New MA352 Integrated Valve Amp

Acquired a new MA352 a few weeks ago after getting a full refund on my old Musical Fidelity M6si for an incompatibility issue.

The MA352 is quite beautiful, both visually and audibly. I’ve already rolled the factory tubes for Mullards which are now about 30 hours in. What tubes are others using in the pre-amp realm on McIntosh kit?

My obsession with keeping digital and amplification separate is really paying off. Whilst I am sure that there are numerous implementations of integrated amplifiers incorporating digital capabilities, I can’t help but feel the old school approach of separation and segregation of duties results in a very pure listening experience.

How are other people feeding their McIntosh kit with Roon or other digital sources? In-built McIntosh kit? Or keeping the digital at arms-length?

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I just now saw your post.

That is a very nice amplifier and am glad that you are enjoying it. Although the heart of our system is McIntosh, I am not a critical listener, I do not own headphones, and aside from a rare song (not album) I almost never sit and listen. The system plays in the background and, then, only briefly and only ~4-5 times per week.

I have a NUC for Roon and an Auralic for streaming and both go into a Denafrips Terminator Plus. We have a McIntosh MA9000 integrated amp which powers Golden Ear Triton One.R speakers. I have two CD transports and a lot of CDs and SACDs. I add several CDs each month.

I had used the McIntosh built-in DAC module, but it is no longer in use except for the SACDs.

While I have a record collection that has followed me for decades, I do not own, and no longer plan to buy, a turntable.

I see this as a permanent system using Roon and Qobuz. I am an annual subscriber. They are both no-effort means of accessing an album here and there. I do not maintain lists of favorite albums. I simply explore the latest from Qobuz. Things can always change, but I do not foresee upgrading components.

Were I to begin anew, I may consider the MC12000 McIntosh integrated amp. Would like to see a photo of your system.

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I’d love to invest in some decent headphones just for the hell of it, but I’m not sure I would use them that often. The biggest drawback is that my listening area is a big family room and pure audio is combined with AV for movies and TV etc. The fact is that my listening/viewing seat is over 5 metres away, so headphone cables are going to be impractical and hugely expensive (no point in spending thousands on a decent set of cans only to sabotage the experience with low quality extensions). For the amount of time I would use them, it seems like a poor proposition.

That’s a very nice setup that you describe. I considered the MA9000’s smaller brother, the MA7200, before deciding to stay true to keeping digital totally separate and going for the MA352. It does a wonderful job of driving the Tannoy DC10T speakers. It’s a pairing that brings great separation and big scale in the soundstage.

I looked-up the specifications on the Triton One.R speakers as I was not familiar with them; what an elegant looking speaker and the reviews are very positive.

My constant nomadic existence has meant my physical music collection here in Australia is only a couple of hundred CDs gathered piecemeal during my overseas postings. I gave my CD collection of about 1000 CDs away when I originally left the UK for foreign shores. I did, however, keep an archive of the high quality FLAC rips obtained from them which now sit on my home Synology NAS.

Now I have put down roots in Australia, I’ve rekindled my love affair with vinyl and pulled together a modest collection of about 350 records; it’s growing steadily :slight_smile:

I bought a Lumin T2 due to the sheer number of people that rave about its bang-for-buck and because of the great support. The T2 combined streamer and DAC does not feel like a compromise. In fact, possibly my only criticism of the T2 is that it has no digital inputs to allow use of its excellent DAC by other digital sources. I wanted to run my old Sonos Connect into it for when we’re entertaining and want all the Sonos zones grouped for playback, but I have a Plan B involving the great DAC in my Oppo BDP-105 which I will deal with at some point. The Connect’s onboard DAC is built down to a price rather than up to a quality. Maybe I am worrying far too much about the quality requirement on this less-than-one-percent-of-the-time use case - that will be my obsessive side coming out again.

