A Look at the McIntosh D1100

A Look at the McIntosh D1100

It may sound like hyperbole, but the McIntosh D1100 may well prove a pivotal pre-amp in the audiophile community. At the very least, it's going to be the device we recommend when someone tells us that digital sound will never compete with analog. Here's why:

Design

When you're shopping for a preamplifier, the sound is what counts. But we have to comment on McIntosh's consistent devotion to aesthetics. An experienced audiophile isn't going to make a purchase just because something looks cool, but the McIntosh D1100 does look cool. The casing has the trademark McIntosh black-on-black look, ranging from glass to polished-steel style surfaces, the buttons have a nice click to them, and the LED screen and backlit analog meters are easy to read. 

Setup

Taking a look at the back of the unit is a little bittersweet. It's all digital — there isn't an analog input to be found on the D1100. That may be a bit disappointing for some users, but the hard truth is that it's becoming harder and harder to be an all-analog guy these days. If you use your sound system to listen to music produced after 1990 and watch movies, then most of the sound you're feeding through your system is going to be digital. The practical thing to do at this point is to focus on making digital audio sound better, and that's what McIntosh has achieved with the D1100 2-channel digital preamplifier.

Although the unit is designed for the deep-end audio buff, home theater-builders, audio engineers and so on, the ease of use is appreciated. High compatibility is a highlight. It sounds great with other McIntosh equipment, but any review will tell you that it works with just about anything.

When you're shopping for a preamplifier, the sound is what counts. But we have to comment on McIntosh's consistent devotion to aesthetics. An experienced audiophile isn't going to make a purchase just because something looks cool, but the McIntosh D1100 does look cool.

Highlights

The back panel features nine inputs, which is four or five more inputs than many of us will ever need. However, if you're a gamer, then you know that this is important. It's not just your Blu-ray player and your laptop plugged into the device, but it's two or three consoles and a PC tower as well. The crisp, clean audio brings a new appreciation for the simplistic chiptunes of classic video games, and modern games sound like big budget Hollywood movies.

Listening

We used the D1100 hooked into the C1100 with the enclosed umbilical control cord through the C1100's balanced input 6. Our first impression of the resulting sound when using headphones was that it's about as good as it gets, or at least as good as our ears can detect. There's no noticeable data loss from the source to the ear. If there's a downside, it's that you can only hear the poor mixing in some TV audio which could have kept its flaws hidden behind less-than-stellar sound quality.

When listening through surround speakers, the quality is startlingly clear. It's about as close as you can get to building an IMAX theater in your living room, or just downloading the music directly from the disc to your ears.

If you're looking for a great pre-amp for digital sound, the McIntosh D1100 is an obvious buy. Contact us today at Atlanta Home Theater to learn how we can transform your entertainment space!

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