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Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment

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Posted on August 9, 2016 at 22:40:19
DominicPorter
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It's been untold ages since i posted on the Asylum (back before you needed to be registered to post) and then it was never in the Amp forum either, usually the Hi-Eff, but i was hoping you guys could help a fella out anyway.
Friend of mine runs a pretty nice setup in terms of source (lp12/ittok/Evans Groove) and speakers (Atlantis Acoustique Esterel), but he's got an amplifier conundrum. He used to have a Naim pseudo-separates stack, of Supernait, SuperCap, and i can't recall the pre; but he gave that all up to go for something integrated. After having auditioned a Zesto phonostage on the way to the Evans he was turned onto tubes and without my help found his way to a pretty nice sounding Cary 300SEI. He was never as fundamentally enthusiastic about it as I was, so I've bought that one off him. That still left him in need of an integrated, and having great nostalgia for the old Mcintosh sound of his youth and trying to avoid piling quite as much money up in the listening room as he had with the Naim products, he went for an MA6300 and immediately had buyer's regret. My suspicion on that is that the 91db Esterel's aren't drawing enough current to get the amp into its zone. He's also decided the warm up time for tubes doesn't fit his schedule.

So I think what we're looking for is something SS that'll sing with a relatively efficient threeway in a small room, that has a feel reminiscent of old Mac gear but actually more modern in aural presentation. Ballpark 6k and under.

My first thought was something like a First Watt, but as good as Nelson's designs appear to sound, i don't think they'll check the nostalgia mark, especially against something from Mcintosh that wears it so precociously on its sleeve. Anything out there First Watt -esque but with glowing meters and maybe 50 watts?

 

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RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 02:38:36
PAR
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I think that it might help if we knew exactly what he didn't like about each of the three amps. Currently we have someone who has not liked the sound of three amplifiers of markedly different sound signatures. In fact so different are they that I could reasonably conclude that it is ultimately the speakers, not the amps, that he doesn't like.

Nevertheless he could try an integrated from one of the industry's legendary designers, Tim de Paravicini. An EAR 834. Should be roughly within his budget even more so given the current low value of the UK pound. It certainly sounds nothing like a Naim or Cary.

Edit: Oops sorry, he wants SS. I'll point out that running SS succesfully usually means that it will need to be left on permanently ( pre-amps anyway - with an integrated it is the whole thing obviously). Is he happy with this? It's why many SS manufacturers put the power switch on the rear panel to discourage switching off. Otherwise the warm up time for most SS integrateds will be longer than a tube amp. A tube amp should sound pretty good after 30 mins from cold even if it hasn't reached optimum, but an SS from cold? It'll "work" immediately but won't be anywhere near its full performance. I guess he should be aware of this having owned Naims where the manufacturer recommendation is leave on 24/7.

How about Ayre?

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 07:25:28
airtime
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Just from a quick read it sounds like you're hoping all this works out with money and name brands.

Kick it back a notch. Take the phono out of the equation and hook up a cheaper CDP and give a second listen. Maybe the phono stage on the Mac isn't up to his taste.

Also as already mentioned can you try it with different speakers? I also think this is a problem area.

It also sounds like he wants one thing but he keeps buying something else. Just my two cents but it sounds like what you are looking for IS a tube stereo.

I'm also going to ASSUME here. These speakers are early to mid 90's. Poly cones of that era are NOTORIOUS for sounding pretty crappy.

Lastly everyone seems to dance around this point and ignore it. McIntosh is great gear but McIntosh has a VERY TASTE SPECIFIC sound signature that is NOT for everyone.

I would consider different speakers. Don't worry too much about sensitivity.

I resolved this problem by using a Conrad Johnson preamp and using a NEW VTA ST-70 amp with KT66 tubes. It has a new modern tube sound signature. Like that really makes sense!!! But it does. Keeps it tube like but not resolves bad rap tubes used to get.

Speakers - wow you gotta big choice there!!! But start with them.

Charles

Addendum: If your friend did not like that Mac on first listen he never will. Your first impression is usually the right one. So move on with that as well. And yeah the looks of those Mac's are hypnotic. That's the problem you can't move on cosmetically. If he stays with Mac consider a different integrated. A more recent production. the 6300 was never a favorite.

