MC402 because you already have a McIntosh preamp. The MC402 will have a better resale value. The GAS company is out of business, so no warranty repairs.
I can’t tell you how the Ampzilla will compare to the McIntosh amp, but they are very good. I have owned many amps in that price range and the Ampzilla is one of the best. It’s nice that they are cool running and can deliver the amount of power they do without having to have a 20 amp outlet. They provide great detail and dynamics. I think they will tick the boxes for the things you mentioned you like, except maybe the "airy" high. I’m not sure I would describe it that way. I think the treble response is pretty neutral. To me, "airy" means something artificial added to the sound, but adjectives can be misinterpreted.
There is a lot of owner feedback that you can find with a search. I don’t remember reading anything negative about them before I bought mine.
The McIntosh for looks, the Ampzilla for sonics. McIntosh has gone down in quality
control as well as quality in the last 4-5 years sadly , when a foreign company bought them ,the true Audiophiles were gone that being said there is a lot inside that can be modded for a Substantial increase in fidelity if you plan on keeping them , this too includes the preamplifier , this too applies to most electronics
having owned a Audio store. The cost of the item from build to packaging is roughly around 25% of its cost a $6kamp $1500 in total to build the rest R&D overhead and markup. That is why I mod or have assistance ,with speakers I transform the heart of the speakers and a weak point in most speakers the Xovers.
Back in the Days of Yore (75-79) the original GAS Ampzilla ruled the High End world. Harry Pearson of TAS praised it, calling it "surgically romantic"!!!! It's sibling the Son of Ampzilla garnered more praise! And the Thaedra preamp had the world's first high-gain phono stage capable of handling a lomc cartridge with minimal noise. These products elevated James Bongiorno (SAE, SWTP, Dynaco) to audio designer stardom. Sad to say that James B. is no longer with us. His legacy continues on with the products from SST.
@jasonbourne52 That is a good piece of history. My only concern is: since Jame is gone, the company might stop innovating. It will begin to fall behind its competitor (for example: Mcintosh).
I am current having appointments for both Mc402 and Ampzilla 2000. I have until this Friday to cancel one of them!
@jasonbourne52 No way in hell that I will sell the Mc Preamp. In my opinion, Mc makes some very good preamp. I compared it with a lot of other preamps and always come back to the Mc preamp.
I cannot say the same with Mc power amp though.
I have been in A/V retail for 30 years. I have had the pleasure of facility tours of 2 major high end electronic manufactures. The most important take away from both tours is that their products are designed to work and sound their best in a complete system. Mix and match at your own risk. In my experience, it leads to frustration and the endless cycle of upgrades.
A subtle nuance to your comment above regarding your Mac preamp. I’ve owned a few Mac preamps through the years. They are feature rich, inoffensive, reliable and trustworthy. They commit no major sins, however, yours interfaced well with Pass Labs NOT because the Mac preamp is universally versatile but because Pass Labs amplification is quite forgiving in that regard.
There are fans and foes of every type of gear manufactured; past, present and future. Mac is a solid business, Ampzilla’s business strength is for you to decide. Formerly bankrupt companies (or those for whom that might be a fallback plan) are difficult to value. I recognize I keep it pretty simple for my amplification choices and I’ve owned alot of great gear. I prefer non-gimicky reliable and beautiful sounding amplification. I don’t have any qualms admitting that I prefer what I prefer and that usually involves vacuum tubes. Horses for courses right?
Have you considered another Pass Labs amp? I believe the Pass Labs amps are reasonably agnostic regarding preamps...which wasn’t an accident but in fact a design goal. My 2 cents on the topic with a 2 cent discount.
Just to add a bit more info. I built the original GAS Ampzilla from kit in 1975, after meeting Jim Bongiorno, Jon Dahlquist, and Saul Marantz at the Dahlquist room (driven by an Ampzilla) at an Audio show in DC. I also owned a GAS Ampzilla II…
Fast forward to 2013 or 2014, I was looking to rebuild my original Ampzilla. I cold called Jim’s company on a Sunday afternoon to leave a call-back message about rebuilding the amp, and Jim answered himself. We talked for 2 hours about amplifier design, with him telling me about his strategy for the new Son of Ampzilla II he was designing for his new joint company Spread Spectrum Technologies (SST). Mr. Bongiorno died perhaps 3 months after our conversation, but I never forgot his kindness. A year ago I had the opportunity to buy a used SST Son of Ampzilla II from the Music Room, just after Underwood Wally no longer sold them (Wally is another super-nice guy who spent a lot of time with me).
I am hugely impressed with the sound of this amplifier. SST is made by Wyrd for Sound as I understand it, and thus provide repair. I am familiar with the house sound of Mac, and some of this sound is due to the use of autoformers in the output. But the Son of Ampzilla II is truly a giant killer, and I would think that the monoblock Ampzilla 2000 II’s to be even better!
@ghasley I actually seriously considering a new Pass Labs amp. My borrowed x150.5 sound great with my Mcintosh C1100 preamp (even better than the MC352 itself).
I am exploring the option of having a new x250.8 as my next amp.
While I understand your affinity for your Mac preamp, I wonder if you have tried an ARC preamp IN YOUR ROOM. It may not be for you, but if you have not tried one, I would give it a shot. Try the newer ones or the older ones--be sure you stick to the tube versions.
Whatever you decide, enjoy the music!
@richopp I tried at least three different models of ARC preamp. Those ARC tend to have more resolution than the Mc Preamp, but always sounds thin and bass-shied ... Overall, ARC is more hi-fi than Mc, but will drive me out of the room sooner or later due to boredom.
@viethluu Got it. I don't know your speakers or source gear very well, so not sure why the ARC stuff performed that way, but the good news is that YOU are happy with what you have.
In my shop, back in the day, we tried all the Mac stuff over the years, and while it was certainly built well, it did not perform as transparently on our basic system, which consisted of ARC components driving Magnepan products.
Anyway, this is why we sold 45 different brands of gear. Customers have to love what they buy, and we did our best to make sure they were happy!