McIntosh MHA200 Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by roshambo123, Mar 14, 2021.

  1. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Update: SourceAV reports McIntosh has pushed the release date back to April
    Update 5/8/21: Impressions posted

    This is expected to ship March 2021 and retail for $2500. I live near theSourceAV who is a McIntosh dealer, so hoping they will add one to their demo showroom and I'll have the opportunity to hear it and post impressions here.

    It does not have a built-in DAC like the MHA150, and also lacks the speaker outs and cross-feed. They've added 4-pin XLR and stereo 3-pin XLR outputs and four selectable impedances. I'm not sure what topology "Unity Coupled Circuit output transformers" implies.

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    Some notes from McIntosh Website:

    ■ Three options for attaching your headphones: a pair of 3-pin balanced XLR connectors for dedicated Left and Right balanced output; a 4-pin balanced XLR connector for balanced stereo output; and a 1/4” stereo headphone jack.

    ■ Uses a pair of our Unity Coupled Circuit output transformers to deliver pristine audio to your ears.

    ■ The Unity Coupled Circuit transformers have been adapted to produce 4 headphone impedance ranges of 32 – 100, 100 – 250, 250 – 600, and 600 – 1,000 Ohms at 500mW so that virtually every headphone can receive legendary McIntosh sound quality and performance.

    ■ Powered by a pair of 12AT7 and 12BH7A dual triode vacuum tubes.


    https://www.mcintoshlabs.com/products/headphone-amplifiers/MHA200
     
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    Last edited: May 8, 2021
  2. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Demo'd the MHA200 at theSourceAV today. Thank you to Wayne there for keeping me informed and letting me know when they came in, then assisting me with the listening session.

    I heard two different units, one with stock tubes and the other with a pair of GE Military 5751's from Upscale audio. The stock unit took input from RCA's coming from a Chord Qutest and the 5751 unit had balanced inputs from an SPL Director. I was very curious how it would sound with a good R2R DAC like Yggdrasil or Gungnir Multibit, although I had none to try. Both amps were brand new with minimal break-in. Headphones demo'd were HD6XX, HD800SDR, LCD2.1, LCD-X, LCD-4, Utopia, Clear Mg,

    General Comments
    The thing is small. The pictures make it seem larger than it is but it's the same footprint as a Jot 2, just 3.75 inches taller. Build is typical super-grade McIntosh with the exception of some slight play in the volume knob, which was exhibited by both units. The balanced 4-pin and 1/4 SE output sounded identical to me. I didn't measure but I heard no obvious drop in volume or degraded quality on SE.

    Listening Impressions
    The stock tube setup with the Qutest was so bright on HD800SDR and even LCD2.1's that it gave me a splitting headache. Maybe the Qutest contributed here, hard to say, but I moved to the 5751 unit which had much more tolerable treble, although the 5751's were warmer than the stock tubes. All comments therefore should be considered to be from the 5751 unit+SPL Director. If I bought this amp I'd throw the stock tubes out immediately, assuming this was not just bad DAC synergy.

    With the 5751's, I'd call it a mini-Big Boi. The MHA200 with the 5751's is closer to the weight class of Starlett than Jot 2 or MJ2, although certainly different than the Schiit or DNA house sounds. It has typical McIntosh sound, plenty of power, excellent clarity and blackground, good slam without bloat, and tasteful decay. It is not very tubey with minimal bloom, less than DNA Starlett if I remember, but around there, it is more neutral but with just enough wetness to give it engagement and naturalness. The 5751 contributed some warmth, and my preferences lean warm.

    Changing the impedance using the load knob made a big difference and I felt each headphone was best served using the setting closest to the headphone's nominal impendence, although the two closest settings were about equally good. The treble titled HD800SDR I wanted to run at the max 600 ohm setting since it seemed to give it some extra thickness and soften things up. The low Z LCD-X's wanted to be run at 32 ohm or 100 ohm, as running at 600 ohm turned them into steaming warmpoo garbage. The LCD2.1's and LCD-4's were best at the 150 ohm setting.

    Stock tubes not withstanding, I have to believe the MHA200 is a pretty neutral amp with the 5751's, as my response to the individual headphones was pretty similar to what would happen if I was demo'ing a Jot 2 or other neutral amp. HD800SDR and Utopia were just slightly too bright, the LCD-X was great, and dark headphones like HD6XX's and LCD2.1's were very good. In particular, the LCD-4's (a personal favorite) sounded fabulous, and were my favorite pairing. I didn't spend a lot of time with the Focal Mg but I thought it sounded very bass light, although mids and treble were good.

    Comparing the MHA200 to the WA33, going back to the Woo I felt like I had just dove into a Olympic swimming pool filled with tube bloom (not a bad thing if you're me). But then again, the MHA200 was obviously more tubey, lively, and warm next to something analytical like a Chord TT2. I'd say the MHA200 had a cohesive SET-like sound, although I do not know what topology is used. I am curious to what results tube rolling could produce.

    Overall, it's a very good amp, and the best performing amp in this size I've heard.

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    1st unit with stock tubes and Chord Qutest

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    2nd MHA200 unit with 5751 tubes rolled in

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    Upscale audio provided 5751 tubes


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    Tubes with their tube hut
     
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    Last edited: May 9, 2021
  3. Crowbar44

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    [​IMG]

    I think the review above is pretty spot on. I picked one of these up last week and have been using it with my LCD-2fs, HD660Ss and the onboard Multibit DAC from my Asgard 3 (My Bifrost 2 is on backorder).

    The MHA200 has really fast, punchy transitions, it's very musical and accurate. This is not a warm gooey OTL tube amp. The highs don't sound rolled off, nor do they sound harsh, again, very musical. I am impressed by the bass response, which goes much lower than my Asgard 3. Midrange is classic McIntosh tubes - just gorgeous. In general, I prefer this amp to my Asgard 3 in every way. The A3 is a fantastic amp, and a tremendous value, but the MHA200 (which costs 6x more) is better (it better be!).

    I like the pairing of the Schiit multibit DAC sound with the MHA200 - though I believe my non-Unison USB onboard DAC card in my Asgard is probably holding me back on getting the most out of this amp. Looking forward to the Bifrost arriving.

    I'm not a tube roller (for now), and I have absolutely no issue with the sound out of the box with stock tubes.

    For me, this is an end-game amp, very doubtful I'll find the need to replace it anytime soon. I have a set of OG Clears on the way, from what I've read, they should synergize nicely with the MHA200.

    This amp definitely deserves a listen, and should be on the short list of anyone looking for an amp in the $2.5k range. In particular, it's versatility and ability to drive any set of cans makes it a great investment. Those looking for an old school tube amp with rolled highs and flabby base but with gorgeous midrange need not apply. This amp does everything very, very well, best I've heard in fact, regardless of price.
     
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    Last edited: May 11, 2021

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