Amp upgrade recommendations

I am considering having a pair of DNA 0.5s upgraded to Rev A and converted to monoblocks to run balanced off of my BAT VK3i, which is driven by a CAL CL-10/Classe' DAC also running balanced. Speakers are Vandersteen 3Asigs. Or I could sell the amps and buy something else. The mono-block conversion and upgrade is $1800; amps would yield about $1400-1500.00 (one is already Rev B) if I sold them. Any thoughts on which route might be better? I do not want to get involved with a tube power amp. Thanks for your ideas.
As I'm sure you are aware the DNA 0.5 has a somewhat of legendary reputation. If you don't need the raw power, then a REV A upgrade could be just what the doctor ordered.

Personally, I would want to ensure I have the power reserves for dynamic peaks, etc.. If it were me, I'd look into a DNA-1 Rev A or DNA-2 REV A. One DNA-1 Rev A could still be within your budget.

And as for the DNA-2 Rev A? It doesn't get much better than that.

My only listening experience is with the DNA-2 LAE, but I like to read.

I highly recommend moving to a GamuT D-200 amp.
This amp is the best value going on the used market at $2500 or so used.
I know a guy who paired it with Vanderstein 5's and he loved it. He moved from it to a Spectral amp because all of the rest of his components were Spectral.

If you do not have a hard load to drive it is very difficult to beat the GamuT amp, at any price. I would love to have someone evaluate it against Mcormick amps.

BTW TAS gave the D-200 the Golden Ear award in 2000. They compared it (very favorable) to the tube LAMM monoblocks hich run like $30k. This amp is very hard to beat, and it can be upgaded by Gamut quite easily as technology progresses.

I think Musical Fidelity has a $5k (new) integrated that's probably half that used that is virtually impossible to beat sonically right now! I've owned a few "class A" rated amps, and have dinked around with the McCormack's, and I don't think you'll get better sound than what Musical Fidelity(Or is it Mobile fidelity..I gorget Something like that anyway)
piece offers. Might look into it.
I personally don't think the McCormmack's are "the Cat's Pajamas", but that's me. Infact, my old Threshold T200(class A rated) was better than anything that McCormack made. The T200 is the best SS amp at around $1500 used.
Good Luck
Fiscally speaking you'd be best to sell the DNA 0.5's and buy another used amps. I agree with most of the reco's here, I haven't heard the Musical Fidelity. I also agree with hifiguy, I have a Threshold T400 which I like better than the McCormack IMS. McCormack is a nice SS amp, but to spend $1800 upgrading it, you would never recoup that money if you decide in another year or so. I'd sell and go with the more expensive McCormack's (if you like that sonic signature) or a GamuT, Classe, Threshold or Rowland, IMHO.
Why not just buy one of his DNA-125's or 225's? According to Steve, they are better than buying one of his older ones as he was limited by price structure. You can buy a used 125 on here for around $1000.
For the money,why not look at a Plinius SA-250,Pass X-350 or the newly listed MBL.You are going to want a fair amount of power for the Vandys.Going to a class A biased amp will be a revelation on these speakers.I like the Gamut amp,but you push it and it loses its' composure-I can see why it would work well with the VA 5s=powered bottom end.Happy hunting! Tom
I had a DNA 1 for about 2 years and it is a good amp.However it is not as refined or detailed as the Krell KSA 250 not even by a small margin and not as liquid or sweet as any of the Aleph series amps from Pass Labs. My suggestion would be to look for a used Plinius SA 100, similar in sound to the McCormick but much more refined ,Pass labs or a Krell KSA 250. These three amps have deeper sound staging than the DNA. I ve always found the DNA to be rahter forward in there presentation. All three of these amps are very versatile and flexible with a wide range of speakers I haved used them on Ribbons, Hibrids and Cone speakers with excellent results.
Consider a Classe CA-301 power amplifier. I believe about $5K --new. An amazing amplifier that sounds even better in balanced operation.

peter jasz
Consider a Classe CA-301 power amplifier. I believe about $5K --new. An amazing amplifier that sounds even better in balanced operation.

peter jasz
There appears to be some confusion with McCormack amps. I'm not exactly a McCormack amp expert but while thoroughly enjoying my own McCormack amplifier, I've done some research and had a few converstions with people in the know.

