McIntosh MHA200 Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier - Official Thread

It is interesting how much hate and gatekeeping there is for one brand and product. I have witnessed the same type of behavior towards AmpsandSound amps, ZMF, Meze, and a few other brands in the last year.

It is always the same thing, this amp is better than this, this amp is too expensive, they should be selling those headphones for less because it only costs this much to make, etc. To be honest, I don’t even want to share my impressions on this forum of the amp, based on how many preconceived notions there are about this amp from people that haven’t even heard it, it would be a waste of my time to share here. I respect the opinions of the individuals that have heard the amp and come to their own conclusions based on their preferences, however that is still your opinion at the end of the day nothing more. People shoveling their hatred against the McIntosh amp and brand as a whole, that is just your opinion. The brand is loved by thousands of people worldwide, and other people should be allowed to have an opinion opposite of what yours is without fear of others trashing their opinion, or the product. That is not how you create an inclusive environment.

All too often in this hobby, it seems like you must be part of the group-think mentality, or else your opinion is minimized or trash-talked, this type of attitude is very closed-minded. I think you are going to have fans of each brand, and have pride of ownership for one reason or another, as well as have a preference of sound. I think it is more than reasonable to say at this price I prefer this amp instead of this amp or this headphone vs this headphone based on my preferences, but why so much trash talk about the manufacturers? This isn’t the forum I am used to seeing. :peace_symbol: :wave:

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I never wanted to inflame anyone by creating this thread, but you may be overly sensitive too. I don’t hate, I have mixed feelings. Both @Earmuffs and myself are asking straight up questions about price/performance. While @dncnexus is critical above, he HAS heard this amp (see the SBAF link above). @Grover heard the amp and wrote a mix of positives and negatives.

Where is the gatekeeping? I honestly don’t see it.

I’d further venture that the large majority of us have heard and demoed other McIntosh products. I’ve demoed or been in the homes of owners a dozen times or more. This included at least two of their prior headphone amps. I was curious whether they’d taken a different approach with this model.

McIntosh has certainly earned its reputation as costly for what you get (@Grover). This in part follows from its old-school retail model with inherently high mark up. Still, with their strong resale values that’s no big deal versus other brands.The net cost of ownership after selling may actually be lower with McIntosh.

I’d also not characterize this discussion as either group think or trash talk. Pricey brand, pricey product. Is it worth it? One firm no above. One mixed answer above. A positive review might reveal who and why to choose this product.

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There are discussions around products, and with every one of those brands, there are people on both sides, both those who love the products and those who don’t. I think its unfair to say that every brand needs to get praise and love.

I don’t see anybody here sharing preconceived notions of the amp. The only people who gave impressions are those who heard it, and the rest are skeptical based on the progressive decline that has been seen from the brand over recent years and are a bit apprehensive of the amp.

Sure, it is our opinions. Some people still love McIntosh. I don’t see anybody here attacking others for liking McIntosh, I don’t see anybody here saying they aren’t allowed to like this amp. We are voicing our own opinions around the amp and the brand. Should we only let positive opinions here on something and be quiet about any negative opinions?

I still don’t see where anyone was minimizing or trash talking anybody’s opinion.

Are manufacturers excluded from criticism? Why should they be?

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We can all admit that this company has made some good products. Especially in the past. They were pretty innovative. I’d be willing to bet around half the people on this forum have/had one of their products in their setup. We can’t be so harsh because the original CEO was a little rough around the edges and a prick at times. We need to remember, he was more of a computer guy.

I’ll dip out of the conversation now.

Edit: I apologize… I didn’t realize this was about McIntosh and not Apple’s Macintosh.

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To anyone who took offense to my comments, I’d like to clarify a few points.
I believe confirmation bias is important in our audio purchasing habits - we wouldn’t read reviews of products we already own or take issue with people disliking brands we have loyalty to. Its a critical social aspect of our community.

I don’t like any McIntosh. I don’t even like vintage Mac with the exception of the industrial series MI200 which I adore. It isn’t because Mac gear is inherently bad - it is high performing tube audio gear, far and away from
Bluetooth or phone speakers, that much is not up for debate.

I value the sound of DHT and classic tube sounds, unconventional ideas and lower feedback and generally dislike opamps. This doesn’t make other things bad, but they accomplish very different goals. I want lively and fast, and Mac for me is not that.

Mac is linear, powerful and reliable. If that fits your speakers and needs/wants, cool! I respect that. I still think it sounds overdamped - that is a technical assertion, and if you want to know how I came to that conclusion put any KT-tubed Mac amp against a great 2a3 amp. Tell me what you hear. What I value is more likely to be accomplished by the 2a3 SET. If what you value (linearity, FR, power, low noise) is accomplished by the Mac, then again, I say cool.

