I have an MA-6900 and LOVE it! It has pre-out / amp-in jacks, so flexibility should be no problem. The unit is supplied with McIntosh jumpers for use as an integrated.
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I don't remember the exact model numbers, but I listened to the seperate MAC amp and preamp whose critical sections went into making the 6900. Then I listened to the 6900. They were virtually identical. I went with the 6900 to save money, a pair of interconnects, and space. The 6900 is beautiful, cosmetically and sonically. It present all the flexibility I require in my two channel system and sounds clear, with great PRAT. If you do a search in this section on the 6900 you can find some lengthier comments I and others have made about this unit. You can't go wrong with this piece. I bought mine here at Audiogon for $3100.....and I have not looked back. I now have an all MAC system and just love it! Its the most enjoyable system I have owned since my VAC, MUSE, EAD system. Good Luck,
I did a lengthy comparison between McIntosh's integrateds and three of their preamps: C2200, C42, and the C200. You can defineteley get it even better than with your MA6900, but to get a real improvement you have to upgrade to either C2200 or C200, and that's a lot of money. Being sick enough, I did it and bought the C200 (used, though). The one thing I found interesting was that the preamps changed the sound more than switching between several McIntosh power amps. I compared, e.g., the power amp section of the MA6500 integrated and the MC352. Sure enough, there was a difference, but much smaller than between the preamp-sections. So, if some day you still want to move up, you could easily buy another Mac-preamp and run it with the power amp section of the MA6900 for the time being
200 wpc of distortionless power into any impedance load across a flat frequency response curve.
An AWESOME phono section.
FANTASTIC controls (preamp) section.
Those BEAUTIFUL big blue meters.
Heck, it's even got a primo headphone section.
All that for $4.5k retail?! ABSOLUTELY! The 6900 is a keeper. Heirloom quality. Sixty years from now my grandchildren will enjoy it.
I compared the MA6500, the MA6900 and the C42/MC352. There was a definite improvement in sound quality between the MA6500 and the MA6900, but I was hard pressed to find much difference between the MA6900 integrated and the separates. Bottom line, the 6900 is an incredible integrated! Plus, as has been mentioned, you save on a pair of interconnects and a power cord!
This is an interesting question. As far as flexibility, it is a moot point as others said above.
As far as sound quality difference, I can relate to this first hand although with different models. A friend of mine has an MA6400 integrated from a few years back. He just loves it and had me audition it. I immediately began looking of one but to no good avail (I had to have it NOW and did not find one). I then bought the separates that make up the MA6400/6450: the C712 and MC7100. There are many reviews online about how awesome the MA6450 is but no one really says anything about the separate version. I borrowed the MA6400 I had first listened to and compared, head to head, with the separates and I COULD NOT hear a difference or tell them apart. The separates version in this case has a little more power but the sound quality is equally sublime. So, if space and extra cost are an issue, go with the MA6900. It is a heck of a deal compared to MC202+C42 and judging from my experience, they will sound identical (actually they are identical circuits so this is pretty much a given). They are simply beautiful pieces that make the most beautiful music I have heard.