It is big, powerful and has endless powers. It is perhaps the most useful amplifier they make, regardless of whether you need all the power. For McIntosh’s most powerful stereo power amplifier, it has no flaws whatsoever.
Apart from being quite expensive, there is nothing to fault on the McIntosh MC462.
Of course, it does not sneak into an Ikea piece of furniture like that without further ado. This is provided by massive transformers, which both build in height and tip the weight to just over 50 kilos. But there are good reasons for that, if you ask McIntosh.
Which has lasted longer than most. They just turned 70 years old. Seven decades of amplifiers and eventually speakers, several of which have long since achieved legendary status.
Perhaps best known is the MC275, the 75 W powerful tube amplifier which, in addition to a stay of a few years, has been in production since we all had black and white TV.
It shows that you do not need several hundred watts of power at all. At least not always. But back then, in the golden age of the tube amplifier, most speakers were relatively easy to operate. The sensitivity was high, often over 90 decibels with only 1 watt added power, and the crossovers in the speakers were simple constructions. Which did not swallow all the power.
Meanwhile, something happened in the late 70’s. The speaker constructions became more complex, more coils and elements led to a decrease in sensitivity. The resistance of the speakers varied wildly with frequency, and the complex crossovers also created ‘interesting’ phase angles.
This created a need for more effect.
The amplifiers got bigger, heavier and more expensive, but not necessarily better.
Fully balanced circuits
The 450 W powerful McIntosh amplifier is capable of operating the most complex speakers with ease. Not only because it has large amounts of power, but also because it is designed to be virtually immune to varying impedance and phase angles.
It uses the same type of autoformers with a huge capacitor battery, as the much more powerful mono amplifiers we have tested from McIntosh. MC611 at 600 W and MC1.25KW at 1200 W.
But pure effect is not everything. It also needs dynamics, McIntosh says that the MC462 has 66 percent better dynamics than its predecessor, and states the dynamic ceiling height from 1.8 to 3 dB. That’s very good.
The amplifier is fully balanced, or Quad Balanced as they call it, where noise and distortion are canceled. According to McIntosh.
As usual for a McIntosh, a microprocessor monitors the amplifier, and it has Power Guard that mutes the signal, while a Sentry Monitor monitors the outputs to avoid short circuits.
Then you are on the safe side.
Mighty and musical
Although it has been a while since we tested the predecessor MC452, with the same stated power, it is amazing how much more powerful MC462 is experienced. It’s not just the bass dynamics that are noticeably better here, it sparkles a lot more of the dynamics, and the amplifier works much faster and has audibly better control.
The amplifier replaced a pair of MC611s in the system, and with my hand on my heart I must admit that I struggled to hear the difference. The two mono amplifiers are admittedly more powerful, but the stereo amplifier has the same warm sound – and rich in sharply focused details.
It gives concert recordings an unusually realistic presentation, where one easily achieves a scale that helps to create a credible experience. Whether it’s Keith Jarrett Trio live, or Puccini’s La Boheme with Luciano Pavarotti and Mirellia Freni, with von Karajan as conductor. Where the music appears with a magnificent three-dimensional depth.
It has almost unlimited dynamics, only limited by the speakers in practice, and gives Mozart’s Requiem fuller and more vivid sounds with this one, than with the Ayre VX-R, and more dynamic than with the Audio Research VT80, with tubes.
In terms of sound, it leans towards warmer sound, but not as the older McIntosh amplifiers do. The soundscape is far more open, much sharper focused, and it has an endless wealth of detail. At the same time, that dynamic portion is completely effortless, even when I play loud. The bass is experienced as much more powerful than e.g. from a Mark Levinson No. 532H, and the dynamic contrast is more natural and vibrant than even from a Gryphon Diablo 300.
If I were to pick from the top shelf, the McIntosh MC462 would be in the top five list of amps I could live with for the rest of my life. It does everything right and nothing wrong, is built to last for generations, and sounds great no matter what you offer it of speakers. It is not exactly cheap, and takes up a lot of space, but you have to sacrifice something to land on at least one of the components in the system.