Integrated amp -- Pass Labs vs Luxman vs McIntosh

I posted a similar query earlier but did not get a lot of responses unfortunately. As mentioned before, my speakers are Sonus Faber Olympica II, currently driven by Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum II, in a 20x15 dedicated media room. As an aside, I’m already working with GIK acoustics to treat the room. As much as I love the Cronus Magnum II, it’s clearly struggling with the speakers and room dimensions. I have been doing some research and narrowed my choices to the following (Note: mostly looking for used since my budget is $5 - 6k max)

Pass Labs INT-60 -- love the fact that the first 30 watts are all Class A; these don’t come up for sale often though. I’ve heard that these are as close to the tube sound one can get without compromising what makes SS great. I listened to INT-150 a couple of years ago and was really impressed. From what I’ve read, the 60s are clearly a step up in every way. Besides, I’ve always been fascinated by Pass Labs.

Luxman 590AXII -- I have yet to read anything negative about these. I like the fact that they are a class A design. Unfortunately, the only Luxmans I’ve listened to were 20+ years old and did not leave much of an impression (polite to a fault).

McIntosh MA352 -- A friend has the smaller brother, MA252, which I really like but not sure if they have enough juice to drive my speakers. None of the dealers near me carry the MA352 so I have to rely on feedback alone. I like the fact that this is a hybrid.

Another suggestion from a dealer is Naim SuperNait 3, but honestly I don’t know if it competes in the same playground as the aforementioned amps.

My goal is to find a nice balance between the strengths of tubes and SS -- retain good 3D soundstage, instrument separation, midrange magic, but not at the expense of bass and dynamics. I do understand that I cannot expect an SS, regardless of class A or not, to have the same lush, holographic presentation of tube amps, but want something that gets as close as possible.

I would love to listen from owners or people who have heard the amps before. Since I’m buying used, I will not have the opportunity to return them so due diligence is necessary.

The new CODA integrated I believe has similar tech as the CODA #8 amp that lot of people are raving about. You should check them out since I think they are giving you a lot bang for the buck. The PASS guy(s) and CODA guy(s) came from the same company.

I have SF and believe they sound best with tubes. If you can get your hands on Audio research integrated tube amp you will not regret it. Stay away from hybrid, there is nothing tube like to their sound, just pretty lights. MACs are a good match with SF, but those tube amps are above your budget. I'd stay away from less known amps, they are harder to re-sell. 
I am currently using Luxman 590AXII in my system since 6 months or so. I am very happy with it and highly recommend. The class A from this amp is very musical and tube like. I was looking for most of the characters you desired and I think all my boxes are checked. I cannot recommend this amp more. Of course, try to listen them before you buy, but you will have no regrets, even if you buy it blindly. The build, looks, the VU meters, multiple tone controls, and ability to use 2 speakers sets are just an added bonus. I usually change gears a lot, but I think, this will stay for long (unless I get a very good deal on their separates, C900 and M900, which is less likely). Good luck. 
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

@yyzsantabarbara Surprisingly, I had never heard of the CODA amps up until now. Thanks for the suggestion, will definitely look into it. Wondering how the one you mentioned compares to the Pass Labs INT-60. The biggest difference, at least on paper, is that the CODA does 5 watts in class A, whereas the 60 does 30. Second concern is resale value. 

@ei001h -- Audio Research is definitely something I would love to get in my system, but I'm not sure if there is anything (used) that falls within my price range. Do you mind sharing which one you had in mind?
@romney80 -- appreciate the feedback! The Luxman is definitely a top contender alongside with the Pass Labs INT-60. I hope one shows up used in the classifieds some time soon. I was just wondering if you bought it new, and if so, were you able to get a discount from your dealer. You can PM me directly if you don't wish to share the information publicly.
@arafiq  The guy to go on the CODA gear is teajay. He has stirred the pot up pretty good around here getting the word out on the new CODA gear, specifically the #8 and #16.

