McIntosh McIntosh MA230 (MA-230) Integrated Amplifiers

McIntosh MA230 (MA-230)

The McIntosh MA-230 is a Tube amplifier integrated with a solid state preamp. It's output is 30 WPC. Roger Russell's excellent site shows specifications and can be found at

The unit has a similar tube complement to the legendary MC 225.

User Reviews (1)

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convivialist   AudioPhile [Aug 09, 2010]

The McIntosh MA230 is quietly assuming legend status for its sound, value and beautiful vintage styling that is similar to the prized C22 preamp. These lovely MA230 vintage units have great functionality. They're built tough, and like all McIntosh tube gear, they command somewhat higher prices than new gear from the box stores. Also, MA230s come on the market infrequently and so patience may be required to find a great one.

Based on some Internet mis-information, I had low expectations when I considered purchasing my first MA230. I phoned a renowned McIntosh tech in the Southeastern US as well as a corporate McIntosh collector I know on the West Coast for their collective advice before jumping into the purchase. After all, not many people alive today have owned an MA230, and fewer still have serviced dozens of them and owned a few in their homes like these experts have. Thus, I asked both MA230 experts frankly, "should I get this thing at a fair price, or is the MA230 junk?". Both experts said, "Buy it, and if you don't buy it, tell me where I can go to buy it at that price." So I did buy it, and then had to add about $300 for McIntosh authorized service.

Equipped with vintage RCA 7591s and Telefunkin tubes, my unit was in good and mostly original condition, although it was advertised accurately as non-working, so I took a big risk in purchasing it. Fortunately, the McIntosh repair tech (30 years experience) was able to make it like new without major repairs. He had to replace some caps and make some other minor updates, but the unit performs at or above factory specifications just like it did when new in the mid-1960s.

So what happened when I brought it to the office and set it up?

I fell in love. That's right, I love the MA230. It's sound is sweet and the modestly rated 30WPC is more than enough to make my high end 1990s bookshelf speakers sing. In fact, I find that my famous audio engineer friends were right. The properly tuned MA230 has more in common with the MC225 than most casual hobbyists realize. The solid state preamp is beautifully uninvolved in shaping the sound, but it does offer plenty of options before sending the signal to the the simple, elegant tube amp section. The headphone section is very nice too.

The MC225 often is touted as one of Mac's best tube amps (although I prefer the 240), and the MA230 does not disappoint by even that lofty comparison, notwithstanding that modern preamps do have additional functionality.

The fact that the MA230 is just beginning to be re-discovered in the year 2010, nearly 50 years after original manufacture, makes theses uncommon units likely to be a pretty good investment, even at their current prices.

Summary: If you love the McIntosh vintage tube sound (and really, who doesn't); and if you'd like to keep the combined cost for your tube amp and ss preamp under $2000 (at least while the MA230 is still under $2K), consider a McIntosh MA230 if you can find one that hasn't been excessively modified. Once installed in your home or at work, get out your Ella Fitzgerald and your Kurt Elling and your Tom Scott and Aaron Copland. Then settle in for some real sweet listening. You will never get tired of the sound; and that's good because the tank-like MA230 is likely to outlive you.

Keep in mind that many people prefer to put their limited bucks into big powerful amps without too much detail to enjoy their rap and megadeath mp3 collections. Ummm -- WalMart or Sears both have great systems for under $500. However, if you buy your wine by the bottle, and not by the box, the extra money for this fine vintage integrated tube amp with it's refined 30 WPC might just be your vintage.

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