McIntosh, the vaunted high-end high-performance home audio brand, introduced Thursday its MB20 Bluetooth Transceiver, bringing Bluetooth music streaming capabilities to virtually any home audio system, including classic legacy McIntosh systems.

The MB20 Bluetooth Transceiver is said to be an easy and simple solution for bringing even a vintage McIntosh system, or another legacy branded audio component, into the digital streaming home music age. The unit will access digital music files stored on a mobile phone, on a cloud account, or streamed from a favorite music service.

About the size of a mobile phone, the MB20 is positioned as a small, stand-alone, complete Bluetooth streaming solution.

The McIntosh MB20 carries a $500 suggested retail price, excluding taxes, VAT and shipping charges. Pre-orders are being accepted now by authorized McIntosh dealers and shipping in the U.S. and Canada is expected to begin in May 2021, followed shortly thereafter in other regions of the world.

McIntosh said the transmitter/receiver was designed to provide a stable Bluetooth connection to audio equipment that lacks Bluetooth connectivity. The Bluetooth Class 1-engineered unit operates at a range of up to 150 feet (45.7 meters) under ideal conditions with limited obstructions.

The receiver section of the MB20 is said to be “extremely sensitive,” even when connecting to Class 2 devices, with the maximum range determined by the paired device with the lowest range capability. McIntosh points out that an external antenna will help to maximize range distance for the best performance.

The Transmitter section is said to offer a range that is “10x greater than that of a typical Class 2 Bluetooth device.”

The McIntosh MB20 comes with a variety of analog and digital inputs and outputs to connect to the latest and legacy devices in a home audio system. This includes balanced inputs and outputs, “making it one of the only Bluetooth transmitter receivers to offer these superior audio connections that help deliver top-quality audio performance,” according to the company.

Where connections requiring analog cables are involved, the MB20 includes one stereo set of balanced and unbalanced inputs, along with a stereo set of balanced and unbalanced outputs.

For digital connections, including the use use of outboard Digital-to-Analog Convertors
(DAC), the compact unit has 1 coaxial and 1 optical input and output, each.

The MB20 uses Bluetooth 5.0 with support for both the high bitrate Advanced Audio Coding (AAC)
standard as well as Qualcomm aptX HD for Hi-Res Audio playback.

It also features Qualcomm aptX Low Latency for improved audio transmission speed to deliver sound in sync with applicable visual media.

When used as a receiver, the MB20 uses a high-performance 32-bit DAC with 192kHz internal
processing for lossless sound quality; when used in combination with a separate outboard DAC, the
MB20’s digital output is fixed at 96kHz to be compatible with most third-party DACs in order to
maximize performance and maintain audio signal integrity, the company said.

When in transmitter mode, the McIntosh MB20 uses a high-performance Analog-to-Digital Convertor (ADC) with 110dB Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR).

As a transceiver, the MB20 can function as either a Bluetooth Receiver or Transmitter (but not both at
the same time). The desired configuration is set using a switch on the back panel in the position for the required application.

A typical usage scenario would include (in receiver mode), streaming to the MB20 via Bluetooth from any compatible Bluetooth streaming devices. Audio can then be played through a McIntosh (or most other branded) system regardless of the era in which the amplifier or preamplifier was made.

When in transmitter mode, the digital music can be streamed from the MB20 to any device capable of receiving Bluetooth audio signals. This could include accessing digital music stored on physical media, such as CDs or vinyl records, listened to on wireless Bluetooth headphones or wireless Bluetooth speakers.

When more than one audio system is within range of each other an MB20 can be added to each system — one set to Transmitter mode and the other to receiver mode — to stream music stored on a physical medium, such as from a CD player or turntable, from one system to the other system.

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When a wireless high-performance audio link is required from one part of the house to another two MB20s can be wirelessly connected in this manner to create a full wireless encode/decode bridge, the company said.

The McIntosh MB20 is available in a black, custom aluminum chassis with a black glass top panel. The look is designed to complement any McIntosh system, although the MB20 will also work with almost any brand of home audio system with the proper inputs and outputs.

Included with the MB20 is a wall mount charger with adapters for most common countries’ power outlet standards.

McIntosh points out that while the MB20 is a Bluetooth Class 1 device, its practical real-world range may be affected by physical obstacles in the home or setting as well as the performance limitations of devices paired with the MB20 (like Class 2 Bluetooth products).

The MB20 cannot be used as a stand-alone Digital-to-Analog Convertor (DAC).

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By Greg Tarr

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