Integrateds: $3K, $4.5K or $5K

I'm building a new system with an integrated amp at its heart. I'm considering Musical Fidelity M6i (200 wpc, $3,000), McIntosh MA5200 (100 wpc, $4500) or Bryston B135 SST2 (135 wpc, $5070 w/ remote).

Will be driving either Totem Element Fire (8 ohms, 88db SPL) or Joseph Audio Pulsar (8 ohms, 85db SPL), both 2-way stand mounts.

Small room (13' x 15', 9' ceiling).

Listening to mostly mainstream rock, R&B, dance/club. Occasional light jazz, Broadway, Sinatra and the like.

Would welcome input from those who've had experience with, or opinions about, any of these amps.

Looks like the start of a great system.

I auditioned the MF M6i and was extremely impressed with it. I can't see how you would go wrong with it driving either of the speakers you are considering. Its a real powerhouse, attractive and well built too.

I also auditioned the MAC 5200 and loved its feature set and looks. What concerned me was lack of a 4 ohm rating either in its specs or on its back panel by the speaker terminals. A search of the internet did not provide any additional info; only one review with a 4 ohm rating into 1 Khz. Not 20-20. Even though your speakers are 8 ohm, the lack of a 4 ohm rating would be a concern and indication of the overall power of the amp.

Don't know too much about the last one your thinking about so will leave others to comment.

If was me, I would get the M6i, save the bucks and call it a day. Have fun in your search and happy listening.
Thanks for the comments.

I had the same question about the McIntosh, as have several others who've noted it in various threads. I contacted McIntosh directly and the representative (Chuck Hinton) stated the MA5200 would have no problem driving a 4 ohm load.

I like the M/F, but there's no headphone output! I don't understand why on as good a piece as this. Not that I listen through headphones often, but I'd like to have the option and not have to purchase a separate headphone amp.

This is one of the main things holding me back.

Also, both the MAC (digital, optical and USB) and the M/F (USB only) have integrated DACs. Since I'll be using an outboard DAC (Arcam irDAC) I don't want to feel I'm paying for a DAC. On the Bryston you can add a DAC as an optional for additional cost.
No recommendation here, but a thought:

You mention that you're using stand-mounted monitors. If you think that - down the road - you might add a subwoofer (or two) to that system, you might take a look at the HK 990 integrated from Harman Kardon. It includes bass management and room correction functionality to allow precise integration of subwoofers. It's also an excellent sounding unit that should handle most speaker loads without a problem.
Good call. I have always like HK gear.
I've seen Pulsars demo'd with Hegel integrates a couple of times. Of the 3 you have listed I would chose Musical Fidelity over McIntosh over Bryston. Exception would be if you have desire to upgrade from there. If so McIntosh is first choice as easiest and highest resale.
for 3500, I have found the Ayre AX7e to be the best integrated I've heard as it's a great mix for tube guys (me) and SS guys. Tight, articulate bass and a huge sound stage and imaging. Also, the mids are sweet and believable. Don't go by the power rating either as they drive the Vandy Treo's (84db) in a midsize room.
i would recommend looking into Accuphase integrated amps - probably the best integrated amp - class A or AB
I guess you have to cut it off somewhere but there are so many integrated amps out that worth considering. As mentioned the Ayre is a great one. I would also add the Krell s300-i, the Creek Destiny and the Simaudio i5.3. These are all top notch and I would think they could easily compete with any that you are considering. The Creek especially is a great buy at around 1000 used it is so much great sound for that price. It's not the most powerful but you are in a small room so power is probably hardly going to be an issue at all for you unless you really crank it way up.
Be sure to include in your considerations some of the Cayin units. Great sound, great value. I have a few and have been well pleased.
Not sure if you are open to other suggestions, but as a Joseph dealer, I can give you 2 other great options for the Pulsars (incredible speakers by the way):

Rogue Audio Pharaoh

Krell s500i
Re Cayin integreteds , FWIW, I have a couple of Cayin 'boat anchors' for which I have been unable to get service or parts from the distributor despite telephone calls, etc. Lots of promises, no follow through. One would think he was going out of business. One would think he would be able to get parts from China for a unit still in production. One would think.....:-(
Of the amps mentioned the Bryston is clearly the best choice. The 20 year warranty will help with resale and give you peace of mind! If it's sound quality your after the Marantz pm-11s2/3 is hard to beat at it's price point.
I've not heard a PM11S2/S3 but I own a Marantz Reference PM-KI which is their slightly lower 15 series with upgraded 11 series components (copper chassis, larger transformer) which is reputed to run with a PM11S2 and I am extremely happy with it. The build quality on the Marantz Reference series is simply second to none at anything under $10k. With that said, I have Totem Forests that I power with my Marantz amp and I find the combination a bit warm - both the speakers and the amp are on the warm end of the spectrum and sometimes I would prefer a bit more "analytical" top end. I swapped out my copper interconnects for silver ones and noticed a definite improvement - in my system the marginal loss of bass resulting from the swap to silver was a nonissue, the combo produces an abundance, but the increased detail in the high end was welcome.

