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The Computer Audiophile

Article: McIntosh MS500 Music Streamer Review

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49 minutes ago, Tin said:

Looking at the internals of the MS500 we see a bog-standard mini sized computer motherboard, worth something like $200, maybe $250, with an added 2GB of memory and a very standard SSD drive. Total cost, somewhere south of $350 if shop bought.

 

On the right side we see a USB-DAC chip made by Tenor, not even a brand, but a label which only claim to fame is to be budget friendly.

The DAC board doesn't even come with its own power supply, but it borrows its power from the motherboard and uses a muRata chip and largish condensator to cleanup the voltage a bit.

 

Unless the housing costs over $5000 to produce, this device looks like a total ripoff.

 

Hi Tin - I certainly don't blame you for thinking the product is over priced, but once you look at what goes into the cost of a product from a business point of view the price is much more understandable. McIntosh is licensing tech from Autonomic that Autonomic has substantial R&D costs in and support costs to maintain, buying parts in fairly low quantities, buying spare parts to sit on the shelf in case one of these breaks many years down the road, a large manufacturing facility in the US, employee health care in the US, dealer / distributor profit margin, etc...

 

I'm not speaking for McIntosh, just describing how the cost of a product creeps up higher and higher for reasons that people usually don't think about. I'm sure this product could be copied and sold in the Huaqiangbei market in Shenzhen for a little over the cost of parts. However, most McIntosh customers prefer the value proposition of the product being Made in the USA, great support from the manufacturer and dealer network, components that may fit an existing system aesthetic, among other things.

 

 

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You could remove the motherboard, replace it by any other of the same form factor, install the Linux distribution of your choice on the SSD,  add Kodi and just connect the power-cable between the motherboard and DAC-board and plugin the USB cable again, and it would work just as well.

 

You are really overestimating the amount of R&D by Autonomic; the motherboard is -not- designed specifically for this device, it really is a bog standard one, with all the lousy interference issues that a bog standard motherboard has.

So what remains is some software to scroll through a music library and play that.

 

What remains is the box, and I'll admit that it looks better than a laptop with a Hugo DAC attached to it.

You could actually replace the DAC board by a Hugo or even a Firefly and have a cost effective upgrade come to think of it.

 

 I have designed computers like this, and I have no issues with the idea, but with this price tage, this really is a severe case of the Emperors cloths.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Tin said:

You could remove the motherboard, replace it by any other of the same form factor, install the Linux distribution of your choice on the SSD,  add Kodi and just connect the power-cable between the motherboard and DAC-board and plugin the USB cable again, and it would work just as well.

 

You are really overestimating the amount of R&D by Autonomic; the motherboard is -not- designed specifically for this device, it really is a bog standard one, with all the lousy interference issues that a bog standard motherboard has.

So what remains is some software to scroll through a music library and play that.

 

What remains is the box, and I'll admit that it looks better than a laptop with a Hugo DAC attached to it.

You could actually replace the DAC board by a Hugo or even a Firefly and have a cost effective upgrade come to think of it.

 

 I have designed computers like this, and I have no issues with the idea, but with this price tage, this really is a severe case of the Emperors cloths.

 

 

Hi Tin - I'm not overestimating R&D. The work involved with creating and maintaining and improving the software that runs on the hardware is where all the costs are. The motherboard is the easy part. Find one with long term support and call it a day. 

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After emailing McIntosh I found that the DAC board itself is much more advanced than the images show, so I have to adjust my opinion on that part of the device. I actually like that.

 

I'm still bothered, a lot, by the computerboard; I have build devices like this and know the long-term caveats.

If McIntosh would have gone for 'just a DAC' and used a very good power supply I probably would have agreed with the asking price.

The computer board is degrading the performance both because of its power supply and all the noise issues, and the long term outlook isn't that great, not even if they try everything they can.

 

If they'd sold it as 2 half size devices, one with the motherboard and one with the DACs, using an ethernet connection, it would have been so much more elegant, maintainable and upgradable.

Also, it would have given people the chance to just go for the DAC's and choose their own frontend.

 

 

 

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