Pass, Bryston, Audio Research, or McIntosh?

I have been auditioning speakers and think I am settled on buying Magnepans--either the 3.6 or 20.1. Wife and budget will help me decide. I currently have an Audio Research 100.2 which I like, but I expect I will need to get a beefier amp than only 100 into 8 and 200 into 4 ohms. I like buying used and have heard good things about the Pass 250 or 350 x.5. I have also read that Magnepans are often demoed with Brystons which speaks well of the combination--am looking at the sst models. I like audio research and am a bit intrigued by the hybrid HD220 as this will get me 400 wpc into 4 ohms and may provide some tube sound (a good thing for Maggies by most accounts). Lastly, I have no experience with McIntosh, but many seem to like them. Am going to stick with solid state for now. My current pre/pro is an older unit--an EAD Classic Signature which I have had modded by Noble Electronics. It is a sweet sounding dac tho it does not decode SACD or DVD audio. I may eventually go to an Audio Research tube preamp, but my budget will only allow so much for the time being. Any thoughts as to which direction I should go for amps? Room is about 17 x 23 with 10 foot ceilings and an opening along one side wall into another similar sized room.

Mcintosh MC402 fits your bill. 400W into 8ohms/4ohms/2ohms.
The Mcintosh MC402 is oh so super smooth and powerful. Quietest ss amp I have ever owned. A great bargain at $7K.

The Pass X350.5 is a second choice but a bit noisier and bright in the upper midrange spectrum. The Pass X350.5 will set you back $11K.
What you've heard about Bryston and Magnepan is not urban legend.There is just a natural synergy between the 2 products,and with a tube pre you will have a nicely balanced system.
From my own experience with the 3.6's and the original 20.0 -you can get by on the 3.6's with one amp. The 20's IMO need to be bi-amped with an external crossover to get the most out of them. (I have owned 3.5's and drove them with a levinson 332 which was perfect. the 20's which were at my dealer we drove with 4 bryston mono's and they were just barely up to the task)
Maggies & Tubes. My buddy had the Atmaspheres and loved it.
IMO I agree w/Mfslgoldcd..given the short list the 402 is the winner with me.Pass would be my second choice.Bryston I never cared for but has a great warranty.
I have 3.6R's and I have had both Mac 501's and the Pass 350 in my system, as well as many others, and those were, in my opinion and experiece, two of the least well matched amps for my Maggies. I have had Brytons's big Parasounds (JC1's) and they we both excellent.

The best amps, by far without question were in reverse order:

4) Bel Canto e1000 monoblocks

3) Spectron Musician III

2) Innersound ESL (the bigger ones would be even better I assume)

1) Cary Audio 500MB - the clear champ.

I will prob jump up to the 20.1's early next year, but I will not change amps. I my bi-amp with a Rogue Zues on the high and a Marchand tube crossover eventually, but as far as amps go for Maggies, and I have tried a bunch, these are my recommendations.

Good luck!!
Audio Research mates very well with maggies. They used to be recommended by ARC for their equipment.
20.1s with the Mcintosh 1201s is the best I have heard them.
I would make sure to compare any of your chosen amps with your AR 100.2. You may just decide that there isn't a significant-enough improvement (especially with 3.6's) to justify the upgrade costs.
Seems like there is little consensus. Yes, Tpsully, if I decide to go with the 3.6, I will probably not have a huge need to upgrade amps immediately. The 20.1 is a different matter....Naturally, I would rather have the 20.1. I am guessing that I will end up with the 20.1, but may have to wait a bit longer to get comfortable with the $$

Appreciate the comments. Keep em coming!