I was actually thinking of the #8 to pair with my new Thiel CS3.7s + Benchmark HPA4/LA4 preamp. However, the Benchmark guys convinced me that their AHB2 amp in mono will work on my 2 Ohm load so I will try another AHB2 (home trial it) before I try the perfectly matched CODA #8 with the Thiels.
Definitely Luxman (what I'd pick) or Pass of the three you listed in title.  But try to hear all of them and choose what you like.
OP - what do you hear/mean when you say that the Magnum is 'clearly struggling with the speakers and room dimensions'?

Going the opposite way with power with your short list seems counter productive.
Audio research Gsi75 integrated is superb, but not cheap. It was about 16k new, now can probably get for around 10k. 

I second Luxman, they're amazing amps. Id take the Luxman 590AXII over pass, and definitely over MAC. I own Mac system as well, it sounds great with SF, but way too romantic and lush. 

I'd still recommend tubes with SF. Audio research Ref 75 is superb, but you'd need a preamp. You can get this amp for about 4-5k used and get a decent tube preamp for around 1-2k. Tubes make SF sound absolutely sublime. Once you hear tubes, its hard going back to SS. 
i would suggest what you are really looking for is a big hegel -- if it is indeed the sound that matters... h360 h390 or h590

no affiliation ...
What jjss49 said. The big Hegel’s really shine!
If you buy a Coda directly from Coda,  they will bias the amp differently if requested.  It comes in 3 versions, v1 is 400 watts per channel, v2 is 250 watts per channel and v3 is 150 watts per channel.  It is all the same amp, the difference is how the amp is biased to produce more class A output.  
@erikt You're right, I should have been more clear in my original post. First of all, I want to make sure that I absolutely loved the Cronus Magnum II when it was in my home office driving the Harbeth P3esr's. I had rolled some tubes to tailor it to my liking and was completely satisfied with the sound. Hope nobody interprets this post as a knock on the Cronus Magnum II. In fact, once I get another amplifier for the media room, the Cronus will be back in my home office and stay there for a very long time.

Now, when using the same amp in the media room with the Sonus Fabers, it does get plenty loud, in fact I've never gone above the 11'o clock position on the dial. The issues that I am having (some of them have been mitigated to some extent though, I'll tell you why later) are ...

Bass is not as tight or punchy -- I'm working with GIK acoustics so let's see if that helps. But I can tell the amp does not have as much control on those woofers.

Soundstage depth and imaging -- not as good as I was expecting. Definitely the nice 3D holographic image that I was getting in the study is missing, imaging or placement of instruments is not as precise or locked in. Also, the sound is less fleshed out.

Vocals -- not as centered or forward as before. On some recordings, I expect the singer to be standing a few feet ahead of the rest of the musicians, but right now it's rather 2D. BTW, this is one area where I miss the harbeth sound sooo much!

Refinement -- there is just a general lack of refinement and liquid sound. Instruments suddenly jump at you out of nowhere, and not in a good way if you know what I mean. 

So in summary, it's not necessarily the lack of volume that's bothering me, but all the other aspects that I mentioned above.

@jjss49 Thanks for the recommendation. I had heard a Hegel (I think it was a 360) a few years ago at someone's house, and felt that it was a bit boring. Of course, that could have been his setup as well. But I've been told that the sound characteristics are quite a bit different than say a Luxman or Mac. I found it to be a bit too neutral for my taste.

The other thing is the looks. I know this is somewhat superficial, and in the ideal world sound should trump everything else. But boy, do they go out of their way to make it look as plain and nondescript as possible. I guess the scandinavian, utilitarian look is not my cup of tea. However, I am going to reach out to my dealer and see if I can arrange a demo (H390) before scratching it off my list.
@jjss49 Having said that, you're one of the few posters here whose opinion I value very highly. If you like Hegel, there has to be something about it that I missed earlier. I will definitely ask my dealer for a demo if possible.

thank you, you are nice to say that

yes please demo an h390 or 590... i have been through sooooo many amps... to me, the big hegels do something extraordinarily right, the top ones are voiced with a touch of warmth along with the tight tuneful full bass control they are famous for, and not the slightest trace of solid state hash or edge - all the detail and air is there but without any artificial emphasis

at the end of the day, their sound and their styling may not work for you, but i highly recommend you should experience it for yourself and decide
There seems to be so much confusion around Hegel and Roon readiness. If I'm buying used, say H390, it has to be able to act as a Roon endpoint without any hassle. I'm surprised a company of this size is still struggling with Roon.
Third the Luxman L-590AXII. All good recommendations which include the top Hegel integrated and top Pass Labs.

