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Help me spend my money! McIntosh + Paradigm?


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#1 of 29 OFFLINE   RoyGSoto

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Posted July 12 2004 - 05:11 AM

OK, I've just gotten a big fat raise and promotion and I've decided to spend some of my hard-earned money on upgrading my sound system.

Right now I have a Denon 3802 A/V receiver, Paradigm Studio 100s as my mains, and a Velodyne HGS12 as subwoofer.

What I've always dreamed of is upgrading the power to my mains to make my music sound better...right now the system is absolutely perfect for home theater.

What I was considering was adding a McIntosh 402 (400wpc) amplifier and hook it up to my Denon pre-outs for my main speakers. Questions:

1. Will it make a huge difference? I think the Denon is 125wpc
2. Will I still want to use my subwoofer for music, or should the McIntosh be all I need?
3. Anyone out there have the McIntosh/Paradigm combo and care to comment on how they sound together?

Thanks!

Roy

#2 of 29 OFFLINE   chung_sotheby

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Posted July 12 2004 - 06:09 AM

1. For the price of the McIntosh, you would probably be better off spending the money upgrading your speakers and preamp instead of just your amp. While the McIntosh is a helluva unit (I owned a MC-7270 for a while), the best cost vs. benefit ratio that you will get is if you hold off on the Mac and improve other parts of your system. In terms of influencing sound, the amp does not make as much of a difference as the preamp and speakers, IMHO.
2. As for the sub, it depends on what type of music you like. While pairing your Digms with a better amp will improve clarity and bottom-end slam, you are still limited with the useable range of your speakers, which more often than not is not below about 35-40Hz. So you might need a sub to reinforce the bottom end that comes with some types of music.
3. McIntoshes are great amps, but you can definately get more for your money if you look elsewhere. I kinda see McIntosh as the Mercedes of amps. Undeniable quality, great reputation, unmistakeable name recognization, propensity for maintaining value, but you end up paying a premium for these traits. The Mac will sound great with almost any good speaker, as the sound balance, in my experience, is very neutral across the sound spectrum, with maybe a hint of extra warmth and smoothness in the upper mids.

#3 of 29 OFFLINE   JackS

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Posted July 12 2004 - 07:11 AM

Roy- I won't try to talk you out of the Mac because I know sometimes we just want to own something special. I agree with Chung, the main attribute of an amp is power. I've owned several and to discern any huge difference between them is not easy. This might be an area you can save a significant amount of money if your so inclined. If money no object, get the Mac.

#4 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin. W

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Posted July 12 2004 - 10:59 AM

Roy, if your happy with your speakers stick with them. Paradigm in my opinion and many others offer the one of the best price/performance ratio's, without compromising sound and quality.

Quote:
the amp does not make as much of a difference as the preamp and speakers, IMHO.


Quote:
While pairing your Digms with a better amp will improve clarity and bottom-end slam

Chung, does an amp improve or not improve the performance of the speakers? IMHO and amp will increase the soundstage, improve clarity and detail at both the upper/lower listening levels. It will also allow the speakers to go lower easier with less distortion.

Roy if I was to give you my preferences it would be as follows:

1. AMP. No need to spend crazy, something in the 5x200w range should be more than enought for the 100's. I have a Rotel RMB-1095 powering my Studio(v3) 40/20/570 setup. Sound is amazing

2. Pickup a bigger sub, maybe a Servo-15, or SVS. Better bottom end with bone rattling power.

3. Now this one maybe a little more contraversal and some may disagree, but get yourself a good power conditioner coupled with a voltage regulator to ensure your setup is getting the optimum power to operate. A couple of months back I made a trade for a one month old Monster HTS5000mkII only because I got a $1000CDN piece for $300CDN and my Monster HTS 1000mkII. The Monster has a voltage indicator on it that was telling me that my equipment was receiving only 108v to 115v most of the time. Only late at night would it come close to 120v. So I went out an purchased a Monster AVS2000 voltage regulator. I've watched a couple of movies since I got it. Its voltage correction is anywhere from +5-10v. Have I noticed a difference? Yes. I noticed that the convergence on my non ISF calibrated RPTV is not off as much the further you get from center. On the audio side of things I've noticed improved detail and tighter bass.

