McIntosh MHP1000 Headphones

by Michael Liang

A remarkable achievement

McIntosh products have a worldwide reputation for extraordinary performance, timeless designs and impeccable build quality that lasts a lifetime; the new MHP1000 headphones are everything you’d expect from McIntosh throwing their hat in the ring. The attention to detail on this $2,000 headphone begins with the unboxing experience. 

The MHP1000 arrives in a bigger-than-normal shipping box for a pair of headphones, with the outer box protecting the presentation style inner carton. Once out of the shipping box, the owner is greeted by the McIntosh logo printed on the flap with a pull tab revealing a brief message about the company’s heritage. Pulling the split-section box apart reveals the MHP1000 neatly rested on an all-aluminum headphone stand, with the accessories tucked away inside a drawer just beneath the stand. You really should pull up a chair and do this on a table, preferably with your smartphone capturing time lapse photos to do this effort justice!

Cosmetic design and build quality of the MHP1000 is exquisite, with genuine leather covering the headband and ear pads. The ear cups' housing is coated with a soft-touch material which proves durable and scratch resistant under heavy use. McIntosh supplies two cables for the most common connectivity options (1m with 3.5mm stereo jack and a 3m with 6.3mm stereo jack); both are made by McIntosh with branded connectors – a nice touch!

The MHP1000 proves comfortable during extended listening periods, given the substantial soft leather ear pads' wide surface area. Clamping force is light making for a secure feel, yet easy for those who wear eyeglasses. The headbands’ adjustment  slider mechanism is a little stiff out of the box, but they loosened up perfectly by the end of the review. As with any headphones, I recommend breaking in the MHP1000 with music for approximately 100–200 hrs. before doing any critical listening.

Let’s get down to business

The MHP1000 has a neutral sound signature, much like the Sennheiser HD800 – another audiophile favorite. Vocals come through in a natural and organic manner. There's an excellent balance of detail and resolution without being bright; the treble is incredibly smooth. There is no sibilance to speak of, even at high listening levels. The MHP1000 also excels in imaging. Position of vocalists and instruments are clearly defined within the soundstage. With these phones, the listening sweet spot is diffuse rather than pinpoint. The MHP1000 delivers seriously deep bass in “Hotel California” by The Eagles. This can be credited to the closed-back design keeping all the sound pressure in. The biggest surprise with these phones is the wide soundstage that goes beyond the ear cups. 

Long listening sessions with the MHP1000 prove fatigue free, keeping me up late into the night revisiting albums in my music library – always the sign of a great product. Even poorly recorded music and low bit-rate streaming services such as Music sounds remarkably good through these phones. 

Ron Cornelius (product manager for McIntosh) says “Carl Van Gelder, McIntosh senior speaker engineer, designed and tuned the headphone to deliver the smooth response as in our home loudspeakers which McIntosh customers have come to expect. We use a 1 -Tesla magnet assembly with our 6-layer voice coil and speaker diaphragm. This results in a 200 ohm load which will work with any McIntosh headphone output, past and present.” The MHP1000 sounds fantastic through my 16 years young McIntosh C2200 (gold edition) preamplifier, confirming Cornelius’ comments. It also does very well with the Astell&Kern AK380 portable music player.

To The Next Episode

The MHP1000 does so many things well, it is a remarkable achievement considering it is McIntosh’s first headphone. It is hands-down the best closed-back headphones I’ve heard to date. While the MHP1000 is a no-brainer for McIntosh fans looking to jam when the main system is not available or when the family is asleep, it will keep any headphone aficionado happy. The MHP1000 is the perfect way to enter the world of McIntosh for the first time.

I’m hoping that, on the next version, the cups will sport the famous McIntosh blue meters dancing along with the music.

Update 2/18/2016: I am now a proud owner of the review unit. The MHP1000 is my 'reference' closed-back headphone for product reviews.

McIntosh MHP1000 Headphones, MSRP: $2,000

McIntosh Laboratory, Inc. 
2 Chambers Street
Binghamton, NY 13903-2699
Phone (607) 723-3512 / (800) 538-6576