New or vintage Mcintosh?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by geddy402, Jul 6, 2021.

  1. geddy402

    geddy402 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Mid Atlantic
    So I've gone pretty far down the Mcintosh rabbit hole and feeling a little overwhelmed rwading threads on the models, tubes, soild state, and who has their favorite or least favorite Mcintosh.

    I currently have a MAC4100 and like it but want to "upgrade" to separates and really want to try out tubes. I understand upgrade is in the eye of the beholder, and the 4100 is a great unit but want to make a change.

    Between here and audio karma I think I've read every thread on c20, c22, c24, mx110, 2105, and a few others. Seems like there are some pros and cons with every model and I get that getting one that has been restored is important. I have guitar tube amps so I'm familiar with the benefits and pote tial problems with tube amps.

    But, the more I look into vintage the more I feel like I just want to save up for the new c22mk5. Supposedly the best pre Mac has built (isn't every year the best?), more reliable being brand new, but the styling of the old ones is cool and obviously simpler circuits in case it needs to be repaired.

    So, the question is for a vinyl rig going into Klipsch Foret 3s what would you recommend? I'm not looking to spend $10k, so I would need to figure out what good, but less expensive amp would go with the c22mk5. There is a VTL tube power amp for sale locally which wouldn't break the bank. I've heard good things about them but wasn't sure how the Mac would pair with the VTL.

    Anyway, I'm not sure if this thread will help with my decision making process but welcome any suggestions you may have. Thanks!
    Saint Johnny likes this.
  2. McLover

    McLover Senior Member

    Athens, Tennessee
    Get an original C 22 in the best possible condition. Also, get a nice MC 2100 or MC 2105. However, your MAC 4100 is just fine. VTL I'd avoid. Older McIntosh is better.
    enfield and Saint Johnny like this.
  3. geddy402

    geddy402 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Mid Atlantic
    One thing I did notice in the threads I've been reading is that there seems to be a preference for the vintage c20 over the c22. Seems like the c20 is more "vintage sounding" than the c22. Of course this could be a bad thing if you don't like that, but the c24 seemed to be a sleeper among the older pre amps. Gets a bad wrap because of it being spild state.

    Warning: my opinion is only based on other people's opinion.
    enfield likes this.
  4. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Hyperactive!

    The VTL in question makes all the difference in the world. Their new stuff is every bit as good or better than a new McIntosh tube amp.
    russk likes this.
  5. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Hyperactive!

    I’ve no first hand experience with forte but I currently have a pair of Cornwall’s with a Mac 4100. I’ve run my Cornwall’s with several different tube amps (not Macintosh but all vintage) and while I like that combination quite a bit none of it is/was better than the 4100. Despite the 100db sensitivity of the Cornwall’s, more power is better for the bass. If you go with any tube amp I’d recommend not dropping too far below the 75wpc that the 4100 makes.

    If you found an great pair of mc30’s, that would be hard to pass up but I think an mc275 would be the best option with fortes.

    and since this is a thread with “McIntosh” in the title, fans of the brand will light me up for saying this but….I’d much rather go new with the pre amp and vintage with the power. I think technology moves forward with the preamp. With the power, the iron and vintage tubes are not matched by new production. Reliability may be an issue but they don’t build tube power amps like like they did in the 60’s.
    Sugar Man and fortherecord like this.
  6. rl1856

    rl1856 Forum Resident

    Stay with restored vintage. You will be able to sample and resell without much if any net cost, until you find a combination that works best for you. Going forward expect vintage MAC to continue to appreciate in value. New will depreciate, even though MAC equipment does hold value very well.
  7. Radagast

    Radagast Forum Resident

    I have vintage modest McIntosh (albeit transistor) which I like very much. But I'd buy their current autoformer-equipped amps without hesitation, and I was looking at the current C22 the other day and it and its specs seem to me absolutely beautiful.
  8. BillWojo

    BillWojo Forum Resident

    Burlington, NJ
    What I worry about with a lot of the new gear is all the micro processor based stuff that has been added. Chips get discontinued and if there isn't a substitute than that piece of gear is a door stop.
    McIntosh is wonderful about supporting older gear IF they can still get parts.
    I have vintage restored MC40 mono blocks in my system. I have been using an Audio Research SP8 preamp but just picked up a restored Mac MX110 to try out. Vintage Mac gear just seems to go up in price if it is taken care of. It's a good investment.

