McCormack ALD-1 question

What exactly is happening in the active mode compared to the passive mode on a McCormack ALD-1? Active what? thanks in advance
I am responding planning on getting ripped because I don't know all exactly. But at least if I do say something, and write an erroneous post, maybe someone will feel compelled to respond to your question and straighted me out. Sort of unclog things. This is the desired result.

My understanding is there are two stages active and passive. In passive there is regular?? and buffered mode. Active first.

In the active mode, the pre ads a little gain to the incoming signal (sort of boosts it some) before it sends it on its way to the amp. Similar to the booster signal in a phono stage, and much needed to amplify the signal picked up by a phono cartridge. Without the boost (added gain) from the phono, you would not hear much. With the ALD, it just starts with a stronger signal (from the CD player, say) and ads less boost. This should be louder than the passive mode, and maybe a little different sound. Here's why,

The passive stage, in contrast, ads no gain. That gain signal can sometimes color sound and as such, the passive mode it is the pure way to go. It takes the incoming signal, ads nothing, and sends it on its way. Neutral and passive.

The buffered option (only available to the passive section) is. . . I don't know. Most say they can't tell a difference between the passive buffered, and the passive unbuffered. I ran my TLC-1 for a long time (same passive stage as your ALD) w/o even ever knowing which I was in (buffered/unbuffered). Now I hope I'm right, but if I'm wrong, let it rip.
The ALD-1 is a "conventional" preamp, meaning that it has an active gain stage with about +12dB of gain. It is unconventional in that it also has both buffered and unbuffered input paths, buffered tape output, a completely passive (no active gain circuit at all) output path, and balanced outputs (active only). So, to answer your specific question, when you listen through the passive outputs, the signal comes directly from the volume control (literally a straight-wire path). When you listen through the active outputs, the signal is being fed from the volume control into a gain stage that amplifies the signal before it is fed to the output jacks - which is typical of most preamp designs. There are strengths and weaknesses in both systems (active and passive), but most preamps offer one style or the other - the ALD-1 is one of the few designs offering both in the same package.

I hope this has answered your question. If you need more information, please contact me directly at

Steve McCormack, designer
McCormack Audio Corp.
SMc Audio
WOW! I thought I might draw out an answer or two, but never in my wildest imagination did I think I could pull that off! That's just like hearing from Elvis or something, only different. One more reason in an already long list explaining why I am a fan of McCormack Audio (even if I don't know how it works). Thanks Steve.
Hi big Mac, good to see you at Audiogon.
Thanks for the response Steve-it's a great pre-amp and I also own the DNA-1 deluxe (bought from Chstob when he went multi-channel) which I think is a fantastic amp.
Hi Steve, I would like to thank you for your excellent audio designs. I own a SST-1 Transport, DAC-1 Deluxe Edition, TLC-1 Deluxe Edition and DNA-2. I'm totally satisfied with these products and look forward to revision A upgrade for DNA-2. It's great to see you take time to respond. I will continue to support your product line. sincerely, Don.
I want to thank you all for your kind words and your support. I don't know that I will be able to post here often, but I'll try to cruise by every now-and-then to see if someone needs factual information about my equipment. Many of the questions here are of the "how does amplifier X compare to Y and Z?" variety, and I will not enter into those discussions - that's up to you guys to sort-out ;-)

Incidentally, I just ran across the "McCormack Amps: highly overrated?" thread from September of last year. Wow! I must say it feels a little strange being the subject of such an exchange... I laughed, I cried, I threw-up ;-) But, in the end, it feels great to receive so much support from you guys - THANKS A LOT!!! It seems to me that most of you have figured-out that no piece of equipment is going to please everyone, and it is up to us as individuals to seek-out equipment that works for us and our systems. When it comes to enjoying music, no one's opinion matters as much as your own.

Thanks for listening.

Steve McCormack, designer
McCormack Audio Corp.
SMc Audio