Why is the 36.5 on your list if you prefer a built in phono stage?Why not the 9.0SE(see link below).Just curious.Good luck in your search.
I have at one time had both of these in my system. While they are both excellent products I strongly prefer the sound of the Modwright LS 36.5 vs. the McIntosh C2300. Don't get me wrong cosmetically the McIntosh is beautiful and has a strong feature set with a nice built-in phono stage. The McIntosh is a very good sounding piece, but it tends to make everything sound very smooth and similiar. The Modwright on the other hand is very neutral, but better resolves all types of music with a nice dynamic and open presentation. Each product will provide a quality experience, but in my opinion the Modwright is more resolving and does not add its own flavor to the signal.
I have also listened to the LS 36.5 with the Modwright KWA-150 and there is of course a nice synergy between the two.
"The McIntosh is a very good sounding piece, but it tends to make everything sound very smooth and similiar."
I would be interested in knowing the amp you were using at the time you made this observation..Just as there must be a "synergy" beteen Nodwright products when used together, i would suggest the same for McIntosh. Try listening to the C2300 with the C2000 amp,or any other McIntosh amp,for that matter and I guarantee you'll hear no "similarity",as you put, (what ever that means.)
Thank everyone for their input. As you know, there are a number of very good preamp choices available, the McIntosh and Modwright included - it really comes down to what sounds best to the individual. Unfortunately a lot of us don't have the opportunity to listen to pieces of equipment/cables before we buy so input by those that have experience with such equipment can be helpful. Thanks again.
Like all audio gear you can mix and match but that takes a lot of time and luck. I think Mod Wright with same brand amp is the smart way to go.
Having said that I use McIntosh gear so my C2300 makes great music with the McIntosh C2300. The C2300 is natural and neutral with great detail and dynamics. This C2300 drives the MC402 amp.
I think HP said the C2300 was the first tube preamp that had no sound of its own that he has heard. I also can state that they type of NOS tube you use can take the McIntosh C2300 any way you want it, warmer, super detailed etc.
I like in this order Siemens 12ax7WA, Telefunkens and Mullards, RCA black plates and if I want a more even and a touch analytical sound just pop in a pair of GE 5751 black plates.
The C2300 is a keeper, just use the tube that best fits your idea of good sound. 5 star preamp.