An Interesting Challenge
Hereby hangs a tale, of a tuner/preamp that was in pristine physical condition, as the photos show, but arrived after I bought it, with some operational imperfections, which I spent several hundred dollars fixing. These included an inoperative main volume control, and alignment and parts issues in the IF and stereo decoder sections. This is perhaps ironic, since Macs are known for their robustness electronically, but somewhat prone to such things as rust on the back and bottom, cracked or broken glass, or problems with the lettering, and, of course, the usual scratches and scrapes on the chrome and shiny black paint finishes.
We got it fixed up, with a wait of months for parts, and I finally got to test the MX-113, not only the tuner, but also the phono section, which has a pair of MM inputs, and the line and tape inputs. I’m used to a Bryston BP-1 professional phono section, usually fed by an also classic McIntosh MCP-1 head amp, which has the highest gain and lowest noise, as well as the best sound of any such device I’ve reviewed, though units from Linn and Benz-Micro, among others, have also impressed over the years. I originally bought the Bryston for my radio work, specifically the CKFM SuperSound Show, on which we were playing a lot of audiophile vinyl, and the MCP-1 from contributor and old friend Bob Oxley when I moved to a low-output Ortofon MC-3000, and he to a higher output MC.
So I was somewhat curious about what the sound of the MX-113 phono stage. My friend Angie at American Sound was diplomatic, saying she thought I wouldn’t like it, nor the McIntosh sound in general. Well, with the phono stage, she was right. It had a somewhat dark character that still surprised me, given the pristine clarity of the MCP-1. This extended, to a lesser extent, to the preamp in general, a warmish character that I’m sure Mac lovers treasure.
But I did like the tuner, basically an MR-74 front end, a lot for its sensitivity and selectivity (Narrow IF selectable), helped by a fairly high stereo threshold and variable separation to maintain good, quiet reception and sound in a continuum from mono to stereo, so that almost no stations sounded really bad. In this light, I can note that it received 42 stations on our 75 Ohm yagi antenna, but a more generous 53 on the Lindsay 300 ohm double dipole, which it obviously preferred, with virtually no multipath distortion, and the ability to lock stations in for extended listening. This Mac was characterized by consistently excellent sound quality, with particularly solid and extended bass and a very sweet, if a little rolled off, treble. Compared to an Accuphase, I’d call it less revealing, perhaps, but definitely more pleasant and forgiving on some signals.
All this said, the McIntosh MX-113, as represented by this beautiful example (which lacks only the walnut case with the miniature slanted coffee-table legs), is a lovely piece of classic engineering and ergonomic design from the early great years of solid state high end. Maybe it’s not an MR-78, but it’s clearly a find for collectors and FM lovers, and the buyer in France responded enthusiastically, while I sighed silently in relief that my bastion of box and bubble wrap had protected it on the long international journey.
Table of contents for The AIG FM Tuner Project
Outside the Speakers
Random Thoughts on the Music Mask
NPR on Whether Audiophiles Still Exist
Audiophile Grade Mics?
CDs Sales Die, LP Sales Fly
Some High End 'Phones from CES
Audio Ideas (Andrew Marshall)
Ox Box (Bob Oxley)
Hy End (Hy Sarick)
Bain's Blog (John Edward Bain)
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