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Long before "macintosh" was a computer, the McIntosh brand was synonymous with top-notch home audio. The Reference System shown here is the company's showpiece, combining its best currently available components.

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:John P. Falcone, CNET Networks
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The Reference System includes two XRT2K tower speakers (only the right one is visible here), plus a host of specialized amps, preamplifiers, a D/A converter--and a CD player. It's strictly a stereo audio system: no surround sound and no video.

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:John P. Falcone, CNET Networks
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Each XRT2K speaker can handle as much as 2,000 watts of power. With the grille removed (as shown here), the 110 separate drivers are visible. That includes six 12-inch aluminum woofers (the black semicircles visible in the background) plus 62 two-inch titanium midrange drivers (along the outside of the central area) and 40 0.75-inch tweeters (straight down the middle). Oh--did we mention the speakers are 7 feet high?

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:McIntosh Labs
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Flanking the center components are two sets of MC2KW Tri-Chassis 2,000-Watt Monoblock amplifiers. Each of the amps (the bottom two components) feed 1,000 watts of power into the Output Module, sitting on top.

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:John P. Falcone, CNET Networks
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In addition to showing the resulting power on the large blue watt-meter (as high as 8,000 watt peaks), the Output Module adds noise cancellation to the signal, resulting in a sound that's essentially hiss-free on the quietest music--even at the highest volumes.

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:John P. Falcone, CNET Networks
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True audiophiles insist on old-school vacuum tube preamplifiers. But the McIntosh Reference System has the best of both worlds: it also includes a more traditional solid-state preamp section, along with a controller that lets you switch between them on the fly.

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:John P. Falcone, CNET Networks
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All of the components are hand-built in the company's Binghamton, New York facility. But that craftsmanship will cost you a king's ransom: with the cabling added in, this $180,000 system retails for closer to $200,000.

Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:CNET Networks
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