McIntosh MC402

Has anyone examined and listened to the current McIntosh MC402 power amplifier? The MC402 is a 111-pound 400 wpc (into 2, 4, or 8 ohms) solid-state stereo power amplifier. I am very interested in this amp and would like to hear impressions from anyone who owns or has listened to it. Thanks.
Many people know this amp - check the archives.

I think it is the best amp I have ever heard, or rather I have never heard B&W N803 sound as good before. It was mated to the C46 and 205. I listened to them for hours with all types of music. I will get that Mc trio one of these days. Arthur
I've been using mine for about a year now. First w/ a Hovland HP100 pre, and now a Lamm LL2 Deluxe. My speakers were the VonShweikert VR4GenIIISE. Plenty of bass, very neutral sounding, and no glare detected. I switched to a pair of Merlin VSM-MM and the result was astounding. Just my 2 cents.
Good luck,
I have a MC352 which is the predessor to the 402. I was actually going to trade up to the 402 untill I spoke with 2 McIntosh reps that informed me the only 2 things I would gain was the FiberOptic Lighting and 50 watts. So to answer your question the 352/402 sound great I love the McIntosh sound with the autoformers. I can add that I have a MC7205 I use for theater sound and used it while I had the 352 being re-bulbed and the sound does not compare. The autoformer output stage adds so much detail and bass response. I recommend the 402 highly. I did listen in the showroom by the way and it does sound the same as the 352.
Great thread Texasdave - I am really considering the monobloc 501's but will compare them to the 402's. I haven't heard either one yet but have done a lot of research and they seem to fit my tastes. I really like the asthetics - hope the performance is on the same level! What is the rest of your system?
Hello I currently own a Mac 252 a mc 275, a c2200 and the little cd205 changer. Love them all. I have heard in my house, the 402 and the 501s. I have had all three there at the same results were. the 252 is the best bang for the buck, the 402 is a little better and the 501s were quite nice and were the best of the lot. They all share that famed mac sound, open lush and very inviting and musical...not fatiguing.

If money were not an issue I would have gotten the 501s...another twist is 2 252s into mono....might give that a try....which amp probably depends on the speakers....either way you win.
Thanks for the great evaluation - I'm anxious to hear although I can't in my home in my system.
I own an MC-252 which I use to drive a pair of totem mani-2 speakers. Its a grat amp, rock solid reliable into the totems which are very inefficient. Organ pedals are reproduced with ease. Great amp for the buck, and it is rarely pushed to the limit. I consider it a very good value.


I had a chance to audition the MC402 with a pair of Martin Logan Ascent loudspeakers at Magnolia HiFi in Seattle this past summer. The other componets auditioned included the McIntosh MC46 preamp, McIntosh MCD205 CD player, Audioquest Jaguar interconnects with RCA termination, and Audioquest Gibralter speaker cables. The CDs that I used included “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section” (Contemporary Stereo S7532, 20-bit K2 edition), “Sarah Brightman: Time to Say Goodbye” (Angel CDC 56511), and Mozart Synphony Nos. 40 and 41 perfomred by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conducted by James Levine (Red Seal Digital RCD14413).

I found the MC402 warm, lush, and rich with an enveloping bottom end and a tipped-up treble that not only spot lit that region but added a rich glow to cymbals and bells that was not completely accurate no matter how seductive it might have been. I also found soundstage width compressed at the expense of soundstage depth, which seemed deeper than normal. Detail, transparency, clarity, and openness were not up to the standards set by the Sunfire Signature 600 – Two, which I had heard the day before.

If you cherish traditional audiophile values of neutrality, balance, clarity, detail, transparency, and openness, you will find that the MC402 will definitely have a sound of its own -- a warm, romanticized presentation -- that will only be exacerbated if it is paired with warm-sounding loudspeakers. If you like that type of sound, then you may enjoy the MC402.
I don't think there is one definition of what "audiophiles" prefer. Virtually every component sounds slightly different from another one, each a different flavor. To be an audiophile, at least to me, means 1) you love music and 2) you search for the components that satisfy you most in the reproduction of recorded music. While Mcintosh may not strictly meet the scientific criteria of traditional audiophile values listed above it is immensly enjoyable from a musical standpoint. And it works for virtually all kinds of music (the mcintosh tube amp is exceptional with bluegrass, jazz, classical, folk, acoustic guitar, native amserican flute, even space music and ambiant) and it can drive virtually any speaker out there. I have also found that too much detail can detract from the performance, the Mcintosh having a nice balance of detail with a cohesive nature.

