Amp recommendations


Hi all,

I'm fairly new to the hi fi world in general. I was recently drawn to the sound of a display Martin Logan Montis at a Bestbuy store even though I was there for something else. I never knew speakers could sound that good. I have since been doing lots of reading, on this site and elsewhere, and this week purchased a pair of the Expression 13A.

So far this is the only gear I have; just figured  I should start with the speakers. I just have no idea what amp to buy. Much less speaker cables/streaming gear etc. I think every time I heard Martin logan speakers demoed (I've visited several stores) they were hooked up to Mcintosh tube amps. I visited a local high end AV store yesterday and he was pushing real hard for me to get the Mac..particularly the MA7900. They're quite expensive though, are they worth the price premium over other brands? I'd really like to get an Integrated amp because I don't want a lot of gear and it seems like it would keep the over all price down some. I'd like to get something that would sound great for ~$5k give or take, new or used. I don't mind paying a bit more, however, provided the additional money makes a real difference in sound quality.

I must admit I'm not well versed on all the audiophile jargon and have no idea what ohms, impedance, crossover etc mean so it's a bit hard for me to even know what will power my speakers. I don't know if getting a tube or SS amp is better for my speakers. I just want an amp that's low maintenance and sounds great for a reasonable price.

I'd appreciate some recommendations from you guys so at least I know where to start looking. Please let me know if you need any additional info.

Thanks!
Chuck.
devlep
ML's are nice speakers. You are going through the proper route, in my opinion. Thankfully, BestBuys didn't sell you anything else.
McIntosh is also wonderful, but pricey. You can do just as well with more moderately priced equipment. Being a Vandersteen man, I am not the best source of information regarding powering Martin Logan's.
Your speakers are rated 20-500wpc-quite a range. I would opt for something in the 150-250 wpc range.
You could easily find a used McCormack amp and preamp, like the DNA-1/RLD-1 preamp. SMc Audio still upgrades their older models-I'm getting my DNA-1's converted to monoblocks, as we speak.
Perhaps an Ayre AX-5 integrated- though only 125 wpc.
I post these as food for thought. Other will be posting soon, and hopefully have more direct experience with your speakers.
Bob
Hello Chuck,

Martin Logan / McIntosh owner here. FYI, Martin Logan / McIntosh are known to synergize well together (work very well with each other). I have the Vantage speaker paired with an MA6500 Solid State Integrated amp, both a step down or two from the equipment you mention. I have not heard the 13A yet but hope to soon. Personally I like the Martin Logan / McIntosh pairing very much, but do prefer SS or solid state over tubes with the Mc gear. With my gear, this combo provided excellent top to bottom frequency response and with the tone controls on the Mc, you can, as I do, adjust to fit your room quite easily. Some frown on tone controls, but I value them very much. I think many do though they may not step up and say so. At any rate, when the tone controls, or parametric EQ are at the 12 o'clock position, they are out of the circuit.

Martin Logan ESL speakers are known to require a lot of power and amperage. This is because they dip to around 1 Ohm in the upper frequency range and some amps don't like that. So be cautious and make sure whatever amp you consider can provide solid power and will be stable at 1 Ohm as well. 

I had to have some lights replaced on my Mc a number of years ago and so I had another integrated doing duty while the Mc was out for repairs. It was really not contest at all. The Mc was much better being much more open and holographic; the overall sound was just much more pleasing. The stand-in amp if I remember correctly was an Anthem integrated. It drove the speakers, but it did not make music. So, with that, what ever integrated you buy, be sure to get a dealer demo in your house so you can be sure you'll be happy.

Finally, I know you have a budget around $5k. But I'd consider the MA7900 or the MA8000, here's why. I've had my MA6500 for around ten years and I'd really to take a step or two up and this is what probably either one of my suggestions would do for you over something around $5k. You have a really nice pair of speakers. They can only shine as good as the upstream equipment is.

Maybe you could call and talk to Ron Cornelius at McIntosh. He demo's all the gear at all the audio shows and can tell you what you would get for your money. Very nice guy and he'll shoot straight with you too.

Also, go to the the Martin Logan Owners Club website. You may find some information of value there. http://www.martinloganowners.com/forum/

Hope you have fun in your journey.
Congratulations.

There are so many good options at the 5K mark and under.

Here are a couple.

There are some Hegel H360  listed for the low 3K used.

The Lyngdorf TDAI 2170 is very current and multifunctional.
Keep checking Audio Classics website. Currently there’s a couple of Mc. integrateds listed.

http://www.audioclassics.com/
You just spent $15,000 for speakers. You shouldn’t go cheap with the electronics. Pass Labs is a brand you might take a look at!
http://store.acousticsounds.com/d/119195/Pass_Labs-INT-60_60W_Class_AB_Integrated-Integrated_Amplifi...
".....donvito101
137 posts
07-13-2017 7:10am
You just spent $15,000 for speakers. You shouldn’t go cheap with the electronics....."

