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McIntosh C49 Stereo analog and digital preamplifier

Item # 958C49

It's a virtuoso conductor that delivers pristine sound and gives you detailed control over multiple source components.

It's a virtuoso conductor that delivers pristine sound and gives you detailed control over multiple source components.

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7 questions - 7 answers

Item # 958C49

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About the McIntosh C49

Eric A.

A state-of-the-art preamp for audiophiles

The McIntosh C49 is lovingly crafted and designed to perform — it's a virtuoso conductor that delivers pristine sound and gives you detailed control over each source component in your system. It has all of the features that made the earlier C47 a must-have, with one clever change. All of the digital inputs are integrated into the DA1 digital audio module, an 8-channel, 32-bit DAC that can be replaced if and when digital standards improve in the future.

A state-of-the-art preamp for audiophiles

The McIntosh C49 is lovingly crafted and designed to perform — it's a virtuoso conductor that delivers pristine sound and gives you detailed control over each source component in your system. It has all of the features that made the earlier C47 a must-have, with one clever change. All of the digital inputs are integrated into the DA1 digital audio module, an 8-channel, 32-bit DAC that can be replaced if and when digital standards improve in the future.

Along with its stellar sound quality, the C49 boasts the classic McIntosh look — black glass front panel, big metal knobs, and illuminated logo.

Hear everything at its best, from high-res digital files to vinyl

McIntosh C49 back panel

With multiple analog and digital inputs, and XLR and RCA outputs for two amplifiers, the C49 can handle sophisticated stereo systems.

The C49 is one of the most versatile stereo preamps we've ever seen. For your analog audio gear, you'll find two balanced XLR and three unbalanced RCA inputs. The high-quality built-in phono preamp lets you plug in a turntable with either a moving-magnet or moving-coil cartridge.

Your digital sources are covered, too, with an array of inputs that give you access to the C49's advanced digital-to-analog converter (DAC). It's a great way to seriously upgrade the sound from your computer, disc player, music streamer, or TV. The USB Type B input handles the highest-resolution digital files: up to 32-bit/384kHz for PCM, as well as DSD and DXD formats.

And speaking of DSD, the C49 is one of only a handful of components with a digital DSD input. It means that you can play SACD discs on the McIntosh MCT500 SACD/CD Transport and send the DSD bitstream to the C49's superb DAC for decoding.

Plays nicely with your other equipment

As I read through the C49's manual, I was impressed by how much attention McIntosh paid to every detail. Balanced XLR inputs and outputs ensure that your music remains as pure as possible from your compatible XLR-equipped sources all the way to the balanced inputs on your power amp(s). That's right, the C49 has dual balanced and unbalanced outputs, making it easy to bi-amp your system, if you choose. One easy amplifier recommendation is McIntosh's MC152.

With this preamp at the helm of a high-end audio system, you'll experience music with 3D immediacy and impact, and the sense that you're sharing the studio or stage with your favorite musicians. That alone is an impressive feat, but there's more. The full-size headphone output features McIntosh's Headphone Crossfeed Director circuitry, which adds spaciousness and depth.

Home Theater Pass Through lets you make the C49 part of a multichannel surround sound system. The right and left front channels from an A/V processor or surround decoder can pass through the C49's analog inputs/outputs and on to its associated power amplifier.

A world-famous audio heritage, made in America

Since its founding in 1949, McIntosh has defined the meaning of high-quality sound reproduction, while setting industry standards for superior performance and reliability. The company is based in Binghamton, New York, where its high-end components and speakers are still individually handcrafted by a team of skilled experts. This uncompromising dedication to quality has made McIntosh one of the most recognized and respected audio manufacturers in the world.


Product highlights:

