Review: McIntosh MC1.25KW

Steel fist in silk gloves

With divine power and control, McIntosh-amplifiers control most speakers.

Published 2018-09-03 - 3:12 pm
McIntosh MC1.25KW
Lasse Svendsen

Little compares to the powerful dynamic control and the bottomless bass that a real power amplifier possesses.
Although it borders on overkill for most of us, not to mention most speakers, there is something special about the sound of a powerful, 1200 W amplifier.
Just like a super car, you are not prepared for a low rpm with the pedal to the metal. Crank up the sound two extra notches, and expect to be knocked back into your easy chair, which even the most expensive amplifiers barely manage to do.
Unless, that is, they have as much power as the McIntosh MC1.25KW.
With 1.2 kW at our disposal, no matter what kind of speakers you have, there is so much going on that your ears – and the speakers – give up long before the amplifier even gets warmed up.

To understand it, you have to try it.
McIntosh’s new 1200 watts succeeds the already legendary MC1.2KW, and most of it is seemingly similar here. But just the outside, and just barely.
The basic recipe is the same. Two outrageously huge transformers are the heart of a massive power supply, which via a comprehensive condenser battery supplies powerful output transistors with endless power. As usual, it uses the Autoformers – transformers – on the outputs, which renders the amplifier immune to different speaker loads.
But all the circuitry, components, power supplies – even the heat sink, are new on the MC1.25KW.
Everything is controlled by a microprocessor, which uses Power Guard circuits to curb clipping of the signal, and the Sentry Monitor that protects output circuits. It disconnects the amplifier to avoid a short circuit if the load becomes too large. This won’t happen here.

With a match weight of over 70 kilos apiece, and the size of a small freezer, they take up space. But they don’t become very hot, and you can connect them with a cable to a McIntosh preamp so that you don’t have to turn the amplifiers on and off. Everything is controlled with the remote control to the amplifier.
On the flip side, there are inputs and outputs for connecting to preamplifiers, and outputs for an extra power amplifier, if one would want to connect several MC1.25KW in a bi-amp solution.
At my house, the MAC was connected to a 16A rate that is only used for the system. But every time I turned on the system with the remote control for a MC2600, the fuse blew. The solution was to unplug the remote control from the preamplifier and turn them on individually.

Refined and brutal
Possibly the best I’ve heard
On our reference monitors from Dynaudio, Contour 20, it was quickly evident that the amplifiers represent the new generation McIntosh-amps.
The same appealing warmth, the lush tone of the mid-range, and the heavy bass, is just like on the MC1.2KW. But the new edition sounds fresher, better resolve, tighter and more airy. There are several tone colours and shades in the music with MC1.25KW in the system.
The much larger floorstanding Burmester B18 opened up the soundscape even more compared to the C20, and has a larger range in the bass. With the B18 connected, the scale of the music also naturally grew. Paul Bley’s album in The evening Out There, with Gary Peacock, Tony Oxley and John Surman (ECM), gained an astonishing realism with the Macs and B18.

There’s something about the way the amplifiers present the deepest tones of double basses, drums and pianos that gives the music a far more credible foundation. It’s something that most bigger McIntosh amps are good at, but none of them do it the same way as these.
Portrait Of A Silence starts with a long double bass solo that shakes the core when playing loudly. Even on the small C20, you feel the bass in your diaphragm, but what really impresses is how incredibly nuanced the whole thing sounds. At the same time, the control and dynamic contrast is outstanding. Perhaps the best I’ve ever heard.

Goodnight Rose from Ryan Adam’s Easy Tiger, I have never heard it as crystal clear completely without distortion, and at the same time so controlled before and at such high volume. The drums are rendered far more physically than I am accustomed to, and I cannot think of any amplifier that can come close to playing this complex music so effortlessly to such a degree.

At the same time, it is not devoid of finesse and sophistication. Mozart’s The Magic Flute followed by Cosi Fan Tutte, sparked renewed interest in Mozart’s operas simply because there is an outstanding organic and ultra-resolved soundscape that releases so much more of the underlying nuances so that the music comes much closer to the listener.

I haven’t heard anything like it.

Few loudspeakers require 1200 from the amplifier, and it’s not about top speed here, but rather control. McIntosh MC1.25KW has this in great abundance. It is brutal and refined at the same time, with an unprecedented ability to project even more dynamics, although one might believe that the ceiling had been reached. It never loses its grip, perhaps with one exception: if one combines a very demanding speaker with a room far too large. If you want dynamic control, the finest nuances and are afraid of running out of power, this is the amplifier you should own.

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Compared to its predecessor MC1.2KW, everything under the shell is new.
McIntosh MC1.25KW
High End

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