I have been auditioning the MA8900 at home for about two weeks now. I am coming from a Prima Luna DiaLogue One tube integrated, which I love. I am using both with Sonus Faber Elipsas SE’s and an Oppo 105. Cables are mostly Nordost.
The Mc is a wonderful integrated. I am selling the Prima Luna (here) but my goal is to upgrade to the Premium version of the same amp instead, because I’d love to have both SS and tubes in my system, and both amps have their strengths (a testament to the Prima Luna, which cost me $2400 back in the day, vs. the $7500 that the Mc retails at... still, for an US-made amp with all the features and quality on offer, the Mc is fairly priced, I believe). I will write in more detail later, but a few words I would use to describe the 8900 are:
- musical, warm, non-analytical. Wonderful midrange.
- In many ways, it sounds more tube-like than my tube integrated. But not as "chunky" and without some of the "glow" that I get from my EL-34’s. Still, very smooth and warm.
- non-fatiguing (you can listen to it for hours and hours, and I have been doing just that lately)
- not overly detailed (which explains the above), but not "flat" nor "lifeless", either. Just seems "right" (most of the times).
- contrary to what I thought, it sounds wonderful with jazz and classical. Strings, in particular, have a very tactile and vibrant quality. Rock and metal sound great, too, but it does not have the merciless and gut-punching "slam" that you may be expecting from a 200 watt SS amp. (at least, not in my small room and with my speakers).
- the DAC is great. I am going straight from the Oppo 105 to the Mc’s DAC via digital coax. Love the fact that I can streamline the entire signal path.
- Not a vinyl expert, but what I listened to sounded very good through the built-in MM phono stage. Much better than my $200 external Pro-Ject phono preamp, for sure.
From what a Mc tech explained to me over the phone, the MA9000 is exactly the same amp, with the same dac, same everything else, etc., but it has an extra 100 watts, more EQ bands, and the front handles. I would say if you can swing it and have a big room go for the 9000. If not, the 8900 should be more than enough in 90% of cases.
Hope that helps!
I don’t have the MA 8900, but I do have an MA6600 and at 200wpc, it drives my GE Triton One speakers with authority. Make sure the Integrated has the output transformers, because without them, you won’t get the McIntosh house sound. My Mac integrated blows away the Parasound Halo Integrated I was using previously. My Integrated doesn’t have the built in dac, but my main rig has a Mac tube preamp with the built in dac and its a killer.
@beyondarkness thanks for the detailed response. I also did notice, during the audition that the MA8900 did not quite have the slam I am used to, but on all other counts it was quite good.
But then, with the Key Reference 1s, in my small room, bass is not something I am worried about. I had to move my speakers around quite a bit to tame it down.
@stereo5 thanks for the comment, both the MA8900 & MA9000 come with output transformers.
Just for fun, I compared the MA8900 and the Prima Luna DiaLogue One (running EL-34's) just now.
I've had the Prima Luna for almost 8 years by now (bullet-proof), so I am very familiar with its sound, but had not listened to it in about 2 weeks (since I've had the Mc in its place).
One is a 200 wpc solid state behemoth with the well regarded Mc autoformers, and a ton of functionality and flexibility.
The other a 36 wpc tube integrated running in push-pull.
In other words: both could not be more different... on paper.
But in practice, it's a different story.
Long story short: it is *not* night an day between the two. The Mc is definitely on the warmer side of solid state, and the Prima Luna packs a true punch. In fact, during some passages the Prima Luna sounded more purposeful and with more impact, even slightly more extended on the top, although brighter and not as smooth as the Mc, which sounds a little more relaxed.
The Mc is perfect if you care about music first. It will allow you to actually *listen* for hours and hours without worrying about any of our daily audiophile nonsense (hey, I am also guilty as charged!). I find this truly refreshing and a decisive factor. The rest are flashy gimmicks that win you over at first, and tire your ears pretty fast afterwards.
The Prima Luna is truly an amazing product, and offers genuine value. But the Mc is more refined. Still, it is not a big difference by any means.
I know nobody asked me to compare these two units, but hopefully the above helps you to get a better idea of what to expect from the MA8900. It truly does not have any of the weaknesses one normally associates with solid state.