Here's how I see the McCormack line-up.

Several years ago Stereophile rated the unmodified DNA 0.5 (msrp around $2k) a competitive second to the Krell Audio Standard amp which sold for about $33k. Therefore, a modified DNA 0.5 Rev should be pretty fabulous sonically.

From what I've read and heard (from others) the DNA-1 and DNA-2 standard and deluxe version amps are fine amps but should in no way be confused with the same models once smcaudio has modified those amps to a Rev A.

According to reviews and consumer remarks, the DNA-125 and 225 models also appear to be solid performers. Whether these are better or worse than the DNA-1 and DNA-2 standard and deluxe models I don't know. My hunch is the DNA-1 and DNA-2 would be superior but it's just a hunch. The DNA-1 and DNA-2 models are at least more powerful wpc-wise than the later 125 and 225 models.

The DNA-2 LAE (Limited Anniversary Edition) amplifier is, according to IAR's Peter Moncrief, far superior to other DNA amps as well as most every other amp period. Moncrief said of this amp "This power amp does everything a solid state amp is supposed to do, and does it better than any other solid state."

My understanding, talking with McCormack and owners of the DNA-2 Rev A amps, is that a modified DNA-2 to a Rev A or Rev Gold version would put it's sonics equal to or just slightly ahead of the DNA-2 LAE version.

Consider the Classe line, the CA-201, CA-301, or their CAM monoblocks. These amps receive some of their big brother's Class 'A' technology. There is no need to have them modified, they are some of the finest sounding amps right out of the box (except for their break in period).
Just a Clarification, The DNA-225 (225@8ohms) is rated higher wpc than the DNA-1 (185@8ohms)of yesteryear.

I personally own the DNA-225. I was in the market and looking at all the models. I was very interested in the DNA-1 REV A but for the same price I could get the DNA-225. The DNA-225 is rated higher wpc, (actually does more like 250+ per channel from reading stereophile reviews). But right from the factory, the amplifier comes with equivlavent of better than a REV B mods.

I've opened up my DNA-225 and looked around very carefully. This thing is extremly built tough like a tank and its like you can almost feel the power and control this amplifier without even hooking it up to speakers!

I am very happy with my DNA-225 and compare it to levinsons and krell out there. One thing I do know is that this amplifier has CONTROL. It just drives my Studio 80's to dynamically painful listening levels. It also takes control of the bass output making it sound like I have a dedicated subwoofer. I did upgrade the power cable and that made a great difference.

The DNA-225 seems like it has unlimited power IMOH. My speakers cant take what this amp can give them. I could only imagine what the DNA-500 would do!

Contrary to popular beleif the GamuT D200 has a lot of power. The amp has 200wpc into 8 ohms. 400 Watts into 4 ohms and can deliver close to 50amps of current. This is not a D100, you really have to push this amp for it to loose composure. Your Vandy 3A's will be no problem for this amp.

Also, I have compared directly Plinius amplification and the GamuT D200. IMHO the Plinius only has the bottom end over the GamuT. Everything else, the GamuT does better. Plinius sound is muddier and darker than GamuT sound. Unless you get a New Plinius 102 amp. I have heard that this amp they fixed a lot of flaws SA100 series has. I do not want to knock Plinius too much, I had 2 SA100 mk3's in MONO for a few years, and I will tell you... for driving Magnapan 3.6's it is very difficult to find getter more powerful amps for the price of used SA100 mk3 amps. These amps could drive my Maggies like no other amps I ever had (665 wpc into 4 ohms). The thing about the Maggies is that they are not dark sounding speakers (especially if you remove the tweeter resistor). The darkness of the Plinius amps is counteracted by the 3.6's to produce an extraordinary good sound. I would not recommend Plinius power with too many other speakers.

Pass would be an interesting comparison to the GamuT. So would McCormick.

