Has Anyone Compared the 2 McIntosh Integrateds?

The MA6500 and the MA6900? Thoughts, impressions? The MA6900 is a tad nicer, but worth $1500 more....... ?
I recently purchased the MA6500 and have been very happy. According to an email response from McIntosh tech support, the MA6500 is a combination "C15 preamp and direct coupled version of the MC202 amp." The MA6900 is described as a combination of features from the C42 and MC202. I have not been able to audition the MA6900. I would think any sound quality difference would be more dependent on the type of speaker used and its impedence plot. I would think the 6900 would handle low impedence / low sensitivity speakers better because of the autoformers. With easy to drive speakers (I'm using Spendor s3/5 - 8 ohm) I can not see the benefit of the autoformers outside of DC protection. The Sam Tellig review in Stereophile claims that the MA6900's output transitors "look for a load of 2.9 ohms before the signal goes to the autoformers." Therefore, for easy to drive speakers 4 ohm or greater, I would expect less benefit from the autoformer. Again, this is only confirmed with audition. Either integrated delivers more power than I need. As I leave tone controls in bypass mode, the c42 based preamp is not a personal need.
Thanks for the insightful response!
Hey! I have listened to both and I find that for the cost savings, the 6500 is the way to go. Both are incredibly sweet and the 6900 is a tad more so but I feel it is not worth $1500 more (do you need an equalizer?). Of course, if I could afford either one, I would be tempted to get autoformers since that is one thing Mcintosh is famous for (as well as Finao1's mentioning of better low z control). Having said that, I own one of their direct-coupled amps (MC7100) and I find it is highly underrated. I just love it - it beats my previous Krells to bits in terms of liquidity and balance across the band. Either way for the integrateds since you cannot go wrong with McIntosh IMO.
This post could not have come at a better time for me as I am considering just these two integrateds. I would rather not spend the extra 1500 on the 6900 but am so tempted given the fact that I would one day (probably way in the future) like to own a big pair of Magnepans (like the 3.6R). Can the 6500 drive the maggies?

Right now I am very happy with my Thiel CS2.3's (4 Ohm) which I think could easily be driven by the 6500, I think. One thing I wonder about is on the 6500 the 4 Ohm output is said to be 200 watts even though the amp is rated at 150 wattsfor 8 Ohms. I can live without the equalizer. And if I'm right, on the 6500, you can defeat the tone controls by keeping them in the flat (12 o'clock position) -- is that right? I would greatly appreciate any detailed feedback any of you could offer on my deliberations.........can ya get a price break on this stuff anywhere?

