Preamp for mc275le. Need advice, please

I m an happy owner of a mc275le ;)) A gift from my wife
I m considering to buy the C50 preamp, but I m confused about all the talk around the sound quality of the built in DAC

Is there any problem with the C50 DAC?
Should I consider a different preamp to pair with the mc275? (need to be from Mcintosh )

DAC is something I intend to use a lot. I ll be streaming music from my laptop via USB.

Please, give me your advice.
Thanks in advance

De Sousa
There is nothing wrong with the DAC on the C50 if you are using the newer MC275. Because mixing old and new equipment just doesn't work. I have 2 MC275-V with C2300 and B&W 802 Diamond, they match well, sound fantastic with no problem.
If you streaming via USB, Get the newest Parasound ZDAC With all Asynchronous Input for $475. You will be enjoying all kind of music you play instead of tweaking for next 10 years.
Hey. That's a great wife!!

I'm sure the C50 is a good pre - haven't heard it. But preamps are a mature technology, just like amps, while DACs are changing very fast. Hence I don't think it's a good idea to buy a pre with DAC inside unless you don't mind replacing it in 2 or 3 years.

I have a 275 as well, and although at the time I thought the C220 or C2200 would be the preamps for me, after auditioning I opted for a Lamm LL2. Clearly the Macs have better ergonomics, but can't argue with the sound from preamps like the LL2. Of course I'm not saying the LL2 is in a league of its own. It's not. There are several preamps that focus on sound. You can dig the threads I posted at the time if interested.

The Mac preamps are very user friendly. Like everybody else they make decisions about how to spend the budget they have for a given price point, and they tend to prioritize ergonomics (at the expense of sound) more than other brands.

You need to think what is most valuable for you. I myself, would never give up my Lamm unless I was getting rid of the preamp altogether or upgrading big time.

As for DACs, there are plenty of good ones available, at relatively low prices. Macs sell at a premium, so think about that too. As for recommendations here, you would need to tell us more about the intended use and budget. Will you be using an Apple laptop, iTunes, CDs only or high rez, etc.

Absolutely agree with Lewinskih01, as technology with preamps and amps is very mature, so what you get today will likely be just as satisfying in the future. DAC's are digital technology that is ever changing, and will continue to do so. Since you said you will be using a DAC a lot, and when something new and much improved is introduced, upgrading a separate DAC in the future will be much easier and less costly than having to replace a preamp/DAC combo unit.
I'll come at this from a little different angle. While no one will argue that digital technology and advancement has come a long way, I believe much of the advancement today is certainly marginal for the perceived improvement. In other words, its not like today's digital doesn't sound like music!!! A terrific dac today will not sound like elephant dung in 3 years for crying out loud. People act as though dacs have an expiration date, which of course they do not.

As to your preamp questions, please audition the McIntosh c2500 vs the McIntosh c50. The c50 is solid state vs tube, the c2500 a newer design with, I believe, a newer DAC and implementation.

Clearly DACs don't have expiration dates. But take a look at what kind of sound a $1k DAC bought you 10 and 5 years ago, and what it gets you today. That's my point. The same can be said at any given price point.

A C2200 (to take Mc, since the OP is looking at them) is about $3.5k today used, it was maybe $4k 3 years ago (used), and will likely not loose much value in 5 years. Can't say the same for DACs. How much are synch USB DACs worth today compared to their price 5 years ago?

Having said that, we do have very good sound from relatively affordable DACs today. I agree with that. But just like asych USB rendered synch USB obsolete on the last 5 years or so, who knows which of today's accepted technologies will be deemed obsolete in a few years?

Again, I agree with Lewinskih01. I have heard some older DAC's sound extremely good, however they did not have a USB input, and connection was digital coax from a CD transport. Yes, you can use black box convertors, then requiring an extra cable, however this can result in an increase of digital jitter, not good for the sound quality. My understanding is that asynchronous USB is superior to synchronous USB because of less jitter. As Lewinskih01 says, who knows what type of digital interface is around the corner that will be even better, and having a single component will be better than using black box adapters.
Wow! Thanks for the great information & reply ;))
Thank you very much!

