When conversations at cocktail parties stall, the conversation is often started by innocuous topics like automobiles or local restaurants. Music-conscious people, especially younger ones, might confess to their newfound infatuation with vinyl. I always commend them, with the caveat that collecting records can be a slippery slope and, like a pot-bellied baby pig, is manageable at first but can become a significant and all-consuming burden.
It’s true, I always add, that the best analog rigs can be more rewarding to listen to than any other playback medium, sonically and certainly for the tactile and aesthetic benefits that come with LPs. But when I mention the other thing that’s spinning, and that I still actively buy and collect compact discs, listeners are often speechless, as if I’ve suggested that spats and gaiters are still fashionable shoes for men.
So just as “streamers” are proclaiming the eventual demise of physical media, especially the CD, a serious company like McIntosh is upping the ante with a new “statement” component proving that the compact disc is more viable than ever. In context, of the $15 billion in recorded music revenue last year (based on Recording Industry Association of America figures), about 83% came from streaming, LPs brought in 7%, or nearly a billion dollars, while CDs accounted for the rest. , excluding a dewdrop from tape sales. Even if compact disc sales are down and vinyl sales are up, as the trend suggests, the billions of CDs in circulation and the rarity of some titles suggest that the shelves of easy-to-collect items will remain relevant for generations, or years. less until their physical layers of 0s and 1s delaminate, leaving vinyl records the last evidence of mankind’s musical creation, millennia from now.
But back to the present. McIntosh, the oldest electronics manufacturer in the United States, has long supported the CD format and now introduces its largest and most ambitious CD player to date. The MCD12000 is effectively two separate components in one, serving as a stand-alone, reference-level digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that includes reference-level SACD/CD playback capabilities.
The above means that streamed or stored media signals, fed from the digital inputs or played from compact discs, are processed by the MCD12000’s professional-grade 32-bit/8-channel ESS Saber Pro ES9038PRO DACs, each dedicated to left and right audio. canals. Separate digital and analog power supplies eliminate cross-contamination between power and audio signals, while a proprietary power transformer design, a McIntosh specialty, minimizes noise radiation.
Another McIntosh specialty in some of its high-end components is the choice of solid-state output or a mixture of vacuum tube and solid-state amplification. For the vacuum tube topology, one 12AT7 tube and one 12AX7 tube are assigned to the left and right audio channels, their green glow visible through a window in the black glass front panel. Flanking this window into the ‘soul’ of the MCD12000 are a pair of 60dB output meters that display the signal level delivered from each channel’s analog outputs, each projecting the blue light beloved by McIntosh owners.
On either side of the standard-width front panel are custom machine-brushed aluminum handles. Naturally, a host of fixed balanced and unbalanced outputs and seven types of digital inputs support a variety of system configurations. Importantly, the disc transport is designed to stand the test of time and utilizes a precision die-cast aluminum platter for smooth and quiet disc handling, while an advanced digital servo spins the discs with precision and silence. Quite coincidentally from the model number, the new MCD12000 is priced at $12,000.