BAT VK500, can't go wrong. Smooooth....
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I recently brought over a loaned pair of Wolcott P220M monoblock amplifiers to a freind's house who owns Maggie 1.6's. These were a pair of the wideband versions. I could not believe what I heard. It is a match made in heaven. The amps are very reasonably priced and since the Maggies like high current, it is a great combination. We were listening to the ARC VT100 MKII prior to putting in the Wolcotts and the difference was very dramatic. The Wolcotts had the $1,600 Maggies sounding like world class dynamic speakers with the seamlessness that make Maggies so special. I have heard the Maggies with many high power solid state amps and it could not come close to the Maggie / Wolcoot combo. I also do not think 200 solid state watts are not enough to drive them well.
If you do not have a Wolcott dealer around, give Duke a call at AudioKinesis. His store is in New Orleans and he will put you up in a bed & breakfast if you want to hear them (just not during Mardi Gras.) He is an incredibly nice and knowledgable guy who is very passionate about audio.
His number is 877-473-7262.
Tell him Jonathan says hello!
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McCormack DNA-2 Deluxe
Average Rating# of ReviewsMSRP4.71/57$4995
2-Channel Power Amplifier - 300 Watts
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Submitted by: KJM , Audiophile from Cambridge, MA
This product's model year is 1996 and KJM has used it More than 1 year
Date Reviewed: 6/25/01 5:10:28 PM
Strengths:Power, detail, lush midrange, dependable, warmWeaknesses:too much bass, upper mids are grainyPrice Paid:$2000Purchased At:Sound Images, Inc.Review Summary:For the money, this amplifier is unbeatable. Lots of detail, lots of power and warmth -- a little like tube sound. Highly dependable. I matched it with an Audible Illusions Modulus 3A -- which is a little light in the bass. A very good match -- except that the grain of the 3A, coupled with the grain in the McCormack, made CDs overly brash. On LPs, the McCormack was almost perfect. Powerful enough to always sound relaxed. If source is not up to snuff, the McCormack will reveal the other components limitations.
I have had this wonderful amplifier for almost five years. I have no complaints.
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Submitted by: Bill , Audiophile from Wisconsin
This product's model year is 1999 and Bill has used it More than 1 year
Date Reviewed: 2/3/01 7:09:48 AM
Strengths:Have never heard a better amp, period.Weaknesses:NonePrice Paid:$2800Purchased At:InternetReview Summary:Please be aware that there are several different versions of this amp floating around, each with its own sonic characteristics. There is the basic DNA-2, the DNA-2 Deluxe and the DNA-2 LAE (Limited Anniversary Edition). The basic DNA-2 is no longer in production.
Each of these amplifiers can be upgraded to an even higher level of performance by Steve McCormack of SMcAudio at http://members.home.net/smcaudio/welcome.htm. Various levels of upgrade are available. The final result is determined by the upgrade chosen (C, B, or A), not the original version of the amp. Thus, the best way to proceed is probably to find one of these amps used and then send it to Steve for an upgrade. *Used* does not matter because key components will be replaced during the upgrade and the amp will be thoroughly tested and evaluated before leaving Steve's shop.
It has been my privilege to own a McCormack DNA-2 Revision *A* for a year now. I wanted to live with this amp for a long time before writing a review in order to be intimately familiar with its performance and characteristics.
For those who are looking for the ultimate amplifier for your dream system, you can stop reading right here. This is it! But if you are like me, you like reading reviews. This puts me in a difficult spot because all of the accolades for amps were worn out twenty years ago (on amps that did not deserve it!)
I have been very interested in audio for about 35 years now and have worn out the carpeting in many high-end shops. Like many readers, I have always hoped to own that dream system, and like most readers, I can not afford to buy the wrong component. As a result, I have always done a ton of research before buying anything. Then after I buy it, I continue to do research to find out if I have made a mistake.
The bottom line here is that over the years, I have heard most of the high-end amps out there, at least all of those names you are familiar with. And in all of those years, in all of those shops, I have never heard any amp sound as good as this Revision *A*. I am not saying this just because I own one. If the amp had let me down, I would have replaced it and would have explained why. In this case, there is just nothing to replace it with!