I am considering making a switch to a B135 for synergy reasons but I find the Marantz more attractive, it is considerably less money to buy, and on a resale basis is fantastic.

Guys, I understand why you all love YOUR amps. We all do. Makes sense. I can't have tubes anymore. I have Quicksilver separates that would be AWESOME, but I'm sick of tubes and as much as I love them I wanted an amp that would give me that sweet sounds, but also tight low end etc.. I listened to Rogue even though it's tubed as my dealer also carries that along with AR, which I've always LOVED. I have listened to Krell since day one and even have a Stealth that I'm selling. It doesn't do it for me anymore. Honestly, it never did it for me. I always liked ML stuff better along with Rowland. the Bryston gear has always sounded nice for SS stuff, but I've heard Ayre in three dealerships recently with Focal, Paradigm, ML, Vandy, Proac and it's always sounded great. I've heard the Creek too and liked it, but to my ears it's not in the same league as the Ayres, especially with Vandy Treo's, which will be my speakers. I also am starting to get new AQ wires throughout that will replace top of the line MIT cables. I wanted to buy a real system finally and not just get pieces that were great on their own, but may not have had synergy if that makes sense. I am only getting a Music Hall DAC 25.3 with AQ Niagara balanced connections, but it sounds great compared to some more costly DACs I've been hearing. Eventually I hope to get a matching Ayre DAC as that's the best sounding one I've heard so far.
Please consider the LSA Statement integrated. About as wide open, spacious, transparent, and gorgeous as I've ever heard in an integrated under $10K. There's a new one on audiogon for $3300.

Aside from that, the Bryston seems the best fit for your monitors.
I tend to agree, that those are all good choices. Others have made good suggestions, but yours are as good as any. I like musical fidelity. They are well built well thought out amps, with more than enough power for your needs. You might look for some of the older models like the Trivista, second hand, that was a lovely amp too.

Basically, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the amps you name.
If you are looking for tube amplifier, Sophia Electric has a model named 126-03 that might be a great choice for power, resolution and sound.
If you are considering a McIntosh integrated for your system I'd like to recommend you the MA 6600. I have one and is a great integrated. It has both 8 and 4 ohms outputs. There is one right now for $2800 here at Audiogon.
The Trivista WAS a damn good amp! It deserved every bit of praise it got when it came out a decade or so ago!
Jbltmp -

consider Octave from Germany. This integrated is a sonic match for Joseph Audio speakers.
Many moons ago I bought a HK but traded it for a super Onkyo Integrated and still own it but have it serving another duty for outdoor enjoyment...

But consider another...CODA....even though it has no headphone...I do have a separate HP amp for that and pleased and mostly had the room for its fit. But CODA CSi are serious powerful integrated amps (330 amps into 8 & 660 into 4 ohm)serving bliss and clarity beyond belief...also if you did mix a sub into the mix it has a separate amp for that ...definitly able to drive anything you throw at it...

my two cents
Great suggestions and much appreciated.
I'm trying to keep it simple with this system, going with an integrated and not considering tubed gear.
Some of the speakers I'm beginning to consider are a little inefficient and I may need 200 wpc, which raises the attraction of the Musical Fidelity and limits other options.
Davidantonio - good suggestion on the McIntosh MA6000 at 200 wpc vs the MA5200 at 100 wpc, but a wimpy consideration of mine is to try to keep the weight of the amp something at which I can move around by myself easily, and the 75 lb 6600 (vs 38 lbs for the MA5200) is pushing that limit. But if I do need 200 wpc (and decide to start working out and build up the strength :-) the 6600 would be a candidate. Just wondering why you went with the 6600 and not the 6700 receiver for another $500? You may not use the tuner much, and I probably wouldn't either, but the additional money seems worth it for nothing other than the potential resale value.
Screw integrateds. Get a Job 225 and their new preamp OR wait for their new integrated that's rumored to be in the works. Musical Fidelty?............pAlease.
Hegel H200. Read the reviews.
Wow, Devilboy - beautiful, erudite, and certainly learned prose and opinion there. You immaculately addressed the OP's question with your carefully proofread response.

I think the spelling is "Puh-lease...", btw.
How about looking into the LSA Group's LSA integrated amp (formerly the DK Designs amp), available in Standard ($2490), Signature ($2999), and Statement ($3799) versions? Available Internet Direct from Underwood Hi-Fi. When dealer-networked, these same amps were quite a bit more expensive, and well-reviewed at those prices. Example: The Standard version was $3200 in 2006 and a Stereophile Recommended Component. Other reviews abound.
Simao, forgive me for lacking a shred of eloquence or verbal dexterity while
expressing my opinion regarding the OP's inquiry of amplification under
his consideration.......whew.
I was merely voicing my satisfaction of the Job line and while doing so,
mentioned the release of the new Job integrateds early next year which will
probably be on the low end of OP's price range saving him a few bucks.
Happy New Year and good luck Jbltmp!
Hey Devilboy, is this inside info on the JOB integrated? Their website just state a new preamp and mono amps. Don't get me wrong, I hope you are right, it would be a high value integrated sonics wise.
I think you should finalize your speaker choice first, otherwise you're just spinning your wheels here. I know Joseph Audio has used the Hegel H300 with the Pulsars at shows once or twice. I didn't get to hear that pairing, but I bet it sounded pretty damn good. Pulsars are high on my list as well, as would be the H300 if I was in the market for an integrated. Best of luck.
@devilboy- touché. I was being overly snarky. I just find it über-muddying when someone doesn't just suggest a tangent to the OP, but diverges from it altogether. And I've never heard any of the Job line before, what draws you to it?

