Am­pli­fier of the Year $10,000-$20,000

Am­pli­fier of the Year $10,000-$20,000

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It looks pretty darned se­ri­ous. And it is se­ri­ous; this is the largest in­te­grated am­pli­fier McIn­tosh has ever built. But it’s also some of the the best fun you can have sit­ting on a couch — it’s no won­der that McIn­tosh has such a highly de­vel­oped brand loy­alty, be­cause what the brand of­fers is unique. There’s the look, there’s that won­der­ful teal glow from the me­ters and emer­ald back-il­lu­mi­na­tion to the logo. But there’s also a re­mark­able level of ver­sa­til­ity and con­nec­tiv­ity that is of­ten missing from such high lev­els of am­pli­fi­ca­tion.

For ex­am­ple, we se­ri­ously doubt you’re ever go­ing to use all the in­puts thatMcIn­tosh has fit­ted to the MA9000. There 10 ten ana­logue in­puts and six dig­i­tal in­puts, so 16 in all! Six of the ana­logue in­puts are un­bal­anced line-level types, and two are bal­anced line-level in­puts. The re­main­ing two are phono in­puts, one for mov­ing coil car­tridges, the other for mov­ing mag­net car­tridges. On the dig­i­tal side, the DA1 dig­i­tal au­dio mod­ule inside the MA9000 (up­grade­able should new for­mats come along) has two coax­ial dig­i­tal in­puts, two op­ti­cal dig­i­tal in­puts, a USB-B in­put for com­put­ers, and one MCT in­put (a DIN con­nec­tor used to pro­vide a dig­i­tal con­nec­tion be­tween the MA9000 and McIn­tosh’s SACD/CD play­ers).

The DA1 Dig­i­tal Au­dio Mod­ule con­tains an 8-chan­nel, 32-bit DAC that McIn­tosh uses in its quad bal­anced mode. The USB in­put can process PCM sig­nals up to 384kHz and DSD sig­nals up to DSD256 and DXD384kHz, while the other dig­i­tal in­puts can all process PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz.

More ver­sa­til­ity — those 12 small ro­tary con­trols are equaliser con­trols for 12 bands, pro­vid­ing a su­per-evolved tone con­trol. The in­put se­lec­tor ‘re­mem­bers’ whether you want to use equal­i­sa­tion on one or more of the in­puts.

There are sep­a­rate bind­ing posts for dif­fer­ent im­ped­ance speak­ers, en­sur­ing cor­rect ser­vice of the avail­able 300W per chan­nel. And that’s where the MA9000 proves it­self to be ear-candy as well as eye candy — in­sight­ful with the de­tails, nim­ble with dy­nam­ics, and with a neu­tral­ity that ex­tends way up into the tre­ble reg­is­ter, or per­haps a lit­tle warm at the ex­treme top end, but this we much pre­fer to the stee­li­ness of some high-end solid-state am­pli­fiers. And there is surely more power here than you’ll ever need.

When re­viewed this amp was $19,995; as we went to press it rose to $21,995, above the cat­e­gory limit... but the Award stands, as an in­vest­ment in sheer plea­sure. More info: www.syn­er­gyau­dio.com

JUDGES’ COM­MENT “The big­gest McIn­tosh in­te­grated am­pli­fier ever, the MA9000 is an in­vest­ment in sheer plea­sure.”

Syn­ergy’s Philip Sawyer col­lects the Award.

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