Mcintosh C-2300 first impressions

I bought an C2300 from an authorized mac dealer with return rights minus shipping. I have 11 days to listen to it. My current preamp is the Counterpoint SA-5.1 that has had the line and phono stage upgraded by Mike Elliott (the original designer/engineer of Counterpoint gear). Since I use a low output cartridge, I also use the Counterpoint SA-2 in conjuction with the SA-5.1. My amp is the Jadis Defy 7 MKII. What I was hoping to achieve was to retain all of the sound quality of the SA-2/SA-5.1 combo while lowering the noise floor compared to my current phono section (the line section of the SA-5.1 is very quiet).
My initial impression from my first night of listening is that the C2300 has a refined, polite presentation in a button-upped British sort of way with a sweet top end. However, it sounds thin much like a SS preamp sounds and it doesn't have much in the way of a bottom end which can even be heard on acoustic bass. Forget any type of wowie-zowie bass punch with this preamp. Voices also don't sound as real as my current preamp. And these listening impressions come from listening to LPs, CDs, and 15 ips 2 track tape. I guess if I didn't know any better I could be happy with this preamp, but unless things improve soon it will be going back.
For those of you who own and love the C-2300, I would love to know what preamp it replaced in your system. I love all of the creature comforts this preamp has to offer with 8 inputs, 4 sets of balanced inputs, a cool remote, etc. I do think it is a bit garish looking in person with different shades of green lights as well as blue. If this preamp doesn't start fleshing out more of the music, it will be going back. And please don't tell me that it takes magic Telefunken 12AX7s to make this preamp come alive. I have heard mixed reviews with some owners not liking the Telefunkens at all and actually preferring the Mcintosh selected 12AX7s while others who are hooked on Telefunkens of course swear by the improvement they expected to hear.

I do hope things work out for you with this new unit... I'd say leave it on all the time too. use the cable box or a tuner, but make it carry a signal throughout your 'return window'.

if brandy new it'll take all of the 10 days and more I think to fully know what's what, so good luck.
Give it some time. My CJ preamp bloomed after some 50 to 100 hours of play time. I almost packed it up for sale during the first few hours of listening.

I don't have any experience with McIntosh, but do hope it sounds better within your return window.
Once the preamp has broken in a little more, you really should try different tubes to see if YOU like the difference. Forget what others have said, it really just depends on what you hear in your system.

I've had my MC2300 for over two years and for me, in my system, the Telefunkens made a very nice improvement in both the line stage and the MC phono stage.
Agree with all the others that you need to give this some time, and within your window of auditioning that means playing music through it 24/7 while in your possession. What I am less clear on is why you imagined this preamp would be a significant step up from what you have? If your goal is to match the Counterpoint linestage but get lower noise floor in the phono stage, I think there have to be better options than spending all that money on a new C2300. Why not keep the line stage you like and invest in an alternative phono stage? Further, the MAC has lots of functionality which you may or may need but is part of its price. I considered one but at the end of the day did not want to pay for lots of inputs and features that I did not require in my system -- everything that's extra costs, and with dealer mark up, it means compromises of some kind in the areas that matter most in your system.
The one thing that I found with the Mac Preamp is that it is very neutral. I have the C220. I used to have an ARC LS 16 which had a more tubey sound. I like the C220 much better than the ARC unit. The teles make a huge difference period. You will not know until you try. The stock tubes are not very good. Unfortunately, the stock tubes can give you the wrong idea regarding what the preamp is capable of. If you don't like it then maybe it is not for you. I had a similar experience with the Marantz KI Pearl SACD player. It seemed as though it went back in the box as fast as I took it out. It sounded lifeless in my system. Maybe it was not broken in but it did not have what I was looking for.
Oscar, I never thought the 2300 would be a significant step up from the SA-5.1. I was just hoping it wouldn't lose any of the magic while providing the extra inputs and features you mentioned. The 5.1 is a tough act to follow in terms of its sound quaility and it appears the 2300 is not up to the task. What I was most interested in is if others who own the 2300 think there is anything missing on the bottom end and if they think it is rather on the thin side across the audio band or if this is just my perception.
As far as I'm concerned your observations have little or no meaning as you have not waited for the C2300 to break-in properly... wait until the 11 days are up to let us know something we can really use.
I agree with all the above observations and suggestions. It needs to break in and will take most of your demo time to do so. I have the C2200 and it improved significantly once broken, had the stock power cord replaced with something better, used some decent footers AND the stock tubes were replaced with Mullards and Amperex. There is no shortage of impact on the bottom end.
On Day 10, switch out the stock tubes for some decent ones. I use NOS RCAs in my C2200. I don't have golden ears, but I heard an immediate improvement. It's a tube preamp and the quality of tubes make a difference!
Like others have said... You can't expect to optimize the sound of a tube preamp without excellent NOS tubes. Selecting & installing the right NOS tubes made a night & day difference in my Aesthetixs Calypso. You will be selling yourself woefully short if you don't experiment with NOS tubes... suggest you start with Mullard CV 4004 platinums from Upscale Audio. It won't be cheap, but it will take you listening experience to a new level.
Ten days is indeed not very long, either for the equipment to settle in or to make a decision. You might call your Mac dealer and tell them your first impressions, and ask for a little more time to make a final decision - this may take off some of the mental stress and make it easier to listen and decide.

