Migration to Seperates

I am considering migrating to seperates away from a mcintosh MA6900 intergrated. The power from this model is enough for my B&W 805s's but I would like to hear a tubed preamp.
Idiot Question - Can I add a preamp and run it in to one of the balanced or unbalanced inputs on the integrated? If so, this would allow me to try this path out before making a fuller commitment and buying a power amp as well.
Jimmy, using an integrated amp behind a dedicated pre-amp is not the way to truly get an idea of how seperates will sound. Why? your nice clean signal from the pre-amp will suffer deterioration from exposing it to the workings of an integrated amp. Integrated amps, as great as they are, tend to affect seperation to a degree. In order for you to truly "audition" seperates, you need a single dual mono amplifier, dedicated only to processing the signal coming out of your dedicated 2 channel pre-amp.

Good luck!
Running a tube preamp into the amp section of your integrated should give you a taste of what a tube preamp might do, even if, as Judsauce points out, it might not show you how good separates can be.

To do this, connect the tube preamp to the MAIN AMP-IN input; do not connect it to a line-level input like CD or AUX, as these are intended for sources only.
Jusdsauce - Could you tell me more about what you mean regarding seperation? Do you mean that giving similar quality seperates that I could expect more precise channel separation? THX!

Johnbender - I did notice that on my integrated there are removable jumpers connecting the pre and power sections of the integrated. It sounds like this means that by removing the jumpers I can seperate the two sections and try paring it with a pre or a power. Is that right?
Thanks again to you both.
Regarding your second question, Jimmy: yes, you are right. remove the jumpers, which act as cables between preamp and power amp, and then run a cable from the tube preamp into the amp-in connector on your integrated.

Doing this will will allow you to utilize only the amp section of your integrated. Keep in mind, though, that the preamp section of the integrated will still be "on," but it won't be "engaged," so it won't be part of your signal chain. But since it will be on, it may interfere to some degree with your amplifiers performance, as some would say it already does, by virtue of it being an integrated amplifier. I don't completely understand this idea myself, but I think this is what Judsause means, and it's also why so many audiophiles prefer separates, because separates completely isolate the components (which integrated don't do), thus providing better sonic performance.

That said, I think your integrated is a very good piece (I wish I had it), and I don't really know how much better a separate power amp might sound over that which is in your integrated. But I don't know. Hopefully some others will chime in...
Good to know. My intent was to pick up a used c2200 for now and if I felt like it was an improvement, sell the 6900 and buy a used power amp.
Good question. Just looking for "more" i guess. And I must confess that I am hooked on the Mac visuals so I wanted to pair a mac pre with a solid state amp from another maker.
If I cant hear the improvement of the pre then it will get re-listed.
But I am new at this and if you feel like I am missing something obvious in my system, please feel free to point it out. The great thing about the used market is that I can try things and if I dont like the results I can get out of them with out much financial damage...
This sounds like a good plan. Please report back after hooking up the tubes. I'm also thinking about adding a tube pre and using the amp section of my integrated (at least until I can afford a new amp), so I'd like to hear your impressions.
Will do! Thx.

I think John pretty much highlighted the point I was making:

"Judsause means, and it's also why so many audiophiles prefer separates, because separates completely isolate the components (which integrated don't do), thus providing better sonic performance."

First of all, I didn't realize that you could bypass the pre-amp section of your integrated. And I assumed that you were going straight from your pre-amp to a line level input on your integrated. The way you are doing it may work fine.

Getting back to my point; although I am not an engineer, I do have a decent ear (at least I'd like to think so). I remember when I swapped out my Krell KAV300i integrated amp and went the way of seperates, I was totally blown away by the increased level of focus, seperation, and slam. It is in my opinion that, with seperates, the signal passes through less hardware and is isolated and sheilded far better than an integrated amp. I'm not at all knocking integrated amps. It's just simple physics, it is performing many tasks in one box which is bound to affect the presentation. It's a trade off that may or may not matter, all depending on one's taste.

