McIntosh MC402 or MC501's for Totem Mani-2

Hello All,

I am currently in the process of putting together my McIntosh system consisting of a C2300 pre, MCD301 and either the MC402 or MC501's to power Totem Mani-2 Sigs. Would it be worth the extra dough to add the additional 100 watts for the mani's? I emailed Totem a while back and they stated that they had paired the 402 with the Mani's with outstanding results. I really dont want to spend the extra money unless the 501's would be a big step up. Based on my listening experience with other speakers with these amps I don't see the need for the 501's. However I have not had a chance to hear the Mani's with the 501's and I know they like power. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

I really don't think you need more power than a MC402. Those speakers start to compress at 110dB which takes less than 320W of power to reach. The 402 sounds extremely similar to the 501s anyway. Enjoy your new McIntoshes!

Thanks Arthur,

I feel the same way about the 402 and 501. I have heard both with other speakers and couldnt really hear much difference. I think the 402 will be a great match for the Mani-2.
I have the mc402. I notice a lot of people buy the 402 and upgrade to the 501s. I think they want the monoblocks and the looks. You might think about it from an aesthetic viewpoint before buying. I'm not planning on upgrading to the 501s myself. The only advantage I see is that a a 501 setup might be lighter to move than the 402. You can't believe how heavy the 402 is until you get it in your house and try to move it around!

Thats the same thing totem stated. They said there would be very little sound difference if any between the 402 vs. the 501's, they just said that McIntosh perfered them to use the 501's for aesthetic purposes in demos. I definelty agree about the 402, its a beast! Plus by going to with the 402 thats one less power cord to buy and one less amp stand! Thanks for your reply.
if you go over to the McIntosh-forum of and search the forum, you will find that all those who have upgraded from a 402 to the 501s do find the improvement to be considerable, especially where better soundstaging etc. are concerned. There is not a single owner who describes the differences as being small.
Regards, Florian Hassel
Actually most posts in the audiokarma Mc forum I've read say the difference is nil to slightly noticeable.
you better read more thuroughly, then.

audiokarma member jem666:

"Taking into account the specs on paper, I am still, be it pleasantly, amazed at the difference between the 501 and 402. As I said before the 402 is an excellent amp...but nothing could prepare me for that goosebump, "bring tears to your eyes" emotionally overwhelming experience when the first notes played on the 501's...from that moment on, there was no going back."

Member Indy:
"The 501's have more top end air to them and the bass is more natural. Don't get me wrong the bass is fantastic on the 402's- it's heavy."

gb1: "I had the same choice to make and after critical listening I found out that MC501 will always edge MC402."

and lots of other threads
Florian Hassel
You have to look at the mentality of the guys on there. A lot of them are running several Mc Amps in a HT system. I mean who puts together a system with 3 Mc501s on the front channels and more Mc Amps on the rears. These are not exactly audiogon types. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not exactly your audiophile crowd. Read the threads and you'll see what I mean. Of course there's some diehard McIntosh mostly 2-channel tube types but...

Of course the 1.2KW guys say the exact same thing after "upgrading" from 501s. Come on do you really think the 1.2KW's are going to be better from an audiophile standpoint? But you'll find everyone saying so who's dropped the coin on them. At some point with all that power you begin to lose nuance. Where you draw the line is up to you.

In any case I'd recommend listening to both at your local Mc dealer if that's possible. Mine advised that the mc402 had better synergy with Focals than the mc501s. I thought the 501s sounded good but so does the mc402. Either one will have good resale.
Wireless makes a good point. It is just human nature to stick to the validity of one's purchase once the choice has been made. So long as the amp stays linear (doesn't clip) there should not be any difference in the sound between the 402, 501's and 1.2k's. All are fully balanced or quad balanced as Mc puts it, and, I believe all have the same noise floor. Depending on the genre of music to which one one listens, it can get to even a further degree of diminishing returns. 99 % of the music I listen to is classical. I would estimate that 99 percent of actual time, my 402 is operating under 40 watts (a decent A/V receiver from denon or yamaha could handle that). So the Mc amp is only really doing what I have it for, for 1% of the time. Of course I find that 1% to be important or I wouldn't have the amp. As I said earlier, to stay linear with the 802D's pushed to their limit, something larger than the 402 is necessary, but I would have a listen first. Not everyone even wants to listen at those levels.
"So long as the amp stays linear (doesn't clip) there should not be any difference in the sound between the 402, 501's and 1.2k's". But there are - huge ones at at that.

