McIntosh MC303 vs MC402 with 501's?

Hi there AGon,

I currently have 3 MC501's across the front for home theater and am wondering about completing the setup with either an MC402 or an MC303. I know that presents a plethora of amp org options, but I am wondering sonically what people reccomend.

I know the output specs on both and that on a per channel basis the 402 seems the route to go. But after reading on forums, and reading comments from Ron C, about the actual power vs rating of the 303 is different, I'm curious.

What I really want to know is do people think it a good combo having the 303 do center and surrounds in which case I'd have a 501 for trade or sale, or do I stick with my current belief that 501's have to be the best combo in this?
Yes you have options. The MC 303 would allow you to have a back channel speaker as well as a pair of surround speakers. You haven't said what pre/pro you have but if it allows that hook-up and you have the ability to individually adjust the speakers volume/speaker size/distance (or Audessey DSP) it might improve your HT experience more than the MC 402. Don't let the output between 303 and 402 be the deciding factor. I would keep the 501's across the front in any case. Blu-Ray discs are adding channels every year it seems. I've seen AVR's with 9.1 channels!
I would think if you are looking at space and budget issues. Your scenerio of running the 303 for center and surrounds and keeping the 501's for front L&R would be a great sounding system. I have the 402 and it is wonderful amp for my needs and I use the 205 for ctr and sur's. I have two channels that sit idle. But it gives me meters for a 5.1 setup. I have no desire to expand to 6.1 or 7.1 as my room and budget don't allow me a justifiable reason to do so. Selling a single 501 may be a slow process unless your dealer is willing to trade in on the 303. What pre/pro and speakers are you using?
I'm using the Classe Ssp 800 and Atlantic Technology 8200e speakers in a 5.1 configuration with a Velodyne DD15 and a pioneer bdp 09 f'd blu ray player.

My other thought is that I should stick with all fully balanced amps for best noise floor. And later on a 402 would be a better stereo amp than a 303.


The 501's I'll never give up.
No doubt the MC402 is a better stereo amp (love my MC352). So, the question is, are you ever going to have a dedicated 2-channel system? Do you have another room for one? Etc. The MC303 has balanced inputs. Can you include a Back Channel into your present set-up? The Classe SSP800 is capable of 10 channels and you can probably combine the back channels into one through the pre/pro set-up. If you are locked into 5.1 (and there's nothing wrong with that) then your best choice is the MC402, right?
I would assume so and you hit on my other leaning (expanding channel count). I had a dedicated 2 channel rig with MC501's and I consolidated my system, selling the Classe CA5200 I had for multi channel, so I could go McIntosh mono's across the front and then this rear would be 402 or 303. My feel right now is to go for a 402 which would be excellent for migration to a seperate 2 channel rig, and then maybe migrate the 501's around the room for either a complete 501 home theater, or who knows the intro of a big brother, or two....1.2KW's....:)
Everything you are considering would make a wonderful/spectacular surround system. I really would go for the MC402 from what you are saying. Programing becomes the key here. How many BD/DVD discs with more than 5.1 discrete channels will you be playing, right? Is it worth the extra expense? Your pre/pro will combine any extra discrete channels into your existing system anyway.

I checked out the Atlantic Tech Speaker system you are using and they are very impressive. Happy Listening.
To you as well. They are a great speaker. I have had other, more expensive brands, and I've been totally blown away by how good the Atlantics are. I live local to the company and have been down to their demo room and building floor. I really am impressed with them.

And you're totally right about 5.1

I'd rather go all out for 5 channels than spread thin for 6 or 7. 402 it is!!!
I know Classe is quality gear but is there some reason you are not considering the new MX150 or a MX136 from MC?
The MX 150 is certainly what I want. It seems to be at the top of the pile presently. But pricey!!!! 12-13k!!
Mind if I quasi-hijack this thread?

I'm looking at a similar scenario. Kind of. I don't have the money to buy a 3 channel and a 2 channel, and the comments about the 5 channel amps being underpowered or something makes me a bit leery of them. Those are vague comments so far.

