McIntosh's new C53 Preamplifier is the brand's first to feature a new upgradeable digital audio module. Unlike McIntosh's integrated amplifiers that use the DA1 Digital Audio Module, the C53 is the first product to use the new, more advanced DA2 Digital Audio Module.
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 (two coaxial, two optical, one USB, and one 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. 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 converted to two-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, eight-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, says McIntosh. 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 input for plugging in a turntable. Outputs include three variable balanced and unbalanced connections along with one fixed unbalanced connection.
Tone controls include an eight-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 theatre 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.
The DA2 Digital Audio Module will be available as a separate upgrade to all products using the DA1 (MA9000, MA8900, MA7200 and MA5300 Integrated Amplifiers, MAC7200 Receiver, and C49 Preamplifier) at a later date.
Orders for the McIntosh C53 can now be placed with authorized McIntosh dealers, with shipping expected to begin to the U.S. in July 2019 and the rest of the world shortly thereafter. MSRP is US$8,000.