As a long time McIntosh owner, I can say that if you like the McIntosh approach to sound reproduction, yes it is high end. If you feel that they are lacking in certain areas of music reproduction then maybe they don't fit the bill. There are many whom take pride in bashing McIntosh for many reasons, but I feel it falls into a "blow out your candle and mine will burn brighter" motive. Some can actually point out the detailed reasons why they don't like McIntosh, just as those who do can point just as many reasons why they love it. Thank capitalism for the market where each can buy what they want or need from a plethora of manufactures that each have a different approach to design. Just we have the choices in speakers, cables, DAC's, CD players, TT's and the list goes on. Each of us has only one set of ears, eyes, tastebuds, etc. I hear and listen the way I like and enjoy, I like my BBQ ribs without sauce some have to drench it and take a chance they may taste the meat. Is McIntosh high-end? Well there seems to be a strong market for used and there seems to be a number of dealers that pride themselves for being dealers.
So is it high end! For my budget yes, for a guy making tons more, maybe not. For a guy making way less he might consider Denon as ultra high end, no that is not a slam on Denon. My answer sums up as it is all relative and contingent on your tastes. If you don't like the sound and it costs way more than you can afford, it really isn't high end to you is it? Please yourself, I have for many years and soemday I may trade my MC402 in for a 452, but right now it is a little too high end for me.
OK, point taken BUT, the product can still be placed in the scheme of things at it's price point (8K) with the other amps I've listed. So richer or poorer isn't an issue. What does it do well and not so well. True, each will go a different direction on the amps character. I want to know what that character is. A comment that it isn't for all is beside the point.
To just wander off and exclude it from "comparison" and simply say I like it without it being based on it's metrics is silly, too. The product has to stand somewhere on it's own four feet.
So I still don't have an answer here.
is it fast sounding.
is it tight sounding.
is it hard sounding.
is it soft sounding.
is the image tight or diffused.
This amp DOES have a general sound relative to others. What's your take on it's character?
Sorry I mis understood your question. My personal opinion on the MC402 I presently own is that of improvement over the MC352 I traded for it, ans assume the MC452 will add even more. I feel that the McIntosh amps with autoformers have characteristics that bring a "tube like warmth" without the tube pace. They deliver a detail without being overly analytical or sterile sounding. They deliver a speed of transient without over exaggeration or harshing of the sound, yet keeping the emotion in place. I tend to close my eyes and mentally meld into the music on some tracks.They have a depth of bass delivery that maintains a control and keeping the tighness of the bass passage without 'muddiness' I have found in other amps. They deliver a mid and high that carry the natural timbre of the music they are reproducing. But that said I can't rest all of what I hear on the amp. The associated equipment play an active part as well. I use cardas Golden Reference cables, I am driving Revel Performa F32's, my Pre is a Audio Research LS26 with BAT tubes. The sources are Ayre C5xe-mp and LP12 with Kleos cart and Linto phono stage. I noticed that the bass tightened up when I added a Running Springs Jaco. I felt that the highs fell back in line when I added a Cardas Golden Ref power cord and took away the Harmonic Tech cable. So how much of this is the amp, I really don't know that I will ever know for sure. So to sum up in a few words what I think of a the McIntosh autoformer equipped amp sound, I say "warm, accurate, musically emotionally involving" and making you forget that
you have the system and just hearing the recording. One fianl note as I point out the autoformers, the non autoformer amps have a much different more analytical less emotional sound. I have had and still do have these in multi channel versions.
All my biased opinion of course.
I assume you have been reading reviews of the 452 as have I. I have not heard it, but it seems that it delivers a sound to compete with the Parasound Halo JC-1, Plinius, PASS LABS and has departed from the McIntosh house sound.
An excerpt from a online review:
"I believe McIntosh has quietly revoiced this amp, and I would suspect the MC601 as well. I can't say whether it is the new ThermalTrak output transistors that have altered the sonic signature, or if the audio circuits have been intentionally redesigned to voice the amp differently. What I am experiencing is a sound that seems dynamically quicker, more analytical, particularly in the upper midrange frequencies. There is a sharper clarity to strings, grouped voices, drum snaps, and cymbals. Piano comes across slightly crisper in tone in the upper octaves, yet not in an objectionable manner."
