Maybe a ´´Class A ´´ integrated amplifier.
Looking for advise with selecting next integrated amp
Hello! I'm looking for advice on selecting the next integrated amp.
Lately, I have been going through audiophile burnout and got tired of spending more and more on isolation, cables, tweaks, power regenerators etc. I sold most of my gear and wanted to settle for a nice integrated and spend time on listening to music rather than tweaking. (streamer, DAC, and phono pre are not required)
I narrowed my search to McIntosh MA352 or MA7200, but recently I learned some things about the company that make it impossible for me to support them. So I'm starting the search from scratch.
Considerations: Room is 15 by 17. Speakers are an old variation of the pure audio project trio15 with tang band w8 driver - sensitive, but getting the best bottom end requires some power. Tone controls are strongly preferred.
Sound preference - smoothness in the upper midrange and lower treble is a requirement. I would prefer a non-fatiguing presentation over dynamic fireworks. Have a strong preference for a full-bodied midrange with well-controlled/textured bass.
Yamaha sound is a no-go for me - too thin in the midrange.
Rotel products - too high audible noise floor and struggling to present a developed sound stage.
PS Audio M700 monoblocks - Great 98% of the time, but on some notes in low treble, the texture of string instruments becomes "ringing" or "whistling." The only amp that ever did that and prompts me to avoid any class D amps from that point on.
I like the smooth tonality of Cary Audio separates but let them go because of the lack of tone controls and lack of excitement in the presentation.
I really like the treble and mids presentation in amps like Willsenton R8 with upgraded tubes, but it cannot get the most out of the low end and requires significant time to warm up before listening to get the best sound.
I tried Lokius tone controls with Audioquest Mackenzie balanced cables before and after, and it negatively impacted the clarity and sound stage.
To summarize: looking for an integrated with smooth treble and mids, and control of the bass, with tone controls for additional tweaking. Not class D. Preferably solid state or at least with solid state power section. Under $8k MSRP.
Good power, input flexibility and ARC would do the trick
I think Luxman is an excellent recommendation. There’s also this used Gryphon Diablo 120 — I think TMR misstated the MSRP, which I think is $16,400…
And this Plinius Hautonga available here that I think is quite a bargain…
I think any of the above could be great, and I’d encourage you to read reviews to see which might fit best for what you’re looking for. Hope this helps, and best of luck.
@vladedelman Given your sonic desires, I would suggest looking at the Margules I-240 Integrated, which retails at $7K. There’s a nice review online that compares it to McIntosh separates. I’m a Margules dealer and have both the integrated and separates on my floor. The bass texture and midrange are amongst the most musical, soulful and engaging unit I have ever heard, and this is beyond other brands like T+A integrateds, Audionet integrateds, etc.
While I’m a dealer, I’m an audiophile first. Do a bit of research on Margules on the forums and on editorial reviews online from Stereophile, Enjoy the Music and such. Happy to answer questions if you have any, feel free to ping me.
I would recommend a Pass INT 60. I spent some time with one recently (comparing with a Luxman 509x and Audio Research I-50) . It is a really impressive integrated. It is a little above your price range. But I would look for a demo or used,
This is a real piece of audiophile gear that most people would be happy with for a decade or decades. It is really musical and packs a punch… no rough edges.
I would also do a little thinking about your previous system. What caused the frustration? It can be pretty easy to swap stuff too fast and it all can become confusing. If you’re getting back in. Consider just getting the components correct. Then listening and enjoying for a long time before you start tweaking. Placement first.
I say this because my very earliest experiences were a bit frustrating. But then for the last 40 years I had slowed down and each step provided positive reinforcement and great satisfaction… each interconnect or power cord justified it’s cost and gave me greater pleasure from my system.
If you get a basic system… integrated amp and speakers… then this will serve as the standard, solid center of your system and you can play around with the other stuff to get it right.
A note… there are a lot of integrateds out there. The $10K price point is a very important one for most high end manufacturers. This equipment is intended to sound as good as separates at more than this price. These tend to be in a different league from cheaper ones.
Looked for dirt on McIntosh for a few moments, but nothing jumped out at me.
However, I now know that McIntosh is now a distributor for Rotel.
If you can take a listen to the Synthesis A40 or A100. Both are amazing integrated amps with a fantastic DAC component. You can find the A40 new in your price range, 40 watts per channel, the A100, 100 watts per channel, you can find used in your budget. I used the A40 to drive a pair of Audio Note ANE-LX and they just sang.
I have a Parasound Halo Hint 6. Was going to go for the Mcintosh 5300 but could not see the money difference. I have owned and used my amp for two years with no issues just smooth class A 160WPC. You like to tweak you say.....? This one has sub woofer control on the front for level to dial it in after you tweak the one in back for frequency. There are full controls for tone and a really nice remote. Lots of inputs including balanced, a fairly decent DAC with digital inputs, and a phono input. You want an all-in-one that does it all? Check out Parasound. Look at Hegel too!
If it were me, McIntosh all day. I don’t know what you heard or want to hear what you heard but the company has been in business for over 70 years. Their build quality, sound quality, customer service, and resale value are all phenomenal. That’s my recommendation. Good luck and I hope you find yourself an amp that fits your needs, all the way around.
I, too, as a thoroughly satisfied owner of a MAC integrated would love to know what transgression(s) the OP alludes to. Maybe he (or she) could point us in the right direction? They certainly treat their employees well!
This MAC intrigue notwithstanding, I tend not to recommend components I haven't actually spent a lot of serious seat-time with. The MAC integrateds are truly hard to beat for the sound signature sought here. However, admittedly, one really pays a premium for that level of performance, build-quality, longevity and resale value. I think Simaudio Moon, Luxman and Musical Fidelity are 3 options I would seriously consider as alternatives to MAC. Only the OP's ears will know what they want when they hear it in scheduled, well-orchestrated auditions. Curious to know what the OP will choose!
Digging deeper…McIntosh Laboratory was acquired by Highlander Partners in Dallas TX. I looked at their 2022 contributions. Without sparking a political discussion, if that’s what sways you away from owning a McIntosh product @vladedelman, then it’s your personal choice, but it’s sad to see this become a selection criteria when shopping for an integrated amp.
Thanks again, everyone. Lots of good suggestions. I have not considered Margules, CODA, or Krell. Thank you for bringing them up. The Pass Labs is on my shortlist.
Given the MSRP disparity between US and Canadian prices, I love the suggestion of looking for Accuphase used on the Canadian market.
I will have to study Luxman to figure out what models were "Class A" and how that relates to sonic characteristics.
Also, thanks for the Marantz suggestion. Looking at published reviews - so far can not find anything negative about it. Very interesting.
Typically tone controls have a very negative impact on sound quality. That was the reality forty years ago and has been reinforced by my recent auditions. If all other things are equal tone controls significantly degrade the sound. In my auditioning of the Luxman vs the Pass… there was really no comparison. The Luxman was trebly and noisy in comparison to the amazingly musical, natural, engaging and quiet Pass.
+1 @ghdprentice If you have good components you really should have no need for tone controls. Plus, once you enact them they will enter the signal path and will likely degrade to overall performance of the amp. If you feel the need for tone controls there are likely problems elsewhere in your system. Just my $0.02 FWIW.
I have a friend who spent 15k on his McIntosh integratedand loves it, or thinks he does. I absolutely love my Ayon tube integrated, although if you are wanting digital that isn't the way to go. Digital sucks, IMHO. Analog has it beat by a long way, and you don't need to spend as much to figure it out.