This amp has power to spare and is lightning fast. It can blast you with power of the trombone section of a marching band and thud your chest with a bass drum. The details of the piccolo and glockenspiel in the finale of The Stars and Stripes Forever are clearly audible amidst the cacophony. It can ferret out the nuances of Gil Shahams bow dancing to Pagannini creations or the subtlety of Sylvia McNair shaping her mouth to create specific sounds in complex passages of Messiah. Harpsichordists can be heard releasing the keys, a string can be heard breaking in an orchestra, and even the traffic outside the recording studio in an old MHS recording of the Vivaldi mandolin concertos. In the harmonica piece in Lincoln, it is even possible to hear the slide on the chromatic harmonica.
What a beautiful combination of power in reserve in combination with that smooth, sweet quality of the best tube amps. Detail, transparency, speed, depth, delicacy, grace, compatibility, reliability, they are all here.
If I could think of something else to say, I would say it! My congratulations to Steve McCormack and SMcAudio for the creation of this masterpiece.
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Submitted by: Scott , Audiophile from Columbus, Ohio
This product's model year is 1999 and Scott has used it More than 1 year
Date Reviewed: 7/26/00 2:31:25 AM
Review Summary:I really don't have much more to say than all the other raves below except that this is one of the best solid state amplifiers you can buy regardless of price. It is too bad that the previous reviewer rated it a four star even though he said that it was the only solid state amplifier he could even listen to and bragged about its performance even though he is a tube lover. I guess it is because he had problems with his that he gave it four stars instead of five. I've had mine for over a year and not one hickup. I think it is the nature of the beast for any highend product to have an initial problem from time to time. Anyway, I would highly recommend auditioning this amplifier. It is a real sleeper and for the life of me I can't understand why it hasn't gotten reviewed more than the one time by IAR newsletter. I really think the Conrad Johnson, company that bought McCormack, might not want to advertise this amp over thier Conrad Johnson line due to how good this amp is.
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Submitted by: David, Audiophile from Bay Area
This product's model year is 1999 and David has used it 1 to 3 months
Date Reviewed: 2/11/00 3:58:31 PM
Strengths:tube like smoothness, tonal balanceWeaknesses:reliability?Similar Products Used:Classe CA400, Levinson 333, Bryston 7B-ST, Krell FPB300, BAT VK500Review Summary:I am a tube fan, I will admit it right away. I owned an ARC VT-100 and currently own Sonic Frontier Power 3 which will put most tube and solid state amps to shame. I recently sold my Sonus Faber Extrema and bought a pair of Dynaudio Confidence 5 with Esotar drivers thru out. Not a good match to my SF Power 3, so I thought I would go solid state shopping for anything less than $5k. Dynaudio Confidence 5 is very revealing on top, more than the Extrema which is one of the king in resolution. I could not stand listening to anything I borrowed from stores until the McCormack DNA-2. Almost anything had that veilness that is so typical of solid state. What happen to technology advancement in the past 10 years? Levinson is a joke, thin and dark sounding. Classe is rough sounding. Krell is "artificial" sounding, but it could fool lots of people to think it's musical. Bryston is good for rocks, but not music. BAT is a mix bag. But McCormack is very pleasant without losing details and low end. It's a standard DNA-2, not even a Deluxe or LE. While I was happy I found a good sounding solid state amp, it blew up on me after owning it for three weeks. Not the fuse, so it had to go back to McCormack for repair which took over 6 weeks total. When I had to send my ARC back for checkup, it was prompt and packed well, not with the McCormack. If they could improve on customer support, they have the best product at a real world price.
