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McIntosh MA6300 Solid-State Integrated Amplifier Review

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“A description of an integrated with stock jumpers is consistently a description of the unit at its worst performance …”

A brief word about set-up of integrated’s for my listening tests. I always remove the stock jumpers on all integrated’s I review; I do not even bother to use them. While some would suggest this skews the results of the assessment, I find that keeping them in does more harm to the review. I have not encountered a jumper yet which achieves even close to the performance of a decent interconnect or aftermarket jumper. A description of an integrated with stock jumpers is consistently a description of the unit at its worst performance, one which does not do justice to the integrated amplifier.

I always maintain consistency in my use of jumper cables with any integrated review. If I use brand A wires as jumpers for the first integrated, I’ll keep brand A as the jumpers for the second unit, and so forth. In this review, I used Wire World Equinox 5 interconnects as jumpers throughout the listening process. Yes, IC’s, as I have found many IC’s to be more delectable than even custom jumpers.

Some might argue that Wire World might sound better with Pathos and not with McIntosh, thus skewing the review. Yes, and brand X speaker cables may sound better with McIntosh, and brand Y cdp may sound better with one or the other, ad infinitum. I’m not going that direction. I simply find cables which at the time of review seem superb with the review equipment and run with them. It’s a common sense principle applied to selection of cabling, since I don’t have enough hours in the day to isolate how every IC affects every piece of equipment. You wouldn’t believe how much time can be spent just finding a great brand of cables. If those cables have sounded good on six or eight brands of components, then I have confidence that they are a decent tool for evaluating amps and integrated’s.


“I don’t think anyone should purchase or avoid a product based on what IC or PC was used in a review.”

I follow the same principle with power cords; I keep the same cords on all the pieces being compared, without exception. Again, I use the most engaging PC’s (power cords)I have, so as to bring the best out of the listening experience. The bottom line on jumpers and PC’s is that I feel they will not make or break reviews of components. However, when used properly they will bring more clarity to the review process and allow me to find deeper distinctions between them. I don’t think anyone should purchase or avoid a product based on what IC or PC was used in a review. That would be the equivalent of making a car purchase based on what gasoline was put into the gas tank, or what tires were used, on the test drive. However, I would hope someone might consider those cables when used successfully with the reviewed piece.

What cables might one consider for the McIntosh under review here? I suggest two options: MIT and Wire World. MIT’s sound is big and direct, the soundstage forward with a great deal of energy. Used with the MA6300, the owner can expect intensity. The Wire World cables are refined and extended with less emphasis and more extension. How do you want the MA6300 to sound? If you want power and an in-your-face feel, do the MIT’s. If you want warm, yet highly detailed sound with a large amount of clues regarding the recording venue, go with the Wire World brand. I enjoyed the results of using the Wire World on the MA6300, and they were used in the listening impressions below.

My impressions of the MA6300 were largely positive, which helped to settle some of my fears about McIntosh’s commitment to quality. Most audiophiles would agree that a pinch of perfection is better than a mountain of mediocrity. In my sessions, I heard the former; the MA6300 is not going to blow your socks off in terms of power, nor will it have the most scintillating headroom, but it will be commendable on both counts. Whether used as an integrated, or perchance employed either as a pre or power amp solely through removal of the jumpers, I could count on clean, clearly palatable results.

For the past few weeks I have enjoyed comparisons between integrated’s from Pathos, Dussun, Ayon, and the subject of this review, the McIntosh. It was an enlightening comparison, given that two of these offerings are tubed and two SS. My first comparison was with the Dussun V8i, a 250Wpc powerhouse.

Getting an earful of Bob Mamet’s Adventures in Jazz, I noticed that the piano in the title cut through the Dussun integrated was lacking a bit of refinement. It sounded like an upright piano – a bit jarring. The sax sounded more like an Alto, less reed-like and a bit too metallic. The power was certainly there, but the definition was a step behind. Conversely, the MA6300 could not muster the sheer magnitude of the instrument’s body, but has much better control. The piano was less brisk and had more fluidity and body to it, as well as a higher degree of resonance associated with the piano case. The saxophone was reedy and breathy, and the treble had acquired distinction and decay. The McIntosh credo of quality presentation was upheld.

I also had spent time with the Audion Silver Night 300B integrated at 25Wpc. This was a more esoteric piece, leaning toward a preference for high efficiency speakers. The Tannoy Glenair and Legacy Audio Focus HD speakers both rate at 95-96dB sensitivity. With both speakers I found a strong preference for the power and body of the MA6300. The primary strength of the Audion was in a gripping midrange, however it was weaker in upper-end differentiation and bottom-end presence. The MA6300 put much more meat on the bones of the music, with so little given up in terms of clarity that it reinforced my belief that I am giving up almost nothing by spending my time with higher powered amps.

Was it the venerated brand, the lustrous, luminous façade, the hearkening back to the days when tubes ruled? Something was making me feel the McIntosh was richer-sounding than a SS integrated had a right to be. So, it was time for the big showdown between the MA6300 and a pair of tube hybrid integrated’s – the Pathos Classic One MkIII used in bridged mode. Of course, this would be an unfair comparison, but how close would the MA6300 sound?

To conduct this comparison I switched gears, or shall I say switched drives, as I moved from CD to a hard drive source. In the past few days, I have spent my efforts at implementing a wireless, hard-drive based music network in my home. Key to this system is the Sonos Digital Music System, a wireless network which accepts a NAS (Network-Attached Storage; basically an external hard drive with copious storage, which connects to one’s network). I’ll be sharing much more about this adventure soon. It became a reliable measuring stick of an amplifier’s treatment of the source.

The MA-6300 measured up very well indeed! I was vastly pleased with the fluid, solid, well textured presentation that this hard-drive and SS rig presented. McIntosh has a reputation of smoothness, and this integrated is no exception. In fact, it became its smoothest when playing back bit-perfect FLAC files from a computer! This is a tremendous boon to those who love McIntosh but cannot afford the big toys like the MS750 server.

How did I achieve such stunning results? I paired the MA-6300 with the Sonos ZP-80. This is essentially a compact computer of itself, but not strictly of audiophile quality. Therefore, I used the “Digital Out” RCA terminals to send the signal to a Cambridge Audio Azur 840C before routing it to the McIntosh. Truly, this was a cost effective way to boost the auditory experience! The outcome was beyond my expectations! The MA6300 drove the Legacy Audio Focus HD’s with aplomb, and the revelatory power of lossless file formats for playback was burned into my consciousness.

In summary, I compared a 250Wpc beast of a Dussun amp, a more elitist low-power Audion SET amp, and a pair of Pathos tube hybrid integrated’s in mono setting to this package of pedigree from McIntosh. The MA6300 more than held its own against the first two, and gave up very little to the latter. While McIntosh pieces have lightened up somewhat physically, from what I’m hearing they still have plenty of acoustic weight to throw around! On the online forums, several attendees of the 2008 CES commented that they were drawn to the McIntosh demo system’s sound. I can perfectly understand why, as the MA6300 did the same – drew me into the listening experience. It is what I would label a compelling component worthy of consideration by those who demand aesthetics that match the quality of the music reproduction.

One Response to McIntosh MA6300 Solid-State Integrated Amplifier Review

  1. Luis Perez Ramirez says:

    I have this amplifier is excellente, and i want a preamplifier for lisent better, can you recomender un model ? The sound is beutiful

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