There's a 500 wpc mac for sale on Pittsburgh's craigslist. It is for real. The sellor is honest. He is selling that, a c33 pre and mac speakers for $4400. The amp alone is worth $2500 minimum. Check it out. I'll help locally if you need.
i have heard mc402 with the MG20's and it was pretty nice. The 501's will give you a little more ummpphh and they are the same price as a Pass 350.5--$11k. you can also move up the chain to the mc1201's. they are seen here sometimes used for about $9995.00. Mac repair if needed is readily available in most areas.
Just my opinion.
Do not sell your 100.2 until you compare it with those other amps you are considering. I have owned a couple of them, a Pass X250 (not .5), and two McIntosh 402's. I found the Pass a bit bland, but loved the Mac's. I do currently have a 100.2 and a Ref 110. I think if you go to the other amps you will miss the immediacy of the 100.2. The Mc402 is the smoothest of the bunch, but a bit laid back compared to the 100.2. The 100.2 has a bit of grain compared to the Ref110 or Mc402, but it's immediacy is addicting. It needs to be on over an hour to really sound it's best, as you know, but it is very good at that point. I think it may be hotter than my tube amp, so I assume it has a pretty hight class A bias. I have not heard the Brystons.

Interesting. Do you bi amp your 100.2 and the reference 110? Are you a Magnepan owner? I have considered trying to get another 100.2 and bi amping, but I also figured it might be better to just get a "higher end" amp as I expected that the HD220 from ARC would be better than the older (lowly) 100.2 and that especially on the 20.1's, the power of something like the Bryston 7Bsst might be the best bet as a "one amp" solution (not sure I want to jump to trying to tie in a tube and a solid state amp right away, if ever). One possible strategy I have considered is just to buy two or three amps and then sell the one(s) I like least.

Thanks again for your thoughts. It will probably be another week or two before I make a decision on speakers and probably is silly to order an amp (or more than one!) before I know for sure which speakers are going to arrive....
While I don't own magnepans, I have spent the last three years looking for the perfect amps to drive my Apogee Stages. After trying Bryston, Audio Research, Sim Audio, Pass Labs, Rotel, Rogue Audio, and Exposure, I found the best combination was biamping with SS Sim Audio W3 driving the bass ribbon and the tube amp Rogue Aduio ST 90 driving the tweeter ribbon. I think you will appreciate the power of the Pass Labs however it can really create listener fatigue in an all solid state system. If you can bi-amp your magnepans then I highly recommend tubes on the tweeters and a SS amp on the bass.
Forgive my ignorance, please, but is there not an issue with output levels between amps of different power levels? I assume there is a way of dealing with this via an external crossover, but frankly I don't know anything about this and how one balances the output. Anyplace I can get a primer? I ordinarily have a bias in favor of simpler solutions, but if it is really necessary to get the most out of the maggies, I am willing to consider such a solution--tho probably not immediately due to budgetary concerns....
No, I don't biamp my speakers. I have a pair of MG12's, my second pair, and I have had 1.6's in the past. I trade them in and out in place of Spendor S-100's.
I have the 14Bsst and I can tell you that there is a reason it was Stereophile's class A amplifier pick about two years ago. Absolutely component choice is crucial. The Bryston is as good as the stuff sent to it. I love mine.
Several comments:

1) You are in the price range of the Pass Labs pure ClassA vs ClassAB amps. They are different, and I would try them. So, for example, XA100.5 or XA160.5. The Maggies have such a pure upper midrange, and pure class A makes that sing quite beautifully! Note I would rather have ClassA at lower watts than ClassAB. However, I have Maggie 3.6s, not 20.1s, and with push pull and all that, maybe you need even more watts.

2) If you want to hold yourself over for a few years try Innersound - they are relatively cheap used and compete with the big guys when used with Electrostatics quite well. They may be half or a third the price of the big guys but are at 98% or 95% at the least of the quality.

3) I'm curious about ClassD. While I love my big PassLabs ClassA amp and all that comes with it, I've heard that ClassD stinks for MartinLogan/SoundLabs but there is sometihng about the load profile of Magnepans that are different and they can be used. The reason I mention this is that you can get ridiculous amounts of power through Class D, and with the 20.1s that might be interesting.

Also - there are professional ClassD amps that I would love to compare to 'audio' amps.

