McCormack DNA500 and DNA2

Hi everybody, this is my first post here and the question I'd like to ask is what is the difference between these two units McCormack DNA 500 and DNA2. I think I've set my eyes on one of these units, just don't know which one to pick. Any comments are welcome.
I am running the DNA-500 with a VTL 5.5 pre to Maggie 3.6R's. I call it the velvet hammer, because the more the Maggie's ask for, the more you have to give. I also have a DNA-225 and DNA-1 Deluxe that I use with some Martin Logan's, but they are boys compared to this MAN. They are toys compared to the 500, although I loved each on the way to affording the DNA-500. I never had the DNA-2, but unless it's Steve's gold or plantinum edition, I think you'd probably be better off with the DNA-500. I do run it straight into it's own 20 Amp circuit so it has juice to go, with a Synergistic Master Couple PC. The question I'd ask would be what other components/speakers are you putting in front and behind it too? It matches with some things better than others, like everything in this busines.
Thanks for the comment Rootman. I'm actually in process of building my 2 channel system. Speakers are Dali Helicon 800 MKII, no pre yet, no CD player either. At first I thought I could do a temporary system, just kind of "something" for the time being until I figure out what to do but I think this (McCormack)is the direction I want to go. There is a DNA2 for sale here but I can't get any info on it, the ad says it has some upgrades but nothing specific and the seller doesn't know either. I wrote to SMc Audio asking for any type of info on it but so far no reply. I wander if there was a way of determining if this unit was upgraded just from looking at pictures but then again I don't know what to look for. I too think that it would be great if this unit was already upgraded.
Call Steve McCormack and give him the serial number of the amp. If he's done upgrades, he'll have the info for you. He keeps meticulous records.

He also is quick to respond.
Hi Topsel -

Sorry if I missed your e-mail question. I see that you currently have options here on Audiogon for both a DNA-500 and a DNA-2 LAE (limited Anniversary Edition). Both are fine amplifiers with a lot of power and either one might work well for you, but there are differences...

First of all, the DNA-2 LAE being offered has not been upgraded - it is in stock form except for some gold binding posts that have been added to the normal custom speaker connections (per the photos). I daresay these were added for convenience, and they may be used or removed as you prefer.

The DNA-2 is an older design that dates from the mid-'90s, and is essentially a higher performance redesign of the DNA-1. The driver circuitry is dual-mono, and the outputs are each double the size of the DNA-1 (16 output devices per side as opposed to 8). This along with the very large toroid power transformer allows the DNA-2 to deliver 300W per channel (8 Ohms) minimum. It is also fairly large and heavy (no surprise there) and runs rather warm, although it includes a standby circuit that reduces the bias (and thus the heat) when the amp is not in use. The LAE version was fitted with a lot of premium-grade parts (particularly Vishay S-102 bulk-metal-foil resistors), thicker circuit boards, custom speaker terminals (which require a hex wrench to operate), and a thicker, gold-embossed faceplate. Like all DNA-2s it has both balanced and unbalanced inputs that are selected via an internal jumper.

The sound of the DNA-2 is best characterized as clean, open, and relaxed, with tremendous dynamics when required. Bass is deep and powerful, but is a bit rich, with a bit of added warmth in the upper-bass / lower-mid region. This warmth can be very engaging in the right system. Focus and clarity are excellent, and the soundstage is open and deep.

On the other hand, the DNA-500 is a much newer design that I did for McCormack Audio of VA around 2001. Unlike ALL of the other DNA amps, the 500 is fully balanced / differential. Among other things, this allows it to deliver more power than the DNA-2 in a smaller-overall package, with considerably less heat. The input is transformer-coupled which eliminates DC or RFI problems, allows for a simpler, cleaner input topology, and handles both balanced and unbalanced inputs via the same path. The 500 is more tonally neutral than the DNA-2, and in my opinion "gets out of the way" more completely - something I like very much. Rootmann's descriptive term "velvet hammer" sums it up pretty well - the 500 never gets frazzled or seems like it's running out of gas. Whatever the music demands, there it is. The DNA-500 has a 10KOhm input impedance, which is low enough that some tube preamps and resistor-based passive units won't mate well, so you do have to pay attention to proper impedance matching. Your preamp should have an output impedance of about 800 Ohms or less to do the job properly.

