Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: mid-atlantic region of US
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I'd pick the McIntosh over either if only b/c the Mac has tone controls, and a mono switch. I'll never again own a pre-amp (or integrated) without these. IMHO, The minimalist approach to gear which favors eschewing these very basic controls, is quite misguided. When zero'd, their presence in the signal path is inaudible, yet when listening to less-than-perfect recordings, they can turn unlistenable music into enjoyable music. Mfgs, I feel, allow the notion that they somehow damage the signal to persist b/c it gives them a convenient excuse for not doing the extra design/ manufacturing work, and expense, to incorporate them.
Plus, while many regard the meters as needless gimmickry, I love them. ...I find them hugely helpful in ensuring that I'm not over-driving my speakers. ..I like the reassurance that the amp is only putting out 10 watts or so when the music is so loud that I'm inclined to worry about whether or not the speakers are nearing their damage threshold.
As for which sounds best... Well, if you've read any of my posts you'll know that I'm very much a skeptic when it comes to claims about hearing differences b/w amps that are properly functioning. In my view, it's expectation bias that leads people to conclude that one amp sounds dramatically different that another. ...I've carefully compared countless amps and have never been able to hear a meaningful difference.
As for Bryston's warranty. ..While impressive on paper, I don't think it's such a great deal when you're paying twice what a component should cost given it's build quality and feature set. ..I owned a Bryston 3Bsst amp and BP-25 pre-amp for several years and while the fit/finish are impressive during that time the pre-amp had to go back to Bryston twice; first b/c of faulty mute switch, then b/c the volume tracking was off (when turning volume to zero, the left speaker went quiet while music still audible from right speaker - though improved, it was not completed fixed). During that same period I owned an NAD receiver which had zero problems, cost 1/4 as much, and sounded no different.