When I was initially contacted to review the McIntosh C2700 Preamp, I declined because I didn’t own a power amplifier that I thought would gel well with it.

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier

But luckily, McIntosh offered to send along their newly released, top-of-the-line, MC462 Power amp along with the C2700. This is not an offer one passes up. It’s McIntosh!

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The McIntosh C2700 Preamplifier is a beast. It sports 16 inputs (9 analog + 7 digital), 5 12AX7A and 1 12AT7 vacuum tubes, it supports files up to DSD512, it comes with DA2 Digital Audio Module installed, it… it has a whole bunch of amazing features that I’ll need time to absorb.

The monster that is the MC462 amplifier replaces the highly regarded MC452 amplifier because it somehow wasn’t powerful enough. The MC462 blasts out 450 Watts per channel. With a dedicated McIntosh Autoformer™ connected to each audio channel, the full 450 Watts is available to any speaker regardless if it has 2, 4, or 8 Ohm impedance.

Highlights

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier

  • 16 inputs (9 analog + 7 digital)
  • (5) 12AX7A and (1) 12AT7 vacuum tubes
  • Supports up to DSD512 files
  • Comes with DA2 Digital Audio Module installed

McIntosh MC462 Power Amplifier

  • 450 Watts of power x 2 Channels
  • 66% increase in Dynamic Headroom
  • Quad Balanced Design with McIntosh Autoformers™
Introduction

Before I get into the details of the McIntosh C2700 Preamp and MC462 Power Amp, let me put something in perspective. Together, these components cost about the same as the brand-new Kia Rio I just bought to replace an unfortunately charred Mini that spontaneously combusted in my driveway one day… Le sigh.

This review will be something of a discovery for me since I’m not accustomed to such high-end gear. My reference is a Cambridge Audio CXA60 Integrated Amplifier. The question I’m going to explore – is the C2700/M462 combo a Kia Rio better than my Cambridge?

C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier
Number of Channels:

2

Total Harmonic Distortion:

0.08%

Frequency Response:

+0, -0.5dB from 20Hz to 20kHz; +0, -3dB from 15Hz to 100kHz

Maximum Volts Out (Balanced / Unbalanced):

16V RMS / 8V RMS

Sensitivity High Level (Balanced / Unbalanced):

900mV / 450mV

Sensitivity Phono (Moving Coil):

0.45mV

Sensitivity Phono (Moving Magnet):

4.5mV

Signal To Noise Ratio (High Level):

100dB

Signal To Noise Ratio (Moving Coil):

80dB

Signal To Noise Ratio (Moving Magnet):

82dB

Voltage Gain (High Level):

15dB

Voltage Gain (Moving Coil):

60dB

Voltage Gain (Moving Magnet):

40dB

Input Impedance (Balanced / Unbalanced):

44K ohm, 22K ohm

CONNECTIVITY

Balanced Input:

3

Unbalanced Input:

4

Phono Input Moving Coil:

1 (adjustable)

Phono Input Moving Magnet:

1 (adjustable)

Upgradeable Digital Audio Module:

Yes: DA2

Digital Coaxial Input:

2

Digital Optical Input:

2

Digital MCT (DIN) Input:

1

Digital USB Input:

1

HDMI (ARC) Input:

1

Balanced Variable Output:

3

Unbalanced Fixed Output:

1

Unbalanced Variable Output:

3

Headphone Output:

High Drive with Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®)

Input Level Match:

Yes, +/- 6dB

Home Theater Pass-through:

Yes

Unbalanced Analog Connector Type:

Premium gold-plated solid brass

Service Port:

1

Tone Controls:

Bass and Treble

Tone Bypass and Input Assign:

Yes

RS232 Control Input:

Yes

Power Control Output:

1 Main, 4 Trigger

Rear Panel Data Port:

6

Rear Panel IR Sensor Input:

Yes

Tube compliment:

(5) 12AX7a and (1) 12AT7

Power Consumption (On):

50 Watts

Dimensions (W x H x D):

17.5″ (44.45cm) x 7.625″ (19.37cm) x 18″ (45.72cm)

Weight:

29.5 lbs (13.4kg)

Price:

$8000

Company Directory:

McIntosh

McIntosh MC 462 Power Amplifier
Power Output per Channel:

450 Watts @ 2, 4, or 8 Ohms

Number of Channels:

2

Total Harmonic Distortion:

0.005%

S/N below rated output:

122dB

Dynamic Headroom:

3.0dB

Damping Factor:

>40 Wideband

Rated Power Band:

20Hz to 20kHz

Frequency Response:

+0, -0.25dB from 20Hz to 20,000Hz; +0, -3.0dB from 10Hz to 100,000Hz

Circuit Configuration:

Quad Balanced

Circuit Design:

