23 McIntosh MTI100 aThis is good idea; a turntable with built-in amplification. All you do is connect your speakers, and maybe a powered subwoofer, and you get music. And it’s beautiful music. But it goes further. You can hook in digital sources through an optical cable or a coaxial, there’s an RCA auxiliary input and high definition Bluetooth can be streamed.

The McIntosh MTI100 produces gorgeously detailed stereo music, both digital and analogue, in the space normally occupied by a turntable alone. It’s also a great looking piece of kit, well made and solid, and weighs a hefty 15 kilograms.

It’s more than a just good idea, its execution is brilliant. The controls are limited to just two rotary dials at left front handling the lot. There’s also a remote which you’ll probably only use for on/off and volume and which, wonder of wonders, is supplied with a non-junk battery.

23 McIntosh MTI100 bSetting it up is simple. Simple for a turntable anyway. The anti-skate and stylus force are both factory set, the cartridge, a Sumiko Olympia Moving Magnet (a nice one, this), is already in the headshell, which is already on the tonearm. The only challenge I faced was getting the two vacuum tubes out of the protective foam they’re packed in – I eventually gave up and cut slits into the foam so I could get my fingers down to them.

Those familiar with McIntosh equipment will expect great things from this device and they won’t be disappointed. The vacuum tubes serve the pre-amp stage, the power amp delivers 50 watts into eight-ohm speakers and 80 watts into four ohms. I listened through eight-ohm Focals and they loved the solid power and absolutely rejoiced in the vacuum tube pre-amp. McIntosh made its name with its amplifiers and while this may be a relatively small one in the company’s lexicon, it sounds terrific. And, glory be, the MTI100 even gets a built-in headphone amplifier.

I’m a big fan of analogue sound and a bigger fan of vacuum tubes. By combining the two this creates the type of sound I could happily listen to forever.

23 McIntosh MTI100 dJennifer Warnes has a relaxed, high-torque voice that never strains; she walks through songs that leave other singers breathless. Start off by listening to The Hunter, but only on record, CD or a high definition download. There’s a track called The Whole of the Moon which, when played on average equipment or compressed, sounds much like any other song. But listen on something like the MTI100 and it soars, so exciting and involving that once is absolutely not enough. You’ll set it to repeat if you’re streaming, if you’re lucky enough to have it on vinyl you’ll get up to move the stylus back to the start again. And again. And you’ll turn it up really loud.

Trying a new turntable always means dipping into old vinyl and I found three variations on Pachelbel’s Canon by Brian Eno, a pioneer of ambient music in the 1970s. Even then he was, er, niche. It’s entirely pleasant; dreamy, melodic, beautifully detailed and a very wide soundstage. But the best thing about it is the record label: ‘obscure.’

I’m concerned that the MTI100 does not come with a dust cover. Okay, I’m a Virgo. If you’re one too there’s no factory option, you’ll have to get one custom made.

It misses out on VU meters but has all the other McIntosh signatures. There’s lots of glass, green backlighting, an excellent instruction book and a huge McIntosh badge. I guess when you’re spending $11,995 you want people to notice.

First published by smh.com.au June 2019

 

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