McIntosh MA 2275 Review - Tube Integrated Amplifier!
The McIntosh MA2275
Tube Powerhouse Integrated from McIntosh!
Ahhh yes, high end audio. I have been a so called "audiophile" for about 14 years. Before that it was all cheap stereos from electronic stores and as much as I loved those high watt, "all-in-one" monsters I had no idea that there was products out there that could take it to a MUCH higher level.
I remember going to these shops and bringing my cassette tapes listening to my fave songs in the store. These were those complete systems they used to sell. The wood cabinet, the two piece plastic amp/turntable, etc. Tall speakers as big as a cabinet. But they sounded like crap. Back then though, I thought they were amazing. McIntosh existed back then but they were out of my league when I was 17!
If you are reading this then I am sure you either A: a fan of McIntosh or B: a fan of high end audio pr C: You are an audiophile.
McIntosh has been in business for what seems like an eternity. I remember my fathers McIntosh system from when I was little and I remember it sounding pretty BIG. Yes, they sound just like they look! Many people compare McIntosh amps to cadillacs or big boat cars from the 70s. With their big blue meters, their green lighting and their tank like square build I can see how it could be compared to a big 1970s cadillac!
Many years ago I started getting into high end Audio (which came after my cheap stereo system days) and I did NOT start with McIntosh. Why? Well, mainly due to all of the BS Audiophile talk about McIntosh! Many say they sound bloated, dull, flat, lifeless and I fell for it without even hearing a modern MAC system! For the money McIntosh charges I never wanted to take a risk.
So over the years I spent a fortune on my audio system. Early on, my first "real" system was comprised of Moniter Audio GR 20 speakers. I think I paid $1100 each for them and I was BLOWN AWAY at the detail, the depth and the soundstage. Powered buy a 100 watt Denon receiver, I thought I had the best system in the world!
I grew tired of those speakers and decided to upgrade once again...
After going through SEVERAL speakers I realized I had a bad disease. All audiophiles have it, (and I bet you do as well) and I was now obsessed with getting the best sound in my system. I went through solid state amps like Mark Levinson, KRELL, Pass Labs and others. Speakers from Revel, Avantgarde, Sonus Faber and each time I upgraded the costs went up and up.
I remember the day I finally settled on my amp of choice. It was a Cary V12r and Cary SLP98P pre-amp. I had them powering a set of Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage speakers and it was nice but after a while I knew I was missing something. This is not a review of the Sonus Fabers so let me just say that I needed MORE POWER!
One day, by chance, I happened to walk into a McIntosh dealer and what my wife thought was ugly, I thought of as "different". Now, I knew McIntosh had a rep in the audiophile community as having NON Audiophile amps that had a unique "house sound". As I stated earlier, many say McIntosh amps are dull, dark and lack detail. All I know is that when I hooked up a MC352 to my Guarneris I thought I was in heaven. The room filled with a HUGE sound. The soundstage was average while the detail was not as intense, and therefore the sound was more pleasing. (or so I thought)
Anyway, fast forward to the present day. After buying and selling that MC352 and going back to Cary (Man, I love the gentle, delicate sound of jazz vocals on a Cary system) I finally decided I wanted a BIG MAC for my system. BUT I was now a tube guy so I decided to find something in the McIntosh line of tube amps.
The MA2275 Arrives and all is NOT good!
My speakers now consist of Sonus Faber Guarneri Mementos and I LOVE THEM with a passion. I have owned them for two years and they are not going anywhere. I had some Cary/AES six pacs powering them and while they gave a huge soundstage and had that sweet delicate sound I spoke of I decided to give McIntosh tubes a try. I bought the HUGE MA2275 Tube Integrated. Only 75 Watts per channel but its more like 100 tube watts and 200 Solid State watts! This thing is also TWICE the cost of my AES Monoblock Amps and Preamp with NOS tubes so I was anxious to have an eargasm when I put it in with my speakers.
When I put in the Mcintosh 2275 the first thing I noticed was the sound went FLAT! Oh man, I just sold off my beloved six pacs and AES Pre amp, spent double the $$ and ended up with a dead, flat sounding amp?!?!? I wanted to cry, and almost did! BUT I visited McIntosh forums and read that you have to let it burn it for at least a week. Also, swapping the stock tubes has been said to work miracles. In any case, I let it run all day long, every day for a week before judging the sound.
Well, it has now been 3 months and I can say right now that I am sort of disappointed in this integrated amp. I am using the McIntosh high end MCD 500 for my CD playback and at moderate volumes, this 2275 sounds sort of lifeless when compared to the less expensive AES/Cary setup. The soundstage has shrunk and the detail has diminished. The AES setup NEVER gave me listening fatigue and neither does the Mcintosh, but the sound was so much more open, so much more "magical" with the AES setup. That set costs $3800 new for a pair of tube mono block amps and a separate pre amp. This Mcintosh is a one piece integrated for $7500. OUCH.
One area DID improve with the McIntosh MA2275. Volume and Heft. See, there is so much midbass coming from the big MAC that ROCK music sounds good on my speakers. Rock music on my previous setup was sort of hit and miss and a little weak due to lack of big fat badass bass. On the McIntosh you can crank it and jam to rock or metal, even with my Guarneri mementos! Yea, I have been jamming to my favorite 1980s hair bands with speakers that are supposed to excel with vocals and jazz! It's been fun no doubt.
When I do listen to Diana Krall, Enya, Frank Sinatra, or even Miles Davis I do sort of miss the "air" of the AES six pac amps. The McIntosh is more of a hard ass..more of a direct sounding amp. The music flows but flows STRAIGHT out of the speakers. With my previous setup, the music "bloomed" all around the speakers. I guess there are fans of the McIntosh sound, and yes, this 2275 does deliver it in spades with maybe a little more warmth. If you like your music full, fat, and analog sounding then the MA2275 should be on your list of auditions.
