I just spent 2 and a half days with the Bryston 9B-THX and the Tag McLaren 100x5R and as promised here are my comments.
preamp: Pioneer VSA-E07 (it is usually my amp but in this case I used it as a preamp),
louspeakers: Left/right B&W N805 (on B&W stand), Center B&W NHTM2, Rears: B&W N805,
subwoofers: 2xB&W ASW4000,
speaker cables: T+A speaker coax,
room treatment: ASC Tube traps.
I did some test with the subs taking over the bass below 80 Hz and without the subs (in this case setting the 805 to large on the preamp). Testing: 2-channels (70%), HT (30%).
1) Build quality: both of the amps are very well built. They both weight between 27 and 28 kg (I had the 9b-thx with 17" face plate and without handles). Difficult to give any advantage to one of them here.
2) Special features: the Bryston has XLR inputs, they are only useful to those with preamp equipped with XLR outputs (there are not many, but if you have one, it is nice to have). The TAG has a communication bus to connect it to other Tag equipment (AVR32R for example), it allows remote control on channels switching (when the preamp is set to stereo, the center and rear channels can be automatically switched off).
3) Warm up: when connected to power, I noticed that the TAG is more noisy than the Bryston (I guess this noise comes from the transformers). This noise can be a bit annoying (I could hear it from my listening position - 3m away from the amp) but as soon as the music play it is completely masked. I did a first listening as soon as the amps were connected (no warm up, I know, I shouldn't but I could not resist). I immediately noticed a big difference with the bass, the Bryston sounded much better, the bass were really shy on the TAG. HOWEVER, after a warm up period (2 hours), the situation changed and the TAG then recovered its bass. The warm up seems to be more critical for the TAG, that's why I don't thing I would use the amp switching feature with the Tag bus, I would leave the 5 channels switched on permanently. After the warm up period, both amps run reasonably hot.
4) Listening test: in fact both the Bryston and the Tag sound very good (not to say excellent) but they sound quite different. I was surprised that the difference was not with the bass anymore. Both of them seemed to have more than enough resources to drive my N805 very loud. Note that the N805 are bookselve speakers limited to +- 50hz and I cannot say anything else than "down to 50hz these two amps did not sound very different on my N805". The big difference was in fact in the mid and high freq. Difficult to say if one is definitely better than the other but at least I clearly have my favorite (it is perhaps a question of personal taste and also loudspeakers matching): my favorite is the Bryston. The 9B sounded smoother whereas the Tag sounded more aggressive to my ears, it was also a bit forward as compared to the Bryston.
Conclusion, the Tag is not for me, I still have to listen to a Chord amp before reaching final decision.
PS: note that the Tag AVR32 remains on my short list for pre/pro upgrade next year.
[This message has been edited by mfombellida (edited 10-22-2000).]