Home / Reviews / McIntosh RS200 wireless speaker review: Congested sound mars the performance of this high-end behemoth

McIntosh RS200 wireless speaker review: Congested sound mars the performance of this high-end behemoth

McIntosh was the epitome of high-end audio programs once I was in school. Its distinctive emblem and vivid blue-backlit degree meters had been immediately recognizable, indicating that the proprietor was severe about sound.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this 12 months, McIntosh continues to signify high-quality audio because it expands its portfolio to incorporate extra up to date merchandise. The RS200 is an ideal living proof. This 2-channel wi-fi speaker presents all of the options we’ve come to count on in such a product, however sadly, its sound high quality doesn’t measure as much as the usual I had come to count on from McIntosh.

Options

Sporting a pair of the corporate’s iconic blue-backlit degree meters on the entrance panel, the RS200 is enormous for a wi-fi speaker, measuring 24.Eight x 5.75 x 12.6 inches (WxHxD) and weighing in at a hefty 29.5 kilos. Its sloping undercarriage virtually makes it seem like floating above its steel base, which is fairly cool.

mcintosh rs200 closeup1 McIntosh Labs

The traditional blue-backlit degree meters immediately establish this as a McIntosh product.

[ Further reading: The best Bluetooth speakers ]

The motive force complement consists of two 0.75-inch titanium-dome, fluid-filled tweeters and 4 2-inch titanium inverted-dome midrange drivers on the entrance face of the unit. Two 4×6-inch long-throw woofers fireplace downward onto the steel base beneath the sloping undercarriage. The woofers share a typical chamber, which is vented downward on the entrance of the unit.

The tweeters and midrange drivers are powered by a complete of 400 watts, whereas the woofers have a complete of 250W pushing them round. General frequency response is specified from 40Hz to 20kHz (-Three dB) with THD+N lower than 0.05% (mid-band).

In fact, the first technique of getting audio into the RS200 is wirelessly. It implements Bluetooth 5.Zero with the A2DP profile and AAC, aptX HD, and aptX Low Latency codecs, that are usually thought of to be the highest-quality shopper codecs out there in the present day.

mcintosh rs200 lifestyle2 McIntosh Labs

In case you have sufficient tablespace beneath a TV, the RS200 can function a soundbar.

As well as, audio might be despatched to the unit by way of Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n at 2.Four and 5 GHz) utilizing Apple AirPlay 2, DTS Play-Fi, and DLNA, permitting the RS200 to hitch a whole-home wi-fi audio system. It could possibly additionally stream audio from quite a lot of on-line suppliers, together with Tidal, Napster, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Web Radio, iHeartRadio, and others. As if that weren’t sufficient, it might play audio from any of its inputs to different Play-Fi audio system.

One other fascinating Play-Fi characteristic is the power to play the entrance three channels in a 5.1 surround-sound setup. Two Play-Fi wi-fi {surround} audio system full the {surround} bundle.

Bodily connections embrace a 3.5mm 2-channel analog-audio enter, optical digital-audio enter, USB Kind B port, and HDMI ARC enter, which you’d hook up with the TV’s ARC enter for those who resolve to make use of it. The HDMI ARC and ptical inputs indicate that the RS200 can be utilized as a soundbar, which it might, nevertheless it’s method too deep to slot in a good house beneath the display.

There’s additionally an RCA subwoofer output if you would like even deeper bass from a powered sub. Different connections embrace a 12V set off output, knowledge output that sends proprietary management indicators to different McIntosh gadgets, and a USB service port for service techs solely.

mcintosh rs200 back McIntosh Labs

All connections are discovered on the left of the again panel. The primary energy swap is subsequent to the AC power-cord receptacle on the precise.

Like most wi-fi audio system lately, the RS200 works with Amazon Alexa voice instructions. However it isn’t a sensible speaker in and of itself; you’ll want the Play-Fi app and an Alexa-enabled system to manage it with voice instructions. A rising variety of on-line music providers reply to Alexa instructions, so for those who’re into that type of factor, it’s out there. The speaker doesn’t at the moment help Google Assistant.