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Submitted by: Michael Girardi, Audiophile from Lancaster,NY
This product's model year is 1998 and Michael has used it More than 1 year
Date Reviewed: 2/4/00 1:02:19 AM
Strengths:As listed in IAR reviewWeaknesses:NoneReview Summary:I agree with all reviews below. I have owned the DNA2 LAE for 1 year. I upgraded from 2 Golden Tube SE40SEs. This amp has big #$@$%. My input is how to really make this amp sing. I first purchased a Polycrystal UHD amp stand ($325). This was much better than sitting on MDF board. When I replaced the 3 polycrystal cones with 1" diameter ball bearings with undersized silicone tubing placed on to the ball bearing (from Rosinante Dark Matter shelf supplied hardware), the transparancy,speed, and palletability took a major set forward. Use of the ball bearing feet directly couples the amp to the nonresonating Polycrystal UHD stand. All of the attributes listed in the IAR review are further enhanced by this tweak.
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Submitted by: Dan Livingston, Audio Enthusiast from NYC
This product's model year is 1999 and Dan has used it 1 to 3 months
Date Reviewed: 10/20/99 8:00:48 PM
Strengths:One of the best solid state AmpsWeaknesses:noneSimilar Products Used:Krell and Levinson AmpsReview Summary:Here is the Peter Moncrieff of IAR review of the DNA-2 LAE Amp. He raves about it.
Master Guide to the Best of 1998
-----and the Worst (over 110 reviews!)
What to Buy What to Avoid
Solid State Power Amps
Solid state design has matured to the point where you can choose from a wide range of
sonic capabilities and sonic personalities. Some amps are supremely transparent, articulate,
and fast, while others are veiled and defocused.
Some (Odyssey Design, Plinius) are musically natural, with a wonderfully neutral balance between the best of solid state sound and the best of tube sound. One (Audio Refinement) even goes over the fence, and sounds for all the world like a very capable tube amp. Some (Levinson 33H, Krell 300) try valiantly to smooth and soften the hard edge typical of solid state, attempting to sound musical, but instead they succeed only in being veiled and defocused. Others (ARC 100.2) go for maximum clarity, while letting in some solid state artifacts. And then there are those amps (Chord, Copland, Alchemist --- and to some degree Sutherland, Siemel) that have utterly failed to advance beyond the hopeless artifice of early solid state sound, with its obnoxious glare and glaze that covers and blocks so much of the music. On with the parade.
McCormack DNA-2 LAE
This power amp does everything a solid state amp is supposed to do, and does it all better than any other solid state amp. Its sonic performance across the board is a significant step above the class 1b amps below, and in a whole different league than the big name high end amps in class 2.
The DNA-2 LAE (Limited Anniversary Edition) is much more transparent than other solid state amps, effortlessly revealing layers of musical nuance that most solid state amps, effortlessly revealing layers of musical nuance that most other solid state amps don't state amp. Indeed, its rise and fall time is so fast on music's transient treble details that each fast nuance is executed more individually, with better intertransient silence, than other solid state amps---yet at the same time each fast nuance sounds more delicate through the DNA-2 LAE, because it does not sluggishly linger at the peak or get clogged up there, as other solid state amps do to varying degrees.
Some amps try for musicality and delicacy by softening and defocusing the music, smudging and veiling everything (cf. The Levinson 33H and Krell FPB below). The DNA-2 LAE doesn't need any such trickery; it can go for full articulation and sharp focus focus, yet still sound accurately musical and delicate, because it is so capably fast and transparent.
The DNA-2 LAE is so capable that it handles the entire spectrum, and all of music's demanding complexities, with the remarkable sense of relaxed ease that is a hallmark of a truly great audio component, as we discussed above in our Fred Astaire analogy. And this amp's sense of relaxed ease does not diminish when the music gets loud and/or complex. It's 300 watts per channel are accompanied by high current capability, so it plays music's dynamics with seemingly limitless reserves. Most other amps start straining or getting congested at higher volume levels, but this one stays clean, clear, unflustered.
Its sense of relaxed ease, even when playing loud and complex music, give it an aura of dynamic authority that inspires confidence in the listener, and actually makes for more relaxed listening. There are some other macho amp that can play loud , but none also has the articulate transparency, speed, and delicacy that the DNA2 LAE does. It is a rare feat for any power amp combine such powerful authority with such delicacy and nuance at the same time. Among solid state power amps, none accomplishes this feat as masterfully as the DNA-2 LAE. If you want even greater power reserves, each DNA-2 can be bridged to become a monoblock.
