What's Not The Latest trend in HiFi

Lewis Dalven, resident audiophile, shares his thoughts on product, trends, industry happenings, and why Steeley Dan is the greatest band ever.
Lewis Dalven, resident audiophile, shares his thoughts on product, trends, industry happenings, and why Steeley Dan is the greatest band ever.

I began to get interested in HiFi in 1964 when my older brother assembled his first system. I tagged along with him to a shop in Ridgewood, NJ, a leafy suburb bordering our home town. After a brief qualification we were ushered into a dimly lit room by the proprietor and were given the chance to compare the speaker systems we were considering….using their reference components to power them. I remember the turntable looking very serious. The amplifier was immediately recognizable by its black glass, blue meters and brass metalwork…this was

I began to get interested in HiFi in 1964 when my older brother assembled his first system. I tagged along with him to a shop in Ridgewood, NJ, a leafy suburb bordering our home town. After a brief qualification we were ushered into a dimly lit room by the proprietor and were given the chance to compare the speaker systems we were considering….using their reference components to power them. I remember the turntable looking very serious. The amplifier was immediately recognizable by its black glass, blue meters and brass metalwork…this was McIntosh equipment…unassailably the highest quality gear of that era. We heard the KLH Six’s compared to the KLH 17’s, and both compared to the ARs. Our ears could tell the difference, but my brother’s budget was only enough for the smaller speakers, and we liked the KLHs more lively sound, so we took a pair home to hook up to his newly built Dynakit Stereo 70 and matching PAS-3X and FM-3 tube components. Once the 18 gauge zipcord was wound around the terminal posts, and the needle dropped, we were entranced by the richness of the music. I was hooked.

PAS FM-3
PAS FM-3
PAS 3x
PAS 3X

9 years later, I got my first job in a NJ audio store that sold many b rands, but whose loftiest purpose was to sell McIntosh components to those with the wherewithal, and to instill a longing for McIntosh in everyone else. I didn’t initially understand the allure…we sold other makes that were getting great reviews in the magazines…and McIntosh didn’t submit their equipment for review like the others did. But despite the lack of training in those days, I gathered two things about Mac in the less than a year I was there; no company stood behind their equipment like McIntosh, and nothing was built to maintain its like-new appearance and performance like a McIntosh. It was the closest thing in consumer electronics there was to “an investment”.

mc logoA 40 year career in consumer electronics retailing followed, with countless “flavor of the month” products, the introduction of Home Theater, the growth of custom installation, and internet streaming replacing traditional media all serving to keep the paradigm of sound reproduction shifting. I never sold McIntosh in those years. But I now find myself with a McIntosh dealer again, one that believes in product training…so I have reacquainted myself with the brand I started my career with and their legacy. The two things I learned in 1973 at Stereo Sound in Wayne, NJ are still true, but there is a whole dimension to the technology of McIntosh that I was never aware of that has evolved to make the “value proposition” and the “investment grade” moniker truer today than ever. Every high end electronics manufacturer struggles with a few of the same issues. How to switch inputs reliably, how to control the volume without introducing noise, and how to drive the widest variety of loudspeakers and their fluctuating impedances without compromise. In each of these areas McIntosh engineers have patented unique solutions that make their products outperform and outlast the “best of the rest”. McIntosh owners can expect their input switching to be as noiseless and drop-out free after literally decades of use as when new, have the quietest background noise levels on the market at any listening volume, and can freely choose any speaker type knowing their amplifier will deliver in excess of its full rated power, and that if pushed “beyond the limit” will never add audible distortion to the music. It will also withstand having connected speaker wires crossed without sustaining damage. As a consequence of these features, the durability of McIntosh products is legendary. That they design and manufacture their products from the ground up in Binghamton, NY is a source of pride for many owners. Sheet stainless steel and tempered glass are fabricated into their distinctive chassis and faceplates, all the transformers are produced in-house, potted with tar and encased for minimum noise. All circuit boards are cut, etched and stuffed with nothing but the best electronic components, which are used throughout the line for consistency…there is no “cheap” McIntosh where corners are cut. No other high end manufacturer has the know-how and resources to do so much under their own roof.

MR-77
McIntosh MR-77
mc2105
McIntosh MC2105

A few words about the distinctive look of McIntosh components is in order, because the look is a key to maintaining the product’s value over the years. All buttons and controls are labeled with illuminated etching on the reverse side of the glass, so you can read them in low light and so they can never wear off with use. And if an item ever needs a replacement of its faceplate, McIntosh can manufacture an exact duplicate from plate glass, no matter when the item was originally made. If I had the means and foresight to buy an MC-2105, C-28 or MR-77 in 1974, I could purchase an esthetically matched item today and you’d need to pay close attention to tell the old from the new. That continuity of design means you’ll never need to replace anything just to maintain a well-matched system. No other company cares to do this, preferring to change the styling every few years. One quantifiable result of all this attention to quality and value can be seen on resale sites like eBay, and Audiogon. McIntosh components retain more value by far than any other brand of audio equipment. Virtually everything they have produced is in demand on the used market, and some of their vintage items are among the most sought after in the world. Audio Concepts has been recommending McIntosh products for over 17 years. Our founder and president, Don Houde, who is also a certified electronics technician, has seen the value and quality of McIntosh products from the inside out, and chose to build his business by selling the best with integrity…a heritage a new old-timer like myself can applaud…and wish to continue. Thanks for reading! Lewis Dalven

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