McIntosh Labs MC2000 power amplifier

I wasn't raised a McIntosh lad. My dad used Fisher, Bogen, Leak, and Ampex tubed electronics—and, at one time, even home-built speakers—to keep the house filled with a steady, enriching flow of Mozart. He never owned a Mac component, and, when going upmarket, reached for B&O, alas. So while I knew that many audiophiles hold tubed McIntosh gear—especially the early designs—in very high regard, I was somehow never bitten or smitten. But let's face it—for lo these many years, McIntosh has been for many the name in quality American audio. Take my friend Dan, to whom I've referred several times in the pages of Stereophile. He runs a tubed Conrad-Johnson 9 preamplifier, but wouldn't dream of giving up his 270Wpc solid-state McIntosh MC7270. He's goldurn proud of it!

The McIntosh MC2000 raised a mighty splash when it cannonballed into Sam Tellig's wading pool. In ST's detailed musings on this gold-plated hunk o' stereo amp in the November '99 Stereophile, you'll learn that the MC2000 was designed by Sidney Corderman, McIntosh co-founder and designer of the legendary MC275. Sidney was coaxed out of retirement to commemorate the firm's 50th anniversary with this design. ST, obviously inspired, did a fine job of describing the philosophy behind the MC2000, and its build, special transformers, and circuitry. He also heaped glowing praise on its sound.

So given the hoopla over this ambitious engineering effort, a formal review was scheduled. To recap, the McIntosh MC2000: Dual-mono on a single chassis; 130Wpc from 2, 4, and 8 ohm taps; gold-plated RCA/XLR inputs and 200-amp binding posts; patented Unity Coupled Circuit with bifilar-wound output transformers; eight KT88s (or 6550s) with ceramic tube sockets, gold contacts, and Air-Pipe cooling; twin regulated DC heater supplies on the input tubes; glass front panel; stainless-steel Titanium Gold Super Mirror gold-plated finish; and big blue illuminated power meters!

Big Mac
The MC2000 arrived at our door in two boxes, and it was obvious which held the amp itself. We unpacked, grunted, and heaved the massive MC2000 onto a PolyCrystal amp stand. The smaller box contained the tubes, a tube cage, a screwdriver, and a bias-adjustment tool. Did I mention the swanky pair of white gloves? Yeah! I'm Fred Astaire!

It's all beautifully done—a real Cadillac presentation. The tubes come in a gold-toned box with the Svetlana KT88s and smaller tubes nestled in individual form-fitting foam depressions. (I used the KT88s supplied, but you can run the MC2000 with Svetlana 6550s if you prefer.) A translucent plastic cover sheet indicates the tube's number chocolate-box style, making it easy to socket them into the amp. The power tubes are pretested and need not be adjusted for bias until you replace one or all. And do use the gloves, there's a good fellow, to avoid greasy bio-smear on the glass. Top hat and tails optional.

It's all pretty straightforward. My only complaint is that the heavy-duty binding posts set vertically on the rear apron are so close to each other that it was hard to get a grip. Making the task more arduous, the roll-bar over this rear area gives "on your knees" new meaning. But that's a reviewer's problem. If you don't often swap cables, you'll soon forget your aching knees. For the record, I used the 4 ohm taps on the 3.3-6 ohm JMlab Utopias, and all Synergistic Research Designer's Reference cables: Active Shielding interconnects and speaker cables, and Master Coupler Squared power cords. The BAT VK-50SE was an instant smash hit with the Mac, and so remained the reference preamplifier for the review.

Mac attack
The McIntosh MC2000 established its voice early on in the listening. Let's start with Kruder & Dorfmeister's The K&D Sessions (Warner/Studio !K7 70732). "Wow!" I jotted. (I'm so literary.) "The air is incredible! So is the imaging. A punchy sound, rich in the bass, nicely extended, though it's a touch distended in the punchbowl of the midbass. Good transition up into the midrange, and then...WOW!" There I go again.

"The lush, sweep of the midrange ramps up to lovely and oh-so-attractive upper mids, sweet but textured, like a Georgia peach. Set above that, the treble seems to be slightly shelved back. But it's artfully done, not rolled off, more like subtle makeup on a beautiful middle-aged babe who only thinks she needs a little help with her looks." While the sound was smoky, inviting, and sexy, I prefer a treble that's slightly more lit-up, a tad more open and flinging its arms at me. The MC2000's embrace was more gentle and caressing.

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