If you like hyper detail, huge soundstage and air in your music then this is probably a skip. For me, it is a HIT and a MISS. Here is why:
MA2275 HITS -
1. Its built like a tank. Literally. I can see this outlasting me easily and I can pass it down to my son.
2. It's TUBE! Tube audio is always special and provides more "warmth" to the sound instead of sounding "hard and fast" like solid state. I did find the tube magic a little lacking in the 2275 though. Maybe i just prefer the EL34 sound?
3. HEFT, WEIGHT, BASS - This thing pumps out the bass and midbass making your music sound VERY full and FAT. My speakers are already a warm sounding speaker so I may have too much of a good thing. I would pair this with brighter sounding speakers for a match made in heaven.
4. Blue meters - some love them, some hate them. Me, I love them.
5. Made in the USA with great warranty (so was my AES/CARY setup)
6. For 75 watts it sounds more like 200 solid state watts. My speakers could probably use a little more power and current but this amp can drive almost any speaker.
MA2275 MISSES -
1. PRICE - Holy cow..$7500 new, about $5000 used. This is one expensive integrated amp and do not forget tube replacement costs at about $300 a set every year.
2. Too warm, almost muffled sounding at times. Some CD's sound pretty muffled on the 2275 and i am not sure why as they sounded GREAT on my previous setup.
This amp retails for $7500 and is NOT cheap! I have seen them used in mint condition for around $4,000 on audiogon.com so deals can be had. When compared to the 250 WPC Solid State MA7000 from McIntosh, the MA2275 is warmer and but its not the magical tube sound we love. Instead it sounds like McIntosh cranked back the treble to -30 and set that as default. Man, I miss my little AES setup.
As for build quality of the McIntosh, it's built to last 100 years and from the looks, it will. It weighs in at about 75lbs and its glowing blue meters give off a true beautiful night show in the dark. I like to sit back in my recliner that is positioned in the sweet spot, sip a glass of wine or absinthe and listen with all the lights out.
I know I have been tough on this amp but guess what? I am stuck with it. No way I can sell it after paying so much for it. Looks like I will have to get used to this sound for at least 2-3 years. Maybe then my wife will have forgotten how much we paid for it :)
If you have Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento speakers I can NOT recommend this integrated UNLESS you only listen to Rock music. BUT, if that's the case I suggest running to Best Buy for an all in one setup. To me, the McIntosh MA2275 is a bit overpriced. When a modest $3800 CARY/AES setup destroys it in most areas then something is not right. This integrated should go for $3500 - $4500. If you can find a used on in that price range then its worth it.
I also bought the McIntosh MCD500 SACD/CD player and I am THRILLED with this item. Best CD player I have ever owned.
Some quirks I had with the 2275...
I did have a few hiccups with my MA2275. Two of the 12AX7 tubes died within 2 weeks and the amp has blown 2 fuses in the last two weeks. I am soon re-tubing with some quality tubes and I expect this will solve this issue. I do feel that McIntosh could provide better quality tubes for the money you have to spend on this thing.
I also feel that if you are an "Audiophile" then the McIntosh sound MAY NOT be to your liking. Some so called audiophile components sound overly detailed, bright and edgy. Those systems make my ears bleed after 20 minutes. With the MAC you get the music. While it is sort of dull and muffled, it is that big fat sound you remember as a kid when you played your LP's.
UPDATE: TWO more fuses blew in this thing making me think...maybe it has a defect somewhere? 4 fuses in 3 months. Hmmm. I just ordered three bags from Radio Shack to keep here for my bi-weekly fuse replacement. I did not yet upgrade to new tubes as I am afraid of spending $300 on a new tube set. Many say it does improve the sound but what if it doesn't? if i get new tubes and it makes a difference I will update it here.
OK, its been a while since I wrote this review and I still own the MA2275. Mainly due to be HAVING to stick it out. Can't take a huge loss by selling it. With that said, I did list it for sale this past week but am thinking of taking it down and keeping it.
Let me explain! Well, my 2275 is 100% burned in by now and yes, I have seen more improvement. It opened up quite a bit and is now giving me a much bigger soundstage and air. Very odd. I have never had any audio gear take this long to sound good.
Also, I had some company over and they wanted to hear my system even though I explained I was not 100% happy with it.
I put some Diana Krall in and they freaked out and told me I was nuts if i was not happy with this sound. They were very impressed and never heard anything like it. Hmmm.
I have yet to try new tubes and I also found out why my fuses were blowing, which was my own fault, and my dealers.
My dealer told me it was preferable to run my speakers on the 8 ohm taps but this was a problem and it was the cause of fuses blowing. Since moving them back to the 4 ohm taps I have not had any issues with blown fuses.
Yesterday I also changed my cabinet that held my equipment and wow, the sound improved more. All I know is that right now, at this moment the 2275 sounds luscious. Eerily quiet with smooth, silky and balanced sound. Could my Guarneries use more power? Sure, but all that would do is allow me to play louder, and I already get quite a bit of volume from this setup.
My bottom line after many many months of listening? The MA 2275 will give you decent power, punch and a warm sweetness that you do not get from most Solid State gear. I may not be 100% happy as I know that for the money invested I could have gotten better but overall I have kind of bonded with my 2275. I think I will go take down the for sale ad now. Yea, I'll keep it :) I think....
Again, if I swap tubes I will update this review again.
- McIntosh | MA2275
Link to the McIntosh MA2275 Web Site