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Product Review
 

McIntosh MCD1000 CD Transport and MDA1000 D/A Converter

Part I

December, 2005

Jason Victor Serinus

 

Specifications:
 

MCD1000 CD Transport

● Laser Beam Wavelength: 780nm
● Digital Optical Output: -15dbm to -21dbm
● Digital Coaxial Output: 0.5V p-p/75 ohms
● XLR Output: AES/EBU, 5V p-p/110 ohm
● Sampling Frequency: 44.1 kHz
● Quantization Bit: 16-bit linear/channel,
● Bit Rate: 4.3218Mb/sec,
● Channel Modulation Code: EFM (Eight to Fourteen
    Modulation)
● Dimensions: 6" H x 17 " W x 16 1/8" D
● Weight: 27.5 pounds
● MSRP: $7,000 USA

MDA1000 D/A Converter

● THD: 0.002% at 1,000 Hz
● Channel Separation: > 100dB (1 kHz)
● Dynamic Range: > 100dB (1 kHz)
● S/N Ratio: Better than 110dB (A weighted)
● Frequency Response:
   4 Hz - 45 kHz 0.5dB (Sampling frequency: 96KHz)
   4 Hz - 22 kHz 0.3dB (Sampling frequency: 48KHz)
   4 Hz - 20 kHz 0.3dB (Sampling frequency:
    44.1KHz)
   4 Hz - 15 kHz 0.3dB (Sampling frequency: 32KHz)
● Maximum Voltage Output: 6.0V RMS (Balanced and
    Unbalanced)
● Dimensions: 6" H x 17 1/12" W x 16 1/8" D
● Weight: 24 Pounds
● MSRP: $8,000 USA

McIntosh Laboratories

www.mcintoshlabs.com

 

Introduction

This review has been a long time coming. The McIntosh combo  - MCD1000 CD Transport and MDA1000 D/A Converter (DAC) - sat in our front closet longer than I wish to think about. Given its quality, that's a real shame. I've met any number of audiophiles who might consider trading in their spouses for gear that sounds this good. In my particular case, however, since I want both spouse and gear, I've settled for an unhappy medium review equipment slowly, basically when the spouse is not at home, and maintain the relationship. I thank the folks at McIntosh for their patience in the name of family values.

Speaking of spouses, McIntosh's spouse acceptance factor is high. I think this McIntosh's classic looks are extremely handsome. I imagine any number of consumers will be drawn to it on looks alone, even pushing for a McIntosh amp to complete the picture.

A definite plus is the large printing on the green LCD readout, which (for a change) can be easily read from many feet away. The volume level (should you choose to skip use of a preamp and use the DAC's built-in attenuator) is easily perceived from 10 feet or more. The "Bright" setting is very bright, making listening in the dark impossible. Thankfully, illumination level is fully adjustable. I've settled for the lowest level, which I find unobtrusive.

Both units offer a standby option that consumes less electricity. While in standby, a tiny, minimally illuminated red dot in the middle of the Standby/On button lights up. The power switch is a different color than the other switches to make it easy to find.

McIntosh's design philosophy also extends to its owner manuals. Theirs are among the clearest, largest print, consumer-friendly manuals I have encountered. Everything you're supposed to see on the LCD readout is pictured, making mastery of adjustment options a snap.

The single remote control that controls both units offers similar ease of use. Although you can't open the CD tray from afar, which does lower the possibility of leaving the tray open as a dust catcher, nor switch from Standby to On without rising from your seat to push the appropriate buttons on the front of the units, all other expected functions, including adjustment of DAC volume level, are accessible via the remote. Both units offer data in/out ports for connection to and remote operation of all other McIntosh devices.

Features

The MCD1000 Transport has one unbalanced coaxial (RCA), one Toslink optical, and one balanced XLR output. The unit uses an Optical Three-Beam Laser Pickup, Two-Dimensional Parallel Objective Lens Drive System, and GaAIAs Semiconductor Laser. Error Correction is Cross Interleave Reed Solomon. The Green LED front panel can display Disc Time, Total Remaining Time, Track Time, and Remaining Track Time. Two mini phone jacks are provided for remote control data in/out. Thick machined aluminum top and side panels are used.

The MDA1000 D/A Converter utilizes eight Burr Brown 24-bit chips. Its "advanced Balanced/Parallel design" converts all incoming digital signals to 768 kHz with 24 bit resolution. The analog output section uses 1% metal-film resistors and 5% polyfilm capacitors. The unit automatically selects the correct sampling frequency from 32 to 96 kHz. A third-order Butterworth gentle slope analog filter, low impedance output amplifier, gold-plated input and output jacks, and thick machined aluminum top and side panels are other features.

The McIntosh's output stage is fully balanced analog. Both balanced and unbalanced (single-ended RCA) outputs are available. McIntosh claims that the unbalanced output maintains the same fidelity and low distortion without the noise-silencing advantages of a balanced connection.

Users can choose between MDA1000's fixed output "volume control bypass mode," which allows connection to a separate preamp, or using its built-in digitally controlled attenuator to run it directly into a power amplifier. The digitally controlled attenuator adjusts volume levels by 0.1dB.

The direct connection can be advantageous because it obviates the need for a preamp and additional set of analog interconnects. The less you put in the signal path, the truer the signal.

According to McIntosh technical support, "the fixed outputs are at the normal 2 volt maximum level which is also unity gain or 70 on the output volume control. The output control amps are small power amps capable of high current and voltage so as to not compromise the high dynamic range of the music."

The MDA1000 can accept up to three coaxial digital inputs, three optical digital inputs, and one XLR (balanced) digital input. Input titles can be reassigned as desired. Unfortunately, there is no BNC input, which many consider far more robust than RCA for digital signal transmission.

The MDA1000 also lacks analog inputs; it cannot perform double duty as a full-function preamp. This means that if you want to take advantage of the unit's built-in attenuator and connect it directly to your amp, you can't play your tuner, turntable, or other analog source(s) without first disconnecting the MDA1000 from the amp and connecting an external preamp. Well, I guess that is why there are preamplifiers.

I suppose some people will prefer to have seven digital inputs on the McIntosh, but I'd be much happier sacrificing one or more of those for the addition of analog inputs. That would enable users to both take advantage of the direct connection and play other components without plugging and unplugging components and interconnects. What it would do to the list price, I don't know. But if McIntosh has gone this far, why not go all the way?


Click Here to Go to Part II.

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