McIntosh vs. Anthem: amp showdown!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by BeatCrazy, Apr 1, 2002.

  1. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    OK, I've finally gotten around to comparing my new McIntosh MC-202 200x2 stereo amp to the Anthem MCA 5 170x5 (200wx2) head to head in my system.
    Here's details on the amps if you're not familiar with them:
    MC202 vs.MCA5
    First of all, the Mac is really heavy. At 68lbs, its the biggest thing on my rack. It has the classic blue watt meters (can be switched off) and is built very solid and finished well.
    The first thing I noticed with the Mac is the a tremendously more open soundstage. The sweetspot simply spreads open and extends outwards as well past the boundaries of my NHT 2.9s which I consider a very focused speaker and not as open-sounding as most.
    As you might guess, the Mac has almost effortless power reserves. This amps definitely loves to be turned up and get going to experience its potential. Since the watt meters are very accurate, I could see that moderately loud passages would peak at 20-50 watts. I don't know how in the world you could stand it should the watt meters hit their 200w mark!
    Another thing I noticed is that I had to recalibrate speaker levels for 5.1 sound. Although I knew this would happen getting a more powerful amp, it turned out that the Mac was putting out less volume than the Anthem and I had to bump levels up by 3 dB for the Left & Right for 5.1 playback. Odd, but this may have to do with the way I connected the Mac. Many McIntosh amps are rated to deliver their consistant watt ratings into 2/4/8 ohm loads. Since my speakers are nominally rated at 6 ohms, I chose to wire the Mac up for a 4 ohm load. By using the black "common" ground for speaker hook-up, you choose your red lead to go to a 2, 4, or 8 ohm terminal on the back. I spoke with McIntosh regarding this, and their theory was for a 6 ohm speaker, you can get more power with the 8 ohm connection, and likely more bass, but the amp would run cooler and work less hard with the 4 ohm connection. Sound right?
    The Anthem has been a great amp and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. In comparision, I'd say the Anthem is a bit "harder" sounding and the Mac just seems to breathe more with music. I really feel the Mac is letting me get 100% of the sound the NHT 2.9s are capable of. I'm not going to say adding the dedicated 2 channel amp improved things dramatically, but at this stage, I don't know of anything regardless of price that is going to make a night and day difference for stereo listening (other than new speakers )
    With a 2 channel amp and continued use the Anthem, I have the perfect amplification set-up for 7.1, as well as getting the most from 2 channel listening.
     
  2. rodneyH

    rodneyH Supporting Actor

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    nice, my dad runs the 202, it seems that that amp isn't talked about very much around these parts. I can tell you that they do make his B&Ws sing, it is so smooth, he uses it for his mains and uses an old MC-1205 for his rears. There is somehting very smooth about the Mc amps.
     
  3. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    McIntosh and NHT work superbly together. Congratulations on your purchase of a true high-end amplifier.
     
  4. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    Rodney, You're right, not too many folks know about/use the MC202. I think it's a great way to get into Mac gear with out going overboard on price.

    Justin, The Mac and my NHTs do go great together. I think of them as bringing out the best in each other. The NHTs are very revealing (some have said bright), and the Mac has a natural warmth that that lets the richness of a good recording come to life.
     
  5. Dennis B

    Dennis B Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm a little confused about McIntosh specs for the MC202 on their website. They say the 202 is 200W in 8 ohms and 200W in 4ohms?? Also, they say dynamic headroom is 1.9 dB. Do I understand correctly that dynamic headroom is calculated by (power @ 4 omhs) / (power @ 8 ohms) ? If so, this would mean power @ 4 ohms would be only 1.55 times that at 8 ohms, which strikes me as a very low ratio.
    I have to have misunderstood something...[​IMG]
     
  6. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    Dennis,

    You are correct. Many McIntosh amps are rated for the same power into 2/4/8 ohms. They use something called an Autoformer which is a type of transformer that can adjust to impedance loads and vary the output accordingly.

    As far as your dynamic headroom calculation....well, I'm not sure. Maybe some amp experts can step in here and shed some light?
     
  7. Alex F.

    Alex F. Second Unit

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    The McIntosh solid-state power amps that utilize their unique autoformer--e.g., the MC202 (200w/ch.), MC352 (350w/ch.), MC602 (600w/ch.), etc.--have separate output taps for each impedance, much like a tube amp. The autoformer allows the output stage to "see" a more comfortable load, allowing the amp to run cooler and thus experience less stress for longer life. The autoformer offers other benefits, which are explained at the company's website (Mcintoshlabs.com). Mac amps are rated very conservatively and have enormous output reserves. If you're looking for power, this may be heaven.

    I recently visited a hi-fi shop that was running an MC352 (350 w/ch.) all day. The unit was in a rack that was closed at the back and sides and had less than an inch of clearance above the amp. To my surprise, the top and sides of the MC352 were almost cold--and the amp was belting out tunes at the time.

    I grew up listening to Mac power amps and preamps in my youth, courtesy of an audiophile uncle. Over the years I drifted towards other audiophile brands and almost forgot about Mac. But recently, while shopping for new components, I took advantage of several opportunities to listen to some of their latest models. I was, quite simply, knocked out.