I have a MA-7000 driving a pair of GET Triton Ones with a VPI Prime and I LOVE LOVE the Mac! I sold audio back in the 80's and 90's and was always taught how to sell against Mac but after my Classes audio CAP-150 was put to bed I tried a few different amps settling with the MA-7000 plenty of slam plenty of amazing mico dynamics and still smooth and enjoyable for long listening sessions. The build quality is amazing and Mac will ALWAYS hold it's value. Huge fan I love the amps and you will as well just make sure it has the autoformers as it seems to really help with detail and warmth .. used to say I disliked Mac now I am completely sold on the look the sound and the build quality
A couple of potential options if you don't mind hearing of something outside of McIntosh. You're mentioning initially about some fantastic integrated amps including the T+A 3100HV. I used to the have the T+A integrated just below it in my system, the PA 2500 R. A great piece for sure. How close is it to the 3100HV, I'm not sure as I never got a chance to play with that one, but the PA 2500 R is highly regarded. However, I'm now using the Bel Canto Black EX integrated, and to me it is in another league versus the T+A PA 2500 R. The Bel Canto Black EX sounds very close to the much more expensive Bel Canto ACI 600. Now, while the Bel Canto Black EX is more money than the T+A PA 2500 R, it is considerably less than the 3100HV and also comes with a world-class DAC including full MQA decoding which works great with TIDAL streaming. I had used the T+A PA 2500 R with the T+A DAC 8 DSD with a reference calibre XLR cable between and the Bel Canto Black EX integrated, in my opinion, exceeds this combo by quite a bit. Customers that have heard both setups have also agreed and are quite astounded by the quality of the Bel Canto. The Bel Canto Black series is in an entirely different league than what you may have heard from Bel Canto in the past. It is $14,990 USD ($19,500 CAD...we're in Canada). I don't know where you're located, but hopefully you have a Bel Canto dealer nearby and can get a chance to hear one.
If Bel Canto Black is too much money, consider also that Hegel does shows with KEF speakers (often Blade). The H360 integrated amp is well within your budget and comes with a great quality built-in DAC as well. Also, depending on timing, their monster H590 integrated is coming out later this year.
Before I went with separates I had a McIntosh MA8000, the older 9000, and it was pretty great. I had an opportunity to in home demo a Hegel H360 with my own equipment and after two weeks sold my MA8000 and went with the Hegel. It might be worth the wait for the Hegel H590 or you could possibly look at one of their smaller integrateds. I know sound taste is subjective, so your mileage may vary, but I’m pretty sold on Hegel. I’ve since swapped out to Hegel separates
I was pretty sure I wanted a 8900. So, I went to a dealer and while I didn’t get to hear the 8900, the dealer played a MAC6700(200 wpc), which he indicated should sound much the same, into Wilson speakers . My impression was that it had all kinds of power, but I did not find it to particularly give that sense of actually listening to music, or to be very emotionally involving. Perhaps that was a function of the speakers. JMHO.
mtrot, ironically enough I have had the exact opposite experience in my system: in other words, the 8900 does not really sound *that* much more powerful than my 36 wpc tube integrated, but it does sound warmer, smoother and more involving.
It's all a question of synergy.
@beyondarkness @marsrecords very informative posts, thank you. Somehow Mcintosh gear does not get the credit they deserve, which is rather unfortunate.
@everest_audio thanks for your post,
I did audition the Hegel H360 multiple times, as the dealer offered killer prices for it, but I never liked it, i found it way too dry for my liking.
im not looking at Class D amplification at all, as that is something i’ve already experienced, so no Bel Canto. On a side note, one the best Class D’s id recently heard was the SPEC amplifier.
This hobby, for me, is about trying new gear and this upgrade certainly won’t be the last for me, so I am also looking at gear that retains it value. From what ive seen, can’t beat Mcintosh on that.
If the Accuphase has similar resale, it would be close call between the MA8900 & the E650 ;)
@chachi112 thanks for your comment, I guess sound is a very subjective matter, I didn't like the sound of the Hegel all that much.
Totally understandable and I could see how the Hegel could have possibly sounded a little dry or thin. I’ve heard their equipment in other set ups and didn’t like it nearly as much as I do in my room. Have you thought about giving the Pass Labs integrateds a look?
@chachi112 totally agreed, I think it is always about system synergy., I haven't heard the Pass integrated yet. I shall do so this week.
I've heard great things about Pass integrated amps or their amps in general. I've never heard any Pass gears before as we do not have any Pass dealer in my area but I'll be psyched to be able to hear one some day.
