BHK 300 mono's vs. McIntosh MC452


#1

I’m not new to the forum, as I’ve owned a DSJ for about 6 or 7 months now and have pursued through various posts and info. Though I haven’t posted or had a reason to, up until now.

Like many audio enthusiasts, I was mesmerized by the legacy of McIntosh and the traditions they had established. I’m aware of the down turns, change in ownership and other activities. But, like a man of 300, I followed and supported them in battle. I never auditioned other pieces, prior to my first McIntosh purchase. I historically used a 5.1 system and that’s what I used for listening to music. A few years ago, I broke off and started piecing a dedicated two channel system together.

I started with the MA6700 and a set of B&W CM9’s. Shortly afterwards, I swapped over to a MC452, C50 and a set of B&W 804 D2’s. I then swapped the C50 out for the C2500, moved the B&W 804’s to the home theater and purchased a set of McIntosh XR50’s. All of which is running through a Shunyata Research Hydra, with Shunyata power cabling.

We recently had a new home built, which afforded me the opportunity to build a dedicated theater/ 2-channel room. I sold the B&W 804’s and purchased a set of Dynaudio Contour C4’s, added the Direct Stream Junior and a Nordost QX4. I also had GIK Acoustics build out an acoustical treatment setup for the room. Well, in the pursuit of perfection, like many, I always find something I’m not happy with or a frequency I’m hearing that’s out of place. It really all started with the DSJ.

I had a rather large vinyl collection, using a VPI Classic 2 and PS Audio NuWave, going into the DSJ, via I2S. I was floored and mesmerized by the transparency coming from my vinyl. I began A/B’ing my vinyl versus my digital running through the DSJ. I couldn’t tell much of a difference, so I dumped my entire vinyl set up and collection. The DSJ breathed new life into my collection, it was like hearing it all for the first time. Though, I recognized something was amiss in the audio. Not that it was muddy in the mid to upper midrange, it just wasn’t articulate, so to speak. I have a long history with Dynaudio and am familiar with the sound. Their speakers sound very organic and transparent to me. Not too high, not too low, but for me perfect. In fact, the McIntosh XR50’s reminded me of the classic Dynaudio sound, not much coloring and very organic. So, there is absolutely no way I’m getting rid of the DSJ, it’s going to my grave with me. But, it has me pondering dumping the MC452 and moving into the BHK 300’s. There’s just something murky at a little bit than louder listening volumes. Not distorion, per se, but just not defined.

My experience with PS Audio, thus far, has been nothing short of exemplary. I received a new DSJ with a bad network bridge card, they did an overnight for Saturday delivery…literally unheard of, ever. All of my interconnects are Audioquest Colorado’s/same lengths, the Shunyata is upstream from the QX4, power cables are the same lengths and the room is treated. There’s literally no echo in the room. So, it leaves me to staring at the MC452 as the culprit. Maybe it’s not in 100% agreement with the Confidence C4’s, not sure. Found a couple articles around using the MC452 on them, but nothing highlighted what I’m hearing. Though, I did read some commentary regarding McIntosh not being in 100% sonic agreement with Dynaudio speakers.

I know it’s not an apples to apples comparison, 2 channel, less power vs. mono blocks with more power; but what I’m not finding is clarity on what to expect if I swap it out. Sound comparisons, possible insights into what I’m hearing. I’ve had to heavily eq -3/-6 db in the 3khz - 6khz to remove most of the harshness, via JRiver. Not ideal, but it’s what I got.

Also, I did find this commentary on the BHK300’s, via an Audiogon poster, which I found to be somewhat odd…

"PS AUDIO BHK 300 MONOBLOCKS: Amazing amps. Tons of detail and really amazing midrange. the bass is amazing too, but the one thing i will say is that those of you with speakers efficiency of 87db and below you will not have all the “loudness” that you may want from time to time. These amps go into protection mode when using a speaker such as the Salon, but only at very loud levels. Maybe 97db and above. If you don’t listen to extreme crazy levels, these amps will please you in every way. "

The Confidence C4 Signatures have a sensitivity of 88db, 1 db above the rather ambiguous comment regarding efficiency. I don’t listen to “crazy extremes”, but I do like it loud from time to time.

Inputs, thoughts appreciated.


#2

Welcome!


#3

I know it’s not an apples to apples comparison, 2 channel, less power vs. mono blocks with more power; but what I’m not finding is clarity on what to expect if I swap it out. Sound comparisons, possible insights into what I’m hearing. I’ve had to heavily eq -3/-6 db in the 3khz - 6khz to remove most of the harshness, via JRiver. Not ideal, but it’s what I got.

Also, I did find this commentary on the BHK300’s, via an Audiogon poster, which I found to be somewhat odd…

"PS AUDIO BHK 300 MONOBLOCKS: Amazing amps. Tons of detail and really amazing midrange. the bass is amazing too, but the one thing i will say is that those of you with speakers efficiency of 87db and below you will not have all the “loudness” that you may want from time to time. These amps go into protection mode when using a speaker such as the Salon, but only at very loud levels. Maybe 97db and above. If you don’t listen to extreme crazy levels, these amps will please you in every way. "

The Confidence C4 Signatures have a sensitivity of 88db, 1 db above the rather ambiguous comment regarding efficiency. I don’t listen to “crazy extremes”, but I do like it loud from time to time.

