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  • Rob Skuba

McIntosh MA252 Two Channel Amp: To Tube or Not to Tube

Updated: Jun 11

McIntosh MA252 Hybrid Amp
MA252 Two Channel Amp

Why are audiophiles raving about the McIntosh MA252 2 Channel Amp? Tube amplifiers and solid-state amplifiers are two distinct approaches to stereo amplification, each with unique characteristics and advantages. Tube amplifiers, also known as valve amplifiers, utilize vacuum tubes to amplify the audio signal, resulting in a warm, rich, and smooth sound that is highly sought after by audiophiles. These amplifiers are known for their organic tonal qualities and natural harmonic distortion, which can add depth and dimension to the listening experience.

On the other hand, solid-state amplifiers employ transistors and other semiconductor components to achieve amplification. They are generally more reliable, energy-efficient, and cost-effective than tube amplifiers. Solid-state amplifiers deliver clean, precise, and accurate sound reproduction, making them popular for various applications.

While it’s true that human hearing is analog, it doesn’t necessarily mean that analog amplification is always the better approach for every listener. The choice between analog and digital amplification depends on individual preferences and the desired listening experience.

Analog amplification, such as tube amplifiers, is known for producing a warm, natural, and smooth sound that many audiophiles appreciate. The subtle harmonic distortions introduced by analog amplifiers can add depth and richness to the listening experience, making it more pleasant for some listeners.

On the other hand, digital amplification, often found in solid-state amplifiers, provides a clean, accurate, and precise sound reproduction. This type of amplification is preferred in situations where accuracy and clarity are essential, such as studio monitoring or live sound reinforcement.

MA252 Angle Right
McIntosh MA252 Amp Angle Right

Old School Meets New Technology in the MA252 Amplifier

Until recently, the choice between analog and digital amplification came down to personal preference and the specific sonic qualities the listener desires in their audio setup. While some listeners may prefer the warmth and character of analog amplification, others might opt for the precision and accuracy of digital amplification.

Now, you can experience the best of both worlds — tube and solid-state amplification — with the groundbreaking McIntosh MA252 two-channel hybrid integrated amplifier. This exceptional device features the company’s renowned Hybrid Drive technology, offering an all-analog solution that combines the distinct characteristics of both amplifier types. The MA252 delivers a powerful blend of authority, romance, resolution, immediacy, precision, and control that will end any debate over the superiority of tube or solid-state amplifiers. Garnering awards from around the globe, this 100Wpc component also showcases the iconic McIntosh aesthetic, complete with a polished stainless-steel chassis and a soft-glow OLED display.

Equipped with two 12AX7 and two 12AT7 tubes in the preamplifier stage, the MA252 Amp is the first McIntosh vacuum-tube design to incorporate Power Guard. This patented technology continuously monitors the output signal for signs of overdrive. By making real-time micro-adjustments to the input signal, Power Guard effectively prevents harsh clipping that could damage your speakers. Additional standout features include the Sentry Monitor, a High Drive headphone amplifier, and Monogrammed Heatsinks connected to high-current output transistors, eliminating the need for warm-up time and contributing to the amplifier’s distinctive McIntosh appeal.

Weighing in at 28 pounds, the versatile MA252 is designed to integrate with a wide range of configurations. It comes equipped with one pair of balanced inputs, two pair of unbalanced inputs, a built-in MM phono stage, and a subwoofer output, power control output, data port, and gold-plated binding posts. Users can easily adjust input selection, bass, treble, tone bypass, balance, and input offset levels via the front-panel knobs or the supplied remote control. To further guarantee satisfaction, the MA252 includes a three-year manufacturer warranty. It is backed by the knowledge that McIntosh has been a leading audio brand for over seven decades, ensuring nothing but the highest quality in sound performance.

MA252 Tubes And Volume Knob Close Up
MA252 Tubes And Volume Knob Close Up

A Note from Dave:

“The suggestion that high-end audio benefits more from solid-state amplification, while low-end audio benefits more from analog (tube) amplification, is not entirely accurate. The choice between solid-state and tube amplification depends on the listener’s preferences and the desired sound characteristics rather than being strictly tied to high-end or low-end audio. Sure, solid-state amplifiers are known for their clean, accurate, and precise sound reproduction, which can be especially beneficial for high-frequency audio, where detail and clarity are crucial. They also tend to have better transient responses and lower distortion, which can contribute to a more accurate listening experience. But, tube amplifiers, on the other hand, are celebrated for their warm, rich, and smooth sound. They often introduce subtle harmonic distortions that can add depth and character to the audio, giving it a more natural and engaging quality. This warmth and richness can be particularly appealing in the low-frequency range, where it can help create a lush, full-bodied sound”.

