During periods of instability, consumers tend to gravitate to brands that they trust. People want quality. Something that inspires confidence and will deliver reliability and performance. McIntosh is one of those brands. The brand new McIntosh MHA200 Headphone Amplifier is one of those products.
The luxury headphone category has shown remarkable resiliency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was rough for a few months with supply chain issues, no CanJam shows, and the global economy falling off the cliff. Convincing music listeners that they need a $3,000 pair of headphones or $2,500 headphone amplifier is a daunting task during periods of economic prosperity — let alone during a global recession and mandatory lockdowns.
The head-fi enthusiast is also not the same as the traditional high-end audio customer. They might be willing to spend a lot of money on a pair of planar magnetic headphones, DAC, and headphone amplifier, but they are a younger and more volatile customer. They flip gear constantly or create what we now call the “Headphone Tree” in the forum rooms. Not that I spend a lot of time in those places. Gross.
McIntosh has history. It has a generation of customers who are committed to the brand because it delivers exceptional sound quality, build quality to withstand the apocalypse, and it holds its value. Our own Budget Audiophiler uses vintage McIntosh components in his system — because everyone wants to own a Duesenberg. Eat your heart out J. Peterman.
The new MHA200 vacuum tube headphone amplifier is being introduced at $2,500 which is slightly less expensive than the Linear Tube Audio MZ3 — a headphone amplifier that offers a serious degree of performance.
If you’re serious about headphone listening, the MHA200 might be your end game headphone amplifier.
A pair of 12AT7 and 12BH7A dual triode vacuum tubes power the compact MHA200. The 12AT7 vacuum tubes amplify the incoming audio signal while the 12BH7A tubes provide the power to drive the output to the headphones with low distortion.
The MHA200 uses a pair of McIntosh’s Unity Coupled Circuit output transformers to deliver pristine audio. The Unity Coupled Circuit is the same technology McIntosh was founded on in 1949 and is still used in their home audio vacuum tube amplifiers such as the timeless MC275 and the more recent MC1502. Indeed, the MHA200 shares many physical design traits with the aforementioned vacuum tube amplifiers.
A wide assortment of connectivity options come on the MHA200. For attaching headphones, there are 3 options: a pair of 3-pin balanced XLR connectors for dedicated Left and Right balanced output; a 4-pin balanced XLR connector for balanced stereo output; and a 1/4″ stereo headphone jack. For connecting the MHA200 to a home music system’s source components, it has 1 set each of both balanced and unbalanced inputs. Thanks to the MHA200’s small size of just 6-1/8″ (15.6cm) wide x 9-1/8″ (23.2cm) deep and its balanced inputs, it can be placed close to the listening position for ease use, with long balanced cables connecting it to the audio system without fear of signal loss.
The Unity Coupled Circuit transformers have been adapted to produce 4 headphone impedance ranges of 32 – 100, 100 – 250, 250 – 600, and 600 – 1,000 Ohms at 500mW. The MHA200 should be compatible with a wide range of headphones — which is good because I have a lot of planar magnetic and high impedance headphones awaiting its arrival.
McIntosh custom designed and manufactured the output transformers to match the tube amplifier section to the headphone output section in order to ensure maximum power transfer for various headphone loads.
Instead of having to adapt to the impedance of the headphones with voltage gain in the input stage, the Unity Coupled Circuit output transformers’ secondary windings ensure the full power of the MHA200 is available regardless of the impedance of the headphones. A custom, high-performance, and highly efficient toroidal power transformer with low mechanical hum and a low magnetic field, which helps reduce electrical noise, provides clean power to the amplifier.
The McIntosh MHA200 headphone amplifier should start shipping in March 2021 for $2,500 USD.
For more information: www.mcintoshlabs.com/products/headphone-amplifiers