    AC50 likes this.
  9. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    SF Peninsula
    You could use you 4100 as a preamp and for now buy a power amp. I don't know how much you plan on spending but I would go all mac for pre and power amps.

    It was under the radar but the prices have gone up in resent years is the C100 & C200, these are SS but are a very hard preamp to beat. They where mac flagship units C100, C200, C500, C1000 & C1100 in that order. If you want tubes put them in the power amps and not the pre, MHO.

    I use a C100 with MC501 mono blocks, and I have two MC275 Mk VI bridged mono for 180 WPC.

    Getting really old mac gear can be a money pit, and just like most old equipment it might not work all the time. I think one would be better off with newer equipment, something at least within the last 20-25 years to current.
    Joe from So Cal and snorker like this.
  10. Saint Johnny

    Saint Johnny Forum Resident

    Asbury Park
    My first Mc was a SS Mac 1900 that I got used for $150, 15 years or so ago. Sounds really really NICE. I still have it.

    I'd love to get a 1500, or any Mc tube/pre amp, but vintage Mc prices have since gone crazy though. So that's unlikely now.
  11. motorstereo

    motorstereo Forum Resident

    I'd recommend buying something as new as your pocketbook allows. If you have your heart set on tubes then a 275 would fill that spot quite nicely. Then you could use the excellent preamp section in the 4100 while you do your research on separate pre's and give your bank account some recovery time.
    Sugar Man, 4-2-7, AC50 and 1 other person like this.
  12. jek57

    jek57 Forum Resident

    upstate New York
    New or vintage you can't go wrong with Macintosh I have the Mx113 pre amp tuner and a Mc152 power amp best of both worlds
  13. AC50

    AC50 Active Member

    Motorstereo's advice is solid. Using a couple of Mac tube amps for your mains, and the 4100's power for remote speakers has the potential for awesome! You have a fine McIntosh SS front end in the 4100, congratulations.
  14. Alright4now

    Alright4now Forum Resident

    New Orleans, LA
    I run an all SS McIntosh system: C-33 preamp through an MC-2105. Sounds fantastic and looks cool as heck. I’ve been lucky: both pieces have given me no trouble maintenance-wise.

    Also, from what I’ve read, the C-22 has an exceptional phono stage and the 2105 is more like 140 watts/channel, not 105.

    I love my macs. Good luck!
  15. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    Have you heard any of the vintage Mac tube preamps? They sound very vintage. Not like their new ones. Personally when I was looking at their tube gear I found my favorite combo was the MC240 paired with one of their newer c22 tube preamps. You could still get the c22 reissue and an MC240 in near mint for around 9K.

    The vintage tube preamps, while really cool, where just too noisy and colorful for me. The mx110 I would just avoid. It was nice when you could get one in good shape for 2K. It’s solely a collectors item now.

    Also would second that the new VTL tube amps are preferable to the new McIntosh tube amps. Actually prefer Manley amps if you are looking for a tubey sound and Rogue amps if you want a more refined sound with a bit of tubey goodness.

    From the new Mac gear I’ve listened to I like them for there solid state gear.
  16. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Hyperactive!

    Agreed, 100%, all of it.

    and….none of it sounds “bad”, all McIntosh sounds great. But the collector value on old preamps is greater than the performance value by a mile. Buying new, you can do as good or better for less with other brands and SS is kind of where it’s at if you want new McIntosh.

