McIntosh C53 Preamplifier Incorporates Company’s DA2 Digital Audio Module

The newly announced C53 preamplifier is the first McIntosh product to employ the company’s DA2 digital audio module and is TV-friendly thanks to its HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) connection.


Merging the worlds of home theater, streaming media and traditional stereo, the new McIntosh C53 preamplifier offers a wealth of connection options to support the many ways people consume audio.

McIntosh says that its latest preamplifier builds upon the features of its current generation of solid-state integrated amplifiers through the addition of a new digital audio module.

The C53 is the first McIntosh product to incorporate its DA2 digital audio module. This module offers two coaxial, two optical, one USB, one proprietary MCT connection for use with McIntosh MCT series of SACD/CD transports, and an audio-only HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC).

According to the N.Y.-based manufacturer, integrators can use the HDMI ARC option to enhance the sound of standard TV audio by converting Dolby– and DTS-encoded audio content to stereo for playback through the C53. 

McIntosh notes the C53 also supports CEC communication to allow for control of the TV and preamp and features such as TV volume and power. 

McIntosh C53 Preamplifier Compatible With High-Res Audio

Designed for critical listening applications, McIntosh points out that its C53 preamplifier supports native DSD512 high-resolution (SACD) audio files. Through its USB input, the preamplifier also supports DXD up to 384kHz, and the coax and digital inputs work with audio content up to 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio files.

Enabling the support of high-resolution content is a quad-balanced, eight-channel 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that is at the heart of its new DA2 digital audio module.

On the analog side of the home audio market, the C53 preamplifier includes nine inputs for a total of 16 digital and analog input choices. 

The C53's analog inputs include three sets of balanced (XLR) and four sets of unbalanced (RCA) connections. McIntosh also includes moving coil (MC) and moving magnet (MM) phono inputs for use with turntables equipped with either type of cartridge. 

Providing tone-shaping home integration capabilities, the C53 preamplifier offers an eight-band analog equalizer that delivers +/- 12dB of adjustments for each band. 

Related: McIntosh MI254 and MI228 Marks Company’s Return to Custom Install Market

McIntosh emphasizes the unit's High Drive Headphone Amplifier can effectively drive any set of headphones, and its Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD) option “can bring an added dimension to the music.”

Moreover, further supporting the preamplifier A/V capabilities, integrators can use the C53's Home Theater Pass Through to integrate the preamp into home theater systems. 

The McIntosh C53 preamplifier utilizes the company's classic industrial design that includes a black-glass front panel backlit by direct LED lighting, along with blue meters, rotary knobs, an illuminated logo and black end caps. 

MSRP for the McIntosh C53 preamplifier is $8,000.

About the Author

Robert Archer
Robert Archer:

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons and Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Binda Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; both schools are located in Haverhill, Mass.