|McIntosh C50 Stereo Preamp Preview|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Michael Palmer|
|Tuesday, 02 November 2010|
The C50 from McIntosh is set to offer more flexibility and performance capabilities than any previous McIntosh Control Centers. It seems most stereo preamplifiers are designed to work primarily with analog music sources, which of course the C50 will do in spades, but it also plans to enhance contemporary digital sources as well, including tuners, CD players, music servers, and USB storage devices.
For flexibility, the C50 may be combined with multi-channel audio systems by using the Pass Through feature, which allows the stereo system to be selectively folded into a home theater system. Additionally, integration with third party controls systems is a snap thanks the C50's ability to translate the third party control commands to legacy McIntosh source products.
Vinyl fans well enjoy two separate phono inputs, covering all phono cartridge types, that ensure phono playback at the highest level. Also, phono playback may be trimmed using the hand held remote control, for an accurate and pleasing response.
In place of normal bass and treble adjustments, the C50 features McIntosh exclusive eight-band tone controls which are also programmable to be deployed or bypassed by input selection as needed. These advanced tone controls allow for an audio response solution for less than perfect recordings. The C50 also features advanced digital decoding, using the latest 32 bit/192kHz digital to analog conversion. Further, all digital date asynchronously re-sampled up to 32 bit/192kHz making the data independent of its source and jitter free, resulting in analog sound quality from digital sources. USB source data rates to 32 bit/192kHz are supported.
In the input department, the C50 comes with ten balanced analog inputs (including the two phono inputs, an upgrade of two from the C48), plus Moving Magnet and Moving Coil, both having trim adjustments on the remote control. Four additional digital inputs may be assigned to any of the ten inputs.
McIntosh's proprietary USB digital audio inputs completes the package, and allows downloaded, ripped from CDs, or streaming music to be enjoyed on the home audio system. Unlike the C48, the C50's remote can control music being played on any of your favorite Mac and PC audio programs.
Designers were careful to separate all the digital circuitry and power supplies from the analog circuitry (digital is mounted below the steal chassis, and analog mounted above). Supposedly, this separation allows the electrical shield of steal to enhance the C50 performance close to that of a two chassis preamp design.
The C50, in another upgrade over the C48, features one processor loop, which provides the addition of a 2-channel processor or record device monitor loop to the system. The processor circuits are located immediately after the source selection and before the volume and equalizer, allowing the C50 to operate most effectively.
Lastly, the C50 has a built-in dedicated headphone amplifier, which remains active for personal listening even when the main preamp outputs are muted.
Aesthetically, the C50 preamp features an inverted, polished stainless steel chassis with the iconic "McIntosh Blue" front panel output level meters and a top glass cover. The C50 is available from McIntosh dealers for a cool $6,500.