Thank you!
Pardales, as to your tone control question, yes, they are "deafeated" when they are set in the middle. Obviously the signal must run to the tone controls, but the signal is not altered by the tone controls when set at the 12 o'clock position.
According to my manual for the MA6500, power output per channel is 250 watts at 2 ohms, 200 watts at 4 ohms, and 120 watts at 8 ohms. The question of ability to drive large Magnaplanars can only be answered based on the size of your room and the volume level of listening. I would expect either amp to drive the speaker in most reasonably sized installations. The 6900 may run cooler with lower impedence speakers, but if the 6500 was not enough power for the room, I'd expect that neither would the 6900. I would expect a larger external amp would be more appropriate. A switch on the back of the 6500 allows connection of an external amp instead of, or in addition to, the built in amp.
Good deals on the MA6500 via Audiogon classifieds and ebay have appeared. I bought mine in new condition via Audiogon for $2250. One sold for less on ebay a few weeks ago. Being so new, I have not seen MA6900s available on the resale market.
Not only are tone controls defeated at the center position, but "All tone control circuit elements are removed from the signal path when the controls are in the center or flat position." ...MA6500 Manual.
These are all valuable technical details that are helping me undestand the differences, but has anyone compared the sound of the two amps? I prefer the MA6900, but again, that $1500... I would appreciate other impressions.
I really do appreciate the specific input from you all. Moniker: I have not heard these specific units yet (though I have heard other Mac stuff). I am looking for a dealer that actually has either of them to be honest. I have one dealer close by but they only carry the Mac seperates. I'll keep checking this thread for more information and if I get any more I will re-post here or email you directly. I am beginning to like the idea of going with the 6500 and spending the extra money on new music. I'll be keeping my eyes open for a slightly used and cared for one. Thanks again to everyone!
I think the MA6900 will have better long term value if that's important to you. Soundwise, it's what I prefer too. As Tellig says, the Autoformers humanize the sound. But it's like asking if the 5 series BMWs are better than the 3 series BMWs. They're different, but both are still BMWs.
Schlep: Do you own the 6900? What speakers were they driving? Did you get to compare the two amps directly?
Interesting thread. For a different prospective I thought I would add my experience. I am using a C-15 together with a MC-202. The C-15 is, IMHO, a much underrated pre. You can probably find one used for about $8-900. Together with a 202 it makes a wonderful combination. Rich deep bass, and absolutely no fatigue, but still tons of detail. Whereas with other amps I often found myself skipping through CDs, now I find that I listen all the way through, to me this says that the system is less fatiguing. I auditioned the 202 with a C-42 pre, and to be honest the differences are very small vis a vi the C-15. The 42 has a few nice features, including balanced connections, that the 15 lacks but any audible differences are pretty minor IMHO. You could probably score a 202 for 2500 used, together with 900 for the C15 and you would have a great sounding system, and more flexibility in the future. Just a thought.
MA6900 is backordered! I was just at a local McIntosh dealer to demo the 2 integrateds being discussed in this thread. The dealer had just sold his last MA6900 to another customer that had ordered it a few weeks ago. They just learned from McIntosh that because of the press that the MA6900 is getting the demand is running very high worldwide. This model is expected to be backordered for several months. If you're ancy you may have to settle for the MA6500 for now. BTW, I preferred the MA6900. This being a long-term purchase I was willing to invest more for the long haul.
A difference there is! I drove 80 miles to a dealer that had them both on display. I first listened to the 6500 driving a pair of B&W Nautilus (the $3600 ones). I don't much like these speakers but they told me what I needed to know. The 6500 sounded good....very good. Full, clear, deep, great soundstage....nothing objectionable. Then we switched to the 6900......very, very nice.......smoother.....the voices were much more real to me, life-like.....the sound was less etched than the 6500......fuller, stronger base.....clearer high notes....more open midrange....I really, really liked the sound much, much more. These amps do sound different.....enough so for me that I will be going with the 6900.....whenever I will be able to get one! I'll wait if I have to.

If your dealer only has the 6500, ask them to let you hear the C42 preamp with one of the seperate Mac amps that has the autoformers (like the MC202). You will get a good feel for the difference that way. Good Luck!
If you look in the dictionary under the word sweetness you'll see a picture of the MA6900. It is audio ecstasy (to my ears).
Even though I clearly favored the 6900 in my listening session with the B&W, I want to make one qualification (which goes for most any hi-fi set-up): depending on your speakers and room acoustics, there could be reasons for preferring the sound of the 6500 -- also, they are both fabulous sonding amps, and I believe one could legitimately prefer one over the other.
Dear Pardales,
To answer your specific question, "can the 6500 drive maggies"? The answer is a resounding "YES"! I have the MA6500 driving Magneplanar 1.6qr's, in an average size room with very high ceilings. This is absolutely the best sound I have ever owned, and I have had some pretty esoteric & exotic stuff.

Nothing, I repeat Nothing, can touch the McIntosh amplifiers for "overall quality". The sound is so rich, full, detailed, pleasing and musical, and the controls are so very useful. Buy a Mac, you will never go back! Worth every penny!

Also a nice match w/ my Maggies.
Thanks hififile! I found a slightly used 6900 and bought it -- I am waiting for it to come back from Mac, and can't wait. I also found a MR 85 tuner on ebay recently and am waiting for that to come back from Mac as well. Do you think the 6900 could drive the 3.6's?

I will have my Thiel 2.3's for a while, but someday, I hope to own a pair of 3.6's maybe.
I have not tried either 6500 or 6900 with the 3.6 maggies.
Their efficiency is quite similar, and both amps put out the same power to 4 ohms.

What I can tell you is that the McIntosh amps are so conservatively rated that yuor 6900 should do justice to just about any speaker I can think of, especially with your autoformers in the 6900. They do make a difference. The power supply is enormous in that unit.

The other thing I can tell you is that there appears to be a magical synergy with McIntosh amps driving Magnepan Speakers. There is a certain warmth, musicality and Richness that just can't be beat in my opinion.

Best Regards, and Happy Listening,