This week, we had the pleasure of reviewing a product from an important figure in the hi-fi industry. The McIntosh MTi100 is a manual belt drive turntable featuring a vacuum tube preamplifier. Also boasting a coaxial digital input, an optical input, an RCA analog input, a Sub output, a trigger output, a headphone output and a Bluetooth receiver, the McIntosh MTi100 is an ultra high-end all-in-one hi-fi system. After the new RS200 speaker we recently reviewed, this new generation McIntosh device continues the American manufacturer’s line of “connected” products.
For those who would like to use a different power amplifier or add the MTi100 turntable to an existing system, McIntosh has included a preamp output and a power amp input. Visually, the turntable is in line with the esthetic codes that have become the brand’s identity. It has an elegant black lacquer chassis featuring the brand’s name on the front and two control knobs. The thick 9.5mm glass plate covering the surface of the turntable reduces vibrations. Under the preamplification tubes are two green LEDs, which endow the MTi100 with the distinctive McIntosh charm. Sold for €8.300, this compact high-end system exudes outstanding build quality, but is it a winner on all fronts?
McIntosh MTi100: the brand
Founded in 1949 by Frank McIntosh, the American brand which is now based in Birmingham, New York took its first official steps into the hi-fi world with the 50W-1 power amplifier. In 1969, after gaining a solid reputation due to the quality of its electronics, McIntosh was one of the brands to equip the Woodstock festival. During its 70 years of existence, the American brand has become one of the biggest names in the hi-fi industry thanks to products with exemplary build quality and unmatched performance. DAC amplifiers, power amplifiers, vacuum tube amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, media streamers, hi-fi turntables, hi-fi preamplifiers, A/V preamplifiers, McIntosh electronics are prized by audiophiles for their clear, natural and dynamic sound, as well as their ability to reproduce a vast and realistic soundstage.
When it comes to turntables, the McIntosh MT10 flagship model is at the forefront. This ultra high-end model is a unique piece that stands out from the competition, both visually and in terms of sound. This 19kg belt-driven turntable features a colossal acrylic platter, an aluminum alloy (Duralumin) tonearm with ceramic and sapphire bearings, and an electronically controlled frictionless drive motor for uncompromised performance and perfect stability. The turntable range also includes the McIntosh MT5 high-end model. This simplified version of the MT10 inherits a large number of technologies from its older sibling, in particular the tonearm and motor. The acrylic platter, however, is thinner. The McIntosh MT2 turntable is the most affordable model offered by the American manufacturer. This belt drive model is pre-set for an easy and quick installation. The Duralumin tonearm and sapphire/ceramic bearing combination is also present.
The McIntosh MTi100 turntable marks the American brand’s 70th anniversary. Described as an integrated turntable, it benefits from the brand’s expertise in the turntable and audiophile electronics fields and combines these technologies into an all-in-one system that is both practical and powerful.
McIntosh MTi100: packaging and presentation
The McIntosh MTi100 turntable comes in an imposing box in which each element is protected by a thick block of polystyrene. There is no risk of the turntable being damaged during transport.
Inside the box you will find:
- The turntable’s chassis
- The aluminum platter
- A felt mat
- A setup guide
- A remote control and a battery
- The power cable
- A ruler to adjust the alignment
- The belt
- A set of tools for calibration
- The antenna for Bluetooth reception
- The two preamplifier tubes
- The tube’s protective cages
The turntable is very easy to assemble and it only took us a few minutes to do. First, we installed the two preamplification tubes in the dedicated sockets at the right of the turntable. To do this, position the tubes so that all the pins are aligned with their connectors, then carefully press down on the top of the tube so that pressure is equally distributed across the surface, thus avoiding bending the pins. Once the tubes were installed, we placed the cages over the top and screwed the Bluetooth antenna into the back of the turntable.
Installing the platter and the belt is also very simple. You simply need to place the platter over the ball-bearing spindle of the chassis whilst making sure that the platter is parallel to the turntable’s surface. Then place the belt at the bottom of the motor pulley and guide it around the platter using both hands. After, place the belt in the top notch of the pulley to play 45 rpm records and in the second notch to play 33 rpm records. Finally, gently rotate the platter with your hand so that the belt naturally moves into the grooves on the platter and the pulley.
The McIntosh MTi100 turntable features a Sumiko Olympia cartridge that is pre-installed on the aluminum tonearm. Both are pre-set at the factory and the counterweight is already calibrated, along with the anti-skate. We decided to check the settings anyway using our Elipson digital scale and noticed that the tracking force was 2.08g for a recommended force of 2 grams. This wasn’t particularly alarming as the tracking force should be situated somewhere between 1.8g and 2.2g, but as we were dealing with such a high-quality turntable, we preferred to take the time to calibrate the counterweight to obtain exactly 2g.
