That sounds great in theory and I'm absolutely sure works for many but in practice that doesn't quite work out for a few of us and I'll explain. I love the sound of tubes ... much more so than most solid state. However I also love the dynamics and grip that comes with a really strong solid state amplifier. Its rare to get all that from a single vendor. At low volumes I really enjoy listening to a full BAT REX system but the REX Mono's run out of steam compared to say big Boulder amps. That said an all Boulder System has never really been my cup of tea as it misses that little extra that tubes supply.That said I have enjoyed listening to Boulders with several different tube preamps ... ARC Ref 10, Rex II Pre to name a few. I am going to listen to a complete VTL system with the Siegfrieds and their 7.5 preamp and that may well give me everything I'm looking for but if it doesn't I'll continue the search until I find exactly the sound I like with the dynamics I find necessary to recreate a convincing musical event and that may well be a tube preamp with a big solid state amp ... which is what I own now BTW just looking to take things to the next level. I consider all of the major brands I've been auditioning to be competent ... just not many companies make both Tube and Solid state so it makes it a bit difficult to find that Unicorn!There was a time one chose the best preamp and matched it to the best amplifier you could afford, It did not matter who made it, It was also a matter of synergy. That is to try to cure the faults of one component with the strengths of the other, UMO every component has a sonic signature, That is it either adds or subtracts something from or to the music.
Consequently it would appear counterintuitive to natch your favor preamp to an amplifier with a different sonic signature. That would seem most easily avoided by choosing amp and preamp from the same manufacturer, Of course that assumes that the maker of a competent preamp is also able to design a competent amplifier. Since most of the problems have solutions that are in the public domain that should not be too difficult.
Definitely a cool product and McIntosh is definitely one of the few companies that offer both Tube and SS equipment ... I'm just not a huge fan of McIntosh fan at this point in my audio life as I've owned it in the past and moved on.
My very subjective take on this issue (based on many years of my experience) is that it’s better to match the DAC & preamp (as one subsystem), and separately match the power amplifier to the speakers (as another subsystem)Traditionally I have thought that the selection of a preamplifier and the selection of an amplifier are opportunities to select in each case the component you think sounds best for your system, regardless of manufacturer. I have never held a presumption that one should buy a pre-amplifier and an amplifier from the same manufacturer.
Of course when selecting a pre-amplifier from one manufacturer and an amplifier from another manufacturer one must be careful about pre-amp output and amp input gain and voltage compatibility and about impedance compatibility.
Very often, especially for audiophiles who believe "there should be a tube in the system somewhere," matching a tube or hybrid preamplifier with a solid-state amplifier, or matching a solid-state preamplifier with a tube amplifier, are ways to achieve this.
Or someone who likes solid-state components might want to match a warm sounding solid-state preamplifier with a very neutral and crystalline sounding solid-state amplifier -- or the other way around.
Early on I matched a conrad-johnson preamplifier with Manley amplifiers. Then for about 18 years I matched an Aesthetix Io phono + line gain preamplifier with VTL amplifiers.
Over the last few years I have come to the personal view that one should have a pretty darn good reason for not selecting a preamplifier and amplifier from the same company. Such same-brand matching almost always obviates concerns about gain and voltage compatibility and about impedance compatibility. I will be hatching (thanks, MikeL) my new system with a VTL preamplifier matched with VTL amplifiers.
What do you think?
What are the pros and cons of selecting different brand versus same brand preamplifier and amplifier combinations?
What has been your experience on this subject?
Which kinds of combinations have worked out best for your system?
Your post outs a light on what’s really needed in matching.The best chance of getting a good match is always to buy the same amp and preamp brand, they will be a sonic match. Now if you have the time, and know the sonic signature of the gear, you can try to mix and match and perhaps find a pair that better fits your idea of the sound you like to enjoy. It like being a good cook, what spices do you like to add to make your dish taste better to you. Just make sure you get a preamp that can drive your amp right, a 20K impedance input solid-state amp, won't give you the best sound if the preamp output impedance is more than 10 times higher than the input impedance. Some tube preamp would never be a good match for such a power amp, find 50K or 100K input impedance amps and you open up a lot of preamps that works well with those amps. I use a McIntosh MC 402 amp with a Luxman C800-F, which has a higher impedance but it works with the Mac well, but it just made it. No bass roll-off at all, or rolled off highs. If I am shopping for a tube preamp I have to watch, but buying a McIntosh tube preamp I will be good to go, they designed them to work with their own gear.
