Coveting both heritage, legacy sound and cutting-edge wireless technology is navigating a complicated relationship, especially when it comes to Bluetooth speakers and one-box hi-fi system solutions – see the Sonus Faber Omnia as proof of which, though rare, it has been achieved.
On the one hand, I want the easy access to the high-resolution digital file quality that is the hallmark of the best wireless speakers. On the other hand, I want the analog heritage warmth and craftsmanship that underpin the ethos – and ideally, key parts of the aesthetic.
Knowing that since 1949, McIntosh Labs has powered some of the most important events in American history (including the 1969 Woodstock Festival) and made some of the most beautiful monolithic rock amps I’ve come across makes the audio specialist from Binghamton, New York. a brand I emphatically want in my life.
And so, the McIntosh RS150 wireless speaker is, for me, the perfect gateway drug, released in February 2022.
For the relatively nominal fee of $1,200 / £1,295 (relativelyyou understand – for reference, the company’s beautiful MHA200 tube headphone amplifier is the size of a stack of paperbacks and costs $2,500 / £2,795 / AU$4,995) you can buy McIntosh Labs heritage and know that this single-box proposition will play your music without the need for other separate hi-fi devices.
The RS150 is a truly wireless speaker that allows seamless streaming directly from Tidal, Apple AirPlay, Spotify and more. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and aptX Low Latency, and it’s also Roon-ready – meaning it can access and deliver the digital audio stream emanating from your Roon Core (which is likely your NAS drive).
Review: McIntosh makes it easy to mix high-fidelity principles and high-tech look and feel
My heart beat faster to learn that the RS150 (which is also my initials, but that’s an aside) also supports lossless quality playback of up to 1411 kbps and 24-bit/192 high resolution music file streaming. kHZ – ie . true lossless and high quality sound.
The biggest glory is, of course, the iconic digital output meter (known in the trade as the McIntosh “Blue Dial”) which utilizes the same circuitry found in McIntosh’s heritage analog models to provide the most accurate indication of the speaker’s output.
To see the dial move as you turn the volume up with those glorious knobs, just push the buttons to see the LED volume indicators on the best party speakers, wouldn’t you agree?
And as with some of the best stereo speakers on the market, here you can remove the black mesh fabric grille and see those drivers pulsing. Forget small fabric-covered blobs like JBL, here you can gain full access to the RS150’s 20mm titanium fluid-filled dome tweeter and 5.25 x 6-inch-long woofer, driven by a total of 120 watts of power. (30 watts for tweeter, 90 watts for woofer). And I’m in favor of it.
I really want to hear it, because I’m sure the best wireless speaker category might have a new contender…