Image: Hugh Threlfall
June 01 2013
A few years ago, in a How To Spend It article on fancy hi-fi and an initiation visit I had made to the annual High End Show in Munich, I noted how quality audio gear tends to bear national characteristics. So British equipment is restrained and stylish, Italian stuff is more so, to the point of silliness, French hi-fi is plain eccentric and German audio loves, erm, speakers in the shape of alpenhorns (well, maybe). And American? Well, it’s big and it’s loud.
Biggest and loudest of all was equipment by McIntosh, which comes in XXXL shiny boxes with humungous, ice-blue illuminated meters and a huge, flouncy gothic-looking logo that would have suited a 1970s heavy metal vinyl album. I felt McIntosh was quite amusing and, from what I could hear at the exhibition, sounded rich and bulky, but I didn’t pay it much attention as it seemed aimed exclusively at the US audiophile.
I’ve since discovered, however, that the company boasts a fine and unsullied reputation and a serious hi-fi heritage going back to 1949 – even though it has, as my hi-fi savvy pal Simon puts it, a slightly Addams Family aesthetic about it. I’ve also learnt that you can now buy McIntosh from a UK dealer, Jordan Acoustics. And, during a recent few months in New York, I found that it has a fantastic new table-top AirPlay one-box stereo, the McAire, which hit me with a range, bass and general sonic heft that almost blew my socks off. The McAire makes an immense and lovely sound for a relatively compact (49cm x 20cm x 43cm, 14kg) machine. Its belting sound comes from two 4in woofers, two 2in midrange drivers and two 0.75in dome tweeters. It’s the Mack truck, the Big Mac and the MacBook Pro of these iDevice-friendly one-box hi-fis, which used to be docks but rarely now do any physical docking because wireless is getting so good.
It’s my bounden duty to point out that this brash but beautiful Yank does come in at seven times the price of Cambridge Audio’s new Minx Air 200, of which I remain a huge fan. The Minx Air’s design, however, is subfusc to the point of boring, while the McAire could be the real centrepiece of a room. Splendid stuff.