McIntosh Tube vs SS w/ Sonus Faber Aida II

For the SF Aida II, should I go with:
  1. Tube preamp and amp: C1100 + MC901 (x2)
  2. SS preamp and amp: C53 + MC1.25KW (x2)
  3. Tube preamp and SS amp: C1100 + MC1.25KW (x2)
  4. SS preamp and Tube amp: C53 + MC901 (x2)
Which combo do you think would pair best with the Sonus Faber Aida II? I’m not interested in other brands, but would be interested if you think there are better McIntosh electronics to pair with the Aida instead of what I selected. Thanks!
Ag insider logo xs@2xbattbot
It is not imperative that the best sound only comes from mixing SS and tube. I am using a Audio Alchemy DDP-1 (dac/pre) with PS 5 outboard PS, and the new David on the block, a LSA Voyager 350 GaN amp. If your cables are good, it will impress as good as any comparably priced mixed kit
I have matched my Sonus Faber Amati’s with tubed Audio Research preamp and amp. The combination is magical, detailed and highly musical. The combination is a well known synergistic combination.
McIntosh have a particular following. They are really good for Rock. Very different than ARC. 

Have you considered the C2700 Tube Amp as an option?

I have a C2600 with MC302 driving Sonus faber Olympica Nova Vs.  My upgrade journey started with the Preamp and it made a significant impact on my system. 

Good sound is good sound and am my audition for amps/preamp have included Audio Research and Moon by Simaudio...      
You for sure have the proper amps to drive those wicked speakers. 
Dude, the SS amps are some serious power. Used to have the catalogues sent to my by Mac, to drool, and pray. 

the 901’s are very unique, I’ll bet those would sound simply amazing.
 We will never be able to own any Mac gear. ☹️There is plenty of wicked gear out there for us, just,not the Mac gear, oh wait I have a Mac App on my phone, with the blue meter!

whichever amp/pre combo you choose, will be a game changer for sure!   Enjoy the fine Mac gear, please come back after some break in time, and let us know how it all worked out!,!”

  Congrats, most people can not get Mac gear. We like to hit a dealer and bring some CDs to listen to the sonus faber and Martin Logan’s. 
The McIntosh dealer I recently visited had a pair of Sonus Faber Aidas powered by a C1100 and a pair of MC611s. It sounded effortless to me. 
The Aida speakers are beautiful. In person they look like they been sculpted. The craftsmanship is fantastic. 
Amp selection depends on many factors. 

1. What type of music do you mostly listen to? Classical/jazz/rock? 
2. How loud ? 
3. How big is the room? 
4. Whats your experience with Tube amps? What do you like in Tube vs. SS? 
5. Have you ever heard SET tube amp? 

Your speakers are some of the best sounding on the planet, I wouldn't limit them with Mac. Don't get me wrong, Macs are superb, I have a full Mac system with SF.   Mac tubes sound very much like SS. That's why I ask what you value in tube sound. All tubes sound different as well. Over the years I've experimented with many tube amps so I have an idea what a modern SF would sound like with each respective tube amp. 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Actually, I decided to go a slightly different route. The final system I ended up going with is:

  • Sonus Faber il Cremonese ex3me
  • McIntosh MC901 (x2)
  • McIntosh C2700
  • McIntosh MS500
  • McIntosh MCT500
  • McIntosh MPC1500
  • Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker cables, interconnects, power cords for everything
To answer your questions:
  1. I mostly listen to folk / americana / acoustic. Followed by instrumental / classical, and a little jazz. A little bit of rock every now and then too.
  2. Loudness varies from moderate to loud. But I don’t live alone so I usually can’t blast it.
  3. The room is 18’x17’ with 10’ ceilings. Room size is the main reason I did not go with the Aida’s. They would have just dominated the room, and tbh the ex3me’s are probably pushing it.
  4. These will be my first tube amps, always used ss prior.
  5. No I have not heard a SET tube amp.
Do you think this system will limit the ex3mes? How would you describe the MC901 tube sound? Which SF do you have, and what are you pairing it with?

Never a fan of McIntosh especially the way i was treated with the purchase of a new mc402 years ago but i suggest checking out Jays audio lab videos...with all the highend stuff hes owned and reviewd Mac was given worst of amp thoughts to a tee.
You certainly can't go wrong with the all Mac system. I am sure it will sound amazing. Mac and SF go hand in hand and have amazing synergy. The amps are incredible, you have the best of both worlds, SS to low end and sweet tube sound for the mid and tweeter. It will be hard to beat this set up. Although I disagree with your assessment that Aidas would be too large for your room. I've heard them in much smaller rooms and they sound mesmerizing. You can always upgrade in the future if you decide to go that route. Remember, speaker is the most important component of your system and you should maximize your spending here. Also, don't let anyone degrade Mcintosh, they're beautifully made and bulletproof. Of course, they do come with their own house sound, which is why they polarize people so much. It's a very rich warm and detailed sound. Slightly colored ? Definitely. But who cares, they sound wonderful. SF used to have a reputation for sounding too warm, but modern day SF are a different animal. 