+1 with emphasis added .

High-end speakers with a  cheap amp and source is a guaranteed recipe for a big disappointment trending toward disaster.

There is an inescapable truism in this crazy hobby: you only get what you pay for. Garbage in = garbage out.

Your speakers fed by cheap inferior strata upstream equipment will only graphically emphasize all the warts and shortcomings inherent. 

In brief, you would not wear cheap brown penny loafers with a tuxedo.

I've also had a ML/McIntosh combo for several years, both much older models, and I agree with the synergy. I have tried a handful of different amps with these speakers and none sounded as good as the Mac combo. I'm not saying you should just buy the Mac but consider it as an option. Pass Labs amps are also very excellent but I wouldn't go for anything less than their XA100.x or X150.x models for your speakers.

@Kalali
The OP wants an integrated amp. What Pass have you owned to make that statement?
Agree with @donvito101 and @akg_ca on pairing your MLs with higher end gear.

If it were me, I would have reversed your spend. That is the 15K or less you spent on the speakers into a higher level front end. And the 5K on the speakers.

But it isn't me, and the OP has specified a 5K budget.

I believe there are certainly many used and even new integrateds, and some with DACs included, that will pair very well with the 13As, for his budget.

If you are open to separates, the latest Benchmark DAC/Pre with their latest AHB2 amp is another one to consider. And you can make this happen NEW, for 5K.

If you really want a Mac Integrated, your best bet is to buy used.
MA7900...
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/solid-state-mcintosh-ma-7900-integrated-amplifier-2017-07-02-ampli...

Check HifiShark for used gear...
https://www.hifishark.com/search?q=mcintosh+integrated+amplifier
Wow, I'm impressed that Best Buy would even carry such a speaker!  As someone who had my trials with synergy, I'd concur that Devlep should stick with what owners have found works best, Macintosh.  

Do owners have any thoughts on speaker cables?  I'm not familiar with Martin Logan, but with Paradigm Signature speakers good cables were beneficial too.
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful inputs, I am leaning strongly towards one of the SS Mcintosh amps at this point. Pass Labs amps do have very very strong reviews but at passing glance do seem pricier than the Macs. Maybe I'll consider upgrading to those or at least auditioning them if things don't work out with the Mac.

What speaker cables do you guys with the ML/Mcintosh combos use? Or what are some notable brands that I can look at?
donvito101, I missed the bit about OP's question about only integrated amps but my brother had his ML Sequel II paired with the Pass Labs XA60.5 monos for a few years and we both agreed the overall sound quality was greatly improved when he traded them in for an X250.5. It just added more "weight " to almost every genre of music we tried, especially at lower listening levels. YMMV.
I agree with the Ayre/Vandersteen recommendation.  
Post removed 
I talked to the folks at Mcintosh and they feel their integrateds would be driving the speakers hard and would likely run hot. They recommend going separates with either the MC452 or MC601. Has this been your experience with ML speakers? I looked at some of their older discontinued models and they all seem to have a wide range of wattage; 20-500/600..have you guys had good results with 200wpc rated amps?

Thanks again.
Post removed 

Yup. For your speakers I wouldn't skimp on electronics (amp, preamp, source components, cables etc) otherwise you will be left disappointed. McIntosh is well known to have good synergy with the ML. Doesn't mean that you should not look into other options. If you want to stick with McIntosh I would highly recommend either the MC452 or the MC 302 stereo power amp with the C47 or the C52 preamp.

Your speakers require a lot of power and are very low impedance. I wouldn't use an integrated amp if I were you. Most ML electrostats speakers require quite a bit of good clean power to do them justice. 

Yeah, it looks like those particular Martins go under 1 ohm at the upper end of the spectrum.  They'll make a budget amp cry.
Given that the 13As have built it power amplifier for the woofers your amp will only be required to drive the panels. With that in mind, even with the low impedance at ~20K Hz, I can't see why a 4 ohm capable 200 wpc amplifier, especially a Mac, couldn't comfortably drive the speakers. Of course either the MC452 or a pair of MC301s would give you much better results but that would put you on a different trajectory which will require a more complicated equipment matching considerations. I have heard the SummitX model driven by an MC452 (direct feed from a Mytek Brooklyn) in a fairly large room and it sounded fantastic.
Perhaps a pair of Zero Auotoformers would help tame the low impedance difficulties? Then you could use just about any amp, maybe even the Mac integrated- though I would call them up and confirm.
B
Hi fi World paired an Icon Audio stereo 30 se with the ML motion esl x. What you guys think of that.  30 w single ended class A.
As far an an integrated....perhaps stretch your budget a bit and look for a used or demo PASS 250 Integrated?  Hard to see how you could improve on this.
Pass is definitely good but in such a big pkg. Does Pass add meat on the bones of the esl?
didn't know Best Buy went that hi....  $10,000 speakers ? you really dove into high-end just to see if you like it in your home... them speakers are power hungry... there's a Coda integrated listed on this site for $4,000... i'm sure you can get it closer to $3,500 if you bargain with them... rated 400wpc... save you some money for some good speaker cables... 
Hi Chuck,
In my opinion, Check out this company,
http://www.rogueaudio.com

