Conrad Johnson vs. McIntosh Tube Gear

Does anyone have any experience comparing a McIntosh MC275 with their C2200 tube preamp versus a comparable tube Conrad Johnson amp/preamp? My speakers are ribbon hybrids (forward and clean; 96 dB efficient) and I am looking for a lush warm sound and unfortunately can't find a dealer within 500 miles that has either on the floor. Anyone have any thoughts or experience with these two brands? Any suggestions?
i reviewed the mc 200 preamp and i own the mc 275. there is no lushness with modern mac gear. call the company and speak to a technician. as for cj, while i have not auditioned a current amp, i did audition one of the preamps about two years ago,. it may have been the premier 14. i'm not sure of the model. again, no lushness there either.

if you want lushness, you should look at a cj mv 125 amp and perhaps a cj pv 5 or premier 3.
It is true the McIntosh aren't exactly lush. They are too accurate for that. But on the other hand, they are never dry like CJ can be - and to me, that makes all the difference. I had an MV55 and PV10a and they didn't hold a candle to my MC240 and C42. The latter combo has no dryness whatsoever and all the sound is utterly beautiful. The CJs could sound grainy if the recording had the slightest inclination.

It will depend on what direction you are coming from. If you have inexpensive SS amps now, the 275+2200 may seem lush to you. If you are coming from SET amps, they may seem like pure hifi.

I have since heard the MV60SE and PV15. Better than what I had but still no cigar IMO. The soundstage just isn't all that developed and ambience isn't adequately reproduced. This is based on an audition so take this with a grain of salt but I could recognize that CJ dryness was still there, though less so.

I would get the McIntosh. I find them way prettier and based on your desires, I would say is the better choice hands down. The 2200 is a fantastic preamp and will have more lushness than the C200. No doubt about that. Besides, you can tailor the sound of these amps quite a bit with different tubes to match your tastes. Their accuracy will allow you to do that with great precision.

I'd look at Cary, Manley or even ASL. You don't need tons of power, 7-40 watts is plenty with 96db.

Both Mac and CJ are too dry for my tastes.
I have had just the opposite experience as Arthur. All the CJ equipment I have heard has been very musical (cj's forte). While the Mac stuff has been rather ho-hum. I guess to each his own and everybody has different tastes in what they like. A dealer near me sells both so I have the oppurtunity to hear them side by side on several occasions.

I bought a new MC275 to drive my Gallo Ref 3.1 (88dB efficiency). This is not at all a "lush" amp. It is quick and lively. It mates very well with the Gallos, so much so that I bought a companion C220 preamp based on the experience. This is my first McIntosh gear and I am very, very impressed with it.
I initiated this thread and sincerely appreciate the advice of my fellow enthusiasts. My current electronics are Quicksilver Triode monoblocks (6C33C version) controlled by the Quicksilver line stage preamp. I am very happy with the sound of this gear especially after replacing the factory tubes with vintage Telefunkens and Mullards but perhaps it is simply time for a change and I am looking for something less accurate and more romantic sounding. Is there other gear (Cary, VTL, Manley, etc) that is in the $6-9000 range more suited to my goal? If a good 300B based amp would drive my Ambience Reference 1600s I'd be so inclined but I frankly don't think they have enough power. Thanks again.
I understand Cary may have the characteristics you seek. I have not herd Cary equipment but have people describe it as lush and smooth in a good way; kinda like cj of old. I have been researching Cary a bit as I am looking at purchasing a 300SEI for a system for my cottage. Good Luck in your search.

Those amps are supposed to be very good. I owned V4's,
although I am sure they are different sounding than the
Triodes. The V4's were definitely on the warmer side. I
guess all I am thinking here is, have you tried a different
preamp. I am sure the Quickie line pre is good for the
money, but can easily be improved upon. Maybe try a Cary
or the Mc 2200. How about a used premier 16LS. I really
liked my Mk.1 version of that pre.
It is mainly a matter of taste. I am not sure any of us can really tell you what to do.
Is there one brand whose current gear's house sound is considered the most warm?
Are you running CD's or vinyl. With 96db speakers any noise or excess gain in the pre and power is going to come out, expecially with CD as the source.

