McIntosh MA9000 Review
McIntosh MA9000 is the latest amplifier from McIntosh Laboratory and is the successor of the MA8900 (1). This device offers up to 300 W of power (5) per channel (6) and is the largest and most powerful integrated McIntosh amplifier (3) (11), containing in one housing a high-class power amplifier (4), preamplifier (10) (9), latest-generation digital-to-analog converter (7) (8) and a phono amplifier for MM and MC cartridges (2).
It is a device from the latest McIntosh product line with a state-of-the-art Digital Audio DA1 module equipped with an improved 8-channel, 32-bit digital-to-analog converter, working in Quad Balanced mode. It has as many as 6 digital inputs: two coaxial, two optical, one USB, and one company MCT (DIN) enabling excellent CD and SACD signal transmission from the McIntosh MCT450 transport.
As usual, we would like to thank the Audio department of El Corte Inglés for allowing us to do the unboxing and testing in their facilities.
As digital technology progresses, the modular design of the DA1 enables it to be replaced in the future with a newer version. With this option, the purchase of McIntosh MA9000 is a great investment for many years thanks to this
The preamplifier section allows you to connect up to 16 devices. Digital coaxial and optical inputs can output a signal with a maximum frequency of up to 24Bit / 192kHz. In contrast, the asynchronous USB input accepts PCM signal up to 32 Bit / 384kHz and DXD 384kHz and DSD up to DSD 256.
To handle the analog signals, there are two balanced XLR inputs and six unbalanced RCA inputs. The amplifier is equipped with a pair of symmetrical sockets, with adjustable signal strength, enabling the connection of an external power amplifier. Two pairs of line outputs were also used, one with a constant level and the other with adjustable signal strength.
McIntosh MA9000 offers enough connections and modern technology that all possible sound sources can be simultaneously connected, thus providing excellent sound. Each input can be given a name selected by the user of this device.
In order to achieve the best quality connections, all gold plated McIntosh MA9000 sockets are made of high-quality brass. On the other hand, the patented, gold-plated Solid Chinch TM loudspeaker sockets guarantee optimum grip on even the thickest cables, preventing their accidental loosening.
The discreet tone control is memorized separately for each input and allows your favorite recordings to sound better than ever before. Of course, it is possible to completely turn off the tone control system, and I tested both options.
Two dedicated phono preamplifiers (one for MM cartridges and the other for MC) can be perfectly tuned to the specific cartridge, allowing you to rediscover your vinyl collection. See the picture below.
The new, built-in High Drive headphone amplifier offers a higher gain level. It has been optimized to work with virtually all headphones available on the market, which resulted in the highest-quality listening experience. It is equipped with the HXD ® (Headphone Crossfeed Director) system, which aims to create the illusion of listening using conventional loudspeakers. The headphone amplifier used allows optimal control of most headphones available on the market. The headphone output has a 6.3 mm jack socket and is suitable for headphones with an impedance of 20Ω-600Ω.
The Home Theater Pass-Thru function means the amplifier’s operating mode in which the volume control stops working and the amplifier becomes the power amplifier. Thanks to this, it is possible to perfectly integrate the amplifier with your home theater system.
McIntosh MA9000 is equipped with new microprocessors responsible for key functions that control the operation of the device. There have also been many other improvements to get the best sound.
Advanced high-current output transistors have been used that ensure the elimination of the delay in achieving thermal equilibrium, i.e. the amplifier sounds good right after starting, without having to warm up for a long time.
At 300W per channel, the amplifier has enough power to properly drive virtually any loudspeaker. The use of world-famous McIntosh Output Autoformer ® technology ensures that the speakers always have a full 300W of power, regardless of their impedance.
Technology Power Guard ® prevents speaker overload thus protecting against overload or column damage. The new, built-in High Drive headphone amplifier offers a higher gain level. It has been optimized to work with virtually all headphones available on the market, which resulted in the highest-quality listening experience.
The novelty is the use of McIntosh Monogrammed Heatsinks ™ heat sinks with the “Mc” monogram placed on them. By using the highest quality materials, the heat dissipation efficiency of the amplifier has been increased.
Part of the McIntosh MA9000 housing is made of beautifully polished stainless steel, which harmonizes perfectly with the classic glass front panel, blue tilt indicators, and green backlit inscriptions. Thanks to this McIntosh MA9000 is also an accent decoration of any living room or listening room.
Comparison MA8900 vs McIntosh MA9000
Compared to the MA8900, the housing of the McIntosh MA9000 is much higher (240 mm), and the whole amplifier weighs almost 46 kg (101 pounds). The output power has increased by half – to 300 W per channel, regardless of load (2-8 Ω). Autoformers work on outputs – traditionally for McIntosh.
The McIntosh MA9000 is almost the same amp, with the same DAC, same everything else, etc., but it has an extra 100 watts, more EQ bands, and the front handles.
Most of the solutions used in this powerful amplifier are the same as those found in the MA8900. Therefore, we are dealing with a fully equipped device. The DA1 balanced c / a converter module (the same as in the cheaper model) was used, supporting PCM 24/384 and DSD 11.3 MHz signals, double phono preamplifier (MM / MC), headphone amplifier with HXD function (Headphone Crossfeed Director) and an analog equalizer (in this case up to 8 bands).
In fact, everything else. It is still an identical amplifier as the MA8000, with matching transformers (autoformers) at the output and extensive tone control (eight knobs on the front), very useful, as practice shows, mainly “TV”. With protection systems and built-in phono MM / MC section (really good quality). A number of entries and exits – sufficient.
Handles on both sides of the front add seriousness and studio beauty. It’s not so much a decoration as a practical convenience. You can easily grab them and take the amplifier to any other place.
