$7000 preamp vs $700 receiver - Is the difference THAT significant?

Current setup:
Marantz SR5005 (AV Receiver) + Peachtree Amp 500 + BluSound Node 2i + GoldenEar Trition 2+ = Current Setup

I'd like... no, want... no, desire... to add "Blue Meters" to my setup.  McIntosh haunts me.  For dozens of years.

My quandary:
Acquire a McIntosh C52/53, maybe C2600/2700... vs something like a Marantz AV7705 (or AV7706 appears it was just released).  Yes I know I'm comparing brie cheese and cheddar.  I'm more concerned with the notion that I can get "as good" sound out of that Marantz preamp, as I can from those McIntosh units... (ignore the multi-channel notions for the moment)

Is my sonic happiness "that much better served" by a McIntosh $7K unit vs a Marantz $2-3K unit?  How much difference can I expect?  
Day and night better.
I've picked a bunch of $4/lb 4 year cheddar that blows out your brie. Besides I prefer Camembert in France. 
Why not just buy a used Mac for 3K instead of 7K
You have an AVR. Any AVR, does not matter. Could have one ten times the cost. Does not matter. Compare it to any good integrated amp. Don't have to go to separates. Not even. Don't have to go to the very best integrateds either. Throw a dart, pick one, any one. Even if it costs less than your AVR. Won't matter. Will be head and shoulders better.  

This is not just talk. I looked and looked and looked trying to find a decent receiver. There are none. Every one I brought home was embarrassed by even a decades old Kenwood solid state integrated. Embarrassed. Like my wife said, you are not paying more money for worse sound. My wife. Wasted a year of my life looking for a good receiver. Give it up. There are none.

You ask about separates. Are they worth the money? Not really. Not unless you have lots and lots of money. When you start looking at separates you can indeed go much further that way. But only if you are willing to match them up with equally expensive and high quality interconnects and power cords. So what happens is you reach a higher level than with an integrated, but spend 3 to 5 times the money to get only a little bit better. 

I know because I tried this way too. Fortunately did not waste anywhere near the time and money I did on receivers. Guess you could say I learned from experience.

As you can learn from mine. Or not. Your call. Choose wisely.
@tlinkie yes, I'm acutely aware of the used market.  I just wanted to have the discussion about an (in my world) "expensive" preamp, vs a (in my world) "inexpensive" AVR playing the role of preamp.

@millercarbon You are talking about the path that I intend to walk in the near future.  A Mac preamp, then followed by a Mac amp, etc... But the question here is: "Is that Mac Preamp going to significantly improve my world today, over that AVR (playing the role of a preamp with that Peachtree)"

@fuzztone I live in Wisconsin, USA.  We love our aged cheddar.

@ebm That simple eh?
It will be a lot better. But since you're talking about buying new, why not take home the Mc on trial from a dealer and hear for yourself?
@mike_in_nc I'm actually looking at some of the used listings here, rather than a brand new unit.  Oddly enough, my local dealer does not seem to want to "let me" even drift toward the gear.  I'm sure if I pressured him enough, he'd relent and sell me a unit. However, I get the impression that he really wants to keep me away from the brand/gear... having sold me the Peachtree 500, and nudging me toward a new dedicated Marantz AV Preamp like a 7705.

When I approached him last December for "upgrades", and mentioned Mcintosh, he almost audibly scoffed at my request.

It had/has me second guessing my goals and upgrade path.
45 year ago Marantz had some nice Valve gear, that was top of the line.

Apples and Oranges, now.. Mac is still one of the best.. Marantz is not.

Sound wise and service, just can’t beat, Mcintosh. 21 pieces later. I still look, to add another, little gem every now and then.

Some guys like collecting stamps, me I like Mac...:-)

I still have two Marantz pieces. A Thirty Three, and a 3300 pre amp.

Buy the Mac, be happy, you will be...

Happy hunting in any case.


I think on a certain level here we are talking philosophy.

IMHO there’s no comparison between a receiver and a good "separates" setup. The difference in performance should be easy to perceive. Whether that difference is worth it to you is a different question. No one can answer that question for you. It’s a personal thing. And probably - because it sounds like you’re married - something your wife will have an opinion on.

