This review has been a long time coming. The McIntosh combo
- MCD1000 CD Transport and MDA1000 D/A Converter (DAC) - sat in our front
closet longer than I wish to think about. Given its quality, that's
a real shame. I've met any number of audiophiles who might consider trading
in their spouses for gear that sounds this good. In my particular case,
however, since I want both spouse and gear, I've settled for an unhappy
medium – review equipment slowly, basically when the spouse is not at home,
and maintain the relationship. I thank the folks at McIntosh for their
patience in the name of family values.
Speaking of spouses, McIntosh's spouse acceptance factor is high. I think
this McIntosh's classic looks are extremely handsome. I imagine any number
of consumers will be drawn to it on looks alone, even pushing for
a McIntosh amp to complete the picture.
A definite plus is the large printing on the green LCD readout, which (for a
change) can be easily read from many feet away. The volume level (should you
choose to skip use of a preamp and use the DAC's built-in attenuator) is
easily perceived from 10 feet or more. The "Bright" setting is very bright,
making listening in the dark impossible. Thankfully, illumination level is
fully adjustable. I've settled for the lowest level, which I find
Both units offer a standby option that consumes less electricity. While in
standby, a tiny, minimally illuminated red dot in the middle of the Standby/On button lights up. The power switch is a different color than
the other switches to make it easy to find.
McIntosh's design philosophy also extends to its owner manuals. Theirs are
among the clearest, largest print, consumer-friendly manuals I have
encountered. Everything you're supposed to see on the LCD readout is
pictured, making mastery of adjustment options a snap.
The single remote control that controls both units offers similar ease of
use. Although you can't open the CD tray from afar, which does lower the
possibility of leaving the tray open as a dust catcher, nor switch from
Standby to On without rising from your seat to push the appropriate
buttons on the front of the units, all other expected functions, including
adjustment of DAC volume level, are accessible via the remote. Both units
offer data in/out ports for connection to and remote operation of all other
The MCD1000 Transport has one unbalanced coaxial (RCA), one Toslink optical, and one
balanced XLR output. The unit uses
Laser Pickup, Two-Dimensional Parallel Objective Lens Drive
System, and GaAIAs Semiconductor Laser. Error Correction is Cross Interleave
Reed Solomon. The Green LED front panel can display Disc Time, Total
Remaining Time, Track Time, and Remaining Track Time. Two mini phone jacks
are provided for remote control data in/out. Thick machined aluminum top and
side panels are used.
The MDA1000 D/A Converter utilizes eight Burr Brown 24-bit chips. Its
"advanced Balanced/Parallel design" converts all incoming digital signals to
768 kHz with 24 bit resolution. The analog output section uses 1% metal-film
resistors and 5% polyfilm capacitors. The unit automatically selects the
correct sampling frequency from 32 to 96 kHz. A third-order Butterworth
gentle slope analog filter, low impedance output amplifier, gold-plated
input and output jacks, and thick machined aluminum top and side panels are
The McIntosh's output stage is fully balanced analog. Both balanced and
unbalanced (single-ended RCA) outputs are available. McIntosh claims that
the unbalanced output maintains the same fidelity and low distortion without
the noise-silencing advantages of a balanced connection.
Users can choose between MDA1000's fixed output "volume control bypass
mode," which allows connection to a separate preamp, or using its built-in
digitally controlled attenuator to run it directly into a power amplifier. The
digitally controlled attenuator adjusts volume levels by 0.1dB.
The direct connection can be advantageous because it obviates the need
for a preamp and additional set of analog interconnects. The less you put in
the signal path, the truer the signal.
According to McIntosh technical support, "the fixed outputs are at the
normal 2 volt maximum level which is also unity gain or 70 on the output
volume control. The output control amps are small power amps capable of high
current and voltage so as to not compromise the high dynamic range of the
The MDA1000 can accept up to three coaxial digital inputs, three optical
digital inputs, and one XLR (balanced) digital input. Input titles can be
reassigned as desired. Unfortunately, there is no BNC input, which many
consider far more robust than RCA for digital signal transmission.
The MDA1000 also lacks analog inputs; it cannot perform double duty as a
full-function preamp. This means that if you want to take advantage of the
unit's built-in attenuator and connect it directly to your amp, you can't
play your tuner, turntable, or other analog source(s) without first
disconnecting the MDA1000 from the amp and connecting an external preamp.
Well, I guess that is why there are preamplifiers.
I suppose some people will prefer to have seven digital inputs on the
McIntosh, but I'd be much happier sacrificing one or more of those for the
addition of analog inputs. That would enable users to both take advantage of
the direct connection and play other components without plugging and
unplugging components and interconnects. What it would do to the list price,
I don't know. But if McIntosh has gone this far, why not go all the way?
Here to Go to Part II.