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You are correct, there is a big difference in price and the reason is Rotel has a conscience and won't charge McIntosh prices for their equipment. And McIntosh can't build their level of quality and performance at Rotel prices. Both brands have very good reputations , performance and build quality. But the value is nested in the selling price, you get what you pay for.
agreed....I went from a Rotel RB01092 to a MC252 and am not looking back. Although, the RB1590 has been getting rave reviews but at $4K retail I would be looking a bit closer at McIntosh. But, I see you are asking about preamps. I had upgraded my RC1550 to an RC1590 ($1700 retail) and when I got home my wife asked were the McIntosh was, so I returned the preamp, took my RB1582 amp as trade and came home with a MAC6700 - no regrets. The RC1590 has also been getting good reviews.
Blackjack616, my point is that you get what you pay for. Mc doesn't have a higher margin, they cost more because they invest more. Rotel prices the same way, each manufacture has a cost of design and production factored in and they add a profit margin to establish a price. The bean counters make the calculation required to stay in business. Either brand will serve well, but your decision should be based on hearing what you expect for your budgeted investment.