The Luxman will give its best if you use balanced connections (interconnects) and quality power cord. It’s quite sensitive to cabling and will sound better with high quality cables. A smooth sound with a grain and sibilance free presentation of Class A and dynamics and slam of Class AB. The best of both worlds at reasonable cost in comparison to costlier alternatives from the likes of Vitus etc. Highly recommended.

you are correct, hegel for some reason has a problem with implementing roon endpoint capability on their gear

i am not a roon user so it hasn't affected me... i don't even use their dac section - just the amp

but i totally get that this may be a deterrent, or even a deal breaker, for some who are roon users
I'm thinking of a slightly different strategy, not sure if this makes sense. But hear me out, and tell me if this might be a better approach ...

I realized that I still have my Cambridge Audio Azur 851D DAC that can act as a preamplifer (volume control). So my plan is as follows: Buy a really nice used power amp (SS Class A by the likes of Luxman, Pass Labs, Audio Research, or anything else that you guys suggest), and drive it with the Cambridge Audio for a few months. When funds become available, buy a tube preamp to replace the CA.

What do you guys think?
A less expensive option, especially given the strong Hegel support here, and triggered by your mention of the Cambridge Audio just now.

You could go with a Cambridge Audio Edge A integrated amp at $6k US. The mag HiFi news reviewed both the top-of-line $11k Hegel H590 and the Edge A, and concluded that sonically there is very little difference between the two, despite the Edge A costing just over half as much.

Here’s the full article, much more detailed than my synopsis:

I own the Edge W stereo power amp and it is very good, fwiw.
If I am not mistaken, the CODA integrated does use the developments from the 8 and 16 amplifier, but uses the older 6 for its preamp section, not the newer and lauded 7.
Before I purchased my Luxman 590AXII, I was thinking similar to your approach. Some DAC are good enough pre-amp, but unless you have very good DAC/player (worthy of Luxman, pass or Hegel), you will eventually end up buying a separate pre-amp. I suggest you make that decision now (amp and preamp or int amp). As I mentioned earlier, the 590AXII sounds so good, I am thinking of upgrading to separates (it is just evolution in this journey). So, if you are thinking of separates, go for it, but it can get expensive and usually lasts long. 
@romney80 -- I agree about getting a good preamp, and that's what I intend to do down the line. The Cambridge Audio will be a temporary fix until I get a proper preamp. Anyways, I will most likely end up getting an integrated after all.
Good luck. Let us know, which one you choose and your listening experience. 
Finally decided to pull the trigger on a used Audio Research GSi75. I demoed a few amps at a local dealer and sellers in my city -- Hegel H390, Luxman 509x, Moon Audio 340i, Rega Aethos, and Audio Research. In the end, the sound of valves was too intoxicating to give them up. Of the other amps I auditioned, Luxman was a very, very close second. I'll post my impressions once I get the unit and let it settle in.
Good to hear you have settled with the Audio Research GSi75. At a list price of $16,000 and glowing reviews everywhere, I’m sure it’s something special. Since the GSi75 is a tube amp, it will sound quite different from most solid-state amps which include Class A types.

The L-509X will sound rather different from the Audio Research GSi75. I believe the L-590AXII will sound closer to it.

Enjoy ~
@ryder Sorry I meant to type 590axii not 509x. The dealer hooked up both 590 and 509 to the same speakers, but honestly I couldn't tell the difference during the audition. Both sounded fantastic!

And I completely agree with you that it was a very, very close second to the ARC. In fact, it was a tough decision to pick one or the other. To be honest, I would have been happy with either one. What tipped the scales in the ARC's favor was that not only does it have a much more expansive soundstage, but the built-in DAC is truly reference level. According to some reviews, the DAC is pretty much the same as ARC DAC9 which retails for $7500. The level of detail and clarity was something I had never heard before (admittedly, I had never heard any DACs > $3500 prior to this). 