The D200 amp sounds nothing like any other solid state or tube amp I have heard. And people are giving them away for $2600 used. I find this amazing...

Asi Tek, sorry for the confusion. My intention was to compare the DNA-1 to the DNA-125 and then the DNA-2 to the DNA-225 respectively. This, I believe, is the correct comparison for these older models to the newer.

Glad you like your 225 so much.
Thanks. No problem!

DNA-225 is a great amp!
At the risk of nit picking I'd like to add a minor addition to Stehno and Asi_tek's dialog: Based on discussions with Steve McCormack and a variety of others the SMc Rev. B modded amps are "similar" to the newer production models. That's because several of the Rev. B upgrades were incorporated in the new products. Calling them "equal" is a bit of a misnomer as they do not sound the exactly the same. Which is better, of course, will depend on the listener's preferences and the associated gear.

For more information do a search on Audiogon; there's been a lot of commentary on the entire DNA series as well as the SMcAudio mods.
Stehno, If I sent a DNA-2 LAE to SMc Audio for any revision, whether it's a C, B, or A, I would expect a significantly improved amp in return. I do not think they would offer the revision if they were sending back an amp that was equal to what the owners had in the first place. If you put an additional $2500 into an already excellent amp, you should expect to be amazed with the result.
The cost of the Rev A,B,or C are the same for either a Deluxe or LAE because the stock factory upgraded parts that set the LAE apart from the Deluxe are scrapped. The DNA-2 Standard (of which there were few made)costs more for the upgrade because it takes more parts and labor to bring it up to the level of the other two. The most common DNA-2 is the Deluxe.
Whatever model they start with, all Rev A amps are essentially the same. That is, not taking the Gold options into consideration.

Peter Moncrieff, in that IAR review, compared the LAE to a DNA-2 Standard, as well as many other amps from other manufacturers. He did not have a DNA-2 Deluxe on hand for that review. What I have been told is there is a greater improvement in a Rev A than the difference between the LAE and Deluxe. Still, it would be a difficult decision to send an LAE back for an upgrade since it's already an excellent amp and having a larger investment in it already. I would pick up a cheaper DNA-2 Dlx or Std and send it back for the upgrade instead.
Eagle, I'm well aware(I was a year ago anyway) of what goes on with the Rev A, B, & C's to the DNA-2 standard, Deluxe, and LAE.

It's just hard for me to believe that Steve could improve upon one of his products that has already reached perfection. :)

And yes, if I were to obtain a Rev A upgrade, I would most definitely purchase a standard DNA-2 and send that in for the upgrade and keep the LAE version as is.

No amplifier is perfect or has reached perfection.

The moment you think your amp is perfect, try it with a different set of speakers or different preamp. It will not work with everything equally well. That would be perfection if it did.

I have heard a lot of amps in the past 16 years, and I would not call any of them perfect or having reached perfection.

The inherent problem with amps is that as an amp's power is increased, some low level detail/musical transparency is almost always given up. One may not realize this if they have been brought up on huge 100wpc+ solid state amps. Try listening to a nice 1 wpc SET tube amp connected to some 100db+ sensitive speakers. You might be very amazed at the sound you get from a rig like this. I have friends that have been into audio since before I was born that swear by this setup.

The inherent problem with lower powered amps is just that. They do not have the power to drive many speakers out there. There just are not too many speakers made today that are 100db+ sensitive.

Anyway, before I go, I will give you a specific example... the Pass X-1000 amps or probably even the Pass X-600 amps will make the Magnapan 3.6's sing better than any McCormick amp made EVER (Rev A or LAE or otherwise). No ifs ands or buts. How do I know this? Well I have heard the Maggies driven with many many different amps. The best I have ever heard them is with Pass X-1000 amps. No 500 or 600 wpc amp can compare to the 2000wpc that the PASS monsters put out into the 3.6's. It just does not compare. Maggies love power and amps, and the more you feed them the better they sound. I use the Maggie 3.6's because Eagles has them, and I lived with a pair for 3 years (and I have many fond memories of them). McCormick amps are good at driving Maggies (and some versions are better than others), but there are deffinitly better amps out there for this application (certainly there are A LOT worse amps one could use than the McCormick). I am not gonna knock McCormick too much because those Pass X-1000 amps are insanely expensive when compared to any McCormick amp made. On the flip side, I would not be driving 100db+ sensitive speakers with a PASS X-1000 amps. So not even the X-1000 amps are 'perfect'.

