As a source I use a McIntosh MCD 301 CD Player. In the first 16´th Shootouts, If I listened to a Power Amp, I used the CD Player as a Preamp. The MCD301 has a analog volume control and can provide 12V. If I test a Integrated Amp I use the fixed output.
Since Shootout # 17, we use the Mcintosh C45 as preamp. Since Shootout # 21, we use the Mcintosh C50 as preamp. From their we go - if possible - balanced (XLR) to the power amp. If the power amp doesn´t have balanced input than we use the cinch output. The MCD 301 is connected with the fixed outputs to the preamp C50 (balanced) or to the integrated amps (balanced or cinch) or since Shootout #21 the Sooloos Control 15 connected to the DAC of the Mcintosh C50. The difference between the MCD 301 directly connected to the poweramp with the variable output or over the fixed output to the pre/poweramp is absolutly slim. Both sounds fantastic, maybe the MCD 301 with the preamp sounds a little bit more dynamically. But we are talking about very, very slim difference (97% against 100%....)
I am listining with two different kinds of speakers: one is a Linn Akurate 212 and a B&W Nautilus 804. When I use an amp with autotransformers, I use the 8 Ohm connectors of the amp for the Lin Akurate 212 and when I listen to the Nautilus 804, I use the 4 Ohm connectors of the amp.
My test CDs are allways the same from the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, Beethoven and Wagner.
I have two test rooms, the first one with the Nautilus 804 speaker has 45 square meters.
After shootout # 21 I was looking for new loudspeakers for my MC 452. I had connected the MC 452 with the B&W 804 (10 years old). It sounds great, as I described before, but I wanted to have new world class loudspeakers for this world class amp.
For me it is very important, that the loudspeaker can really play loud, that the sound has no "sweet spot", sound is smooth and of course wife accapant factor is also very important.
I was listening at home to following loudspeakers:
Sonus Faber Cremona
B&W 803 Diamond
B&W 804 Diamond
Linn Majik Isobarik
Linn 242 Mk3
Blumenhofer Genuin FS 3
First of all, I have to say that the MC 452 "drove" all loudspeakers wonderful. And that is the reason, why I am so a big fan and collector of Mcintosh amps. You never have a problem with these amps, it doesn´t matter which Loudspeaker you have or which music you are playing.
At the end I bought the Linn 242 Mk3. The sound is absolut stunning, even the dealer from B&W had to admit this, when he compared his B&W against the Linn 242 at my home. Cristal clear and smooth music. You can listen to the music without fatigue for hours. So since shootout # 21 all the test in the first room are done with the Linn 242.
Since shootout #35 we take in addition to the Linn 242 also the Magico S1 as test loudspeaker. The Magico S1 is an extremly neutal, transparent and revealing loudspeaker. For the amps is not so a demanding load like the Linn 242, but on the other hand the Magico S1 does not have a very high sensitivity. So you need a load of power to drive this loudspeaker.
Speaker cable are Kimber 8TC. Interconnects are JPS Labs Superconductors 3.
The second test room with the Linn Akurate 212 has 22 square meters.
The third test room with Magico S1 has 65 square meters.
The fourth test room with Harbeth P3ESR has 20 square meters.
My friends and I are also doing some blind test to confirm the results. Very important in the blind test is that you have the same volume for all the amps which you compare. For that resaon we have a Trotec BS 15 and the OmniMic test system which measures the volume.
Our blind test procedure:
1. Sources are Mcintosh MCD 301 CD Player; Accuphase DP510 or Sooloos Control 15
2. Preamp is Mcintosh C50 or Accuphase C2420
3. Loudspeakers are Linn 242 Mk3 (Mk1 Version was Stereophile class A component), Linn 212, Harbeth P3 ESR or Magico S1.
4. Speaker cables are Kimber 8TC, Interconnects are JPS LabsSuperconductor3
5. 1. test room has 45m2; 2. test room has 22m2; 3. test room has 65m2; 4.test room has 20m2
6. Music is always the same from Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, AC/DC and Johnny Cash
7. Most important at all, you have to compare the amps with the same volume (SPL). For that reason, we have for our blind test a very exact measurement system from OmniMic.
8. We listen all amps with three different volumes: 80 dB, 90 dB and 100dB or 110 dB if possible
9. Also very important is that the switch from one amp to the other amp has to be under 30 seconds.
10. Amps are behind a curtain, that you cannot see which amp is working.
11. For a blind test at least five people has to be there. We switch 10 times. Normally after two songs.
12. Before the blind test everybody can listen to the amps and he knows which amp is playing. Than we start with the blind test.
All test are done with 230 Volts amps, because we live in Germany (oh I forgot, please excuse my bad english)