I think most folks would say that you might approach them both with caution.
But those feelings shouldn’t hit you at all with this new Mac 450 Watts per channel, stereo powerhouse amplifier. In fact, we’d all have to agree, they both look really beautiful, and when they’re screaming, they sound really awesome.
Now granted, this new MC462 is for you who wants to step into High End Audio with plenty of playing power and at the same time, you may be working with a specific budget but certainly not an unlimited budget. 🙂 Well, regardless of who you are, this is a fun piece of electronics to crank up and make you feel like you’re back at that concert. (Note: 1st image to the right, light up is the new MC462)
Now for starters, Who am I? The guy that I’m not, is a Product Review whiz at Stereophile Mag , The Absolute Sound or any of those other excellent magazines. I’m the guy that Ed Masterson my friend, boss & owner of Audible Images AV told to come in a couple days a week and amongst my duties, he wants me to test out new gear, compare gear and then blog about the fun I had & what I learned while experimenting in this gathering place/showroom for Audiophiles. (Note: I’m learning many “terms” of Audiophilia so as we all know, sometimes new guys get carried away when trying to learn, so I’ll ask you to grin over my learning curve, thanks 🙂 )
So today, I get to play (or continue playing with in this Part 2) of testing with this $9000 brand new amplifier (the debut was in July of this year from McIntosh, see the Absolute Sound magazine announcement here), and in order have a reference point (something to compare power, transparency, etc), Ed suggested I compare it to the Dan D’Agostino Momentum Integrated Amplifier. (a $45,000 amp/preamp) Well, also because it was already sitting right next to the new Mac 🙂 (2nd image, shown left on top of marble is the Dan D’Agostino Momentum Integrated Amplifier , See the product here, with the dCS Rossini lit up just under the marble in the color black)
You might be saying, “Now that’s not really a fair comparison, going up against a piece of electronics that costs 5 times the price of the MC462?” . Isn’t it? Well this is the 3rd or 4rth McIntosh Amplifier that I’ve had a chance to experiment with in our showroom and I say Mac gear consistently rises to the occasion just fine.
So to get you caught up, I made a mistake, in Part One of my “testing” a few days ago, in that I got so excited listening to the new Mac 462 when playing two R&B artists, Zac Harmon – “Right Man Right Now” album and Joe Bonamassa – “It’s a New Day Yesterday”, of whom I never listened to before, and in doing so I broke the Audio testing protocol that my boss & friend Ed taught me. Which was: If you want to test the sound quality of a piece of gear, you need to have a Reference set of parameters to test it with. (a reference room, and reference tracks that you know very well) So here’s what I learned…but first…
As I mentioned above, in my playing around/testing of the new McIntosh MC 462 two Channel Stereo Amplifier (which replaces the 450 wpc MC452, both are 450 Watts per channel) I will be comparing it to the Dan D’Agostino Momentum Integrated Amplifier. (200 wpc into 8 ohms, and double downs at 4 and 2 ohms respectively)
In order to have a music source I coupled the MC462 with the dCS Rossini DAC & Player (see the excellent “Rossini” review in TAS magazine, cover photo of mag) as a source and preamplifier. I used Wilson Audio “Yvette” speakers, and a new set of Transparent Audio “Ultra” Speaker cables and Interconnects. (In case you didn’t know, the “Rossini” actually works as a preamp, where you can go into their software app on your iPad, change the output voltage to 6 volts from 2, and now you bypass the need for using a separate preamplifier) (3rd image displayed in picture to the right is the black dCS Rossini DAC, Streamer, CD Player & sort of preamp, just under the marble display table)
No longer berating myself for forgetting the use of “reference tracks” the other day, I decided to take a new Obsessive Compulsive approach. Not wanting to completely strain my memory of sonic & musical details or be at any risk of forgetting subtle or even large audio image details, I figured it would be best if I run through each track 3 or 4 times on the Mac first and then switch over to D’Agostino electronics to hear the same track 3 or 4 times there. Thinking this was wise, I got started. And for the record, the Transparent “Ultra” cables are a bit beefy, so a little tenacity was involved here in making 15 or 20 switchovers. I may be in Air Conditioning, but it’s important to know that Audiophiles do have their own Crossfit program. (4rth image displayed to the left is the Wilson Audio “Yvette” speakers used in the demo test with all the other gear in racks in the background)
The tracks I used for testing were:
“Fade To Black” – by Dire Straits
“Mose Allison Played Here” – Slant Six Mind by Greg Brown
“Tin Pan Alley” – by Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble
“Nature Boy” – Back to Earth album by Lisa Ekdahl
“Flight of the Cosmic Hippo” – by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
“Fade to Black” we started off with. The amazing main guitar picking in the beginning of the track takes over the left side of your soundstage. I cranked it up to about 50% on the Mac. (very subjective as we are using the dCS for volume control ) Anyone that walked into our test room, would be blown away by the “attack transient” or initial energy pulse that you hear in the intro of the song, the lead guitar combining finger picking, plucking, however you describe it, that definitely deserved a Grammy award. The song is here. The transient detail on the Mac was crisp, I cannot imagine a spouse asking you to turn it down if they were sitting in the room, let alone the sweet spot. As you get into the 2nd half of the song, a Steel guitar has a special run in the song, and this steel guitar (I think that’s what it is) clearly defines the right side and literally completes the overall size of the soundstage for the song. You can completely feel and hear the size of the stage. The signature timbre of the Steel guitar and that of the lead guitar in this amazing song has one’s Audiophile ears perked up at this point.
