McIntosh C53 Preamplifier Announced: New DA2 Digital Module

TIDAL and Qobuz music streamers take note, a next generation Quad-Balanced eight-channel, 32-bit/384kHz DAC is at the heart of McIntosh’s new upgradeable DA2 digital-audio module in their just-announced $8,000 USD C53 preamplifier.

With native USB support of up to DSD512, the new unit doubles the DSD256 limit of the DA1 and McIntosh claims both an improved dynamic range and lower total harmonic distortion compared to the previous module. The USB input now also supports DXD up to 384kHz, while Coax and optical inputs will decode up to 24-bit/192kHz. The MCT input of the DA2 offers the McIntosh secure, custom DSD connection for playback of SACDs if paired with a McIntosh MCT series SACD/CD Transport. A new audio-only HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) has also been included for those looking to get their flat-panel televisions into the mix.

Building on the digital audio precedent in the current line of McIntosh solid state integrated amplifiers, the C53 features a future-proof digital audio module; it’s upgradeable. As someone who owns a McIntosh C2600 tubed preamplifier, I can tell you it would have been nice to see its souped-up ESS9016 SABRE Ultra eight-channel, Quad-Balanced 32-bit DAC have an upgrade path down the road too. Alas, only the MA9000, MA8900, MA7200 and MA5300 integrated amps, the MAC7200 receiver, and the C49 preamplifier qualify for a separate upgrade at a later date. Why? Because only the DA1 digital audio module is able to be bumped to next-gen status, not so the DAC circuit architecture in my C2600 or the D110 digital preamp, which is no real surprise considering the board’s inputs are set into the chromed steel lower half of the rear chassis fascia on both.

The C53 is shipping this month in the US and slightly later in other markets.

Further info from the press release

The DA2 Digital Audio Module builds upon the DA1 with an expanded set of capabilities. In addition to having all the same connections as the DA1 (2 coaxial, 2 optical, 1 USB and 1 proprietary MCT for use with McIntosh’s MCT series of SACD/CD Transports), a new audio-only HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) input is included on the DA2. This allows it to be connected to TVs with a compatible HDMI (ARC) output to bring TV sound to a new level of audio performance. Popular multi-channel audio formats from Dolby and DTS are supported and will be expertly converted to 2-channel audio for proper playback through the C53. When CEC communication is enabled in both the C53 and the TV, the C53 remote can control the TV’s power and volume.

Additionally, the DA2’s USB input can support native playback of up to DSD512, surpassing the DSD256 limit of the DA1. This increased DSD playback support is thanks to the next generation, Quad Balanced, 8-channel, 32-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) that powers the DA2. This audiophile-grade DAC is highlighted by both an improved dynamic range and total harmonic distortion compared to the DA1. The USB input also supports DXD up to 384kHz. The coax and optical inputs can decode digital music up to 24-bit/192kHz for high resolution audio playback. Rounding out the DA2 is an MCT input that offers a secure, custom DSD connection for playback of the high definition audio found on SACDs when paired with a McIntosh MCT series SACD/CD Transport to produce the best possible sound quality from an SACD collection.

In addition to the seven digital inputs found in the DA2 module, the C53 also has nine analog inputs, giving it a nearly inexhaustible number of 16 total inputs for connecting all of a user’s music sources. The analog inputs consist of three balanced and four unbalanced connections, plus one Moving Coil and one Moving Magnet phono inputs for plugging in a trusted turntable. Outputs include three variable balanced and unbalanced connections along with one fixed unbalanced connection.

Tone controls include an 8-band analog equalizer with each band adjustable by ± 12dB. The High Drive Headphone Amplifier can power virtually any pair of headphones, while Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD) can bring an added dimension to the music. Home Theater Pass Through lets the C53 be seamlessly integrated into a home theater system. Power Control ports easily turn other connected McIntosh components on and off, while the Data Ports can send remote control commands to connected source components. All this audio technology is packaged inside the C53’s classic McIntosh design featuring a black glass front panel backlit by direct LED lighting, blue meters, rotary knobs, an illuminated logo and aluminum end caps. An attractive polished stainless steel chassis finishes the distinguished look. It can be paired with an assortment of amplifiers, CD players, turntables, tuners, media streamers, room correction devices and speakers to complete a home audio system.

For more information on the C53 visit McIntosh Labs.

McIntosh Laboratory Inc.

Everclear's picture

So, is Rafe gonna review the new McIntosh C53 pre-amp? :-) ..........