Amps and integrateds w/ similar sonic sig to MC275

Hi folks,

I've been out of the audio realm for a while, but I now want to put together a small system with good performance. I have had a lot of experience listening and owning some good gear, so I am not a beginner.

As far as amps goes, I've owned SS (Pass Labs) and tubes (McIntosh), and in my last nice system I had the MC275 (production model after the Gow version, but before the version with the modern speaker terminals) running. I probably never should have sold it... I really enjoyed the sound; engaging and lively, with some base slam when needed. Overall, it was all the amp I needed, and probably could be again, but I'll need to buy another one.

Since I do need to buy an amp, I feel I should do a reasonable search before I get the MC275 again... I like to know that I have evaluated all my reasonable options...

The first question is what amps would you recommend as a sonic twin to the MC275?

Because I was thinking a small system, I was thinking possibly of an integrated instead. Can anyone recommend any integrated amps that have a similar sonic signature to the MC275? I will probably be buying used, and probably don't want to go over the price of an MC275 used unless there is a real compelling reason (at that point, I'd probably go for the MC275 again).

I don't have a speaker selected yet, but will be looking at the Totems, Sonus Faber, and similar. Not big floorstanders, but probably not the bookshelf versions.

Thanks. If I need to provide any more information, let me know...

The McIntosh MA 2275 might be the obvious answer, no?
Mcintosh's house sound is very consistant through its range, and has been consistant throughout the years IMO. When you climb up the McIntosh ladder, you get more of everything, rather than a change. A lot of companies are like that though.

I'm not saying every and any Mac will fit your needs. What I'm saying is that look into Mac stuff within your budget. It's not like an MA6900 integrated is going to sound radically different than an MA2275 or your old amps. Their will be differences, but if you're a Mac fan, you'll most likely be able to live with anything they've made.

In your shoes, I'd look at speakers first, determine if you need solid state or can use tubes, then determine if you want/need an integrated or seperates. If you're staying with Mac, there's not a whole lot of compromise between these IMO.
I agree with Kbarkamian. Start with speaker selection first. That will determine what amp you will need (SS bruiser vs. moderately powered tube unit) and then chose accordingly within the Macintosh line.
Thanks for the responses. I agree that I will probably start with the speaker, but some preliminary research on the am makes a lot of sense to me as well. I'm not buying tomorrow...

I have to say that I'm not ha big fan of the McIntosh house sound in their SS gear. I much prefer the MC275 over any of the SS amps I have heard from them, so I won't be going there if I want or need SS. I'll probably go with Pass Labs at that point.

Back to tubes, is it fair to say that at least some of the sound from the MC275 is a result of the KT88's? If I consider KT88 amps from other companies, is there a likelihood that there will be a sonic similarity, or is it likely that the circuit topology of the amps plays a greater role in the sound than the power tubes?

I've owned both the MC 275 MKV and the MA2275. They do not sound the same. The MC 275MKV is superior. Suggest you bite the bullet, do it right the first time and just buy another MC 275. I paired it with an Aesthetix Calypso with NOS tubes... a very nice pairing and highly recommended.

As far as KT88's, I used both the stock tubes and Golden Lion re-issues. I preferred the Gold Lion's, but the stock chinese KT88's sounded good too. I think the main focus should be on rolling NOS signal tubes. I used both Mullard CV4004's & Telefunken's in the 12AX7 slot & Sylvania gold label 12AT7's.

Thanks for the thoughts... I am inclined to agree with you on that approach. I was hoping for a short list of amps that I should consider as alternates, but so far that is not forthcoming.

When I was at RMAF, I saw that Totem was driving some of their speakers with the Rogers integrated amp. Now, I feel it's all but impossible to compare things like that is a show like RMAF, but clearly, Totem felt good enough about the amp to mate it with their speakers.

So that is one product I had in mind, but it may well be impossible to try it out because of the lack of dealers.
Have you considered the Cayin Audio A-88T integrated amplifier? The reviews in Stereophile and The Abso!ute Sound were positive and it's been favorably compared to the MC275.

Here's a link to further information:

I have no affiliation with either Cayin or Acoustic Sounds.

Good luck in your search.
VAC makes some awesome sounding KT88 based amps.
Hi Joe,

I've heard some Cayin, but not that particular one. It is one that I was thinking might be a viable candidate, though.

Maineack, the VAC gear I've listened to sounds good, but I've only had a little exposure to them (RMAF this fall). I need to do some research on them for sure.

I had a chance to listen carefully to the new Totem Earth and Fire speakers...

...and also the Forest speakers and a few other models. I'm very impressed with what they are doing in the new Element series, and will probably be getting one of those, most likely the Fire.

The specs I have seen show 8 ohms impedance and 88 db/w for both models, so because of that I don't expect either to be terribly difficult to drive.

So let's suppose that I will get one of these two speakers, I'm looking for recommendations.


" is it fair to say that at least some of the sound from the MC275 is a result of the KT88's? If I consider KT88 amps from other companies, is there a likelihood that there will be a sonic similarity, or is it likely that the circuit topology of the amps plays a greater role in the sound than the power tubes?"

The circuit is the thing, same tube can sound incredibly different depending on the circuit. I would absolutely not assume that another KT88 amps will sound like the MAC on the basis of the tube being used. Does not work that way in my experience.
If you settle on SS, the Pass integrated, in the form of the int-30 is the obvious way for you to go. Plenty of power, being nearly 3x the rated 30x2, by the time it reaches redline. This will drive any speaker you are currently considering, including the Totems. While 88db / 8ohm would seem to indicate a fairly easy load, the final measure would be phase angle. That is, how reactive a load the speaker really is.
I will second the notion that the XA.5 based Pass amps and integrated are among the finest SS amps made and the one that most tube lovers would have the easiest time living with - it does seem that Pass amps, at least the Class A amps are very conservatively rated in the effective power output - the 30 watt amp was way more than enough power to drive my 89db Merlins as loud and dynamic as I would ever want to listen to them.
Thanks you two...

I first got an Aleph 3 years ago before it was declared a 'giant killer' because I loved the sound (the most tube-like that I had heard from a SS amp). I added an X-150 in another system and still was very pleased...

Lost most of that in a divorce, along with my Hales Concept 3's, Sonic Frontiers pre, and EAD transport and DAC (the wife liked audio as well...), ugh.

Pass Labs is certainly where I would consider if I don't go the tubes route.

If you loved the Aleph, you really appreciate the improved bass performance you'll get with XAs, especially with "difficult" speaker loads - first rate gear, but not tubes:)

No, they aren't but they were the nicest I sounding SS amps I could afford at the time!

The Pass gear is very fine, but I do prefer the sound of a good tube amplifier.

I'll have to do some listening of the Pass gear if there is a dealer nearby.

Do you have a recommendation for a tube amplifier I should consider?

Music Reference RM200 - it was actually reviewed in December's Stereophile by Fremer I think. I've owned the RM9 Special Edition and use the RM10 MKII in the summer months. Have not heard the RM200s in my system but can't imagine Modjeski creating anything but a great sounding amp - and I expect it can handle difficult loads (for a tube amp). I would also consider anything with appropriate power from Quicksilver (bot they only come as mono blocks). Both US made, point-to-point wiring, and very reliable.
I think for the money, it will be hard to beat the mc275