But you'll still need to hear it for yourself.
I want to base my decison to listen to this amp, and make the drive, based on THIS amp's reputation, and not lineage or hearsay. My freind says to stay away from McIntosh. Is this a Harley Davidson, as he says, made to a distinct "style" or a modern Buell style piece?
I'm probably stuck bringing my KISMETS with, and getting a general impression on an A/B on what ever speakers they might have. I know, not the best way to do it, but it can get general sonic characteristics in play. More bass, less bass, brighter...things like that. Then, drag one home if it seems promising.
How is the SA-103 short lived? I have seen very old variants of the 102 and 100 still pumping to this day.
FWIW I am a longtime Mcowner. I have had their amps since around 96. The new 452,601,1.2 and the like are of a different pedigree than the 402,501, and 1201 that they replaced. I had owned the MC 500 since the 90's and it is warmer and of the old house sound. With each new series Mac has moved a few steps away from the house sound of the past. One thing remains constant is they are all easy on the ears being never bright or too aggressive. I have heard the 452 with Focal, current model and unknown but this amp is transparent, faster, tighter, and more tonally neutral than the series it replaces.
...How is the SA-103 short lived...
Easy, have you tried to TOUCH one? Heat is the nemesis of longevity, regardless of how good it sounds prior to wear. Heat is heat. The top and bottom of the unit get very, very, warm too. It isn't isolated to the hat sinks.
As far as the MV452 goes, speakers have two insidious behavior issues that amps do not like.
- Thermal compression caused by the voice coil heating. This changes the speaker impedance with respect to current.
- Impedance and phase fluctuation with respect to frequency.
Both issues happen simultaneously in a speaker under power, which is NEVER a set impedance. The Autoformer set-up isolates the amp from this bad stuff, but at a price compared to direct-coupled amplifiers. The frequency response of the amplifier will vary more depending on how well the three (2,4 or 8 ohm) binder posts match the speaker impedance. Bass and Treble will change some and never be exactly right looking into the speaker. The speaker won't allow it. You can get close, but never as exact as a direct-coupled amplifier.
Rower, talk to A-ball here, whose system thread is 'To see the Music,' he uses that amp among 4 or 5 others with his horns, and loves it. And, he's probably had some of the others you mentioned.
Me, I owned my first Mc piece in 1973 or so, and have had equipment from a variety of different manufacturers, mainly tube gear. As you will see, I have no Mc in my current system, and tend toward the esoteric, so I'm not saying positive things because I currently use their gear.* I would have no concerns about whether it is "high end,' particularly given the flavor of the month approach- witness Halcro, the best amp in the world 5 or so years ago, now dimly viewed. (I'm not dumping on Halcro, just using it as an illustration). They may not be the last word in one or another hi-fi attributes, but that's hardly the test of whether they make music. I do think the amp-speaker relationship is synergistic, though, and you should listen to them in your home for a week or more before you buy. (And yes, in some ways, they do play to that Harley type image of an old line, traditional American brand that has a distinctive 'look,' but when I used to have bikes, I also owned a Harley among some Italian exotica and enjoyed the hell out of it).
And, whoever said resale value is strong is right. They have a loyal following. There's a lot to be said for 'set and forget' rather than tweaking to death.
*My big home theatre electronics are Mc- after years of running ARC tube amps and Meridian processor for a large projection system. Their stuff is pretty bulletproof on that front too.
I have the SA-Reference and I use it in Class A mode for serious listening and yes it does get hot. But I have seen friends with much older SA-100s and 102s that have stood the test of time.
The Macs run in AB mode I think which helps to reduce heat output. The SAs can also run in this mode. Not too bad too IMHO and I use this mode for background listening (like now) or during summer :)
That's what Plinius amplifiers have a Class-A / Class-AB switch for. Flip it one way for critical listening, flip it the other way for idling or background music. The best of both worlds!
