Looking for a McIntosh amp that gives a great example of the “McIntosh Sound”

What is a good vintage or newer amp that has that “McIntosh sound” everyone loves.  My budget is $3k and I want to stay solid state.  I don’t want to debate McIntosh, I am looking specifically for McIntosh.  The amp will be powering JM Lab Mini Utopias.


Interested to see what folks have to say on this. I accomplished this the other way, McPreamp on other amps (Bryston). I have the house sound. More so when running a D100 with the preamp, but even now with a Moon DAC, I still have the house sound with the pre alone.

Probably a bit beyond your budget, but a MC452 is I think, the best SS bet from the last 10 years. Whether or not it represents the "McIntosh sound" you seek is a subject for debate.

I have a McIntosh integrated amplifier , but other than an early 1960s amp/preamp, I’m not sure of what sound is considered a McIntosh sound.

Wait a second, isn't there a newer ~100wpc model that comes in around 3k? the 152? I thought I saw one - typical physical size, two meters, two knobs, no nonsense. I think they also now have ClassD, I'd be inclined to check that, but maybe not yet percolated down into the used market.

I had a McIntosh MC152 and it definitely has the McIntosh house sound. It is a 150wpc powerhouse, dead quiet and a great amp.   I only moved up to the MC302 because I got a deal I just couldn’t pass up.  The MC152 has the output transformers which is a big part of their house sound.   I got mine for $3400 @ Audio Classics in 2018. 

Desirable piece at a good value price point. I want one...

Justin, maybe 2023 is the year we both end up with a 152.

302 is awesome. I'm very curious about the MI502.

I have a mc312 which is a little pricier but not too much. It sounds spectacular I'm running Sabrinas though. Good luck 🤞

You are being presumptuous to declare that there is a McIntosh sound that everyone loves.

I own the 162, 152 and a bunch of 252 amps. The MC252 in my opinion was one of Macs best SS amps. Used they can be had for $3500. They pair well with many of the speakers I have owned but have made all the Klipsch Heritage speakers sound phenomenal. The MC152 is their best deal for new choices but do not have enough headroom for my purposes. Good luck, and a great choice in amps. After 40 years of sampling, McIntosh is my home for amps.

I've got an MC302 and two MC7100 units.  Both models have the "McIntosh" sound to my ears.  A 9 point 302 might be a bit rare at your price point, but you could easily get two 7+ point 7100s and use them as dual mono units for ~300 WPC.  They have a comparatively compact footprint and the second generation units offer XLR inputs. The 7300 or 2100 are also possible alternatives.  All of them are nearly indestructible.  

There is also the MC2500 muscle amp out there and they can be found in the $3500 range.  Definitely has the house sound and is a real beast. Dual cooling fans, full commercial rack construction, black anodized finish.  Classic.

I did take a look at your speaker specs as I'm not familiar with them.  They're comparatively efficient, so you may want to reconsider the potential for going tube.  If you are willing to be patient, the MC275 III, IV and on rare occasions even V can be found near your price range and are part of the world-renowned touchstone series that is the MC275.  A more McIntosh-sounding McIntosh amp was never made.

@stereo5 mentioned Audio Classics.  I also know them rather well.  Do yourself a favor and give them a call before you decide which way to go.  They are the premier information resource for everything McIntosh.

Good luck in your quest and happy listening!

I have had a MC352 and currently use a MC402. I feel the 402 does sound better than the 352. More speed without sacrificing warmth, I talked with 2 dealers about trading up to the new 462 and told the 402 sounds better and has a build quality that has not been matched since. I would say the McIntosh sound is well represented with the 402. I also have a MC205 and it sounds a less musical or involving. I think the Autoformers are a major ingredient to the Mc sound.

The McIntosh sound that I enjoy is not Solid State but Tube.

The Mc30 or 60 monoblocks would be my go to.

But alas McIntosh is not something I covet thank goodness.

I have enough of those already.

It’s my opinion (which is worth nothing) that the house sound comes with McIntosh amps that have Autoformers. I’ve had non autoformer MAC amps (MC7106 and MC7100) that, while super clean, just didn’t have the house sound. All 4 of my autoformer amps I have now have that intangible house sound. The 7100 series amps are no longer around...

I spent quite a bit of time behind an MC754 back when those amps were fairly new and never really warmed up to that amp...and maybe that was due to it not being an Autoformer design.

My advice is look out and try the Mac 2205. 200 watts of clean Mac power.  I’ve had several over the years and never regretted it. Nor will you. 

MC 500. It’s my reference amp, a 114 lb 500 watt per channel beast but a beast wearing a tuxedo. Smooth, powerful, articulate, at any volume. I could go on and on. Vintage now, but worth it if you can get one! I’ll have mine forever, literally, it’s built like a tank. End game for me.

The Macintosh Mono blocks Mc611 are 600 watts and has autoFormer.

This is a solid state amplifier for all your needs.

Many years ago I briefly heard a MC275 with a pair of Dynaudios.  So unfamiliar amp and unfamiliar speakers. No way to tell what was what.

