Last week I attended a McIntosh event in New York city with a fine cross section of the audio press. The main focus of this audiophile get-together was based around listening sessions for two new flagship speakers, but also covered off on the myriad of global products the McIntosh Group owns under its corporate brand.
For those not familiar, in addition to McIntosh amplifiers and speakers the family umbrella also includes Sonus Faber, Audio Research, Wadia, Sumiko, and the Pryma headphone brand. The World of McIntosh is the name for the company’s “experience centers” of which the elaborate 5-story, 12k square-foot townhouse we visited is the NY representation.
For the central McIntosh brand, the presentation bullet points started with the new XRT2.1k flagship loudspeaker ($130k). It features a stunning line array of 73 drivers (28 2” upper frequency midranges and 45 ¾” tweeters) along with six 8” woofers, and two 6.5” low frequency midranges. Its a hifi centerpiece and takes up a fair amount of space in any room. The loudspeaker was designed in conjunction with the Sonus Faber design team headed up by Paolo Tezzon (acoustic) and Livio Cucuzza (industrial).
Our listening session with the XRT started with Lou Reed’s Walk On Wild Side, which presented itself with a palatable tonal range across Lou’s familiar vocals. The linear array drops off the central focus of the human voice with a large representation. This is something that I have often favored with many high-end systems. A larger-than-life soundscape in which layered waves blend seamlessly, but still retain a razor sharp focus as to their location. Its vastly appropriate for larger rooms, of which our presentation space definitely was (with a 26′ tall ceiling). With the White Stripe’s Seven Nation Army at high volumes, Jack’s raw guitar riff felt a little more at home in the back row than the first, but the separation from melodic slide playing during the chorus was undeniably robust, quick, and easily located within the sonic landscape. The dynamic response from the full McIntosh system was also scary good while playing the classic Pink Floyd track, Another Brick in the Wall. The low end discipline of the 8″ and 6.5″ woofers ushered in a fully formed bass drum mallet, authoritatively reaching for the drum head. Tactile and synchronized, the low end was never mushy, cushy or laxidazy with any track it played all week long.
Day two started with cordial greeting from the Sonus Faber AIDA. The new flagship for the Italian brand hits the same price level ($130) as its American brother, and retains much of the same outward teardrop appearance as the last iteration. The innards have been completely reworked however, with each transducer receiving its own internal cabinet in which to reside and a overhaul to the point source driver arrangement. The listening session was hosted by Sonus Faber’s North American Brand Manager Will Kline and was quite a musical ride into a wide array of sonic genres. The jazzed-up cover of Walking on the Moon by the Yuri Honing Trio was impeccably mic’d across the drums and provided a clear window of transparency into the recording session. The soft sax solo entered into more busy, dynamic passages without breaking a sweat, but most noteworthy, was birthed from a perfectly formed image directly in between the two speakers. The range of the AIDA was delightful as it was articulate, with vocal separation from the mix being both tactical and tonally relevant. By comparison, the Sonus Faber/Acoustic Research rig was slightly more romantic in nature, and one that I am quickly falling love with.