 

My Mac Tube gear sounds good right away. nt, posted on August 10, 2016 at 08:15:29
oldmkvi
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/

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 08:30:12
fantja
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Welcome! DominicPorter.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 08:54:21
Hornlover
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Maybe something like the INT-30A from Pass Labs? 30w at 8 ohms class A.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 08:55:47
DominicPorter
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Fair points. But if it sounds like the speakers could be the issue I've failed english writing haha.
They've been one of the most positive ingredients in the system since they went in. They really fit the room soundwise and have allowed quite a bit of interesting gear to shine behind them.
Anyway, the Naim stuff seemed to be the cause of the change but less for its sound and more for the fact that he was too much money in and Naim was still dangling a carrot. Like there's always a new version of the amp you've got or a better version of the power supply.
The Cary wasn't his jam for two main reasons, while it added some smoothness and finesse over the main gear it gave up apparently more 'oomph' in the most common tube vs SS kind of ways. Bass a little less weighty and authoritative, and didn't quite have the "PRAT" of the Naim. We disagreed on the matter of degrees, but I had to admit the Naim was a tough one to beat on that front.
The other thing was that the 300b took too long to really get up to speed. This is when he got stuck on his memories of the 70s and McIntosh 275s. The nostalgia factor was pretty strong. So not wanting to spend what Mac is asking for their current tube gear and wanting the convenience of SS back he chose the entry level 5300. Once he got it in the system he called me up and said something to the effect of "Dom, I gone done messed up!" And when I went over to listen I had to agree. It was all the worst things people say about solid state. It was flat, grainy, and the image just wasn't. It did manage to get some toe tapping going but I really struggled with it. He's been complaining to me for months. Interestingly the digital side of the system (which I can never remember as I haven't been interested in spending any money there myself) was the most pained by the downgrade. It's a frustrating notion since it's fully as pricey as the Naim without the power supply and way more than he paid for the Cary.
So yesterday he calls me up and he's asking about getting a McIntosh MA7000, which now has 300w, seems like it would be forgetting the first couple watts to an even greater degree?

I hope that helps a bit.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 09:38:58
airtime
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Ok I'm going to have to say it. McIntosh sound is NOT for him. New old what ever. He's just going to chase his tail and spend a lot of money doing it.

He should look into Rogue or some thing along that line. Keeps the nice tube and has more modern sound. Meaning a lot of clarity, etc...

Also consider the VTA monoblocks They CRANK!! and would have a more SS/tube mix sound. He could chuck in a nice Mac preamp and that way he would have looks and a good amp. I know he is trying to reduce the stereo bulk but some times we can't have it all.

Again look into Rogue or the VTA's. They are wonderful and modern sounding

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 11:52:22
6bq5
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Dominic,
Welcome to the Asylum....

I would echo some of the comments that are steering you/your friend away from the McIntosh equipment -
I would also encourage you to look at the Ayre integrated-

If what is missing is the bottom octave(s) and the slam that can be had from SS- then there are lots of modest power integrated amps - even on the AA Trader -
Happy Listening

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 10, 2016 at 12:01:03
BillH
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Audio Research. Classic designs with edge-cutting tech, excellent support, excellent sound. HMMV as I never heard of the Esterels.

 

Well welcome back to the madness, posted on August 10, 2016 at 12:49:33
airtime
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Looks like you're going to have some fun looking for a new stereo.

Seems your friends needs are for a full body sound with a good midrange.


So start there.

charles

 

Lindell AmpX , posted on August 10, 2016 at 13:57:40
viridian
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but I would prefer the Supernait2. Different strokes.

 

Luxman for old-school aesthetics . . . , posted on August 10, 2016 at 14:03:05
dean_martin
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Although I haven't heard one, I'll seek an audition for my "last" integrated.

 

RE: Some advice? , posted on August 10, 2016 at 15:13:56
bare
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IF the speakers 90+ db efficient (or better) then this is.. ALL.. you need to know;
Firstwatt.

 

McIntosh MA6300 , posted on August 10, 2016 at 17:15:58
Alex F.
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I purchased an MA6300 when it was introduced. As I have posted in the past, the McIntosh MA6300 seems to be an anomaly in the brand's lineup. A McIntosh fan for many years and an owner of the superb MA6500 integrated amp, the MA6300 possesses little, if any, of the typical McIntosh sound.