Solid State

Mono Bridge:

No

Mono Parallel:

No

Output Type:

Autoformer™

Balanced Input:

2

Dimensions (W x H x D):

17-1/2″ (44.45cm) x 9-7/16″ (23.97cm) (including feet) x 22-1/2″ (57.2cm)
(including front panel, handles and cables)

Weight:

115 lbs (52.3 kg)

Price:

$9000

Company Directory:

McIntosh

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mcintosh, mc462, c2700, preamplifier, tube preamplifier, amplifier, amp review, preamp review, review 2020

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Design

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier

McIntosh MC462 Power Amp

Let’s start with the looks. Build quality is an area where McIntosh just shines. I’ve secretly admired their components from a distance for years. At local hi-fi retailers, if they were ever on display, it was in private rooms by appointment only. On occasion, I might see one powering speakers in a clothing store or restaurant, and recently I saw one on an episode of ‘Chef’s Table’ on Netflix featuring Massimo Bottura. Both the C2700 Preamplifier and MC462 Power amplifiers are very distinctly McIntosh. They are both unapologetically big. They both feature shiny, black glass front panels backlit by direct LED lighting, blue meters, rotary knobs, an illuminated logo, aluminum end caps, and a polished stainless-steel chassis. It’s all classic McIntosh, and it’s a design that never strays far from its roots. Every product looks and feels related to the other. Another thing before I dive into the massive feature set of both components; I love that McIntosh has spent a lot of time annotating their components with all kinds of detail. Every side is adorned with printed on specs and descriptions, not just the inputs and indicators, but everything. For example, on top of the amp front and center, you’ll find the name of the device, and a ‘Precision Crafted…” blurb. On either side of that, you’ll find the Power Output, Dynamic Headroom, Input Sensitivity, and Signal to Noise Ratio. Above that sits the Power Transformer bookended by Autoformers™ each with their specs presented for your reading pleasure. Both components would look stunning in a modern minimalist or even Brutalist setting. They have so much character that they deserve to stand on their own and be shown off.

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier Top

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier Top Closeup

On the C2700 Tube Preamplifier, six alluring vacuum tubes can be viewed through a glass panel located on the top of the chassis with, you guessed it, printed specifications on the glass! It’s sexy as hell. The C2700 features a wide array of connectivity. First on the list is the DA2 Digital Audio Module, which replaces the popular DA1 Digital Audio Module. The DA2 features an expanded set of capabilities. It is powered by an audiophile-grade, Quad Balanced, eight-channel, 32-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) that has improvements in both dynamic range and total harmonic distortion compared to the DA1. It offers seven digital inputs including all the same connections found on the DA1 (two coaxial, two optical, one USB, and one MCT) and an audio-only HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC)1 connection to connect to a compliant TV. The TV we have downstairs is old, so I used one of the optical connections.

But wait, there’s more. Multi-channel audio formats from Dolby® and DTS® are supported and will be expertly converted to two-channel audio for proper playback. The TV remote can control the power and volume of the C2700 when CEC communication is enabled in both the preamplifier and the TV. A USB input increases DSD playback support up to DSD512 compared to the DSD256 limit of the DA1. The coax and optical inputs in the DA2 can decode digital music up to 24-bit/192kHz for playback of high-resolution audio. Finally, the DA2 has a McIntosh exclusive MCT input that offers a secure DSD connection to any of the MCT series of SACD/CD transports to deliver the best possible sound quality of the high definition audio from SACDs.

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier Front and Back

For analog music, the C2700 has nine inputs comprised of three balanced connections, four unbalanced connections, along with Moving Coil and Moving Magnet phono inputs for connecting a turntable or two. Man, that’s a lot of connections. I won’t be using three-quarters of them, but for buyers with tons of gear, 16 total inputs are amazing. Add to that, McIntosh has used a dual chassis design, keeping the analog and digital sections separate helping to prevent signal corruption. On the output side of things, you have three variable balanced and three variable unbalanced plus a fixed unbalanced connection. Whew!

McIntosh C2700 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier Three Quarter View

Fortunately for me, bass and treble tone controls are included (yay!!!!!) and can be adjusted in 2dB increments. The quarter-inch headphone jack is powered by McIntosh’s High Drive Headphone Amplifier which can power almost any pair of headphones. Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®) is included and brings an added dimension to your personal listening session when activated. Home theater pass-through allows the C2700 to be seamlessly integrated into a home theater system. Power Control ports let you easily turn other connected McIntosh components on and off, while the Data Ports can send remote control commands to connected source components.

The C2700 is one of many McIntosh products to receive Roon Tested designation from Roon Labs. It has been profiled and tested by both Roon and McIntosh for maximum compatibility. Roon will recognize it and send it audio optimized for its capabilities. No fiddling with checkboxes or dropdowns, Roon Tested devices are automatically identified and configured out of the box.