  • solid state preamplifier for digital and analog sources
  • two-layer chassis with replaceable DA1 digital audio module
  • high-quality built-in phono preamp for exceptional vinyl playback
    • compatible with moving magnet and moving coil phono cartridges
    • variable cartridge load settings
    • signal-to-noise ratio: 82dB (MM)/80dB (MC)
  • THD%: 0.005% (20-20,000Hz)
  • selectable mono/stereo output
  • defeatable bass and treble tone controls
    • remembers bass and treble settings for each input
  • built-in High Drive headphone amplifier with Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD®)
  • Home Theater Pass Through allows easy integration with your home theater system
  • fluorescent front-panel display with adjustable brightness
  • R-Core power transformer ensures stable, noise free operation
  • remote control included
DA1 digital audio module:
  • 8-channel, 32-bit DAC used in Quad Balanced mode
  • up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution from optical and coaxial digital inputs
  • supports up to DSD256 and DXD 384kHz for playback of high-resolution audio
  • can be replaced by new modules as future digital audio technologies are developed
  • discrete left/right and ground inputs for moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) phono cartridges
  • pair of balanced XLR inputs
  • 3 unbalanced stereo RCA inputs
  • 2 coaxial digital inputs
  • 2 optical digital inputs
  • proprietary MCT input for connecting McIntosh SACD/CD transport
  • USB Type-B digital input (32-bit/384kHz) for connecting to a computer
  • 2 balanced variable XLR outputs
  • 2 unbalanced variable RCA outputs
  • unbalanced fixed RCA output
  • 1/4" headphone output
  • power control and data ports send remote control commands to connected source components
Dimensions and Warranty:
  • 17-1/2"W x 6"H x 18"D
  • weight: 23 lbs.
  • warranty: 3 years
  • MFR # C49

What's in the box:

  • Stereo preamplifier
  • 6' AC power cord
  • Remote control
  • Owner's Manual

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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More details on the McIntosh C49

Stacey B.

Features & specs

RCA Inputs 2
XLR Inputs 3
3.5mm Inputs 0
Phono Inputs 2
Phono Input Type Moving Magnet/Moving Coil
Optical Digital Inputs 2
Coaxial Digital Inputs 2
Digital XLR Inputs 0
USB Type A 0
USB Type B 1
Ethernet Port No
RCA Outputs 3
XLR Outputs 2
Optical Digital Outputs 0
Coaxial Digital Outputs 0
Digital XLR Outputs 0
Subwoofer Outputs 0
Discrete Sub Outs N/A
Headphone Output Yes
Audio Features & Specs
Home Theater Bypass Selectable
Frequency Response 10-20k
S/N Ratio (Phono) 80
S/N Ratio (Line) 100
THD 0.005
DAC Bit Depth 32-bit
DAC Sample Rate 384 kHz
High-res Audio Playback
From Network No
From USB Thumb Drive (USB-A) No
From Computer (USB-B) Yes
Wireless Features
Bluetooth N
Bluetooth Formats Supported N/A
Wi-Fi N/A
Frequency Bands N/A
Streaming Compatibility
Apple AirPlay No
DTS Play-Fi No
Chromecast built-in No
Roon No
MusicCast No
BluOS No
Music Services
Amazon Music No
Apple Music No
Pandora No
Qobuz No
SiriusXM No
Spotify No
Tidal No
TuneIn No
YouTube Music No
Apple Control App No
Android Control App No
Amazon Alexa No
Google Assistant No
12 Volt Trigger In-2/Out-2
IR Control In
RS-232 Yes
Other Specs
Width (Inches) 17.5
Height (Inches) 6
Depth (Inches) 18
Parts Warranty 3 Years
Labor Warranty 3 Years
The McIntosh C49 replaces these items:

Product Research


Stereo Preamplifier: The McIntosh C49 is a versatile solid-state stereo preamplifier with an expansive set of inputs (13 total inputs) to connect virtually any of your analog and digital music sources. The C49's multiple outputs have the ability to drive multiple power amplifiers (sold separately). The McIntosh preamplifier's reproduction is sonically transparent and absolutely accurate.

Classic McIntosh Design & Specially-Designed Power Supply: The C49 stereo preamplifier incorporates classic McIntosh design cues, including a black glass front-panel, rotary knobs, illuminated logo, and brushed aluminum end-caps. Fully regulated Power Supplies and a special R-Core Power Transformer ensure stable noise free operation even though the power line varies.

Electromagnet Input Switching w/ Naming: Electromagnetic input switching is used in McIntosh C49 preamplifier to switch the variety of source components connected. Rather than the commonly-used mechanical switches that will deteriorate with wear, electromagnetic switches are high tech switching nodes that allow very long, trouble-free operation. The default Input Names can be changed to match the name of the component connected to it or any other custom name desired (up to 10 characters).

DA1 Digital Audio Module: The C49 features McIntosh's DA1 Digital Audio Module, which can be replaced by new modules as new digital audio technologies are developed. This will allow you to keep the C49 up to date with digital music formats and viable well into the future.

