The Hub: The original McIntosh MC-275

Beauty has many faces: the average aesthete would look at this mid-20th century industrial artifact (seen here), and think, "oh, USSR, Stalin-era powerplant", or something similar. To a true-blue Form Follows Function audio geek, that same no-nonsense design (who could call it "styling"??) is what makes it beautiful.

I'm reminded of something I witnessed a few decades ago: a Chevy geek was showing off his old Chevy II, which he had spent years and tens of thousands of dollars restoring and customizing. The look was what used to be called "sano" in west coast Hot Rod-speak: sanitary, clean, spare. Chevy guy had clearly put a lot of love in his pride and joy, and it showed; it was tasteful, if a Chevy II can BE tasteful. The hi-po mods were done with restraint: no giant bugcatchers or drag-slacks here.

One of the group looked totally bewildered. When the owner-builder mentioned that in addition to a year in man-hours, he had "invested" $30,000 in the car, bewildered guy lost it.

"But,' he stammered, "it's A CHEVY TWO!!"

It's easy for me to imagine a similar reaction to oohs and aahs over today's subject. I can hear someone saying, "but it's AN AMPLIFIER!!"

Yup. And it's a beauty, isn't it? It's a beauty because it's strong and forthright, and utterly unpretentious. There's no frills or frippery on this thing. The chrome script might be a tad artsy, but even it has a machine-age strength to it that just plain fits. It has a functional muscularity to it that would seem almost animalistic, except for all those sharp edges. Think of it as a robot pit bull.

I've seen enough 275s through the years to know their common faults: rub-marks on the transformers, corrosion around the terminals, specs of rust that bubble up the chrome-plate of the logo. This amp appears to have none of those faults. And it's not like that Chevy II, there's no sense of Technicolor hyper-reality; this is clearly an old, original, untouched amp. Paint and chrome have a lovely patina that can't be duplicated with the new EPA-approved paint and plate. For a truly beautiful finish, ya just gotta have that toxic old Love Canal-kinda stuff.

A word you'll hear a lot from art historians or from the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow (my favorite show, after "House") is "authentic". After a lifetime wandering through flea markets and used bookstores and pawnshops, I can look at almost any type of object across the room and say, "beauty", or "it's hinky", meaning something is just not quite right, or original. Maybe the paper of that print seems like modern stuff, the type doesn't make an impression in the paper the way hand-set and -pressed type does, the edges are just a little too sharp, the hue is just a little too intense.

With experience, "authentic" becomes obvious. "Inauthentic" screams, "authentic" just IS. I've spoken before of how I'm a "gestalt" listener, meaning the whole either works for me, or it doesn't. Sensing authenticity is a gestalt process; watch the Roadshow for a while, and you'll hear one of the experts (and I mean that, them guys is good) say, "eh, it just didn't FEEL RIGHT." The trained eye/ear/mind absorb data faster than they can analyze it.

Having said all that, what was my first response to this Mac 275?


Somewhere in a cryogenic vacuum canister next to Walt Disney's head there may be a 275 in better shape than this one, but I wouldn't bet on it. This is the real deal, and if I wanted a 275, I'd sure as hell buy this one. Then you can buy a pair of 75's and settle that whole stereo versus mono thing for me.

Oh: a few blogs back, I was accused of writing an entry "that sounds more like a sales pitch than a love affair." Fair enough. But this is Audiogon, not a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and what we DO is (gasp!) SELL stuff. This amp is for sale, and we hope someone WILL buy it. They should. Does that mean I don't love it? No, it doesn't. As much as one reasonably-sane human can love a manufactured product, I love this. So BUY it, won't you?
i have a second generation 275...its a keeper...unless of course a 'survivor' chevy II comes along.
Glad to see you acknowledged my comment.(And I'm sure a few others.)

That said, here's a news alert: All writing is subject to fact checking. One can't rewrite history. And yes, I've been in the industry long enough to understand there's a difference between trying to sell a product and penning information that everyone knows isn't true. You went far beyond embellishing the designers reputation. You could have just as easily omitted the information and it wouldn't have detracted from the piece.
Myles,nice to see you here, but you've got me very confused. The only comment of yours I've acknowledged was in another entry, and pertained to the B&W 801. I'm not sure what I've done to deserve the sarcasm, or a lecture about fact-checking. And I'm having a hard time connecting your criticism to the piece at hand. What rewriting of history did I do? What designer's reputation did I embellish? Sorry, but I'm lost here. Care to clarify, perhaps without condescension this time?