Audio Score – Mcintosh MC 611 AC – Audio Components Review
The Mcintosh MC 611 is a mono, high-end, audio power amplifier and this review truly shocked me.
The performance was so effortless, powerful, controlled, and magical, that, with the right equipment, it is immediately audible even when compared to other great amps such as the Mcintosh MC452.
The overall experience with these power amplifiers is so extraordinary, that it is hard to go back to something of less quality. If you get the chance to listen to a pair of 611, take it and never look back.
In the Mcintosh Line-Up, the Mono-Blocks are usually on the upper end of the spectrum. The 611 is the current model at the time of this review and it replaced the mighty 601 a couple of years ago. It currently comes in at Euros 11.000 on the European market. The 601 is a very popular Mcintosh product and this review will tell if the 611 can fill the huge footsteps of its predecessor.
With a weight of 98 pounds (45kG) or 130pounds (60kG) packaged, it is Mcintosh typically heavy. The weight of the amp makes it almost impossible to move it around without the help of a friend. However, Mcintosh equips their top end models with handles, which definitely make it easier to carry it with 2 people. Like with the MC452, let me start with a introduction before we start with the A3S score of the MC611. The Mcintosh MC611 is equipped with the latest and greatest technology from Mcintosh and inherits a lot of quirks from their flagship K models (1.25kW and 2KW). In comparison to the MC601 the changes and improvements seem minimal at first, but under the hood, filter capacity has increased by 66% resulting in a much higher dynamic range. This is hard to imagine because the 601 is considered a truly dynamic and punchy power amplifier.
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This review is also recorded in their main studio. I have listened to many systems here and can perfectly place my listening experience and compare it to reviews of the past
This review is quite simple, with 3 main chapters:
This A3S – score review is quite simple, with 3 main chapters:
- The first part SIGHT focusses on the score of the device. Based on my personal experience, I will rate the speakers in various categories, give a score for the current value and the give it an audio-score. The total score is 40 points maximum.
- The second part focusses on the SOUND aspects of the device, with a maximum of 50 points.
- Last, we have the VALUE part, that accounts for 10 points.
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Time for the Audio Components Review!
Like all the current Mcintosh power Amplifiers, the MC611 is quite easy to use. Once it sits at the desired position, don’t even consider moving it around. At almost 100 pounds, although it has handles, it is very inconvenient to move around the house. The amplifier should simply be connected to power and to a preamp via it’s RCA or balanced inputs. If you have a Mcintosh preamp or any other source with a trigger function, you can also connect it to the trigger input with a 3,5mm headphone cable and the 611 will turn on automatically with the other components. If you don’t need or want any of that, you can simply turn on the 611 with the right physical wheel at the front. Additionally, you can choose if you want to have the backlighting of the meters on or off – In a movie I would turn them off to avoid distractions away from what’s happening on the TV screen. Before you connect your speakers to the 611, check out their rated impedance and their minimum dips. Then decide if you want to connect the speakers to the 2-,4- or 8-Ohm tabs. I usually start with the 4 Ohm tab and then go from there. With this review I have taken this capability one step further. If you are in the market for one of these, try connecting the highs to the 8 Ohm tap and the lows to the 2 Ohm tab. This can be beneficial when driving even the most complex speakers. You could potentially max this out by connecting the 2 Ohm to low, the 4Ohm to mid and the 8 Ohm to high’s if your speakers have three terminal pairs. Overall, because of the dimensions and weight the MC611 are not convenient, but with Mcintosh’s quirks it earns a 3 out of 10.
LOOKS & STYLING.
The MC611 catches all the attention of the music system. The size of the wonderful, backlit LED meters is perfect. The color is deep, bright and puts shivers down your spine when starring at them at night. The Monoblock really proves that a musical experience is not only what you hear, but also what you see. It is a like the experience of good food, your eyes have significant influence on your perception of taste. The chrome-like bars on the side of the device create a very nice visual reflection and underlines overall presence of the amp. The handles are a statement of its power and control and the needle bounces to the beat. Are there bigger Mono-Blocks in the Mcintosh lineup – yes, but in my opinion, they are not more beautiful than the 611. Therefore, I give the 611 a 9 out of 10 for looks and styling.
When you take the 611 out of the box, you realize how much attention to detail Mcintosh delivers with their products. The double box is massive, sturdy, and heavy. When you and your partner have managed to take the inner box out of the outer shell, you find an amplifier that is screwed to a massive wood board for it to stay planted at any moment. The quality of the packaging is a testament to the quality of the device.
The build quality is one step up from the predecessors. The fit and finish is simply a little bit more accurate, the screws look perfectly fit, the whole appearance is excellent. Overall quality of Mcintosh products has always been amazing and such an amplifier should last a generation before being serviced. The patented binding posts are of excellent quality and of course gold plated. I still think it is short of hyper-expensive competitors, but it comes in at a strong 9 out of 10 for quality.