  • 8-Channel, 32-Bit/384kHz DAC: The DA1 is powered by an 8-channel, 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that is used in Quad Balanced mode; it supports up to DSD256 and DXD 384kHz for playback of high resolution audio. The C49's internal DAC (digital-to-analog converter) circuitry is designed to decode PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) and DSD (Direct Stream Digital) Digital Signals. Other digital audio signal format types than PCM or DSD (such as Dolby Digital or DTS) will cause the audio outputs of the C49 to be muted and the front-panel LCD will indicate an error message.
  • Digital Inputs: The pre-installed DA1 module features optical & coax digital inputs, a USB-B input for computer audio, and a proprietary MCT port for SACD playback.
    • Optical & Coaxial Digital Inputs: The McIntosh C49 Preamplifier is fitted with two optical (toslink) digital inputs and two coaxial (RCA) digital inputs. The optical and coax digital inputs will decode 2ch stereo PCM music files at up to 24-bit/192kHz for high resolution audio playback.
    • USB-B Input: The McIntosh C49 can decode and play back high res PCM & high fidelity DSD files from your Windows PC (7/8/8.1./10) or Mac (OS 10.6.8+) computer via its USB-B input. The preamp's USB-B input will accept 2ch stereo PCM signals up to 32-bit/384kHz and supports DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 along with DXD 352.8kHz and DXD 384kHz. A Windows PC will require the installation of McIntosh's USB Audio Window Driver (available on the McIntosh website).
    • MCT Port: To enjoy the high definition audio found on SACDs (16/24-bit; 32-192kHz), you can connect the C49 to McIntosh's MCT450 SACD/CD Transport (958MCT450, sold separately) via the MCT input on back of the preamplifier to create a secure and custom DSD connection.

Analog Inputs: The McIntosh C49 Preamplifier is fitted with balanced & unbalanced analog inputs, plus MM & MC phono inputs.

  • Balanced & Unbalanced Analog Inputs: The McIntosh C49 Preamplifier is equipped with two balanced stereo XLR inputs and three unbalanced stereo RCA inputs. The Balanced Inputs allow the connection of a source component using longer cable lengths without a loss in sound quality. The analog inputs can be matched in level, preventing abrupt changes in volume levels.
  • MM/MC Phono Inputs: The C49 has two precision Phono Preamplifier Circuits, one for Moving Coil (MC) Phono Cartridges and the other for Moving Magnet (MM) Cartridges. Both Phono inputs have selectable loading (MC: 25-1,000Ω) / MM: 50-800pf).  The Phono preamp circuits used provide the lowest possible noise and distortion. The close tolerance resistors and capacitors used in the RIAA Correction Equalization Circuitry provide an extremely flat frequency response.

Analog Outputs: The McIntosh C49 Preamplifier is fitted with balanced & unbalanced outputs, a front-panel headphone jack, and a fixed output.

  • Balanced & Unbalanced Outputs: The McIntosh C49 is equipped with two balanced stereo XLR outputs and two unbalanced stereo RCA outputs. Balanced & Unbalanced Inputs & Outputs can be mixed. For example, you may connect signal sources to Unbalanced Inputs and send signals from the Balanced Outputs; or vise-versa. You can also use Balanced and Unbalanced Outputs simultaneously, connected to different Power Amplifiers.
  • Headphone Jack w/ HXD: The C49 offers a front-panel 1/4" headphone jack for connecting a set of low-impedance (100-600Ω), dynamic headphones, so you can enjoy your music in private. The C49's Headphone Crossfeed Director Circuitry (HXD) improves the sound localization for headphone listening. HXD restores the directionality component of the spatial sound stage normally heard with Loudspeaker listening. You can choose for the preamp to mute the audio outputs when a headphone is connected or have both the audio outputs and headphone jack live at the same time.
  • Fixed Output: The audio signal present at the stereo RCA "FIXED OUT" jacks is unaffected by the preamplifier's equalizer circuitry, so you can send an unaltered audio signal to another zone amplifier.

Gold-Plated Connectors: The Input and Output connectors contacts are gold-plated for superior corrosion resistance and high electrical conductivity.

Home Theater Pass Through: When the C49 preamplifier is part of a home theater or multichannel audio system, the Right and Left Front channels from an AV processor or surround decoder can pass through the C49's analog inputs/outputs and onto its associated power amplifier.

Front-Panel & Remote Control: On the front-panel of the preamplifier are Input & Volume rotary knobs, Output 1 and Output 2 buttons, Tone button, Mute button, and Standby/On button. The McIntosh C49 also includes an IR remote control for wireless operation of the preamplifier. In addition, the remote operates other McIntosh audio components. The IR remote offers the following button functions - Power On/Off, Input Selection, Volume Up/Down, Setup/Menu, Numeric Keypad, and Playback Control.