I heartily encourage you to buy the gear you want. It sounds like you have a nagging suspicion that it’s going to sound better. And it will! and if you get that Mac gear you’ll have those cool blue meters to look at! Ignore those who denigrate Mac gear. Yes, there are alternatives out there worthy of consideration. Yes, Mac gear is expensive. No, I’ve never owned any. But heck, it looks gorgeous and oozes style.

If you buy used you can experiment, try it out, see what you think. The journey should be fun. Savor the journey. Don’t be in a hurry. But you’re only going to get one journey through this earthly life. If you can afford it, do it. It’s gonna kick ass and you’re going to be grinning ear to ear and laughing like a madman.
I'd approach the question this way:

Why not something in between? 

If you're curious about the increase of quality from $700 to $7000, you'd probably be well served by wondering about the increase of quality from $4000 to $7000.

I think I get that you're really just alliterating with the 7's, but it's really worth wondering what happens with the slope of the quality curve up above, say, $3k to $4k.
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Instead of looking at used McIntosh gear here, check out Audio Classics.   Any used McIntosh component they sell has been gone over and checked out to be sure it works properly and makes the specs.  You will also get a McIntosh shipping container.  Do NOT purchase a used McIntosh without the factory packaging.  If it doesn’t have the factory packaging, pass it by.   No mater how much bubble wrap is used, there is a 99.9% chance the unit will arrive damaged.  Factory packaging is the key.  

I went from a Rogue Cronus Magnum tube integrated to a Parasound Halo integrated to a McIntosh integrated in system 2.  The McIntosh sounds so much better in every regard.  I purchased used from AC, have owned for a little over 3 years and it has never failed me.  I listen to it every day.  System 1 has a McIntosh C2500 preamp and MC302 amp.  I love this system and am listening to it now.  I am hooked on McIntosh.  
I doubt you would notice any difference. Since you have always wanted a McIntosh I’m sure it would be lightyears better in a sighted listening test but in a blind one I doubt you could tell one from the other. So get the McIntosh and fulfill your blue meter dream or get the pre processor that integrates with your HT and quit worrying about it. Or get a McIntosh pre processor. 
@djones51 Yes... this is the "thing" that I'm afraid of.  While I have no doubt that I'll enjoy it (and the future updates to my stack), it's that little voice that is going: "Are you REALLY gonna notice a $5K difference in sound?"

@hilde45 I've always been a proponent of "buy it once", "don't go in half-way".  And I kinda made that compromise with the outboard Amp I added last year... knowing that if I got to a point, it was going to be pushed to the corner, in favor of a "pretty blue" meter'd piece of metal.

@markusthenaimnut Exactly my mentality.  I just wanted to hear some folks go: "Yeah, there is SOME audible difference..."  And thusly, I'm truly in no hurry.  The first bump in that Amp500 was eye-opening, and the speaker upgrade (with some new cables) really gave me a hunger.  I'm gonna be cooped up here in the winter with very little else to do... may as well make these upgrades.  :)
@rabbottmke - too bad you have a dealer who's a jerk. One good thing about buying a used McIntosh -- If in good condition, they hold their value very well. So you'd be able to resell without getting killed. Good luck making the decision!

to be totally blunt... how much difference you hear will be a function of how good/experienced your listening skills are

your system has the ability to resolve the difference - the peachtree is the next sq bottleneck i would say ...to unleashing your system’s full potential (and of course, your room... but we are talking gear here)

in standard, experienced audiophile circles we would say the sound quality improvement would be quite substantial... whether you will perceive it as such is an open question

but as others have rightfully said - 700 to 7000 is really not the right quantum... you will get serious sq improvement with a good 2 channel preamp for 1500-2000 - above that you are buying the mac w meters cuz that is what you are drooling over
Don't sell that Peachtree Amp 500 short. It is fantastic with the newest Ice Edge AS1200 cards. Going to a better preamp will let that amp sing!
@jjss49 and @rodman99999 so this is what my DEALER is essentially trying to tell me. "Don’t waste your money on a Mac, get a $2000 AVP like the Marantz AV7705". He knows I’m lusting over the blue glow, and is trying (I think) to keep me from wasting money.