Fantastic Build, great dynamics, extremely versatile to tweaks like tube rolling. They compare to equipment 2 to 3 times the price.  -  They showed at NY audio show with Martin Logan in 2015.

On the high end go with the RP 5 or RP 7 preamp matched with the Medusa Hybrid Power amp. Everything you are looking for -  in a one time investment. If that is outside the budget, go for Rp 1 preamp and Hydra Hybrid amp.

Overall I believe you will get better overall performance in separates rather than an integrated package. Every once and awhile you can find a deal on one on Agon.

Stay away from new McIntosh, better to get older, but more maintenance. 

Just an important footnote - how you power your system is very important. keep room in your budget for that.

Best of Luck
Hi Chuck,

Have you considered the Arcam A49? It's their flagship 2ch integrated and features some of the cleanest, most powerful amplification around via their Class G topology, which runs in pure Class A for the first 50 watts of power with A/B power in reserve for a total of 200w at 8ohms and 400w at 4ohms. They are right in the price range you are looking for at $5750 and will drive your Martin Logan's with ease...
Congrats on your excellent new speakers.  If I'm you I'd call Martin Logan to see which amps they'd recommend that drive their speakers well given their fairly uncommon impedance curve.  I'd also read a bunch of ML speaker reviews to see if reviewers found any particularly good synergies with any amps.  This will at least give you a good starting point. 

Since you're relatively new to this I'd strongly encourage you to audition several amps (in home whenever possible) before making any decisions given the substantial outlay you've made on speakers.  Lots of amps will sound very good with your speakers, so don't marry yourself too quickly to McIntosh before you've heard others.  That could be a huge and costly mistake.  Take your time and get it right.  It'll be worth it in the long run. 

Lastly, are you married to an integrated or can you do separates?  Going with separates will open up your options considerably.  If you do go separates then the preamp you choose will become as, if not more, important than the amps.  Best of luck. 

A set of ZEROs will allow most tube amplifiers to drive the MLs quite nicely. This is a good move, as the speakers are very revealing and you will enjoy the extra detail that many tube amps bring to the table (there is a reason that Best Buy showed the ML speakers with Macintosh tube amps). While it might be fun at first, you may find that the typical brightness of many solid state amps on the MLs will get tiring. If you do go solid state, the Pass Labs amps are some of the best out there.

But I suggest you try tubes- you may not want to go back. The ZEROs are so effective with this speaker that our amps work quite nicely with them.
+1 atmasphere.
Do you think the Zero's would allow him to use the integrated Mac's (that sounds a bit racist, doesn't it?).
B
I own ML Ethos speakers and they are teamed with the following components - PS Audio Direct Stream DAC, M700 mono block amplifiers; High Fidelity Cables Reveal RCA interconnects; Audible illusions L3A preamp; and ANTICABLES L5 speaker wires. Good components and interconnects are very important to quality sound. However, I found spending a couple hundred dollars to treat your listening area made a tremendous difference to my listening experience. It is worthwhile to do some reading on room treatments. I have 2" pyramid foam on my front listening wall that improved my system more than any component that I purchased - the foam I purchased was just over $80!!
There is an Accuphase E-470 with phono stage for sale on this site.  It will run circles around the McIntosh Integrated amps.
Once again, thanks everyone. I still haven’t made a purchase but I have gone up on my budget some.

@greginnh I’m not familiar with the brand (which of course isn’t saying much). However, it is rated 180 wpc; will it perform better than the MA8000? I have an offer to purchase a lightly used MA8000 for $6500..and it’s 300 wpc.

@soix You make good points, I’m trying to take my time and do some vetting, but I do wanna start enjoying my speakers. I’ll call ML this week and see what they recommend..

I’ll keep you all posted. Thanks!
The Accuphase will have more than adequate power to drive your speakers.  The MA8000 will always have a better resale value than most other gear in case you get a case of "upgradeitis". 
Do you think the Zero's would allow him to use the integrated Mac's (that sounds a bit racist, doesn't it?).
Yes.