Kevin

#5 of 29 OFFLINE   Owen Bartley

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Posted July 12 2004 - 11:15 AM

I wuold want to second Kevin's advice (at least in theory, since I'm still running my 'digms off a Denon myself). But my upgrade plans are to go for a multi channel power amp (somewhere in the neighborhood of 7x200 or so) and then pick up a new pre/pro to complete things. I can take my time in between stages, and the multi-chan. amp makes sure I don't leave anybody out working on low power.

#6 of 29 OFFLINE   Kevin. W

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Posted July 12 2004 - 12:11 PM

Quote:
somewhere in the neighborhood of 7x200 or so


Owen this is somewhat of an overkill in my opinion unless your looking at a dedicated pre/pro and not a receiver that some use. Receivers tend to have a better price/performance/feature ratio than most dedicated pre/pro's. And you have the benefit of the amp stage when you add more channels.

Kevin

#7 of 29 OFFLINE   John Garcia

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Posted July 12 2004 - 12:35 PM

I agree with Chuck's first comment - If you are looking for an improvement all around, then speakers is where the money would be better spent. Amps do make a noticable difference, but they will not change the overall character of the speakers, and speakers have a much larger impact on sound than amps.

If you are happy with the sound of the 'digms, then I'd agree with everything Kevin said. 1) Probably don't need a ridiculous amp with these speakers, but it certainly won't hurt 2) A new sub will probably add some, but that can be done later, and 3) I use power conditioners on both of my systems, and recommend them to anyone spending this kind of cash on a system.
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#8 of 29 OFFLINE   Garrett Lundy

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Posted July 12 2004 - 02:08 PM

McIntosh products have pretty blue lights...... Posted Image Mmmmm...Mac gear.

I wouldn't mind a Mac integrated myself.

1.yes, small but an improvement
2. yes, a sub is always a good thing to have
3. dunno. never heard a Mac/Paradigm combo.
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#9 of 29 OFFLINE   Kenneth Harden

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Posted July 12 2004 - 05:45 PM

I wouldn't use Mercedes quality as a good thing. They make cool cars, but the quality is AWFUL right now.

Maybe a Lexus LS430, maybe an Audi A8.

#10 of 29 OFFLINE   PaulKoss

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Posted July 12 2004 - 10:53 PM

I recently upgraded my 2 channel setup going from a mid-fi stereo receiver to a Bryston amp and can say that a good quality amp does make a noticeable difference. Prior to this, I had upgraded my speakers to Onix Ref 1. I could not hear a lot of the difference that the speakers made until I upgraded the amp as well. The new speakers only showcased the deficiencies of the old receiver. What the amp did was provided a lot more detail in the sound - for example if I am listening to a classical piece where both a French horn and trumpet are playing at the same time, I can distinguish the two instruments from each other. In my previous setup, they just came out as one sound from the brass section. Another good point is to make sure you have decent interconnects. Cheap interconnects resulted in harsh highs in my system. MH2CW (my humble two cents worth)

#11 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott Oliver

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Posted July 13 2004 - 01:44 AM

Roy I would agree with the assesment that the Paradigm's would be a bit outclassed by the McIntosh. However, there is nothing wrong with taking one step at a time towards upgrading, but I am just trying to warn you ahead of time that if you get into this level of gear, you will most likely yearn for better main front speakers pretty soon to get even better musical performance.

My other suggestion would be (if you haven't already done so) is to get out and listen to as much stuff as possible before rushing into a purchase of this magnitude. You need to find out what type of sound you are looking for? What areas of your music listening are you looking to improve over what you already have?

I say this because while McIntosh is a very nice brand, and even better now that they are producing some vacumm tube designs again, there are many other great brands out there. Some more expensive, some less expensive, some cost the same but offer a different sound flavor. So I am not trying to dissuade you from McIntosh, but just do your homework beforehand so that the chances of you running across a different brand down the road whose sound you might prefer are lessened.