Track two was “Mose Allison Played Here – by Greg Brown. Those of you that know the voice of Greg Brown, know that he has a very powerful vocal resonance, very deep, it kinda grabs you by the gut and demands your attention. His guitar plucking has an excellent and natural sounding roll off and decay. And the acoustic bass has a timbre so distinct of it being acoustic, that you know had it been electric bass, you’d probably have been disappointed as it would not have fit into this classic piece.
So far, I have to say that I am pretty blown away by the MC 462 and just how well it delivers the streaming music rendered by the “Rossini” (see the Rossini here). McIntosh has been around for a long time, and it is no wonder. So far so good. Okay, a couple more comments about our remaining 3 test tracks.
Track three; “Tin Pan Alley” – by Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble
Even though Stevie’s guitar is the masterpiece of the song, it’s the electric base guitar that I really enjoyed most. The bass detail is just really nice. (being a I believe a 1984 production, the digital delivery is quite spectacular from the Mac, well that and also the amazing work of the dCS Rossini DAC)
Track Four; “Nature Boy”, the vocals of Lisa Ekdahl just sound really nice, I should perhaps point out the “articulation” had excellent detail, and the acoustic base really gets your attention and I guess what they call the “transient tail” of the notes have really nice texture.
Track Five; “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”, it’s that thump of that really intense base that I like testing out any gear, and the 462 delivers just awesome. When you hear the contrast of that intense base and that of Bella’s banjo perfection, the timbre of his Banjo plucking into those crisp highs, and the Mac doesn’t seem like it’s having to work at all.
Merging into my “playtime summary”, my test of the Mac MC462, it certainly compared amazingly well with the Dan D’Agostino Integrated Amp. How did it compare? A number of things, but before I share them, the question needs asking, How was the D’Agostino superior to the Mac? Simple answer, the D’Agostino Momentum certainly had greater musical Transparency and Detail in pretty much all frequencies. When you want the noise floor completely removed (to the point where a finger sliding down a bass guitar string when not playing a note has a 3 second transient tail just from the finger travel pressure 🙂 , then Dan’s gear will be your pleasure. That extra airy finesse & detail is totally worth the upgrade when your budget is not a deal breaker.
But if you’re in the other 80% of Audiophiles who don’t have unlimited budgets, then I share below what benefits you could expect when a decision for the awesome $9000 MC462 (without using a preamp as a reminder, because the dCS “Rossini” worked as both a streamer, a dac and as a preamp) vs $45,000 for the Integrated Amp was concerned:
- The Mac could crank out high volume constant without any noticeable distortion.
- Even though the Mac plays classical music with prowess, it sure plays loud rock and roll with spectacular lead guitar and kick drums as though you were at the concert. My Zac Harmon & Joe Bonamassa listening time were testament for this.
- It could handle the sudden spikes in power, I quote right from the McIntosh website about how their Dynamic Headroom got a big boost: “The new generation MC462 stereo amplifier has received numerous updates compared to the previous model. The most prominent is that filter capacity has been increased by nearly 50%, which has resulted in a remarkable 66% increase in dynamic headroom from 1.8dB to 3.0dB. This allows the MC462 to easily handle drastic swings in dynamics and effortlessly reproduce your favorite music with virtually no distortion.”
- The bass was excellent, so I’ll just paste this from the Mac website: “Bass performance is also improved as a result of the filter capacity increase.” Now could I tell the difference from the 452 we had before? No because I never tested the two. But with the new filter upgrade mentioned above, I take their word for it.
- In short, the 462 had almost a limitless supply of clean clear musical energy
I’m really glad I made the mistake upfront, by playing some serious cranking R&B, by Zac Harmon & Joe Bonamassa (who had his early influence by Stevie Ray Vaughn), before I did my select “reference” song tracks. Why? Because Rock Rhythm & Blues cranked up to a couple hundred watts is just a lot of fun. That’s what it’s all about sometimes when you want to just turn it up. And besides, cranking it up is the way the R&B genre needs to be played.
McIntosh, I thank you for a fun time at work. YOU JUST CAME THROUGH WITH FLYING COLORS AGAIN on the release of this new McIntosh MC 462 powerhouse stereo amp!