MCINTOSH MC 462 STEREO POWER AMPLIFIER
Price reduction of $400 to $6500!! Financial restraints require me to dismantle and sell my high end system, a featured piece of which is the McIntosh MC 462 solid state power amplifier which was purchased new from Glen Poor’s Audio/Video in Champaign, Illinois.
This amp one of the “new generation” McIntosh power amplifiers and has been upgraded in many significant ways (see below) which vaults it into the upper echelon of power amplifiers, regardless of price (as set forth below, Stereophile magazine agrees.) It is the best amp I have ever heard and is in pristine condition with below average use.
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Here’s what Stereophile magazine has to say:
“The solid-state MC462 power amplifier replaces the MC452 and is now the most powerful stereo amplifier McIntosh offers, with a specified continuous power output of 450Wpc into 2, 4, or 8 ohms, and peak output current of 75 amperes per channel. (McIntosh claims a 66% increase in dynamic headroom over the MC452, achieved by a big increase in power-supply filter capacitance.) The MC462's distortion is specified as not exceeding 0.005% at rated power output, and as no more than 0.002% in the mid-frequencies.
In the MC462, which operates in class-AB, the concept of complementary pairs is taken to an extreme. In most push-pull amps, the two phases of the signal waveform are amplified separately by two single-ended amplifiers, the outputs of which are then combined to recreate the waveform in full—and in the combining, some distortion products are cancelled out. What McIntosh has created is a push-pull amp in which each phase of the signal waveform is itself amplified by a push-pull output section: There are two complete push-pull amplifiers in each channel, their outputs combined in what McIntosh refers to as a Quad Balanced architecture.
The design element that allows McIntosh to do this has been a technical cornerstone of all their solid-state amps: a single-winding transformer called an autotransformer—or, in the trade lingo arguably coined by McIntosh, an Autoformer. Beginning in 1967 with their first transistor amp, the MC2505, McIntosh has used output-stage Autoformers to optimize impedance matching between output devices and loudspeaker loads, as well as to protect the latter from DC. Fifty-two years later, an output-stage Autoformer allows the company to combine the outputs of multiple push-pull amps in a manner that, they say, has unprecedented distortion-cancelling capabilities. (This is also how the MC462 can deliver the same 450Wpc output to its pairs of 2, 4, or 8 ohm speaker taps.)
All of this firepower ran amazingly cool—when I laid a hand on the top panel, it was barely warm. This cool running is in part achieved through what McIntosh describes as their current-generation ThermalTrak Power Transistors; the MC462's power output circuit monitors their temperature and adjusts bias accordingly. Another reason is the extensive, heavy-duty heatsinking built into the rear half of the MC462. These include a nice touch: the initials MC are formed by the sinks' vertical fins and are visible from above—as if you're standing atop a subway grille on a Manhattan street. Also visible from that vantage is evidence of McIntosh's pride in the MC462's lineage: circuit block diagrams handsomely adorn the top plate.
At 17.5" wide by 9.45" high by 22.5" deep, the MC462 occupies an impressive amount of real estate, but finding room for it wasn't as hard as I at first thought—that 22.5" depth includes the two hefty handles on the faceplate and the rear deck on which the speaker terminals are vertically arrayed, and the amp's four rubber feet are sensibly separated by only 12.5" from front to back. The black glass faceplate proudly displays two large meters backlit in McIntosh blue, each about 5.5" wide by 2.5" high. The meters' upper scale is calibrated in watts, to indicate the MC462's output: the large numbers top out at 450, and after that, in smaller numbers, come "900" and "1.8k," referring to the amp's dynamic headroom: brief bursts of wattage beyond the MC462's rated continuous output. The MC462's specified dynamic headroom is 3dB—in the real world, that's a lot. The meters' lower row of figures calibrates the amp's output in decibels, from –50 to 0.
The rest of the front panel is minimalist. There are a green-lit "Olde English" McIntosh logo and three small red LEDs: one indicates Standby status, and the other two tell you when the Power Guard circuit kicks in. There are only two control knobs: the one at left, labeled Meter, turns the meters' Lights Off if desired; the Watts setting shows you real-time meter readings, while Hold lets the needles linger on peak output levels before slowly resuming action. The other knob, Power, has positions for Off, On, and Remote, the last for connecting to a McIntosh preamp for power-up/down sequencing.
The rear end of the MC462 is straightforward. In addition to the six pairs of speaker output taps sticking straight up from the shallow rear deck are AC in, a fuse bay, and, jutting out horizontally from the rear panel, pairs of balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs. One small switch lets you select between balanced and unbalanced operation, and with another you can enable or disable the Auto Off function, which shuts down the MC462 after it hasn't sensed an input signal for 30 minutes. I particularly liked McIntosh's patented gold-plated speaker binding posts. Each has two moving parts, which you first tighten with your fingers, then tighten a further quarter-turn with a small wrench (supplied), for a snug connection.
