Attention, audiophiles: McIntosh wants you to achieve "audio nirvana" with its "masterpiece" preamps

McIntosh C55 and McIntosh C2800 side by side on plinths
(Image credit: McIntosh)

High-end audio manufacturer McIntosh has announced the launch of two new preamplifiers which, to use its own words, are the company's "latest masterpieces". The C55 solid-state preamp arrives alongside the C2800 vacuum tube preamp, with both units aimed at "the most discerning audiophiles" by combining "cutting-edge technology with timeless design".

Each model comes equipped with a pretty whopping 16 inputs made up of seven at line level (including three balanced XLR), two phono and seven digital connections. The C55 and C2800 can both accommodate almost any source you can think of, including a turntable via their adjustable phono inputs, with both offering HDMI, twin optical and coax, USB, Mcintosh's proprietary MCT connection and an ethernet port, not to mention low pass and subwoofer outputs.

The C55 and C2800 naturally provide serious flexibility for connecting to compatible power amplifiers, offering three sets of stereo balanced and unbalanced outputs. Both have been designed to allow for bi-amping, while a "processor loop" lets you seamlessly integrate an external processor if you so choose. Premium-grade DAC technology, meanwhile, promises "exquisite digital audio conversion" no matter the source played.

In addition to the on-unit front controls and the provided remote, you can connect the C2800 or the C55 to your home network and control your high-end preamp via the onboard McIntosh Connect app, compatible with Android and Apple devices. Using the app, you'll be able to receive firmware updates, access key functionalities and personalise your listening experience from a single platform.

McIntosh C55 and McIntosh C2800 side by side on plinths

(Image credit: McIntosh)

Distinct from the C2800, the new C55 has been designed specifically for the high-end audiophile audience and takes on the mantle of its predecessor, the C53. Boasting McIntosh's precision engineering, the C55 features an 8-band analogue equaliser for greater musical precision for creating a personalised audio experience.

The C2800 vacuum tube model, meanwhile, is described by McIntosh as embodying "a fusion of audio passion and engineering precision" that has been "crafted to delight even the most discerning music lovers".  At the heart of the C2800 is its vacuum tube circuitry, developed to reduce noise and distortion as much as possible. The unit's vacuum tubes offer a listening experience that "exceeds expectations", whereas electronic bass and treble circuits let users adjust the volume of high and low frequencies in 1dB increments. 

The C55 solid state preamplifier and the C2800 vacuum tube preamplifier are available via authorised McIntosh dealers, retailing at £11,995 / €11,990 / $9000.


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Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

  • Friesiansam
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    The unit's vacuum tubes offer a listening experience that "exceeds expectations",

    That's going to take some doing, because my expectations of a 12 grand pre-amp, are going to be very, very high.
  • Rui
    i have to say that i have a receiver or pre from early 70´s the 5300 if memory doesn´t fail me, maybe 5100 not sure now, who sounds great

    but having listened more recent components even entire systems from this brand since late 80´s i notice a decrease in quality of sound ,

    not saying that it´s bad but not as good as 70´s components ,the one i own bellonged to my father and he had it restored to original specifications maybe at the most 15 years ago, when also restoring some good 70´s speakers,

    the tube amplifiers are without a doubt very good in sound ,also received one recentelly as my father passed away this month two years ago, it seems not so long ago . All he had came to me with also his records and other sources of recorded music , that was a lot of records having a lot of common titles between both our music colections
  • nopiano
    Would are a good comparative review for more than a few journals, I suspect!