Having said that, I felt that the Luxman had more slam and looked much nicer ... those VU meters! But the soundstage and clarity of the ARC was at a much higher level. I suspect that was mostly due to the built-in DAC.
I'm a bit late to the discussion, but the Ayre Acoustics AX-5 Twenty is the most tube-like integrated that I have heard, and seems to check off your other boxes as well. 
They can be found used in the $6200-6800 range.  Good luck!
OP, which speakers were used to compare the ARC versus the Luxman?
@kren0006 -- The dealer demoed both brands with Sonus Faber Olympica Nova II. Since I have the previous version (Olympica II), we thought it would be a reasonable match. It was really a toss up between the ARC and Luxman. Like I said, I would have been happy with either.
So I thought I'd update this thread since a few things have changed in the last few days....

I bought the ARC GSi75 and was totally amazed at the sound quality. The sound was lush, huge midrange that easily filled the room, and amazingly 3D and holographic. The built-in DAC was truly reference level. The only thing that I missed was that it still didn't control the low end as well as I wanted to. There was a little bit of looseness and bloat that I just couldn't tame. Then a few days ago a used Luxman 590AXII popped up at a very reasonable price that I bought immediately. The goal was to compare both side by side and keep one. Both are well known and well reviewed so I knew it won't be difficult to sell either.

I've been listening to the Luxman for the past 2 days. The dynamics, clarity and transparency is absolutely top notch. Still I felt that the soundstage was not as wide and deep as the ARC, it was sounding a bit dry. I immediately missed the lush, big, all enveloping sound of my ARC. So much so that I was about to pack it up and put it up for sale. Then I realized that I was still using the Luxman stock power cord. On a whim, I grabbed my Cerious Technology Graphene power cord and replaced the power cord with it. I was not prepared for what happened next!

With the new cord, the Luxman opened up in a way that I did not think was possible. Suddenly, the soundstage was as big, wide and deep as the ARC. This amp has got my SF woofers by the balls and I'm getting the best bass I've ever heard in my house, so much so that I removed the REL subwoofer from the mix. There is so much texture and nuance to the bass that I just can't stop listening. And this does not come at the expense of resolution or any other sonic attribute. The dynamics, rhythm, midrange (although not as big as the ARC but by far the closest I've heard SS come to tubes), transparency, this amp has got everything I had hoped for and then some more.

It doesn't hurt that this is probably one of the most beautiful and elegant amplifiers I've seen. Looks much better in person than pictures. Yep, this is the end of my search!
Is it just me but the guy was just saying how the tube ARC GSI75 was so much better than the other integrateds...

...and the guy just replaced it with a ss Luxman.
Ok , I guess some threads are just weirder  than others...
Sure. And you’re free to butt out :)

so did u try that magic ac cord with the arc?
@jjss49 Yes, the ARC came with a very thin (I think 18 guage) wire which kind a surprised me. Except for the first couple of days, most of my listening was done using the same Cerious Technology PC. I am still quite surprised by how much of a difference it made. Honestly, I would have been very skeptical had I not experienced it myself.

BTW, as I said in an earlier post, when I listened to the Luxman at the dealer, I felt that it was a very, very close second. I also said I could have lived with either one. But the fact is that all my auditions were done at someone’s house or the dealer. When I compared the Luxman and ARC in my setup, the Luxman edged it out. Not sure why someone would find it ’weird’.
Ohh the truth came out. You never really compared them head to head in the first place ... »someones house or the dealer »... After the buy, it is then you did a real a to b test in your house setup...

Next time please be more specific the first time, so we can avoid this kind of discussion again...

I used weird because your move seemed awkward. Now that you told us exactly what really happened, I take that back and replace « weird »by... « not really serious tests in the beginning »...
Next time please be more specific the first time, so we can avoid this kind of discussion again...

