SACD Players

McIntosh MCD500 SACD Player

ARTICLE INDEX

The Design

The MCD500 utlizes the ESS Sabre Reference 8-channel D/A converter in Stereo Quad Balanced mode. This basically means the DAC signal path is balanced twice. So, it is no wonder the variable volume control allows for a 12 volt maximum output at the analog XLR jacks (the fixed output is lower so as not to overload the inputs on your preamplifier).

On the rear panel there is a set of RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced analog output jacks. One set is fixed output and the other is variable using a volume control on the front panel. Therefore, you can, if you wish, connect the MCD500's outputs directly to a power amplifier, bypassing a preamp in the signal path.

There are also coax and Toslink optical digital input and output jacks. So, you can use the MCD500 as a DAC with a different digital source, and I did this, by connecting an iPod to a Wadia iTransport. You can also output the digital bitstream to a different DAC using the digital outputs, but the MCD500 DAC is so good, I doubt anyone would ever use the player this way.

The disc tray mechanism operates very smoothly, sounding more like it is gliding in and out instead of just being shoved out and pulled in. Not important necessarily, but it's just one of the little things that come with a product of this caliber.

From left to right on the front panel are push buttons for Mute, Input (selects coax or Toslink digital), SACD or CD, Time, Stop, Pause, Play, and Open/Close (the disc tray). There is also a headphone jack on the far left.

The remote control is reasonably large, which is good for people who have big hands like I do. It has backlighting. The buttons are in a different place than my other remotes, but all remotes seem to have their own unique button placement. I wish a standard would be developed for where the routine buttons are located, such as Play, Pause, Stop, Open/Close (this one is not on the MCD500 remote for some reason), and Power On/Off.

It's a beautiful player, no question about it. Uniquely, there is a diagram of the basic circuit layout on the top of the player.