McIntosh’s MT5 turntable reviewed

Review: McIntosh MT5 High-end Audiophile Turntable. The second turntable in McIntosh’s range glows green like the rest of its products – Paul Rigby reviews the MT5…

There’s a certain presence about the MT5 that oozes strength and mass. This is a turntable that looks solid – it appears strong, tough and meaty. In fact, while it resembles T+A’s G2000R turntable, the difference is that the MT5 is aimed at the purist and the audiophile while the T+A features an included phono amplifier and is targeted at the high-end lifestyle market. 

So, if the MT5 demands an external phono amplifier and has audiophile aspirations, it must be a bit special in terms of build and materials then, eh?
Well, you’d be right on that one. That strong design look I mentioned derives largely from the stainless-steel base of the plinth, along with an aluminium base plate and extra damping materials that are rounded off by an acrylic top plate. 
Even the two-piece platter assembly provides heft and confidence in terms of build quality, with an anodised aluminium sub-platter (the bit that holds the belt) plus an outer platter made from silicone acrylic. 
Despite the macho stylings of all of this, the ceramic bearing uses a magnetic suspension together with a cushion of air, giving an almost balletic aspect to the platter during play. The DC motor is a Swiss-made affair that offers three speeds, including 78rpm. This will be a relief for those who want to keep their options as open as possible. It’s nice to have the 78rpm speed offered on a high-end turntable for a change – I’m used to 78rpm being offered only by budget designs. 
When you buy the MT5, you also get a cartridge bundled with it. This one is a sort of super-budget design from Sumiko called the Blue Point No. 2 MC (worth around £200).
McIntosh MT5
Ohm on the range 
I noticed that McIntosh rated the cartridge at 1,000 ohm impedance,  while Sumiko has it listed at 47k. I asked McIntosh about this and they kindly replied with: “Testing has shown the best frequency response is at 1,000 ohm – and then decrease gain by -6dB in the McIntosh phono section.”
The upshot of this is that, if your phono amplifier can handle the 1,000-ohm figure, you’re laughing. If not, or if you only have an MM phono amplifier, then the Sumiko MC cartridge will work perfectly well in its default MM mode. 
The front fascia offers control knobs for power and speed control, while there are controls around the back to fine-tune these speeds if required. The power supply is a switch-mode type, instead of a separate unit – which alarmed me a touch, until the company replied to my query with: “The outboard power supply isolates any noise from the turntable. It does not take a lot of power or a huge transformer to power the MT5.”
Sound tests via The Isley Brothers and Nina Simone revealed a firm bass response and admirable detail, but the Sumiko added a plodding and over-cautious element. Extended listening tests forced me to try the £1,500-priced Ortofon Cadenza Bronze instead, which opened up the soundstage, supplied air and space into the midrange and enhanced the transient speeds within the bass frequencies to add pace to the lower end. 
Cartridge of sighs
The sense of drama and power from Nina Simone’s piano, for example, was truly thrilling, full of tension and edge – while the crackling nature of the electricity-infused funky 70s lead guitar from The Isley Brothers provided not just excitement, but real intensity. 
If you want your MT5 to work properly and at the top of its game, then you need to replace the Sumiko cartridge and pick up a cartridge swimming in the £1,000-plus waters. When done, you’ll find the MT5 offers excellent precision and focus in its midrange, with a confidence in the lower frequencies that will provide drive and control to the bass. That quality sound output aligns itself nicely to the straightforward setup and the sturdy and muscular overall design, to provide a turntable that breeds trust and assurance in its operation and sound output.
McIntosh MT5