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MULTIMEDIA

Beautiful Systems Mcintosh/ Art - Big Mac

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US and Scottish brands come together to form this amazing system and it’s a match made in heaven reckons us

Components

Mcintosh MC452 ($12,742)

Boasting 450W into loads as low as 2ohms and tipping the scales at a mighty 64kg, the MC452 is a monstrous powerhouse of an amplifier and one that ensures that headroom in this system will be broadly unlimited.

Mcintosh MC452

Mcintosh MC452

Art Alnico Signature ($33,000)

The latest model in the Art speaker lineup mate’s special Alnico magnet drivers with an enormously substantial cabinet made from layers of birch ply combined with huge pieces of machined aluminum to produce an inert enclosure.

Art Alnico Signature

Art Alnico Signature

Mcintosh MCD1100 ($16,492)

The flagship digital player plays CD and SACD but also offers a choice of digital inputs to operate as a DAC for your digital sources. Not enough? A choice of fixed and variable inputs means it can also operate as a preamp in an all-digital system.

Mcintosh MCD1100

Mcintosh MCD1100

Mcintosh C50 Preamp ($10,492)

The C50 offers a biblical choice of balanced and unbalanced analogue inputs and will also support moving coil and moving magnet phono stages. It has more digital inputs, has three sets of outputs and a cracking pair of VU meters.

Mcintosh C50 Preamp

Mcintosh C50 Preamp

Most beautiful systems are partnerships between two (or more) audio brands as manufacturers that make complete systems in house are a relatively rare occurrence. Thanks to the international nature of the audio industry, many of these partnerships have a decidedly international flavor to them with brands from different countries making happy bedfellows. Sometimes though, these partnerships seem so unusual that you wonder how they came to be.

So it is with this system that features electronics from one of the most long running and well-known American hi-fi brands and pairs them with speakers from a decidedly bijou speaker company based in Scotland. The distance between Troon in Ayrshire and Binghampton in New York is a few thousand miles and the differences in design philosophy is arguably even wider, but trust me when I say that this system works together in a way that some equipment designed in the same building can’t achieve.

McIntosh needs little introduction. One of the elder statesmen of the audio industry, its sizeable range of components spans stereo and multichannel, valve and solid state and analogue and digital but is all tied together behind the striking McIntosh casework complete with huge controls, gothic logos and glossy front panels. It is easy to describe this as retro, but I’m not completely sure it’d be fair.

More source than HP

There is absolutely nothing retro about the technology behind this trio either. As well as supporting CD and SACD playback, the MCD1100, has five digital inputs for external digital sources and offers a choice of fixed and variable outputs. This means you can connect it directly to a power amplifier if you want. Doing so means you’ll miss the charms of the C50 preamp, which offers a mind boggling array of balanced and unbalanced analogue inputs, phono stages and more digital inputs. Cumulatively, this pairing could support a system containing 20 sources without resorting to a switching box.

Doing so means you’ll miss the charms of the C50 preamp, which offers a mind boggling array of balanced and unbalanced analogue inputs, phono stages and more digital inputs

Doing so means you’ll miss the charms of the C50 preamp, which offers a mind boggling array of balanced and unbalanced analogue inputs, phono stages and more digital inputs

The MC452 power amp is rather less endowed with inputs but what it loses in connectivity, it makes up for in power. McIntosh rates the MC452 at 450W, but given that it is an organization that subscribes to the ‘under promise and over deliver’ school of amplifier output, there is strong evidence to suggest that it produces rather more. There are very few speakers that this amp won’t grab by the scruff of the neck and drive to any levels you see fit.

As well as supporting CD and SACD playback, the MCD1100, has five digital inputs for external digital sources and offers a choice of fixed and variable outputs

As well as supporting CD and SACD playback, the MCD1100, has five digital inputs for external digital sources and offers a choice of fixed and variable outputs

On balance, this makes the choice of Art Loudspeaker’s Alnico Signature to partner the McIntosh seem a little curious. At 90dB/W sensitivity and benign 8ohms impedance, these gentle giants will be happy with less than 50W let alone nine times that amount. As the name suggests, the Alnico Signature makes use of SEAS drivers that use Alnico magnets instead of the more usual rare earth types. The cabinet and general construction of the Art is in-keeping with the company name. The cabinet is assembled from layers of birch ply, the baffle and top plate are huge billets of machined aluminum and the fit and finish is absolutely superb. Each speaker tips the scales at 80kg and feels immensely substantial.

The MC452 power amp is rather less endowed with inputs but what it loses in connectivity, it makes up for in power

The MC452 power amp is rather less endowed with inputs but what it loses in connectivity, it makes up for in power

So what does a combination of huge American horsepower and Scottish craftsmanship do when combined? In short, they are utterly convincing. This is a system that has almost unlimited headroom but combines it with extraordinary delicacy. The huge soundstage of The Cinematic Orchestra’s Manhatta is captured with astonishing realism, but tiny details of musicians shifting their positions or moving their instruments are woven beautifully into the bigger picture. The effect is absolutely unforced but still startlingly real.

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