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McIntosh Mixes Old, New With 3 Stereo Preamps

Old-school tubes and new-school high-resolution digital decoding put in an appearance in the latest three stereo analog preamps from luxury-audio maker McIntosh.

The Fine Sounds brand introduced two single-chassis preamps that become its first analog preamps to decode high-resolution DSD. The third stereo preamp is the company’s flagship, a two-chassis model that incorporates vacuum tubes.

The two preamps with DSD decoding are the $7,000 C52 and $4,000 C47. Both feature USB input to accept PCM signals up to 32-bit/384kHz and supports DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DXD 352.8kHz and DXD 384kHz. A proprietary input on each preamp connects to the McIntosh MCT450 SACD/CD transport to play back DSD-encoded music on SACD discs. Optical and coax inputs on each unit stream digital music at up to 24-bit/192kHz for high-resolution playback.

The C52 and C47 replace analog preamps that offered 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution decoding via USB, but neither offered DSD, a spokesman said.

McIntosh’s digital D100 preamp and its replacement, the D150, were the company’s first digital preamps to do DSD, but they only went up to DSD128, not to DSD256 as do the C52 and C47 analog preamps.

The D150 digital preamp, like the C52 and C47, also decodes DXD 352.8kHz and DXD 384kHz.

 “Since computer platforms like OS and Windows will need a dedicated third-party program to play DSD, we are also able to decode DSD over PCM (352, 384 kHz), which is DXD,” said McIntosh’s Ron Cornelius of the C52, C47, and D150. “We want to be compatible with whatever computer the end user has.”

For its part, the C1100 two-chassis preamp consists of the $6,500 C1100 controller and $6,500 C1100 vacuum-tube preamplifier, said to deliver higher performance than previous McIntosh preamps. It lacks digital decoding.

The left and right channels inside each chassis are electrically and mechanically isolated from each other to deliver dual-mono operation to step up sound quality. All power control, data ports and external control connections are located in the C1100 controller. The vacuum-tube preamplifier chassis houses audio connections and audio circuitry. It incorporates 12 vacuum tubes, up from eight in the predecessor model, to reduce dependency on solid-state circuits to further enhance sound quality, the company said. It comes with 12 analog inputs, including moving-magnet and moving-coil inputs.

The chassis of both C1100 components feature polished stainless steel and hairline-brushed black titanium stainless steel.