Blue Skies and Green Glass: The World According to McIntosh


Blue skies and inexperienced grass.

Growing up, I spent a whole lot of time at Bay Bloor Radio. Toronto’s premier audio/video retailer was my Disneyland and the late-Sol Mandlsohn was a tremendously heat host who turned my mentor. Sol was additionally a poet; prospects have been usually handed (or offered) a duplicate of his poetry and he was bigger than life. High-end audio retail wouldn’t exist in Canada if not for Sol, and the possibility that he took in 1946 turned his small radio restore retailer into one of many prime stereo shops on this planet.

Sol Mandlsohn

The different factor that was bigger than life was the McIntosh room.

Very few shops had the house or monetary assets to hold a full lineup of McIntosh tools within the Eighties and Bay Bloor Radio turned a mecca for Canada’s wealthy and well-known; hockey gamers, baseball gamers, and musicians like Rush entrance man, Geddy Lee.

Sol would at all times giggle when his gross sales group tried to push me out of the McIntosh room, however my curiosity was piqued and I spent numerous hours listening to these magical music making machines with the blue meters manufactured throughout the border in Binghamton, New York.

Nineteen Seventies

Blue skies and inexperienced grass. 

Binghamton and Toronto should not far aside from a driving perspective; until you contemplate 6 hours too lengthy of a drive to go to the world’s premier producer of high-end audio parts. 

We made the drive from Toronto to New York City quite a bit. How my dad and mom survived the ten hours of torture with 5 screaming youngsters is one thing that solely a therapist may clarify however we drove by way of Binghamton greater than 30 instances throughout my childhood – and never as soon as did we cease on the McIntosh manufacturing unit.

My dad and mom got here out of the Holocaust; my mom was the kid of survivors and born in a DP camp in Stuttgart, and my father’s household misplaced dozens of males, ladies, and kids within the camps.

Frugality was a part of my upbringing and whereas we have been usually the primary folks on our block to benefit from the newest in know-how – McIntosh was far too costly for my dad and mom to even take into consideration. 

That modified after my Bar Mitzvah in 1983 once I was handed the keys to the camper; Yamaha CA-2010, Thorens TD-145, and a pair of Celestion Ditton 33 MKII loudspeakers.

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My father got here house one afternoon and requested me to play interference with my mom whereas Bay Bloor made a “delivery.” 

Having been raised by a prosecutor who put serial rapists and youngster molesters behind bars for many years, I used to be genuinely petrified of getting on my mom’s unhealthy aspect. Not even for a McIntosh stereo system. 

I used to be genuinely shocked that he lastly did it; what didn’t shock me was his order that no one ever contact it. 

Dad owned one of many largest pizza chains in Canada on the time and I’m fairly certain the scene from Goodfellas about stuffing the mailman within the oven was partially impressed by him and the folks he labored with within the meals and beverage trade. 

Unlike Joel Goodsen, I didn’t take the McIntosh system for a spin and dunk it in Lake Ontario.

I’ve just about been envious of everybody who owns a McIntosh stereo system for many of my life; the irony is that I’ve spent the equal of 10 McIntosh MA-352 Integrated Amplifiers on hi-fi since 1988 and never one part had blues skies and inexperienced grass.

You’re most likely questioning why I maintain saying that. 

Blue skies and inexperienced grass. 

When McIntosh Labs lastly invited me for a manufacturing unit tour a couple of weeks in the past, I picked up the cellphone to inform my beloved father in Florida that it was taking place. He laughed however I may inform by way of the chewing (Jewish dad and mom), that he was past jealous. 

“Have fun. Don’t break anything. Don’t touch anything. Don’t embarrass me.”

Most folks wouldn’t spend 7 hours within the automotive to go to a manufacturing unit, however my child additionally attends SUNY-Binghamton, and it was an ideal excuse to tug her house for the weekend.

The Visit 

McIntosh CEO Charlie Randall
McIntosh CEO, Charlie Randall

McIntosh CEO, Charlie Randall, instructions respect on this planet of client electronics and fairly evidently, in his manufacturing unit as effectively. 

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Mark Christensen, Marketing Coordinator for McIntosh Labs, was an outstanding host and I have to confess that I used to be fairly nervous when he left Charlie Randall and I alone so he may give me a correct tour of the manufacturing unit and to reply some questions.

Like having Enzo Ferrari take you round to see all of the magic. 

McIntosh has been round for over 70 years, and the very first thing that stands out in regards to the firm is the tradition. 

McIntosh Factory Tour
McIntosh Factory Tour
Every McIntosh part undergoes rigorous bench exams earlier than it ever leaves the manufacturing unit.

I’ve visited a couple of dozen client electronics corporations over the previous 23 years, however none of them felt remotely like McIntosh Labs; not simply from the attitude of scale but in addition how intense the operations felt; Binghamton is just not precisely Silicon Valley with massive tech on each nook and the stress that comes with that, however the staff inside that constructing know that they’re constructing one thing particular.

They additionally love working for the corporate. Most folks I requested, have been of their second decade or beginning their second decade at McIntosh. 

Everyone acknowledged the presence of Charlie Randall as we stopped in entrance of their workstations and have been virtually proud to clarify what they have been doing and the way they contribute to the general completed product. 