Oh yes the amps sound different. I was lead to believe that the pre-amp, "is the heart of your system". Shoot, that went out the window this week listening to amps. There was every bit as big a difference between amps as pre-amps. An amp is not a "fine tuning" thing.
I ended up liking a SimAudio MOON Evolution amplifier. Never even considered it! Now I'll drag MY pre-amp (PASS LABS XP-10) and ODYSSEY KISMET MONO amps to the store and Ato B with at least "some" home grown reference. THEN, I'll see what amp to drag home from that episode. At least I have the MOON 860A as my current "beat this" benchmark. I may find that the KISMETS are better than expected too. Not a bad outcome, as I'll just drag THEM home.
Rower - I agree. Don't sell the Odyssey's short. I have been very happy with my Stratos HT3 (w/ cap upgrade) since 2006.
The KISMETS are crystal clear when auditioned against big name amps like the MOON W-8 and Boulder 1060. Where they fall short, as you might expect, is in dynamic compression at louder volumes. The soundstage gets smaller, and instrumental precision gets less separated, hurting purity of placement of each sound at higher volumes.
175 watt / lower voltage rails can only get you so much headroom. But keep it near realistic and they are really open and sweet sounding. I have no complaints about these KISMET amps. Highly recommended for smaller amps.
So, for a small amps, these are nice sounding. The C4's just pull too much from them too often. You just got to know that you can't run with the big dogs with small amps! That isn't the amps fault.
Odyssey is nothing more than a great HT amp unless your reference speaker is from the Anthem house or simular.I tried Klauses gear(4-mono's(2-red boards and 2-blue boards) and a HT-3) and only ever had one amp work flawlessly.Lost $1200 at the boarder and never looked back at Klause and his gear.I bought a Bryston 14bsst and never had a problem with it for the 3 yrs of ownership.I have since had Classe(CA-300/400),Simaudio(7ch Titan,P-8),Pass Labs(X-250),Mark Levinson(ML-333),Theta(Dreadnaught-4ch),Krell FPB-600c,600(still have these) and KSA-250,300s...Hot-yes sir but these are a amp and a half in one chassis.Try a Simaudio W-6 or W-10 mono's..they are much cheaper than the Ev series.
We have had the MC452 for six months and enjoy it tremendously. It is neutral, very clean, detailed, and overall plays back exactly what it is fed, and does it effortlessly. I would say not warm and not "romantic," but oh so musical. Not dry, not shrill, not fatiguing. The MC 452 amplifies, it does not color. It shows the differences upstream and downstream, whenever those components change. Finally, no, the MC452 did not finally propel McIntosh to the "really Hi-Fi" zone. McIntosh has been producing really Hi-Fi amps for a long, long time.
As for your disdain for Class A SS amps and running hot:
They have the same longevity (and sometimes longer!) when compared to other non-Class A SS amps. I've got some Class A amps (all Nelson Pass designs) from the 80s and 90s that I still use several hours for a few days almost every week. They are still running strong. Of course, after about 15+ years of ownership, I had the supply caps replaced (as you would have to do with any amp) but that is it. They've been rock solid. I don't think running hot has anything to do with longevity in modern Class A amps.
Now, if you don't like them because they are not eco-friendly, that I can understand. But the sound is oh so good.
In any case, have fun listening to them all - including the Mac.
Power use is a concern when on 24/7, definitely.
Right now, I really like the MOON W-8 amplifier which I would buy used as better-off users move up to the new 870A model. This amps is very detailed without being harsh. It also has an expansive image left to right. And, it idles at 55 watts. Yes, it is still expensive (to me) but is an audibly better sounding amp than my KISMETS (at three times the price).
My KISMETS have worked perfectly for over a year of daily use. DEAD quiet and good sounding. They use the BLACK boards and are the ultimate KISMET edition amps. No, they aren't designed to be the be all to end all amps. They are as solidly built as about anything in their price range and better than most. Hi-end amps SHOULD sound better!
Heat, if it gets near the caps, will definitely hurt their life. There is just no way around that. Better stuff still last longer, true.