Person interface

Three controls are additionally discovered close to the connections on the again panel. The EQ slider selects considered one of three preset equalization curves for placement close to a wall, on a desk, or fully freestanding. Putting the unit close to a wall acoustically boosts the bass, which the Wall EQ setting compensates for by chopping low frequencies from about 100 to 500Hz by a couple of decibels.

I used to be a bit confused concerning the Free and Desk settings; in spite of everything, the RS200 might be positioned on a flat floor in any case. In response to the handbook, “The Desk setting is to compensate for reflective surfaces which may be current if the unit is pushed again eight or extra inches from the sting of a flat floor (like a desk).” In response to a McIntosh rep I spoke with, it cuts a narrower band of frequencies round 100Hz by a few decibels. The Free setting is designed to be used when the unit is near the sting of the floor on which it’s positioned.

The CEC Defeat button allows and disables HDMI CEC (Shopper Electronics Management), and since CEC doesn’t at all times work as anticipated, I like to recommend disabling it. As its title implies, the Wi-Fi Reset button resets the Wi-Fi performance. The one different management is the grasp energy swap subsequent to the AC power-cord connector.

mcintosh rs200 closeup2 McIntosh Labs

Two multifunction knobs flank the extent meters.

Two multifunction knobs that may be turned and pressed flank the extent meters on the entrance. The left knob selects the enter, initiates Bluetooth pairing, signifies Wi-Fi standing with a multicolored led, and controls the brightness of the extent meters’ backlight. The appropriate knob helps you to regulate the quantity, interact and disengage mute, and enter and exit Energy Save mode. Holding each buttons for 10 seconds resets the unit to its manufacturing unit situation.

The RS200 comes with a comparatively easy IR distant. Controls embrace energy on/off, quantity up/down, mute, enter choice, meter/LED lights on/off, and lip-sync enhance/lower, which delays the audio as much as 150ms as wanted to synchronize the audio to the video picture. Three transport buttons embrace play/pause and skip monitor ahead and again that work with suitable sources.

The input-selection button is surrounded by a hoop with the numerals 1 by 4. Urgent these numerals remembers considered one of as much as 4 Play-Fi presets. (4 touch-sensitive “buttons” on the highest of the RS200 will also be used to recall the presets.) As of this writing, you possibly can assign presets to Web Radio, iHeartRadio, Tidal, Spotify, and Pandora, however extra providers might be added sooner or later.

mcintosh rs200 remote McIntosh Labs

The included distant is easy however serviceable.

Setup

Organising the RS200 was not a clean course of for me. Once I first plugged it in and turned it on, the Web gentle was pulsing, indicating that it was able to be related to a Wi-Fi community. I needed to start out with Bluetooth from my iPhone XS, so I did what the handbook instructs: “Place the RS200 in pairing mode by urgent and holding the left knob for 2 seconds.” Once I did that, nothing occurred after two seconds, and I didn’t see the RS200 within the record of Bluetooth gadgets on my cellphone.

Subsequent, I attempted to attach it to my Wi-Fi community utilizing the Wi-Fi settings on my cellphone. I noticed the system labeled PlayFi2Device within the record of networks—not gadgets—so I chosen it, however the Web gentle stored pulsing like nothing had occurred. Additionally, my cellphone was now disconnected from the community.

I spoke with a McIntosh technical rep, who tried the identical procedures on his iPhone 8, and he reported extra success than I had. He really useful that I obtain the Play-Fi app and attempt to join the RS200 to my Wi-Fi community by the app, which labored—type of. The Play-Fi app reported that system was not found and to strive once more, nevertheless it really was found and related to the community. After disabling Bluetooth on my cellphone, I used to be capable of play music from my cellphone by way of AirPlay over Wi-Fi.

Relating to Bluetooth pairing, he informed me to carry the left knob for 2 seconds after which launch it, which labored after I re-enabled Bluetooth on the cellphone. (I ought to have learn the following sentence in that part of the handbook: “Launch the knob.” Duh…)

mcintosh rs200 lifestyle1 McIntosh Labs

The RS200 requires a pretty big flat floor.

