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Danny Kaey

Article: McIntosh MC611 Amplifier Review

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Hi Danny. Thanks for the great review.  How was the resolution or HD ness?  On my other Mac auditions, I always loved how hard and smoothly (such an irony isn't it?) Mac amps grab/control the woofers.  But, I always left wanting a bit more resolution.  Most of my auditions were done using Mac fronts, so it could be just their preamps.  In your opinion, how was MC611's resolution compared to other high-end amps in this price bracket?  Thanks.  

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15 hours ago, Doak said:

Do I understand correctly that you purchased these amps and then wrote your review? 

If so, had you some direct experience with them prior to your decision to purchase? 

 

Hmmmmmmm... actually it was the other way around. I really had no idea what these would sound like - yes, I've heard Mac many times but never in a controlled environment. Having spent this time with them really brought me over the finish line. Fantastic product. I know that in "high-end" circles Mac has a split following; some dig it, some think it's mid-fi, though I never really understood why or how. If any "high-end" badge was on these other than Mac, they'd sell for 40k, I'm convinced. 

 

Very curious to see / hear what the rest of the Mac line sounds like. 

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19 hours ago, MhtLion said:

Hi Danny. Thanks for the great review.  How was the resolution or HD ness?  On my other Mac auditions, I always loved how hard and smoothly (such an irony isn't it?) Mac amps grab/control the woofers.  But, I always left wanting a bit more resolution.  Most of my auditions were done using Mac fronts, so it could be just their preamps.  In your opinion, how was MC611's resolution compared to other high-end amps in this price bracket?  Thanks.  

 

hi there... good question. Resolution is one of those hard to define topics in general. In fact, just what "is" resolution really? For me, it's a few things, chief amongst them mid-range clarity and mid-range openness. Nothing - no amp - has ever bested the EINSTEIN OTL (Ouput TransformerLess) amps, which are my gold standard and will likely be forever. They really are crown jewels in the sense that you hear 1:1 what's stored on the medium. 

 

That said, they are massively expensive (retail $60k) and like a Veyron, Chiron, et all, have their limitations. EINSTEIN's The Poweramp, an offshoot Circlotron design for solid-state, comes very close to the OTLs in terms of resolution, clarity and overall sound, and is in fact my second favorite amp; it's also dramatically more accessible, 1/3 the cost of the OTLs. What's it all mean Basil? 

 

 

Now the MC611s are somewhat similar, somewhat different a beast than either of these amps. They get close to The Poweramp in resolution, not quite, but have bass power and output that's just fun to have around. Music, any kind, really sounds very musical which is a fundamental part of what I listen for. To your question, which amps the Macs compare to in the price range, I'd put them up against a Luxman 800 (I think they still make them, perhaps they don't), or really any other premium amp - I know that's a very generic statement. 

 

I'd wager the stereo MC462 is an absolutely killer amp too... I guess I was always looking for something big, massively powerful to play with. 

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8 hours ago, Danny Kaey said:

I know that in "high-end" circles Mac has a split following; some dig it, some think it's mid-fi, though I never really understood why or how. If any "high-end" badge was on these other than Mac, they'd sell for 40k, I'm convinced. 

 

An excellent write up, Danny.  You also own my ultimate speaker, the Wilson Alexx, and so I read your review with great interest.

 

I happen to belong to the camp that finds the Macs to be "mid-fi."  Like speakers, amplifiers are a very personal thing and so take my comments with a grain of salt.  They are the opinion of one person.  If you love how the MC611s perform in your setup, that's what's important.

 

I've taken an exhaustive look (and listen) at a number of amps over the past 2 years.  I looked at Macs very seriously when I first got my Martin Logan Renaissance 15As because at various trade shows, I noticed they were often paired together.  I got to demo the MC611s when I traded my Martin Logans in for a pair of Wilson Alexia 2s and no question, they can drive the Alexias fine (the Alexias are not that difficult to drive) and they produce a lovely tone but what I found missing were speed and control.  Directly compared against a Burmester 911 Mk3, the unanimous consensus in our group of audiophiles was that the MC611s sounded slow, bass sounded bloated, and transients were too rounded and it's not something you realize until you do a direct A/B.

 

Another fantastic amp that pairs well with Wilsons that I have listened to are the VTL Siegfried monoblocks.  VTLs were the personal preference of Dave Wilson and VTL uses Wilsons when voicing their amps.  If you prefer the holographic qualities that only tubes can provide, I don't think you'll find a better match for your Alexxes.  For solid state, it's tough to beat D'Agostino, especially the Momentum line.  This amp has the smoothness and rich textural qualities of tubes but also the punch and immediacy of the very best SS.  Soulution, CH Precision, Constellation, Spectral, T+A, and Burmester -- I've heard them with my Wilsons and they're all in the conversation for what is truly SOTA but as far as synergy goes, it's tough to beat D'Agostino with a pair of Wilson speakers.  Request a demo from a D'Agostino dealer of a Momentum Integrated for your Alexx (yes, a lowly integrated amp that outputs only 200W into 8 ohms) and directly compare it against your MC611 and you'll understand what is meant by "resolution."  

 

Where McIntosh excels is with value.  No, I would absolutely never pay $40k for the MC611s even if they were rebadged with a Boulder or Nagra logo (since they don't perform at that level) but for $15k, they are a compelling option and at that price, they're almost impossible to beat (the only other amp that I would consider at that price range would be the Luxman M-900U).

 

Just to be clear, I do not (yet) own a D'Agostino or VTL amp for my Wilson Alexias and so I don't have the bias of someone who owns these brands but my journey thus far has led me to these 2 amps.  Also to be clear, when I had a pair of Magico M3s in house for audition, my preferred amp for these speakers by a large margin was a Soulution 711.  Synergy is incredibly important and while a good amp will always be a good amp, what works best for one speaker isn't always an ideal fit for another speaker.

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