MC462 Power Amplifier Top

The MC462 Power Amp is also well spec’d and is McIntosh’s most powerful stereo amplifier. 450 Watts class AB per channel. What. On. Earth. 

Its main feature is the dedicated McIntosh Autoformer™ connected to each audio channel, the full 450 Watts is available to any speaker regardless if it has 2, 4, or 8-ohm impedance. Filter capacity has been increased by nearly 50%, which results in a claimed 66% increase in dynamic headroom from 1.8dB to 3.0dB. This allows the MC462 to easily handle drastic swings in dynamics and reproduce music with virtually no distortion. Bass performance is also improved as a result of the filter capacity increase. A Quad Balanced design cancels virtually all noise and distortion that may have crept into the audio signal. 

The MC462 features a few other proprietary features: Power Guard® monitors and adjusts the input signal at ‘the speed of light’ and makes real-time adjustments to prevent harsh sounding and potentially speaker damaging clipping. Sentry Monitor™ a fuse-less short-circuit protection circuit, disengages the output stage before current exceeds safe operating levels and then resets automatically when operating conditions return to normal. Power Control to send power on/off signals to other connected McIntosh components (such as CD Players, turntables, tuners, and media streamers) for easy system power up and shutdown.

The front panel now utilizes direct LED backlighting that improves appearance and color accuracy over the past generation. The two audio Autoformers™ and single power transformer are housed in new enclosures topped by a single machined cover with glass inserts. The back half of the amplifier is home to four Monogrammed Heatsinks™ which connect to advanced high current output transistors that help eliminate thermal equilibrium lag time.

MC462 Power Amplifier Front and Back

Around the back, are six pairs of vertically mounted, gold-plated speaker binding posts. McIntosh’s patented Solid Cinch™ ensures a secure connection to the speaker cables preventing them from coming loose and possibly causing a short. You also get balanced and unbalanced outputs that make bi-amping or tri-amping (Tri-Amping!) your speakers easier. These can also be used to send the audio signal to a secondary system if your preamplifier does not have enough outputs, or to connect a powered subwoofer. There is also a switch to select between balanced and unbalanced, and they also fitted the MC462 with an eco-friendly power management system. It turns the amplifier off after a set amount of time when no input signal has been detected.

McIntosh C2700 and MC462 Pre Amp channels

The front faceplate features the McIntosh logo front and center, with the product name prominently below it and two round knobs on either side. The right one controls the power and the left one adjusts the signature VU meters. The meters themselves took me a bit of time to figure out. The top-end number is 450 which refers to power, followed by “900” and “1.8k,” which indicates dynamic headroom. Then there are numbers below from –50 to 0, which are the amp’s output in decibels.

With all the connections, I could help thinking that the omission of Bluetooth was a big miss. For a preamp at this price point, that seems like a simple addition. But I expect most buyers of a setup like this will have a separate streaming box in their system.

Setup

McIntosh C2700 and MC462 Pre Amp Next to each other

I picked up the components with my father-in-law using his SUV. The boxes that McIntosh packages both the C2700 and MC462 are beyond robust. The C2700 weighs 29.5 pounds and 45 pounds boxed. The amp weighs in at 115 pounds and 148 pounds boxed. Yep, 33 pounds of box. Well, not just box; once you get the metal straps off, and take the first box cover off, you’re greeted by a whole bunch of thick foam that when pulled back reveals… another box. Inside that box rests the MC462 amplifier, securely bolted to a shipping palette. You have to unscrew the bolts and then lift the amplifier onto your shelf or stand of choice. The MC462 also has aluminum handles. If you’re built like The Rock and haven’t gotten your daily deadlift in, you can grab onto them and lift the MC462 yourself as you would your 100lb+ kettlebell. The rest of us need a buddy or two to unpack the box and eventually lift it onto the surface of your choice. I’m also assuming the handles are for aesthetics.

McIntosh C2700 and MC462 Pre Amp Top Closeup

Placing these two behemoths was a point of contention between me and my wife. I had envisioned placing them on our sideboard in our living room. For our smallish Toronto home, the living room provided decent enough dimensions, a standard ceiling height, wood floors, and a good enough boxy dimension for this review. But my wife contended that the amplifier was much too heavy and that the sideboard would buckle from the static weight of the amp. I disagreed. And I lost. So, the amp found its way to our basement to sit atop our TV stand.

If any Audiophiles or McIntosh fans are still reading this, you might want to skip this next paragraph. For my purposes, I used a Cambridge CXC CD transport connected via optical, a Technics SL1200 Mk2 Turntable with Ortofon Concorde MKII DJ Cartridge connected to the Moving Magnet Phono input, and a Macbook Pro via USB. The speakers I switched between were B&W 685 (S1), B&W 683 (S1), and Monitor Audio RX2s. I also switched between balanced and unbalanced connections.

