MCINTOSH MA252 STEREO INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
This review has been produced and provided by a reviewer for Superfi/Nottingham HiFi Centre.
Reviewed at £4,500 (RRP)
I was invited to have a listen and a play around with the McIntosh MA252 Integrated Amplifier. Of course, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands as I’d only ever heard of these units by passing conversation. A well-known company renowned for producing home audio and visual systems delivering the ultimate performance. Never thought I’d get the chance to listen and see one in the flesh so feel quite lucky. The guys at Nottingham Hi-Fi Centre let me borrow one of their demonstration rooms for an hour whilst I had a listen. Followed by a quick walk through of its technology by Anthony.
“Instrumental pieces were clean, full of detail and precise…”
Now a little history and background information… Founded in 1949, McIntosh is designed and hand crafted in the McIntosh Laboratory in Binghampton, New York. Their range currently includes Amplifiers (Pre and integrated), Receivers, Speakers, Turntables and Blu-Ray Players plus so much more! You could easily kit the whole house out with just this one brand. Legendary artists, musicians and producers have also selected McIntosh systems, including Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Ralph Johnson of Earth, Wind and Fire. There must be a reason why so many famous musicians use this brand. Now let’s talk about my findings when I got to have a listen.
“Legendary artists, musicians and producers have also selected McIntosh systems…”
Boasting a hybrid design, vacuum tube pre-amp and a solid-state power amplifier, the MA252 integrated amplifier gives us 100 watts (into 8 ohms) or 160 watts (into 4 ohms). It’s worth noting at this point that this amplifier can power small or large speakers, obviously as with all amplifiers, there would be a limit to its capability here. This hard to beat unit features the McIntosh Monogrammed Heatsinks which are connected to advanced high current output transistors. Basically, these transistors eliminate the typical warming-up time of a valve amp allowing it to reach peak operating condition from the moment it is switched on. Using a powerful control microprocessor, the MA252 is capable of a smooth system operation. This along with the latest audio-grade circuit components gives this amplifier the ability to deliver a truly phenomenal sound. Now, if you wanted to further enhance the lower frequencies to give it that extra ‘oomph’, you can connect a powered subwoofer using the full range subwoofer output. Depending on the speakers you are using and your room dynamics, you may find that you don’t actually need more bass – But it’s there if you wanted it.
"The MA252 'wowed' me and showed me that a virtual orchestra does exist..."
Upon switching the MA252 amplifier on, it only took about 4 seconds for the valves to light up green, suggesting it was ready to go… Brilliant! Using the PMC Twenty5.24 floor standing speakers and the matching McIntosh MB50 Streamer, I was ready to have some serious quality time with this thing. I was able to play from Internet Radio using the free downloadable app ‘Play-Fi’ on the tablet to control the input. This app allows you to play from various sources including Tidal, Spotify and as mentioned, Internet Radio. I listened to a few albums using the platform Tidal (High-Res Audio Files). First on the playlist was Pure Heroin by Lorde. It was a moment of wow instantly as it just felt so alive. Delivering the typical warm sound that you get from valve amplifiers it also managed to grip me with the cleanliness and seperation of the vocals. Let’s try something with more drama to it… War Of The Worlds… That should do it. And it definitely did it; the room just filled with a rich and dynamic sound. Instrumental pieces were clean, full of detail and precise, exactly where they should be (think of where each instrument sits in a live orchestra) with a very wide sound stage. I felt like I was part of the Orchestra - something that is hard to feel with the majority of amplifiers on the market today.
As much as I could have got lost in this all day, unfortunately the guys were busy and I had used up my hour time slot. Over-all, the MA252 'wowed' me and showed me that a virtual orchestra does exist! It was visually and sonically stunning. It’s pleasantly and modestly sized and not as big as you would think to say the sound it created. Unfortunately, though as much as this would look stunning in any front room with it’s finish, as you can see from my photo’s, it’s a dust and finger print collector. Fair enough, the fingerprints were actually mine but I couldn’t waste any time cleaning this as all time spent here was valuable to me.
The guys at our sister company, Nottingham Hi-Fi Centre have currently got this on demonstration to show off to the wider Midlands area. If you’re in Nottingham at any point, pop in and ask for a listen. You won’t be disappointed!
Pro's: Stylish concept with a very modern design approach. Typical warm, easy-listening sound that you would expect from a valve amp. Brings music to life which is really difficult to find in an amplifier these days. Perfect for all types of music and doesn't get messy and confused with instrumental pieces.
Con's: It's mirrored finish, although looks the part, isn't ideal if you don't want to get the duster out everyday. It's an unusual shape that doesn't match the rest of the equipment in the series. Realistically you would need to sit on top of a unit or shelf.
Would I buy this amplifier? Yes. But I would need to consider where to sit it and I would need to pair it with the right speakers to match my personal taste.
You can find the full range of McIntosh equipment here: https://www.mcintoshlabs.com/