Another scoring category for the MC611 is features. It inherits all the greatest Mcintosh technologies from the past and brings even the latest tech to the table. With Mcintosh’s patented Power Guard, you will never have it clip and break your speakers. Sentry Monitor makes sure you can’t accidentally short your amplifier and power control triggers make sure you can perfectly integrate it into a chain of Mcintosh components. It has balanced and unbalanced inputs and the meter is so accurate that it is not only nice to look at, but also a true benefit to controlling your listening levels and the stress you put on your speakers. Overall, the MC611 is well equipped and earns an 8 out of 10 for features.
Summing up the Sight Score, the MC611 screams power and control in its appearance, it is built like a tank and very well equipped. It is not a convenient piece of equipment, but I would argue it is hard to find an amplifier that brings this level of visual performance in a more convenient way. Therefore, the 611 earns a 31 out of 40 in Sight.
AUDIO EXCELLENCE & TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS.
Moving over to the very important “Sound Score”, I start with the technical specifications and audio excellence. The measurements of the MC611 are exceptional. Mcintosh claims 600 watts of power at all loads with a total harmonic distortion lower than 0,005%. Actual measurements show that it can easily produce clean 750 watts at 4- and more impressively at 8 Ohms. Since this is not a class-a design the power consumption is relative to the listening level. If you listen to the amp at moderate volumes, it will only consume about 60 watts. That is the result of the increased filter capacity and dynamic headroom of 2.8dB. Since the amplifier is balanced from input to output, Mcintosh claims a signal to noise ratio of 124db balanced and 120db unbalanced. It is fair to say that the MC611 is dead quiet at all listening levels. This is a testament to audio excellence and quality, and I give the MC611 a 9 out of 10.
Next up is the level of detail in the sound. The sound signature of the 611 has blown me away on so many levels that it is not easy to identify every category individually. When I focus on detail and start my listening experience with “Contaminated” by Banks, I have not heard anything new but all the detail, that for example a MC452 would also deliver. The reproduction of the music is so sharp and textured, that it creates a 3D space full of sound. The amplifier manages to create a certain focus that highlights instruments, a sound in certain moments like Banks might have imagined when creating this song. It is almost scary, and I had the analogy of a lens a few times.
It is like looking through a lens that focusses on what is important in that moment.
The overall exposed detail is the same, but the amplifier creates that focus. The Hotel California High-Res remaster has always sounded like a high-end piece of art to me – in a good but also somewhat bad way. The song created a certain distance between me and the artist, because it is just so clean and detailed. The MC611 are the first power amplifiers that take that away. The detail is incorporated in a piece of art, in music how the artist intended it. That was a magical experience for me, and I am grateful I am fortunate to listen to this. Another learning from these amplifiers is that there is a way of music amplification that reproduces all the information, without bringing the overall sound out of balance. The 611 receive a strong 8 out of 10 for detail.
For imaging, I still have the comparison between the Mcintosh 302 and 452 in the back of my mind. I simply did not hear any difference in imaging when playing less than 30 watts per channel. When comparing the 452 to the 611, the difference was instant. Even at 0,6 watts per channel, the soundstage got deeper. It seems like the music is textured in a vertical way with the 611 that the 452 simply did not achieve. That alone leads to a different soundstage with more presence without being too much in your face or annoying. The soundstage width is about the same, the height as well. The Adele 25 album is a great example to describe the differences in depth. What normally sounded like a wall of sound, running towards you, embracing you, now felt more like a huge train coming at you. You can hear what’s coming to you right now, but also what is coming in 2, 3, 5 seconds. The sound builds up more progressively. This is what makes the music sound so enjoyable with the 611s. That’s a 9 out of 10.
For bass performance, the MC611 performs adequately. It performs as you would expect it to perform. Loads of punch, accuracy and texture allow for a musicality that is hard to beat. The power amplifiers can drive all speakers to enormous levels and always keep the bass tight, focused and controlled. I would give the 611 a 9 out of 10 for bass performance.
The audio score also has one more category which is called synergy. The sum of the 3 categories can either be the same score, better or worse.
Synergy is strong for the 611 because they get the best out of everything you throw at them. On the other hand, you benefit a lot from investing heavily in your front end: pair it with the Mcintosh C1100 and you will hear more than with a Mcintosh C53. The mono-blocks make such a big positive difference that I give it a 9 out of 10 for synergy.
For the Sound the MC452 comes in at 44 out of 50.
Value is a tough one. The MC611 are beautiful to look at, last a lifetime, sound tremendous and cost a lot of cash. That brings it a 5 out of 10. However, there is somethings special about this review. – The 611 are not only worth the price, but they also exceeded all expectations, and I am sure they will become a Mcintosh classic. You need appropriate playing partners to really appreciate their capabilities. Therefore, coming in at 22.000 Euros a pair, the Mcintosh 611 earn a 6 out of 10 for value.
Add it all up and the scores are 31+44+6= 81 out of 100.
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