Lol! you're a funny lil' dude! I don't remember asking you to partake in this discussion. Don't let the door hit you on your way out. And once you're out, make sure you not to forget your pills.

every arc amp i have owned (it is up to 14 of them in the past 25 years) comes with a heavy gauge power cord... not a fancy branded one, but a heavy duty one suited to handle substantial current demands of the amp -- of course over the years they went from a standard three prong socket on the amp end to a 20 amp version with a different plug...

you probably bought your arc unit used, and the prior owner sent you a cheapie low grade cord, kept the original one ... anyhow, glad you did run the amp with a proper cord and more importantly, glad you found something you are happy with

after all that is all that really matters in this hobby
Just disregard the not so helpful comments. The Luxman L-590AXII does respond very well to quality power cords. Not only that, if you are able to use the balanced connections, by all means use it to connect to your DAC or source. It sounds better with balanced than single-ended cables.

I initially got a costly Acrolink Mexcel cord for the Luxman and since the improvement was staggering, I bought another Acrolink cord for the DAC. Another round of improvement. The power cord on the DAC now costs more than the DAC itself. I know it may sound nuts but that’s the reality. It’s the end result that matters.

It’s amazing that a power cord can bring such a massive improvement. . Hearing is believing. The definition, texture and detail in the midrange and bass, the smooth glowing tube-like treble. The cord is able to improve on all these aspects on the Luxman (and in my system the DAC too)

Enjoy ~
Hi @jjss49 Regarding ARC supplied power cords, I had the same question. In fact, the new buyer reached out to me and was wondering why I didn't include the original cord. I reached out to ARC customer service directly, and they told me that the GSi75 in fact did ship with the thinner cord, but they would be happy to supply the other one for $25. The new buyer then called ARC as well to confirm, and all was good. This was my first ARC piece, so I have no idea what the truth is, this one might be the odd man out. 

BTW, the new owner has ARC separates (REF 150, REF 3, REF Phono 2). He is trying to downsize that's why he bought mine. According to him, he was pleasantly surprised how close the Gsi75 comes in terms of sound quality. Th separates are still more lush and extend deeper, but he said that he could easily live with the GSi75. I wish I could have kept both, but many of us have significant others to keep us level headed, 

Also, it was quite an eye opener for me wrt how my perception of sound quality changed when I heard both units in my home vs the dealer. I wonder how the Hegel would sound in my house, but my spouse will kick me out if I spend anymore, even to compare :)
@ryder You are absolutely on point! The Luxman is definitely sensitive to cable changes. I have had the Cerious speaker cables for a few years now. I originally bought them when I used to have Parasound A21. When I replaced the stock cord with the Cerious cables, the improvement in sound was very subtle. But with the Luxman, it's a whole different ballgame. I still cannot believe how it transformed the same equipment into a different beast!

Now the one area where I think the Gsi75 had an edge was the built-in DAC. My current DAC is Audio Mirror Tubadour III (non-SE version) which is not based on balanced topology. Before the GSi75, the most expensive DAC I had listened to was I think $3000. The GSi75 was my first taste of higher end DACs and I must say that it was a revelation. Its ability to dig up the details and present them in such a way that each instrument is prominent with plenty of air around it, but doing so without ever sounding forward or etched. I miss that DAC for sure. Don't get me wrong, the AMT is a fabulous DAC, especially for the price I paid. But I can't help but think if it's doing full justice to my new rig. I will lay low for a few months, hopefully allow my wallet to regain some of its self esteem, and then start looking for a new DAC. Based on your feedback, I will look for balanced.
Sorry I meant to say Cerious power cord, not speaker cables.
The coda CSib integrated is a #8 amplifier and a scaled down #7 class A preamp 
for $6500. I have compared with several marks in the $8-$10 range like the top Luxman, 600 series moon, McIntosh , and not having the big commercial name 
and more industrial looking the money spent is inside on parts where it counts 
Just lookatthe 3k va transformer and potted for lower noise and RF noise rejection nothing even close just for an example in the$10k range .
the passlabs 60 integrated is class a and warmer musically slightly warmer the neutral the Coda I thought an exceptionally good sounding integrated with totally independant class A preamp section  is very natural and abestbuy imo.hats probably why Stereo Times gave it a best of 2020 award.
I got nothing against coda but yysantabarbara had the coda integrated you mention, had the krell 300i at same time, ..... and sold the coda. He kept if for only a couple of months. ymmv.

