McIntosh MA7200 integrated amplifier

Integrated amplifiers
McIntosh Labs MA7200
McIntosh MA7200 integrated amplifier

In McIntosh world, there are things that remain forever unchanging. The planet could be on fire, aliens could be taking over and controlling our every action, but so long as McIntosh has that traditional glass with black livery, green logo, and bright blue VU meters, things will be OK. The McIntosh look is distinctive, slightly old fashioned to some eyes, matches precisely nothing apart from other McIntosh products... and any McIntosh fan would have it no other way.

Into this changeless realm of audio comes the MA7200. Irrespective of the look, this is, in fact, about as forward thinking and as flexible an amplifier you can buy, as it drips analogue, digital, and custom install connections. I kind of like the look of McIntosh equipment. Yes, it’s perhaps the most quintessentially American audio design you can think of, but it brings up dewy-eyed memories of classic audio devices of a bygone age, but with state-of-the-art internals.

Or at least, mostly state-of-the-art internals. The unique part to a McIntosh amp design like the MA7200 is that it  has  a transformer-coupled output stage. With very few early audio exceptions, every solid-state amplifier has more or less fed the output of the power transistors direct to the loudspeaker terminals (often with little more than a Zobel network as protection). Transformer-coupled output stages are the stuff of most valve amplifiers.

There are advantages to this design layout, most notably longevity (those output transistors are playing a less gruelling role) and consistency (you are hearing the sound of the transformers instead of the transistors). But it means that, like a good valve amplifier, you are dependent on the performance of the transformers and they have coil taps for different impedance loudspeakers. McIntosh is a major buyer of output transformers, so quality is a given.

The MA7200 has a bank of five RCA line inputs and a further XLR pair of balanced inputs. For vinyl replay it has separate inputs for MM and MC (in theory, you could have two turntables or two tonearms connected... in reality it’s an either/or thing). However, combine this with the range of digital options (two coax, two TOSlinks, a USB input and what is called MCT for direct connection from one McIntosh digital device to another) and you have an amplifier that simply will not run out of inputs any time soon. It also includes an extensive array of custom-install comms connections for link-ups with home automation systems around the house.

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