    For tubes, buying something that is a few years old from BAT, Manley, VTL, Rouge, and Cary is really the best way to go. None of it looks as cool as McIntosh but I’m also not a big fan of those green LED’s they have under the tubes.
  17. SteveFord

    SteveFord Forum Resident

    Shnecksville PA
    I don't know anything with McIntosh but with VTL everything is "send it back back for upgrades" and the people at Manley couldn't be any more helpful.
    I had to ask EveAnna Manley for a part number for one of my old Dave Manley-designed VTL amps, that's how different the two companies are.
    jonwoody likes this.
  18. I use a recent model C2600 tube preamp and the current MC275 VI. They’ve been reliable, sound great and look cool (I leave the LEDs on the MC275 off for a more vintage look). Frankly, I’m not sure they sound all that much different than the McIntosh solid state gear, but I like them nonetheless! I have all stock tubes, so maybe it would sound different with some tube rolling. :shrug:
    Rick58, Clay B and Dennis0675 like this.
  19. geddy402

    geddy402 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Mid Atlantic
    Figured I would give an update and some initial impression over the past few weeks listening to some new (to me) Mac gear.

    So, I found a C28 and MC2300 locally that have been serviced and brought up to spec. Got them set up and have been listening over the past few weeks and really, really, enjoy the sound. The C28 has a new volume pot and various caps and resistors replaced, and sound big, and brash with the MC2300. The combination is very loud and pretty much run the phono output on top of the C28 wide open and keep the volume around 10 to 12 o’clock (with 12 and beyond getting very loud). The MC2300 is barely doing anything with the gains at about 3 on each channel. Sounds as big as it looks. Very happy with this combination.

    Now, since I really like what I have I, of course wanted to try more Mac gear. I wanted to venture into tubes and found a C20 that was restored by Audio Classics in 2015. Hooked it up over the weekend and spent a few hours listening yesterday. I knew it was going to be different than the C28, but wasn’t prepared for how different. Where the C28 sounds big and bold, the C20 sounds more smooth and tames a lot of the highs that were on the edge of piercing through the Fortes with the C28. I could see why there are some people who aren’t the biggest fan of the C20 or other vintage tube preamps, because it definitely adds a color/flavor to the sound. If you’re not a fan of that “warmth” than a solid state or more modern tube preamp may be up your alley.

    Where the C20 shines, and it’s where you would expect it to, is on older recordings. Having a decent jazz and blues record collection I could see the C20 being part of a tube rig exclusively to listen to vintage (or remastered older recordings) records. The C20 handled heavier rock (spun Nevermind and Weezer Blue album) and denser recordings like Crash by DMB, but I think the C28 may be a better match for those types of albums.

    I like the fact that they’re different and am excited to continue listening to the C20. Now, these are really initial impressions and are subject to change as I continue to listen and compare, but thought some may be interested in reading my thoughts.

    I have a lead on a C24 and MC2105 that I may be getting in the near future. Will report back if and when I get them. I’m also hoping to score a tube amp soon, but nice ones seem to be hard to come by and pricey when you find one.
  20. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    congrats and keep us posted!
    i love mac !
  21. Chris C

    Chris C Music was my first love and it will be my last!

    McIntosh tube c2300 pre and SS MC452 amp combo in this house, which is certainly far more "new" rather than "vintage". Beautiful looking and sounding, but beyond heavy to move, as I'm now just into my '60's!

    For vintage, I currently have a Scott tube 299b and Fisher tube 500c. That Scott will be cremated along with me, when I depart stage right!
  22. Clay B

    Clay B Forum Resident


    Have your family call me before the cremation. I’ll give them a good price. At least on the Scott!
  23. 34dean

    34dean Active Member

    Just reading this thread, and realizing I am exactly in the same spot Geddy (has to be a Rush fan… love it) was in when he started his journey. I have a restored 4100 and would like to find a nice power amp to use behind it and then upgrade to a pre down the road. it certainly is a rabbit hole, this McIntosh bug!
    I have just set up the 4100 to replace my apt Holman/ Adcom combination and will test it for a few weeks. Definitely would like to find a 2105 or similar to pair with it.

    Geddy, where are you currently in your journey?
  24. motorstereo

    motorstereo Forum Resident

    Can't help but wonder is that you in East Lyme that has a restored 4100 on fb marketplace? Can't be that many restored Mcintosh 4100's floating around these parts.......or is there:)?
  25. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    Arizona desert
    I used to own a C29 preamp and MC2105 amp. Terry DeWick had refurbished them and they were truly fantastic pieces of audio equipment.
    34dean and Alright4now like this.

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