McIntosh MTi100: all-in-one turntable
Presented by McIntosh as an integrated turntable, who is the MTi100 aimed towards? If you’re looking for a compact and powerful system for playing vinyl records that will also allow you to enjoy other sources such as a DAP, a CD player, or a smartphone, the McIntosh MTi100 is an ideal solution. Everything is already integrated into the turntable’s chassis; all you need are a few cables to connect a pair of speakers and a wired source, if you wish. There is no need to clear a large space to install this system and no compromises to make concerning audio performance!
The McIntosh MTi100 integrated turntable is also designed for audiophiles who already have a main setup with several hi-fi devices and are looking for a second system for an office or a holiday home, for example. The McIntosh MTi100 turntable expertly combines audio performance and ease of installation. As a result, you can enjoy high-quality restitution with numerous digital and analog sources without having to invest in and make space for an entire hi-fi system.
McIntosh MTi100: listening conditions
The McIntosh MTi100 is a true all-in-one system designed to eliminate the need for an amplifier and an RIAA preamplifier. The amplification section uses a hybrid configuration featuring a main preamplifier with two 12AX7 tubes combined with a class D amplifier rated at 80 watts per channel into 4 ohms and 50 watts per channel into 8 ohms. The McIntosh MTi100 turntable’s integrated preamplifier is protected by a reinforced box, isolating it from the inherent noise of a compact all-in-one system. There are terminals on the back of the turntable that allow you to connect a pair of speakers.
To begin our listening session, all we needed was a pair of speakers. We decided to use the recent Jean-Marie Reynaud Bliss Jubilée speakers placed on NorStone Stylum 2 stands and connected the the McIntosh MTi100 turntable using Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP cables mounted with banana plugs. For the other sources, we connected a Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus smartphone to the RCA analog input and the Pioneer UDP-LX500UHD Blu-ray player to the digital optical input using a NorStone Jura Optic cable. Lastly, we connected the REL Acoustics T-9i subwoofer to the turntable’s Sub output.
The control that allows you to select the source is situated in the lower left-hand corner of the table and just underneath it is a list of the inputs with the chosen source illuminated by a red LED. Above this knob is the volume control. Pleasant to use, this continuous rotation knob unfortunately suffers from a design flaw: the volume level isn’t indicated. This means that you cannot accurately determine the volume level, unless it is at the minimum or maximum, in which case a red LED lights up under the marker “min” or “max”.
The McIntosh MTi100 turntable’s remote control lets you adjust the volume, select the source and control playback with sources that aren’t phono. An ideal solution to pair a CD player such as the McIntosh MCD600 to the MYi100, for example. Compact and light, this remote control is pleasant to use.
McIntosh MTi100: in phono mode
The McIntosh MTi100 turntable features a pre-installed Sumiko Olympia cartridge from the manufacturer’s Oyster Series. The moving magnet cartridge features an elliptical stylus, an aluminum cantilever and a copper coil. The frequency response announced by the company ranges from 12Hz to 30kHz and the channel separation reaches 30dB at 1kHz, making it possible to achieve an optimal stereo effect while maintaining a coherent center image. McIntosh’s aluminum tonearm and platter are designed to absorb all vibrations, providing excellent playback conditions. The platter is protected by a felt mat, but exchanging it for a cork mat such as the Pro-Ject Cork It or a leather mat like the Pro-Ject Leather It is an easy and quick upgrade. A turntable weight such as the Thorens Stabilizer is also recommended for optimal playback conditions.
We started our listening session with the legendary album Dark Side of the Moon by British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. This album, which has long been considered the standard for testing hi-fi installations, seemed particularly appropriate for this all-in-one McIntosh system. Once the record was placed on the platter, we turned the turntable on by pressing the volume knob, then we started the rotation of the platter by pressing the source selector. From the very first notes on the track “Breathe”, we were transported right into the heart of the music. The restitution was smooth, clear and natural. The stereo effects, very present on this album, were accurately reproduced and we happily listened to track after track. We took pleasure in revisiting “Time”, “The Great Gig in the Sky”, “Money” and “Us and Them”. David Gilmour’s voice was restituted clearly and was rich in details, everything was balanced and natural. Even though we already knew this album off by heart, we didn’t get tired of listening to it with the McIntosh MTi100 and Jean-Marie Reynaud Bliss Jubilée speakers.
If the McIntosh turntable and Jean-Marie Reynaud Bliss Jubilée pairing succeeded in restituting a legendary recording with flawless precision, what about less polished recordings? We decided to listen to the album Bug by indie rock band Dinosaur Jr. At no point did this album, with its rawer production and saturated guitars, make the turntable falter. The soundstage was deftly layered and even J Mascis’ thundering solos were reproduced with a smoothness and energy that few systems are capable of providing. We rediscovered the dynamics and rhythm of the tracks, complemented by a plethora of detail. Even the basslines were expertly extracted.
