McIntosh MA2275 Integrated Ampli

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McIntosh MA2275 Integrated Ampli Powered By Docstoc

                                                        Joel Shumer

     H      ERE IT IS, right up front: Mac’s
     new MA2275 tube integrated amp
                                               my Audio Research preamp and
                                               amp which have been my reference
                                                                                    this Big Mac, at least relatively
                                                                                    speaking, a super bargain.
     is one terrific piece of audio gear.      components over the past three
     My modified Quads sound better            years.                               Description and Operation
     using the MA2275 than with any                   At $6,100, the MA2275 isn’t      Mac amplifiers tend to be rather
     other solid-state or tube amplifica-      cheap but it undercuts the Audio     large and heavy; the MA2275 is no
     tion that I have ever used, including     Research units by $4,000 making      exception. Although rated at only

                                                      the audiophile voice
75 watts per channel, it has the sub-
stantial weight of 77 pounds. You
will need to add another 33 pounds
for its shipping cartons. And its
dimensions, 10¼ inches high, 17¾
inches wide, and 18¾ inches deep,
make it too big to slide into most
equipment shelves.
    Years ago Mac discontinued
point-to-point wiring and now uses
heavy-duty circuit boards through
out. A pair of 12AX7As are used in
the high-level circuitry and another
pair of 12AX7As in the magnetic
phono stage. The power amp
employs two 12AT7s and four
KT88s, although it can also use
6550s. The amp is self-biasing and
McIntosh sees no potential problem
when or if an owner replaces the
original output tubes when they
eventually wear out with a non-Mac
tube product. Incidentally, a Mac
rep suggested a rather long life
expectancy for the KT 88s of over
4000 hours, about double the usual
    The MA2275s front panel con-
sists of Mac’s traditional black glass
but it is now illuminated from with-
in by fiber optics rather than small
bulbs. The upper corners of the
panel present four-inch “blue-eyed”      accept either XLR-type balanced or       great pride in ownership, so having
75-watt power meters, one for each       RCA interconnects. There are also        the amp sit out in the open, for all
channel. Below the meters is a row       line level RCA output jacks for mak-     to see, might not be a bad thing at
of six rotary knobs which provide        ing tape recordings and a pair of        all.
for the selection of six input sources   preamp output jacks. Jumpers con-
including magnetic phono, bass and       nect a second set of preamp out          Listening
treble tone controls, each giving a      jacks to amplifier in jacks. When           The MA2275 lent to me by Mac
boost or cut of up to 12 dB and an       the jumpers are removed, it is possi-    had been previously used before it
option to completely remove them         ble to use the preamplifier and          reached me and did not require
from the circuit, a three-click meter    amplifier sections as separate com-      breaking in. Initially I connected an
knob that allows for a choice of         ponents. Sitting on a shelf above        Audio Research CD3 player to the
“lights off”, “watts”, and “hold,”       these jacks five-way gold plated         MA2275 and the 4-ohm outputs to
balance, and a volume control. At        binding posts offer 2, 4, and 8-ohm      my Quads. My subwoofers sat idle.
the bottom of the front panel are        speaker connections. For owners of          My immediate reaction to hear-
pushbuttons for “Record/Monitor”,        other Mac gear, data and power           ing the MA2275 was one of aston-
tone control “Bypass”, “Mono”,           control ports round out the rear         ishment. Perhaps that’s too strong a
“Mute”, “Standby”, power, and a          panel.                                   descriptive term but I was certainly
headphone jack.                             Because of its size, I had to place   very surprised and a bit awed by
    If you like to listen in the dark,   the MA2275 on top of an equip-           how much better my system was
the supplied remote lights up. It is     ment stand, which was just as well       sounding. I decided to postpone my
designed to control a McIntosh           since the tubes and transformers do      planed A/B comparisons and played
tuner and CD player as well as a         produce some heat. With no shelf         CD after CD just enjoying what I
Mac preamp but with the MA2275           above the unit, the tube cage and        was hearing.
only the standby on/off, input selec-    transformers grew warm after sever-         Listening to a wide variety of
tion, volume, and mute buttons are       al hours of use but never so hot that    symphonic music, I found a mid
operational. Too bad, I think, that      I couldn’t rest my fingers on them.      range that was more liquid, with a
the balance function wasn’t includ-         With its unconventional illumi-       reduced sense of grain and harsh-
ed. This is an adjustment that really    nated black glass front panel, bright    ness. This was particularly evident
is best done from one’s listening        blue power meters, mirror- polished      in string sections. Upper frequencies
position.                                steel chassis, large transformers and    were more open and extended, per-
    The rear of the MA2275 has a         glowing output tubes, the MA2275         haps most noticeable with flutes
standard three-wire a.c. power input     is striking in its appearance. It is     and clarinets but strings and brass
receptacle, five pairs of RCA input      hard to imagine that anyone who          benefited as well. But I was also sur-
jacks and a sixth set of inputs that     buys a MA2275 would not take             prised by the bass. It seemed deeper
                                                  Volume 10, Issue 4
                                                                                    use their tone controls in this way,
                                                                                    but it works.

