. The bass seemed to curl around her like a vine. Energy and drive were excellent, and, even at impressive volume levels, the MC2000 cruised along at only about 25W.

The amplifier also excelled at tying all elements of a performance together into a very organic and logical whole. In fact, "Rent Party," from "The Timekeepers": Count Basie Meets Oscar Peterson (CD, JVCXR-0206-2; LP, Pablo 2310-896), shows just what the MC2000 is all about. I found myself instantly deep in the music, enjoying the familiar and elegant musical transitions as these two old pros handed off the musical line to one another so gracefully. Around the four-minute mark, the Count leads with a flourish, countered with an exclamation by Oscar; the Count's foot taps the beat, then Oscar tickles the keys a bit more as the Count hums away. Then ensues the single most wonderful musical conversation I've ever heard. Perfectly timed, perfectly meshed, they're in each other's heads.

Via the MC2000, the top-to-bottom power delivery and the rainbow of tonal color were intoxicating. The differences in miking I've noted with other amplifiers were perfectly laid out, the acoustically charged air a wonder. At 5:20 the bass and drums come in, and right there you'll know why you've just dropped 15 big ones on this amp. It's the oh-my-gawd-it's-so-gorgeous-I'm-gonna-die effect.

Listening to Mischa Maisky on Cellissimo (Deutsche Grammophon 439 863-2), I mused: "How do you get more expressive than this?" It wasn't entirely a rhetorical question. While I wouldn't accuse the Mac of sounding as fabulously transparent as the Klimaxes, it always poured a wealth of detail through the Utopias—not to mention the air and sense of place. I heard Maisky's breathing quite clearly. His bowing had a wonderful rosin-on-string texture as it swished along "behind" the sound. It put me fair and square before him in a small, relatively "wet"-sounding space. The midrange was simply to die for. The organic quality of performer and sound seemed enhanced by the big Mac.

The little intake of breath before the first words in Léo Ferré's "La vie d'artiste" on Avec le temps (Barclay 841 919-2) spoke volumes about the nuance and detail this amplifier is capable of delivering. Notes: "Just that little moment establishes his presence in the soundfield. Just the right chest and texture in his voice. It's so romantic." Even if you don't speak a lick of French, you'll feel the meaning and emotion of Ferr;ae's songs. The slightly hot edge on the top end of this CD was faithfully reproduced, so I can say that the Mac was a Thoroughly Modern Millie, not euphonic or warmed up in any way. In fact, the MC2000's nature was shaded more toward neutral than warm. A quick flick of the outermost pair of ASC Studio Traps—one on either side of the outside edge of the Utopias—to expose a touch more absorbent surface to the drivers did the trick. Near the end of the piece, Ferré curls his lips—you can almost see it—and grumbles, "Je m'en fiche" ("I don't give a damn..."), then pounds the keyboard, after which the stunning harmonics slowly fade to black. It's a huge moment. The MC2000 manifested very little compression, even with the meters heeled over at 100W as Ferré attacked the keyboard.

Listening to this great leftist French star perform in our home, I realized that this particular recording, of which I'm so fond, perfectly speaks to the very essence of the MC2000. The amp itself is a star of stage and screen: vivid, round, airy, sexy, powerful, and palpable—a little bit of Hollywood. Okay, it was the merest bit fat in the midbass, but it sounded very powerful, with a midrange that left me panting for more, and highs that didn't spoil the perfect union of performance and joy.

So J-10, how do you really feel?

Under the Golden Arches
Here's the deal: The MC2000 is being manufactured in a limited edition. McIntosh has already completed one production run; Larry Fish, vice president of product planning, says it's completely sold out. The next run will be completed by the end of McIntosh's fiscal year: March 31, 2000. And that will be that.

But, Fish explained, "There's some flexibility in the actual numbers produced through that date." So by the time you're digesting this review, the MC2000 will be out there in plentiful numbers for those with a discerning Taste for the Gorgeous and the bucks to back it up. If you're one of these fortunate souls, don't let the opportunity to audition it pass you by. It's a classic.

McIntosh Labs
2 Chambers Street
Binghamton, NY 13903
(607) 723-3512