In my experience the Mcintosh CD player is a good one but not a great one. I've heard several different CD players and DACs in my Mcintosh system and it clearly conveyed the difference between them, being more detailed with more detailed digital and less detailed with less detailed digital, more incisive with some, more relaxed with others, warmer with some, more analytical with others. My point here is that the Mcinotsh components have been neutral in allowing the differences in the sources to come through.

I would absolutely give Mcintosh a try. But be warned, they are heavy!
TAS had a rave review of the MC402 and C46 a few months ago and they received a Golden Ear award in the latest issue. Also, Stereophile rated the MC501 as their Amplifier of the Year in the Dec. issue. Check it out for their glowing opinions if you haven't already. Arthur
i just purchased an mc402 and the c2200 vacuum tube pre amp. have owned them for about 1 week, and i could not be happier with my purchase. i auditioned the 402 in several stores, with several different pairs of speakers, and the more i listened the easier my choice became. i did consider buying the 252, but in the end i went with the 402.

the 402 combines powerful, controlled bass with absolutely liquid mids and smooth treble. i am using it with my totem mani2 sig's, and i am completely satisfied with my choice. the ability of the 402 to resolve the details in music is almost unbelievable. soundstage is wide and holographic. i now have the system that i have been seeking for several years.

considering that i have only been using this gear for a week, i am excited about what the future holds! i've got to figure that there is at least another week or two until the pieces are totally burned in, so i'm hoping for even greater performance down the road.

for what it's worth, i absolutely LOVE my 402 and 2200 pre amp. i could not be happier with these items. if you live in SE michigan, you're welcome to stop by and have a listen.
Just before the holidays, I Picked up a MC402 for my theater front pair of Aeris I and a MC202 bridged for my center channel. They replaced a Bryston 9BTHX (Which I still use for rear surrounds) Pre-Processor is a MX 132. What an incredible sound. The sound gets better and smoother every day. My wife says it's the best upgrade so far.
i've been living with the MC402 (and the C2200) for a month now, and i am as happy as can be. i have an interesting story to share...

my friend came over the other night, and he brought one of his friends with him. i don't know this other guy that well, but it seems that my buddy had told his friend about my stereo. this other guy asked if he could have a listen. so i sat him down, and i fired up my system. I put on the new CD by one of my favorite artists, a British singer / song writer called Badly Drawn Boy. Almost as soon as the music started, my buddy's friend got a look of surprise on his face. after about 30 seconds he was grinning from ear to ear. he pointed to the space between the speakers and said, "it sounds like he is sitting right there". after a couple more tracks, this guy said "not only can i hear the music, but i can see it and feel it". i was smiling like a new father! it's nice to know that i put together a system that created such a powerful emotional response in someone who is not an audio nut.
I really like Badly Drawn Boy too. Which album were you playing? I have them all and enjoy them often.
i was playing his newest - "one plus one is one". i believe the first song i played was "this is that new song", which i like a lot. it really did sound remarkable on my system.

it is always good to hear from other fans of the Boy!
I started a thread with that question but got very few answers. As I understand it, they are very very similar in sound as well as topology.
What are some interesting pre-amp choices -- non-mac, a little cheaper, but balanced output -- for the 402?
I'd like to know the same thing, but for pre/pros. The MX119 looks to be good, but I am wondering also about other brands.
sphinx project 2 mark2 goes for around 3000.oo dlls. and its
supposed to be really good. It has balanced outs.
Anyone running CDP direct into MC402? Also, any thoughts on MC402 vs bridged pair of 275s?
I recently auditioned the C46/MC402 combo vs the MA6900 ina direct A-B comparison. I was prepared to buy the separates when I walked into the store. I walked out with the MA6900!!!. Both sounded great, however the integrated amp had more clarity, immediacy and was more open sounding. Speakers used for this audition were B&W Signature 805. I don't regret my decision, plus I saved several thousand dollars!
I just wish the 6900 had the same digital volume control as the preamps. I guess the replacement model will.

