Mcintosh C15 - Your Impressions and Matching Power Amp

Dear All


I would very much appreciate your advise. I have been looking for C15 reviews but I could not find much on the net, so hope to get your opinions here.

I have been offered an irresistible deal for a Mcintosh vintage C15 preamp in very good condition and recently serviced. I understand the amp has smooth delivery, a good grip on bass and pretty detailed with the usual Mcintosh house holographic or tube like sound from the few reviews I have read that were available. I intend to replace my current Schiit Freya preamp with the C15.

Being new to Mcintosh, I hope those who know about this C15 amp or own it could give your impressions of its sound quality which would be helpful. Always wanted to own one hearing so much about various models of Mcintosh amps.

I am also looking at a matching power amp and would appreciate suggestions. Currently I own a class D - XTZ A2 300, 150 watt per channel power amp. Would this be a good match with the C15? Or should I be looking at something else. My speakers are Klipsch RP 6000f which are not really bright as most might think. More clean sounding.

I welcome your thoughts.


Not sure what an "irresistible" deal is but i think C15 are generally overpriced.   That unjt was built during the Clarion years.   Those were tough times for McIntosh , that unit was good but not great.  I replaced mine with a conrad johnson Classic 2se and the improvement was huge.     I would suggest something like that used or a new  Quicksilver line stage 

I bought one used around 04 for $750 , a few years later I sold it for $1350 on eBay.  It was pristine.    I saw one sell recently for $1500.    Having owned one, I would not spend that kind of money on one.    People generally overpay for used Mc in my opinion.  It's an iconic brand , but not everything that came out of Binghampton was great.   


Nobody can read your thoughts and understand the motivation behind your consideration for the C15. If it’s bang for the buck (or, more correctly, sound for the buck) there may be better choices. If you are okay with part of your equipment investment satisfying intangibles such as: been on your bucket list for decades, love the esthetics, something that represents a top tier product sitting in your home, etc. then only you can assign value to this equation.

My first introduction to "real" hifi was powered by McIntosh back in the early 70’s. It took over 40 years for me to finally own the product that first introduced me to high fidelity sound -- and launched a career in high performance audio. Our motorhome depreciated more the first year we owned it than what I paid for my "Mac stack." Using other examples of what we can invest in other "indulgences", the Mac amp & preamp have proven to be a bargain.


Thanks for sharing. Well on the bright side, at least the value of used MCs still hold.


Appreciate your wisdom. You hit the right notes. Yes always wanted to explore what a Mac was like, and I have an opportunity to do so now. Though C15 is quite vintage, I guess they still have the reknown Mac house sound.  Somthing that has piqued my curiousity for years.  After all, it is an established top tier brand, so I hope it will last too. Your back story certainly makes a fascinating read. Tks for sharing.


And I must add the C15 looks great too. A simple pre without the bells and whistles just basic loudness, treble and bass control which are more than sufficient to me.  Design wise, it looks sleek and appealing.

After owning several preamps after that , I can say each step up was better than the C15.   Hate to sound like a Debbie Downer but that isn’t a preamp that is so much desirable for it’s sound quality, but rather it’s looks.    If you pay less than $800 then yes good deal , $1000 or more your money can be better utilized elsewhere 

You may not like its looks but the Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 built in the same era is much better sounding.   I picked one up for $500 as a back up preamp.  I’m using it right now.   It sounds good    


Haha. Thanks for your forthright  views and suggested price range.  I have some room to negotiate I guess.


Cleaver username.  

I trust your ears (and brain) and your observations may be spot on.  

This is a great example of why we do audio forums.  Somebody has a question, then others with real hands-on experience share their thoughts.  Then the inuquirer (OP) takes that information and makes an informed decision.

There are no "right" or "wrong" decisions by the OP.  The solution picked by the OP is the "right" one for the OP.  Everyone, expecially the OP, is happy.  

