I had them and I was not impressed....I am now by the Krell 650mcx.
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depends on priorities.
i continue to own them b/c
1) they sound quite good (and their sins are not annoying in nature)
2) they run ice cold (big for me)
3) they have power to spare (also big)
4) extremely reliable
5) excellent resale value
6) aesthetically beautiful...those blue meters are lovely
i will gladly dump them for an amp that sounds better, runs ice cold and has 1kw of power (much like mikey fremer, i believe you have to have lots of power to make a monkey coffin come to life). let me know when there is such a product.
With the right speakers, MC501s make very satisfying music. I bought Sacman's last summer, mated them with Montana EPS2 speakers and a C2300 preamp, and the combination had good synergy. The EPS2 are forward in the mids with some brightness in the treble; MC501s are very smooth through the mids and a bit lacking in HF micro-detail. The combination worked well. Recently, I replaced the Montanas with PMC IB2i, which are simply extraordinary, balanced through the whole range. The smoothness of the Mac electronics was no longer needed or appropriate so I sold them. I enjoyed my time with them but I have no regrets about moving on.
I bought a pair about a year ago to mate with Logan CLX's - which are very revealing speakers and have an impedance curve that can challenge some amps. I also have a Plinius SA250 Mk3 to compare the 501's with, which is one hell of a beast and Class A to boot.
My take on the 501's is that they have lots of drive, detailed, musical and appropriately emotional in tone. Easy to listen to - but I never feel that they are so smooth that I am missing something - in fact with the 501's I can hear way deep into the music. Also I disagree that they roll off the top octave, but that might be a synergy thing.
Very natural, beautiful build, cosmetically .... great audiojewllery!
There will always be something "better" but for me after many years on the audio upgrade highway,changing out these amps would be a low priority and I am sure anyone who buys them would not be upset.
Im in the Stanwal camp and I presently own a Mac amp.I will say this about McIntosh .IMO, well built w/great resale value and yes I do like those blue meters.As far as stating "awesome",never!.One thing where Mac fails in the "highend" amp market is speed and detail.Although I havent heard the 452 yet from reading it appears Mac is getting away from that typical house sound you either love or hate and venturing into this market where they couldnt compete.It will be interesting to see how the fan base likes this move.
I have been very pleased with the performance of my McIntosh MC501 amps driving Salk SoundScape speakers. The soundstage, resolution and ability to simulate a live musical performance of this system are among the best that it has been my pleasure to hear. To my middle aged ears, any improvements over the MC501 in amplification are difficult to discern and command a high price. I expect to enjoy this system for many years.
I was pleased that McIntosh introduced the MC601 amp and others proclaimed it superior to the MC501, because this helped me to purchase a pair of demo MC501 amps at an attractive price.