McIntosh C 22 – High End Stereo Equipment We Buy

McIntosh is one of the most dependable brand names when it comes to high-end audio systems. For years the brand has been recognized by audiophiles throughout the world as equipment that delivers clear and consistent quality in music. McIntosh is probably best known for its amplifiers and preamps, but the company produces many other components and parts for stereo and home theatre.

What are the specs for the McIntosh C 22?

Years Manufactured:
1963-1968, 20150-Present
Frequency response:
20Hz to 20kHz
Total harmonic distortion:
0.02%
Gain:
62dB (MM), 20dB (line)
Input sensitivity:
2.5mV (mic), 2mV (MM), 250mV (line)
Signal to noise ratio:
85dB (line)
Output:
250mV (line), 2.5V (Pre out)
Valve complement:
6 x 12AX7
Dimensions:
16 x 5-7/16 x 13 inches
Weight:
16lbs

What else to know about the McIntosh C 22?

"I had no sooner unboxed the C22, placed it on my shelf, and turned it on than I was glad I asked to review it. At last a preamplifier that looks like the real deal. None of this bare-bones minimalist nonsense with vast acres of unused real estate on a fascia occupied with only a volume pot and a parsimonious row of pushbuttons for source selection. Many diehard McIntosh fans regard the C22 as the company’s best preamplifier before (or despite) the great solid-state designs of the late nineties. It would certainly be difficult to imagine one with a more useable range of options, features, and functions. There are volume, balance, bass and treble tone controls, and even a loudness circuit. There are seven high-level inputs plus a pair of tape inputs with full monitoring. There are two sets of phono inputs, one for moving-coil, the other moving-magnet, while the front panel offers a choice of loading for mc’s and capacitance for mm’s. There is a mode knob for stereo, mono, stereo reverse, left to both channels, right to both channels, and mono to both channels. My only criticism is that many of these functions are not duplicated on the large, weighty all-metal handset, in particular the balance and tone controls. Not to worry, however—volume, source selection, and mute are all remotely accessible. Typical of Mac, there’s a trigger circuit that allows the C22 to turn the MC275 on and off (it also works with similarly equipped other amplifiers). It is a real convenience to be able to power up and down both units in one operation, with all mutes in force until the tubes stabilize. (Such convenience may seem a small thing but you’d be surprised how used to it you get.) This is a company that seems to think of everything.

When I first heard the price of the C22, I blanched a bit: a cool—or it is hot?—six grand. Hardly outrageous for a preamplifier these days, but a fifty-year-old design, even one as beautifully engineered and appointed as this one? Hmm. Then I listened to the phonostage and thought, “How the hell did they do all this for six grand?” This phonostage—I availed myself only of the mc option—is easily competitive with stand-alone units north, far north, of two to three grand and more. It’s as quiet as any tube phonostage I’ve ever heard and a lot more so than most of them, tonally neutral, really dynamic, with loading capabilities adequate to or better than any mc out there. Offhand, it’s hard for me to think of another preamplifier more suited to the well-rounded audiophile dedicated equally to his or her digital and vinyl sources, unless it’s one of Mac’s other preamps, including some solid-state ones, flexibility and versatility always a priority from a company that knows how to design control units that cater to real music lovers. Sonically, as I hope I’ve made clear, there is next to nothing to complain about, instead volumes to praise. But what is exceptional, perhaps unique, about the C22 is that it preserves the fabled McIntosh sound, styling, features, and functionality in a design that is otherwise modern in feel and use. My nine-year-old, while switching the input knob so she could play a CD for a musical she’s in, said, “Daddy, these are really fun to use.” They have a feel like none I’ve ever experienced, paradoxically soft yet secure, and of switching transients, swishes, turn on/off thumps, there are none, while the transformers are dead quiet even with your ear right on top of them. The only sound you hear is the source you’re playing. The back panel features both balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs, with more than enough for the C22 to serve as the control center of a very sophisticated two-channel sound system. Routine system checks, such as channel balance, are a snap with the mode knob, which allows mono recordings to be enjoyed in mono, where they typically sound better.

The tone controls and the loudness circuit can of course be switched out for flat response, but why would you want to? They can make so many recordings sound so much more pleasurable in ways that are musically not only valid, but necessary if you want to enjoy natural-sounding reproduction. Take Herbert von Karajan’s celebrated recording of La Mer for DG from the sixties: The sound is quite beautiful but the strings are too brightly lit, something easily addressed with a modest cut from the treble control. My family and I watch movies with sound routed through the music system. Often movie soundtracks are too bright, especially older ones, those that have been digitally remastered, and even a lot of new ones. What a relief it is to have a treble control that allows these films to sound so much more listenable. Then there’s loudness-compensation, that all-purpose whipping boy of those who are against any sort of tonal control for the consumer. But the pioneering work Fletcher and Munson did in demonstrating how bass frequencies are disproportionately reduced in volume at low-listening levels is valid and its effects are real.

At the end of the daypleasure is the operative word when it comes to these wonderful new retro-made-new-again Macs. Pleasure in use, in function, in appearance, and paramountly pleasure in the listening. Most components I review come and go with few regrets. But I’m going to miss these big-time. In the highest senses of the words, they have real class and character. And something more: a connection to audio history in an unusually direct, intimate, and accessible way. Those pioneers of audio design had their priorities right when it comes to the reproduction of music in the home. If you have a local dealer who allows you to audition these in your house, be warned: They are highly addictive. And if you’re courageous enough to ignore the purists and take advantage of the full panoply of their features, especially tonal correction, well, I’ll warn you again: They’re addictive." - Excerpt from Absolute Sound of C22 Reissue

Brief History of McIntosh

Long mapped-to Binghamton New York – the current headquarters and manufacturing center for McIntosh Labs – not many people know the brand was originally launched outside of the Nation’s Capital in Silver Spring Maryland, in 1949. In 1956, the brand built their original facility in New York, according to the official brand website.

Other McIntosh Products We Often Buy

Typically, StereoBuyers purchases mostly used amplifiers, especially the vintage amps and high-end McIntosh models such as the MC202 or MC252, and the C220 preamp, for example. We have also purchased many pre-owned tuners from McIntosh over the recent years, including the MR67 and MR78 models, for example.

StereoBuyers has purchased tens of thousands worth McIntosh brand equipment since 2014, with individual buys ranging from $100 to well over $50,000. If you are moving, ready to upgrade, or have McIntosh equipment you do not or will not be using, why not contact us today to find out if it is worth good money?

If you are interested in selling your used McIntosh equipment to us in the greater NYC area or Colorado, please click here to fill out a Free Quote Form and we will get back to you. If we agree on terms, we come to meet you where you want, and pay cash.

The following images show actual McIntosh equipment purchased by StereoBuyers.