It's difficult to answer without knowing your speakers and their requirements.
I've owned a DNA-2 LAE and now a DNA-2 Rev A. The DNA-2 especially the Rev A are an excellent match for my Aerial 10T's which really come to life with more wpc.
If your speakers require lots of wpc, then one or two DNA-2 Rev A's or possibly two DNA-1 Rev A's should easily suffice.
Otherwise, if your speakers are more efficient, then one or two DNA-0.5's should suffice.
Don't know about converting two into monoblocks, but you most likely would be quite pleased with at least one Rev A/Rev A Gold upgrade.
The speakers I am using are Roman Audio Centurions, they are rated at 93db. They don't require a lot of power, but will handle tremendous amounts.
I had my DNA 0.5 dlx upgraded this year to revC+, a worthwhile improvement. But if you're looking for more power, sweet as it is, the upgrade won't make the 0.5 any stronger.
It would make sense to me to get the DNA amp that by itself gives you all the power you need (dna 1 or 2), then have that one amp upgraded to revA, rather than spending twice as much for the upgrades to two separate amps, plus the monoblock conversions and the purchase price of two as well. After upgrade, the 0.5 and 1 should sound very similar, though your setup would better define whether monoblocks would offer any better sound over a single amp.
Your best resource may actually be Steve M. himself as you seem wedded to his amps to begin with: I found him very straight-up and unbiased, and certainly he knows more than any of us about how to most effectively use his amps. I might also suggest just buying a dna-225 for both power and sound for far less money...
I used to own (wish I still did) a DNA .05 that I had upgraded to the Rev. A. It was (and still is, I'm sure)an outstanding amp in every respect. SMC is very easy to deal with and Steve is easy to get in touch with. I wouldn't hesitate calling him at all. I have changed amps several times just to get different flavors for my own experience, and unfortunately I couldn't afford to keep the DNA and buy anything else. Still I have nothing but fond memories...
I truly believe that the DNA .5 is overall the best sounding of the McCormack series (and yes, I have owned them all, in fact, a few more than once)The upgrade to Rev.A will remove the remaining tiny little bit of grain and allow for a touch deeper soundstage. One caveat, the revision does make changes for the better overall but it is not a leap into nirvana. I have known some who didn't like the revision when they got it back. Whether they gave it sufficient break-in I don't know. It does make a difference. Before, and I know, like me, you like McCormack, you might want to look at a few more amps before you spend the money.
To give you an example, I was using a pair of DNA .5 Deluxe amps to biamp my Vandersteen 3A Signatures. I was using an Audible Illusions preamp. I too, contemplated upgrading the 2 amps at a cost of about $2800 at the time. The amps themselves sold for $1495 each and had a current market value of about $700. I decided after reading Richard Hardesty's review of the Theta Dreadnaught to purchase one and give it a go. Man, what a move. I went with 4-200 watt modules for biamping. It was probably the best move I ever made. It enhances the basic McCormack sound to a genuine higher plateau. More transparency, bigger soundstage, pretty much, you name it. I then tried a borrowed revision A McCormack. I went to 2-ch on the Dreadnaught to make it fair. As much as I hate to say this, the comparison ended pretty quick. The bottom line for me was, the 4-ch Theta cost me $3900. A 2-ch at the time was $2700. These are with discounts through the "Sound Broker" brand new in the box. The Theta is a better sounding amp hands down!
The point is, I would look around a little before spending the bucks.
As for converting to a mono block, I would just go with the DNA 1. Even though I don't feel the DNA 1 sounds as good in direct comparison to the .5, you will negate some of the sound of the .5 doing this to where they both will sound similiar.
The new DNA's are excellent amps but I feel do not sound overall as good as the older amps. The new amps use a DC blocking cap in the input and you can hear it. They simplified the circuit somewhat.
Just my opinions for what there worth. I'm sure someone will come back with some other ideas.
With 93db efficient speakers, I question the need for another amp - much less a conversion to monoblocs on top of that. (You do realize you can use two stereo amps on a pair of speakers without converting them to monoblocs.)
IMO, you would be better served allocating that money to upgrading your existing .5 to the max - Rev A Gold. In particular, you can now get the Plitron toroid transformer for the .5 which significantly improves bass performance (among other things) and makes the .5 seem even more powerful. Also, I would strongly suggest the soft recovery diode upgrade. You won't even recognize the sound of your old amp after these upgrades.
One other thing. If you still want more power and upgrades, I would stick with adding a .5 versus just getting the bigger models. The primary reason is that shipping a .5 to get upgraded does not require crating and is much less susceptible to shipping damage via regular means. In addition, two DNA.5 probably sound a little better than one DNA 1 due strictly to the traditional benefits of biamping.
Just call Steve and talk to him about your possible options. He is very down to earth guy and I'm sure he will give you all your pros and cons.