So there are three camps here.
1) Those that say the difference is significant, but your ears probably suck so don’t bother.
2) Those that say the difference is not much, but you’ll love the blue anyway.
3) Those that say "split the difference" and do what your dealer is trying to get you to do, by staying away from blue, and only kicking out the AVR for a modest price difference in a new dedicated AVP.

Thanks for the feedback folks. Lots to chew on!
I’d look at the big picture. If you can set your speakers up properly that’s a big plus.  If you have one in a corner and another in a hallway, you might see tonal differences but don’t expect miracles.  If you have great setup and amp you can hear changes in cables.  Do it methodically.  Foundation up.  I’d go with the McIntosh it’s a solid piece- just keep in mind that lots of people collect McIntosh for all kinds of reasons (not only sonics) so that can skew the price to performance ratio. 

So there are three camps here.
1) Those that say the difference is significant, but your ears probably suck so don’t bother.

pls don’t misread or misinterpret what we are saying on the above - we don’t know you, your system, your room, your hearing

the SQ upgrade will be there if you upgrade to a high quality 2 channel preamp from the AVR as you are considering... we simply don’t know whether ’your ears suck’ as you say - so we can’t promise you will hear it -- but we are confident to say, given a decent room and setup, with your gear, the improvement will be there to be heard...

good luck
What jjss49 said, +1 (again/exactly)     
Let’s be real. You can do better than Mac, much better. But if that’s where you have set your bar, then go for it. The Mac will be much better than what you have now and better than what your dealer is trying to dump on you. If you don’t believe it, have him lend you that Marantz AVP and the Mac for a weekend. Listen to each in your system for a day and then make up your own mind.
Depends on the room acoustics and listening environment honestly.  If you are in a crappy room... it’s not worth the price of admission.
You might want to try an Anthem STR Preamp and then team that up with either the STR power amp or the P2 power amp, or just get the Anthem STR integrated amp.I currently have 2 of the P2 amps in 2 different systems and these things are built to last and can drive any speaker that you can buy no matter how much or how little they cost, or how low the ohms drop they will play it down to 1 ohm without shutting down and they do not get hot just barely warm.
any avr unit sounds like crap for 2 channel audio. There are some very good integrated amps out there too, some integrated amps have built in dacs/phono preamps/streaming services built in. If you want to save money, get an integrated amp. If you want the best sound for each component, go with separates. No built in dac in an integrated amp will sound anywhere close to a separate dac, not even from the same vendor. Same goes for phono preamp, the preamp itself, and the amp. An integrated amp is a compromise of components. I have owned many integrated amps for the last 20+ years and always go back to separates for the best sound. It will cost more money so you have to determine if its worth it.


The Blue meter people also make some integrated amps that might interest you.
For instance, a new the MA5300 is $5500.  And of course there are several models of used Mc’s out there.

All the best.

I have the same question.  I currently stream Tidal from Apple TV into an AVR via HDMI using pre-out into PS Audio S300.  I understand that the DAC in the AVR let’s the side down.  But wouldn’t using the DAC in the Bluesound eliminate that trouble. 
p05129136 posts10-23-2020 10:14pm"any avr unit sounds like crap for 2 channel audio.".
Not all. My Classe SSP-800 has an analog pass through which does not apply its DAC to the 2 channel analog signal. So the signal remains unprocessed straight through to my Jeff Rowland amps.
scottscottsdale16 posts10-23-2020 10:29pm"I have the same question.  I currently stream Tidal from Apple TV into an AVR via HDMI using pre-out into PS Audio S300.  I understand that the DAC in the AVR let’s the side down.  But wouldn’t using the DAC in the Bluesound eliminate that trouble. "
Does your AVR have a good DAC? Better than the Bluesound? If so, does your DAC accept SPDIF connection into a digital input?