I’m also a Qobuz user and very happy with the service. I joined the day it launched in Australia. I was a Tidal subscriber formerly, but dropped it a few months before Qobuz launched here due to restrictive choices of format availability. My original Roon setup was with the Core installed on my Synology NAS which worked fairly well. Due to dropping Tidal and (at that time) the lack of clarity on running the Core on the upcoming Synolgy DSM v7.0, I decided that I would drop Roon temporarily (it was unclear at the time whether Qobuz would launch in Australia either). It was my intention to purchase a small form PC and build a new Core on that. I’m undecided on whether to go Win10 or ROCK so this would influence what I actually end up purchasing. There are some supply-side issues currently on some items I am considering, so I am in limbo for now. I really do miss the Roon Radio algorithm though, so it is rapidly moving up my list of projects and may force a compromise on the kit/OS conundrum.

So… The MA352 and requested pictures:
Madge wanted in on the action, hence I didn’t get the TV in-shot fully.

This is really beautifully built. I’ve changed the standard 12AX7A and 12AT7 tubes to Mullards:

Here is the business-side of the audio - Mobile Fidelity UltraDeck turntable with MasterTracker cartridge into the AVM P30 phonostage and line-in on the MA352 (the McIntosh phonostage is better than most in-builts I have come across, but you really can’t beat separates); Lumin T2 on the lower shelf:

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That is a great McIntosh system; really like the speakers. Looks like a great combination of digital and analog.

Record stores have re-emerged here. I recall Tower Records, Turtles and Peaches here; all eventually failed but transitioned to CD prior to dissolving.

(Since it is Australia, do the records rotates counter-clockwise? Weak humor).

We have two systems, a home theater and a stereo system. The home theater is 14.1 (?) as I recall (cannot easily recall although I assembled it)…top Denon (at the time) receiver and then three outboard Onkyo (basic) amps. It does Aura 3D. This was great for blockbuster movies (to which I no longer gravitate). Indeed, the home theater is now used to watch drama/adventure movies and to play occasional Playstation 5. I never play music there. And I set the receiver to Dolby Digital….a lot of speakers make speech more difficult for me to understand. We chiefly watch HBO Max, Netflix, Prime and Apple+. We pride ourselves in watching the worst movie. We saw one last night that appeared to have been written on a napkin in a fast food restaurant: horrible plot, worst acting, no semblance of conclusion…no message. Really great. The home theater speakers are PSB…four large towers etc. I have an 18” Velodyne subwoofer (unplugged from the wall). Our home theater is a simply a large “TV set.” We have had an LG OLED for about 4 years and will likely get their next gen 83” (used to have a 110” projector…bulbs lasted us about 90 days when the kids were small…and a Stewart screen).

The LPs that I still own are in my son’s (now out on his own) game room which is a very large room where he had played xBox, Playstation, PC games, wrote programs, built PCs and played air hockey. I have not played an LP in the past ~35 years. Some of these are direct-to-disc and half-speed masters and many Original Master Recordings as well as Japanese imports of things like The Wall.

Many decades ago, I owned McIntosh. Very reliable, easily resold, almost no depreciation, but I transitioned into tube equipment, electrostatic speakers, Revox open reel deck, Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck and added a Sony CD player. Then I liquidated it all.

I then had a system of modest Carver separates, Thorens TD-12? Turntable and Paradigm speakers. The Carver electronics are a multi-layered store unto themselves. Very bad experience with the guy to whom I sold them very inexpensively.

I then began buying SONOS units for all over the house, the office, the kids’ places etc. The house and office still has chiefly S1 units, a SONOS soundbar in the kitchen, and I have a SONOS Connect as well as the new SONOS amp. The SONOS sits within the stereo shelves and drives a pair of Elac speakers and Elac sub. Actually the SONOS is what plays 99% of the time. Pandora. Wifi is problematic so Qobuz breaks up when attempt to use with SONOS.

This is what I had when my son built my NUC, subbed me to Roon and Qobuz. I gave him the Paradigms which he uses in his apartment to this day. He is a Spotify person.

After I had NUC/Qobuz, I bought the MA9000 McIntosh and MCT500 SACD transport. I read about Andy Gross selling Triton speakers, and the reviews were very good. Knowing his design history, I bought a pair of them. He then sold the company. I added Denafrips DAC, Auralic streamer, and then an Audioquest 5000.

I often play CDs via a Jay’s Audio CD Transport.

Sometimes, I (just added back in) simply play NUC/Roon/Qobuz via an Elac powered endpoint rather than turn on the McIntosh.

I do not use the TV (another LG) in this stereo area for anything other than watching continuing education seminars and occasionally using Playstation 5 for about 20 min.

