McIntosh SS Amps - Old vs New - Sonics

I have two older Mac amps: MC2205 & MC2200 - both 200wpc. Both run very well.

How might they compare sonically with the new Mac amps, like the MC252, 352, 402?

I have a C46 preamp on order, and wonder if upgrading my amplifier to the new series will give me a noticable improvement in sound. My source is primarily an MCD205 CD player.

Thanks, Pete
I can't speak from experience of direct comparison. But if we eliminate the 252 from your list of the newer models. The 352 and 402 have a "double balanced push-pull" output on the 352 that Mcintosh renamed "quad differntial" of the 402. This is said to reduce the noise floor. I own both a 352 and 7205. There I have really noticed the difference between the autoformer output and the non-autoformer. And how much of the differnce is due the "double balanced push pull" circuit. I would speculate that the differences between the 2205/2200 and the current models would definite improvement due what ever technology McIntosh Labs have developed since those were new models. I am sure that I will be upgrading someday as well.
The 2200 and 2205 are at least 25 years old now. Their caps probably need to be replaced and device technology has moved forward since those days. Just due to these two points, the newer Mcs will sound better (i.e. more transparent). I used to have a 2125 and it didn't sound nearly as good as my 7200. I am not yet convinced that autoformers are the end all but the 402 sounds absolutely incredible.

I recently heard the 402 and (being a tube guy myself) it sounded darn good and I can not believe the old stuff can touch it in any way - though I did not compare it to any of their old gear.
I'd like to read a description of the MC402 sound from someone who has heard one within a system they know. As I may have a different reference to terms such as "tube like", please use other specific descriptions of the tone, image size, transparency, detail and musicality.

Please also mention the associated gear.

I suppose the bottom line is that I want to know if it sounds like music...not an uber detailed exact replication of what's on the disc...something I could care less about.

I know this is asking a lot, and I thank you in advance for any insights you can provide.

I've heard Mac 402, 501 on Zu Definitions in my own system, and 252, 402, 501, 1201 on a system I am familiar with using Sonus Faber Cremonas. I've also heard the MA6900 integrated on both, as well as on a system with Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors.

Preamps used have been C46, Audion Premier 1.0, Django TVC, Klimo Merlino Gold, Audiopax Model 5.

The Mac quad-differential amps are unfailingly musical, rich in satisfying, realistic tone, very wideband and dynamically convincing. All this is a real turnaround from Mac solid state amps from the first through about 1990, when Mac solid state amps sounded smooth but dark and uninspiring. Quite antiseptic and atonal. The designs produced from around 1990 through 1996 or 98 were transitional in moving toward the sound McIntosh has achieved today, but still held back by the old sonics, to some degree.

Today, even the non-autoformer amps, like the 6300 and 6500 integrateds sound good, but the autoformer amps are the ticket to tone, with the quad-differential or double-balanced amps performing at a premium above that.

I own single-ended tube amps, dynamic and musical, and my 101db/w/m speakers don't really demand more than what I have in dynamic power. But more couldn't hurt if clarity and tone doesn't suffer, right? If I invest more in amplification than what I have, MC1201 monoblocks would be serious contenders. A 402 puts you just within the same family sound.

One thing these Mac amps have is the muscle and control to get an unruly speaker talking in one voice. The bigger the better -- you will hear better driver integration and if you go high enough in the line, crossover effects will begin to be mitigated. There are just a handful of transistor amps I'd consider listening to today -- McIntosh autoformer units, Pass and First Watt, Lavardin and maybe Channel Island -- and MC402 and above are front and center. I am certain you will hear a compelling difference between even an MC252 over a 2200/2205, but the step from there to a 352 or 402 is easily discerned as being worth the improvement in tone, expression and dynamic realism.

Thanks Phil. That's very helpful.

All this is a real turnaround from Mac solid state amps from the first through about 1990, when Mac solid state amps sounded smooth but dark and uninspiring.
I'm curious to know how the MC402 compares to the MC7200. Having recently owned a MC7200, I was surprised at its detail and lack of dark sound.
The 7200 was one of the transitional amps, better than than what preceded it. It was part of a line of amps that signalled change at McIntosh and a broadening of their appeal. An MC402 has more of everything you like about the 7200 and none of what I dislike about it, i.e. all traces of the bad old Mac sound are gone. The 402 is smoothy, dynamic, sounds effortless and has much more tone to its fidelity than the 7200.

Have you auditioned the new MA6300 integrated amp? I'm curious about it's sound. Thanks.