    The McIntosh preamps and power amps seem to somehow combine the strengths of solid-state and tubes. Smooth, open, and airy like tubes along with the potent bass slam, tightness, and overall impact of the best solid-state products.

    As I narrow down my brand and model choices, I keep returning to McIntosh as the leading candidate.

    Happy listening!
     
  8. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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    Dynamic headroom is the output capability for short bursts vs continuous RMS output. So an amp with 200W/ch RMS output capability with a dynamic headroom of 3 db can sustain 400W peaks for short periods of time.

    Hope that helps.
     
  9. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    Alex,

    That's a great description of the Mac line of amps. I too feel they combine the best of the "tube sound" with solid-state slam and dynamics. My MC202 runs so cool, its hard to tell it's even on! I still keep it well ventilated, but I think its a testament to its design to pump out so much juice and not waste a tremendous amount of electricity on heat dissapation.

    Aslam,

    So how do you calculate the peak watt rating of the MC202 if it is 200w x 2 and has 1.9dB of headroom?
     
  10. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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    The formula is 10 Log (P2/P1) = db headroom:

    where P2 is the peak power and P1 is the RMS power.

    So say your amp has an output of 200 W RMS/ch and a dynamic headroom of 3 db you can arrive at P2 the peak power output by using the formula:

    P2= P1 * Inv Log(db/10)

    Here db=3 db

    P1 = 200 W

    so P2= 200 * Inv Log(0.3)

    = 200 * 1.995

    = 399 W

    So as you can see the peak output is about 400 W/ch for this amp.

    The MAC has a dynamic headroom of 1.9 with an RMS rating of 200 W/ch hence the peak power it can put out for brief periods of time is:

    P2= 200 * Inv Log(1.9/10)

    = 200 * 1.549

    = 309.8 W

    so the peak output is about 310 W/ch.

    Hope that helps
     
  11. Dennis B

    Dennis B Stunt Coordinator

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    Aslam,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    So what do you think about the S/N specs the manufacturers usually post? A small research I did on the web revealed figures in the 110-115 dB for Macs and Krells, a little higher for Rotels (115-125 dB) and a little lower for Brystons (105-106 dB). Classé publishes their specs in dBr (135 dBr), I wonder what's the reference for dBr?

    I've read all over this and other forums how great the Macs and Krells sound, and while the S/N cannot be analyzed alone, as we know for example the current factor has great influence, isn't it interesting that Rotel makes very, very quiet amps (one of which I own, BTW)?
     
  12. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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    I am not sure of what DBr means. Will have to look up my old EE textbooks [​IMG]. And yes Rotel does make very quiet amps. They are one of my favourites. I have never listened to a Mac though[​IMG]
     
  13. Dennis B

    Dennis B Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I know for sure dBr is 10*log(P/Pr), where Pr is the reference power, so the question is still what is that power...? I sent an e-mail to Classé, let's see if they respond. Thanks anyway.
     
  14. Alex F.

    Alex F. Second Unit

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    Dennis:

    If this ol' audiophile (well not really old, only fortyish) learned anything about audio, it's not to pay too much attention to specs, particularly with products like McIntosh and Krell (and others, such as Mark Levinson, Conrad-Johnson, Audio Research, Pass, etc.).

    Having less constraint to design to a price point, designers of top-flight products can utilize more costly parts and more costly circuit designs to reach a very high level of performance. It is also typical of these firms to publish specs that are unusually conservative. Often, the numbers seem to indicate lower performance than a garden-variety $250 receiver (where the latter's marketing department can get very creative with the specs).

    The only truly worthwhile way to compare competing products is to audition them. Rest assured that McIntosh or Krell preamps and power amps, among others, are exceedingly quiet (I speak from experience). So quiet, in fact, that it is a complete non-issue.

    Do yourself a favor: Glance at the spec sheets then visit a dealer and start comparing sonic signatures. I have found that the brands you mentioned (McIntosh and Krell) are both elegantly engineered and built yet sound very different. Which one you might like better depends on your other equipment, your room, and your ears. Unfortunately, you cannot make a determination based on what is printed on a piece of paper, be it a page of specs or an opinion of a reviewer. That's why you so often hear the refrain, "Let your own ears decide."

    Happy listening!
     
  15. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

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  16. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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  17. chung

    chung Stunt Coordinator

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  18. Alex F.

    Alex F. Second Unit

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    Chung:

    Yes, they sound very different. Yes, they were always well below clipping. And each of the other mentioned brands have their own sonic characteristics as well.

    I'm curious about what you said about the Autoformers. Have you listened carefully to Mac amps? If you ever compared a current solid-state Mcintosh amp that utilized an Autoformer versus a Mac amp without, you would have a difficult time telling which amp was which. The more expensive one will contain the Autoformer and maybe sound slightly better (usually somewhat more detail owing to a more costly design). So how did the Autoformer degrade the sound then? Your statement is based on what specifically? Theory or actual application?

    This will come as a shock, but nobody has developed the perfectly accurate power amp (or preamp, or any other component), or what you term the "one correct answer." There is no one correct answer. So this question confronts all purchasers: What deviation from perfect accuracy suits your ears? That is what this hobby is all about.
     
  19. BeatCrazy

    BeatCrazy Stunt Coordinator

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    Chung,

     
  20. Aslam Imran

    Aslam Imran Second Unit

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