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Danny Kaey

Article: McIntosh Labs C53 Preamplifier Review

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1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Thanks for the write-up Danny. I need to get to your place to hear this!

Anytime! Always welcome... 😊

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I have been listening to the DA1 module in my MAC7200 for a while now, and have a DA2 on the way. I am curious to hear what, if any, the differences may be between the two.


No electron left behind...

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14 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

I have been listening to the DA1 module in my MAC7200 for a while now, and have a DA2 on the way. I am curious to hear what, if any, the differences may be between the two.

That would be interesting to hear... 

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3 hours ago, kirkmc said:

I thought that audiophiles didn't like equalizers. I had been wondering recently why the equalizer, which was part of the standard audiophile setup some decades ago, had disappeared.

Equalizers introduce phase shifting which leads to a loss of clarity.  We also have this with the low pass filter used in A/D conversion for 44.1k and 48k digital.

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Thanks for the great review, I look forward to the C2700 comparison.

 

I'm disappointed that McIntosh seems to be insisting on the purchase of their DAC module with just about any of their preamps--as you point out, it's not quite as good as current separates.  A few years ago it was easy to choose--the C22 was essentially a C2600 without a DAC for about $2,000 less.

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6 hours ago, kirkmc said:

I thought that audiophiles didn't like equalizers. I had been wondering recently why the equalizer, which was part of the standard audiophile setup some decades ago, had disappeared.

Kirk, agreed and for the most part that is in fact true. That said, in more than three decades of futzing with this hobby, I learned that there is generally a massive difference between reality and theory, or theorems that supposedly prove one thing or another. Take for example the hoopla that exists in the analog domain with vinyl playback: "you must adjust VTA for each and every record!" Sure, in theory that's true: each record has different thickness, etc. That said, in practice, I have found this to be irrelevant to the extent that whatever minute differences there may be in going from a 140 to 150 or 180 gram record (and the resulting difference in thickness, thus different VTA), it simply makes little to no difference in the actual playback. There are so many other factors involved that even if you took properly setting exact VTA for each and every record, you'd also have to check the specs for 5 or 9 other parameters, not least of which those influenced by the raising and lowering of your VTA. To boot, you then haven't even taken into account the cartridge manufacturers own - usually horrendous - specs, since all of these cartridges - well, most if not all of those retailing for say more than $1000, are all hand built and there are variations within even the same model, etc. Or take any other alternative ideological must be true for its online and opined by expert XYZ or some such demagoguery and you'll find the same reality check. Another great example are air bearing linear tracking arms and which sort of disposition you take regarding the arm's nature of the air bearing. Do you use a high pressure sleeve air bearing or do you use the rail air bearing approach where the entire rail consists of multiple tiny holes which through a low pressure air pump push the arm up. Each have their pros and cons; each are supposed to definitely produce some result or another until they don't. Virtually every review of the Bergman Galder / Odin table and arm combo has been absolutely bonkers positive despite the fact that Bergman chose the low pressure rail bearing approach instead of the sleeved high pressure approach. Go figure. What's it all mean Basil? 

 

There's reality and there's theory... the two don't always necessarily intersect, no matter what the data says.

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3 hours ago, PeterG said:

Thanks for the great review, I look forward to the C2700 comparison.

 

I'm disappointed that McIntosh seems to be insisting on the purchase of their DAC module with just about any of their preamps--as you point out, it's not quite as good as current separates.  A few years ago it was easy to choose--the C22 was essentially a C2600 without a DAC for about $2,000 less.

Agreed Peter!

 

My ideal McIntosh preamp would I fact be the C2700 with phono input, equalizer and no digital section... go figure! 😊👻🤣

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We auditioned a Mac (MA 352) this morning (we are looking for a new amp). The tone controles were quite useful in a few cases (to my own surprise, we haven't owned an amp with tone controles for decades).

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Thanks for the fine work and write-up!  I've been sorely tempted to check out some new McIntosh, and you may have pushed me over the line.

 

I'm old enough to remember when the audiophile world and press shunned McIntosh. This was a critical part of my formative years, as I loved everything about Macs from their sound to their looks to their build quality and couldn't understand the flames from non-Mac dealers and the press.  Thanks to McIntosh, I learned to trust my ears and judgment far more than reviews and opinions that differed too strongly from mine to be objective.  I've owned at least a dozen of their products since buying a new MX110 and a pair of used MC40s in 1969, and I only sold my last pieces (a pair of MC75s) when we downsized from a house to an apartment four years ago.

 

1 hour ago, Danny Kaey said:

There's reality and there's theory... the two don't always necessarily intersect, no matter what the data says.

That applies in spades to the original audiophile objections to early Mac tube amps because they operated in class B.  Everybody knows that class B sounds dull and lifeless 😁

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Hi Danny,

 

I have a Macintosh C52, basically I agree with everything in your review regarding C53, I think the only difference between models 52 and 53 is the DAC section. It was for me a big delusion to understand that the DAC of 52 do not works properly with Ronn, although is "Roon Tested". All the songs are reproduced with short a silence in the beginning, a problem for all users of the C52 (please check in Roon Community) and it is impossible to fix it. The sound is very good but this problem is so frustrating, especially for the price of this premplifier (in Italy 11.500 Euros).

I am considering to sell my C52 and buy the new C53... but the new DAC works rightly in your experience with Roon or Audirvana? Are you sure that is free of c52 DAC problem's? 

I thank you in advance for your kind attention.

Marco

(PS: Sorry for wrinting mistakes)

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