I would also highly consider the following integrated amps :
* Audio Research Foundation integrated.
* Naim Unity Nova (streamer / DAC / integrated amp all in one chassis).
* Devialet (any models according to your budget). Naim also makes a pure analog integrated amp some at much higher price points than the Unity Nova.
* Classe Sigma 2200i stereo integrated amp. This integrated amp will digitize its analog inputs. It is a direct digital amplifier. No DAC.
* Rega Osiris integrated amp.
I auditioned the Naim Unity Star yesterday, paired with a Focal Kanta, and left very impressed. It looks so sleek as well.
My needs are quite different, but for someone looking to have a single box with everything in it (including a streamer) & getting off the gear merry go round, its the best around.
Devialet - I have auditioned this, good sound but I prefer a more old school approach & look., also the thing I have against them, their product cycles are very short, i don’t want to be in a position of putting down 10 grand and finding in a year that my Amp is an older model., resale value takes a huge hit.
Rega Osiris - I did audition this, paired with a YG acoustics Carmel & a Rega Planar 10, Maybe it was not set up well, but I was a bit underwhelmed, considering the price point at work.,
Classe Sigma - I have been hearing great things, I need to audition it, but how is the support & warrant now that they have had a management change.
Audio Research - I haven’t heard any of their gear, definitely need to audition this.
@mtrot thanks for your comment & info in the thread posted.
It all comes down to system synergy after all. You will need to demo different integrated amps with your speakers in your own listening room if you can take home demo that would be ideal, and go from there. Pick the one you think sounds best on your speakers.
Re: Naim Unity, the Unity Nova is a step up sonically from the Unity Star. The Nova is Naim's top of line model in its Unity series.
Speaking of Naim, I had a chance to hear the Naim Statement gears at my local dealer earlier this year. Naim Sttement consists of a linestage analog stereo preamp and monoblock amps. They retail for $270k. $90k for the preamp and $180k for the monoblock amps.
They sounded absolutely phenomenal. The best sounding gears I've ever heard. They were paired with the Wilson Audio Alexx speakers and those DCS Vivaldi full four stacks (Vivaldi master clock, Vivaldi upsampler, Vivaldi DAC, Vivaldi CD/SACD transport served as digital front end source components.
Audio Research Foundation series is entry level offerings from Audio Research. They are wonderful sounding gears.
I’m late to the party here, but wanted to add my observations about the MA8900. I bought one a year or so ago based upon reviews and frankly for the appearance. I was so excited to bring it home and enjoy it. I pulled out my existing Hegel h360 and turned it on. To my disappointment, It sounded really dull and lifeless and I attributed that to a need to break in. So I left it on playing in the background for a couple of days. After waiting, it still sounded flat and lifeless to me. It was a very noticeable difference. Long story short, I never took to the sound and returned it. When I put the Hegel back in, the music returned. To MY EARS, the Hegel sounds much more refined and natural. It really broke my heart because the Mac looks fantastic and I believe it’s a well-made product, but I just didn’t care for the sound. I’ve since upgraded to the h390, and it’s just fantastic and a significant upgrade to the h360. But we all listen with our eyes as well as our ears, and I understand that all of that plays into our enjoyment of our systems. The Hegel certainly doesn’t look as nice as a Mac and I doubt it will last as long or retain its value as well.
Like everything else, it’s all a matter of personal preference. My suggestion is to disregard professional reviews or the opinions you read on forums like this (including mine). Listen for yourself.
Thanks for this @jeffp13
I have since, acquired the MA8900 after auditioning several amps, I use an UltraRendu to feed its DAC - Tidal master, a very convenient and enjoyable setup for music.
The Macintosh has a magical midrange & tone and a laid back sound which is great match for Kef Refs and the kind of music I listen to.
I listen to 70s and 80s rock, jazz, progressive rock, pop, r&b and electronic. (I don't listen to classical or audiophile only music)
I did audition the Hegel several times, but didn't take a liking to its sound. i guess it comes down to system synergy & personal preferences.
@beyondarkness your comparison with the Primaluma is insightful indeed.
I auditioned the Line Magnetic LM150 recently and was impressed with what it could do - punchy, ultra transparent, fast. (and less warm than the MA8900)
I am a tube novice and the audition was a revelation for me, i had always imagined that tubes have a syrupy sound.