Review: McIntosh MCD600

CD comeback with a bang

With McIntosh MCD600 the CD format is not dead, it is alive and well in high-end environments.

Published 2019-01-23 - 10:35 am
McIntosh MCD600
Lasse Svendsen

If you look at what people do on social media, it looks like many have dumped the CD collection a long time ago. It is more convenient to use your mobile phone when playing music. It’s almost free, the music is always available, and the sound is perfectly fine.

With the music in your pocket, therefore, the CD player becomes redundant. But there are still many who have a collection of music on silver records, which are in use, and which thus need a CD player.

They are not many. Because if you look at the sales of players, it is low and declining from year to year. But that does not apply to the same degree in the high-end class. Although sales there are not significantly large either, CD players are still sold in a high price range, especially in large markets in Asia and North America.

A large collection, and of course the sound quality, are often the arguments for keeping the CDs and spending money on an expensive CD player.

If you click on the websites of some of the most well-known hi-fi manufacturers, you will therefore find at least one CD player there. Preferably in combination with digital inputs or network connection, such as T + A R1000E, or Mark Levinson No. 519.

Preamplifier and DAC input

Norwegian Hegel may not be best known for their CD players, but they still have a player in the catalog. Hegel Mohican. The name is inspired by the novel The Last Mohican – The Last Player. Mohican is a pure CD player without inputs, network or amplifier.

It does not sell all over the world in the Nordic region, but according to Hegel it sells well in many other markets, where the CD format is still strong. The same is said by other manufacturers with CD players in the catalog, including McIntosh, which has several players. Both with and without analog outputs.

The new MCD600 is one of the most usable of them. Unlike the Hegel Mohican, it is more than just a CD player.

It has inputs for other digital audio sources, amplifier with volume control, headphone output, and plays both SACD and CDs. On the front it also has a USB input, which you can plug memory sticks with music to.

With digital inputs and variable output, you can connect to other audio sources and do without an amplifier. Photo: McIntosh

Unfortunately, it lacks a USB port for PC or Mac.

Because it has a clear advantage in the ability to act as a preamplifier. If you connect an external sound source, you can use it, music from memory sticks and CDs, you can use the player as a music center in a system with only a couple of active speakers. Or a power amplifier as well. The inputs, playback and volume, are controlled from the remote control.

You can also skip the volume control by connecting the player to an amplifier via the normal outputs on the back. Then the volume control only works on the headphone output.

Eight-channel digital converter

McIntosh prefers to use multi-channel digital converters. Here it means an eight-channel DAC where four channels per stereo channel is configured Quad Balanced, so that the 16-bit PCM signal from CDs is sampled to 32-bit and 384 kHz. It will provide better dynamic range, and lower noise floors.

The CD player also supports the SACD format’s DSD signal, and the USB input on the front supports most audio formats, from MP3 to FLAC, WAV and Apple Lossless.

The digital signal from CDs can also be converted by a separate DAC, connected to the player’s digital outputs.

The diagram shows how the player is built up with an eight-channel DAC. Photo: McIntosh

Powerful music machine

With the player connected directly to a McIntosh C2600 via the balanced outputs, it lifted 2L’s SACD recording with the Royal Norwegian Marines Music Corps, out of Jar church and straight home. Paul Hindemith’s Concert Music and the more complex Symphony with an extra wind ensemble, blew me (no pun intended) almost off the couch. The contrast between the different instruments has never been higher in my ears.

I experienced the same thing with the SACD edition of Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy. There sounds The Man In The Long Black Coat, and the opening track Political World absolutely terrific! The sound is warm and full, but there is more silk than honey over the texture, and the bass dynamics are one of the biggest improvements here. Compared to previous players like the MCD500.

The sound image is much more open, better focused and there is more depth in the instruments here. Not only on corps music and guitars, but e.g. on piano. Keith Jarrett’s Cologne Concerto on CD, gets extra space and it sounds more like the piano’s lower octaves. The dynamic contrast is almost shockingly good. Both on Oh Mercy, the Cologne Concert and many other recordings, but also on Decca’s recording of Puccini’s La Bohème.

There, the orchestra’s sound is not only rich and sonorous, but it almost seems as if the speaker elements are about to leave the cabinet, when von Karajan picks up the tempo.

I have heard the vocal sound of Luciano Pavarotti and Mirellia Freni, warmer reproduced than this, but hardly as clearly focused as here. The player’s richness of detail is exceptionally good, and it sounds very airy and open also at the top of the register.

The sound from the headphone output can easily be described as very good, but it is best suited for headphones that do not have too much resistance.


McIntosh MCD600 is a self-written candidate in a McIntosh system, but also in other places where the goal is to raise the sound quality from the CD collection. With two digital inputs, volume control on the outputs and USB connection – but not from a computer, it is also a flexible player. SACD is a bonus some will see the value of, but everyone will immediately hear why the CD format still has the right to life.

McIntosh MCD600
High End

We think

Powerful dynamic contrast in a large and open sound image. Inputs for external sources, USB playback and volume control. No USB for wired streaming from PC or Mac.

Do not use the phono stage!

Sensational bargain

Dig out your CD collection!

So simple - so masterly!

The compact system that has it all

Time for a change!

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