My CDs (likely 1200++) also include many SACDs, import SACDs but also those high-res CDs sold by a well known stereo manufacturer.

Headphones: I own a pair of Kloss Pro 4a. Have not had them on in 40 years I assume. I had Kloss ESP 9 electrostatic headphones which I also did not use. I can see the benefit of having headphones for many people whose lives are different than my own.

Thank you for sharing you McIntosh based system.

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Appreciate you showing your system and the associated description. It looks like a system of true evolution and addition. I see lots of opportunities for interchanging DACs and investigating other component subtleties within the various playback chains for the purposes of experimentation. It’s always a danger I try to remain aware of though; it’s too easy to spend time listening to the kit rather than listening to the music.

My blended system of audio and AV requirements is not fundamentally different from when I had the Musical Fidelity amplifier. The Onkyo NR3030 is the AV heart and used the front pre-out RCAs to feed the Musical Fidelity aux line-in in a home theatre pass-through mode to drive the front channels but still allow the other channels to be driven directly by the Onkyo. The true HT pass-through using the MA352 is awaiting a long pair of balanced cables as the McIntosh restricts HT to the second balanced input and is not available on any of the RCA line-ins; everything I read suggested that the HT capability on the MA352 was switchable through the configuration management to any line-in which ended-up not being the case. Whilst awaiting the balanced cables, I’m using the RCAs for now, but have to alter the volume manually on the McIntosh to balance with the Onkyo.

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McIntosh equipment resells very easily and is always in high demand. It is painfully overpriced but easy to move.

I do not know how many McIntosh units I have owned, but I have never had a problem with a unit.

It has been a very long time since I experimented. I do try to buy or stream hi-res media. And back in my analogue days, these Direct-to-Disc and half-speed masters were more for their clarity, image and all those descriptors. But it has almost always been the music itself.

I owned McIntosh 2100 (several) 2105 (several) amps the C24, C26, C28 preamps, MR67, 71, 73, 74 tuners and the MPI-4 (was that the McIntosh scope?). The only tube McIntosh was the MR67 (if that is correct, cannot recall).

I did have two cars that came with McIntosh radio/CD players installed.

I no longer have time nor inclination to swap components and no longer watch the YouTube videos on component reviews. I do enjoy seeing the listening rooms of others.

Redundant statement, but Roon/Qobuz/CDs have our bases covered.

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Thought you might enjoy a photo of your amp in context

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Hi,
I also made the mistake of buying a McIntosh MA352 and I totally despise it. It sounds terrible on Focal Sopra 1 speakers, it’s basically unlistenable except maybe for 17th century clavecin which I do not listen to. I immediately changed speaker cables, ICs and power cords atleast 3 if not 4 times and no positive result. I then tried a full set of new production Gold Lions with same negative result. Another 200+ dollars on NOS Telefunkens and no positive result: still incredibly bright and no bass. Strictly impossible to listen to literally anything. These speakers were/are excellent on Naim equipment, which I regret bitterly. The MA352 is nice to look at, but I cannot use it for listening to music. Brgds.

Pairing matters. My Tannoy DC10Ts are not lacking in low frequency response with the MA352. Soundstage was only improved further by rolling Mullard tubes in. I’m probably going to try the Gold Lions next too.

I guess this highlights the importance of in-home auditions from a good bricks-and-mortar Hi-Fi dealer.

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I suspect there is something in your environment that is not helping. Be it interconnects, speaker placement, room acoustics or similar. I’ve tried researching further to help give you some direction, but based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews (albeit with differing speakers etc), it has been hard.

I doubt it is your Sopras though: McIntosh MA352 experience/feedback? | pink fish media - that one user in particular has your speakers and thinks the setup is great.

It’s possible/more likely now that the MA352 is highlighting some other area in your playback chain or environment that needs attention and optimisation.

Sometimes you need a little patience and to work with your setup rather than assume one component alone is the devil-incarnate. I feel the answer is there if you care to look for it.

