McIntosh will soon release its grandly-titled ‘Portable Decoding Amplifier’… or, for you and me, a portable headphone amplifier with a built-in DAC—the MHA50.

Though it looks a lot like a smartphone, and it’s about the same size as your average smartphone, the McIntosh MHA50 has no file storage on board. You send digital signals to it (via USB or wirelessly via Bluetooth aptX) and it will decode these signals (it supports up to 32-bit/192kHz PCM, DSD256 and DXD384 files as well as asynchronous USB) into analogue signals… but there is no analogue input and only an analogue output.

The headphone output (a gold-plated 3.5mm phone jack) has two gain settings to optimise output for all types of headphones, and McIntosh claims it can drive any impedance value of between 8Ω and 600Ω. It can also be connected to a pair of powered desktop speakers.  When the MHA50 is driving a pair of headphones, you can choose to listen with full channel separation, or switch in a headphone crossfeed direction (HXD) circuit.

Nearly everyone walks around with most if not all of their music library in their pocket or bag where it’s readily accessible via a pair of headphones,’ said Philip Sawyer, of Synergy Audio Visual, which distributes McIntosh in Australia. ‘Whilst this may be convenient, the sound leaves much to be desired, whereas if you connect the phone to the MHA50, and use it to drive your headphones, it will make your music sound its best—and likely better than you’ve ever heard it before.

The McIntosh MHA50 is powered by a 3000mAH rechargeable battery that McIntosh claims will provide up to 6 hours of playback on a single charge when connected via Bluetooth: longer when using USB. Built primarily from aluminium and glass, the MHA50 has a bevelled case that will fit comfortably in your hand or pocket and comes complete with three different USB adaptor cables, a leather carrying case and a charger plug-pack. McIntosh is currently awaiting 3rd-party certification, after which the MHA50 will go on sale in Australia at a recommended retail price of $1,195.

For further information, please contact Synergy Audio Visual