It's an exciting day for us here at The Listening Post in Christchurch!
Happily showing up at the door is one of the largest, heaviest amplifier boxes I have ever seen. With a total shipped weight a hair under 65Kg, this amplifier is not going to be trivial to move around!
The un-boxing process itself is truly an experience. The amplifier is double boxed and attached to a large wooden pellet, ensuring the box is rigid and sturdy in transit. Simply removing these boxes is just about a three man job, given the weight of the amplifier.
Why are we so excited?
So, before we plug it in, why are we so excited about this amplifier? This beast's reputation has definitely preceded it: this amplifier is the face of the modern McIntosh and they have packed every ounce of their latest (and legendary) technology into it.
The MC452 is rated conservatively to deliver 450W per channel, regardless of speaker load. That means almost any speaker on earth can be tamed and then unleashed with this amplifier.
The 'Quad Balanced' stamped onto the front of the amplifier is itself a very cool technology. Instead of a single amplifier on each channel, there is a fully separate amplifier for both the push and pull sections of sound. This means it is fully balanced and can handle much higher power, longer term, with astoundingly low distortion. The channels are then combined inside McIntosh's unique output transformers.
It uses the new "ThermalTrak" transistors on the output section, a design significantly more expensive to produce than standard output transistors. Transistor performance changes significantly with temperature, so these can adjust the transistor bias depending on temperature, ensuring performance is perfectly consistent at any temperature. Even better, these particular output transistors have some of the most linear response available, with excellent transient response thrown in.
The massive power transformer is a work of art. Hand wound by McIntosh, it weighs 35 pounds on it's own! Even with the massive output transformers at the rear of the unit, the power transformer makes the amplifier front heavy.
Simply put, this amplifier is built to the most astonishing standards.
The MC452 in place in our stereo system!
So how does it sound?
McIntosh has been producing amplifiers for so long, I think people have this impression of excellent quality, but overly warm and fuzzy. This impression usually comes from hearing them with what are now very dated speakers.
Generally speaking, when customers hear a recent model McIntosh amplifier they are very pleasantly surprised. The current McIntosh sound is incredibly fast and detailed, but still somehow manages to feel smooth and massive all at once. Powering the large Dynaudio Focus 380's it feels to be in complete control with notably excellent bass definition and a very stable stereo image.
This system is absolutely amazing. Everybody needs to hear a system like this at least once in their lifetime!