Usually, return policies are drafted for the most troublesome of customers. Most Mac dealers are independent businesses, and most independent businesspeople are very flexible if you're respectful and forthright with them. Just make sure that if you do return it, it's absolutely perfect . . .
I appreciate everyone's comments. I should have clarified that this preamp is either a demo unit or it is used. Audio Classics offers the 11 day return period which I think is quite fair. The salesman told me the unit was fresh back from Mcintosh in January and that Mcintosh installed new tubes when it was back. It was packaged like a new unit when I received it. This is my first dealings with Audio Classics so I can't be either a great customer or a bad customer and I certainly wouldn't feel right asking for an extension to their 11 day policy. I have never claimed to have the fastest ears in the west, but it didn't take long to figure out that the 2300 in my system has no real bottom end and lacks the dynamics that seperate the good from the great. My collection of 12Ax7s is rather motley as it is not a tube I have collected over the years (too bad its not 12AU7s as I have an outstanding collection of NOS tubes). I am not going to have time to order up some fancy tubes for this Mac before it needs to wing its way back to New York in 11 days so I will have to listen with the stock tubes. I also will not make the leap of faith that NOS Telefunken tubes will fix everything that I perceive to be lacking in this preamp and make a purchase decision predicated on that belief. It needs to stand up and sing with what Mcintosh delivered it with and they have put their name on these tubes.
I would suggest a step up for your cartridge. The classic is the Verion, Google around. This would greatly lower the noise floor of your LOMC.

Interesting listening notes on the Mc...

My best!

Peter-I have the Counterpoint SA-2 pre-preamp. You really shouldn't need it with the 2300 with my Benz Glider .4 mv cartridge, but the only way I can reclaim some of the magic with LPs is to use the SA-2 into the 2300's MM stage. Straight in to the MC input of the 2300 just doesn't sound good at all.
So, a $6k preamp cannot be expected to sound very good until you replace the supplied tubes with NOS, the supplied power cord with an aftermarket one, and add new footers? Wow! And we wonder why the audio industry has problems gaining a large audience. Mark, if the break in period does not reveal an improvement to you, stick with what you have and work on the phono stage.
I guess Mr Pearson actually waited to opine until AFTER the break-in period....