I own the C15 preamp and am very happy with it. I've owned many Mac pre's, including the C48, but the C15 is still my choice because of it's simplicity and looks, and sounds great to my old ears. Paid $800 for it many years ago. My amp is the MC7200, a non autoformer amp  200 wpc. That amp is my favorite of all the Mac amps I've owned, the last of the Gordon Gow era before he passed away. BTW, the C15 was the preamp that Roger Russell had in his own system, which should tell you something. If you buy one at the right price, you can always sell it and get your money back if it's not to your liking. @oddiofyl gave some good thoughts to consider!

It is a good preamp, no doubt   $1500 msrp was a good chunck of change when introduced.   But when I see them places asking $1800 I have to scratch my head.  

I paid $750 back then and it served me well.  Never one issue .  

@sid42 Thanks for the feedback.  Glad that the C15 served you well. I have done as much research as I could, on balance, the MC C15 has received good reviews despite its simple form factor. This also echoes the views of experienced members here and in relevant forums. Appreciate also the tips given by members such as comments shared by @oddiofyl which are very useful. 


I will be pulling the trigger on the C15. Am now looking at the 100 watt per channel  MC 7100 vintage power amp to match.  Its kinda of a similar make to C15 as in no bells and whistles (no autoformers) and also relatively  low on cost.

My current amp is a Class D 150 watt channel power amp, an XTZ A2 300 which has served me well too. Its  rather detailed, clean and  has bass punch in terms of  delivery, though it  can have a tinge of sharpness at upper range frequencies at times. Nothing too distracting.  On the whole it is good (!/EDGE-A2-300/p/405983841).

Though 50 watts lesser, I am wondering if the 7100 can be smoother and richer yet retaining details and bass slam,  particularly enhancing the very  involving Mcintosh sound  when paired with the C15 as compared to my XTZ amp.  Or should I just stick to my  Class D XTZ as the power amp to mate the C15. My speakers are Klipsch RP 6000f which are highly sensitive, about 96db.

Appreciate your thoughts.


@oddiofyl your comment about the C15 being overpriced is in my opinion typical of used prices for all Mac products. Having owned many Mac items, and being a fan since 1978, I knew what they cost at the time. Used prices today are insidious, costing way more than they originally were sold for. Being retired, I would never purchase Mac's new stuff either, especially their amps. 

ram18, the MC7100 is also a good choice, similar in design to my MC7200, but without the meters. Both those amps might be considered "simple" compared to having autoformers which Mac loves ( I don't like them) but they sound great to me. Good luck!

The 7100 is a very good amp, it was often paired with the C15.    They play well together 


Thanks for sharing. That's good to hear.



Just curious to know sid. I gather you had the C15 for sometime. Any servicing needs you had to undergo with the amp.  Did it give you any hassles  in this aspect? Just preparing myself for the servicing needs down the road  since the amp has been around for sometime.  Also can I stack a power amp say MC 7100 if I do get it on top of the C15? Any heat issues? I saw some models where Mac amps are stacked on top of each other.


I purchased my current one in 2012. Prior to that I had a C48 for awhile, and prior to that a C15 also. In my opinion, the C15 sounded as good as the C48, so I went back to my current C15. I have had no issues with any of these pre's. I did change out the lights last year, not because I needed to, but I changed the lights on my MC7200 and thought I might as well do the C15 at the same time. It is very easy to change the lights out; all you need is a flat blade screwdriver. I also had purchased led's for the C15 but they didn't fit quite right, so I stayed with the originals.

You can probably stack the amp on top of the C15, but I personally never do that. The C15 doesn't get hot at all, it is slightly warm to the touch. Like I said previously, if you buy it and aren't happy with it, you can sell it easily. In fact, should you want to sell it, contact me first.


Correction on my previous post, the led's that didn't fit right were for the MC7200, not the C15. 


Looks like this pre is able to last well. And glad for you it did. Yes MCs do have a good resale value. The one I am purchasing (C15) already has recently installed led lights. So that part is taken care of. However, I don't reside in the US so selling it to you if I do decide to sell in future, is gonna be a tad bit difficult 😀

Seems like the C15 is a good buy. Now as you know  am considering the 7100 amp to match . Only thing is my class D power amp that I have is also pretty good. Never had an AB power amp before.  So I guess I would need to take a plunge and try to see which  serves better, 7100 or my current amp,  with a  dent in the wallet  🙄