Best Amp for McIntosh sys.- MC252, MC402, or MC501

I am upgrading a system that I have for about 40 yrs. Recently purchased a MCD301 sacd/cd player, MR85 tuner, and Paradigm Studio 100 series IV speakers. Still have C26 pre-amp and MC2505 amp (both recently serviced by MAC). I am happy with the sound but am afraid the days of shipping the amp back and forth for service are limited. The spks are rated "Suitable amp power range 15-350 watts" and "Amplifiers that exceed-power range are recommended". I don't intend to make another amp upgrade and am leaning toward the 501.

From the 252 on up, to the 602, on the Paradigm 100's each level up surpassed the former. The 602 sounding the best... IMO.

Personally, I could have lived pretty eaisly with the 402... on the 100's. Primarily due to the expense of the speakers. I'd not likely go with the 500 mono's either, again, due to the relationship of amp cost to speaker cost... BUT... if it's all about sound and there is enough $$$ in the till... with having the speakers already on hand and not wanting to exchange them out again, the 402 or larger Mac amps would definitely be worth checking out.

I preffered the 602 over the 500's, myself on those speakers.. Additionally I liked the large Mc floor standers over the Paradigms too with the MC602 even better. L360's I think.

Having more power on tap is not a bad thing more often than not... so there's that too.

Good luck..
I totally agree with Jim. The 252 would work. The 402 would be great and more than enough power. The 602 would be like the 402, but even more. The 501, in my view, would be too much money spent on amps for those speakers,

I would add a question for Golf: do you envision yourself changing speakers in the not-so-distant future? If so, might want to think about which speaker + amp combo you will be shooting for. This combo is arguably the most important part of the system, so better thought of together.

Sorry to complicate things for you!
Go with the MC501 monoblocks. An entirely different level over the 2 channel amps. Much better seperation, imaging, and dynamics.


As a mono block devotee I usually would agree with their use, BUT in this case having heard the 500's on the 100's, the sound was simply too tipped up and edgy when the volume was raised.

There are distinct diffs in the sound between the 402 & 602, apart from the obvious better control the bigger amp provides, there was more weight in the tones and voices were more immediate.

I came very close to buying the 602 back then for my BWs. In the end however given $$$, and again, I could have lived very well with that 402. That and the fact the 602 was about my limit for amp hoisting and shifting about... it's well over 140 lbs as I recall... so there's that too.

The 402 is absolutely a very good amp. No question. At this point it's more a matter of degrees now than distinct night and day desparities.

the notes above regarding a possible forthcoming speaker move up should now be addressed and either amp, 402; 602; or monos as well as expense ought be given due consideration before diving on into one of these solutions.
Of the 2) 2 channel amps listed I would go with the 402. I have one and love it. I had a 352 and really didn't expect much when i bought it I just wanted to get away from the changing of the bulbs. But the 402 is a newer design than the 252 and has a few differences that add to a better sounding amp. One is the newer design power supply, to which accedit the better sound over the 352 I had. And second is the "quad balanced" circuitry also referred to as "dual differntial" in earlier Mc amps. This lowers the noise floor of the amp.
Thanks to everyone for your comments, they were very helpful. In response to Lewinskih01, I might use the Paradigms as surrounds at later date. My thought was to get a C45 or a simullar MAC replacement for future expansion.
I had the MC252 and now have a pair of MC501's. My speakers are Sonus Faber Cremona 3 way floor standing speakers which are very efficient, 91 db at 1 watt. The first thing I noticed even before the 501's were broken in was that the sound stage had more 3 dimensional separation and much more bass. Where the MC252 had terrific center imaging for vocals it did not erase the fact that I was listening to sound coming from a speaker. With the 501's I could look straight at the speakers and yet the sound seemed like the music was coming from everwhere but the box, a very freaky feeling. When listening to music with wide swings in dynamic range, Flim and B B's for example the sudden bursts are effortless for the 501's. With more complex classical or rock music the 501's display a musical canvas where every instrument and vocal has its point on the sound stage. I can't imagine getting rid of mine for a very long time. You can buy MC501's on the used market for $1000 more than the MC402 all day and be able to resell them for what you paid. While the MC402 are a nice amp. to me they sound more like the MC252 then the MC501's.
I would go with the 402 and spend the money saved on other things in audio system for other improvements maybe. The 402 is a very musical amp and more than enough for your system.
I think the 501s are a step up from the 402 although the 402 is a wonderful amp. I think the primary consideration here is the price difference. I was going to get the 402 but found the 501s on demo for less than the 402 and could not be happier with the amps. Like Entdoc, I think there is a significant difference in soundstage. I really recommend the 501s and think they are the kind of amps you would hold onto for a long time, even when you decide to change speakers. As for the C45, I'm not a bog fan and think the 501s run a lot better with the C2300. That said, I might look at a non-Mac preamp altogether.
If you love mac and look for a ss amp, go with mc501's. They are powerful enough with sweet and warm but clear sound. I had mc352, mc402 and now stop at mc501's.
Another vote for 501's - amps you will most likely keep for many years. 402's are great amps but the 501's are a big step up, they were in my system. They were more effortless as mentioned above several times on my Thiels, a rather difficult load.
If affordable to you, you'll want to choose from the McIntosh amps that have the quad-differential circuit. In power amps, that's MC402 and up through the top of the line. Nothing wrong with the MC252, but it's not quad-differential and not quite in the same league. The difference is quite noticeable, IMO.

Once you decide to choose from the quad-diff range, then the improvements get more subtle. Generally 501s are worth the increased cost over a 402, but a 602 is probably the performance-per-dollar peak. The big jump is going to the MC1201 or MC1.2K. You may not need the power, but there's something happening in that Mac circuit at and past the kilowatt range than pushes the speaker crossover out of the way, boosts transparency and introduces a general effortlessness to music that you didn't know you could gain until you hear it.

Theo, the MC352 is also a "dual differential" amp - I believe it was the first Mac amp with this type of circuit. The MC252 has a more conventional driver circuit.

BTW, I got away from changing bulbs in my MC352 by purchasing the LED kit that Audio Classics sells. A lot cheaper than a new amp. But if you like the sound of the MC402 better than your old MC352, you made the right choice.
Decided to get the MC 501's along with the C46 Pre-amp. Entdoc was exactly correct in describing "the sound seems to come from everywhere", the speakers just seem to disappear even at low volume.