It’s essential to note that these generalizations only apply sometimes. Some listeners may prefer the sound of tube amplifiers for high-frequency audio, while others might appreciate the accuracy and clarity of solid-state amplifiers for low-frequency audio. Ultimately, the choice between solid-state and tube amplification comes down to personal preference and the specific sonic qualities a listener seeks in their audio setup.

MA252 Angle Right High remote background

The MA252 Amplifier is a Solid Investment

For several reasons, a McIntosh amplifier can be considered a good investment, particularly if you value high-quality audio performance, reliable craftsmanship, and a prestigious brand reputation. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if a McIntosh amplifier is a worthwhile investment:

  1. Sound Quality: McIntosh is known for producing exceptional sound-quality amplifiers. Their products often feature innovative technologies and high-quality components, resulting in a superior listening experience.

  2. Build Quality: McIntosh amplifiers are built with meticulous attention to detail and are designed to provide years of reliable performance. The company uses high-quality materials and components, ensuring the longevity and durability of its products.

  3. Brand Reputation: McIntosh has been a leading audio brand for over seven decades and has earned a strong reputation for excellence in the industry. Owning a McIntosh amplifier can be a source of pride for many audiophiles and contribute prestige in your audio setup.

  4. Resale Value: Due to their reputation for quality and performance, McIntosh amplifiers tend to retain their value well over time. If you decide to sell or upgrade your amplifier in the future, it still commands a high resale price.

However, it’s essential to consider your specific needs and preferences when deciding if a McIntosh amplifier is a suitable investment for you. While their products are undoubtedly high-quality, they also have a premium price tag. It’s crucial to weigh the benefits against your budget and other options before deciding. For many of our clients, a McIntosh amplifier is a wise investment, especially if you appreciate exceptional sound quality, craftsmanship, and brand reputation.

McIntosh MA252 Rear View
McIntosh MA252 Rear View


  • 100 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (20-20,000 Hz) at 0.03% THD. 160 watts x 2 channels into 4 ohms.

  • Frequency response: 10 – 100,000 Hz (+0, -3dB).

  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 97dB (line level), 80dB (phono). Damping factor: greater than 200 at 8 ohms, greater than 100 at 4 ohms.

  • Hybrid Drive technology combines a vacuum tube preamp and solid-state power amp sections.

  • Two 12AX7a and two 12AT7 vacuum tubes.

  • Built-in High Drive headphone amplifier.

  • McIntosh Monogrammed Heatsinks™.

  • The patented McIntosh Power Guard circuit prevents amplifier clipping to protect the speakers.

  • Sentry Monitor and Thermal Protection circuits provide long amplifier operating life and protection against overheating.

  • Illuminated glass front panel with long-life LED display for a beautiful appearance and long-term durability. Front-panel display indicates source selection, volume levels, and setup function.


  1. 1 set of balanced stereo XLR inputs.

  2. 2 sets of RCA line-level stereo inputs.

  3. RCA phono input for use with a moving magnet cartridge.


  1. 1 pair of custom McIntosh gold-plated binding-post speaker connectors.

  2. 1/4″ headphone jack for connecting low-impedance dynamic headphones (20-600 ohms).

  3. One mono subwoofer RCA output.

Other info and specs:

  1. Adjustable bass and treble settings for each input source.

  2. Selectable tone control bypass.

  3. Power Control output provides convenient turn-on/off of McIntosh source components.

  4. Data Port provides remote control of connected McIntosh source components.

  5. A remote control is included.

  6. Dimensions: 12-1/16″W x 8″H x 17-5/16″D.

  7. Weight: 28 lbs. By McIntosh’s standards, this is a small footprint.

  8. Warranty: 3 years amp, 90 days tubes.

MA252 2 Channel Hybrid Amplifier
MA252 2 Channel Hybrid Amplifier

Learn More about McIntosh

Audio Video Synergy

(908) 894.5222

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