I think that the cj prem 16 is one of the true great pre amps. better in most ways compared to the Mac C2200 which has poor bass drive and slightly lean upper mids and lower treble. However if you mate the prem16 with a cj power amp, you might have too much gain in the system and cj power amps can be a little noisy with 96db speakers.

Mac amps on the other hand are very quiet and you could afford either the MC275 or the MC2101.

OTOH, Quicksliver don't really have a reputation of being analytical thou.
I used to own an MC 275 and loved it (with a Cary preamp--maybe not the best pairing). Unfortunately it was stolen. I replaced it with a CJ 17LS/Premier 140 combination which is also excellent. My speakers are Joseph Audios (25si)so not that efficient, but either amp could drive inefficient speakers in medium sized rooms. Differences? The CJs have a better sense of space, depth especially and sound more classically tube-like. THe Mac had a wonderful sense of presence almost like an SET and better PRAT. Both amps have beautiful midranges though I'd opt for the Macs overall, especialy on voices, maybe just my opinion If you want a lusher sound maybe the CJ. Both are excellent amps. Overall the MC 275 is my favorite amp that I could ever actually afford. I miss it and hope the person who stole it rots...
Thanks for your advice Downunder. I listen primarily to itunes through a Wavelength Cosecant and secondarily to a Rega Saturn CD player; never vinyl (after growing up in the '60s I have no desire to deal with cartridges/tonearms/platters/suspensions/etc). Are vintage Mac tube amps (MC40s, MC60s, MC75s) noticeably warmer and more liquid than modern Macs (MC275)? Are there headaches/reliability issues with gear made in the '60s (fully 40 years ago)?
I have a vintage (but rebuilt) MC240 with a C42. I have heard the MC275 with a C46. The C42 and C46 are basically the same. The speakers in both cases were B&W N804 but the rooms were different.

Comparing both, I think I can safely say the MC240 is warmer and lusher than the MC275. However, changing tubes can change that result. I have had tubes in my MC240 that made it sound very "hifi" - perhaps moreso than the 275 with stock tubes. But you can do that with the 275 as well.

I sounds to me like you really want to try a McIntosh amp. My suggestion would be for you to try a MC275 and then do some tube rolling to find the right combo. Those amps have such good output transformers that you will be able to make the amp sound just the way you want it with tube swaps. There are many vintage tubes that can make a 275 be warm and lush, no problem.

Thank you, Arthur. I have decided to do precisely as you advised since the price of a 275 is so reasonable. I'll pair it with a C2200 tube preamp and have less than $9,000 list in the combination brand new. I was very tempted to buy vintage Mac tube monoblocks but am leary of the potential reliability issues with electronic gear 40+ years old; plus it is virtually the same price as a brand new MC275. I have replaced the factory-issue Chinese tubes in my Quicksilver Triodes and also in the Quicksilver preamp and have improved them considerably. My local stereo dealer has some really nice Shindo equipment but yikes!!! it costs as much as a house!!
Try a tube/ss combo and get the best of both worlds... I've had great success matching tube preamps with McIntosh SS amps. For example I use an Audible Illusions Mod3a preamp with a MC402 amp, I also use a CJ premier 14 with the MC352 amp. You get all the warmth of the tube preamp and all the power & quickness of the ss amp.

I'm also a fan of the Quicksilver gear having owned the line stage pre, the Silver 90's and the Silver 60 (amps). The preamp is good, but you can do allot better.

Good luck and enjoy.
Mac has a new C2300 preamp that replaces the C2200, if interested.
I think the main difference is the C2300 has phono inputs (both mm & mc) and the C2200 does not; at a considerably higher price. The Mac dealer told me that the C2200 is now discontinued but there are still some out there available so I'll go with one of those (spinning records is not for me).
Db2sub1, take a look at the comments by Gmartan at this link, FWIW.

