Upgrade advice: Conrad Johnson MF-2500a ?

HI. I am considering upgrading my amp-I am currently using a PS Audio HCA-2. I was impressed with the C-J MF-2200 when I used to own one, and was considering buying an MF-2500a. It seems to be very well regarded for the price. I have also heard good things about the Musical Fidelity 308cr.

Any opinions on these two amps? Would either be an upgrade over the HCA-2? My amp evolution has been: C-J MF-2200 (nice, but lacking detail and frequency extremes), McCormack DNA-125 (better bass, a bit more detail, easy to listen to), PS Audio HCA-2 (best so far, much more detailed and even a bit more "tubelike" then the others). There are no decent dealers in the area, so I will be buying used off of A-gon.

The reason I am thinking of upgrading: each time I upgraded the amp, there was a noticeable difference in sound quality (most so with the HCA-2). I would like to keep that streak alive!

My preamp is the EE Minimax w/upgraded caps, and speakers are Soliloquy 6.3's. CDP is the Opera Reference 2.2. I listen mostly to jazz and orchestra.

First off I will be upfront with you as I have an upgraded MF2500a on this site for sale right now. The difference between the "A" version and "non-A" version of this amp is substantial. It is much more dynamic, fast and detailed with much better bass control. The improvement was not subtle. If I can draw a comparison it is more like my old Premier 11a in the midrange and high frequencies with much more bass and better bass control.

Yes, I can not believe the low prices this amp is selling for. It is much better and highly under rated than the price suggests. The only reason I am selling is to upgrade to a Premier 350 or 140 otherwise I would not be selling this amp. It is simply very musical in its presentation and very tube-like with solid state bass control.

I know nothing of the PS Audio so I can not comment.

The PS Audio HCA-2 is a very good digital amp indeed. My only complaint is that it didn't have the weighty sound of a conventional non digital amp, maybe you have noticed this. Conrad Johnson offers excellent (tube-like) sounding amps & that is where I am.

I am running the PCA-2 and HCA-2 in my system with JM Labs Cobalt 826 Signatures. For the first month I wasn't sure if this combo was going to pan out. Brand new stuff and needed a long break-in period. Sound was OK at best, but started to open up after the second month. I'm sure if I had just let it play nonstop the break-in would have been much quicker.

I'm using Tara Labs RSC Master Gen.1 interconnects from d/a convertor (1.5m) to PCA-2 and same model (RSC M.G.1 @ 20ft.) to the HCA-2 which sits between my speakers. These cables are not cheap! $400 & $1400 respectively.... :(

On a whim I stopped at "The Guitar Center" which is a musicians heaven for anything in his craft. I grabbed 2 pairs of "Live Wire" microphone cables, 5ft. and 25ft. for a grand total of $106.00

These mic cables are balanced design with Neutriks connectors. They do offer D'Addizio cables which are slightly better for another $60 above what I paid but I figure "this is just a test." Hooked up the balanced wires and sat down for a quick listen. The Tara's are still in place, I just used the extra output from the D/A to feed the XLR in of the PCA-2. At the amp I have to manually switch from SE to XLR.

I thought the HCA-2 to be a very good buy and it really began to sing after a good break-in but I found myself wanting to buy another amp.......maybe a nice big tube amp. Ya know that tube thing is really magical! Aww hell, at least give the PS Audio stuff a chance for a few more months I said to myslef.

Hold on a minute here!
What just happened?......Could it be that a cheap set of microphone cables just gave me what I thought was missing???

Sure enough did! this amp sounds WAY different when run in balanced mode.

If I'm not mistaken your CDP has XLR outs and I think it also has volume control too? If this is true I would suggest buying a pair of XLR microphone cables and run your HCA-2 direct from CDP. The shorter cables are only $40 a pair and can be returned if not satisfied. For $40 it sure can make a difference to you and your amp!

I certainly don't feel the need to upgrade now, but that's my system and it's reaction to running balanced mode.

* I would suggest that any PS Audio HCA-2 owner try this amp in balanced mode....especially if you have the PCA-2 pre!