Instead of the smooth, rich, nonfatiguing, and neutral to slightly warm sonics that one expects from McIntosh, the MA6300 is punishingly bright, harsh, and edgy in the upper midrange and treble.

Before my MA6300 was returned for a refund, I traced the audible torture to the unit's then-new power amplifier design. The preamp section sounded fine when I used it with an Adcom GFA-5503 power amp that is in our theater system.

I have not heard McIntosh's latest models, but thankfully online magazine reviewers have not described the MA6300's sonic traits in any I read about.

In short, don't use the disappointing MA6300 as an example of McIntosh's typical sonic signature.

 

RE: McIntosh MA6300 , posted on August 10, 2016 at 20:39:17
DominicPorter
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Ha! You're the first person I've found to say that of the 6300! I knew it couldn't be just me, and my buddy.
The idea of using it as a pre is intriguing too.

 

RE: McIntosh MA6300 , posted on August 10, 2016 at 21:28:11
Tidycat1
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I would consider a VAC integrated unit.Fine tuning can be done by a little front-end tube swapping.
Tom:cat

 

RE: Some advice? , posted on August 11, 2016 at 01:33:32
PAR
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Only sensitivity? Not really (see link). Also the OP placed constraints over aspects of the amplifier performance e.g. warm up time which need to be taken account of.

 

No - McIntosh did preamps well so get a proper Mac preamp, posted on August 11, 2016 at 07:10:47
airtime
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Like I said in a post below consider a Mac preamp. That is one thing they do VERY well. Their amps are dull and muted in my opinion. And it seems in a lot of other peoples as well. Just that Mac has a fanatical following.

Using the 6300 as a pre is like using a Buick as a door stop.

Sell the 6300 and get a proper Mac preamp. You will have the VERY pretty blue face AND some also have the pretty dials.

Then you can find an acceptable amp at your own pace.

Again consider the Mac pre and the VTA ST-120's. WOW!!!

 

RE: Some advice? , posted on August 11, 2016 at 07:12:17
airtime
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I found warm up times to be exaggerated. My VTA warms up in like 3-5 minutes.

charles

 

RE: Some advice? , posted on August 11, 2016 at 07:58:59
PAR
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I too am happy with my EAR after a similar time from switch on. However it all depends upon what one considers as absolute warm up. I have to say that despite sounding great with the warm up time above, after 90 minutes or so some kind of subtle improvement seems to happen as images appear to gain tangibilty and the sound becomes somehow more inviting. Very minor and perhaps in my imagination but it seems real enough and occurs consistently enough for me to believe it.

On the SS side of things I can put a thermocouple on either of my SS pre-amps and see that thermal stability is not reached until a long time after switch on.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 12, 2016 at 06:30:42
Mr Peabody
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Your friend may want to give Hagle a listen.
Or, Sugden integrated. Conrad Johnson is a nice suggestion although I have not heard the new solid state amps. I do like the tube gear, the power amps with 6550's have a bit more bass authority but CJ has a very seductive sound.

A new direction, I heard the Audio Alchemy this year and was thrilled by the musicality, modestly priced for the sound I heard.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 12, 2016 at 07:15:35
Sunya
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Accuphase

 

RE: Some advice? , posted on August 12, 2016 at 10:55:45
Mick Wolfe
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Similar experience with my VTA. Maybe not quite that quick,(3-5) but certainly in the 10-15 minute range. In other words, a non-issue. This has been true for most all the P-P tube amps I've owned. On the other hand, my 845 SET takes a minimum of 30-45 minutes to hit its stride.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 12, 2016 at 12:54:40
Mr Peabody
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I'm not familiar with those speakers but didn't suspect anything, if the person can notice amp "warmup" then he is in tune with his system and it must have decent resolution.

I didn't really become aware of warm up until I owned Conrad Johnson tube gear, it took 30 to 45 minutes to hit it's tride. Prior to that I had some decent gear including Krell. After the CJ I had Pass Labs where I noticed warm up and my Levinson is the same but not to the extent the CJ or Pass was obvious. Either these amps need the warm up or the CJ was so obvious I became aware, or more acute to what to listen for.

 

Expensive!, posted on August 12, 2016 at 15:28:33
Cougar
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but nice sounding amps.

