If you want to spend 5K or less I would find a used MC402 or MC352 ussually selling for 4K or 3K respectively. I have heard this pre with the 402 and it sounded great.
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Actually the 402 is just a bigger version of the 352 per Tech support at McIntosh. The only differnces are the LED lighting, metal connectors and 50 watts. The 252 does utilize the dual differential/double balanced circuitry of the 352/402 respectively. McIntosh gave the dual differntial a new name when they came out with the 402.
Without that circuitry the 352/402 willhave a quieter noise floor than the 252. This has all been told to me by Mcintosh Tech support when I was trading my 352 in on the 402. I wanted the LED lighting and got a deal I couldn't pass up.