McIntosh Celebrates 75th Anniversary with New Tube and Solid-State Preamps

McIntosh Labs is celebrating its 75th anniversary with two new preamplifiers — one tube, the other solid-state.

And with this latest introduction, the iconic U.S. brand that has delighted a dedicated band of audiophiles for decades shows no signs of slowing down. Not even a hint. To the contrary, McIntosh is remarkably consistent in rolling out new gear that inevitably stands alongside vintage gems like 1961’s highly sought-after MC275 vacuum-tube amplifier, a modern-day version of which remains in its lineup.

Ushering in the latest chapter of the McIntosh story is the C2800 vacuum-tube preamp (top left) and C55 solid-state preamp (right), both of which honor the hallmarks that made McIntosh famous in the first place. Among them, impeccable build quality inside and out, overarching attention to detail, and unmistakable styling that sets an illuminated logo, silver-ringed dials, and glowing VU meters against a familiar black-glass faceplate bookended by aluminum end caps.

Four vacuum tubes sit at the heart of the C2800 — three classic 12 AX7A’s and one 12AT7 — which leverages the latest in vacuum-tube design to reduce noise and distortion to “minuscule levels.” The preamp has electronic bass and treble controls for shaping tone in precise 1-dB steps and provides the added convenience of retaining tone-control-bypass settings for each input.

An evolution of the award-winning C53 preamplifier, the C55 incorporates a bypassable eight-band analog equalizer into its solid-state design.

Beyond the obvious difference of vacuum-tube vs. solid-state architecture, the new preamplifiers have a lot in common, starting with a 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and an array of 16 inputs: nine analog (including two adjustable-gain connections that can be configured for moving coil or moving magnet phono cartridges) and seven digital (two coaxial and two optical plus audio-only HDMI ARC, USB, and McIntosh MCT connectors). The coaxial and optical inputs support resolutions up to 24-bits/192 kHz, while the USB port supports DSD512 and DXD 384 kHz.

The rear-panel of the tube-based C2800 preamp is identical to that of its solid-state counterpart, the C55.

Both models accommodate bi-amped power-amp configurations and provide three stereo sets each of variable balanced and unbalanced outputs in addition to bringing back a feature that’s been missing from recent generations of McIntosh preamps: a processor loop to accommodate an external equalizer or signal processor. The back panels of the C2800 and C55 are, in fact, identical.

The list of common features continues with Roon Tested status to ensure compatibility with the subscription-based Roon music management software cherished by music lovers and a dedicated headphone input/amplifier featuring McIntosh’s Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD) technology to bring an added dimension to headphone listening. Other highlights include:

  • Electromagnetic input switching for “reliable, noiseless, and distortion-free switching”
  • Level-trim adjustment for matching analog input levels to avoid abrupt changes in volume
  • A precision-balanced, digital attenuator system for controlling volume with 0.1 dB accuracy
  • Fully regulated power supplies and an R-core power transformer to ensure stable, noise-free operation
  • Eco-friendly power management that turns the unit off after 30 minutes of inactivity
  • Home theater pass-through for integrating the preamp into AV setups

The C2800 and C55 include a remote that duplicates the front panel but app control is coming in the form of the new iOS/Android McIntosh Connect app, due out in April. Both models are slated to ship this month (March) and each carries a $9,000 price tag. For more information, visit