Could someone in the know kindly explain what the McIntosh sound is, can't say I have ever heard an explanation of it.


Why the fuss?  You know darn well he was referring to people that own McIntosh, Jeesh.


Surely you jest.  In case you really don't know, the sound is a little warm with gorgeous tone and a richness to the sound.

@stereo5 Actually up here in Vermont there was only one shop that sold McIntosh (before they closed shop).  I was there speaker shopping and I went to listen to a pair of Dynaudios and they were being powered by a MC275 as I remember, and a pre I don't recall.

In my Boston life I visited Tweeter and Audio Lab and another shop in Cambridge but just don't recall hearing any Macs.  

Even though we have never met, I have read a thousand of your posts over the years, and am wishing you the best news later in the week, my friend.  



Thank you for the kind words.  I read all of your posts as well.  I am holding my breath waiting for the results, the wait is intolerable.

In addition to my McIntosh headphone amp, I have two McIntosh amps in my main system — an MC 8207 (solid state) and a MC 275 (tubes).  I”ll bet that any McIntosh amp you acquire, in good shape, will make you happy.  I would look for the best deal you can find within your budget and go for it, provided your speakers have efficiency that matches its output.  Just FYI, I have very efficient speakers, I listen to music at about 80 dB, and most everything draws less than 5 watts!  Enjoy!

As a retired Mac dealer, I had the priviege of having a pretty big "toy box" of Mac gear to play with.  My current set up consists of C47/MC152.  If you're able/willing to stretch the budget a tad for a good used piece, the MC352 will provide 3db more headroom which is quite audible during demanding passages.  I've heard these 2 amps (and, others) in the same room with the same system and the MC352 is very special.  But, don't feel like you're settling for 2nd best with the MC152.  You'll get the "Mac sound" you're looking for in a smaller, lower cost, and more physcally manageable package.


Good to see die hard mcintosh fans. I own a mcintosh mc402 solid state power amp and a c2600 tube preamp. Mcintosh equipment is built for life otherwise it will last a hell of a long time. Although I have other equipment that to my ears sound cleaner and more detailed. Example my parasound hca 3500 with a parasound p6 preamp. I also have a audio research sp-3 with a krell fbb-300 that destroyed ever piece of audio I have musical wise. Do I believe my other Audio equipment will outlast my mcintosh hell no!!!. Regardless what piece of audio equipment I own or will ever own in the future. It’s all about ( my ears ) . What sounds the best to my ears. Will I ever sell my mcintosh gear hell no. The build quality is second to none. I know I got my money worth with mcintosh gear

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I guess since I have all McIntosh from the phono pre and cd player to the pre and amps to speakers, I have the McIntosh sound. For the life of me I have no idea what that is though. From my perspective it sounds fabulous. 

Have heard and had most of the old McIntosh tube amps. The MC225 is nice and people like it a lot. Not so fond of the 240.

But the old tube version of the 275? Now, I've heard one rebuilt and it is just a superb McIntosh amp. If you can get one in good condition, you'd likely be pleased to give it a try in your system. 

I'm on some rebuilt custom tube monoblocks now but that old MC-275 is really great.

MC275 a classic and great sounding can add an extra and run two mono blocks, best resale of most McIntosh gear

Is the McIntosh sound known for SS, tubes, or both?

Is the McIntosh sound known for preamp, amp, or both?


My audio purchase decisions are usually based the latest reviews and McIntosh hasn’t come to my attention as cutting edge or a sonic bargain.  However, I’m curious about the McIntosh’s company longevity with loyal fans.  

I recommend the Mc152 which I’ve owned for about 8 years. It definitely has the McIntosh house sound: smooth, good sound stage depth and width, nice imaging, a touch of warmth and always listenable even with a mediocre recording. It sounds very much like my mc402.

I personally have found that the Hegel preamps do better with these Mac power amps than the Mac C47.

I add that the newer quad balanced amps (from 2004 or so) in my view are superior to the 30+ old vintage  ones, which could sound a touch muddy. I owned a 2505. Obosolete.

I've had a dozen McIntosh amps.  I kept the MC152 and MC240.  Even the MC452 wasn't as good as the MC152 - the 152 is really special.  But, if you want the classic McIntosh sound, I don't recommend the ThermalTrak BJT output transistor amps, which includes everything available today going back to the MC402/MA6300 I believe.  The MC352 has the old transistor topology that has that warm creamy sound, but the MC202 sounds even better.  The ThermalTraks have much more of the modern hifi sound than the older amps.  Downside of the MC352/MC202 is that their front panel still uses troublesome bulbs instead of LEDs.

The newer macs do not have the old sound.  They still sound awesome but are more detailed and less bass warmth as witnessed by my MC312.  

The mc252 has the old sound, probably others but that one i can confirm.  


For half the year I get by with a heavily modified 1961 M240… which i witnessed coming in the door circa 1965…

In solid state, i like the MC202… won’t require back surgery or a boy Friday to move…. get the rice grain to led upgrade and as others said… many but not all roads lead to Audio Classics…