I've compared the two. While the MC402 is rated at 400 watts, it certainly seems underpowered for that rating. When driving Dynaudio speakers, the annoying orange "clip" indicator kept coming on.
With the same speakers, the 501's were obviously WAY more powerful as if they actually came close to the manufacturers specification. Not only that, they just sounded better - even at lower volumes. And... the orange clip indicator light never came on when driven at deafening volume levels.
Honestly, I've listened to the same speakers driven with 250 watt amps which handled the Dynaudio load better than the MC402. If you're in the market for either of these amps and can afford the 501's... that's the better choice.
I heard the MC402 powering Martin Logan electrostatics and the sound was increadibly clear and tuneful. The power guards never came on despite playing really loudly so I don't know why Dynaudios were a problem.
Another thing about the McIntosh "clip" indicator: you can go 14dB over the lighting threshold before actual clipping occurs....
I haven't heard the 501s yet but I would let your room and speakers be the final decision makers between these two great amps.
The MC501 hooked up to a pair of Aerial 8B sound fantastic. Transparency and a deeeep and clean bass was the difference I heard compared to my Classe CA-400. If you keep (good!)speaker cables short they sound best.
I use the MC402 with my Dynaudio Confidence 5 speakers, these are 4 ohm speakers and need current, I have had no problems what so ever.
Another plus of the MC 402 and the C200 preamp, the stock cords sound very good, I switched them out with some of the better cords on the market, while a touch better I could live with the stock cords! That a savings in itself.
Mac has surprised me to say the least, it some of the best sounding stuff I have owned, and I hace owned the Levinson, Krells and Rowland. I also have owned tube gear, the Mac amp is really a bargin!!
Hi Phillyb, your response is a complete turnaround from your opinion of Mac from just a month ago when you said mac was old school with old designs. What gives?
Perhaps next time, when we are giving opinions, all of us should qualify our opinion by saying whether or not we have actually heard a particular component or not.
Just a thought, but glad you're happy with the Mac. Mac is way under appreciated here, that is until people actually hear them!
I did not hear the newer designs, perhaps they just better with my current system. I still stand by what I said, be the newer designs are another story in this point in time.
I am very happy with the sound.
I have heard both in my home, the 501s are better, I currently have a 252, i would either get another one or get the 501s
I have auditioned the 402, 501 and tube 2102 in my house.
The mc402 is not worth looking at. The 501's are ok but for $9000 new are not worth the money in my opinion. The tube 2102 was vastly superior to both the 402 and 501 on 2 channel music. The stereophile review on the 501's compared them to being very close to the Halcro DM58. The Halcros are so superior I just dont understand how that comparison could have ever been written.
I think the 501's would be ok for home theatre but would not recommend them for 2 channel music
Rumney510, I have the MC402 for quite some time now - and had the Halcros at home as well. I have listened to the MC501s as well. My experience is probably more thorough and different from yours in every point. The mc402 is not worth looking at", you write. I have found it to be oe of the best-sounding amps I ever listened too, and one of the most priceworthy. Only thing is, they take weeks to burn in properly. They sounded awful at my place for the first weeks, before they reached the level TAS described recently. "The stereophile review on the 501's compared them to being very close to the Halcro DM58. The Halcros are so superior I just dont understand how that comparison could have ever been written.", you say. I understand. Event the comparison between the MC402 and the Halcros was a close call. Yes, the Halcro was slightly better - especially when laying so loud you could tear the house down with the level. But different from the McIntoshs the Halcro is ridicously overpriced.
Always many different factors involved with audio auditions. Try the MC2102 and see how you think it compares.
One thing thing I absolutely agree on with you though - if the MC402 sounded only "slightly better" to you then they are as you put it "ridicuolsly overpriced" for you.
Rumney510, before buying the MC402, I compared it to the MC2102. I liked the MC402 better, as I liked the C200 better when I compared it to the C2200. And I think the Halcros are "ridicuolsly overpriced", not the McIntoshs
Hassel, I have heard both in many occasion. I also have the C200 pre. It is one of the best. I had the BAT VK-51SE prior to the C200 and the C200 just has much better synergy with the McIntosh power amp. Comparing the MC501 to the MC402. The MC501 had more of everything, it has a more extended top end, better dynamic and a bigger and tighter bottom. It compares well and better many high end offering that I have heard and I've heard a lot. For the price it was asking it seems reasonable. That make many other high end offerings seems totally/ridiculously over price. I think the Stereophile write up was right on, say no more! My speaker is the JM Lab Alto, nice synergy there. It was an accident I came across McIntosh couple years ago. I have my nose up and my leg and eye cross. My audiopile friend who has an all Spectral MIT system makes (force) me listen to it. I am glad that he did and now I am a fan.
given your mc402 expertise here... I'm thinking of an mc402 amp (more than likely paired with mx134 pre-amp and an mc206 to power center and rears, with the mc402 for the fronts). rears will be ceiling mounts (not ideal i know, but it's the concession i need to offer to my wife in exchange for what i want in the front). center to complement L/R. mc206 would allow me to upgrade rears later if i wanted.
main question, i need a good front pair to complement this. have seen folks enjoy b&w 802/801/800 with the mac402, my dealer is telling me great things about the new(ish) mac xrt28 but i haven't heard it yet and i've never heard anyone rave about a mcintosh speaker, should i trust them? very open to good suggestions for the front pair. i also need good night-time performance (i have kids who need to sleep), so a flexible speaker counts too. ideas???