I'm taking the upgrade plunge, or rocket. I just purchased two DNA-1 amps that were originally produced as mono-blocks and had them sent to SMc for the rev A+. My speakers are Eggleston Andras, which are power hungry, thus I chose the 1’s over the .5’s. It actually costs about the same to upgrade two 1's for mono rev A as it does to upgrade one 2 for rev A.
two DNA-1’s 1,500 (for two amps)
mono conversion 450 (per pair)
rev a upgrade 2,400 (for two amps)
total 4,350 (of course now you have to look at used Pass X-350’s and so on for this price)
one DNA-2 1,250
rev a upgrade 2,950
However, the difference between two .5’s and one 1 appears to be more substantial:
Two DNA- .5’s 1,000
Rev a upgrade 2,000
Mono conversion 450
One DNA-1 750
Rev a upgrade 1,200
Rather than upgrading your current .5, you can look for a used .5 rev a. I see there is one pending sale here on agon for 1,200.
For me, I’m very optimistic about a mono config's ability to better handle the low-end frequencies. Plus I admit, I just like the idea of two amps. Just thought I’d share my reasoning with your similar questions on options. Until I actually receive the amps, that’s all I can share. It’s a tough call to purchase a product and service/upgrade based solely on personal reviews and reputation. Crossing my fingers.
Hi Zach; if you really love your DNA-0.5, then you would REALLY REALLY love the DNA-0.5 Rev A Gold. I recently had a .5 upgraded to .5 Gold, and it's the best amp I've ever heard-- bar none (well, the DNA-2 Rev A is as good if you need/want the power).
I use the .5 Gold on the easy to drive Vand. 5 speakers (6 Ohm nominal, 4 Ohm min., and about 87-88 dB sensitivity). I should note that the Vand. 5s have built in 400 wpc amps to drive their built in subwoofers. As your speakers are also apparently easy to drive (what is the resistance range in Ohms?) the .5 Gold would have no trouble-- it will put out 200 wpc+ into 4 Ohms.
I could use all the audiophile terms that express greatness in an amp because the DNA-0.5 Gold has them all, and it's a big step up from the already very good std. and Dlx .5 amps. But mostly, the DNA-0.5 Gold is the most musical amp I've ever used. The mid-range can be breathtaling, especially on ballads-- female or male, and on hard driving R&R, rhythm (PR&T) and dynamics are excellent-- just to name a couple of strengths.
The main advantage of mono-blocs IMO (if you don't need the power) is that you can set the amps right next to the speakers and use very short speaker cables.
As Sdecker recommends above, give Steve McCormack a call at SMc and discuss your needs.
I've used (long term) the DNA-1 Dlx, DNA.5 std. and Dlx, DNA-2 Dlx, DNA-2 Rev A, and finally the DNA-0.5 Rev A Gold. My opinion? If you don't really need the power, go for the DNA-0.5 Rev A GOLD. If you do need the power, go for the DNA-2 Rev A or better. It's as good as the .5 Gold.
I need to get around to writing an Audiogon review of the DNA-0.5 Gold;>). Cheers. Craig
Garfish is right. There is no question that a 0.5 sounds better than a 1.0. The Rev A+ with soft recovery diode is amazing. Maybe start with one and then add another to bi-amp, assumming your speakers are made for it. SMc will wire the inputs together so you can just use one cable per side, for a vertical bi-amp config (one amp per channel). With your high efficency speakers, I can't imagine you needing more than the 100 wpc @ 8 ohms, and you can easily go up to bi-amped 0.5s which Steve will tell you will sound much better than a single 1.0. In fact, I am about to send one of my 0.5s in to go up to A+, and then will bi-amp my Vandersteen 3Asigs. Steve does seem to be a fan of mono-blocking a pair of 0.5s, but then you are going to hurt re-sale or limit your ability to use them as stereo amps w/o re-converting them. But if you want a balanced configuration, monoblocks conversion of a pair costs the same as doing one stereo amp.
If the single stereo DNA.5 is satisfactory for sound level with your speakers, get all the SMc upgrades you can for the one amp except the mono conversion. Get a good power cord on it and enjoy. If it was the choice of getting two DNA.5 Rev A monos or a single DNA.5 Gold...go for the gold! You will know it's the upgrades that have improved the sound and can decide later to go Gold monos if you wanted more power. If you do both monos and upgrades at the same time you won't know which improved the sound more (if that's important).
Have you ever heard your speakers with 200w or 300w power?
You have received somer very good advice, the best of which was to call Steve McCormack at SMc. He is very accessible and helpful. Let us know how you make out.
Labtec sez: "In particular, you can now get the Plitron toroid transformer for the .5 which significantly improves bass performance (among other things) and makes the .5 seem even more powerful."
Is this a fact? I notice the website says it availale only for the 1.0. This would eb good news if available and may well change my thinking strategy......
I spoke to Steve about 2 weeks regarding upgrading my .5 Rev A to a maxxed Rev A Gold. The Plitron toroid transformer is available for the .5. He has not updated the website to reflect the availability.
Hello friends -
Maggieowner is correct - the Plitron toroid transformer upgrade is now available for the DNA-0.5. The cost is $450 when done as part of an upgrade. While this transformer makes a very nice improvement to the DNA-1, its effect on the DNA-0.5 is startling.
I need to update my website with this info and several other tidbits, but I am so busy it's hard to find the time! Please call me if you have questions or just want to discuss getting the best from your McCormack gear. My office number is 760-732-0352, and the best time to call is after 10AM PST (California).
Best to all,