  • Precision Volume Control: Volume levels are controlled by a precision balanced digitally controlled attenuator system with an optical encoder rotary control. This assures a 0.1dB tracking accuracy between channels. There are 225 individual 0.5dB volume level steps with no noise as the volume level is changed.
  • Bass & Treble: Bass & treble tone controls allow for some fine tuning of your audio sources.  The Bass & Treble controls provide up to 12dB of boost or cut. The C49 remembers the Bass & Treble Setting for each input.
  • Balance Left/Right: You are also able to balance the output level of the preamplifier's left & right output channels.
  • Stereo/Mono Mode: By default the Stereo mode is active for all input sources. However, any input source may be assigned to Mono mode. Mono mode combines the Left and Right channel signals for Monophonic Sound.

Fluorescent Display: The C49's front-panel, fluorescent display indicates the Source Selection, Volume/Balance Levels, and Setup Mode Selections. The display intensity is also adjustable.

Custom Integration: The McIntosh C49 offers advanced connectivity and control features often required for custom home integration using premium control systems.

  • Power Control Connectors: The C49 has the ability to automatically switch power on or off to source components via the Power Control connections. The C49's "Main, "Trigger 1/2", and "PASSTHRU" Output Jacks (3.5mm) send power on/off signals (+12 volt/0volt) when connected to other McIntosh source components. The Power Control outputs can be assigned to activate when a given input or output is selected.
  • Data Ports: The C49's four Data Out Ports (3.5mm) send remote control signals to McIntosh source components. These Data Port connections allow for the remote operation of basic functions using the C49's Remote Control.
  • IR Input: The 3.5mm IR input allows the connection of an external IR receiver. With an external sensor connected to the C49, remote control operation of the system is possible from another room and/or when the C49 is located in a cabinet with the doors closed. The signal from a connected external IR receiver will have priority over the signal from the preamp's front-panel IR sensor.
  • RS-232C Port: The preamplifier's RS-232C port requires a 3.5mm stereo minijack to a subminiature DB 9 connector cable (sold separately) to transmit and receive RS-232 commands.

AC Power Cord + Auto Power Off: The McIntosh C49 stereo preamplifier features a detachable AC power cord with 3-pole IEC connector. The C49 incorporates an Auto Off feature, which automatically places the preamplifier into the Power Saving Standby/Off Mode after approximately 30 minutes of inactivity or no audio signal.

Mounting Options: The McIntosh C49 can be placed upright on a table or shelf, standing on its four feet. It also can be custom installed in a piece of furniture or cabinet of your choice. The four feet may be removed from the bottom of the C49 when it is custom installed. Always provide adequate ventilation for your C49. Allow at least 2" above the top, 2" below the bottom, and 1" on each side of the preamplifier, so that airflow is not obstructed.

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Customer Q&A

7 questions already asked

I have a McIntosh C45 with the tuner module. Can that tuner module be installed in the C49?
kelvin  Nov 24, 2022
1 answer
The module slot on the C49 is only designed to accept McIntosh's selection of digital audio modules (DA1 and DA2). It is not designed for compatibility with their tuner modules.
zachary  Nov 25, 2022 (Staff)
Does the Mcintosh C49 have connections for Bose 901 active equalizer?
john  Oct 30, 2021
1 answer
That Equalizer and be used with a preamplifier like this one! The preamp outputs can be ran to the input on the Bose EQ. Then the Bose EQ's outputs ran to the power amp used to power the speakers.
jason  Nov 01, 2021 (Staff)
Can I use 3 speakers channels on this?
christian  Oct 11, 2021
1 answer
Chris, There are no speaker connections on a preamp. There are two outputs that can to connect to amplifiers. Your amps will determine how many speakers channels that are available. I hope this helps. Good Luck, Scott
scott foster  Oct 11, 2021
I have an Aurender A100 Caching Music Server/Streamer/Player. What would be the best way to connect it to the C49?
horace  Jun 24, 2020
1 answer
Based on what I could find online, you have two ways that this can be connected which will change the DAC being use to convert the audio. The best way will depend on you and what you hear and which you like better. You could use RCA cables in favor of using the DAC in the A100 or you can use the USB cable in favor of using the DAC in this preamp.
jason  Jul 12, 2020 (Staff)

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