When I walked into the unmarked entrance at 214 Lafayette Street in New York I was met by the bright blue meters of a stack of about a dozen large powered McIntosh amps.
Then about halfway up a short open staircase through a glass wall I saw an indoor pool, which is said to be one of only 11 private pools in New York City. Surrounding the pool are a host of McIntosh components, obviously placed there for those either in the pool or gathered around it to enjoy music in this rather unusual but beautiful urban setting.
These were my first impressions of my visit to the invite-only World Of McIntosh, a 15,000 square foot five-story townhouse in the heart of New York City's SoHo district. Here they have attempted, and succeeded, "to truly deliver on the sensory". They also pair this audio/visual experience with the visual and culinary arts, and "uniting auditory and culinary excellence for a series of unique events".
The Townhouse also happens to be filled with tons of high-end audio-video gear owned by the McIntosh Group, and so they also bill World Of McIntosh as an "ultimate audio experience". While touring World Of McIntosh I felt like a kid in a candy store – as World Of McIntosh is filled with functioning displays of gear by McIntosh Laboratory, PRYMA, Sonus faber, Audio Research, Sumiko and Wadia, which is spread throughout this luxury townhouse. World Of McIntosh is available to serve as a meeting place, a party space, and for special events when booked for corporate or private function.
One floor up after passing the pool I was in the kitchen area, which overlooks the main listening/theater room, furnished by Design Within Reach and Fontana Arte, a video display by Digital Projection and Stewart Filmscreen.
There is a McIntosh/Sonus faber system with a 14 speaker Dolby Atmos surround sound system, which can also be fitted for a live band or DJ, but also easily adapted for two-channel listening. When I visited in this room the main speakers were McIntosh's flagship, the $130k XRT2.1K.
While making plans to attend World Of McIntosh, I asked my hosts if I could bring a few LPs with me to listen to while I was there. I said it would be a shame if all the nice gear that they had on live display wasn't put to good use while I was visiting. And with that in mind, we began way up on the 5th floor, where I placed my coat and record bag on the coffee table, and I pulled from my bag a Japanese pressing of David Bowie's Hunky Dory.
In this very comfortable salon-styled room were a pair of $30,000 Sonus faber Amati Tradition four-way speakers along with McIntosh's top-of-the-line MT10 turntable, with its eerie green glowing platter. When the album's first track "Changes" began I was practically blown away. I thought the excellent sound might have been due to many factors, but it was tough to ignore the amplifiers that were driving these speakers, the 1200-Watt McIntosh Quad Balanced MC1.2KW monoblocks. The rest of the system wasn't too shabby, either, that's for sure, as the preamplifier in this system was McIntosh's MPC1500 power controller, which likely contributed to the very transparent and powerful sound.
After listening to a few songs on this great system, we walked one floor down to another beautifully set up room that had large windows that filled the sanctuary with light. The artwork, bookshelves, and very beautifully designed yet comfortable furniture added to the surroundings. Still, I didn't want to waste any time, so I took out my copy of a European pressing of Kraftwerk's double-LP The Mix. My copy of the album has the same music as the CD and digital files that are on most of the copies that have been sold, but instead the lyrics are in German. No worries about that, even though I know very little German it hardly matters because am I so familiar with Kraftwerk's English lyrics, but more important to me was the music, which is not only an excellent listening experience, but a great way to test all sorts of audio equipment. This gorgeously equipped room was also outfitted with Sonus faber speakers, except in this setup they were the almost five-foot tall Cremonese Reference.
The system was fitted with the latest flagship turntable from Pro-Ject, their Signature 12, which sports a high-gloss metal platter and flywheel belt-drive arrangement. The components of the system were all Audio Research, which included the Reference 250SE monoblock amplifiers, the Reference 3 phono preamp, and the Reference 6 linestage. The Kraftwerk album sounded fantastic on this system. Around the halfway point of the leadoff track, "Die Roboter" ("The Robots"), others who worked at the World Of McIntosh entered the room, wondering what music was playing on this system that produced this phenomenal sound quality. They might have initially been drawn into the room because we were playing this album rather loudly, but this setup had no problem reaching a very high volume with absolutely no strain. As the music got louder, the bass reached deeper, the highs became even more sparkling and attractive, and the midrange became even more captivating. Lastly, we returned to the main room at World Of McIntosh. While I was there the 16-foot cinema screen was in its raised position, so I didn't see it at all. Instead of a screen I saw a wall of McIntosh equipment, flanked by a pair of McIntosh's flagship XRT2.1K speakers. There was no turntable set up in this room at the time, so instead my host and I sat on the comfy couch while he selected tunes from TIDAL on his iPad wirelessly connected to the McIntosh MB50 streamer connected to a McIntosh D1100 digital-to-analog converter. We listened to quite a few selections, and even though most of the selections were plain old CD quality 16-bit/44.1k resolution, it was clear that not only did the speakers in the room have no peers that I was aware of, I have no doubt that the excellent sound was also due to them being fed by McIntosh's mighty MC2KW 2000-Watt monoblocks and C1100 reference tube preamplifier.
If it was up to me, I could have easily spent the rest of the day at World Of McIntosh. In fact, I asked in jest if there was a spare bedroom, and if I could make a few calls to have some things brought over so I could spend a couple of nights listening to music, making my meals in their fully equipped kitchen, and call it "research". But my tour of World Of McIntosh had come to an end. My hosts made their apologies in regards to my request of spending a few days there, and so we said our goodbyes, and in a few minutes I found myself again on the streets of New York City, headed towards the subway and then home.