The MA352, the big chrome bruiser of McIntosh's new integrated amplifier line is looking sharp and playing it loud!
We now have the MA352 on display at Pearl Audio and awaiting your audition with our fabulous collection of loudspeakers from B&W, Sonus faber, Dynaudio, and Magnepan. We've been without an MA352 since last Fall and know many of you want to see and hear one.
As you can see from the photo, the MA352 has tubes AND blue meters which is "the best in the best of all possible worlds" as the other Voltaire would say. The tubes are for the integrated tube preamplifier section while the meters show you power output from the solid state power amplifier section. The best thing about this is not just the sound but the fact that you can see both the glowing tubes and the blue meters reflecting off of the mirror-finished stainless steel chassis.
How much power do you ask? It has 200 watts into 8-ohms, same as the MAC7200 and MA8000. 200 watts is a bit of a magical number because it's enough power to seriously drive most full-range performance speakers.
The MA352, along with its little brother the MA252, are first integrateds in recent memory that McIntosh has produced with a built-in tube preamplifier section.
Previously if you wanted tubes in an integrated, we had the MA2275 which was the opposite of the MA352: a solid state preamplifier with a 75 watt tube amplifier built in. I (John) personally sold quite a few of those back in the mid-2000s. I loved that piece because it gave tube sound in a single chassis and at a lower price than the then-current C2200 and MC275 combination. Today you see MA2275s selling for around 70% of their original price - not bad for a dozen years of musical enjoyment!
The big deal sonically with the MA352 is that it gives you the low level detail and harmonic richness of tubes combined with the strength of a large solid state power amplifier. The tube preamplifier's tube richness and low-level detail come through the low-noise power amplification stage.
MA352 also has a built-in five band equalizer with individual knobs on the front panel. You can choose to keep this in-circuit or switched out. In practical use the equalizer is a very nice feature for the vinyl lover in particular. Sometimes its nice to just add a little extra treble to an old recording or crank up the bass - remember the classic U shaped equalization curve we all knew so well for classic rock music? You can have that again.
The MA352 also has a McIntosh High Drive headphone amplifier built-in on the front panel - it's right next to the graphic equalizer on the left. The headphone output also features Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD) which is uses circuitry to add virtual dimension to the sound so it's a bit more like listening to actual speakers in front of you rather than a band-of-sound inside around your head. We saw this technology first appear in the MHA150 headphone amplifier and now it's percolated to the new integrateds.
Circling around back, you can see the MA352 has a wealth of inputs.
Starting on the left we have a service USB port - this is not for computer audio but rather firmware updates. Next to it are power and data control ports which allow you to turn your entire McIntosh system on and off from one remote and to control (for example) a McIntosh CD player from the MA352's remote.
Next are two subwoofer outputs. You can use these to feed mono or stereo subwoofers.
Next are three unbalanced inputs, MM Phono input (a very good one), and two balanced inputs. I'd recommend using the balanced inputs for your most important sources because they are lower noise. The MA352's setup menu will let you configure an input as a home theater bypass. If you have an MC cartridge I'd recommend getting McIntosh's MP100 phono preamplifier which has balanced outputs. For an external phono stage, the MA352's menu system will let you rename the input to 'MC Input' or any other name you choose. Like all modern day McIntosh preamps/integrateds, full feature configurability is the word of the day.
As you may have noticed by now, the MA352 is an analog beast. It has no digital inputs. For that you need to go to an MA7200 or MA8900, both of which give you a digital sections and 200 watt autoformer output stage, but no tube preamplifier section.
To add digital to the MA352 McIntosh has a new CD player that matches the MA352: the MCD85.
There is a CD player drawer comes out horizontally - the front bevel is angled to keep it more hidden. Around back you can see the MCD85 also has digital inputs, which makes it into full fledged DAC.
Pearl Audio has a few MCD85s on order for demo and stock - they should be arriving sometime in the March to April timeframe.