McIntosh MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier - Official Thread

This is the place to discuss the McIntosh MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier

From the website:

  • Compact footprint: just 6-1/8" (15.6cm) x 9-1/8" (23.2cm)
  • 4 selectable headphone impedance ranges
  • Balanced and unbalanced analog inputs
  • Balanced stereo or dedicated Left & Right outputs

Specifications

  • Headphone Power Output

500mW

  • Headphone Output Impedance

32-100 Ohms
100-250 Ohms
250-600 Ohms
600-1,000 Ohms

Price

McIntosh directs buyers to their dealers. Various sources indicate the MSRP is $2,500.

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I actually have one of these in the house right now! @generic

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Do tell, please do tell. :wink:

Mark Gosdin

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Oh I will! Don’t worry :wink: still building my initial impressions about it.

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I saw the MHA200 around and became curious, as it’s a sharp departure from the MHA100/150. Those were/are more expensive and loaded down with other features. Plus, I demoed an MHA100 system in a local store and hated everything about it.This model comes across as a no-nonsense SE/Balanced amp, and is perhaps competitive with other $2K to $3K amps.

Calling the attention of @dncnexus per his comments on SBAF.

@dncnexus has already expressed his distaste for the amp lol. I will be searching over a length of time focusing on system matching as well as tube rolling with the amp to see how much I can squeeze in sound quality from it.

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I have made it known my dislike for the MHA200. It follows the same house sound as the MHA100/150, but in a less resolving package. If you don’t like the MHA100/150 (as I also disliked these amps), then the MHA200 is not the amp for you either. I believe that an amp shouldn’t sound bad with stock tubes, and a well designed amp would sound good with even bad tubes, as amps voicing is more dependent on circuit and components used rather than tubes.

There are many better amps imo that are in the $2-3k range that outclass the MHA200 easily. DNA, EC, Elekit, A&S, Woo, Feliks, and other companies all have amps in this price range that outperform the MHA200. I think one pays the McIntosh tax on this amp, and it would be better placed in the lower $1k range.

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In a perfect world, sure. Every tube amp I have heard never sounded it’s best for “My Preferences” with the stock tubes, and in some cases not even “good” in the same price range with the stock tubes. Only one came close and it had an input tube that wasn’t stock and cost 4 times the amount of the MHA200. I haven’t really A/B’d the amp yet and am still burning in the tubes, and working on getting some other tubes for it to give it a fair shot.

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Sure if we are talking in regards to preference, but no matter a tube roll you won’t make an amp into something it’s not. One can never voice a DNA to sound like a A&S or the other way around. We can change sound slightly but the nature of the amp is still itself.

As for even tube rolling this doesn’t address the fact that it lacks behind in technical performance compared to the competition. We can argue what is the best tonality or voicing of an amp, but we can’t argue that one is technically not up to par with others in it’s weight class.

I don’t care if people like the MHA200, people can like what they want. But based on my experience as well as general sentiment from others I trust who have heard the amp, money can be better allocated elsewhere. People can still buy a MHA200 and love it, but I would rather people know their other options and options that they could very well be more happy with.

You have every right to say you like this amp and it’s great, I have every right to say it’s bad. People can come to their own conclusions based on when they hear it or by cross referencing.

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@dncnexus not arguing and I never questioned your rights to say whatever you want about the amp or any piece of audio gear. I am going to give it a fair shot and roll some tubes and look for what synergizes. That’s part of the fun for me, especially when other people say a product sounds bad and seeing if I can create a sound that appeals to me. Cheers pal.

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Whatever the divergent views or consensus turns out to be, discussion is a positive. I have very mixed feelings about the McIntosh brand myself, but they have a large impact on the industry for good or bad. If potential buyers understand the alternatives – and find the best product for their needs – we’ve all contributed.

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Well said! I haven’t formulated any views yet personally, I have barely listened to it yet. I am glad you created the thread. Thanks @generic

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I heard this for the first time at CanJam Socal, and I was actually impressed by the sound - not because it was particularly awesome, but because it sort of actually sounded like a tube amp, albeit a not particularly tubey one. McIntosh is very much not my jam, as I really just don’t agree with the sonic results of their design philosophy. Class B pentode tube stages with unity coupled outputs and autoformers (thankfully mostly a thing of the past) just aren’t my cup of tea. Fine if it’s yours.