                                                                                       I have long been enamored with
                                                                                    Audio Research tube amplification
                                                                                    and I have used it as my primary
                                                                                    reference for almost 20 years. I have
                                                                                    used them with dozens of speakers
                                                                                    from WATT/Puppies to LS3/5As. In
                                                                                    that time, I have owned five of their
                                                                                    preamps and five of their amplifiers.
                                                                                    Except for one, all have been tube
                                                                                    components. During that time, I
                                                                                    have had the opportunity to audi-
                                                                                    tion many other tube and solid-state
                                                                                    units and I have always felt that the
                                                                                    ARC amps and preamps offered the
                                                                                    best balance of those attributes that
                                                                                    are the hallmarks of a great amplifi-
                                                                                    er. Then along came the MA2275
                                                                                    upending this maxim of mine. Not
                                                                                    only did the Mac unit sound better
                                                                                    in every important parameter than
                                                                                    my Audio Research LS25MKII and
                                                                                    VT100MKIII but it’s a bargain as
     and more robust. Tube amplifiers        music than others, but it was pretty   well. As you might imagine not only
     aren’t supposed to be able to repro-    obvious that I was responding to the   was this a surprise, but a bit of a
     duce bass this well and I did a dou-    pulse of the piece with more of the    shock as well. Now, I don’t suggest
     ble check to make sure that my sub-     sympathetic finger-tapping and         that you have to agree with me, but
     woofers weren’t accidentally getting    dancing-toes than usual.               I do suggest that you make the time
     a signal from my Audio Research            One other thought, the              to listen.
     preamp.                                 MA2275’s balance and tone con-            McIntosh also makes separate
        Not only was the entire tonal pal-   trols can really be useful at times.   units that are similar to the integrat-
     let sounding better balanced, with      After a few days of listening to the   ed MA2275 but with greater flexi-
     fewer annoying artifacts, but tran-     Quads without my subwoofers, I         bility and sophistications. I asked
     sients were sharper as well. Snare      connected the MA2275’s secondary       Ron Cornelius, product manager at
     drums, tympani, chimes, and trian-      preamp outputs to my self-powered      McIntosh, how he thought the sepa-
     gle all had cleaner attacks. And per-   Sunfire Signature subwoofers. On       rates and the integrated units might
     haps more importantly piano CDs         some recordings, I get a mid bass      compare. His answer was to deliver
     sounded much improved with better       hump in my listening room that I       a C2200 preamp and a MC275 75-
     transients and as the struck note       was able to reduce by cutting the      watt amp so I could hear for myself.
     decayed the tonal quality had           bass on the MA2275 and increasing      The C2200 has twice as many tubes
     greater purity and realism.             the deep bass on the subwoofers.       as the MA2275 uses in its preamp
        Listening to choruses, opera, and    I’m don’t think that Mac intended to   section, has more inputs, output
     vocal soloists, I was aware of how
     much more natural their voices
     seemed. Often it was if they were
     present in the listening room, their
     voices emerging from a black back-
                                                          N          O          T          E           S
     ground, transparent and pure with a
     reduction in unwanted sibilants. I
     think anyone who particularly             McIntosh MA2275 integrated tube amplifier, $6,100.00. McIntosh
     enjoys the female voice would be          Laboratory, Inc., 2 Chambers St., Binghamton, New York 13903;
     quite taken by the combination of         phones 800/538-6576 or 607/723 3512, fax 607/724 0549; e-mail
     the ARC CD3 CD player, Mac’s              feedback@macintosh, website
     MA2275, and the modified Quads.
        As you might expect, jazz              Associated Equipment
     recordings, particularly with             Audio Research LS25MKII preamp and VT100MKIII amplifier,
     plucked acoustic bass, were a lot         McIntosh C22200 preamp and MC275 amplifier, Audio Research CD3
     more involving. Better transients         CD player, modified Quad Pro 63 speakers (See TAV Vol. 4, No. 1 for
     and a bigger, deeper bass really          a description of the modifications), Sunfire Signature subwoofers,
     helped. And there is another factor,      Music Metre RCA interconnects, Audio Research balanced intercon-
     toe tapping. I am reluctant to say        nects, Tara RSC Master Generation 2 speaker cables, ASC Tube Traps,
     that some pieces of equipment are         and Target stands.
     better able to reproduce rhythm in

                                                     the audiophile voice
meters, and an alphanumeric read-          mind some potential shortcomings.
out on settings. The MC275 has the         The MA2275 is rated at only 75
appearance of a classic Mac tube           watts per channel. Fine for me but
amp but its circuitry and component        others might want more power. It’s
parts are completely modern. It also       big. It’s heavy. It has only six inputs
uses more tubes, although like the         and only one pair are balanced.
MA2275, it has four KT88’s in the          Even though Mac says that the out-
output stage. As you would expect,         put tubes have a much longer life
the integrated and the separates           expectancy than usual and the
sound very much a like. The                replacement tubes would be self-
MA2275 is a little cleaner on top          biasing, it is still a tube unit with the
and transients are more precise. The       heat and the maintenance so
separates have a warmer, more bur-         implied. That said, I have no other
nished mid-range, and a slightly           caveats to my enthusiasm.
bigger, more powerful bass.
Listening to Diana Krall or a Mozart       Summary and
flute quartet, I would prefer the          Recommendations
MA2275. Listening to Count Basie              The MA2275 is a wonderful
or a Mahler symphony, I would              piece of audio gear. It’s a handsome
rather go with the C2200 and               75-watt, integrated tube amplifier
MC275 combo. But overall I pre-            with enough flexibility to satisfy
ferred the MA2275 and there’s              most audiophile’s demands. After
another advantage. It costs $2,000         several months of auditioning the
less than the Mac separates.               MA2275, I continue to be amazed
                                           at how good it sounds. I have heard
What’s Not to Like                         nothing in my listening room that
   If you have read this far, then you     equals its naturalness and purity. If
know that I think the MA2275 is a          the 75 watts per channel, the bulk,
superb preamp and amplifier, all on        and hefty weight of this integrated
a single chassis. So what, if any-         amp are not problems, then I would
thing, is there not to like? As far as I   urge any prospective purchaser to
am concerned, I haven’t a single           audition a unit in their home and
complaint about the sound but a            hear it for themselves. I doubt they
prospective buyer should keep in           will be disappointed.

                                                     Volume 10, Issue 4

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