REVIEW: MCINTOSH MT5 TURNTABLE - GREEN LIT AND CLEARLY BLUE
Following the apparently divisive release of the McIntosh MTI100 all-in-one turntable this week we turn to the less controversially styled MT5 for our latest record player review.
The Binghamton, NY brand is currently celebrating its 70th birthday and in that time has manufactured each stage of the hi-fi chain. However, if anyone says “McIntosh” to me, it's their amplifiers that immediately spring to mind.
Even the 'small' MA5300 we had in to review last year featured all the tell-tell signs of McIntosh; glass fronts with blue back-lit VU meters and the unmistakable green glow.
The McIntosh MT5 slips neatly between the MT10 and MT2 turntables that are currently on offer, with the MTI100 being the “I can do anything” newcomer to the party.
Now, considering that McIntosh is more renowned for its electronics expertise than analogue sources, it makes total sense that they tapped on the shoulder's of Germany's Clearaudio for some assistance, just as VPI has lent a hand with the MTI100.
The Clearaudio touch is present in the Dural-Aluminium arm. The tonearm features vertical and horizontal bearings and comes ready fitted along with the magnetic anti-skate. Further evidence of Clearaudio's part is the MT5’s magnetic main bearing with its ceramic shaft. The clever bit of engineering means that there is minimal contact between the top and lower sections of the bearing, resulting in lower noise levels.
Sitting atop that magnetic bearing is an anodised aluminium sub-platter that holds the belt along with the three-speed Swiss-made DC motor’s pulley. Finally, The outer platter, made from 2.3kg of silicone acrylic that allows the green LEDs to shine through also helps with speed stability through its mass's flywheel effect.
This stainless steel chassis is rigid and features an aluminium base plate; there is also further internal damping. The deck is nicely topped off by an acrylic panel.
Where the unmistakable magic of McIntosh is in full effect is the MT5's fascia. The controls mirror those of the American brand's amplifiers and operate on/off and speed functions.
Around the rear of the unit, you will find RCA outputs and grounding post plus speed fine-tuners, remote control sockets, adjustment dial for the platter light (which shines green through the platter with the power on) and a 12v DC power socket.
When the 14.3 kg McIntosh MT5 arrives, there is very little for you to do which means you will be up and running in no time.
As the deck comes with arm and cartridge already fitted, it is merely a matter of slipping some oil onto the ceramic bearing shaft and installing the two-part platter assembly and drive belt in place.
Once the platter is in place, move the counterweight on the tonearm to the pre-designated spot assigned for the attached Sumiko Blue Point No.2 MC cartridge, plug in the deck, put a record on (the turntable has speed options for 33.3, 45, and 78 RPM), and switch on.
The MT5 also comes bundled with an unthreaded record clamp. It's a nice touch, and it serves to stabilise the record.
The platter spins incredibly smoothly, and if it weren't for the logo on the clamp/stabiliser spinning, you'd hardly notice the movement.
Before dropping the needle, I was curious about McIntosh's cartridge choice. You see, I was reasonably concerned about using my £750-ish cart on the £4,200 VPI Prime and yet, here, you have a £200 cart on a £9,000 turntable.
As with most things, there are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, most people looking to drop £9k on a turntable will have the money to upgrade the cartridge or even have a selection of favourites to chose from already. However, if you are looking for a ready-built, fuss-free turntable that comes complete with fitted cartridge, perhaps the Sumiko Blue Point No.2 is a good starting point. It is a well-respected budget cart, to be fair.
I don't want to get too hung-up about this as needles wear out and the Sumiko will undoubtedly get upgraded by whoever owns the turntable. Furthermore, I am sure that McIntosh/Clearaudio performed tests on similar carts and decided that the Sumiko was the perfect fit regarding price and performance. However, I do think that at least the Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III may have more the looks and performance one would expect to find bundled with a turntable such as the MT5.
Power on the MT5 and the platter, logo and control legends light up exactly how a McIntosh product should. I acknowledge that there are those who will love this, as well as those who, well, not so much. Perhaps it's my years of messing around with gaming PCs, but I think a choice of RGB colours, McIntosh blue at least for the platter, may make this light show a little more appealing to a broader audience.
The tonearm is smooth and precise and feels reassuringly solid.
First up was Jaco Pastorius and Portrait of Tracy. The bass harmonics rang out clearly with their bass counterpoints presented solid and well-rounded.
Moving over to Leftfield's Space Shanty from their anniversary edition of Leftism and I was impressed by the strong bass performance and good rhymic flow. The sections of the tune showed great clarity. It was all impressively large.
Rocket's Tail from Kate Bush's The Sensual World and the acapella layered vocals revealed some of the cartridges short-fallings, especially when these were mixed in with the full band later on. The soundstage was still good, as was the top-end detail. However, I had a feeling that if I pushed the system with more complex offerings, things could get a little muddled.
I am afraid that my concerns were realised when I placed George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with André Previn soloing as well as conducting the LSO onto the platter. This version is one of my favourite recitals of this orchestral jazz hybrid and can be a great test of hi-fi systems in general. Most will recognise the intro as being used in the Galaxy chocolate ads of the mid/late eighties. However, the 15-minute piece is much more than that noted plaintive clarinet intro. There are also a full string, brass, and percussion sections and it is here where I think the Blue Point No. 2 is potentially the weak link.
The piece is delivered with all the excitement, exuberance and enthusiasm I would expect, it is just that everyone seems to be boxed in when the LSO go full pelt, which is not what you want from a symphonic orchestra. However, when it returns from the full-bore explosions of the band to Previn's piano section, all is well again.
Curiosity did get the better of me, and I played the track again with my Cartridgeman fitted. The dynamics did indeed open up somewhat. I believe that an even better cartridge than mine could release the full potential of what is otherwise an excellent turntable package.
The McIntosh MT5 impresses as soon as you discover how easy it is to set up. Power it on, and it impresses you again thanks to its green light show.
Additionally, operating the turntable is as uncomplicated as it can get with dials for both speed selection and power.
Standards of build and finish are typically McIntosh rock-solid and, the sound quality is enjoyable with the ready-fitted cartridge. However, to unleash the real potential of this £9,000 turntable, I would suggest you discuss which cartridge to upgrade to with your hi-fi dealer.
I am confident that the McIntosh MT5 will be an obvious buy for fans of the brand, as well as those looking for a high-end fuss-free turntable. It is great to see a record player at this price-point that not only comes with a tonearm and cartridge included but clamp and cover as well.
For more information, check out McIntosh.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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