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REVIEW: McIntosh 6500 Integrated Amplifier (SS)

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Model: 6500
Category: Integrated Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $2850
Description: SS Integrated amplifier 120 watts per channel at 8 ohms
Manufacturer URL: McIntosh
Manufacturer URL: McIntosh

Review by Michael Segal ( A ) on March 07, 2002 at 15:57:39
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for the 6500

Just put together a second system in the family room (for the whole family ;) ). Based it upon the McIntosh 6500 integrated amplifier. Associated components include:

1) Sony 530d DVD player
2) Meitner (Museatex) Bitbox DAC
3) B&W CDM1 NT speakers
4) DH Labs IC and Speaker Cables

The unit is the "Baby" Mac. It does not possess the Autoformers as found on the 6900. It outputs 120 watts into 8 ohms, 200 watts into 4 ohms. It has those wonderful McIntosh meters (calibrated for 4 ohms). It contains a phono stage (I do not use it), multiple inputs and video controls should you wish to add it to a video system. Also included are bass and treble controls, a mono switch and loudness control just like my old Sony receiver (you do not realize how much you missed this control until you get it back). Also included is a full function remote control with the requisite a thousand and one of the same size buttons. Thankfully the useful ones are close together.

The 6500 doubles as an easy listening two-channel integrated and a two-channel home theater. With the loudness button engaged you get wonderful late night watching.

In all honesty this is NOT an audiophile system. The speakers are jammed in the bottom of a Thomasville entertainment center (that's bad). But they are resting on Sorbathane footers (that's good). The speakers are only three inches off the floor (that's bad). But they are toed in to the sweet spot (that's good). The cabinet is close to the wall and seems to amplify the base (huh?). Surprisingly you get a fairly stable center image that rises about four feet off the floor and is very musical. I am fairly certain this is due to the ability of the amplifier to manhandle the B&W's as only a Mac could do.

The amplifier is tuneful, musical and FUN. Watching the meters dance around is a true joy. In fact the Mac reminds me of my first system (all junk but always enjoyed, not that the Mac is junk). I never worry about the imaging. I make ample use of the tone controls. My favorite button is the LOUDNESS button (again I cannot stress how enjoyable it is listening to the stereo at low levels with the loudness engaged). The excess base can even be enjoyed!

As a two channel home theater it is easy to listen to, non-fatiguing, and a vast improvement over many lesser (but not less expensive) multi-channel receivers.

The Macs power reserve is its greatest strength. It seems to control the B&W's well (and they need a stable powerful amp). It also has a traditional user interface so the whole family can use it.

The fit and finish are first rate. The rotary controls have a solid smooth reassuring feel. The buttons a solid click when engaged. Any internal function is dead silent. The RCA's are fairly standard gold plated fare. The speaker binding posts are plastacised and have wide lugs.

The midrange is smooth and fluid, the highs clear and precise. The bass is the real strength however. Prodigious amounts of tight robust bass. The power of the amplifier stage seems never-ending. The little B&W's are whipped into making bass like no small speaker has any right to (even more than my old Totem 1 Bi's did with a Classe 25 amplifier).

If you are looking for a top-notch musical system you cannot go wrong with the Mac. I cannot attest to this integrated’s ability to dig out the umpteenth degree of resolution as my system does not allow this.

For reference my musical tastes include:
1) Blues- Ronnie Earls new disc, Luke and the Locomotives, Patricia Barber, Johnny Adams etc.
2) Jazz- Oscar Peterson (old Verve), Chet Baker (MONO), Ella and Louis (also on Verve and MONO) etc.
3) Pop- nothing current but 70's, 80's and 90's stuff like Peter Gabriel, Dire Straights, The Police etc.
4) Alison Krauss- I generally do not like blue grass but I cannot get enough of her music.

I must thank Mr. Tellig for his opinion on the 6900. This directed me in the proper direction. His insights are always welcome.

Product Weakness: Expensive, generic remote control. styling (love it or hate it)
Product Strengths: Power, ease of use, sound, styling, flexibility, it's a Mac

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: McIntosh 6500
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony S530d DVD player and Meitner Bitbox DAC
Speakers: B&W CDM1 NT
Cables/Interconnects: DH Labs IC and SC
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Blues, Jazz, Pop and Kiddie Music
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 Month
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Adcom ADE 515
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): Main Rig
Sony SCD1 SACD player
Sonic Frontiers Line 3 SE Pre
Classe 25 Amplifier
B&W Nautilus 802
DH Labs IC and SC
ASC Room Treatments

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Topic - REVIEW: McIntosh 6500 Integrated Amplifier (SS) - Michael Segal 15:57:39 03/7/02 ( 1)