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.
If the World of McIntosh townhouse in New York looks vaguely familiar to you, it may be because it has been featured heavily as a lower Manhattan filming location for many music videos, movie and TV. The McIntosh Group isn’t shy with its integrations for either the WOM experience here or for the its properties at large. The McIntosh brand alone sees about 8-10 public appearances on the screen annually, you can usually find it adorning the background of a luxury apartment or a quick cut to the blue and green faceplate for a little visual exercise within a plot’s timeline. The famous townhome on the intersection of Layfette and Kenmare was once a residence for Heidi Klum and Seal but has hosted countless other events including scenes from Law and Order.
The second floor pool offers a completely even 8′ depth and viewing from either end, making it perfect for filming underwater scenes – as recent as shots from Beyonce’s Halo music video. Since the McIntosh Group acquired the location in 2015, even more upcoming integrations have been filmed including season 2 of Mr.Robot and upcoming episodes of the Netflix/Marvel series Luke Cage. The venue walls are decorated with an assortment of ever-changing artwork by local artists and even the nondescript front door gets an overhaul of street-level art multiple times a year.
You can check out a full interview with the two designers Paolo and Livio talking about the two new flagships in The Occasional Podcast hosted on PartTimeAudiophile. It was an amazing venue hosting two amazing acoustic feats, and I’m glad I was able to attend.
– Brian Hunter