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McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier Goes Both Ways: Tube & Solid State

The McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier goes both ways; tube and solid state and is the perfect companion to the MC3500 MMKII Tube Amplifier.

McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier and Controller with Remote

The hardest part of our recent McIntosh factory tour was keeping the lid on things that we knew were in the pipeline but couldn’t be photographed or discussed yet. Like most manufacturers, McIntosh had to deal with some very strict lockdown rules during the early days of the pandemic and when you’re the brand that everyone looks to as a barometer of the health of the industry — you have to find a way to keep the factory going and new product development moving forward.

McIntosh recently introduced the MC3500 MKII Vacuum Tube Amp and we wondered how long after that product was introduced into the market, a partnering preamplifier would be announced. The McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier is officially a thing and it goes both ways. Tube and solid state.

McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier and Controller Front
McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier (top) and Controller (bottom)

Maximum Control and Configurability

The McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier is a two-chassis preamplifier design. The two-chassis design allows the audio section to be completely separated from the control and power sections. The absolute isolation of a preamplifier’s two main functions – control and sound – is achieved by this unusual but effective design.

The C12000 is comprised of the C12000 Controller module and the C12000 Preamplifier module. All power control, data ports, and external control connections are located in the C12000 Controller.

McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier Top Close-up

Dual isolated power supplies drive the left and right channels, while a dual microprocessor gives robustness to the control system. The C12000 Preamplifier houses the audio connections and circuitry. Inside each, the left and right channels are electrically and mechanically isolated from each other to allow true dual mono operation.

The two units are connected together via a pair of specially designed, high performance umbilical cables that are shielded to prevent outside noise from leaking into the audio signal. Although they are two separate units, when connected they act as one and are easy to control and operate from the included remote control or the McIntosh C12000 Controller front panel.

McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier Rear
McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier
McIntosh C12000 Controller Rear
McIntosh C12000 Controller

A total of 12 analog inputs are located in the C12000 Preamplifier module: six balanced, four unbalanced, and two unbalanced phono inputs. The phono inputs are no longer set up as dedicated for Moving Coil or Moving Magnet cartridges; instead, both are configurable as either Moving Coil or Moving Magnet with adjustable Capacitance and Resistance Loading, along with adjustable Gain in 6dB steps from 40dB to 64dB.

The C12000 Preamplifier module offers both vacuum tube and solid-state output, allowing you to decide which to use based on the music being played, the audio components in the rest of your home audio system, and your sound preferences.

McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier Front Close-up

All outputs are driven by discrete amplifiers. For vacuum tube output, six tubes or valves power the high-level preamplifier section with two 12AT7 tubes and one 12AX7A tube assigned to each the left and right channel. Solid-state output is via a discrete balanced op-amp.

For connecting the C12000 to your amplifier(s) and the rest of your home music system, there are four total outputs: one balanced vacuum tube; one balanced solid-state; one fixed unbalanced; and one programmable unbalanced (can be either vacuum tube or solid-state).

McIntosh C12000 Preamplifier and Controller Rear

Price & Availability

The McIntosh C1200 preamplifier can now be ordered from authorized McIntosh dealers with shipping expected to begin in early 2022.

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Units should begin shipping in December 2021 for customers in the United States and Canada. The rest of the world will receive units shortly thereafter. The suggested retail price is $8,000 (£8,495) per module, which means a total of $16,000 (£16,990) for both.

For more informations: C12000 (at



  1. Timmy T

    November 18, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    $16,000. Does this fall within the budget audiophilers ever expanding budget? 🙂

    • Ian White

      November 18, 2021 at 9:01 pm


      I would think probably not. But I’ll let Jeremy answer that one. LOL

      Ian White

      • Timmy T

        November 18, 2021 at 9:05 pm

        I’m sure it’s within the budget if he “slips” it past his wife. lol

        • Ian White

          November 18, 2021 at 9:09 pm

          The boxes are HUGE. I saw them in Binghamton.

          But not as big as the MC3500 MKII box.

          Which is insane looking. I showed my wife upon my return from Binghamton and she was looking for a speaker box to bury me outside.


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