Inputs, thoughts appreciated.


I have always found the McIntosh to be good, but on the transistory sounding side - a little harsh - and this might be what you’re hearing, maybe not. But that’s just me. The BHKs are the smoothest, richest, most open sounding amplifier I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. The monos have better power, of course. Twice the current and half the output impedance, but I do think either would do.

The posters comment about the protection circuit is accurate - but it applies only to the first runs of amps. There was a modification to the firmware that solved this protection issue and the BHKs now rock it out with all sorts of speakers. 87dB no problem. If you want to try out a pair or a single stereo, just call us and you can takje a set home for a month and try them out. I doubt you’ll return them. itwasntme_gif


#4

Paul, thank you for the info and offer to come pick a set up. I have a very tactical approach to these sort of things with my wife. I’ve already shared I’m not happy with the McIntosh and will be selling it, this is stage 1. Stage 2 spreads out over the course of a week or 2. During this stage, I casually mention what I’m thinking and how it will benefit “us”. I also let her “find” me reading reviews on different amplifiers, specifically the products by the company I’m investigating. As a note to any other husband/partner out there, this is also a great time to stage for birthday and Christmas presents. This stage is all about giving off the impression I’m pondering heavily. Stage 3, they are just there, which equates to a decision I made. One of which was not made in a vacuum, as she was part of the entire process!

PS: As a FYI, the reason I’m looking at the BHK’s, three reasons; Jarrod in your Customer Service Department treated me with the utmost concern and respect when I was having issues with my Direct Stream Jr, to the extent that your team overnighted one for a Saturday delivery. I didn’t ask them to, I wasn’t beating up the product or being a general shit, as some can be when they’re having issues…they just did it, bravo for that. The Direct Stream Junior blew my mind, such an awesome product, and Rob at The Music Room.


#5

No problem. Slow and steady wins the race. Let us know how we can help.


#6

hi Todd, for what it is worth, i have owned a lot of nice amps in my life, and I have to say that i bet the BHK 250 i use now will be my last amp (unless i get rich and can buy the mono blocks). they are so awesome and right out of the box was much better than my Marantz Reference amp, which in itself, was better than the Rowland 201 mono block amps it replaced.


#7

I have tangential experience that might shed some light (and I certainly have a solid opinion!). I ran a Mac 402 amp 8 years ago, which is the predecessor to the 452. I’m sure the 452 brings a little more to the party, but it is pretty close to the same (autoformers and all). It was a bit slow and rounded and richer sounding, which suited my Totem Mani-2’s at the time OK, but when I tried a Conrad Johnson Premier 350 there was just no question in my mind - - the CJ had more of the breath of live music in it, with improved dynamic contrasts. So, I sold the 402 (interestingly, it is a BHK design!).

Now, after a stint with tube amps, and with two changes in speakers, I am running a pair of the BHK 300 mono’s on some TAD CR-1’s, and these are just outstanding amps! If memory serves, I think the BHK products would just slay the Mac. Much improved transparency, greater dynamic jump factor because of better resolved microdynamics. For my current speakers, I think I am done with trying out amps. Best system I have ever lived with, and the BHK amps are a principal reason (the BHK preamp that I added a little over a month ago is really, really special, too!).

Try the BHK and I bet you keep it! (That is exactly how it worked for me.)


#8

Bach said; “Best system I have ever lived with, and the BHK amps are a principal reason (the BHK preamp that I added a little over a month ago is really, really special, too!).”

“Try the BHK and I bet you keep it! (That is exactly how it worked for me.)”

I fully concur with this… I have had plenty amplifiers pass through my hands over many years … Yes, the BHK’s are the best amplifiers I’ve owned… The BHK amplifiers are musically addictive… In my system - I use the BHK preamp, 250 and 300s… The 250 is a wonderful amplifier, effortlessly musical - but the 300s are truly special …! Pretty well near the top of the mountain with the 250 – with the 300s standing on top of the cairn and climbing the flag pole !!


#9

Gents, thank you for the inputs. I did swap the C2500 outputs for a set of Mullard British originals, immediately sounded better. I suspect the tubes on the C2500 had reached their life capacity. But, that has not slowed this train. The BHK mono’s and pre will be here on Wednesday for me to demo. I won’t do any critical listening for a few days, while everything burns in. Either way, I’m very excited to hear the synergy between the DSJ, BHK pre and mono’s.

Out of curiosity, are either of you using the BHK pre in a home theater bypass setting?


#10

Paul…

Were you or someone else running the 300 monos with Maggie 20.7s in some show awhile back? Those would fall into the mid 80db categorization…

Any other comparisons of our favorite amps such as Pass… Bryston…ARC ref… Just curious if anyone else has a direct comparison outside of the Mac product? I have heard ‘swell’ things about the Pass X.5 series… Wondering if anyone has had a good chance to compare wither the stereo or the 300 monos… and if so… what was it that you liked about each amps sonic signature…