 

+1 on Luxman aesthetics . . . , posted on August 13, 2016 at 11:42:55
AbeCollins
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I love the looks of most Luxman gear but I have very little experience with the brand. I've never heard any of the Luxman integrated amps but I'd love to someday.

The only Luxman piece that I actually owned was the DA-06 DAC ($5000) but I was a bit disappointed with it's sound. Very very smooth, somewhat veiled, slightly rolled-off, dynamically relaxed, and overall boring. It's a very versatile and pretty looking piece but I've heard DACs at 1/5 it's price that I much prefer.

I have no idea what Luxman integrated amps sound like. I hope they don't have a 'house sound' similar to the DA-06 DAC.





 

Switch the speakers., posted on August 22, 2016 at 21:25:14
ppopp
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That is all.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 26, 2016 at 02:57:13
Plinius_Fan
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I have also been going through this after switching from Naim amplification. Really not easy to find another amp that does it all and better than Naim. My shortlist has been the new Sugden Integrated amp, Luxman L590-AX, First Watt F6. If it has to be tubes then look at Leben, VAC, EAR, Ayon (if you really want a shiny sound). McIntosh has a nostalgic sound but it is slow. CJ is better that way.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 26, 2016 at 06:19:42
Disbeliever
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You can not go wrong with the Naim Supernait 2
This a superb integrated do not be put off by 80 watts rms into 8 ohms.No need to leave on 24/7. Avoid troublesome, antique tubes, Class A, Class D, Class G.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 26, 2016 at 18:12:49
Plinius_Fan
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I have also been going through this after switching from Naim amplification. Really not easy to find another amp that does it all and better than Naim. My shortlist has been the new Sugden Integrated amp, Luxman L590-AX, First Watt F6. If it has to be tubes then look at Leben, VAC, EAR, Ayon (if you really want a shiny sound). McIntosh has a nostalgic sound but it is slow. CJ is better that way.

 

I feel like I must be a worse writer than I give myself credit for., posted on August 27, 2016 at 10:21:34
DominicPorter
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Maybe I was in too much of a hurry to get to all the points of the story with no foundation and so didn't fully expound on the tube question.

So anyway, here I am jamming out to that aforementioned Cary bobbing my head while typing, and it reminds me of the other day when my buddy came over. As friends sometimes do he was telling the same story again, of how he really enjoyed the Naim, of how he was frustrated having something around 15k tied up in their hierarchy. What he pointed to specifically was the speed in the bass, which, fair enough, no single ended 300b is going to wallop you with. He likes to make this analogy that the Naim nailed 7 out of 10 things right, and the Cary got those 3 other things right but fell short on the other 7. Higher voices and more delicate instruments too, which all sounds like a pretty stereotypical SE vs SS kind of thing.
I think his listening demands could be pretty well satisfied by something tube (maybe PP or like parallel 845s?) but the timing thing relates more to the fact that an SS amp can be left on indefinitely and so is ready to go as soon as you come in the door.
I'm not sure how much of the search for missing delicacy that got him to pick up the CAD-300 SEI is due to my own influence and at the end of the day, isn't really something he's looking for, his penchant for small scale music not withstanding.
I sent him after a couple of the options that cropped up in this thread, but having trouble locating something to audition.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 27, 2016 at 16:25:26
Jack D II
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You cant go wrong with a Conrad-Johnson CA 150. http://conradjohnson.com/ca150-solid-state-control-amplifier/
Everything you need to know about a unit that will serve most any system.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 27, 2016 at 16:33:07
SgreenP@MSN.com
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I have to agree with the poster above re: Ayre. See if you can get a used piece for a good price. Their older stuff is better than most brand new stuff.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 27, 2016 at 21:13:20
Tidycat1
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Would also agree with the Ayre.Maybe the CJ solidstate or Belles.Even possibly a Symphonic Line.An Ayre pre and an amp from one of the others.
Thought the CJ and Belles sounded very musical,when I worked in an audio shop.
Tom:cat

 

RE: Some advice?, posted on August 28, 2016 at 01:21:51
goldenthal
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If he has a strong yen for McIntosh, for well less than $6k he could acquire a used 6600 or 2275 (which is tubed); I don't know much about the pre-amp sections of either, but the amp sections should both be good.