I would urge you, though, if you can; swap out your integrated amp and slip in a dedicated two channel amp. I'll bet your ears will notice. If you lived on Long Island, I'd even bring over an amp (I have an extra, just in case; you never know when I could break a speaker terminal screw!!)

Good luck!
Judsauce -
Thanks! I am going to give it a shot. I hope that I get 1/2 the experience that you had! And dont for a minute worry that you offended me by preferring seperatese to integrateds. I am too new at all of this to have any ego tied up in it.
I was a musician growing up and totally engrossed in music. Then I got away from it for about 20 years. So I have a lot of catching up to do.
When I bought the integrated (on this site. really great place.) I couldnt imagine spending the money that good seperates cost but 6 months later, it dosent seem that shocking.
I am going to try components that I can demo via mail order first. I know that NuForce and class d have thier detractors but I had a really great conversation with them and they are sending thier current pre and their current monos for me to demo for 2 weeks for $20. I will try them both together and seperatly with the 2 facets of the mac and see what happens. Then I will send them back and see what else is out there.
If you have any favorites that allow for audition in this manner please let me know. I would like to be able to get the combo used for 6 to 8k.
Again, thanks for the input!

For 6 to 8k, I would say that the Audiogon world is your oyster! It all boils down to personal taste. And personal taste in this hobby varies widely from individual to individual.

I was also a "budding" musician, and still play feverishly (but not for a living).

I progressed through various two channel configurations and migrated to what I call, a "poor man's hi-end system".

First off, I pumped some serious dough into a pair of Dunlavy SC3's. These are time-aligned, phase coherant speakers that are very revealing, with a sweet spot that is smaller than the width of my head. But they sound heavanly.

They are fed with a budget giant killer pre-amp long discontinued by Adcom (former class A rated on Stereophile): GFP 750. That is feeding a Krell KAV 250 amplifier (250watts@8ohms, 500watts@4ohms). It is Krell's "Audio video line", not the high end line, but you'd never know it.

My Cd player has a tubed front end, and my phono stage is a tube Sonic Frontiers vintage phono pre-amp. So, I get the slam of the solid state world, combined with the warmth of the tubed world, and , in my opinion, it doesn't get any better than this. It took me about ten years to cull it all together, but I am loving it.

You can find used Krell, KRC 2 pre-amps for around 1,200. They are great pre-amps and always sell fast. Classe makes great amps, around 200 watts, at about 4 to 5 years old would cost you around another 1,200 or 1,500. Bryston also makes great amps that you can get great deals on (although some say they are a bit on the bright side, but they have a great warranty deal that is transferrable).

I'd keep that Mac, don't sell it. But there is so much stuff out there that is not that expensive that will fit the performance bill that I urge you not to spend all that cash when you could find an amp and pre-amp for half of that. Although I can't offer a suggestion of an e-retailer that will let your audition, you may be able to research the archives here at A'gon to scope out units to purchase used. And if you don't like them, just keep the packing material, and offer it up to someone else.

Good luck!
thanks. Once I have found something I like better, the mac will go. it is too big/valuble to keep around. I will definatly stay with the used market for electronics. Just too much extra value to be had. Speakers are another story. Not sure that I could buy them used.
Thanks agian!
Judsauce -
Have had the chance to spend a week with the nuforce products. The P9 pre and the v2se monos. Pulled the jumpers on my mcintosh and mixed and matched.
I really like the nuforce monos. Very strong in terms of imaging. I like the pre to except it has very "hot" gain settings. Meaning I can only use 3 or 4% of the volume and the steps are very pronounced. Nuforce says that thier volume control sounds better (see thier literature if you are interested. Over my head.) but all I know is that it is not practical for my needs. Great HT integration though. One of the inputs acts as a passthrough when the pre is off. It is so simple that it is spouse proof. I am going to let go of my integrated and look around for a tubed pre with an ht bypass. Let me know if you have any suggestinos. THX!