In fact, there are a lot of die-hard two-channel audiophiles over on audiokarma who confirmed the differences between the 402 and 501s.

The argument that " human nature to stick to the validity of one's purchase once the choice has been made" does not convince me if I read even from owners who still had the 402 in the house when the 501s arrived, and described differences.

From my own experience, I had a MA6500 and was told the more expensive 6900 sounded the same. It did not.

If you connect a 402 or a 1.2k, the 1.2k will sound noticably more powerful even when listening at low levels.
Why would a 1.2 k amp sound noticeably more powerful than a 400 watt amp at low listening levels (i.e providing 10 watts output)? All an amplifier does is reproduce the input signal with at increased voltage levels. The amps current capability allows for this reproduction when applied to a given load. There is no rational basis for stating that two different amps would sound different when both are operating in their linear regions. Where in the spec sheet on an amplifier is the measurement for "sounds more powerful"? In such a simple system as an amplifier for audio signals, if the paramater is not and cannot be measured, quantified, and listed, then it is without meaning. How do these people confirm the difference between the sound of a 501 and 402? By their statements? That is not confirmation, it is merely an assertion. As to the 6500 vs 6900 analogy - an argument that confirms, rather than refutes, the point of bias created by one's purchase.

asserting that everybody who has bought something is blinded by his having spent money, and so automatically forces himself to think that the buy is better, is nonsense. If it were so, there would be no sense in a forum like audiogon and comparisons by audiophiles, because, in your view, everybody who has bought something is blinded anyway.

FYI: I did not buy the MA6900, just got one to compare it to my own MA 6500 - and still thought it was better.

The MC402 I bought later, sounded right out of the box, at low levels, better than the MA6500, although the power output was the same, and although the measurement are almost the same with both amps.

You seem to belong to an old school of audiophiles who still doubt that amps do sound different, especially at low levels. But they do. Specs and measurements are not without merit, but tell little about how an amp will sound. This is after all why Stereophile was started 40 years ago.

If you want to stick to the measurement-only school, that's fine with me, but it seems to be outdated.
Florian Hassel
I have to agree with Florian. I can't even begin to say how much difference I have found between amplifiers at low volumes. Output power is only a tiny part of the amplifier's character and high-end amp design is much more art than science (I am an EE). As a result, predicting the performance of an amp based on power numbers is totally incorrect. However, you may believe what you wish, of course.

As for the 402 vs. 501, I have heard them both on 802D twice and feel that the difference is not worth the extra money. But if I HAD the money, then I would get the 501 because they are indeed "better." Just from a design standpoint, I have found monoblocks have superior imaging since their channel separation is essentially infinite - and the 501s are a perfect example. The 501 also have a bit more top end extension, which helps just about everything.

So the question really boils down to how big your budget is. As always. Having said that, I think you can do just as well in getting a 402 with a really nice set of cables as getting a pair of 501s with only-decent cables. There are many variables involved so there is no single absolute answer.

I agree with Arthur....I have the 501's and compared them to the 402. Both were excellent sounding amps, the 501's had just a little more presence in the midrange area but they were really close. I chose 501's because I really wanted monoblocks and I drive Thiels so I wanted as much power as I could muster under 10K.

The 501's love Kimber 8TC, don't know if it's the size of the guage or not but they sound better on my system than many others I've tried.
I borrowed some MC501s when they came out, and compared them to my stereo MC500. The biggest difference by far was how much easier the monos are to move! Splitting up the weight into two chassis meant that I could easily move them myself . . . and that was always an issue for the ten years that I owned the MC500.
Kirkus, I can't imagine moving an amp any heavier than the 501's! You must have scar tissue in your back!

The problem for one is the amps are like boulders, compact with no handles to grip.
You're right about the size thing . . . something that's small and heavy seems to cause one to underestimate the weight, which is a big part of throwing out your back.

But this is a major reason why I left the pro sound business many years ago. One rig I worked with on occasion was big horn-loaded speaker arrays run by a quad of McIntosh MC2500s, with a heavy old Midas board . . . and for some reason it was always used in second-floor clubs that had no elevator. Great-sounding system, though.

A good chiropractor is definately a godsend.