Regarding ‘tax brackets’ - that much should be obvious to each individual. I cannot afford McIntosh gear, it is far beyond my financial means. For those with the means who want Mac, well, they should get Mac. I don’t spend my time scoffing at those folks. In fact, I’m good friends with many of them and I appreciate that we have differing taste because it reminds me to defer judgement on what is ‘good’ and to be open minded.

Appreciating sonic diversity does not however mean being unequivocally positive about everything. I never insulted Mac owners, nor anyone who owns this amp. I was impressed by what it had to offer. I didn’t care for the Sonic profile personally. Why should that cause offense? I’ve clearly stated my biases. I’ve stated what I heard, and my position but have also presented what I think are positives in an effort to present a considered picture of the gear.

I have no biases against anyone who wants to or does own this amp and likes it very much. No yucking anyone else’s yum was intended.

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Have you ever done reviews? I think you would be really good at it. You seem to have a good amount of knowledge across the entire audio hobby as a whole including 2 ch. stuff.

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You are good man! :sunglasses: well said.

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I do gotta so too, based on looks this headphone amp is super cool looking! If someone already owned a mc275 it’s almost mandatory to buy a MHA200.

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This was an honest mistake but so funny to me- no offense meant at all, but this really had me laughing :rofl:
You’re awesome @Rhodey

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I thoroughly enjoyed it too :rofl: @Rhodey

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Ironically, your comments could apply to umpteen companies that have seen better days and that were founded by eccentric but effective CEOs. It reminds me of “fortune teller” research where most everyone agrees with the same generalities about themselves. Telling your fortune? No, just repeating universal human patterns and thoughts.

:joy::rofl:
Thanks… I needed this laugh!

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I believe justin weber picked one up because he liked the form factor and sometimes uses a mac preamp.

The volume knob’s unusual behavior was explained to me as such:

If someone owns a mac preamp, the exact middle position is unity gain, so that a unit coupled preamp could be used as a volume control, and the headamp easily muted while speakers were on by turning the pot left, controlled by the pre if the pot is left at 12 o clock, or the headamp pot used for vooume as it is turned right.

It’s a different use case I think than our typical idea of a DAC → Headamp → headphones setup. For an existing mac owner its a clever and convenient use of unity coupled output stages and as mentioned by others the amp is quite cute and small enough to fit on a side table or bookshelf.

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You’re welcome. I’m just glad someone knows their schiit! (Ok no more dad jokes Lol, I’m not even a Dad!)

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I did buy. Totally badass little amp.
I haven’t started rolling tubes but its on the list to do. I did buy a AQ cable and felt a little silly but I like the amp and why not set it up the right way. Next step is a Pi+DacHat for it.
The HD800s and VC are great pairings.

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Interested in this for a Tube Pre if anyone has experience with it in this manner, please do opine.

I picked up the mha200…first time McIntosh owner, using the adi-2 pro to feed it and driving the Diana phi. Sounds pretty darn good to me and for what it is worth, I am not missing the woo wa33 I sold a few weeks ago. The volume pot would be a surprise to those not aware of its unity intent.

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Yup, I think it’s definitely a shift for many headphone amp owners who are used to generally using the amp to control volume. It took some getting used to for me too. Once I figured out the unity concept, using my preamp from My DAC/Streamer/Roon Endpoint was a breeze. I am working on an experiment with tube rolling now as well that may bare fruit allowing for more usable range on the pot for the users who like a more traditional experience. I won’t know until the tubes come in.

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I own the 200 is it perfect not by a long shot. First thing I did was change the tubes as the McIntosh tubes were microphonic. Would I like a better volume pot yes, but is it a deal breaker? No you learn how to adjust it. I love it’s sound with the right headphones and the music it’s competitive with any combo I’ve heard. If your looking analytics you shouldn’t be in this market space in the first place. Now as someone mentioned it reminded them of tubes with op amps my favorite solid state amp is a Burson Soloist 3X. So I’m in op amp camp which could explain a lot. Now I’m also all digital and I’m ok with CD quality as my floor. I stream  music (I dropped Tidal) from a Mac Mini into Spring3 KTE. The 200 seems to be able to take advantage of what the Holo is sending it and delivering just some stunning results to my aging ears. Is it expensive yes, is there better out there at the price point? That’s subjective as everyone thinks their choice is always better. Are there faults yes, as with all products that go to market compromise’s are made. But if you haven’t actually listened to something you should probably take a pass on judging on its sound. If you have share your experience. There are lots of options because everyone’s ears are different.

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I received my Chord Hugo 2/2go yesterday. Using the Chord Hugo 2/2go to feed the MHA200 is a step up in synergy from my Matrix Element M feeding the McIntosh. Not my favorite from an aesthetic perspective with all the cables coming out on each side, but the sound quality is wowza. The Hugo 2/2go should be great with my speakers too once I get my dedicated desktop TT2. The chord sound pairs well to my ears with the MHA200.

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