Brianmgrarcom, thank you for the link. I read it and have decided to put my C2200 plans on hold. I think it best to do this in a stepwise fashion and go with a tube preamp first paired with my Quicksilver Triodes. I want a remote control preamp and will investigate the C2300. If that's not warm enough, I next intend to buy a pair vintage '60s tube amps since I don't think any of the modern ones have the sonic signature that I am seeking. New stuff all seems to be striving for accuracy at the expense of beauty. The difference between solid state and tube is virtually nonexistant. Does anyone know how old Mac tube amps sound? Warm full-bodied midrange?? Mrtennis is quite impressed with Conrad Johnson's MV125 and we seem to be on the same wavelength but I don't think those CJ 125s are easily found and looking for one of those could take a very long time.
Just received a reply from the owner/designer of Quicksilver Audio and he recommends pairing the Quicksilver Triode amps with and an Audible Illusions preamp for an ultra smooth warm midrange. Has anyone heard this combination? Anyone familiar with Audible Illusions preamps?

Thought I haven’t used the new Triode amps, I’ve used both the Silver 60’s and Silver 90’s amps from Quicksilver with my Audible Illusions Mod3a preamp for some time (before selling the amps and going SS on the bottom). The midrange is as Mike points out super smooth and silky... Depending on the room size and speaker selection it’s a winning combo.

As for the AI, there’s a lot in print here and elsewhere about the product and company. I’ve have zero problems with mine and it’s a great bang for the buck. Put some Russian military NOS tubes in it and sit back. The preamp adds little to no color what so ever and is dead quite. Personally I can’t say enough good things about the preamp, plus it has a very good phono stage. (I had the mod3 which I had upgrades a few years back to the mod3a with a custom 17” faceplate.) There are very reasonably priced on the used market, however please read the threads on customer service.

One last note, there is absolutely NO comparison between the QS line stage and the AI Mod3a. The AI is just a killer preamp (for the money).

Good luck
I think both Mike Sanders and Tony are right; that was my experience with AI and QS 8417 an excellent combination.
This thread illustrates a dilemma we all face. It is very difficult to find and listen and compare for most of us. We wind up buying on blind faith and hope we have done well. I have owned both Mac and more recently cj. My current cj is a an ET5, an ARTsa, and a TEA2MAX. I think this combination sounds wonderful, but at the price is should. I did audition Mac 275 VI and 2200, and ARC, but can't recall the models. But chose the cj for a variety of reasons, most significantly comfort with my dealer. Frankly when considering gear at this level, I don't think you can go wrong and whatever you buy you will enjoy.
Thanks! for sharing Bill-

I concur, both CJ & ARC cannot be beat (no pun).
MAC gear takes more careful consideration prior to any purchase and should be auditioned.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
Mike Sanders builds some great amps.....I have a pair of his mid monos paired with a conrad-johnson Classic 2SE and it is an awesome combo
VAC better still.
VAC is not "better still" in my opinion. Compared to either cj or Mac, VAC sounds no better (it typically sounds damn good though) and yields to both in terms of reliability. ARC is also worthy of consideration. Some of their better stuff is sonically peerless, but ARC would also yield to both cj and Mac in reliability.
With 96dB efficient speakers your biggest problem will be keeping the noise out. One of the preamps you are looking at has a gain of 25-27dB. You could end up with tubes going noisy or microphonic very often.

I would look for something about 14dB or less.

I had a C2200 that got traded in. It sounded quite nice. It's a big box with not a lot of parts in it considering what it costs. But still, it sounded great. It uses a lot of 12AX7's and that sucks because vintage ones are all about gone now. I like to tube roll and 12AX7's are expensive as hell.

I suggest you look at the inside of a preamp before you buy. Use Google Images and look at the innards and check the weight. Some companies are practically ripping people off in the last five years or so. A preamp can look good on the outside and sound great but have $100 worth of parts in them. Manufacturers know that and have turned preamps into profit centers.

What budget are you trying to keep it at? I see they are ribbons speakers, right? Are they BG?
FWIW, my cj ET5 is so full of expensive capacitors that you can barely find anything else.