Not sure what to think

This weekend I spent A/B testing a new preamp. My system: OPPO 105 (I only  have CDs), Bryston 9B-SST amplifier, B&W 801 loudspeakers (circa 1980) no special cables, non-sound treated room. My current preamp is a Krell-KAV 250p recently serviced. I have always wanted to test a McIntosh preamp. My dad had McI equipment when I was growing up and recently visiting local stores with McI in their listening rooms blew me away (as would be expected in a vendor-setup room). I borrowed a McI C-49 to try out.

I spent 3 days putting different CDs in and out. Rock, jazz, classical, house. In rock, 80s rock, prog rock, anything I knew super well. I tried a few SACDs, too. I had to keep switching the cables so there was always about a minute or so going between the equipment. 

I wanted BADLY to hear a difference. I really did. Between the childhood nostalgia, the looks of the McI (yes, I know music is for listening, not watching what it comes out of), and the vendor visits, I was ready. I had to believe my "vintage" Krell would not stand up to a modern, much more expensive McI. I spent hours going back and forth and back and forth. I kept telling myself I would hear something different on the McI and I just did not. So many discs, keying in on different types of passages, focusing on the bass or the vocals or the mids. You name it, I was ready for that one tiny moment to say "drop the money on a McI and don't look back."

Alas, as much as I still have a passion for the McI for the non-auditory reasons above, for the moment I will be sticking with my Krell. I am not here to knock McI - I still love the thought of it, or any type of equipment that might upgrade my listening experience. I guess I should feel good that the Krell is still working and maybe something else will come along in my future. My sound producer friend suggested I spend the dollars on room treatments. :-)


You and your friend are very smart. You for using your ears and your friend for recommending room treatment.


I'm looking at this from an entirely different perspective:

Mac has been on your "bucket list" for quite some time.  You have a great deal of emotional inventory attached to the brand, and I'm sure you've mocked up images in your head of that beautiful faceplate setting in your rack on more than one occasion.  

So ... you put a piece your cherished for decades in your system ... AND IT DIDN'T MAKE IT SOUND WORSE!!  Okay then.  So, what was the price of admission?  And, was the value proposition there for YOU?

That being said, as a C47 owner, Mac gear benefits in spades from improvements in power delivery. This begins at the wall plug and ends with that meaty (high quality) power cable that plugs into the back of the preamp.  Yes, those items would also benefit the Krell (or other models suggested here), but the Mac preamp CAN be more analytical, transparent, detailed, and focused with these upgrades.  So, you can have a system with a C49 at the center that sounds better than it does now. Is the C49 the Holy Grail of price/performance in its class?  Maybe not.  But, you can have your cake, and eat it too, by feeding it better power.

And, that's a +1 on room acoustics.

I did not expect the outpouring of responses to this thread which have all been very positive. So many great perspectives, from tubes to room treatment to DACs to transport, and then even perspectives like the one above on how I could just enjoy the McI for lots of reasons. And yes, the C49 definitely did not make anything sound worse for sure. So many avenues!