Tubes… yeah, sure. But in the case of the McIntosh MA252 only in the pre-amp. The power amplifier is still made up of transistors. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t look cool… if green tubes are your ‘thing’, of course.
About the heritage of McIntosh, we can be brief… it’s impressive. The brand has 70 years of audio history. One memorable piece of history is the use of McIntosh at Woodstock, where the Wall of Sound was used by the Greatful Dead. It is said that almost 29 KW of power was used for this. All MC 2300s.
Now we don’t have an MC 2300 for testing but an MA252. A Hybrid model where tubes are used in the pre-amp and ‘normal’ transistors for the output stage. This provides a fine mix of the advantages of tubes (very linear, nice clipping behaviour…) and the advantages of transistors (power, control… heat…).
We’ll put the McIntosh MA252 in the set-up with the DALI Phantoms. We connect the Illusonic IAP8 to the XLR input of the MA252 and turn on our playlist.
It’s pretty soon clear to us that the Phantoms and the McIntosh aren’t really friends. Where the rest of the test group didn’t really have a problem with these big in-walls – the Ayre even plays exceptionally well on these big guys – the McIntosh comes across as a bit boisterous and exhausted. Strange, because this hybrid also has 2 x 100 watts.
On the Focal set we hear more music. The control in the bass is good and imaging is nice and loose. The imaging of the McIntosh is large. The Sopras disappear without a problem. What we do hear is that the precision is less than with the NAD, Yamaha or Ayre, for example. Adele’s a little large, shall we say. Now some extra toe-in may help, but the fact is: we didn’t have to do that with the other amplifiers. However, if you want a little more sharpness, you can apply this trick.
The sound balance of the McIntosh is sweet. The whole is exceptionally smooth and free of sharpness. Do not confuse this with warm, because the MA252 is not woolly or warm; something that is always associated with tubes. Dear readers: tubes basically do NOT sound warm!
When we set up Adele’s Lovesong we hear a great deal of commitment and intimacy. Here clearly lies the power of this McIntosh: fluid, intimate, rich, generous… great.
We’re not going to talk about ‘tube sound’, because tube sound doesn’t exist. McIntosch has simply conveniently linked the advantages of tubes to the advantages of transistors. And we’ll hear it again. Though we expected a little more punch and control on the DALIs. The McIntosh presents big and overwhelming. And we can well imagine that there are enthusiasts who are looking for this. If you are looking for precision and want to pick out every detail from the music… there are better alternatives.
|Good for those who love||Less good for those who love|
|Air||Lots of detail|
|A lovely character||Super precision|
|Smooooothness||Flexible growth of a set|
|Inputs||1 x XLR, 2 x single ended, 1 x Phono|
|Speaker Terminals||Spade, Banana, bare wire|
|Power||2 x 100 watts at 8 ohms, Hybrid (tube pre-amp, solid state power-amp)|