McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier

McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier

The new preamplifier from McIntosh Laboratory Inc., the McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier, is a classic example. At first glance, this solution appears almost spartan. However, this does not apply to the variety of connections, because a phono preamplifier is located under the analogue inputs and a digital board can be retrofitted as an option.


The designers at McIntosh Laboratory Inc. cannot really be accused of being extremely “playful”, the systems of the US-American high-end hi-fi manufacturer have been presenting themselves for years and days in a well-proven design line, in which many a classic element of the brand is staged, but which is otherwise comparatively soberly conceived. Nevertheless, the latest solution from McIntosh Laboratory Inc. presents itself in a downright spartan way, because only the four tubes, which this preamplifier uses as a central component of its circuit design, come to the fore a bit. The rest is designed in a downright sober and reserved manner, although this does not apply to the functionality offered by this solution, as the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier is designed quite generously.

The new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier presents itself as a preamplifier based on tube technology, which is primarily oriented towards analogue sources ex works. For this purpose there is a phono preamplifier, among other things, so that vinyl lovers are well served. But the digital world is not excluded either, as the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier can be optionally upgraded with a digital board.

It is interesting to note that the developers at McIntosh Laboratory Inc. took the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier from the McIntosh MA252 AC Integrated Amplifier. Here and there, the preamplifier is based on four 12AX7a tubes.

In the basic configuration, as already described, the focus is solely on analogue sources. The new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier offers two unbalanced inputs, designed as pairs of RCA sockets, and one balanced input, designed as XLR sockets. In addition, there is a phono preamplifier that can be used for both MM and MC pickup systems. The new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier even provides two inputs for this purpose, so that two drives can be connected simultaneously.

It should be emphasised that each input can be assigned a name, which can be clearly read on the display at the front and thus provides an overview. The new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier has bass and treble control, so that you can adjust the sound characteristics to suit your individual requirements. A balance control is also available and a so-called offset level can be defined for each input. Of course, one input can be configured as Home Theatre Pass Through.

For the outputs, unbalanced as well as balanced connections are also available, whereby the unbalanced RCA jack pairs even offer two, one as Main Out, the second for the integration of one or two subwoofers.

The rear panel of the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier also provides everything needed to connect it to other components and control it centrally. Integration into control solutions is also possible. Two data ports, an RS232 interface, an IR In and trigger inputs and outputs are available.

The front presents itself very soberly, above all the already mentioned display is available here, which is flanked by the four tubes, neatly concealed behind comparatively dainty-looking metal grids. The only two controls are two rotary encoders, one for selecting the input, the other for controlling the volume.

A connection for headphones, designed as a 6.3 mm stereo jack socket, is also included. The manufacturer refers to this as a McIntosh High Drive Headphone Amplifier, which can be used with any type of headphones.

As already mentioned, the McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier can optionally be upgraded with a digital board, although this is not to be carried out by the user himself, but only by a specialist dealer. This is the McIntosh DA2 Digital Audio Module, which provides a wide range of interfaces.

A total of seven inputs are available, starting with a USB audio port for connection to a PC or Mac. In addition, there is a so-called MCT, which is used to integrate a McIntosh MCT500 2-channel SACD/ CD Transport or McIntosh MCT80 2-channel SACD/ CD Transport. An HDMI connection is also available, whereby only audio data is processed here. The audio signal of a TV set can be transmitted via ARC, i.e. an audio return channel. There are also two coaxial and two optical S/PDIF interfaces.

At the heart of the signal processing is a Next Generation Quad Balanced 8-Channel 32-bit digital-to-analogue converter, as described by the manufacturer itself, which is an audiophile DAC for remarkable dynamics and fine detail with the lowest possible noise. The DAC can exploit its full potential via the USB port, because then data in Linear PCM format with up to 32 bits and 384 kHz (DXD) is processed, as well as DSD up to DSD512, natively. The other interfaces are limited to 24 bits and 192 kHz.

We have already mentioned it, the design of the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier is rather reserved, one can speak of “classic”. The basis is a stainless steel construction with a front polished to a high gloss and chrome-plated. On top of this is a black construction with a black glass front. Here you will also find the display mentioned above and of course the illuminated logo of the manufacturer must not be missing.

With dimensions of 31.2 cm in width, 19.4 cm in height and a proud 41.3 cm in depth, the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier weighs 8.3 kg.

A matching infrared remote control is included in delivery.

Finally, it should also be mentioned that the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier is designed first and foremost as a play partner for the likewise newly introduced McIntosh MC830 1-Channel Solid State Amplifier. Both solutions will soon be available in specialist shops.

Getting to the point

The new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier presents itself as a preamplifier based on tube technology, which is primarily oriented towards analogue sources ex works. For this purpose there is a phono preamplifier, among other things, so that vinyl lovers are well served. But the digital world is not excluded either, as the new McIntosh C8 2-Channel Vacuum Tube Preamplifier can be optionally upgraded with a digital board.

Manufacturer:cIntosh Laboratory Inc.
Distribution:Audio Components GmbH

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