@Johnny- yes, the LSA line is incredible. I have the Statement and will never give it up until a younger, thinner model comes along. I'd compare it to the Ayre 5 or 7.
Simao, to my ears, the Job has tremendous "air" around instruments, and is very transparent. Its low noise floor brings out subtle nuances from deep in the soundstage. It has the warmest, most believable midrange and most articulate and tightest bass from any amplifier I've owned. It is easily superior to my EAR 890 and Dynaco ST-70 rebuild which are pretty amazing in their own right. There is a lengthy thread on the Job 225 here on A'gon contributed by very happy owners.

It was not my intention to derail the OP's thread, just to provide another option to the integrateds he was considering. If I posted a similar thread I would gladly welcome alternatives.

I heard one of the LSA integrateds at a friend's house a couple of years ago. It was ok, but didn't excite me too much. To each, his own. I guess that's why they make vanilla and chocolate.
A friend told me he heard about Job releasing an integrated next year. I haven't been on the Job website in a while.
hegel's are awesome integrated's. They have the new ones that just replaced last years models so there are many being offered on the net. I personally went with Ayre last month and LOVE it. I feel it's more of everything. It's the most tube like, but with all the goodness of SS. The extremes are natural and extended. Having Proacs, I can hear the limits of an amps sound staging and I can tell if they image properly. The Ayre's do this better than any integrateds I've heard. Some will sound deeper, but it's not as accurate and teh Ayre does go that low.

That said, everyone else likes what they have best or they wouldn't have it. This is the most important thing about hi fi. We all hear differently. All amps will behave differently with different cables and speakers as well as front ends.

Based on your speakers, my ears liked the Ayre AX7, Hegel 200 and MF amps best. All were using AQ cables throughout the systems. All were Rock series I believe.
I have been a happy owner of the Hegel H300 for about 4 months. I won't give superlatives as there are many reviews on the web that do a good job of that. In the 12 months prior, I had owned a Levinson integrated, big Levinson power amp, Simaudio integrated, and VTL monos. In that time frame I have also listened to Bryston and Plinius integrateds. In the past I have also owned a couple McIntosh amps and some Audio Research gear. They all have been really good, but Hegel has been the first that has not made me want to look for the next one. Another I would recommend if you could find it is the Burmester 051.
Thanks for the excellent advice coming through. Some of the recommendations are hard to find in my area, so that's a limiting factor, but all comments are much appreciated.
As one post noted, it may make most sense to first settle on the speakers and go from there. The only ussue with that is choosing speakers as I hear them through electronics that I most likely will not have, so it's kind of a catch 22, but I guess you have to establish a given at some point and I think speakers are the most variable component in the chain.
I would also say that Ayre and Hegel are two of the BEST integrateds right now as both go with every speaker I've auditioned over the last 7 months as I redo my whole system. Good to hear others liking their gear.
Thanks for the recommendations on the Hegel and Ayre. The Ayre AX5 looks great but at $10k is out of my price range.
I'm looking into the Hegel H300, but may be hard to find a dealer in my area.
I've also arranged to home audition the Musical Fidelity m6500i (500 wpc, $7K)
Would appreciate any comments, comparison to the Hegel.
I have the Ayre's plenty powerful for all the speakers I've heard it with. That includes Focal, Vandy, B&W, Legacy, Dynaudio, Paradigm and many others. You should check it out if you can. I personally feel the Ayre is the most natural/tube like. Very strong throughout the whole band. The MF isn't my cup of tea, but you may like it. Powerhouse for sure, but lacking some of the finess that I hear in the Ayre and the Hegel. I have now heard the Hegel in two systems and it sounded very different. Don't know why, but it did. That's why I am now driving hours each way to NJ from CT as I trust John at Audio Connections in Verona, NJ. I know he sells around the country. You may want to give him a shout as he also sells Rogue and AR in addition to Rega, Music Hall, NAD and Ayre. He knows what goes and what doesn't. He also sells a ton of used gear and much of it is newer and in great shape. If you have another vendor who has been around a long time, use them, but I'd deal with a store owner as they won't play games with you most of the time. If you find one who does, please let us all know, lol.
I have owned Joseph 25 and 7 speakers for years and gave heard them with many different amps, including Musical Fidelity, Jolida, Gamut, Shindo, Cary, Canary and quite a few others.
For my money, if I were only going integrated route in your price range, I would look for a used Electrocompaniet ECI-3. It would work magic with the Pulsars.