McIntosh aims for versatility with tube-driven headphone amp

Even without that striking logo, audio gear from McIntosh Labs has a look all its own, and one that’s sure to stand out in any living room setup. The latest addition to the company’s high-end catalog is a versatile 2-channel vacuum tube headphone amplifier named the MHA200.

Though most hi-fi systems will include a headphone amplifier circuit, it might not be powerful enough to drive demanding audiophile cans or the output may not do justice to the music you’re listening to. The MHA200 is designed to deliver.

The 6.14 x 9.13 in (15.6 x 23.2 cm) headphone amplifier sports a custom stainless-steel chassis in a polished finish that wears a die-cast aluminum McIntosh badge to the side.

Up top are two 12AT7 vacuum tubes that amplify the incoming audio signal and two 12BH7A tubes which drive the output to the headphones, and users can opt to have them on full display or give off their eerie green glow through a metal cage.

Listeners are offered three ways to plug in headphones
Listeners are offered three ways to plug in headphones

McIntosh Labs

The amplifier is powered by a high-performance toroidal transformer, with a pair of the company’s Unity Coupled Circuit transformers custom designed to match the tube amp output section. The Unity Coupled Circuit technology has been a key feature in McIntosh products since 1949, and can be found in full-size amps like the MC275 and MC1502.

For the MHA200, it has been specially adapted to produce four headphone impedance ranges for the user to choose from, with the company saying that the design ensures that maximum power is available regardless of headphone impedance so that “virtually every headphone can receive legendary McIntosh sound quality and performance.”

Listeners can feed audio signals into the unit via balanced and unbalanced inputs around back, while the front offers three ways to plug in headphones. There’s a pair of 3-pin balanced XLR connections for dedicated left and right output, there’s a single 4-pin XLR for balanced stereo output, and finally there’s a 0.25-inch unbalanced stereo headphone jack.

A Power Control input and output allows the unit to power on or off at the same time as other connected McIntosh components.

The MHA200 can be ordered now for US$2,500, with shipping expected to start in March.

Product page: MHA200

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