McCormack DNA 0.5 vs. Parasound HCA 2003

Hello, I've been using the DNA 0.5 for 6 years but recently bought some Vandersteen 3A Sigs and might be running into power problems. I like to listen at rather high volume levels but cannot because the system is too bright and the treble hurts my ears. I can trade about even up for a Parasound HCA 2003 which has 200wpc vs the 0.5's 100wpc. The preamp is a CJ Premier 14. Any thoughts? Thank you
Are your Vandersteen 3A Sigs brand new? If so, you should let them burn-in for a hundred hours or so. If not, have you tried adjusting the treble control on the back or adjusted the tilt? Instructions on the proper tilt can be found in the user's manual.

My McCormack DNA-0.5 drives the Vandersteen 2ce sig II's just fine, but I've never heard it with the 3A Sigs. Do they also sound bright at lower listening volumes?
My DNA-0.5 drove my 3A Sigs much louder than I cared to listen and I never thought of them as bright. Is the brightness the only reason you think the amp may be running out of steam? In addition to the treble control and tilt that Jebe1 mentioned, toe-in can also be important. I ran mine with no toe-in.
Thank you for your responses. The Vandy's were store demo models and I've owned them for 6 months so they should be broken in. I've turned the treble adjustment all of the way down and it makes no difference. They do not sound bright at low or moderate listening levels. Yes, the brightness is the only reason I think the amp may not have enough power, perhaps a goofy assumption but my audio dealer suggested that. I'll adjust the tilt and fire them straight ahead instead of the toe in I have now. I'm going to demo the Parasound but I believe McCormack amps are probably superior.
Sounds like you gentlemen would concur with that.
I wouldn't say Vandies are bright. What cables are you using?
Tim, I've not heard the Parasound but the McCormack is hard to beat in its price range. Another thought is that the Vandys are a more revealing speaker than most folks give them credit for. Your preamp is very good. I assume you were running the McCormack with it previously and liked the combination. Other variables are the cables that you are using and whether or not you are conditioning the power in any way. As your system becomes more revealing, these things start to matter.
This sounds very strange to me, especially since in my experience the 3A Sigs are not bright sounding speakers at all. What are you using for a front end and cables/interconnects? I'm almost wondering if there's something wrong with one of the components or the speakers. I'd try another amp just to see what happens and go from there, but something just doesn't seem right here.

Just out of curiosity, what speakers were you using before?
I haven't heard the 3A sigs in a while, but Richard Vandersteen has been continually modifying them without changing the model number. If your pair is less than one year old, it could have the same drivers as the 5A and would be more revealing than a pair of 3A sigs that are more than five years old.

What speaker cables, interconnects, and CD player are you using (or are you playing vinyl)?
Years ago I replaced a Parasound HCA 2200 II with a McCormack DNA-1. The difference was pretty substantial. The guy that came to buy the Parasound amp almost walked away from the deal when he heard the DNA-1 in comparison.

Hello Irish Tim -

The DNA-0.5 does a fine job with most speakers in most situations, but it does have its limits. Your comments offer some useful clues as to what the problem might be, and it is possible that the DNA-0.5 does not have enough power in this instance. As you stated, "They do not sound bright at low or moderate listening levels." I know from long experience that the DNA-0.5 drives the 3As well up to moderate levels, but the 3As are considerably more demanding than the model 2s or 1Cs. I suspect that the "brightness" you hear is actually overload or clipping distortion, and moving to a higher-powered amp will probably alleviate this. The problem may turn-out to be finding a more powerful amp that you both like sonically and can afford. I wish you the best with your search. I will add that it is possible to upgrade your DNA-0.5 with a much larger power transformer which significantly increases its current delivery and its ability to drive more difficult speakers. Please contact me if you would like further information.

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
SMc Audio
Well thank you very much for your responses and I am thrilled that Steve McCormack himself sent me a note. I'll try to address everything. First of all Steve, yes please send me info on the upgrade. I'm listening to "Kind of Blue" right now at a slightly more than moderate volume level and Miles and even Coltrane are starting to hurt my ears. Perhaps it's the silver interconnects. They're of the home-made variety from some dude on the net, but I enjoyed them with my previous speakers, Totem Tabu's for 5 years, and I would never say that that combo was bright. Speaker cables are MIT 3's, not great but ok. I listen to cd's with an Arcam 73, again not great but only $200 slightly used. I listen to albums with a CJ PV5 and that phono stage is warm and beautiful, however when I use that pre with cd's it's even brighter than the premier. I just turned the volume to moderate and Miles is still killing my ears. Again thanks for your thoughts and if you care to share more that would be great. BTW Jeb1 the drivers are the same as the 5A. Tim
Hi IrishTim

You can't message members anymore since the Audiogon website upgrade. Check out the SMc Audio website and the Contact Us tab on the left.

Kris or Steve will get back to you quickly. I've contacted SMc this way many times with no issue.
(((They're of the home-made variety from some dude on the net,))
Try running Copper from one well known company all the way thru
Like Kimber tonik timber or Heros as interconnects
and 12 TC double Bi wire as speaker wire
It should make the other design cables sound broken.
Pull out a bubble level Do the side to side speaker level with correct spacers on the front spikes.
When you finish the side to side level adjust the tilt back with a laser a sharpie pen and a couple post it notes
make a circle where the laser lands behind your listening chair so you can nail both speakers with the same tilt back then adjust both to your liking.
put on some live music now sit on a pillow,then sit normal, then slouch down in chair when you find it sounds best add or subtract both speakers rear spacers till its best at your normal seating position.
Hope you also read the well written Vandy manual on the odd number grid position system.
PS with the older CJ PV 5 or any with non polarized AC plugs make sure you insert the AC cord into the wall both ways and take a listen and one way will sound best
then mark it as such
Best JohnnyR
Hello again Tim -

Reading your follow-up comments makes me think that the problem may not be clipping or specifically power-related after all. Apparently your LP listening via the PV5 is "warm and beautiful," and this suggests that the amp and speakers are working well together under some circumstances. My own experience tells me that this combination should work well up to moderate volume levels and even somewhat beyond. If you want to really crank it, you may still want to look into upgrading or changing the amp, but you should be able to get very satisfying sound at anything less than high SPL. So it may be that some other factors are causing your problems, and other responses here have provided some good options to look into. It still seems to me that you are reacting to distortion of some sort, or what I might call "glare." But if your LP listening is enjoyable, why are you having so much trouble with CDs? Sure, I would expect some difference, but to jump from "good" to "bad" seems odd. Some experimentation is called for, and it looks like you are on the case. Speaker setup and room treatment are fundamentally important, as others here have already suggested. Trying other cables may tell you something helpful, but if your LP sound is good, then the cables seem to be working well in some sense. You might try another CD player to give you some idea of what the Arcam is contributing. Good luck in the search, and have fun!

You can contact me via my website for more info on the upgrade options - thanks.

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
SMc Audio
Steve brought up a good point. Also, anyone know if the Totem Tabu's are a harder or easier load than the Vandys? If they're comparable that would also seem to call into question that this could be a power issue.