I also use Mac gear for my SF set up. I have SF Elipsa SE with MC452 and C2600, along with turntable and streamer. Sound is very pleasing, warm and detailed. 

Mac tubes don't really sound much like tubes. So 901 will sound very close to Mac SS amp. I could hardly tell a difference between Mac SS and tubes. I wouldn't say you're gonna limit your speakers, 901 are fantastic, but you should also try a full tube amp at some point. 

However, if you ever want to hear what your speakers are really capable of, you should try a SET tube amp. SET (single ended triode) is the most pure form of class A amplification. Tube amps have different configurations, as you will read and learn, (pull-pull, pentode, ultralinear etc).

SET will give you the most tube like sound possible. However, it is very very expensive if you need a powerful amp. I also have an Italian  Mastersound 845 tube amp, which uses 845 tubes in SET. For your speakers you will need massive power, most likely Mastersound Pf100 mono blocks in SET (120W/ch). They are about 50k plus you'll need a preamp, another 10-15k.  Once you hear this, you will not want to listen to anything else. For now, you should enjoy your new rig. You may never want anything better after this. It all depends how infected you get with the audiophile bug. 


Okay, you just convinced me to switch back to the Aida! I called my dealer this morning and made the change! :)

I’ll give McIntosh a fair shake for now. May switch out later. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, much appreciated.
@missioncoonery .  If you want to hang on to Jay's opinion that's your choice but MAC is NOT one of the worst amps.  He just didn't like the sound in his room.  There is a reason they have been in business for 70 years.  Have you owned or had MAC in YOUR system? 
Aida 👍 I look forward to hearing your observations after you get them and are broken in.
@ei001h. Fantastic advice and obviously you know McIntosh very well.  The naysayers continue to make fools of themselves because I bet 90% of them have never heard MAC or a properly set up system. There are people that don't like it legitimately and that's fine.  We like what we like plain and simple.  

I'm enjoying my MC452 and Primaluna Evo 400 preamp with Sonus Faber Olympica iii. Wonderful smooth rich sound.  I did have on loan awhile back my buddies C2600 preamp. It is a very nice preamp but a bit too smooth or laid back in MY system.  Otherwise sounds wonderful. want to hang on to Jay's opinion that's your choice but MAC is NOT one of the worst amps. He just didn't like the sound in his room. There is a reason they have been in business for 70 years. Have you owned or had MAC in YOUR system?.....Have i ever had mac in my system?What didnt you understand when i wrote McIntosh service trested me horrible when i bought a new mc402? guessing ive owned more McIntosh than you over the years.So my question is why when someone points out mac sucks its assumed they have never owned the gear?...Jays audio room rated McIntosh in the worst/ bottom of the amps for lack of engineering inovation ..same oo same oo...comparing it to the top tier makers ie Boulder,Gryphon,Constellation,Solution which hes had in the room...maybe you need to  go listen to what the better gear really sounds like. 
I’ll take McIntosh over any dead sounding Soulution or Constellation. I have a friend who even prefers the 611s over Dagostino- don’t count Mac out. 
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My local dealer has SF / Wilson and Mac. IMO, they only push those lines period.  What other amp choices did the dealer have to demo?  Aida are really good speakers.  Electronics are super important.  I hope you had a chance to compare other amps.  For the price you are paying for the speakers, there are better options out there.  You should at least investigate.  What part of the country do you live in?  
Better is subjective. Nothing wrong with having a starting point. Mac has the best resale value so it’s ok to experiment. This is a journey, let him explore and experiment and decide what’s best. 
I have Sonus Faber Amati Traditions.  I am using Rogue Audio Apollo Dark mono amps and Rogue Audio RP-9.  The cables are Nordost Valhalla 2.
The sound is detailed, open, and most importantly "musical".  The separation of the instruments, the soundstage, the timbre of instruments are voices are extremely good.  See my detailed review of the RP-9 in another thread.  Rogue is not a brand that is often "pushed" by dealers, but to my ears is better than many of the Mac amps with the Sonus speakers.  Probably because the Mac is warmer, thicker than the more neutral Rogue's and the Sonus speakers do not need as much "syrup" as the Mac provides.  If you can, at least listen to the Rogue.

Yes going back to your original post yes you owned a 402. I do also and sorry you had issues.  Usually from what I've heard McIntosh customer service is pretty good.  However,  do you think basically your opinion of McIntosh has changed because of the customer service?  Jay's opinion doesn't mean squat to me because there are many reasons to own McIntosh.  Their formula for success has definitely worked over the years. They are built like a tank and last years and hold very high resale value. If you like the sound great but if you don't move on.  The new line of amps or their monoblocks are newer technology and have no autoformers. The overall sound has changed and moved to the neutral side. Whether that's good or bad is a matter of choice.  Jay has gone to very high end amps and seems to snub his nose at more affordable equipment.  Again while I appreciate what he's done his opinion is just that.  Too many guys are hanging on to what he says or take it as gospel. What works for him may not work for you.