Though most of the amps in McIntosh’s current catalog rely on solid-state transistors, the company has been producing vacuum-tube amplifiers since its early days, including the famed MC275 stereo amp—which became iconic not only for its quality, but for its distinctive, beautiful styling. Despite this long legacy, McIntosh has never brought these two technologies together until today’s debut of the two-channel MA252 Integrated Amplifier.
The company’s first hybrid amp, the MA252 employs vacuum tubes for the preamplifier stage and solid-state transistors for the power stage. This configuration allows the tubes to add their characteristic sonic warmth while still retaining the precise reproduction of the transistors. The preamp stage utilizes four valves (a pair of 12AX7a tubes and two 12AT7 tubes), while the power stage employs a solid-state amp that produces 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms or 160 watts per channel into 4 ohms.
The amp offers two unbalanced inputs, a balanced input, and a moving magnet phono input for turntables—all of which can be renamed in the interface to make selection among them more intuitive. It even has a dedicated subwoofer output to add some gravitas to the low-end of the frequency range. Further McIntosh touches included its signature monogramed heat sinks, power guard technology to protect against overdriving (marking the first time this has been used with a tube amp), and Sentry Monitor to protect against shorts.
Features aside, one of the MA252’s most appealing aspects is its styling. Each vacuum tube is housed within a protective cage and is lit with LED lights—giving the entire system a sleek, retro-futuristic look. Completing the image, the entire unit sits upon a polished stainless steel chassis marked by two front-panel knobs and McIntosh nameplates on both sides.
The McIntosh MA252 is priced at $3,500, and shipping is expected to begin later this month, though it can be preordered now at authorized McIntosh dealers.