System and setup
Not wanting to face too many variables, and to give the MC462 enough time to break in, I spent my first days with my system unchanged, listening to my Harbeth 30.2 40th Anniversary Edition loudspeakers, which Herb Reichert reviewed in April 2018. Central upstate New York, where I live, benefits from ample clean power, but kicking that power's quality up a big notch is my AudioQuest Niagara 7000 power-line conditioner.
What first caught my ear when I cranked up the MC462 was nothing—no noise of any kind through the speakers or directly from the amp itself. Control of mechanical and circuit noise seems to be a real strength of McIntosh products—I'd had a similar experience when introducing the McIntosh MC275 amp into my rig. The two amplifiers in my reference system that had preceded the MC275, a solid-state and a single-ended tube design, each produced some level of hum, as well as noise through my speakers, that I could never eliminate. But the MC462 provided those impressive backgrounds of "black" silence deeply desired by audiophiles—they really do play a role in the appreciation of microscopic and macroscopic differences in levels of detail and dynamics of recorded music.
The music goes 'round and 'round . . .
We all have our default settings. Each February, for Stereophile's annual "Records to Die For" feature, I could happily pick Shirley Horn's Here's to Life (CD, Verve 314 511 879-2). Every time, it's the first recording I reach for when I want to hear wussup in my system.
I cued up "Return to Paradise." Hearing music from the MC462 for the first time, I thought of visual metaphors. I thought of turning the contrast setting up or down on a television, or adjusting the amount of color saturation. Zooming in and out also has its audio analogs. The audio picture—the soundstage width and depth—enlarged in all parameters, and the colors seemed deeper. I heard a kind of fleshing out of Horn's voice, her deep mezzo gaining heft and impact. The other aspect that grabbed me was the percussion in this track, which is complex and subtle, capable of revealing a system's ability to resolve minute details. I heard intricate percussion sounds that I didn't recall having heard before, and the drum kit also had more impact, with more swing.
Sticking with my arsenal of past R2D4 picks, and because I knew it would make me smile, I put on Count Basie & His Atomic Band doing "Roll 'Em Pete," from the killer collection Complete Live at the Crescendo 1958 (5 CDs, Phono 870245). Joe Williams nails it to the boards: "Well, you're so beautiful, but you've got to die someday. / All I want's a little loving, just before you pass away." Now that was something to die for—I had to laugh with pleasure. Via the MC462, Basie's piano was charging hard and taking no prisoners. The saxes and brass had such wallop I felt I was being spanked—in a good way.
I needed to hear the MC462 with genuine three-way speakers, preferably a pair difficult to drive. Audio Classics Ltd. was kind enough to loan me a new pair of Bowers & Wilkins' floorstanding 702 S2s, reviewed in May 2018 by Kalman Rubinson. In his sidebar accompanying Kal's review of the 702 S2s, JA measured an easygoing sensitivity of 90.2dB for the B&Ws. However, though this model's nominal impedance is specified as 8 ohms, JA found that it dipped down to 3 ohms in the bass, and concluded: "I think [the 702 S2] should be used with amplifiers that are comfortable with 4 ohm loads.
Got one right here. I hooked up the 702 S2s to the MC462's 4 ohm speaker taps and listened, knowing I was getting the same 450Wpc of power no matter which taps I used. And thanks to a heads-up from John Swenson's review in January 2019, I had on hand the perfect music—the Grateful Dead's Pacific Northwest '73–'74: Believe It If You Need It (3 CDs, Dead.net/Rhino R2 572292). These live recordings are from the period of the Dead's tours famous for the Wall of Sound, the massive PA system they briefly toured with in the 1970s. The Wall was powered by 48 McIntosh C2300 stereo amplifiers—a direct ancestor of the MC462—and put out a tidy 28,800W!
The thing to listen for is Phil Lesh's hot-rodded Alembic bass guitar, dropping what he called his "bass bombs." The Harbeth 30.2's specified low-end limit is a relatively modest 50Hz, whereas the B&W 702 S2's is a claimed 28Hz. With the MC462 firmly in the saddle, the B&Ws rode along with the Dead through the monstrous "Truckin'/Jam/Not Fade Away" sequence from the Portland Memorial Coliseum in May 1974. Though not summoning the 32'-high bass soundwave that John Swenson states the Wall of Sound could create, the McIntosh-B&W combo still let me feel the foundation of Lesh's bass, and produced a strong visceral sense of the thundering barn-burning the Grateful Dead were capable of 45 years ago.
Now that I'd fished a bit in pools downstream from the McIntosh MC462, what about casting a line upstream? My McIntosh C2300 preamplifier uses 12AX7A tubes in its line-level and phono stages. Was it perhaps time to branch out in my choice of preamplification? I swapped in J E Sugden's solid-state Masterclass LA-4 line preamplifier, reviewed in the April 2019 issue by Jim Austin and then sent on to me by John Atkinson. The LA-4 is a compact, streamlined, nothing-but-the-facts preamp. As of this writing, I have yet to read what Jim and John think of it, but I don't expect their takes to be less than positive.
