To covet both heritage, legacy sound and cutting-edge wireless technology is to navigate a complicated relationship, especially when it comes to Bluetooth speakers and one-box hi-fi system solutions – see the Sonus Faber Omnia as proof that although rare, it has been achieved.
On the one hand, I want the easy access to hi-res digital file quality that’s the hallmark of the best wireless speakers. On the other, I want heritage analog warmth and craftsmanship underpinning the ethos – and, ideally, key parts of the aesthetic.
Knowing that since 1949, McIntosh Labs has powered some of the most pivotal events in American history (including the 1969 Woodstock Festival) and made some of the most gorgeous, monolithic rock amps I’ve known makes the Binghamton, New York audio specialist a brand I emphatically want in my life.
And so, the McIntosh RS150 Wireless Loudspeaker is, for me, the perfect gateway drug, launched in February 2022.
For the relatively nominal fee of $1200 / £1,295 (relatively, you understand – for reference, the firm’s gorgeous little MHA200 valve headphone amp is about the size of a stack of paperbacks and costs $2500 / £2795 / AU$4995) you can buy into McIntosh Labs’ heritage and know that this one-box proposition will play your music with no other hi-fi separates required.
The RS150 is a truly wireless speaker that allows for built-in casting directly from Tidal, Apple AirPlay, Spotify and more. There’s Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and aptX Low Latency and it’s Roon ready too – aka, it can access and deliver the digital audio stream emanating from your Roon Core (which is likely your NAS drive).
Opinion: McIntosh makes mixing hi-fi principles and high-tech look easy
My heart beat faster to learn that the RS150 (which is also my initials, but that’s an aside) is also compatible with lossless-quality playback of up to 1,411 kbps, and file streaming of 24-bit/192kHZ high-resolution music – ie. true lossless, high-quality sound.
The crowning glory though is of course that iconic digital output meter (known in the trade as the McIntosh “Blue Dial”) which utilizes the same circuits found in McIntosh’s heritage analog models to provide the most accurate indication of the speaker’s output.
To see that dial move as you crank the volume with those glorious rotary knobs beats pushing buttons to see LED volume indicators on even the best party speakers, don’t you agree?
And as with some of the best stereo speakers on the market, here you can remove the black knit cloth grille and see those drivers pulse. Forget fabric-jacketed little blobs from the likes of JBL, here you can gain full access to the RS150’s 20mm Titanium dome fluid-filled tweeter and 5.25 x 6 inch long throw woofer, driven by a total of 120 watts of power (30 watts to the tweeter, 90 watts to woofer). And I’m all for that.
I really want to hear it, because I’m certain the category of best wireless speakers may have a new contender…