At low volume, the sound was just as detailed and smooth. The turntable never seemed to be short of breath and it was clear that this McIntosh system is designed to be enjoyed by music lovers at any hour of the day or night, with clear and dynamic musicality, even without turning the volume up.
Still with the goal to try and push the turntable to its limits, we listened to the record Witchcult Today by the English band Electric Wizard and the album And Then There Were None… by the Japanese band Church of Misery. These two albums, that feature very low-tuned guitars drenched in distortion, can be ruthless, especially if the restitution lacks power in the lows. The performance in the low end of the spectrum provided by the combination of the McIntosh MTi100 turntable and the Jean-Marie Reynaud Bliss Jubilée speakers was simply outstanding. The lows were deep, precise, and reactive. Even though we activated our REL Acoustics T-9i subwoofer out of curiosity, we didn’t feel the need to leave it on to enjoy a balanced and consistent sound. The soundstage was wide and there was always a lot of clarity, despite the downpour of saturated guitars. The experience was never tiring and we ended up wanting to listen to our whole record collection!
McIntosh MTi100: optical and RCA inputs
We tested the RCA analog input by connecting a Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus smartphone. We listened to 16-bit/44.1kHz tracks via our Qobuz Sublime+ account. The DAC, which is compatible with PCM audio streams up to 24-bit/192kHz, provides a detailed and spacious restitution. All of the clarity and detail that the system displayed during our listening session in phono mode was also present here. The spatialization was just as good and the sound remained incredibly smooth. The Jean-Marie Reynaud speakers continued to impress us with their performance in the lows and their dexterity.
The findings were similar with the S/PDIF optical input. We listened to CDs and watched extracts of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody using the Pioneer UDP-LX500UHD Blu-ray player. Although the all-in-one McIntosh system is primarily intended for playing vinyl records, it also proved to be very effective as a global system when paired with high-quality speakers. The McIntosh’s restitution of the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack was clearly superior to that of the television’s integrated speakers. The restitution of CDs and other sources connected to the RCA input was just as smooth and transparent, without losing any vitality at low volume.
The only negative point we encountered during our test was that we weren’t able to get Bluetooth transmission to work. Pairing was quick and straightforward, the remote control allowed us to pause playback and skip tracks via Qobuz, but no sound came out of our speakers. After trying to connect several different smartphones, we gave up and decided to go back to listening to vinyls. Perhaps there was a problem with our test model…
McIntosh MTi100: headphone output
The McIntosh MTi100 integrated turntable features a headphone amplifier with an output power rated at 340mW into 47 ohms and 150mW into 300 ohms. First, we tested the headphone output with the Plantronics Backbeat Pro and Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones, both in wired mode. With both vinyl records and CDs via the optical and analog inputs, we found the restitution to be muddy, aggressive and tiring. Especially at high volume. Seeing as these headphones each have their own unique sound signature, we decided to try the Grado PS500e hi-fi headphones, a neutral model that doesn’t color the sound signal.
The sound then opened up in front of us. The combination of the Grado headphones and the McIntosh MTi100 turntable was extraordinary. The iconic Beatles album Abbey Road was restituted with wonderful accuracy. The soundstage was vast and ingeniously layered, each instrument had space to breathe and the track “Here Comes the Sun” was like a fresh breath of spring air.
McIntosh MTi100: compared to…
It is difficult to compare the McIntosh MTi100 turntable to any other turntable on the market. With its tube preamplifier, class D amplifier delivering 80 watts per channel, digital inputs, analog input and Bluetooth receiver, this model is one of a kind. Comparing this McIntosh system to a traditional turntable would result in a systematic advantage for the MTi100. The combination of performance and features offered by the McIntosh MTi100 has no current rival on the market.
McIntosh MTi100: conclusion
Primarily designed for listening to vinyl records, the McIntosh MTi100 turntable also provides a premium solution for those looking for a hi-fi system that is compact, versatile, easy to set up, well-made and doesn’t require a slew of cables. As soon as it is out of the box, the build quality of this turntable is evident and listening to vinyl records and wired sources only reinforced this impression. Like most high-end systems, it is highly recommended to pair the McIntosh MTi100 with high-quality devices in order to fully benefit from this system’s potential. This is the case with the headphone input which could disappoint if it isn’t used with a pair of hi-fi headphones that ensure a clear restitution and a very linear frequency response. Once associated with a pair of high-quality speakers, this all-in-one system guarantees hours of musical enjoyment and even allows you to improve the sound of your television. What more could you wish for?
What we liked:
- The simple installation
- The build quality
- The tube preamplifier
- The clear, detailed and ample restitution
- The digital and analog inputs
What we would have liked:
- A dust cover
- To have been able to use Bluetooth transmission
- To have brought this turntable home with us