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McIntosh MA6600 Integrated Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Monday, 20 September 2010
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McIntosh MA6600 Integrated Amplifier Review
Listening Continued

Along with my usual reference recordings, I also had a fresh Amazon stack on hand, including Ray Lagmontagne’s new one, God Willin’ and the Creek Don't Rise. The album has a gothic, psychedelic folk rock feel that had me mesmerized for the better part of a month as I  tried in vain to get the song "Beg Steal or Borrow" out of my head. No luck. Lagmontagne’s vocals were beautifully recorded, dryly mixed, and supported by bass, drums, guitars, pedal steel, and other interesting touches. The MA6600 rendered the album in such a natural, unforced, and engaging way, I was hooked. Coming to the MA6600 never having had a McIntosh amp in my home set up, my ears were open to forming an unbiased opinion. Well, I was fast becoming a convert.

Free's classic album, Fire and Water, is a touchstone for testosterone fueled, bluesy rock, chock full of Les Paul guitar, Marshall stacks, and throaty, lust soaked vocals from Paul Rodgers, one of rock's greatest singers. The MA6600 revealed the age of the recording, as well as various tape flaws, distortion, and other problems. I point this out to illustrate the neutrality of the amp; it will reveal all, warts and all. But that being said, the bass drum on the title track absolutely thumped, and the crunchy power cords in "Alright Now" were so full of texture, it was quite awe inspiring.

Back Panel

Staying on a Paul Rodgers kick, I recently purchased remasters of his one album with Kenny Jones of the Faces and the Who, The Law, and his first solo album after leaving Bad Company, in 1983, called Cut Loose. Both albums are pretty much forgotten, but unjustly so. Great songs, great singing, if not a bit dated production wise. Nonetheless, the MA6600 got right to heart of the music, with superb dynamics, a clean, accurate midrange, and powerful, articulate, and extended bass, the kind that hits you in the chest. Did I say I was hooked?

I also decided to explore some John Coltrane remasters to see how the MA6600 did with complex, textured acoustic music.  Soultrane, and My Favorite Things, both from 1958, are some of the most cherished albums among Coltrane aficionados. Both were recorded in Hackensack, NJ, by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder, and he also thankfully oversaw the meticulous digital transfers and remastering in 2006. Well, the MA6600 passed with flying colors. Coltrane's mind blowing horn work seemed to pour out of the speakers like a winding snake on the up tempo tracks, and ease out with liquid, velvety ease on the ballads. Wow.

I then spent some time listening to the tuner. I must admit up front, I am not a radio person, but I was looking forward to exploring what a tuner from McIntosh could do to win me over. When I first ran the coaxial cable from the cable jack into the MA6600 and tuned in a couple of local stations, I was quite surprised at great the reception and how generally high end the sound was. I have not had great luck with tuners in the past due to being in the vicinity of an small airport and mountain range. None of this was a factor with the MA6600 HD tuner module. As a matter of fact, it was a bit of an eye opener for me. The supplied outboard AM antenna worked great too, and is connected to the MA6600 via an ethernet cable. The ethernet jack on the back of the amp can also be used for firmware updates.

Mac Front

I was having a blast with the tuner, enjoying tremendously crystal clear FM sound in a high end system. It has been years since I got down with FM, and most of my listening is done in the car, or via the internet.  I used to make loads of recordings as well. And the MA6600 does offer a recording output, as a note of interest.  I also enjoyed tuning stations with an old fashioned knob, just like the old days.

My final notes concerning set up and use are minor. The MA6600 ran moderately warm when used for several hours. It was utterly noiseless. I mean deathly quiet when no music was playing. The remote was well laid out, although some might complain about its plastic construction. But if you want a metal remote as heavy as a hand grenade, mind you, that will add to the cost.  I’d rather take the chinzty remote, with more invested into the unit itself.


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