I can't find any 303's for sale. But I can find 402's for instance. Do I power the mains on the 402's and then...use my Yamaha DSP-A1 for the center and just wait for a 3 channel? Maybe look at a mono block? But I think a mono will be too much power for the center.

martin logans for front and center, btw.
I would be worried about the voicing diffence between the yamaha and the mcintosh. Keep an eye on videogon as well for 303s
I agree the MX150 seems to be the pinnacle at this point. I wanted to buy one as I had alwasy had Mcintosh. I traded my MX135 in on the Anthem D2v and it seems to be excellent for HT sound. However for 2 Channel it is not a McIntosh replacement. I have Audio Research LS26 for 2 channel but I tried using the Anthem for 2 channel a few months back and was disappointed in it's performance. If the budget ever permits I will upgrade to the MX150.
videogon. will keep an eye out there. But your recommendation indeed is a 3 channel for up front. makes sense to me...but I can only afford so much.

I have the Classe SSP-800 like yourself but my amp is the Sim Titan and Dali speakers. I've been recently thinking about a new multi-ch amp just for a change of pace, maybe the MC 303 or even the Classe 5300. HT and 2ch about 50-50. How would you compare the Classe amp with the Mac amps?

Anyone else with experience, please feel free to chime in.

Thanks in advance.
Wow it took a while to respond!! Sorry. Sort of getting away from topic, but no worries.

I like both brands a lot. Great build quality, reliability, and customer service. I've owned both for years and had both companies give me replacements or repairs, with no hassle.

I was running the CA-5200 for home theater with the SSP-800 and switched to now running McIntosh MC501's for the L/C/R and an MC402 for the surrounds.

Obviously there's a single/mono amplification comparison buried within this brand comparison. I've used both B&W and Atlantic Technology on this amplification.

I like the overall McIntosh presentation a little better in my home theater. I find I can push the dynamics/volume and it is less fatiguing, and fuller in sound. That said the Classe did wonderfully. It never ran out of steam and always delivered. Vocals have historically been Classe's strongsuit in my opinion, but the McIntosh rig gives it a run for the money.I had Mac mono-blocks already, thus the transition to a Mac home theater.

I've always felt that Classe amps were a little lean in bass compared to Macs. With a good sub, which we're using anyway, no problems with music or HT, but the ever so slightly added weight of the Mac's makes for more palpable dialogue and effects in my experience.

You really wouldn't be unhappy with either. One thing I like to point out is that Mac had Classe beat in available power for HT, not so much now with the new CT/Delta amps, and configurations. FOr example the 303 is a great piece that is far more powerful than CLasse's 3200, and it is impressive, I've heard it.

Also depends on your loads. I drive Atlantic's, 6 ohm loads, and B&W's, 8 ohm nominal, but really more like 4. I feel like the Mac's, even though Classe is used to voice B&W's, are better for my ears. And I like the multi-tap options on the Mac's (2/4/8 ohm outputs) as you can hear the difference.
Intersting thread. I am considering a McIntosh MC303 or a Classe CT series amp for my EgglestonWorks home theater My current processor is a Lexicon MC12B, a Lexicon LX-7 (built by Crown) amp. Someday I will upgrade the processor to the Classe or the next Lexicon, if they ever release it.

For now, I would like to get my left/right/center speaker off the LX-7 and onto a much smoother and and warmer amp without losing too much detail and clarity. My l/r speakers are the Andra ll and the center is the Andra center. The EW speakers with the Esotar tweeters are a bit forward sounding and fairly analytical. My ears are very sensitive to high frequency sound and higher volumes in general, so now I listen at low/mid volume. 99% home theater use.

My cables and power cords are JPS Aluminata. I will be buying new speaker wire, likely Cardas Clear series Sky or Light, or the very affordable Purist Audio Genesis speaker wire. The runs are long ranging 10' to 25'. My room is dedicated and fully treated.

What amp do you think I should go with the McIntosh or the Classe keeping in mind my EW speakers and my hearing sensitivity. Thanks