McIntosh Goes Modular – The C49 Preamplifier

McIntosh C49

It can be proposed that any of the McIntosh general fare has a lot going on. It is usually true. But their newest preamplifier called the C49 really has the specs on paper to back it up, starting with a massive amount of ins and outs to tickle the fancy of just about any audio lover.

Before we get to the laundry list of I/O ports, it also pertinent to identify that this new pre also possesses several digital capabilities – all thanks to a new modular approach. The DA1 module included with device is perhaps created in response the steady churn of digital technology that more often than not manages to outdate itself every couple of years or so. In most situations it absolutely evolves faster than the corresponding analog sensibilities, which remained fairly untouched (in principle anyways) for many years.

C49 back panel

Found in the lower right corner of the back panel, the DA1 comes charged with two optical, two coaxial, one USB and one MCT connection (for use with McIntosh’s MCT series of SACD/CD Transports). Under the hood there is an 8-channel DAC in “Quad Balanced” mode with DSD256 support.

For the analog section the C49 offers 2 balanced, 3 SE inputs along with both MM and Moving Coil phono RCAs. Outputs include two pairs of variable balanced, two variable single ended and one fixed. Also included are a multitude of power and remote control connections for on/off and additional compatibility with other McIntosh products. There is even a home theater pass-though for those so inclined.

C49 pre amplifier by McIntosh

The front panel features tone controls and a “High Drive” headphone amplifier via a 1/4″ SE jack. If that seems like a lot from one component, that’s because it is. The invitation of a pre amplifier with digital capabilities rather than a DAC-with-pre capabilities feels like a stronger proposal, even though on paper the outcome might be the same. Smart thinking old green and blue’s part there, digital doesn’t even come to play within the name. The casework even retains much of the black glass, knob and styling that has accompanied the McIntosh look for many years.

The new C49 pre amp hits the shores of the US this month, with the rest of the world expected to ship shortly after. Retail price will be $5,000 USD.