Anytime, I hear anyone (especially quoted in a publication or proclaiming in a publication) say something is perfect or has reched perfection, a very big red flag goes up in my head, and I get really skeptical of what is being told to me.

Tok, chill out man. Didn't you notice the little smiley behind my comment?
Ok, sorry if I got a little too high on my soap box. I tend to get a bit carried away when folks throw the term 'perfection' around when describing audio components.

Even with smiley faces.

Some people actually beleive a lot of what they read in Audio rags. That in itself boggles my mind.

Musical audio sound is really all about synergy. Mating components together with the right cables and speakers to get the best sound from the system you have.

I will get down off my soapbox now.

I had your amp and went for more beef with a BAT VK500...I found it did everything the McCormack did only much better....IMHO
Swampwalker, Since you already have a pair of DNA-.5 it would make some sense to have them converted to mono if they will provide adequate power for your speakers. The pair would be easier to handle than a single DNA-2. I did not like the DNA-1 dlx monos (non-rev) as well as the DNA-2 dlx, but most reports I have heard is the DNA-.5 is a better sounding amp than the 1, and the same is said of the 125 over the 225.

Tok, This cracks me up:
"the Pass X-1000 amps or probably even the Pass X-600 amps will make the Magnapan 3.6's sing better than any McCormick amp made EVER (Rev A or LAE or otherwise). No ifs ands or buts. ..."
If I want cloves, I'll get McCormick. I'll Pass ;)
Some of the things I'm trying to get a handle on, and maybe I didn't post it clearly, are:
1. Is there a big advantage in the 0.5s monoblock conversion vs. using them in a vertical biamp mode? In addition to the increase in power, it would provide balanced operation.
2. Is this outweighed by the decreased usefulness of the amps which would have to be marketed as monopairs later.
3. Is there a big advantage in a fully balanced set-up. Maybe this is the first question, and then decide on the 0.5s or other power. I know the Gamut is balanced and the Classe' 301 can be run balanced (is it just XLR input, or is it a fully balanced circuit?).

Thanks for everyone's thoughts and help.
I agree with Tok2000. Nobody should ever rate their equipment or especially equipment that they have read about as being perfect. This is not the first time that this person has indicated that their equipment is perfect or the best (smiley faces or not). There are many different amps out there and not 1 will do justice for everybody or every situation. You need to go out and audition for yourself and if you think this sounds the best to you, great, buy it. But remember, because you cannot audition every amp out there, your neighbor across the street might have an amp that might be better suited to your setup than what you just purchased. That is the beauty (or curse) of this hobby. You can "always" upgrade in the future, even if it for a different sound: tube vs. ss, bi-amp, mono's, etc.....

based on your postings in this thread and some others, if I didn't know better I'd swear you are being stalked.

What up with that?

Billsfriend, yes I have been. I was wondering if anybody else would notice.

In fact, I kinda' feel like Michael Douglas in the movie 'Fatal Attraction'. I've received many downright nasty, even crazy emails from this person since last December.

AG has been fully aware of the situation for some time now and supposedly is monitoring it.

I just ignore it.
LLANO Trinity Series or the new amp at LLANO Designs.

The best amp I've ever heard is the Berning ZH-270.

I agree about the Synergy of a system also. I wish I'd never let go of my Rogue Mag LLANO Trinity Combo :(

I suspect if you can get a demo amp or find someone local who owns one you may be surprised how well it mates with a tube pre.

You may also want to consider the Belles 350A, I owned the 150A and prefered it to the PSAUDIO amp that was rated by Sam Class A Tellig....

Anyway goodluck and don't rule out the hybrids. Oh yeah the LLANO's are class A.