Advice for Speakers to mate with McCormack DNA .5

I’m new to this forum but have been “lurking” for a while, trying to learn. I’d greatly appreciate some guidance on choosing speakers for a system I’m trying to build over several years. Finances are limited, I’m focused on used gear, and I could use as much advice as possible.

My Info is as follows:
  • General Sound Objective:  a natural, accurate response with a big, full sound; midrange weight; airy highs; slightly forward profile; deep and wide soundstage, good sound off axis; and most importantly a strong and solid bass.
  • Types of Music:  about 55% jazz (Miles, Coltrane, etc.), 25% rock, blues, folk, & pop, 10% classical, and 10% other.
  • Listening Space:  12’ x 15’ x 9’ with speakers along long wall, 1.5’ from front wall, and 5’-8’ from listening area. As room and placement options are limited, flexibility with placement is critical.
  • Current System: I’d like to mate speakers to my newly acquired amp, a stock McCormack DNA .5 Deluxe (100-125 watts/8 ohms, 200 watts/4 ohms). Sources (may eventually be upgraded) include Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC and B&O table/MMC2 cartridge. Using the Stealth as a preamp but hope to get a dedicated one later (thinking of a tube).
  • Other Considerations:  Full Range (preference is 2 full range cabs), Good Efficiency (I like great sound at low, medium, and high listening levels), and Future Proof (looking for keepers so longevity and maintenance are important).
  • Potential budget: current estimate is about $900 - $1300.

Some models I’m considering with pros and cons for my goals based on what I have read so far:

  1. Hales Revelation 3: lively and bold sound, beautiful appearance and build quality but low sensitivity and some say hard to drive.
  2. Von Schweikert Research VR-3: good dynamics, solid bass, and good detail but low sensitivity and some reviews of poor construction.
  3. Vandersteen 3 series: mate well with the McCormack and accurate response but maybe too polite, lack of oomph for rock, and low sensitivity.

I’d love to hear about both these and other options.  I realize I’ll have to make compromises, but I’m hoping with proper research, patience, and your help, I can discern what may be the best fit. Thank you in advance for any and all advice!!

I had a DNA 0.5 for a period of time and it was a fantastic match (also fitting all your requirements) with the Gemme Audio Tanto V2.  I no longer have that pair of speakers but really wish I had kept them. Super wide sound stage, excellent frequency range including bass, and very efficient. I'm a low level listener too and appreciated their full range sound even at lower volumes. I sold my pair for a little over a grand, so if you can find a pair, they should be in your price range. While Gemme has disbanded, the drivers are off the shelf units and available from Madisound. There is no crossover, so there's really nothing to worry about regarding future service needs.

highly recommended.

Hands down a pair of Totem Acoustic Model One Signature Edition, on some great stands. The McCormack will drive them beautifully! If you want to pay more then look at a pair of Dynaudio Special twenty fives or Contour 1.3 would be awesome as well. 

Matt M
I have the Vandy 3's and had the .5 Mccormack but I felt that it was it was a little under powered. I listen to 75% hard rock and heavy metal and these speakers do not inadequately reproduce that music in any way.  The sound of jazz is also outstanding.  I'm using Bel Canto ref 500m's and a CJ preamp.  I don't much like the look of the Vandy's but the sound is sublime.  
ProAc Studio 200's and there's a set on here for sale right now. Great musical speaker and easy to drive.
Let me start by saying that I am a firm believer that one should start by choosing speakers first and working back from there. Your room is too small for true full range sound. The McCormack amp is a natural with Vandersteen's, but your room placement restrictions all but eliminate them, with maybe(?) the one series being a possibility, but they don't meet your "forward presentation" requirements. The McCormacks have already have a  forward presentation, tread carefully. A c-j  pre is a good consideration moving forward, and will give you a bit of that full lower midrange sound. It's good that you have been able to actually identify what your looking for but, tough to make a recommendation to fit all your criterion. Good luck.
I agree with unsound. I use a pair of 2-way monitors (Esoteric MG 10s) in a room very close to your room in HxWxD. I use a BEL 1001 MKV with a Jolida Fusion tube pre. Though I don't have the bottom octave, the bass I am presented with is very tight accurate and very suitable for most recordings (My musical tastes are also similar to yours). Highs are extended, character is somewhat warm, soundstage and imaging is holographic.

I believe there are many monitors, when used with appropriate stands, that would suit your needs and represent a good fit with your McCormack. 

Thank you, all, very much for the great replies – much appreciated!

Yakbob, the Gemme Audio Tanto V2 looks interesting and efficient.  Mattmiller, thanks for suggesting the various monitors.  Irish_tim, good to hear that the Vandersteens can handle hard rock.  Adg101, I like your ProAc pick.  Unsound, I hear your caveats including forward presentation.  Mesch, I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement.

Using smaller speakers due to my room limitations and speaker placement near the back wall makes sense based on space requirements for driver integration and issues with low frequency wave forms.  I hope to mitigate some of these limitations.  Speakers sit symmetrically in the room in an equilateral triangle with the listener of roughly 7’ per side.  I can tweak this placement a tad, sit a bit farther back (though I like to have some flexibility here), and potentially add some modest room treatments and eq down the line.

My biggest concern, however, is ensuring a full and authoritative bass. I don’t have pipe organ recordings to 20 Hz, but I am trying to stay fairly flat down to 30-35 Hz and get a full and big sound throughout.  I understand I may need to make trade offs to achieve this. I’ve read discussions on speaker and room size as well as subs vs full range and there seem to be a lot of differing opinions.  In general, I usually prefer the sound of bigger speakers (I guess I’m a bit old school?), but the current trend seems to support smaller systems for smaller rooms (for good reasons) and I’m willing to compromise.  Regarding subs, I’m willing to add a small one down the line if needed, but I’d like to try find the best solution without one first.

With all this in mind, perhaps I can seek a middle ground with smaller towers or larger monitors?  So far, I’d lean toward the ProAc Studio 200 or something similar.  Although the Dynaudio Special 25 looks sweet, I’m concerned with the rear port, borderline low end, and its higher cost. The Gemme Audio Tanto V2 looks great if I can get comfortable with its unusual build and single 6.5 mid/woofer, but it may be out of my price range unless I find a seller as kind as Yacbob!

I’d appreciate any more suggestions or thoughts!
Swingfingers, 30-35 Hz might be a tad ambitious. If you could open that 7' triangle to 8' it might avail you to more options, and good ones at that. I too would prefer smaller towers to stand mounts.
Unsound, thanks very much for the response. I can probably get close to 8’ as 7’ is an estimate and will depend on the footprint of the speakers, as well as their final placement (biggest issue is proximity to back wall). On the other hand, I’d prefer not to be locked in to too tiny a sweet spot. (I’ve always wondered, for example, how to listen together with a friend or spouse to speakers that only sound good if your head is motionless in a precise location).  Do you have any specific models of smaller towers you could recommend?


I could really use the help as this is probably the most important decision for the system. Perhaps I should have changed the subject to small towers with strong bass and big sound for a smallish room? Any more ideas or thoughts would be greatly appreciated!