I find McIntosh a bit fake with awful green LEDs and hype. Look at the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Integrated with a Schitt Mani phono.
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On the McIntosh forum, the guys that have the MA252 absolutely LOVE it. Green LEDs or not, that has nothing to do with the sound and the Mac is definitely better than a cheap Schitt Mani phono and has 3 times the power of a Prima Luna HP integrated. The resale value is also much better as well. Lastly, it sounds fantastic as I heard it at Audio Classics.
One of my audio buddies who is not a McIntosh fan heard the MA252 driving a pair of Focal Kanta speakers (not sure if they were the 2's or 3's) and reported that they paired very well.
I have McIntosh separates driving a pair of Focal Sopra No2's, speakers that need a more "warm" sounding amp, and it appears from my friend's comments, that the MA252 drives the Focal's very well.
What are your speakers? You mentioned that your speakers are inefficient. The MA252 hybrid will not be up to task driving highly inefficient speakers.
I’ve only heard the MA252 paired with the KEF LS50 passive standmount speakers in a non-ideal environment and speaker placements and wasn’t impressed at all.
I’ve also heard the same KEF LS50 paired with some $70k++ Naim separates (Naim streamer/DAC, Naim preamp, Naim power amp) in a different listening room and was absolutely amazing, very musically engaging and involving. I know this was a very unlikely pairing. Can’t imagine someone would pair $1500 pair of standmount (bookshelf) speakers (KEF LS50) with separate electronics costing some $75k. However, unlike any other speakers in their price range, the KEF LS50 do need good quality amplification and upstream electronics and source component in order to shine. These speakers are different from any other $1600 worth of speakers. I wouldn’t recommend pairing these speakers with an AVR or some mediocre electronics as the overall end results would be very dissapointing. These speakers are very sensitive to the signal fed through them. They always performed and sounded very different with different electronics.
In regards to the performance of a built-in phonostage in the MA252 I can't comment as I didn't use it. I only listened to its linestage input fed from a McIntosh DAC. I would suggest you get an external good quality phonostage pre for your turntable as it will perform better than some onboard phonostage in an entry level integrated amp such as the MA252.
Thank you, that is significant. Being an analog guy, the phono pre is very important. My motivation was to simplify or cut down on the components. I find the phono pre to be a major bother.
I wanted the pre to be simple, MM, and I would add a SUT Therefore the the built in phono stage should be excellent
What kind of turntable do you have? I would still think you will be better off with a dedicated external good quality phonostage pre.
If your speakers have low sensitivity then the MA252 might not be a good choice. The performance of the MA252 wasn’t impressive when I heard it driving the KEF LS50. These LS50 have low sensitivity and aren’t easy to drive either.
IMO your Neat Acoustics MF7 speakers deserve high quality integrated amp or separates. They deserve better quality gears than the MA252.
Try the Rega's flagship analog integrated amp called the Rega Osiris currently retails for $10k new. This is an analog integrated amp and all Rega integrateds are pure analog (no DAC). This is a very stellar integrated amp and very musically involving and engaging. Highly musical. I bet it has a good phonostage too. Rega also makes a pretty good dedicated external phonostage preamp. Give it a try on your speakers and see how it goes. This is a SS amp and is rated at 160 wpc @ 8 ohms.