That's it in a nutshell - both amps are very good, and both will drive any speaker you choose.

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
SMc Audio
On a somewhat related note:

What is the better unit, DNA-125 Platinum or DNA-500? This is, assuming of course, that you don't have current-hungry speakers that drop into the low impedance range. Have been looking my DNA-125 upgraded down the line somewhere, but at the going rate of the 500, they are nearly priced out the same these days. Any sonic differences? I would assume, that due to typical dealer markup, that the Platinum 125 would have better parts. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean it sounds better....
Well thank you very much for this very insightful description and I'm sorry for not responding to your post earlier (family functions can take a lot of time). I should mention that I'm extremely flattered that you in person replied to my question and I think it speaks volumes about you and your dedication to your own creations. Back to business now ) I wish I could hear both of them then decide which works best for me but I think the DNA500 might have the edge over the DNA2 just based on your description, I might be wrong but as once someone said finding the right sound is a journey no a destination. In terms of the preamp I think something like Modwirght SWL9.0 should do the trick, what other preamps would you or anybody here recommend that work well with this amp?
And maybe just one more question, ho do the upgraded DNA225 to platinum and the DNA500 compare?
It is difficult to write a detailed description of the differences between the DNA-500 and my Platinum upgrades to the DNA-125 or 225, so I'll keep this brief and encourage you to call me if you would like further detail.

The DNA-500 is an outstanding amplifier by any measure, and is the only fully balanced / differential amp that I have designed. When it comes to power delivery and control of difficult speakers, the 500 is second to none. It also comes from the factory with a very good set of parts.

The Platinum upgrades allow me to rebuild my earlier designs to a far higher level of performance, and I feel that the Platinum amps can compete with the finest amps in the world. The Platinum upgrades achieve a degree of refinement that is world-class, and does go somewhat beyond the DNA-500. However, when it comes to power and bass control, you would have to go to a monoblock pair of 125s or 225s to hit the performance level of the DNA-500. On the other hand, if your speakers aren't terribly demanding the 125 or 225 may deliver everything you're looking for.

Topsel, as you suggest, the choice of preamp is an important part of the equation. The Modwright is certainly an excellent choice and will match well with any of my amps. Although I try to steer clear of making outright recommendations, I have to say that the combination of the DNA-500 and the Modwirght SWL9.0 ought to be fantastic. But then again, the DNA-2 LAE is no slouch, either ;-)

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
SMc Audio
Good stuff Steve....

I don't think answers can get much better than that.
I have a Modwright Signature 9.0 w/NOS tubes I am putting into my system today. I will let you know how it meshes with the DNA-125.
The Modwright preamps work very well with the DNA 500. I own the DNA 500 and used it with the Modwright 9.0 preamp and then more recently with the Modwright LS 36.5 with external power supply.

The DNA 500 is great amp.
Well, 2 days listening to the Modwright 9.0 Signature w/NOS Tung Sol and Sylvania recitifer, and it sounds like a perfect match for the DNA-125 rev. Gold. This is probably the best I have heard this amplifier sound. Huge soundstage, very natural and dynamic. Beats the last 3 preamps I have paired with this amp: Herron VTSP-1a/166, Audio Research LS26, and Dehavilland Ultraverve II. Plus, it is extremely quiet, something I couldn't say about either the ARC or Herron when paired with this amp.

I bet the LS36.5 would be even better!
Thanks a lot guys, that's very valuble info. The LS is a bit out of my budget for now but used SWL might be just the right fit.