Portable decoding amplifier. Three words that neatly encapsulate the MHA50, McIntosh’s first foray in the pocketable DAC and headphone amplifier space. Connect a digital source, plug in a pair headphones and you’re off to the races with better sound quality superior than your average smartphone or laptop.
McIntosh assert that: 1) the MHA50 is similar in size to the average smartphone; 2) its chassis is made from extruded aluminium whose “noise-shielding properties help block external interference” and 3) the glass front panel offers a touch-sensitive volume control “inspired by the classic knobs found on countless McIntosh products”.
McIntosh rate the MHA50’s 3000mAh battery as good for six hours’ runtime from its Bluetooth connection. Longer from a wired hookup. Also in the box, three USB adapter cables to connect various devices, a leather carrying case and a wall-mount charger with US plug plus adapters for Europe and Japan.
On the unit’s underside, we note a pair of USB inputs: one for iPhones/iPads, the other (asynchronous) for PC/Macs and OTG USB-capable Android devices. The MHA50’s Bluetooth connection comes equipped with aptX but AAC support, the codec that keep iPhones and iPads away from an inferior-sounding SBC connection, remains TBC.
The beating digital heart of this portable DAC/amp is an unspecified 32bit DAC chip with support for PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD up to DSD256.
Other unknowns include the MH50’s technical specs: SNR, output impedance, and output power of the 3.5mm headphone socket, next to which sits two-position gain (headphones from 8 to 600 Ohms are supported) and switchable HXD® – say what? According to the press release: “McIntosh’s proprietary Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®) technology, as seen in its high-end hi-fi amplifiers, brings an optional dimensionality to music in a natural-sounding way.”
Expect to see the MHA50 at Stateside McIntosh dealers from October. Pricing will be set at US$700. UK availability begins in November at £895.
Further information: McIntosh Labs