Dr. Amplifier

Dave O’Brien and the McIntosh Performance Clinic

Dave O'Brien. Photo courtesy McIntosh.

McIntosh launched its first free McIntosh Performance Clinic at the 1961 New York High Fidelity Show, and what began as an effort in damage control swiftly became a beloved event for audiophiles with Dave O’Brien at the helm. Allegedly, the first clinic was specifically organized to aid and appease customers impacted by a diode failure in the company’s C20 preamplifier – however, with a spirit of magnanimity, McIntosh offered not only to test the C20 units but any McIntosh amplifier free-of-charge.

When Dave O’Brien joined McIntosh in 1962, he already had substantial audio experience under his belt. He had previously published in Audio Engineering, launched his own Hi Fi component store, and worked in the sales department of Bell Sound. O’Brien was one of two “clinicians” (the other was McIntosh co-founder Gordon Gow) to test amplifiers of any brand at McIntosh’s second clinic, hosted by the Boston High Fidelity Show. Shortly after, the company began to offer their testing clinics at audio retailers, a shift that had major consequences for the industry: dealers and customers alike began to recognize first-hand the superiority of McIntosh equipment. The demand for McIntosh amplifiers soared, as did the demand for these proprietary audio clinics.

Dave O'Brien at work

O’Brien spent the next three decades testing and servicing amplifiers all across the United States. The alleged record for units serviced was 775 amplifiers at Detroit’s Pecar Electronics in November 1972. The company stopped restoring their own tube units in 1976, and the last clinic was held in Eugene, Oregon, in December 1991. O’Brien collected his knowledge and experience in the booklet “The McIntosh Amplifier Clinics; 1962–1991.” O’Brien retired from the company in 1999, and passed away in 2007; to this day, he is remembered by thousands as the face of McIntosh through his McIntosh Performance Clinics.

Read more about Dave O'Brien and the McIntosh Performance Clinics in an essay by Roger Russell.

If McIntosh is remembered for anything, it's the famous amplifier clinics headed by Dave O'Brien.

Roger Russell

The Heart of High Fidelity

McIntosh Laboratory

Founded in 1949 by broadcast design consultant Frank McIntosh, McIntosh Laboratory’s first product was the revolutionary Unity Coupled Circuit, a transformative audio component that is still used today. Developed in collaboration with Gordon Gow (who would later become president), the breakthrough circuit marked the beginning of a long and continuous list of advancements in the field of sound. After the second World War, McIntosh found an audience in home-audio enthusiasts seeking better equipment to operate the newly-introduced long play high fidelity record, otherwise known as the LP. The company’s vacuum tube amplifiers worked beautifully with other audio components to boost sound quality and clarity, and quickly became essential components for any respectable stereo system. 

The Wall of Sound at the Pacific National Exhibition Coliseum, May 17, 1974

In addition to home-stereo amplifiers and AM/FM tuners, McIntosh’s equipment powered live musical performances with a line of loudspeakers and was utilized at the historic Woodstock festival in 1969. In 1974, the Grateful Dead unveiled the massive Wall of Sound, a behemoth PA system powered by forty-eight McIntosh MC-2300 Amps delivering 28,800 Watts of power, projecting quality sound for a quarter-mile. The 1980s and 90s saw more developments in audio equipment and technology and McIntosh led the race with high quality speakers and CD players. Today, McIntosh components are included in automotive audio systems for Ford, Subaru and Harley Davidson and the company even offers an app for users to enjoy a traditional McIntosh interface while listening to music on their iPhones. 

Beyond all the technical advancements of the last seventy years, collectors and enthusiasts remain enthralled with the tube amplifiers from the company’s early days. Rooted in the belief that perfect amplification is necessary to achieve what Frank McIntosh described as “the ultimate in faithful reproduction of sound,” McIntosh’s enduring legacy is at the heart of music today.

Just as your heart sends life-giving blood surging through your body, so the amplifier acts as the heart of your sound system.

Frank H. McIntosh

Watch the short film The Voice of Sound celebrating the history of sound and McIntosh narrated by Bob Weir.

For the Love of Sound

The Audophilia of Larry & Carol Dupon

Before the advent of eBay, Larry Dupon dedicated himself to the search for rare audio equipment, scouring shops, posting print ads, and even organizing Chicago’s Vintage Audio Fair. Through his passionate pursuit, Dupon became a major dealer and top expert in the field – not as a careerist, but as a true aficionado. Together with his wife Carol, the Dupons built a formidable collection of coveted audio components the old-fashioned way: with curiosity, grit, and passion for sound.

Wanted ad listed by Larry Dupon in Audio Magazine, 1990

Over the years, the Dupons acquired exemplary models from industry leaders, including McIntosh, Marantz, ElectroVoice, and Richard Ranger. After Larry's passing, Carol became the steward of the historic collection, which we are now proud to present as part of American Design for the enjoyment of dedicated audiophiles for years to come.