The McIntosh MA9000 made a staggering impression on me mainly because of the sound. McIntosh MA9000 copes well with a very fast and rhythmic bass section, basically in every aspect (both playing point and bumps and descending).
In fact, hardly any integrated amplifier performs so well. In the midrange and upper part, this amplifier stands out especially from its lower models. McIntosh MA9000 sounds the most spacious, it is an open sound and perfectly fed to the listener. You can feel slight warming and rounding of the treble, but the diameter remains intact.
The vocals sound extremely pleasant and tangible, while the violin and trumpets are completely natural and playing forward. McIntosh MA9000 is a solid device. The powerful power section does its job here very well.
It can go with very diverse speakers because it is easy with this McIntosh MA9000 to match amplifiers with speakers. McIntosh can tweak the speakers properly and handle them fine.
Stereo works great, and when it comes to the quality of sound, there is probably no doubt that an audiophile system with an efficient transistor is a league other than the receiver. And when you still have the right speakers, you won’t need a subwoofer. Although this one can be connected to McIntosh MA9000 if anyone likes spectacular explosions. We tested the sound with the B&W 805 D3 and with the Proac Response DT8, all thanks to the Audio department of El Corte Inglés.
Usability And Total Cost Of Ownership
My only comment regarding McIntosh prices is in regards to the total cost of ownership (TCO). If you purchase an MA8900, or a McIntosh MA9000 your resale value will be fairly close to what you paid for it.
Features Of The McIntosh MA9000
Eight knobs provide extensive tone control. And even something more.
In addition, in many cases, including mine, the amplifier is the heart of the system, which is used not only to listen to music. If we already have a large TV set, why not arrange a cinema at home?
Okay, but what does the converter have to do with it? Everything because today’s video sources have analog audio outputs mounted as often as 5-pin DIN stereo equipment. So almost never.
View after removing the top cover and zoom.
The new DAC is based on the Digital Audio DA1 module, mounted in the latest generation of devices from Binghamton.
It is equipped with an 8-channel, 32-bit c / a converter, working in Quad Balanced mode. The user has six digital inputs at his disposal: two coaxial, two optical, one USB and, not present in MA8000, the company MCT (DIN), to which the McIntosh MCT450 transport can be connected and both CD and SACD signals can be sent.
Digital coaxial and optical inputs accept data up to 24 bits / 192 kHz. Asynchronous USB – PCM up to 32 bits / 384 kHz and DXD 384 kHz and DSD up to DSD 256. The manufacturer declares that with the development of DA1 digital technology it will be possible to replace it with an even more modern module.
The headphone amplifier cooperating with the big jack socket is new construction. As the manufacturer maintains, it is definitely better in terms of sound, which I allow myself to confirm. In fact, in every aspect, it is better, and the dynamics and resolution have especially improved.
The bass is stretched lower, faster; high tones – cleaner and more volatile. Technical parameters will be important for some people. The gain is higher than in the previous one, and the system has been adapted to work with earmuffs with an impedance of 20-600 ohms.
So it will cope with any dynamic construction and should handle most planar ones. If he falls, it’s only in a clash with an extreme and exotic invention. But these are usually sold with preamps intended for them. In addition, the system is equipped with HXD (Headphone Crossfeed Director), which is a patent designed to bring spatial sensations from ear pads closer to those from listening to the speakers.
Perhaps this is why an additional half a kilo (about a pound) has been accumulated compared to the MA8000. But I think it is rather thanks to the new heat sinks. McIntosh Monogrammed Heatsinks have the “Mc” monogram, but more importantly, the heat dissipation efficiency has been increased. From a technical point of view, the thermal balance of the system is the basis.
McIntosh MA9000 is also equipped with more modern, more efficient microprocessors, supporting various functions. Among them was, for example, remembering the settings of the color regulators for each input separately.
Unfortunately, the new remote control did not please us, just like the previous one in the MA8900. It has a flock of unnecessary buttons that I haven’t used. It was as big as a brick and had a strange coating that was covered in dust easily and could not be cleaned in any way.
The amplifier has a power of 300 W per channel, which it gives at a nominal impedance of columns 2, 4 and 8 ohms – no difference. It controls everything that moves the air.
After removing the jumpers, we separate the McIntosh MA9000 into a preamplifier and a power amplifier.
Adaptation to the impedance of the columns as in a lamp.
The key is useful for the adjustments. Only one came in the box, and it would be a pit to lose it.
The listening experience, the audio quality, is the same for the McIntosh MA9000 as for the previous MA model.
Specifications Of The McIntosh MA9000:
- Power – 300W at 8/4/2 Ohms
- Autoformers – the most famous transformers from McIntosh
- Power Guard® system – protects against overloading
- Illuminated output power indicators
- Digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) that supports PCM signal up to 32 Bit / 384 kHz and DXD 384kHz on the USB input and DSD signal up to DSD256
- Digital-to-analog (DAC) converter supporting sampling frequency up to 24 Bit / 192 kHz on digital inputs: coaxial and optical
- Corporate MCT (DIN) input for connecting the MCT-450 CD / SACD
- Numerous digital inputs: asynchronous USB, 2 coaxial, 2 optical and MCT (DIN)
- MC / MM phono amplifier with adjustable settings
- High Drive headphone amplifier with HXD® (Headphone Crossfeed Director)
- Eight-range tone control
- Harmonic Distortion Level: 0.005%
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 445 x 240 x 559 mm (including protruding elements)
- Weight: 45.8 kg
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I am Bob. I work as an audio engineer and audio technician. I work in mastering and arranging bridges in existing songs and the arrangement and orchestration of the chorus. In Planet HiFi I test gear for a couple of days and write a review. I also write about AV topics, amplifiers, speakers, and headphones.