On the other hand, one can do well for less; in my office I use a Sony F707ES (about 80 watts/channel) for which I paid about $600 and which sounds excellent.


Jeremy

 

RE: No - McIntosh did preamps well . . ., posted on August 28, 2016 at 01:32:29
goldenthal
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Strange, I'd take just the opposite view, but I have not heard their very most recent pres.


Jeremy

 

RE: +1 on Luxman aesthetics . . . , posted on August 28, 2016 at 01:35:13
goldenthal
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If I remember correctly, John Marks quite liked that model.


Jeremy

 

RE: My Mac Tube gear sounds good right away. nt, posted on August 28, 2016 at 01:39:19
goldenthal
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Yeah, mine too. But then, at decades old, ours is probably well warmed up by now. Then again, perhaps that's us.


Jeremy

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on August 28, 2016 at 20:15:00
Vik
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How did nobody mention a used Pass Labs XA30 series amp or integrated??

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on September 5, 2016 at 10:15:24
horn kid
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It's hard enough to put together a good system without constraining oneself to glowing meters and other aesthetic concerns.

Some good thoughts in this thread, I may repeat some.

1. If he can't get them to sound good, why is he sticking with the speakers?
2. Is he cartridge any good? At least cd is consistent, maybe he should be testing with that for now, or at least comparing it to his phono setup to be sure the phono setup is as good or better.
3. He should run as much equipment through as possible, without buying (friends, borrowing from stores, etc.) to get a handle on what he likes and does not. This includes speakers. Sometimes I see guys stick to lousy speakers just because they have some illogical connection or bias toward them, and it's a way to get stuck with terrible sound forever when one does that.
4. Some guys have a knack for noting equipment that sounds like music in a short listening session, others just seem lost forever. It is a tough and frustrating hobby for the latter and no amount of advice ever seems to turn this type around as they are often stubborn and insist on making their own bad choices forever. They often get sucked into crazy stories by deluded but passionate and dogmatic designers and stick to those, trying to build a system around them. No amount of help seems to change this type.

I think your friend should try borrowing some different speakers. If he says he likes his, ask him why, if they don't sound good. If he cites a situation where they did sound good ask what equipment made them sound so, and why he is not using that equipment.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on September 5, 2016 at 23:43:10
gordguide
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Solid State and sounds like McIntosh Vacuum State in an Intrgrated amp?

You want Luxman.

 

I give up! he's so set on Mcintosh, posted on October 12, 2016 at 20:25:28
DominicPorter
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He wants a 452 now after i tried to push him on some of Nelson Pass's stuff and having too much trouble trying to audition.

 

Sanity prevails!, posted on January 11, 2017 at 20:13:31
DominicPorter
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He landed a First Watt J3! And it's a darn good thing too!
Now of course he's on the hunt for hi-eff, but that i can actually get behind

 

RE: Sanity prevails!, posted on January 14, 2017 at 10:37:17
bare
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Erm whats a j3?? as opposed to to a Firstwatt j2, which is the only one Nelson lists

 

RE: Sanity prevails!, posted on January 16, 2017 at 10:48:37
DominicPorter
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Sorry, Int-30. I had the 3 stuck in my head, guess it's not technically a "first watt". Though he does/did do a J5 in addition to the J2.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on January 16, 2017 at 13:08:42
fantja
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Nice! suggestion Jack D II

how well does the CJ perform below 4 ohms?

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on January 16, 2017 at 13:09:15
fantja
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Dominic-
you want a Pass Labs amp.

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on January 17, 2017 at 10:29:29
DominicPorter
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haha, do I? I'm saying he finally took my (our?) advice and went for something intelligently designed without MAX POWER as a goal, and did in fact end up with a Pass Labs amp. I actually had my own speakers over at his place and i think i prefer the Cary. But the Pass seems to be doing what he wants with his speakers, which is great.

Now we just have to fix his room acoustics!

 

RE: Some advice? Left Naim, tubes aren't working and McIntosh is a dissapointment, posted on January 17, 2017 at 11:50:00
fantja
Audiophile

Posts: 10427
Location: Alabama
Joined: September 11, 2010
Pass Labs, is the very best in solid-state at this juncture. Outstanding products backed by excellent Customer Service- it is a no-brainer.

 

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