I auditioned my Wisdom Audio D75's with 2-MC402's driven direct by a Cary 303/200 CDP. I knew the electronics well on their own merits as my dealer has them in heavy rotation. Nonetheless, this combo was less than satisfying. To the point I was ready to walk away from a speaker purchase I wanted to make. The sound was constrained, somewhat lifeless and uninvoling. Simply put it was bad! The dealer and I added the Cary SLP98 preamp so we could here some analog and WoW...what a diffence a preamp can make. Not only did I buy the speakers I'm hot in pursuit of the 402 or 501's as soon as $$$ permit. Also I had demo'd the Cary 303/200 in my all Linn system and new it was an excellent piece.

I suspect that the CDP was having trouble driving the 402's direct. Try before you buy.
I think Mac 402 is a great amp. But for direct CDP connection, it is less than ideal due to low input impedance.
Aball: What replacement model? Is MAC replacing the 6900?

Benfmd: Wow, I am impressed that you walked away with the 6900 over the 46/402. I too own the 6900 and love it, but have been tempted to go with the seperates.


I was very surprised at the time. When I auditioned them at the dealer he did a blind test for me. I had no idea which amp I was listening to until the end.

I recently spoke with Chuck at tech support at Mcintosh. He told me that the Mcintosh integrated amps sacrifice NOTHING sonically vs the separates. The only reason to go with separates is for added flexibility in modifying your system later on. I had a long discussion with him about the 6900 in particular. His comment was that if you don't need any more power than 200 Watts, then there is NO sonic advantage to going with the 402 and preamp combo vs the 6900. He did not see any reason however why the 6900 should sound better when I told him my experience at the dealer.
Well, I meant in the future. They won't make the MA6900 forever and I bet they want to get optical lighting in all models eventually.
"The integrateds sacrifice NOTHING sonically vs the seperates" - my own experience is quite different. I had the MA6500, then bought a C200, then added a MC402. I listened to a MA6900 in comparison to a C200-MC352-combo, too, before upgrading. Every step made a clear difference, that is improvement. The preamp-section of the MA6900, good as it is, is not on a level with a C46, not to speak of a C200. The same is true for the power amp-section of the MA6900 compared to a MC402. I was in fact astonished how big the difference in bass control, better voices, and soundstaging are. I remember that I spoke to Hinton as well, and he told me much the same that he told Benfmd. When I compared, I found however, that it was not true. It is not the first time I found the Mc-people being better in designing their components than describing them. For example, Ron Cornelius told me the sonic difference between a C42 and a C200 was negligable - I found the opposite to be true. Hinton or his colleague told me power cords and speaker cables made no difference because they were all the same. Naturally, both have made a huge difference in my system. So I rather think anybody interested should go hear for himself.
I know it doesn't make much sense, why would a company put out seperates if the int amp was as good sonically. I haved the c46/252 and love it, just curious, what differences did you hear when you went to the 200 and what powercords did you upgrade to ? thanks.
The C200 adds more air around voices recorded in a natural environment, more bass slam, better soundstaging, and an even better seperation of instruments. Another reason I went for it was the high class MC-phono stage. As far as the PCs are concerned, click on my system. The best is the Shunyata, closely followed by the Eichmann. As far as value for money is concerned, the clear victor was the LAT. However, when I added the Exact Power, the improvement was even more dramatic, and it became next to impossible to tell the different PCs from another. From what I know today, I would rather go for an excellent power conditioner first, and spend less money on PCs.
hi thanks for the info,heard good things about exact power,glad you like the c200 thanks
The ONLY way to know for certain the difference between components is to do a BLIND test. Anything less is MEANINGLESS as bias is introduced into the equation. I think it is significant that we have several different Mcintosh engineers stating that the difference sonically between components only comes into play if your speakers and or room require more power or base control. Otherwise there is NO difference. As for power cords I would be shocked if ANYONE could tell the difference ina BLIND test. In fact I challenge ANYONE to take such a blind test and notice a difference between a stock cord vs an aftermarket cord with any consistancy.
Benfmd, in fact the PC testing I did, in two different systems, with several friends, was blind testing. Everybody agreed the differences were as clear as changing an amp, for example. As for differences between amps - one cannot explain what one does not hear. Enjoy your integrated, then.
When I bring gear home to listen to, I keep it real simple...I just listen. 3 outcomes are possible.

