McIntosh, the name seems to popup everywhere. Of course there is the computer company, the corner market has some apples and even the label inside my raincoat say's McIntosh. However, when you apply that name to high-end audio the word takes on an entirely greater significance. Any established audio manufacturer would give their eyeteeth to have the same reputation for build quality, long-term reliability, and customer service.
The McIntosh Group has financial interests in other well-respected high-end luxury audio companies. Under the McIntosh Group's umbrella are Audio Research, sonus faber, Sumiko Audio, and Wadia. Within this tale are very poignant lessons to be learned, and that is no matter who held the reins of the company that no one tried to make drastic changes to the production or design of McIntosh Labs products. After all, they were sacrosanct! All these interests wanted to be associated with the brand name, longstanding reputation, and the potential that comes with the name McIntosh Labs.
Getting back to the classic McIntosh Labs design, there are two beautifully big, signature blue colored peak indicating power meters on the face. These are a McIntosh Labs brand dead giveaway. On the left front face is a rotary knob used to select an input source. This knob is also used to enter and select the TRIM or SETUP modes. Just to the right of that is a headphone jack. Moving just below the center McIntosh logo are left and right channel Power Guard activation indication LED's. And dead center is the selected information LED display so you can make adjustments as desired.
The center digital display has a large blue LED readout on a dark background. The display shows, source selection, digital input, volume levels and setup functions. To the immediate right is the remote controls IR sensor. Just under the right side power meter is the Standby power On / Off push button. Lastly is the lower right side Volume control knob. This is also used to set the TRIM and SETUP functions. On line I count eleven Mac components that are classified as integrated amplifiers. The MC 5300 at 100 Watts into 8 Ohms and 160 Watts into 4 Ohms is similar to two other integrated amplifiers. The MA 252 and MA 5200 they both have similar power ratings per channel. The MA 5200 does have a MM phono stage on board, yet unlike the MA 5300 it doesn't have an upgradable digital audio module. Additionally, the newer MA 5300 integrated amplifier adds a much more sophisticated digital audio processor plus McIntosh Labs has added ability for internal software upgrades.
With S/PDIF coaxial and TosLink optical input capability the on board, the DAC can handle up to 24 bits @ 192 kHz. The USB input can process up to 384 kHz @ 32 bits (PCM). McIntosh Labs MA 5300 is also capable of processing DSD from basic 64 all the way up to DXD 384 kHz. There is a third digital input, MCT. This input will accept high bandwidth digital data for directly decoding SACD/CD from an external source. The MA5300 Includes a phono input capable of amplifying a moving magnet (MM) or (the company claims) a high output moving coil (MC) cartridge.
Backstage With McIntosh Labs' MA5300
At the upgradeable Digital Audio Module are two S/PDIF coaxial, two TosLink optical inputs, a MCT digital input for streaming, and a USB digital computer audio input. To the right is a USB service port for servicing and software upgrading. To the right are two Mini plug Data ports, two External control 3.5 mm stereo mini plug connections, and last two mini plug Power control output mini connectors labeled, Main and Pass-thru.
Analog input connections include a standard IEC power cord socket, next are two pairs of Power Amp and Preamp RCA jacks strapped for normal Stereo operation. Following those are four pairs of RCA input jacks, then a chassis ground lug, two RCA Phono inputs, and last are the left and right XLR jacks. McIntosh Labs' MA5300 remote control is full-featured and contains all the functions to setup and operate this amplifier. Some control functions are beyond the scope this evaluation and intended for other McIntosh components. Also the specifications and possible system configurations are extensive and numerous, so I will list them at the end of this report.
Note: All digital input sources were decoded to PCM. Even my reference SACD of Nils Lofgren Acoustic Live was converted to 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM. The Output from my Ortofon 2M Silver MM cartridge went directly to the MA 5300 onboard phono stage via unbalanced cables. For a comparison, my reference Tavish Design Adagio tube Phono Preamplifier was connected to an unbalanced line input. Last, I hooked up my Sangean HDG-1 Digital AM/FM radio to a RCA line input.
No matter the source plugged into this amplifier I could hear back to the source, and not to the MA5300. My Ortofon 2M Silver (silver wire) cartridge sound came through loud and clear. The result was better than ever! It was a painted image on a large dimensional and detailed soundscape. Even the digital optical TosLink inputs were true to the musical source. My Music Hall upsampling DAC 25.3 contains a tube buffer at the output. I was very, very particular about the sound of that DAC. So I decided to plug in an ancient Bugle Boy miniature dual triode into the output of that DAC. Listening to a SACD recording of Nils Lofgren, Acoustic Live I could clearly hear the familiar overtones and timberal shadings of my old Bugle Boy buffered DAC.
Remember, Enjoy The Music and from me, Semper Hi-Fi.
Digital Audio Specifications