I heard a 6300 recently, but not in a comparative situation with a known reference, nor a room and gear I know. I didn't hear anything at variance with the current McIntosh solid state sound, but it is not as tone-rich as the autoformer amps, IMO. This is an expected difference of degree and my opinion on brief listen was positive for the category of product it is.


Thank you.

I can't tell you much about the older macs, but I do own a pair of 501 monoblocks. To say they are impressive, would be an understatement. I have also heard the 402 amp and was also very impressed. I chose the monoblocks over the 402 for the added degree of transparancy and palpability. While the difference is not huge or night and day, it is there. I have also heard a fair share of other SS amps out there, none touched me as much as the mac amps. Huge power reserves to drive any speaker from bookshelf to the most inneficient behemoths. Smooth, grain free, tube like midrange, delicate highs that actually make cymbals sound like brass and not breaking glass, very tuneful, musical bass. What else can you ask for?
I'm interested in home-auditioning an MC402 in the San Fernando Valley/LA area sometime in the coming week. It could be for a day, or only for a few hours. I do not wish to pester dealers, as I may or may not purchase a new unit. Any suggestions about how to accomplish this audition is appreciated. You may contact me via private message if you wish.
Hi Grant,

If you hear the 402 please post your impressions. I own the 402 and really like it but would be interested in how it performs in your system.
Here's a review that I wrote on another site of the MC402: This was the second Mcintosh amplifier that I have purchased. The other being the MC252. Compared to the other amps that I have owned, this amp has a very natural presentation. What I mean is that the timbres of instruments sound like what I hear in unamplified music. The simplist explantion I can give is it is like hearing someone talk to you in person vs hearing that same person even at the same volume speak through a microphone. Amplified human voices have a different sound. This amp does the amplification without adding that artifical quality to sounds. I noticed that the piano especially sounds natural and unamplified sounding. I think this is a quality that few amplifers possess and perhaps one of the reasons for the rave reviews of this amp. The amp,like any amp has some shortcomings. What I notice most is a lack of detail compared to other amps I've owned. It's funny, the high are very extended, the music is extremely natural, but somehow it seem like you don't get the extreme detail that some amps are capable of inspite of the natural sound. It's a strange thing. On one hand that an amp give a sort of more "detail" when you consider how much more natural it sound. The extra naturalness but without the detail is hard to really discribe. In the end I would say that most will likely find the sound of the amplifier so pleasing that the trade off in extreme detail will not be an issue. It's not for me. Bass response is also very good but not as tight as my California MCA 2500 but no other amp that I've tried is either. Again, the bass is natural and you can sort of feel it in your body. It's deep and powerful. I think what impresses me most about the amp is the imaging. Wherever the singer is , damn, you can close your eyes and hear exactly where they are! This amp images better than anything else I've owned or heard. Really excellent in this regard. I mean REALLY excellent. Something else that strike me about the amp, is how cool it runs and the build quality. To peer insided the amplifier channels, it's not hard for me to imagine that this amplifier will last 25 years without breaking a sweat. I truly believe that if you want to use this amp that long you can. Most other amps are busy baking themselves to death. Touch them and they are very hot. If you really think about it, any electronic product getting that hot has to have a much short life span and be subject to much more breakage. I almost forgot. My wife loves it. Every other time that she has heard a new amp that I've purchased, she thinks that it sound goods. Usually that her only comment. "It sounds really good." A few times, she has commented on how extremely detailed some amps have been. This time, the first time ever, the first thing she did was start snapping her fingers and dancing in her seat.It was a Cd which she's heard many times before, but this was the first time I"ve ever seen THAT reaction. She's usually more analytical. So I'd sum things up by saying if you are looking to enjoy the music, buy this amp. If your looking for a scientific analysis, there are many amps that can be your microscope. She did make one other comment, "It's so CUTE. Looks much better than that other big black thing." LOL
Bulldogger, excellent writeup. While you may not win prizes for precise prose (and I mean that in the best way), it is clear that your words came from the heart and you weren't sitting there thinking up audiophile lingo and buzzwords. Your language makes it quite clear as to what you hear from this amp. Try getting that from a professional reviewer, guys.
Thank you.
Actually I have won a few prizes for precise prose and have taught College English. Internet reviews are supposed to be informal. That is my impression.
LOL Bulldogger and no offense meant!

Actually you can get as formal or informal as you like, no police here... just pesky guys commenting on your writing style.