There are media player docking stations, and then there is the McIntosh McAire. Just getting the McAire out of its box is enough of an indication that this is no mass-market boombox: at 14 kg and a massive 49 x 20 x 43 cm, the McAire takes up a huge amount of domestic real estate. As a bedside sound system, it’s total overkill. But as a stand-alone music centre in an upmarket lounge or office, it works just fine.
The McAire’s piano black finish and twin blue analogue power indicators emphasise the gothic style signalled by the characteristic McIntosh scripting. Overall, it’s in keeping with signature McIntosh Labs kit from a company that has been in the high-end audio business since the late 1940s.
As the name suggests, the McAire is McIntosh’s vision of the networked player, giving access to your music on the Cloud or compatible network media devices. It features built-in AirPlay for easier compatibility with Apple products. The user manual suggestion that the dealer be consulted when setting up a network should have sounded a warning, but I went ahead anyway. Trying to set up streaming of my MacBook Air’s iTunes collection via Wi-Fi wasn’t the easiest or most intuitive of processes, but eventually you can get to listen to the music. There is a wired alternative, though, via the Ethernet socket. The unit is also natively compatible with other Apple media players such as iPods and theiPhone, as well as computers and TVs using the RCA inputs on the rear.
It’s certainly less bother to simply connect up an iPod or similar device via the USB dock (charging at the same time), or to use the Line in socket, although of course that means you haven’t got a nice readout close at hand.
Still, you’ll be able to carry out limited track management at a distance using the included remote control for track selection and volume.
When you do get it going, the McAire impresses with a powerful yet refined aural signature that lives up to its “room-filling” billing in a modest-sized room. Its two speaker units each incorporate front-facing 50 mm inverted dome midrange and 20 mm dome tweeters. Two internal 100 mm woofers and rear-firing ports help give the unit a frequency response down to 60 Hz. Stereo imaging is understandably constricted, given the short distance between speakers.
At R39 000, the McAire may be considered an indulgence if all you’re after is a docking station. But that’s pretty much like saying there’s no need to use the Bentley to get from A to B because the Tata can do the same job. Here, we’re talking about people whose decision is what colour Bentley to pick. For well-heeled audiophiles, the McAire exudes class, quality and classic looks. It undoubtedly makes a statement. It also makes a damn nice sound.
Frequency response: 60 Hz – 45 kHz
Network input: Wired RJ-45, 10/100 Base-T, Wireless 802.11, WPA, Apple AirPlay
USB: Type A connector with host mode music streaming and 1 A charging for iPod and iPhone
Aux input: Sensitivity 200 mV RMS; nominal max 2,2 V RMS
Dimensions: (wxhxd) 492 x 203 x 432 mm including connectors and wi-fi antenna in vertical position
Weight: 14 kg