1) it sounds better
2)it sounds about the same
3)it sounds worse

I have taken home 2 aftermarket powercords, 1 sounded about the same, the other sounded worse, both were expensive.

I have tried 3 powerconditioners, 2 made my system sound worse, 1 made it sound better ( I bought it)

In the last year or so I have been trying mainly equipment.

Fom Mcintosh I have heard in my house..the mc252 the 402, and the 501s...the c2200 the mc275, the c41, the c46, the 205 cd player. I own the c46/252 and the c2200/275 plus the cd player. When I tried the amps, I was using the c2200, I found there were differences and of the 3 I did like the 501s the best, But they were not huge, BUT I haven't tried the 501s fronted by the c46 so I don't know.

I have found that I prefer the tube pre with tube amp and ss pre with ss amp...I enjoy both combos and they have their own sound. I have found there can be differences in all equipment, some large some small, so I am always willing to listen. I am not sure you have to do the blind comparisons, I think if you simply listen and trust your ears, thats the way to go (assuming you are not predisposed on something)...Ironically I have not taken home the int amp....maybe I should try that, would be thing is for sure I like Mcintosh equipment alot.
Has anyone had any experience running directly into a 402 from a DAC with volume control? Thanks.
I just tried to run a Benchmark DAC-1 I bought for a friend to run into my MC402. It worked fine, actually. The Benchmark´s output level can be adjusted, in fact, by switching internal jumpers. I listen to vinyl, too, and I only had the Benchmark briefling in my house and system, but I was surprised at how good the sound was.
I am currently running a Mark Levinson 390s directly (balanced ic's) into a pair of MC501's with superb results.

As for the 501, I have found this to be a wonderfully balanced amp - the bass control, midrange liquidity, top-end smoothness and soundstaging are utterly impressive for an amp in this price range (at any price really). IMHO, you would have to spend considerably more to realize any subjective "improvement". Of course, this is all dependant on sytem matching, but I would definitely try to audition a pair of 501's at home.
I am particularly interested in how well the Benchmark works into the 402 (thanks Hassel -- did you have to make internal adjustments to the DAC-1 or not?) but am interested in all such setups with the 402 (thanks Aldog).
hi all,
any ideals will the Cary 303/300 match well when connected directly to the MC402? Will the volume step be enough?

Thank you.
I have a Calypso (Asthetix) per amp. Would that mate well with the Mac M402?? MAC10...I'd like to hear from you as well as anyone else.

RWD (Rick)
As for CARY, I own a CARY SLP-05 and it's mated with my
MC-501 monoblocks, I could not be happier. What a serious combination. Can't find anything wrong, very balanced, open, wide soundstage, transparent, with plenty of detail. I have owned and operated Mac amps for over 32 years. I can't imagine myself without one.
have the cary slp-05 pre,and just put the mc402 in the system,this 402 came from the upgrade company,and it sounds really really good with the slp-05,lots of clairty lots air under the voices soundstage supe,super base,speakers are jbl--l300 ......
I have read all of the positive posts for this 402. Has any one pair this 402 with the Tannoy DMT 215? Thinking to purchase 402 for the 215 so want to know someone's experiences.
I am also considering purchasing a (used) MC402 to use with a pair of Tannoy System 215 DMT II. Currently using a McCormack DNA-500. I am concerned, though, that the MC402 doesn't increase its power output into lower impedance loads.
I have owned two 402's. After I sold the first one, I missed it, and bought another. So I obviously liked it quite a bit. But compared to the ARC Ref110 I also owned at the time, the 402 sounded leaner, and had less bass. It also felt less powerful. I was using them with a Ref3 at the time, so compatablitly may have been an issue.
My overriding impression of the 402 was that it was a very clean sounding amp. And of course, to folks like us, it is a beautiful amp! This thread is making me want another one!