McIntosh C2200 preamplifier

"It took long enough," as I said to Larry Fish and Roger Stockholm.

McIntosh Laboratory has waited nearly 40 years to introduce its first totally new tube preamp since the C22, which was in production from 1963 to 1972. I was in college in 1963—more or less penniless, drooling over Mac gear in the windows of a shop in Providence, Rhode Island. Better graduate. Get a job. Make some dough. Buy some Mac tube gear.

Oops. Too late.

By the time I could afford new Mac tube gear, in the mid-'70s, Mac was making only solid-state. I could have bought used, though. Probably should have. Everyone then, though, was saying halleluiah, good-bye tubes, good-bye trouble, hello solid-state. Len Feldman, Julian Hirsch—even our own guru, J. Gordon Holt. You don't argue with the experts, right?

I have long lusted after McIntosh tube gear, so I was delighted when, in the early 1990s, McIntosh revived their MC275 power amp—the very amp I wanted to own back in my college days—and then, several years later, the C22 preamp. These were reissues—close, if not exact, replicas of the originals. I never did try the C22 reissue, but the MC275 Commemorative remains a staple of my collection.

For the company's 50th anniversary, in 1998, McIntosh commissioned Sidney Corderman (who engineered the original and reissue of the MC275) to design the MC2000 Commemorative power amp. The amp was about a year late and went for $15,000. The MC2102 power amp followed, for a mere $6000—also designed by Mr. Corderman.

Now, of course, McIntosh dealers and customers wanted a tube preamp. Hence the $4500 C2200, meant to be matched with the MC2102 or the MC2000. (For MC2000 owners, a special edition of the C2200, with gold-plated endcaps and knobs, is available.)

"The C2200 is currently our best-selling preamp," Larry Fish told me. You've met Larry before. He's McIntosh's vice president of product planning.

"Selling more briskly than solid-state, eh?"

I had to rub it in. Larry is so solidly solid-state.

"We can't make them fast enough. We're back-ordered."

I had a very hearty laugh.

"I knew you'd find that amusing," Larry said.

"Almost as amusing as the fact that Roger Stockholm was project engineer for the C2200." If anything, Roger is even more solidly solid-state than Larry. Or was.

Roger's official title is senior electronic design engineer. He joined McIntosh 31 years ago, just as the last of the original C22s was going out of production. Naturally, he started designing solid-state products. Roger has been project engineer for almost every McIntosh preamp since the C32, in the late 1970s. Until the C2200, he'd never touched tubes.

The company teamed Roger up with the legendary Sidney Corderman, Mac's Mr. Tube. For the C2200, Sidney engineered the tube circuits and Roger worked on the rest.

"It was a collaborative effort," Roger told me, involving Larry Fish and Chris Bomba, McIntosh's senior software engineer.

"Has Sidney turned you into a tube believer?" I asked Roger.

"I've come around a bit," he admitted. Hesitantly.

"If I had predicted five years ago that you, Jolly Roger, would be project engineer for a new McIntosh tube amp for the 21st century, what would you have said?"

"I'd have said you were crazy."

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