McIntosh unveils C8 Vacuum Tube Preamp and MC830 Solid State Amplifier

McIntosh unveils C8 Vacuum Tube Preamp and MC830 Solid State Amplifier
(Image credit: McIntosh)

Always hankered after a retro-chic McIntosh valve preamplifier and compatible power amp to match? Feast your eyes on this neat new duo. 

Following in the footsteps of McIntosh’s retro-styled MA252 and MA352 integrated amplifiers, (which themselves took design cues from the MC275 Vacuum Tube Amplifier), McIntosh has launched two new high-end ‘open chassis’ amplifiers, the C8 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier and MC830 Solid State Amplifier.

the McIntosh C8 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier and MC830 Solid State Amplifier

(Image credit: McIntosh)

Despite style cues that nod to the firm's 1950s and 1960s design heritage, McIntosh is quick to state that both the C8 and MC830 are chock-full of modern-day technology. 

The duo offers direct turntable connectivity thanks to MM and MC phono inputs, digital readiness for McIntosh’s (optional) multi-input DA2 DAC module, plus a high-quality McIntosh headphone amplifier for late-night or more personal listening.  

The C8 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier offers a compact footprint, powered by those four green-glowing 12AX7a valves housed in protective (and striking) cages.

McIntosh says the C8 is all about flexibility for the modern music lover: you get both balanced and unbalanced inputs plus Moving Coil and Moving Magnet phono inputs with adjustable loading. You also get bass and treble tone controls to help with different environments, nameable inputs and the option of connecting a powered subwoofer too.

Since many hi-fi enthusiasts already own high-performance standalone DACs, McIntosh has decided to supply the C8 digital-ready, i.e. add your own DAC. But McIntosh's optional DA2 Digital Audio Module can be installed by McIntosh dealers for a supplement (as first-seen in the C53 preamp last year), bringing a total of seven digital inputs: two coaxial, two optical, one USB, one proprietary MCT (for use with McIntosh's line of SACD/CD transports), plus one audio-only HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) connection. Phew.

For late-night listening, minus the complaints from your neighbours, the C8 is specified with McIntosh's High Drive Headphone Amplifier, which can drive a wide range of headphones. The C8’s Home Theater Pass Through allows the C8 to be integrated into home cinema systems too.

Input selection, bass, treble, tone bypass, balance and input offset levels can all be adjusted using the front panel knobs, or the included remote control. All settings, volume level and input selection are shown on the front panel display.

McIntosh MC830 Solid State Amplifier

(Image credit: McIntosh)

The MC830 (monoblock) is a "massively powerful" 300W (8 Ohms) solid-state amplifier that belies its compact footprint. Its distinctive ‘open chassis’ design boasts unrestricted access to its fast-responding Dual Scale Watt meter, which promises an accurate readout of power output.

The MC830’s distinctive McIntosh monogrammed heatsinks add visual appeal and should keep the MC830 running cool for optimum performance. The amp also benefits from both balanced and unbalanced inputs and features several proprietary McIntosh technologies. Firstly (and to protect speakers and systems), the MC830’s patented Power Guard technology monitors the amplifier's output signal to protect against overdrive; if necessary, the amplifier makes real-time micro adjustments to the input signal to prevent clipping (aka distortion). 

Another level of proprietary protection is Sentry Monitor: fuse-less short-circuit protection that disengages the MC830's output stage before the current exceeds safe operating levels and resets automatically when operating conditions return to normal.

The MC830 also features McIntosh's patented Solid Cinch speaker binding posts, which are gold-plated to prevent corrosion and to ensure that the best signal is transferred to your speakers.

Both the C8 and MC830 include the company's Power Control ports, which boast easy system power-up and shut down by sending power on/off signals to other connected McIntosh components. Both separates also feature a user-selectable Auto Off feature, which switches the power off if no signal or user input has been detected after 30 minutes.

Get ready for pricing, because none of this comes cheap. Orders for the C8 and MC830 can be placed now with authorised McIntosh dealers. Shipping is expected to begin in September (USA and Canada) and October (UK).

The McIntosh C8 Vacuum Tube Preamplifier is priced at £4295 ($3500, AU$6995). The McIntosh MC830 Solid State Amplifier costs £4995 ($4000, AU$8,495), bringing your tidy total to £9290 for both – but remember, that's without the optional DA2 (DAC) module in the C8. Better start saving... 


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Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.