While the MHA200 isn’t as dead sounding as a lot of mcintosh gear, it’s dry. But it’s also open and has top end and decent clarity. Sorta kinda resembles a tube amp, albeit one that’s being run with a lot of feedback and modern tricks to achieve low distortion. It has a 2-D soundstage like op-amp designs such as the THX. I suspect this is because of a lot of feedback, which is used to achieve the generally linear and somewhat dry tone. That said, unlike other Mac amps it doesn’t have the weird overdamped sound I typically associate with their tube designs where opamps are extensively used to ‘linearize’ the tubes and make them behave as much like transistors as possible. If it sounds like I’m being harsh, it’s because I think you can spend your money better elsewhere. McIntosh is expensive and water is wet.

That said, it is a mac amp, and it sorta actually sounds like tubes, and it isn’t totally boring. Not my favorite, but for the well-heeled mac fan who likes the green glow and the cute form factor it might be a fun toy. Sounded better than I expected generally, and overall not bad, but I wouldn’t look here for classic tube tones.

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“dead sounding Mac gear”? I owned a C2200 Mac Pre for 12 years and it was a great piece.
I replaced it with a ARC Ref 5SE, which is definitely more life like. It also cost 50% more than the 2200

I have not heard the MHA200 so I can’t comment there. I will say you pay a premium for the beautiful casework, made in USA quality, and access to Mac’s amazing service department. Lastly Headphones are very picky about their amplifier mates. My Cayin mk II is a match made in heaven for my HD800S

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Older McIntosh is different from its modern counterparts.

The build doesn’t compete with most other amps in this range imo, also McIntosh MHA100/150/200 all have some of the worst pots on any amp I have ever felt. Idk why gave the go ahead for that pot.

I personally would rather give my money to other awesome US based tube manufacturers. There are many that are hand built all in the USA.

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C2200 is a modern piece, currently theC2700, not the vintage awesome C22

C2200 released in 2002.

I bet if you compared the C2200 with the C2700 you would find differences, not for the better.

EDIT: McIntosh has started to really go down hill imo since they were acquired by McIntosh Group/Fine Sound Group in 2012.

It has seemed that for awhile now McIntosh and Audio Research have been the big tube amp rivals.(at a point being owned by the same company.) When demoing multiple amps from both companies I really gravitated towards the Audio Research stuff. If Audio Research made a headphone amp I’d be first in line to buy…. …….Once it pops up used for a more affordable amount. I have absolutely no clue how this headphone amp bats in its price point at all but it seems like AR and McIntosh price their stuff very high but I don’t blame them with how much money goes into running a big business vs. a boutique company with less of an overhead.

I use the second hand market to gauge the worth of a used item vs. retail and both these companies gear can be had at a great price 5-10 years down the line. The audio research REF150 Non SE is only 4-8 years old and retailed for around $12k and can now be bought for around $4.5k. Almost 1/3 of the cost! The $9k REF75 can be bought for around $3.5k and retailed for $9k.

To bring it back to this headphone amp, how much do people think the value is esthetic driven based on it looking like a miniature
MC275? If it didn’t look like that would anybody still want to own this? Does this compete with other amps in this price range?

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That is precisely how I reacted to the MHA200 and why I started this thread. I respect McIntosh (of decades ago) for their pioneering role, but am ambivalent toward McIntosh as owned and managed by random investors today.

To my eyes the MHA200 appears to be a dressed-up lifestyle product and a reaction to the stylish low-budget tube amps one can find online. All table-top tube amps are inherently decorator items, and sales are driven in part by appearance. Is McIntosh now competing against Ampsandsound and Decware in the $2K-$3K bracket, or using the brand image to increase its profit margin on a $500 to $1K product?

The MC275 is an icon among those only passively aware of audio brands, as it’s now a prop in mid-20th-Century period dramas. Some apparently sane and serious audio enthusiasts hold McIntosh in high esteem. If one shops in the few remaining retail outlets (e.g., Magnolia HiFi), one may believe owning Martin-Logan speakers driven by McIntosh amps is living the dream. “It looks exactly like the amp I saw on Netflix, and it’s a step up from my Bose for sure.”

Engage and discuss or live with whatever happens.

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Yes

I can link, but there are many seasoned audiophiles on youtube who have openly talked about their disgust with modern day McIntosh products and how they are nowhere near what they were. IMO they are simply riding on their success from history and the investors are trying to rack in as much as possible.

A sad but true reality for many :frowning:

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