McIntosh MA9000

TR10.06.2019

Integrated amplifiers

The most powerful McIntosh amplifier to date with all the things, which competition offers for extra payment, already included. Featuring DAC, phono and headphone amps and 8-band equalizer, black glass fascia with oversized blue-lit meters and retro knobs. Is there anything more one could want?

Function and form

95%
Ease of use
79%
Sound
100%
Appearance

In McIntosh they have built an amplifier with fabulous connectivity – connect a source, loudspeakers or a headphone set and you are done. The MA9000 is also a very powerful amplifier with 2x300 watts to any load. This is ensured by the McIntosh´s proprietary multi-wound Autoformer transformers. It means that you need to choose connecting speaker taps with appropriate impedance marks, yet it does not mean that you cannot experiment with connecting the speakers to a different set of taps as it will have an effect on what you´ll hear.

Digital connectivity is pretty versatile, with 2 coaxial, 2 optical, 1 USB and 1 MCT input (for use with McIntosh SACD transport). The MA9000 employs 32-bit ES DAC with resolution up to 24-bit/192kHz for coaxial and optical. The USB input supports signals up to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and DXD 384kHz.

Analogue inputs allow for 6 pairs of RCA, 2 pairs of XLR and provide an option to separate preamp and power amp sections (hence another pair of XLR outputs). MC and MM inputs are separated.

All inputs can be given custom names for user-friendly system control and configuration. With headphone preamp McIntosh employed Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®) which actually allows for certain amount of crosstalk between the channels to simulate experience similar to listening through speakers. I also liked the display showing the volume as a a percentage of maximum output which gives you useful information about the power headroom that you have.

Bass management

Weight
86
Slam
78
Articulation
75

The bass of the MA9000 pays homage to the McIntosh clan – it is big and bold in a PA way. I doubt it is a good idea to pair the MA9000 with a monitor system as you will lose the big part of the McIntosh’s charm. Even my own Revel Ultima Studio2 seemed to be too small for this amplifier. Of course they were not, but visually I would like to see good old B&W Matrix or JBL or Tannoy at their place.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
84
Air
80
Transparency
80

I would not call the MA9000 an ´audiophile´ amplifier that let you celebrate the tinniest details hidden in the music (writing this it looks like a pretty bad statement about audiophilia). When I switched from my Mark Levinson pre-power combo to the McIntosh I got definitely a different character, though not that different I expected. It was not about what was was heard rather than how it was heard. The details that were treated one by one by Levinsons were present also through the MA9000, however, if I did not know they were there thanks to the Levinsons they would have passed unnoticed through the MA9000. I would say that the “detailness” is the same with any of the amplifiers – the sounds that you hear with the ML are the same sound you hear with the MCI – but the MA9000 is not highlighting them in the audiophile sense of word. It could be due to a bit noisier background which does not allow the minute nuances to stand out so much.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
80
Dynamics
82
Temporal resolution
80

Tone controls. Two words that disqualify any device in eyes of audiophiles. We have been taught for last 30 years that they are evil and if a manufacturer (usually Japanese) place those controls on a fascia the only way to redemption are Direct, Pure or Bypass buttons. Still, in professional audio good old analogue equalizers (unlike digital plug-ins) are rare and priceless. Recently, some high end manufacturers start to use equalizing controls in preamplifiers and loudspeakers to enable a listener to blend the device with room acoustics. The McIntosh MA9000 features not less than 8-band equalizer that is controlled by 8 knobs on its front panel. Thus a user can enhance or cut by 12dB at neatly selected center frequencies: 25Hz (cut for removing rumble and open up transparency), 50Hz (add for weight), 100Hz (add for power and warmth), 200Hz (add for body, cut for removing muddiness),  400Hz (fuller vocals), 1kHz (bass definition and presence), 2.5kHz (add for attack, cut for removing shrill) and 10kHz (brilliance). I would love to see also a 12-13kHz control to add so much loved air to the program material.

Spatial resolution

Holography
89
Soundstage width
88
Soundstage depth
91

I would be surprised if McIntosh released a bad amplifier. The MA9000 is not an exception and it represents a very solid piece of hifi. The price in Europe is rather high also in global context – Mark Levinson No.585 which is a comparable integrated amplifier with DAC costs less and sounds better. However, the ML lacks the MC/MM phono stages and the headphone preamp, neither it has the equalizing options. So for me the McIntosh MA9000 is a very complete  amplifier – if you like it aesthetics then give it a listen.

Price as reviewed:325 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Jasyko, Brno, +420 541 210 108

E.P. Audio, Dobřejovice u Prahy, +420 323 605 088

Associated components

  • Sources: C.E.C. TL-51XR
  • Amplifiers: Mark Levinson No.326S, Mark Levinson No.432
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Kubala-Sosna Emotion, Siltech Crown Princess
  • Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Studio2
  • Power conditioning: Accuphase PS-1220, Furutech Powerflux, IsoTek Titan, Blackwater Continuum NST2

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