C2300 Tube Preamplifier and MC2301 Tube Monoblock Amplifier - Harry Pearson,Senior Editor, The Absolute Sound

" The sound of these units is quite unlike the sound of other major tube-based electronics on the market. It is the quietest sounding combination of preamplifier - yes, it even contains phonostages for both moving-coil and moving-magnet cartridges - and amplifier in my experience with tube units. And I can hear no distortions of any kind, nor detect much in the way of character. ..The McIntoshes do have a kind of liquid sweetness that is consonant with the same quality in live music, sufficient power to encompass with sublime ease any massive recorded peaks, and delicacy at low levels-thanks to the very low distortion- that I have found seductive, but seductive because it is a kind of truth-spoken-here resolution of the quietest pianissimos"

BTW...the C2300 was nominated for a Golden Ear award by Mr Pearson.
The 2300 is an outstanding preamplifier, there is no doubt about it. I have never heard the Counterpoint. If you decide to send it back, when you listen to your preamp and realize that you are missing something, then it might click. The NOS tubes are just the icing on the cake IMHO. If not, no harm done.

Is it possible the 2300 is a bad match for your amp? From my experience, the 2200 is a horrible match to Krell FPB600. Sound is flat, liveless, veil and NO deep bass ... impedance mismatch.

BTW, Telefunken is a must for 2200 and 2300. Major improvements in all areas ... similar to buying a new pre costing 2X 3X ...

NOS tubes are rare, limited supply and expensive so manufacturers cannot supplied them as stock. I think only very low volume Shindo design and supply there components around rare NOS.
Happily, this is beginning to be a tale of two preamps. Yesterday when I posted some further thoughts, I was 99.9% convinced that I was going to send the big Mac back. I put my digital music server to its best use yesterday and had it streaming music to the 2300 for most of the day. Last night when I went to sit down and listen to the system, I couldn't believe my ears that this was the same preamp. The bottom octave that had been MIA was suddenly there and the midrange had fleshed out considerably from the earlier sessions. The highs were still sweet as they were upon the first listen. If I hadn't heard this for myself, I wouldn't believe such a transformation in such a short time was possible.

As for the comments posted from HP's review, Yes, I know about them and I read the review when it first came out. That review is the one that piqued my interest in the first place. I am also aware the latest issue of TAS also gave it an editor's choice award. The other comment was that if I sent it back, I would find myself missing something and I now believe that to be true. If last night's exerience repeats itself tonight (the music server is doing its duty again today), I can see that are things I would not want to give up.

Last night I mainly listened to LPs (still using the SA-2 into the MM inputs of the 2300) and reel to reel tapes (2 track 15 ips). There was an ease and naturalness that was bewitching. I am still dumbfounded what a difference a day makes as the saying goes.

If NOS tubes really take this preamp to another level (and the reviews on that seem to be mixed with some people preferring the stock tubes to Telefunkens), this could be a scary good preamp-specially if it continues to bloom as music flows through it.
I thought I preferred the stock tubes until I put the Teles in. I was blown away. Everybody is different so you never know. Sounds like it is breaking in.
So which Telefunkens does everyone prefer for the 2300? Smooth plates or ribbed for her pleasure?
Ah, sounds like the new tubes Mac installed needed to settle in. Please keep us updated during the process. This pre is a consideration as a mate to my McIntosh MC2102 amp, but I will say that some Macophiles @ Audiokarma have echoed your concerns in finding that the SS preamps such as the C46 counterintuitively sounded warmer and more fleshed out with better bass.

The smooth plate Tele is a touch warmer than the ribbed plate. I prefer the ribbed plate.
It does not matter if they are Tele's, Mullards, or any NOS tube will probably be a noticible improvement. It is all about voicing to your tastes. The Tele's are pretty neutral. They are very easy to like for the most part. I like them.
If your interested in saving some money ,a really good new production 12AX7... is the reissue Tung-Sol gold pin..

Excellent tone..has a big, warm and musical sound..very low microphonics...

