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McIntosh MC501 Monoblock Power Amplifier Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 February 2009
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McIntosh MC501 Monoblock Power Amplifier
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The configuration for my demo of the MC501 at Premiere Home Entertainment was already set up in their main demo room to showcase a Marantz VP-15S1 1080p DLP  projector. The audio rack was lined with three MC501’s and one MC252 power amp. A Furman IT-Reference power conditioner was positioned directly underneath the Marantz BD8002 Blu Ray DVD player, with all the cable lines leading directly to the McIntosh MX136 Audio Visual Control Center which sent out the most precise and up-scaled video images to the Marantz projector and all the audio signals to the B&W Diamond 802 Series loudspeakers. These speakers had already been configured to the correct crossover frequencies by the Premiere home theater technician who has been certified as a McIntosh audio specialist after taking their technician’s test at the main McIntosh manufacturing plant located in up-state New York.

The MC501’s were all contained in the main rack to the left of the room and the speakers were all positioned on the opposite side of the room.  The main subwoofer was located to the left of the speakers, though I believe the subwoofer should almost always be centered under the movie screen for maximum impact. The dual McIntosh MC1.2KW’s were situated in the center instead. These two massive power amps push a huge 1,200 watts apiece, so giving them as much room as they needed was never a question, even at the expense of moving the subwoofer off to the side.  Another main component of this set-up was the McIntosh MX-136 audio-video processor. It can detect the exact surround codec while also ensuring that the best mode for the exact type of music/movie you are inputting into it is always selected; regardless of what you happen to be listening to.

The room itself is a well-insulated room that measured around 25 feet wide and 20 feet long, give or take a foot or two. The main speaker and cable wire used for this system comes from Kimber Kable, a speaker wire company well known for delivering impeccable sound to any loudspeaker system. The input sensitivity for the MC501 is rated at 2.1 volts unbalanced and 4.2 volts balanced, so the Furman power conditioner that was used in the main system’s audio rack ensured that the sound emanating from the power amplifier was as clean and concise as needed, while still providing plenty of power to drive the B&W Signature 802 Diamond Series loudspeakers.   The MC501 powers 500 watts into any audio system that handles between 8 and 2 ohms.  This set-up not only had one, but three of these power amplifiers driving the speakers, and I still didn’t discern any distortion whatsoever.

Movies and Music

To get the essential overview of what kind of substantial power three MC501’s can have on an elaborate home theater, I decided to start experienced that power by running the movie “I, Robot” after picking out the right seating arrangement in the showroom that would best demonstrate the power of the McIntosh amp.  The combination of the Marantz BD8002 Blu-ray player and the Marantz VP-15S1 DLP 1080p projector was also an excellent match and the digital audio steaming off the Marantz player impacted all the sound effects in the Will Smith movie with full and impressive clean dynamics. The movie screen I witnessed this action-packed film sequence on was a Stewart Filmscreen Firehawk G3 102-inch front projection screen, and the optical coating featured on this dynamic surface really brought out the image contrast and resolution of the Blu-ray version of “I, Robot.”

Jim cued up the action sequence in which Will Smith is driving along the freeway and the truck in front of him opens up its rear door where we see about forty or so robots ready to attack Smith at any second. The sub-woofer, which was aligned to the left of the screen, was able to handle the bass explosions as one of the main robots leaped onto Smith’s car with a huge crash and put his iron fist directly through the car’s windshield. Without question, the MC501’s powered this sequence with precision and clarity.  If you saw “I, Robot” in a THX-certified theater with an expansive amount of surround-sound speakers, you would still not have the sublime experience I had during this demo. When I heard the impact of the robot’s sheer iron fist going through that windshield, along with the soaring soundtrack that really enhanced the excitement level of that sequence, I was in cinematic heaven.

During this action sequence in “I, Robot”, you can hear Will Smith’s slightly panicked dialogue with crystal clear clarity, which means the MC501’s handles the delicate transition between bombastic sound effects and quiet dialog-heavy scenes. There was no time during watching this sequence in which the width of the sound elements dissipated at all. The mid-range from the B&W speakers always exploded with a definite clarity. The low-end bass sounds of Smith’s car careening all over the highway as he fought off the robot stuck on top of the hood of his car did not effect the MC501’s in any negative way whatsoever.  The orchestration on the movie soundtrack swelled to a high crescendo as the robot continued to hammer Smith’s now badly damaged car.  I could hear the cymbals clash with extreme clarity and the string section filled with violas, violins and the acoustic bass rushed through the sound system. I literally bent my neck back with the enveloping and powerful impact.


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