McIntosh Factory Tour Vintage MC2105 Amplifier
Vintage McIntosh MC2105 Power Amplifier
McIntosh Factory Tour Vintage MR55 and MR67 Tuners
Vintage McIntosh Vintage MR55 and MR67 Tuners

The technicians within the again by the lunchroom surrounded by racks of classic and used high-end McIntosh merchandise have been the happiest folks within the constructing.

“Imagine driving across the country with your amplifier on the front seat because you’re too afraid to ship it via FedEx or UPS. Our customers value their equipment that much. They even drive back to pick it up,” defined Randall as we appeared over a desk of kit about to be serviced.

Vintage McIntosh gear ready its flip.

“It’s a testament to the quality of what we make and our customer service, that our customers never want to sell what they have. If something must be replaced or serviced, they do whatever they need to do to get it here. They also ask for a tour and we oblige,” remarked Randall as we walked from one big manufacturing space into one other.

McIntosh Factory Tour MC611 Quad Balanced Power Amplifier
McIntosh MC611 Quad Balanced Power Amplifier

“We’re so busy right now, we can’t even keep up with the demand. Our biggest challenge right now is hiring more people. Everyone is having the same issue and it’s more than just supply chain problems,” defined Randall. 

I’ve heard quite a lot of audio producers make that declare over time, however within the case of McIntosh – it’s 100% true. The pandemic and lockdowns created a surge in orders and the corporate is rising on a world scale. The McIntosh Group is increasing into new markets and it’s fascinating to see such an enormous degree of demand for his or her merchandise which aren’t precisely cheap. 

McIntosh Factory Tour Machine
McIntosh Factory Tour Circuit Boards
McIntosh Factory Tour Plates
Glass panels being completed.

There is a particular focus every week on totally different classes, and I used to be fortunate sufficient to go to on a day when energy amplifiers have been being assembled and it wasn’t precisely quiet as equipment in several components of the manufacturing unit reduce metallic, stamped boards, or glass panels have been reduce, photos printed, and merchandise assembled and examined. 

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The manufacturing unit exhibits its age however that’s additionally a part of the appeal. McIntosh was shuttered for nearly 10 weeks initially of the pandemic when COVID was tearing by way of New York and New Jersey, and it took a Herculean effort to get issues again on monitor and by accounts – the constructing is working 5-6 days every week with out pause. 

McIntosh Factory Tour Storage
Seemingly limitless rows of completed product ready to be shipped. Your native IKEA warehouse is tiny as compared.
McIntosh Factory Tour Delta 1000
McIntosh Factory Tour
Finished transformers await their flip earlier than being potted.

What’s additionally clear strolling across the manufacturing unit, is the extent of funding in each equipment and folks. 

Running a manufacturing unit of this dimension requires a couple of hundred folks working as a part of a well-oiled machine and hundreds of thousands of {dollars} invested within the instruments to make it occur. McIntosh makes most of the parts in-house (heatsinks are made elsewhere) and nothing will get wasted.

McIntosh Factory Tour Manual Winding
McIntosh transformers being hand wound.

It was fairly clear that the workers love what they do – the keenness of the woman who winds the transformers was palpable. She began bragging when requested by her boss what number of she had made this month.

“I’m going to make over 1,000 transformers this month by hand,” she laughed earlier than flipping her masks again up over her face and specializing in her work.

That’s a whole lot of costly audio parts going out the door.

McIntosh Factory Tour MC901 Dual Mono Power Amplifier
McIntosh MC901 Dual Mono Power Amplifier within the manufacturing unit

Audiophile producers are a humorous lot; they’re virtually at all times universally sensible engineers however not all of them are nice entrepreneurs or businesspeople. 

What units McIntosh aside is simply how massive of an enterprise they’ve created and the way vital the advertising aspect of the enterprise is. You don’t grow to be a world model with out some advertising and gross sales acumen and it’s clear that Randall has monumental religion in David Mascioni, Marketing Director for McIntosh Group.

Will McIntosh Group be taking a cue from Focal and Naim and launching “Sonus faber powered by McIntosh” retail boutiques? 

That’s not going to occur and it’s clear that the oldsters in Binghamton and Italy have each monumental religion of their present supplier community, but in addition discovered a couple of issues from the WoM Townhouse in New York City and I might anticipate to see much more modern issues from them going ahead. 

The McIntosh Group is the worldwide chief for a motive and I believe they’re about to place much more daylight between themselves and the competitors.

McIntosh Factory Tour Home Theater Room
McIntosh Factory Home Theater Room

The house theater room on the manufacturing unit is a 17,000 watt expertise that left me virtually breathless (I took my masks off) after watching the “Live Aid” scene from Bohemian Rhapsody.

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It didn’t even really feel just like the system was breaking a sweat as Freddie Mercury and Queen stole the present in London’s Wembley Stadium. I used to be seated in the midst of the room and it was positively overwhelming when it comes to the readability and scale of the sound. Mark Christensen and I each exhaled earlier than laughing collectively on the madness of the scene.

McIntosh Factory Tour Amplifier Stack
17,000 watts of house theater glory.

As we have been concluding, I requested Charlie Randall in regards to the McIntosh blue meters and illuminated inexperienced brand on all their parts. 

“Don’t quote me on this 100%, but there was definitely some psychology behind it all. Something about creating a very special feeling for our customers that nobody else can deliver,” Randall replied with a smirk on his face. 

Blue skies and inexperienced grass. 


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