Perhaps not quite up to the standards set by NOS Tele's,etc... but for a lot less you can do WAY better than the stock Chinese tubes.
When I re-read my initial post, I don't feel so bad. The C2300 has done something that no other preamp in my experience has ever done, and that is a wholesale change in sound quality over a period of 24 hours. All of things that I was complaining about disappeared in such a short period of time that I was and am astonished. And the good news is that I didn't need NOS tubes to change the sound of this preamp-I just needed break-in time. At some point I will still experiment with NOS tubes due to the very strong feelings that other posters have on the further positive impact it will have to the sonics of the 2300. If true, that would be really great.

As for the stock tubes, they are very quiet, the top end is sweet and extended, the bass is really good as is the midrange. The C2300 is a very quiet preamp. You can clearly hear the difference between the absolute noise floor of your LP playback system vice the noise floor of the actual LP you are playing. Before a song starts, you are hearing your absolute noise floor. Once the song starts, you are now hearing any noise associated with the actual recording. For instance, on LPs that are sourced from tape, you can hear the very gentle tape hiss as the song begins. On good quality LPs, this very low level hiss stands in sharp contrast to the almost sound of silence of the actual LP. Pretty cool.
I am really happy for you...It was just a matter of time then. I actually had similar misgivings too..but stuck it out because its such a wonderful pre. You have much to look forward to as it will continue to improve. Like a fine gets better with age!

If your happy with the stock tubes...then I would let it ride for now..You can always roll others in later. In the mean time enjoy yourself and the beautiful sounds you C2300 is making. Congrats!
I own the C2300 for several months and over that time I can tell you the tube used will make a big difference. Also the preamp is natural, if your room has issues it will show it, I took down a few wall panels and I was shocked at how much quality I lost in the weight and presentation.

Tubes that I found that work great are: Mullards, Siemens 12ax7WA, GE 5751 black plates, RCA 12ax7 black plates and ECC83 Telefunkens.

Each will have a sound of their own and depending on the rest of your gear it will be hard to tell which set you might like more.

It is a learning experience. All beat current made tubes.
I took home a demo C2300 for 24 hours. It looks nice, but it did not envolve me emotionally.I am getting a Burmester unit.
What you need is all NOS Telefunken ECC803s (only NIB and NOS will do). You also need around 10,000 (or better yet 20,000) hours of break-in time and $10,000 power cord to make the C-2300 to sing. Until then, you haven't heard its true potential.
The C2300 is a solid built preamp better balanced than the c2200. Great phonostage and a really good sounding piece
I worked my way up from Rotel to a McIntosh C2200 and was totally blown away by the shear openess that I was hearing - natural musical sounds without the veil of color added. I has my c2200 for approx 5 months and was made a very good deal on a C2300 - I could not resist. I was enamored by the remote and what all could be controlled with it from my listening position. I have had the C2300 ow for less than a week and have only listened to two sides of 'Brothers in Arms'; I was please at what I have heard so far and the flexibility of the C2300 is nothing short of amazing. I have tubes to roll but will give the Mc tubes time to show their stuff. I was able to take the Graham Slee Era Gold V out of the listening chain because the C2300 phono stage is so good. My newish Era Gold V is now for sale. The next step up would be the C1000 (C500 is close to the C2300 in sonics/features), but I don't think I will ever achieve that level of audiophile-dom. Enjoy your C2300, it will serve you well.
Miner42, you mention in your post that the C500 is close the C2300 in sonics. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that. I am considering a C500 to mate with my MC402 power. I currently have a BAT VK-31Se pre and figured that the c2300 would be a lateral move. Thanks.
I am repeating what was explained to me by current C500 owners and dealer that was once a C2300 owner. With the C500 you get the flexibility of the separate power supply and balanced outs but I beleive you give up tone controls vs the C2300. The phono stage in the C2300, if that interests you, is the same as the C500 & C/T1000. I have no persoanl experience with the C500. Retail it is about 1.7 the C2300 - not sure you get 1.7X improvement, but such is the case in this hobby.