Professional Class D amp:
Crown XLS 5000 in 4-Ohm Bridged Mono mode: 5,000 watts
Crown Dsi or Cts - both have 'low ohm' modes, 2,500 - 5,000 watts depending on how you hook them up.
QSC PLX2 3602, 1800 W @ 2 Ohms, 1100 at 4

Audiophile Class D amps to consider:
BelCanto REF1000 MKII: 1000W, good to 2 Ohms
(and this is a gen 3 Class D amp, and it is analog-controlled, not digital controlled, I hear that is a lot better, and they've figured a lot out since gen 1)

Rotel RB-1091 - 1000W at 4 Ohms. Rotel with a 20.1? Hereasay? Could be, but still - this could hold you over for a few years, and you'd be playing with 1,000 watts! I'd go with the BelCanto, but as a holdover amp, this would be 'fun'.

Personally, I'd just get the largest Pass XA.5 that I could afford, or 4 of them with active bi-amping via Marchand or Bryston. If you have money leaking out of your wallet, get the Pass Labs crossover, it has no competition.

Maybe head towards bi-amping right away. Then something like the Rotel isn't so crazy, as monoblocks you need 4 and if these are 10k each, that is a lot of cash. Then you can dial in the crossover for a while, then upgrade the amps - and anyhow it sounds like peopel spend a lot of time getting bi-amping right and the Rotel's would hold you over during that period.

If you have the room in your house and the inclination, go for 20.1 vs 3.6. Push pull is definitely different. However, if you are money constrained (many 20.1 owners just aren't) one could argue that 3.6s with the difference in cost applied to amplification, would ultimately sound better.
Mcintosh is your best bet. The sound is warm and powerful, the build quality is outstanding, and the resale value is the best around. Audio Classics currently has NOS MC352's in stock for half the cost of a MC402. I would put one one each speaker especially if you go for the 20.1's. They have the same fully balanced push pull amplifier design as the MC402's and would provide 700 watt at 4 ohms per amp. I have MG1.6QR's and I have one MC352 powering them; it is a fantastic combination. I had an Audio Research VS110 powering them for a while, which was amazing, but the cost of re-tubing forced me to sell it. The sound will be different from what you are accustomed. Audio Research and McIntosh have very different characteristics, but after you listen for a while, I am sure you will find the change to be more a swapping of benefits rather then a disappointment. If, for some reason, you are against Mcintosh then Bryston would be my next choice. I have heard Pass amps, and I love them given they are mated with a suitable speaker, but the Magnepan is slightly too revealing which could create a fatiguing experience. Bryston makes fantastic components and would work well with the Maggie's, although, after hearing both combinations, I still prefer the McIntosh setup as its warmth matched with the Magnepans accuracy, combines for an extremely realistic and pleasant experience.
>>08-24-09: Lece
>>but the Magnepan is slightly too revealing<<

There is no such characteristic as "too revealing".
I am running 3.6 Maggies and have finally settled on McIntosh 501s as my amp. The Audio Research 150.2 did not have the power need to drive 3.6s and rather than go to 300.2 I decided to give McIntosh a try.

The thing about McIntosh is that if you dont like them, you can get almost all your money back on Audiogon. I did buy used 501s and at a little over 50 percent of list price they are a great buy.

FYI, in both cases I mated the amps with a tube preamp by the same manufacturer. The synergy seems to be worth it to me, but as I always say, let YOUR ears make the decision, not what we say.
Of the amps you have listed, I would go with Bryston or Pass. I really like Bryston amps and I have heard them used with great success with Magnepan speakers. WRT the Audio Research HD220, although that is a great amp (I auditioned it before choosing the Luxman MQ-88), I found the fan noise to be an unacceptable audible distraction during soft music passages.
Audiofiel - I am sorry for the confusion. I was only trying to state that Magnepans, in my opinion, have a tendency to reveal the inherent characteristics of an amplifiers tone somewhat more than other speakers. Thus, a bright or sharp amplifier mated with Magnepans might create a fatiguing listening situation.