Efficiency

I positioned the RS200 on the fringe of a desk away from partitions and chosen the Free EQ preset to start with. I began my listening with “One” from Esperanza Spaulding’s album Emily’s D+Evolution. The sound was fairly congested and veiled, particularly within the bass. I attempted all three EQ presets, however all sounded fairly boomy.

I referred to as the McIntosh rep about it, and he helped me uncover that the firmware wanted to be up to date from model 3.48 to three.64. Apparently, the newest firmware tweaks the EQ, particularly the Wall setting. I downloaded the McIntosh Updater app, which is now out there for iOS and shortly for Android. It took about 15 minutes to replace the firmware.

After the replace, the sound improved considerably, however not dramatically. After listening to all three EQ presets, I ended up preferring the Desk setting, despite the fact that the unit was sitting on the fringe of a desk. It reduce the bass a bit in contrast with the Free setting, however not as a lot because the Wall setting, which sounded barely wimpy to me.

Within the realm of world music, I began with “Home of the Ancestors” from the album Sound Magic by Afro Celt Sound System, which blends Celtic and African devices and influences. The RS200 sounded wealthy total with tubby bass. The vocals sounded fairly good, although considerably recessed.

The identical was true for “Farewell” from the Yuval Ron Ensemble’s album Tree of Life. This monitor options oud (Center Japanese lute), duduk (Armenian clarinet), hand percussion, and feminine vocals. The oud sounded thick and congested, however the hand percussion vocals sounded fairly good and wealthy.

mcintosh rs200 grilles off McIntosh Labs

With the entrance grilles off, you possibly can see a tweeter and two midrange drivers on either side.

Turning to jazz fusion, I listened to “Shiny Lights” from the album Quick Ahead by Spyro Gyra. General, the sound was wealthy and thick, with congested bass and drums. However, the vibes and saxophone sounded fairly good. Shifting on to nation rock, “Pickin’ Up the Items” from the album of the identical title by Poco additionally sounded thick and wealthy with boomy bass, although the vocals had been good.

Lastly, I attempted a few classical tracks. Placido Domingo sings “Aranjuez” (an adaptation of the second motion of Concerto de Aranjuez, initially for guitar) on his album Encanto del Mar. Domingo’s voice is wealthy on the RS200, although a bit recessed within the combine and barely congested. Within the accompanying devices, the harp, guitar, bass, and percussion had been very congested, although the soprano sax and clarinet had been fairly good.

As I had come to count on, the low-mid vary was fairly congested listening to Molly on the Shore by Percy Grainger as carried out by the London Wind Symphony beneath Denis Wick on their album Grainger: A Lincolnshire Posy. Nonetheless, the upper devices had been good and clear, although definitely wealthy total.

Comparability with Urbanears Rålis

For comparability, I additionally performed all tracks on the Urbanears Rålis, which I reviewed right here. At $180, it’s a mere six p.c the price of the RS200, nevertheless it’s the very best wi-fi speaker I’ve readily available.

In all instances, the Rålis sounded lighter, brighter, and extra open than the RS200. The bass was not as deep, whereas vocals sounded extra ahead. Which one you like comes right down to a matter of style; I usually most popular the sound of the Rålis.

Backside line

I used to be absolutely ready to like the sound of the McIntosh RS200—and shocked that I didn’t. General, it has some traits of high-end, audiophile sound: wealthy and luxurious, with a clear mid-to-high vary. However the congestion within the bass and decrease midrange actually detracts from the optimistic qualities, and vocals are considerably recessed. In contrast, the Urbanears Rålis sounds considerably thinner however extra open and higher balanced.

Then there’s the dimensions—the RS200 is humongous! I struggled to discover a place it would slot in my home for this evaluate, and I’ve no place I may put it on a everlasting foundation.

At $3,000, the RS200 is certainly a high-end product with distinctive construct high quality, and it has a pleasant characteristic set. Given the shortcomings in its sound high quality, nonetheless, I can not advocate it.

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About Scott Wilkinson

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