I ask because I used to use the same hook up as you. TIDAL through a Chromecast in HDMI port. But now I use my Android w/ UAPP and an OTG cable to a USB to SPDIF converter(Nobsound) and use a Straight Wire 75 ohm digital cable to connect it to my digital SPDIF input. My Classe's DAC supports 24/192 and I can get the first MQA unfolding(don't want/need the second unfolding) because I bought a Bit Perfect add on app through UAPP. A VERY inexpensive way to get TIDAL MQA.
@scottscottsdale and @vinylshadow The AVR does NOT have a good DAC, as I understand it.  The Bluesound has a much more evolved DAC, so I'm running unbalanced line out (relying on the Bluesound DAC) with some "TIMBRE" series Kimber interconnects.

I also have an AppleTV4K, and Tidal sounds like garbage thru that source device.  I don't waste my time there.  
You said: ignore the multichannel but you have an AVR in there. What exactly is its function?
The AVR is a poor source and a poor preamp / amp. You don’t even have the top of the line which is somewhat better. You also have a underwhelming source (Bluesound). 
To hit both on the head you should indeed look for a multichannel pre/pro. The 8805 would be a good place to start. But you are stuck with Audyssey. Better still - a NAD M17. You draw two benefits from the NAD: you stay in the Bluesound ecosystem (V2 comes with a pretty decent streamer so you can forget about the separate box) and you get Dirac. You will further benefit from the balanced outputs, if your stereo supports them. 
The NAD will give you a flavour of what good stereo sounds like. You’re not quite there yet but will get you a bit closer. 
And why do you need Tidal MQA? I have a pretty decent DAC. And I prefer Qobuz for sound quality. 
Yes it is... But I would not buy McIntosh. There are better preamplifiers on the market in 7.000$ price tag. You may want to check Ear Yoshino 912 or Atma Sphere MP-3.
This thread has probably long since been exhausted...but has anyone here spoken about receivers made by Outlaw Audio? Curious how those might compare to the others mentioned. I’ve heard nothing but great things in terms of SQ.
I appreciate everyone’s input. It’s great to get such a wide swath of opinion, and that's exactly what I expected.

This question/exercise was to help me with the "premium vs consumer" argument, leaving brands and all else aside.

Granted my equation will have some external influences (Love those blue meters) (Have an uncle that has had blue meters since the 70’s) etc... but hearing that "you will notice a difference", is what I was hoping to resolve here.

Not everyone’s system is perfect. Not everyone’s listening environment is perfect. But ceteris paribus, this is a good improvement to make.

Thanks all!
I'm late to the party but I want to amplify a point made above. Your desire for Macintosh gear is a complex issue. Yes, you want to make sure that you will get an improvement in sound but it's obvious that you have an emotional connection with Mac gear.

My advise is to go ahead with the Mac upgrade path - either used or new - and don't look back. Every time you listen to your system you will have a good feeling. It will not only sound better, it will absolutely improve your enjoyment of music

High end brands appeal to us in a variety of way We buy our gear for emotional reasons whether we admit it or not. A particular brand often connects with our values of beauty, value, and utility and just seems to satisfy an inner need.

If you go down a different path you will continue to lust after a Mac setup and you will always regret not following your heart.

you have gotten plenty of input here...

i would only add one more thing - you said this:

The AVR does NOT have a good DAC, as I understand it. The Bluesound has a much more evolved DAC, so I’m running unbalanced line out (relying on the Bluesound DAC) with some "TIMBRE" series Kimber interconnects.

your node 2i internal dac may be more evolved than the one in the marantz avr but as dacs go, that internal node 2i dac is not very good -- the sound is tuned to be innocuous and smooth (grey sounding) at the expense of clarity (dynamics/prat, resolution/extension, air) - so if sound quality improvement is your only priority, you should get a $1500-2000 proper hifi linestage and a $700-1000 outboard dac, and use the node 2i to feed the dac a bitstream


I wanted to suggest something else from the likes of Pass Labs, Luxman, Accuphase etc. other than Mcintosh but after reading this remark of yours

"I’d like... no, want... no, desire... to add "Blue Meters" to my setup. McIntosh haunts me. For dozens of years."