To be clear on this there is the balanced line standard also known as AES48. Balanced lines and single-ended are inherently incompatible- you're either one or the other but not both. In a single-ended hookup, the signal path is the center of the RCA with respect to ground. To avoid ground loops, the balanced line system does not reference ground....Turned out the A-S MP1 did not work with the M1.2. Together they produced a loud humm through the speakers. Without going into details some of which I don't remember, RalphK identified the problem as an incongruity in the way the XLR output and input were wired. He offered to modify the amps, a very simple change right at the M1.2 input, but since they were review samples, that was not feasible. (Also tried different cables.) On the other hand the ARC Ref 5se and single-ended CJ PV-8 worked fine with the M1.2. (As did every other XLR out preamp I"ve tried. Though the MP1 is wired industry standard.) This was touched in the review.
To be clear while digital has a slight advantage here (mostly on the playback side as you point out) almost any digital album release employs compression since there is the expectation it will be played in a car. LPs don't have that expectation and so when we master an LP from a digital source, we try to get the source file that does not have any of the digital mastering DSP done to it other than normalization. In this way we can master an LP that has more dynamic range than the digital release. BTW there are LP pickup systems that can track the Telarc cannons with great ease.It gets back to the mastering, plus vinyl can only handle so much dynamic range, the needle is hard-pressed to track it, think Telarc 1812 Overture, back then arms jump when the cannons went off, that was a true test of arm setup and tracing and VTA, etc, we all laughed watching this happen and bass notes as well.
FWIW the Rowland, with its 40K input impedance, is right at the ragged edge of what is considered acceptable for the ARC to drive.I recently tried a Audio Research Ref. 6 preamp with my Jeff Rowland 625 S2 amplifier. The results were not good compared to my Jeff Rowland Corus preamp. The sound was thin, bright, and closed-in. I don't think it was a direct reflection of one preamp being better than the other, but it serves as one example of how the preamp and amplifier from the same manufacture has much better synergy.
"So I'm thinking this might have been a mismatch- an amp with a higher input impedance may have been able to show the ARC in a better light." I agree and I voiced my concern about the impedance mismatch with the dealer prior to him sending it to me. I believe the input impedance of my Rowland amplifier limits my preamplifier options.FWIW the Rowland, with its 40K input impedance, is right at the ragged edge of what is considered acceptable for the ARC to drive.
One feature of the balanced line standard is that its low impedance. IMO if you have an XLR output it really should be able to drive 2000 ohms or less- in the old days the standard was 600ohms.
So I'm thinking this might have been a mismatch- an amp with a higher input impedance may have been able to show the ARC in a better light.
Maybe a bit- but actually that's a pretty moderate value as amps go. I wouldn't worry about it. FWIW the main reason most tube preamps can drive loads like this is the output coupling capacitors. They have to be quite large to prevent phase shift. We got around the problem by direct-coupling and patented the way we did it. There are also tube preamps that employ output transformers for driving balanced lines as well. I would expect that one of them should have no worries driving 40Kohms either.I believe the input impedance of my Rowland amplifier limits my preamplifier options.
I often asked myself about that, especially concerning cables. A mix & match in my system is more right and enyoyable.I prefer a mix&match approach.
My ears tell me that manufacturers usually have a distinctive 'house sound' (that can sometimes vary slowly with time).
I have found that with multiple components this distinctive sonic signature tends to multiply up, and what is an enjoyable sweetness in the mids, as an example, can become a cloying syrupiness when multiplied up by using more than one component from that manufacturer.
Mix and match to find an enjoyable and rewarding sonic balance works best for me.
Got to love this classic mcintosh. This is a interesting topic and I believe it’s a good idea to match your pre and power with the same brand or be very careful if you mix them up.can work both ways.
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