Used McIntosh MX135 or Marantz 8802

Hi All,

First I'd like to Thank everyone for such a great and informative site! Thank You!

I'm looking to upgrade my Preamp/ HT. Currently I'm running a Rotel RSP1068 thru a Parasound Halo A31 (front channels) I have the ceiling mounted rear speakers running thru a Rotel 1070. Front Speakers are B&W 604 S3 and the Center is also a B&W... I also have an old JVC QL5 Record player running thru an old Beta 2 preamp...

The set was a trade for a nice Gibson SG I didn't play... So now I've got the Audio bug and I really am enjoying the sweet music. I listen to mostly music but do watch Movies as well...

I've seen a couple preamps that look promising for the 1000.00 to 1200.00 range...

I'm not worried about having HDMI ports as I currently send the Video signal straight to the TV and it seems just fine... Sound is more important to me...

Any thoughts or suggestions? Speakers would be the next thing on the list... I must say though it sound great to me now but I've not heard a great high-end system so I don't know if it would be a good move?

Any thoughts?

Please and Thanks!!!

For a mostly music and some HT application the McIntosh is a solid bet since it's primarily a pre amp with ht capability. In the unlikely event you hate the mx-135, most of the depreciation has already occurred and you'll get most if not all of your money back.
I've had the MX-120 (similar, but slightly newer than the 135) for years and have no regrets. These units offer tons of flexibility if not the latest and greatest video decoding capabilities.
If you're willing to double your budget, the Classe ssp-800 has a loyal following for its audio quality.
Thank You Yakbob!
I'm leaning towards the MX mostly because of the history but I've not heard one so nice to hear from a happy owner... Thank You for the info and suggestions I really appreciate the food for thought!!!
You're welcome, I'm happy to help.A couple notes on the McIntosh unit. Be sure the seller/shipper  uses the oem boxes and packaging.  The glass face is prone to breakage by carriers. Make sure it's insured and never chuck a McIntosh box in the trash.😁

Also, you'll need to send a video signal to your tv via composite, s-video, or RCA connection strictly for the on screen display menus. I only mention this as newer televisions are mainly equipped with HDMI inputs. It's easy enough to use a converter box if needed.

Thank You again Sir! much appreciated and great advise! Cheers!
I had an MX135 and it was a good piece but doesn’t decode the current DTS and Dolby surround found on Blu-ray. also pretty sure it won’t share the codec with a smart Tv. It really depends  on what your needs are.
i will tell you the new MX122 uses the 8802 as its core processor.
I used MX-135 for a while in my second system (B&W804s).
It has an excellent preamp (with Phono) that could work with any amplifier for surround system or two channel. I was told by a dealer that it uses the same circuitry of Mcintosh c46. I switched to VIVA Linea, and in term of sound quality comparison, VIVA Linea was just 5-10% superior.
As for DTS decoding on blue-ray player, it depends, is it DTS-trueHD which is lossless (and much more expensive) or just DTS-HD as lossy compression. Mx-135 has DTS-ES which could work with most Blueray players.
It has also Dolby digital and Dolby Digital EX which could work fine with most of the blue ray players too.

After all, the built-in quality and choice of internal electronic components of Mcintosh (built in US) is far superior to MArantz product(built in China).
I thought to have sold my MX-135, but buyer pulled out of the deal without paying it. It is still packed in original double boxes.

BTW, better power cord on MX-135, could greatly enhance its capability. I am not saying to use insanely expensive power cords! 


Thanks for the info theo2 and michelzay....lots to contemplate.

I wish I could buy your MX135 michelzay but probably don't have enough :(

Thanks again!!!

I would not say that McIntosh is better than the Marantz here in this scenario.  I think you would really have to listen to each device to get a sense of what it sounds like. I have had the Marantz AV8804 in my system and was extremely impressed with it (for what it was).  Internally, the Marantz has excellent power supply and overall design.  The major benefit from the Marantz is individual discrete analog output stages for each channel.  The Marantz has an excellent power supply for all analog circuits.  However, it still does use a switching power supply for digital circuits.  The Marantz is voiced on the warm side, and the sound is warm and full with good impact.  If you're looking for a high resolution processor, the Marantz may be a little too warm for you (the high frequencies are somewhat rolled off).

The McIntosh is half-empty inside the chassis (the Marantz chassis is stock full of boards and there is no empty room).  This means the McIntosh uses op amp type analog stages for everything.  You are also buying the expensive glass front panel and features.  The McIntosh might have a cleaner power supply because it uses several stages of heat-sinked regulators.  McIntosh may be higher resolution than Marantz, but I have not heard one directly.
I did not have a chance to look inside of Marantz AV8804, and I trust you on your experience.
Regarding individual discrete analog stages comment, it depends what sort of cap or resistance they are using to make it so affordable. In this case perhaps they are suing a lot of components! Precision on caps and electronic components are immensely important. A cheap capacitor (10 cents or less vs. $40 cap!) value on Farad could vary from 20% to 50% (vs. 2%-4% on good caps!) or more and are very vulnerable toward heat variation on circuit (which makes it less durable devices!). That affects a lot the overall sound and amplification. It is also true with resistances and transistors!

In this case perhaps they are using a lot of components on AV8804! and based on its retail price, I don't think they care too much about high precision caps and resistance and transistors! That affects directly precision on sound quality like resolution, frequency balance, etc...
Obviously, using discrete component in design, avoiding PCB board, leads to a better design and much more precision. But choice of high quality elements is very crucial.

It is also true Mcintosh uses op-amp ICs, I guess they are from Texas Instruments, which has a good reputation on built-in quality.

@michelzay - yup totally agree with you. However, I have seen detailed pictures of the discrete analog boards (there are like 12 or 13 of them in the 8804). They are very well designed and each discrete analog board has 6 decent sized local power supply caps. It’s almost like looking at the analog circuit of a Bryston or Krell. I would not say they used the best caps (such as Nichicon FG or KW), but they are not using the cheap caps either. So it should be a good mid level capacitor. This isn’t like Emotiva or Outlaw, which does use the uber-cheap 10 cent caps which are crap.

The DAC I/V board on the Marantz is also well designed. It does use a slow slew rate op amp for I/V, but it has massive amounts of local power supply caps to keep the voltage clean and smooth.

Another thing to consider is that Marantz has a HUGE retail distribution / seller network for these devices. They would sell something like 10,000 units, where the McIntosh might sell 200-300 units in comparison, so the retail price is a lot less because they can re-coup the R&D and manufacturing costs better. I’m not saying that this would equal the McIntosh or even something like Krell Foundation, but you are getting more per dollar on the Marantz than you would on the McIntosh or Krell.

I have done an enormous amount of R&D and testing with a large variety of op amps, including the best of the mix (opa627, opa827, ad797). While they can be excellent is a lot of ways, they are all compromised in one fashion or another when compared to the discrete op amps (Sparkos, Burson, Sonic Imagery). So, the discrete analog stages of the Marantz are extremely good for a processor offering at that price point, but like I said, Marantz is voiced warm so you will not have the high frequency resolution and excitement that other devices may give you (which possibly includes the McIntosh MX135).

Just keeping things in perspective.