In Use

Nasty Habits Vinyl

Nasty Habits – Shadow Boxing
It would have been sacrilege for me not to play this record. If you like Drum and Bass, you like this song. It’s heavy, it’s a classic and it’s the high watermark (for me anyway) of what is possible with the music. It also gets my heart racing.

The McIntosh duo did one thing that I’ve long wondered about. They supplied more than enough power to the B&W 683 Speakers (not surprising as the MC462 can drive 2-ohm speakers easily). The 683’s came alive more than I’ve ever seen or heard them. That alone was incredible to hear and see. The drivers were finally working overtime pushing and pulling and digging out all the details and weight from recordings. It was amazing. I took the 683’s louder than I have ever before and there was zero distortion. ZERO! I only took them to ear-splitting levels once and backed down. The McIntosh’s didn’t. And when the bass finally drops, boy did it ever! The 683’s sounded great. There was just a whole lot of ‘oomph’ to the sound. (I know that’s not a technical term at all, but that’s how I can best describe it.) Oomph. It was worth it just for that experience alone. Thank you, McIntosh, for my Maxell guy in the chair moment. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when nothing is playing, no hiss or hum is emanating from the speakers even with the volume turned way up. It’s remarkable really. It made listening to everything easier. I should note that McIntosh’s house sound is extremely… clean. And for my personal tastes, I like a slightly colored sound. I set the C2700’s tone controls to on. The bass was set to +8 (there are a total of 12 steps), and the treble to -2. I can hear the collective audiophile groan now, and I don’t care. It’s my party. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice the soundstage losing any depth with tone controls engaged. I went through the better part of my vinyl collection to get a good taste of the McIntosh.

LTJ Bukem Vinyl

LTJ Bukem – Rhodes to Freedom
Bringing the volume down to a reasonable level, it was time for something a bit musical. I love this song, to be honest, I love mixing it in my turntables. I own two copies of it. But here I’m just sitting, feet up, eyes closed taking it in. There is a level of warmth that I’m either hearing or imagining at this point, but the sound is full and lush.

I say ‘imagining’ because I don’t really know. When I’m listening for subtleties in the music, I’m less aware of the audible differences between the McIntosh setup versus say my Cambridge CXA60. It’s really when the song is in full swing that I can feel more of that oomph that I mentioned earlier. It may partly due to my tone control settings and maybe that by this time I had switched to balanced cables. In any case, it sounded great. I do wish I had a more revealing speaker on hand though, le sigh

John Klemmer Vinyl

John Klemmer – Free Soul
Of course, I had to run this tune. It took me forever to track it down back in the pre-internet days. It’s uh… not in the best condition. And I used to scratch with it too. But it’s awesome. Every pop, scratch, and click was immediately accentuated and I had to turn the treble setting down a few notches to compensate. Like to minus 4. Same thing though. Lots of oomph.

B.E.R Vinyl

B.E.R. – The Night Begins to Shine 
I mentioned this in my ‘What We’re Listening To’ write-up for November, but it bears mentioning here too. Not for any real sonic revelation, just that my family loved chucking this tune on the McIntosh setup whenever the system was turned on. My kids are in love with Teen Titans Go! and as far as kids’ cartoons go, it is very watchable. In the episode “40%, 40%, 20%“, ‘The Night Begins to Shine‘ is Cyborg’s favorite song.

It was written in 2005, to sound like an 80’s song for a music library. And it became an accidental hit song in 2017. It’s friggin’ great. It’s super catchy and it’s now our family’s favorite song. If you have a chance, the show is worth watching. Here is a video from DC Kids’ YouTube channel of the sequence including this song.

Conclusions

The McIntosh C2700 Preamp and MC462 Power Amp are true titans that sound good with all levels of components. They’re not cheap but few products deliver at their level are.

Likes
  • Great build quality
  • Beautiful
  • Loads of power
  • Ample connections
Would Like To See
  • Integrated Bluetooth

A great reference system truly is a sum of its parts. If you take high-end components, pair them with entry-level speakers, with entry-level sources, and place them in a less than ideal space, you most likely won’t be blown away by what you hear. The McIntosh C2700 Pre-Amplifier and MC462 Power Amplifier are monsters. They are big, expensive, and beautiful slices of high-end audio. They deserve to be paired with reference-level speakers and the best sources and connections possible.

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If you’re ever afforded the opportunity, you should give them a listen. Once my kids are older and I have some expendable income. I too will finally pick up my own preamp and power amp combo. My listening room will be sound treated, and my reference speakers will be befitting of the electronics. And McIntosh will be the first brand I audition.