With the Sugden LA-4 in the chain, I dipped into one of the great complete cycles of Beethoven's piano sonatas, recorded for Telarc by John O'Conor in 1987. I listened to Sonata 21, "Waldstein" (CD, Telarc CD-80160), O'Conor playing a fine Hamburg Steinway. Everything was right about the sound—no sense whatsoever of any strain, and an extremely even sense of timbral distribution throughout the audioband. The CD booklet states that the monitor speakers used for this recording were B&W 801Fs. For additional corroboration, I walked downstairs to the living room and played a bit of the "Waldstein" on my 1936 Steinway Model M. Yup—that's what a piano sounds like.
I'm a newbie when it comes to streaming, but I'm glad I waited—I'm really digging what I'm hearing from Qobuz's new US service. Streaming at hi-rez from my Mac laptop (McIntosh Laboratory licensed the use of the name "Macintosh" to Apple years ago) through my Bricasti M1 DAC, I browsed a new cycle of Sibelius's seven symphonies, recorded over several years by Paavo Järvi and the Orchestra of Paris (24-bit/96kHz FLAC, RCA/Sony SYNX 19075924512). The Sugden-McIntosh-B&W combo tore the roof off, with fantastic energy propelling the end of Symphony 3. Sibelius also loves him some pizzicato—and the plucked strings in the second movement were woody and delicate.
But while I enjoyed the performances, I wasn't wild about the overall sound of these recordings. When the strings played hard, things started sounding a bit hashy and brittle. Was it the recording or the gear? Like many people, I own more than one Sibelius cycle—all I had to do was pull them out and compare. Switching to the cycle with Lorin Maazel leading the Vienna Philharmonic, from the early 1960s (3 CDs, London 430 778), I got a fast answer. The gear was correctly revealing the truth about the recordings. The Maazel cycle has a far richer, less strident sound, and that's what I heard. For good measure, I put on the same movement of Symphony 3 from the cycle recorded by Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, from the early 2000s (4 CDs, Ondine ODE 1075-2Q). Here were warm, strong, yet varied sonics, in comparison to the other two, and my pick in this three-way Sibelius faceoff.
It was time for bringing it all back home, as the Poet said. After many more moments musicaux like those described, I restored my system to what it had been before, the only new element being the McIntosh MC462. To eliminate guesswork I used my personal North Star, a recording of my own compositions for chamber ensembles and string orchestra, which I conducted—Tight Lines (LP/CD, Stereophile STPH022-1/2). The MC462 became a literal studio reference, a conduit: I stood there again before the musicians as they made music out of dots on pages.
My own No.1 priority in the reproduction of music is the living, breathing re-creation of the harmonic series. That is the "nature" in music, the vibration of the spheres. You'll want to be thoughtful in choosing what to pair the MC462 with, upstream and down—this amp interrogates whatever it comes in contact with with such authority that it could veer to the analytical side of the sonic spectrum. With a simpatico system the McIntosh MC462 will bring the breath of life to your music.
The McIntosh MC462 Quad Balanced power amplifier sits today on the bottom shelf of my rack like a stocky Buddha, calmly radiating energy as the forest creatures—eg, the red squirrels that winter inside the walls of our old Victorian—gather 'round, smile, and nod their heads. One thing they all agree on is the price—$9000 is more than fair for the excellence delivered, given the inflationary forces wafting through the High End. The senses of ease and literally quiet power created by the MC462 are palpable and most welcome. A first-round vote pick for induction in Class A of the next edition of our
"Recommended Components." Highly recommended—insisted on, even.”
- Power Output per Channel
450 Watts @ 2, 4 or 8 Ohms
Total Harmonic Distortion
S/N below rated output
Rated Power Band
20Hz to 20kHz
- Frequency Response
+0, -0.25dB from 20Hz to 20,000Hz
- +0, -3.0dB from 10Hz to 100,000Hz
- Dimensions (W x H x D)
17-1/2" (44.45cm) x 9-7/16" (23.97cm) (including feet) x 22-1/2" (57.2cm) (including front panel, handles and cables)
Weight: 115 lbs (52.3 kg)
Dimensions of shipping carton: 30 " x 29" x 17"
- Shipping Weight
148 lbs (67.3 kg)
- There is no sales tax and I will cover Audiogon fees. Buyer will be responsible for the 2.9 % Paypal fee. Local pickup is preferred but, if I ship, it will have to be by freight (UPS) and buyer will be responsible for shipping costs I will ship from Zip code 752005 and will provide approximate shipping costs to buyers zip code upon request.
I am also selling, in a separate listing, a Mytek Manhattan II DAC/Preamp/Streamer/Headphone amp which is also ranked Class A in Stereophile. When paired together, the Mcintosh and the Mytek literally make incredibly beautiful music together.
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