I think you better go ahead and get that dream of yours since it has been haunting you for dozens of years. Life is short, just get what you desire if it is within your financial capabilities and enjoy the finer luxuries of life. As others have aptly advised, it is true that there will be a difference. Other aspects such as matching of amp to speakers and placement of speakers in the room will be important as well.
Just to add, if the sound quality of the Mcintosh doesn't wow you too much, the high build quality will likely do. You will then realize you are getting your money's worth.

McIntosh makes really nice American gear. They use high quality components that make sense, and can be sourced around the world if needed. They’re not designed by some yahoo that will smolt exotic metal that nobody will be able to figure it out when he dies (God bless these guys). McIntosh amps stand the test of time as legacy pieces in high end market.
Perhaps if you provide some more specific information about listening preferences @stereo5 might be able to help with a more specific suggestion. He’s a knowledgeable McIntosh guy and is easy to talk to.
Just curious.  The OP is interested in McIntosh.  At one time this manufacturer was making AVRs.  At the same time they were making Integrated Amps.  Now, there is a tremendous prejudice by some posters here against AVRs, the statement being that they are inherently poor sounding compared to separates.  Now shouldn’t the Mac AVR just sound like the Mac Integrated with a Tuner added under the bonnet?  Does adding such a tuner section inherently degrade something from being “high end” into transforming into crap?  And if so, why?
For some hobbyists, sound quality is not always the  highest ideal; they must have the visual experience to be satisfied. To pursue the best sound regardless of peripheral features, one must be ready to accept different appearance of equipment than preferred. 

So much has been made in this community about "snake oil," in regard to cables, and yet the pre/amplification sector puts completely unnecessary meters on gear as though it's important. It's a sales gimmick, a nice thing to look at and feel as though the product is performing oh, so fantastically. It works, as amps with meters sell well. 

I have found no correlation between a product having any particular meter and it's having superior sound quality. The audiophile needs to be sensible enough to accept that they may actually be purchasing a lesser performing component in favor of the appearance. A reputation for attractiveness does little to make a component actually perform in a superior fashion. 

Now, if that discussion does nothing to make you pause and consider, then stop the banter and go buy it. Just beware, the blue meters do nothing to make it a better or worse amp. They are eye candy to sell them. If you can't live without a sense of importance associated with the meters, then buy it - and hope you can get the sound you want out of it. 
@douglas_schroeder  I keep pushing away from the thread, and the thread keeps drawing me back.  :)

I am well aware of the various components that comprise "the experience".  And I have experienced upgrades in my system (speaker cable upgrades) that have provided (in my view), dumbfounding improvements in SQ.  

In this pursuit, I know that the "Blue Meters" do not add to SQ.  But they CERTAINLY add to the visceral facet to this complex landmine of a topic.

I've been masking much of my experience in audio gear, as well as much of my bias... (having been an audio sales guy back in the late 90's)... insofar as to elicit the broad range of opinions that I expected, and was presented with.  I'm "not current", and "things change" in the industry.

All of this has both confirmed that while "everything changes", it all stays the same.  To that end, I am pushing forward with a "Blue Meter" preamp, as I know deep down, that anything else will not leave me with the "warm fuzzy" that nostalgia, and my gut, desire.

I'm sure I'll be happy with what shows up.  And desire some more upgrades in the future.

Isn't that what this HOBBY is all about?

yes what is important is to do what makes you happy

you got all kinds of points of view

now do what you want so you're happy

nothing else matters
“Nothing Else Matters”. Why does Qobuz have loads of  Metallica but Tidal has zero?  Sucks big time.
To answer you question.,....YES...big difference.
Theory of Relativity at its best.
Took my bil into one of our stores years ago so he could hear what a 100K system sounded like. Mostly ARC stuff thru big Wilsons..
He sheepishly turned to me and said "It sounds like my Bose but not quite as good."
Yes, big difference.  You could go from a $700 avr to a $700 preamp and there’d be a big difference
OP, get a Mac tube pre-amp. You want blue meters, so get the blue meters. It will be a huge sonic upgrade for you and you'll have a nice piece of gear, maybe for the rest of your life. The Peachtree amp is adequate from what I read but if it was me, I might hide that amp on the bottom shelf. You will not be disappointed.