But let me stress my question:
- I m concerned with the C50 DAC's sound quality. Is there any problem with the C50 DAC? I m confused with all the talk around this on the web.
- Should I consider a different equipment to pair with the mc275? (need to be from Mcintosh )

I mainly will be steaming music from my laptop via usb and from my apple tv via toslink and from my old CD via coax (one of this days I'll go for a Mcintosh CD player too ;)

My budget is around 7k €

Thanks in advance
& Sorry my bad english
I'll again make my point. Dacs today, note I am saying today, sound very nice on the whole and extremely nice in specific circumstances. The C50 and the C2500 BOTH come with a decent dac, built in, for basically no extra charge. Now then, lets say 5 years from now, you can always add a new external dac if you believe the additional sound quality is evident to your ears. The internal dacs on todays Macs are actually pretty decent and I've had some pretty good ones come through my system through the years. The Macs are not bleeding edge mind you but I find the one in my Mac very nice and I look at is as a nice casual listening dac, especially when you think about always having a reasonable sounding dac with an excellent power supply/output stage implementation.

All due respect but the c2200 and its depreciation curve has little to do with the dac implementation of the c50 or the c2500. I've had a c2200, it was a great pre. The c2300 was better, quieter and had a much better phono stage. The c2500 is better still with a free dac. People act like dacs introduced tomorrow will be revolutionary when compared to dacs today. While change is inevitable and ususally for the better, it is not always so clear cut as some expouse. I heard a 20 plus year old Levinson 30.6 dac recently that was still amazing. Horses for courses. For many, a reasonably priced dac today may be all they ever need and Mac waited to integrate one until the addition of a reasonably priced built in dac met their standards for inclusion. Are they the best Mac is capable of producing? Of course not. They build other products to fill that need.

Please do your research and listen for yourself. The C50 and the C2500 I believe have different dacs and different implementations so check for yourself.

Ghasley, I don't think I disagreed with your point, as I stated in my previous post about an older DAC sounding extremely good, and yes, it was 20 years old. I do think it is quite amusing that you say, "built in, for basically no extra charge" and "with a free dac." I just can't see McIntosh saying forget about those parts and labor when determining the price of a product, although it is probably a small percentage compared to the unit's full price.

The DAC in the C50 and C2500 are the same, verified by an email response I received from McIntosh tech support.

D123phy, there were some problems with early C50's, however software upgrades solved the problem. Also, in my brief research, it appears the C2500 is an overall better sounding preamp than the C50.
I upgraded my Rotel 1582MkII power amp and got an MC275. Paired with a Rotel RC-1550 it swept me off my feet, literally. The tubes sound amazing! Then I wanted the ultimate warmth and decided to get a C2500. Well, it's easy these days, so I got it yesterday. Paired MC275 with C2500 and it's a huge miss. The sound of Rotel was much better. The price difference doesn't really mean that the sound will be $5K better. I guess, the sound is warm, but it's far from clear and detailed. Probably, audiophiles here will scorn me, but I'm going to give that C2500 another week or two and then I'll take it back to the store and get another Rotel. I was too quick to put it on eBay and it was sold overnight literally. I wish I had bought that C2500 from my local Best Buy so I could have returned it for a full refund without paying a restocking fee. I wish I hadn't sold my Rotel preamp. I'm at a difficult junction now, but my Bose car stereo now sounds better than that C2500 as ridiculous as this statement sounds, but it's true.
The obvious is of course a Mc preamp, but I've always been fond of ARC preamps and Mc amps. The new ARC SP20 sounds very good. But, you would need an external DAC or network music player - assuming you want digital and not just a CD player. The ARC SP20 does have a nice built in phonostage too.....but so does the C50/C2500. I just think Mc preamps are just "ok" - and I've owned the C1000C/T/P, C500 and C2500 among others. I just always preferred ARC preamps with my Mc amps. YMMV.

We've been on a similar path! I used to have a Rotel pre and a Rotel RB1080. I upgraded my speakers and they were revealing enough to show the weaknesses in the 1080 I had not noticed until then. I bought a MC275, and was thrilled. I drove it with my Rotel pre for a while and did my research for a new pre. McIntosh preamps are nice sounding but to me their highest point is their ergonomics: really nice bells and whistles, but they do come at a cost. I ended up buying a Lamm LL2 pre, which has no bells at all (no remote, two volume attenuators...) but sound is supreme. A lot better than my Rotel pre - and I mean a lot! Then sound further improved with upgraded tubes both in the 275 and LL2.

So don't knock out all higher end or tubed preamps because you didn't like one. Maybe it's the tube sound in the preamp you don't like? A good solid state preamp should sound a lot better than the Rotel (reasonably so, given the price difference).

Now if your statement about the car stereo sounding better is really true, I would have the C2500 checked out. It might be faulty...