Plenty of units under $10k will beat the coda for many people - all depends on preferences. For you coda may very well be the best in that range. Everyone hears differently.
arafiq...I think you made a nice choice going with solid state amp. The ARC amps are fantastic and sound great with SF but don't have the needed current/volts to control the bottom end of Sonus Faber.  I am not sure the impedance curve on the Olympica II but my Olympica III dip down to 2 ohms from 80-120hz.  I ended up selling my Ref110 and purchasing a Pass Labs X150.8. I loved the Ref110 but was ready to try something different. I started a thread in the Speaker forum and solid state was recommended even though I had pretty much made up my mind on a Ref150. I had actually bought a Ref150 but had to send it back due to issues with it and that is how I ended up with the Pass 150.8. 
Yeah with that ARC GSi and the Luxman 590 those are two amazing options.  Glad you got to hear both and kept the one you prefer
It was actually a tough decision choosing between ARC and Luxman. I still miss the palpability, smoothness, and the rich sound of the GSi75. But in the end, it just didn’t have the visceral qualities, especially the tight punch in the bass area, that I was looking for. The Luxman ticked all the boxes for me, and I continue to enjoy the music it produces. Of course, the beautiful fit and finish plus the VU meters, while inconsequential for sound reproduction, adds to my enjoyment.

Having said that, I still very much remain interested in trying out the Pass Labs INT-60 some day. From what I’ve read, it retains most of the positive characteristics of Luxman, but adds more tubiness (warmth?) and muscularity to the sound. So in a way, it probably bridges the gap between the ARC GSi75 and Luxman. I have flirted with the idea of selling the Luxman and buying the Pass Labs, but the Luxman has not given me a single reason to be dissatisfied. I don’t want to regret the decision. So the plan is to save up enough to buy the Pass Labs next year and keep both in my systems. If I really like the Pass, I might sell my Raven Audio Blackhawk instead. Probably for the first time in my audio journey, I have developed an emotional connection with a piece of equipment (Luxman) where it’s hard to part ways with it ... at least for now.

Having said that, I still very much remain interested in trying out the Pass Labs INT-60 some day. From what I’ve read, it retains most of the positive characteristics of Luxman, but adds more tubiness (warmth?) and muscularity to the sound. So in a way, it probably bridges the gap between the ARC GSi75 and Luxman. I have flirted with the idea of selling the Luxman and buying the Pass Labs, but the Luxman has not given me a single reason to be dissatisfied. I don’t want to regret the decision. So the plan is to save up enough to buy the Pass Labs next year and keep both in my systems. If I really like the Pass, I might sell my Raven Audio Blackhawk instead. Probably for the first time in my audio journey, I have developed an emotional connection with a piece of equipment (Luxman) where it’s hard to part ways with it ... at least for now.

Do keep us posted on the Luxman L-590AXII vs Pass Labs INT-60 if you happen to have both in your system for comparison. I am sure many people would be interested on the outcome. 😁
I got nothing against coda but yysantabarbara had the coda integrated you mention, had the krell 300i at same time, ..... and sold the coda. He kept if for only a couple of months. ymmv.
I now have the CODA 07x preamp + CODA #8. I sold the CODA CSiB and kept the KRELL because the KRELL had more features that I could use, internal DAC, HDMI, etc.

People are saying the CSiB is very close in sound to the CODA separates. On my power hungry Thiel CS3.7 I find the separates are much better than the CSiB. In fact, this is the best sound I ever got from these very hard to drive speakers.

The CODA separates sound like a mix of the KRELL K-300i and the Benchmark AHB2. Very detailed, smooth, "wet", and powerful. I have the AHB2 also connected to the CODA 07x preamp (it has 2 sets of XLR outputs) and use them for RAAL SR1a headphones. The CODA and AHB2 are a great pairing with the proper matching speaker. The Thiels are too power hungry for AHB2 in stereo and mono. It is not a bad pairing just not the best.