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Here McIntosh aficionados may raise eyebrows. They'd expect the firm's famous autoformers, essentially tube-related output transformers which the Americans love to use to couple their solid-state outputs to your speakers and traditionally so via different tabs. Overboard with that? Yes and no. Their impedance-matching transformers are MIA but McIntosh hasn't let go of believing that any output stage runs best into one optimal load impedance. This entry-level integrated's target price simply couldn't afford their costly output iron. In its place is new circuitry called dynamic power management or DPM. It is said to intelligently adapt to varying loads. On exactly how that works we're only given this graphic. Capiche?
In hifi McIntosh is perhaps our closest equivalent to Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Cadillac cars – a sterling US icon. This might raise assumptions on related beefy if macho sonics. Which wouldn't be bad. But at least for this model the cliché misses. That's because our small Mac rather plays it charmingly subtle and even. There's clearly no showy excess which might impress for 10 minutes before it grates on your nerves. The MA5200 is a harmonious sort but gifted with sufficient grunt to avoid boredom.
Its general perspective is balanced. I didn't really hear the 'warmth' so often ascribed to the brand. What I'd say in its stead is 'a tad more lower midband, a tick less above the presence region' as long as we agree on minimal inflections. There's no crass voicing.
How did I arrive at this? A good example were female voices which combined pleasing openness with proper embodiment or grounding. I've heard certain tongue clacks and lip movements more intimately elsewhere to assume that the MA5200's presence region operates slightly below dead 'flat'. This accurate but not upfront view into things is a clever tightrope act. Ofri Brin's voice of On Shore Remain is so tightly mic'd that our fascination can veer into the pornographically unnatural The McIntosh still keeps one close to the action but one suspects under slightly milder more attractive lighting. Such nuances can make or break an audiophile's choice and here the American does it quite nuanced.
How about male voices? Those arrived pleasingly full, round and expressive but weren't super sonorous or pumped up. This tonality was thus more slightly mild on top than a heat wave generated in the bassment's boiler room. Further proof came from the acoustic guitar picks which open "You and your sister" from This Mortal Coil's Blood album. I've heard those harder, more jagged and taut but the Mac remained open and clear and additionally captured the instrument with satisfying body. Many could find this balancing act quite ideal not least because middling productions aren't brutally exposed whilst brilliant recordings get to show off even if on transient resolution and detail excavation more remains possible. Hey, we're talking about the brand's entry-level integrated. Clearly there's room to move up.
And what about the frequency extremes? Though there's room for treble growth, what's here feels properly airy and teased out to stay clear of the cut-off, dry or slightly chalky as truly recessed upper octaves can sound. The MA5200 does it fluid, smooth and with a nearly silken note. This treble never 'solos' upfront but serves the harmonious overall impression. The bass follows suit with proper insistence but no bloat and if anything veers into the slightly softer rather than extra dry. Contour yes, iron grip no.