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Ah…no. I am the author of the post on PFM (Tom60300) and the setup is not “great” it is precisely the opposite of great. It is astoundingly poor and simply highlights the Sales and Marketing expertise of McIntosh who continue to fool gullible noobies with cloth ears that their products are worthy. They are nice to look at but 80% of their value comes from being able to have two blue VU meters which serve strictly, absolutely no purpose other than to throw a blue light from the amp. When McIntosh implemented this, it was a stroke of genius.

It is not possible however to deny that the typical McIntosh amplifier is an undisciplined, approximate, clumsy brute that lacks any notion of finesse and subtlety. That is simply how they sound and every dealer around the globe knows this. Dealers try and dismiss this fact when attempting to make a sale and end up generating frustration among their customers. Upon returning the horrific MA352, my dealer volunteered that he sells a lot of them and an above average number of them, like mine, are returned because they sound like hell. Can’t blame them for trying.

I have been doing this for a very long time and I know what to listen for, what I actually hear and how to tweak and compensate for a system requiring a bit of sound shaping. My room is treated with 8 GIK acoustic panels and my speakers, accessories, rack, cables, source, fiber ethernet connection and listening configuration have been optimized over a number of years of trials and testing. The MA352 was an uncharacteristic error, my own mistake as I was unwittingly and naively lured into believing the marketing hype and the absolute snake oil lie that McIntosh has been pushing for decades. No intention to disrespect McIntosh owners. I can fully conceive that some people think they sound fine or even good. However, objectively speaking, I think the great majority of amplifiers available for 50% of the cost of any McIntosh model are VASTLY SUPERIOR in sound quality. Glad to be freed now from the McIntosh clown show.

My bad for not reading the whole thread.

Notable that your first post in this thread had no mention of the initial positive feelings and yet on the pfm thread you start off with a great impression, but at some point after a week or more everything sounded terrible. I think reading the other pfm thread has the potential to lead the reader to a conclusion that the amp you were running developed a fault along the way. This is the most plausible theory based on the fact it was so early on and not after several months; in the vast majority of circumstances, manufactured goods either show deleterious performance very quickly (component issue or manufacture process inconsistencies) or work without issue until the inevitable point of wear-and-tear or other component fatigue sets in years later.

It sounds remarkably similar to an experience I had with a new component many years ago when I lived in Asia. Everything sounded great to begin with, but fell apart after a week resulting in a dealer return/test/confirmation and ultimately a replacement which worked flawlessly thereafter.

I can understand the frustration, but it does start to seem that there is an element of emotional response creeping in. But you do you.

Good luck.

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Are using optical to connect your Sonos Connect to your McIntosh?

The MA352 doesn’t have any digital inputs, so the only direct choice would be Sonos Connect to MA352 by RCAs. However, at present the Connect is not in use. The DAC within the Connect is very ordinary, hence my desire to use a higher quality DAC in between. This is all still work-in-progress as I may be getting a Lumin P1 on evaluation/test which has digital inputs making its DAC available to me.

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Like you, my SONOS Connect is…er…not connected at present. I use SONOS solely for Pandora, and I have the latest SONOS amp (black) feeding two Elac Speakers and Elac subwoofer. The SONOS throughout the house are grouped with that Amp,

I could output the Connect to the MA9000 via Opt just to hear the difference, but that is largely for “fun”.

Our router/modem must have special permission to be put in bridge mode, and our wifi as it stands is suboptimal when you get far away from the unit. Otherwise, I would use a mesh network and Qobuz with the SONOS.

I ran a TosLink from my SONOS Connect to the OPT inputs of the MA9000. Sounds quite good for Pandora. BTW, McIntosh announced their new two piece preamp today.

Yeah, I think the McIntosh DACs are amongst the better inbuilt ones out there. Of course, Toslink is perfectly adequate for the earlier generation Sonos Connects as they are incapable of streaming greater than 44.1/16 which is the upper limit for Toslink.

The purist in me is still happy to keep the digital realm and the amplification completely separate. Any significant developments in digital technology don’t end up turning my amplifier into an expensive boat anchor that way.

I’m off to dig out information on the new McIntosh you mentioned.

Hey guys, I realize that this thread is several months old, but I have a quick question about the MA352.

Can its equalizer controls be adjusted from the listening position?

No granular control.

The only thing you can do is have the equaliser circuit on or off when using the Trim control on the remote, but you cannot alter any of the tone controls themselves.

Cheers
Tel

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