Lastly, in terms of improving music listening, the more of the Denon that you can get out of the chain the better, so I would look at adding a 2ch preamp and amp or probably a better fit for your situation would be to add an integrated amp. Using McIntosh as an example, you could add the MC402 amp and the Denon as the preamp for music, or you could get for about the same amount of money or less a McIntosh integrated like the MA6900 or MA2275. These integrateds would allow you to get the Denon out of the chain entirely for music listening, but still keep it in the chain for easy switching between music and HT. Both of these integrateds allow you to use the preamp or the amp section only. So you could feed the Denon's pre-outs into the amp only inputs on the McIntosh for HT and then you would have the Denon doing the volume control, processing and powering the other three channels for HT with the Mac still just providing the main channel amplification. But for music the McIntosh would be both your pre and amp for your mains. This would definately improve your music listening experience.
I know the MC402 costs $5100 new and while I haven't been able to find the list price for the tow integrated models I suggested I am fairly sure they are right around that same price level, so in terms of fiances you are looking at a wash either way.

#12 of 29 OFFLINE   RoyGSoto

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Posted July 13 2004 - 04:44 AM

Thanks to everyone for your great feedback. Some of you have hit the nail on the head: I want a McIntosh because I want a McIntosh! The A/V store I've purchased all of my other equipment from has this great McIntosh area up front that you walk through to get to the "rest of the stuff". The blue output meters call to me when I walk by, and I've always said "sooner or later...".

That said, it sounds like my initial choice of product might've been premature. The integrated amplifier option (specifically the MA6900) seems to offer the best of all worlds:

1. I can use the Denon for the fancy shmancy surround processing for my home theater, which I think is just fine.

2. I can use a McIntosh "amplifier" to drive my main channels for music listening.

AND you guys also are trying to save me money, which I think is oh-so nice!

So 2 more questions:

1. I use a Pioneer Elite CD/DVD player...will I need outputs from the DVD player to both the Denon and the McIntosh? In an ideal world I'd listen to CDs with a different machine than watching DVDs and therefore have two sets of outputs, but since I currently select "dvd" when listening to CDs...that make sense?

2. Subwoofer question again...how do I use it with both the Denon (with HT) and McIntosh (with CDs) or do I even need it with the integrated amp?

Roy (of many questions)

#13 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott Oliver

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Posted July 13 2004 - 06:17 AM

Roy,

1) You should use two outputs from the Pioneer DVD/CD player to the Mac and Denon. The Denon receives the digital output signal to make use of surround sound and the Mac would take an analog output that will have the Pioneer doing the Dig-Ana conversion. I have my Sony S7000 DVD/CD player as my lone digital source for now and I have it conected simultaneously via analog and digital to my Granite Audio 2ch preamp and Theta Casa Nova just as I described and it works great. With my set-up the Granite doesn't have an HT bypass input like the Mac integrated does, so I currently just turn everything off and switch which pair of Ic's I run into my amp. A bit more inconvenient but doesn't really bug me as I don't switch from movies to music often.

2) For the subwoofer, personally I would just use it as you currently have it configured via the LFE output on the Denon. And then I wouldn't mess with trying to get it in the signal chain for music, but for movies it would work just the same as you have it now. To connect it via both would most likely require the removal and insertion of IC's on the back of the sub. Personally your speakers can put out plenty of bass for music if they hit 40ish Hz. Not many real instruments go below 40 Hz vs. movies where just about every movie has some sub 30 Hz bass. If you have a CD that is all about super low synthesized bass or deep organ music then you could always just feed the music through the Denon instead of straight to the Mac, so you would have use of the sub.

#14 of 29 OFFLINE   Alex F.

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Posted July 13 2004 - 08:16 AM

To avoid a surprise later, be aware that neither of McIntosh's solid-state integrated amps (MA6500, MA6900) have a unity-gain HT bypass.

To integrate either of these units into a HT system one can use the Mac's power-amp inputs, though it would be necessary to disconnect the HT receiver interconnects from the Mac whenever one wishes to listen to the Mac preamp section. Or take the suggestion a Mac rep told me and feed the HT preamp section's front mains to any of the Mac's line inputs (e.g., the video input); then set the Mac's volume knob straight up (i.e., at 12 o'clock--there's an illuminated marker) and set HT levels via the HT unit as usual. Just remember to reduce the Mac's volume level before selecting another active input on the integrated amp.

I'm not the first customer to ask McIntosh for a unity-gain input on future models. Maybe they'll do so.

Another consideration for Roy is Mac's new C45 preamp ($3600), which has two sets of analog 5.1 inputs. If 7.1 isn't a priority, the C45 and the new MC252 stereo power amp ($3800; 250 watts/channel) would make for a stunning music and HT system. The Mac power amp could be obtained now, followed by the preamp later.

Happy listening!

#15 of 29 OFFLINE   RoyGSoto

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Posted July 13 2004 - 08:27 AM

OK, I'm confused...what I thought I'd be doing with a Denon/MA6900 combo is:

1. Listening to music with the MA6900 analog inputs
2. Listening to movies with the Denon digital inputs

I think you're saying I can also listen to movies with the MA6900, but I'll have to do all of the things you outline...true?

Also, for those of you that mentioned power conditioners/voltage regulators, I was amazed by the quantity of products available from Monster. I read a glowing review online of the HTS2000, but is an HTS2500 better by 500 somethingorothers?

Roy

#16 of 29 OFFLINE   Alex F.

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Posted July 13 2004 - 08:41 AM

Yes, as Scott said, stereo music via Mac (analog) and HT surround via the Denon (digital). I described how to connect the Denon receiver to the Mac integrated amp.

#17 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott Oliver

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Posted July 13 2004 - 09:41 AM

Thanks for the clarification Alex, I was just going off the owner's manual and it looked the same as HT bypass. Would you have to turn off the Mac in order remove the Denon's IC's and switch back to the preamp section of the Mac? Having to turn it off might be a bit of a bummer, but just having to remove two IC's from the back of the Mac wouldn't be too bad. As long as you easy access to the back of the Mac and use RCA's with locking barrels so that they are nice and easy to remove it should be a very quick process.


Roy, yes you would be using the Denon for movies but you would still be using the amplification of the Mac for the front main channels for movies as well.

#18 of 29 OFFLINE   Greg Bright

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Posted July 13 2004 - 01:56 PM

I think you're right to go for the maximum WPC. You initially said 400. That's about right. You've not stated how large your room is, but more power equals better sound. Always. I've used a Sony DB930 for several years. A recent gift of a Carver 1.5t (350wpc) convinced me that clean, undistorted, open sound could only be achieved with lots of juice. The improvement in overall sound quality obtained by us- ing the Sony as a pre-amp for the front L/R has been remarkable. You could possibly pre-out your Denon to that new McIntosh for the fronts and get the best of both worlds. Just a thought.
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#19 of 29 OFFLINE   RoyGSoto

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Posted July 14 2004 - 12:26 AM

Ha! Now you're confusing me again...so it looks like I have 3 choices:

1. Buy a 2-channel amp which some of you say will make minimal difference, and some say will make a bunch of difference...expensive gamble
2. Buy a new amp as above, with a new preamp later assuming I find an affordable one that does the HT stuff I want it to do...problem is then I'll only have a 2-channel amp
3. Go for the integrated amp and use it with the Denon, realizing that I might have to do some switching of ICs depending on what I want to listen to...confusing

Also, to bump up my question from before, for those of you that mentioned power conditioners/voltage regulators, I was amazed by the quantity of products available from Monster. I read a glowing review online of the HTS2000, but is an HTS2500 better by 500 somethingorothers?

#20 of 29 OFFLINE   JackS

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Posted July 14 2004 - 01:33 AM

Roy- I think Mc Intosh is a brand that doesn't reccomend the use of power conditioners. Check with your dealer and see what he says. The simple solution to all of the above- Buy the 2 channel amp and use the Denon as a pre-amp for now. You can add a processer at a later date.





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