The DNA-2 LAE's powerful authority reaches to the other spectral extreme as well, plumbing the lowest depths of bass. Many solid state amps actually sound too constipate in the bass, refusing to let the bass bloom in a naturally rich and relaxed way (for example, they make the strings on a plucked double bass sound too tight); this might be related to these amp's inability to sink return currents from the woofer's reactive nature. Conversely, a few other solid state amps, and many tube amps, are too loose, soggy, and woolly in the bass; they can't put out the large current required to adequately control a woofer, and/or they have internal problems with bass transient response.
The DNA-2 LAE gives you the best of both bass worlds, and provides the best bass we have heard since the Citation 16. Like the big Krell amps, the DNA-2 LAE grabs a woofer and decisively controls it, providing superb bass definition. But, unlike amps with constipated bass, the DNA-2 LAE lets the bass open up in a rich, relaxed way.
You'll hear this amp's superb pass on music, where it counts. But we also put it to an interesting atypical test. On the original Bose CD pressing of Chesky's Women of Song, there's a horrific bass transient in the song Brick House (perhaps someone knocked the mike stand for the right channel). On the scope, this bass transient can be seen to occupy several cycles. The DNA-2 LAE was the only power amp that accurately reproduced these cycles of the huge, very deep bass transient, and actually made the woofer track each of the cycles of this transient. In contrast, other amps just emitted an indefinite burp when this bass transient came along.
Stereo imaging is superb in all aspects, with better width, depth, ambiance, localization, and 3D air around each instrument than we have heard from any other solid state amp. We could go on and on about this amp's stereo imaging, but in truth we expected this superiority. If an amp is truly more transparent and more accurate, it will reproduce subtle imaging cues more transparently and more accurately, so its stereo imaging should be better in all key aspects. Indeed, the DNA-2 LAE's superiority in all these aspects of stereo imaging is further indirect proof that we are correct in judging this amp to be more transparent and more accurate than other solid state amps.
The DNA-2 LAE covers the entire spectrum with seamless integration and excellent neutrality, not favoring any part of the spectrum, nor changing character for some parts of the spectrum. Virtually all other solid state power amps change quality in the upper midrange and lower treble, becoming too hard there, and/or they also change quality in the mid and upper trebles, becoming soft and smeared or dull and rolled off there. The DNA-2 LAE sounds consistent for all the music.
The tonal quality of the DNA-2 LAE does not include liquidity or softness, as do some of the class 1b and class 1c amps below. It is not excessively or artificially hard (as are many solid state amps below), but it is still clearly a solid state amp. It shines a very strong light of revealing accuracy on your recordings, without apologies. It does not need to make apologies, since it is so fast, so delicate, so relaxed. But some listeners might still find its illumination too revealing, too intense. If you find this to be the case for your taste, we might suggest that you try taming the illumination with suitable cables that are not themselves hard or bright, and by taking care that your speakers are likewise sweet rather than hard (for example, try pairing this amp with the Vandersteen Model 5 instead of a Thiel speaker system). Incidentally, when the amp is new, its bright light of illumination also sounds a little electric in quality, getting close to the solid state hardness one hears from most lesser solid state amps; but this electric quality gets tamed as the amp breaks in with use (thus, you should judge this amp, and correct other system links, only after a few weeks of playing music).
The McCormack DNA-2 LAE is priced at $6995. This is comparable to or less than the big name high end competition, which the DNA-2 LAE far outperforms, across the board, in all sonic aspects. With this amp, McCormack has firmly established itself as a true high end company, not just a maker of value oriented upper middle class amplification. This amp is a big and very pleasant surprise from this company, and full credit should go to Dave Reich, the design engineer who created the DNA-2 power amps.
We compared the DNA-2 LAE directly to the McCormack DNA-0.5 Deluxe Edition, an earlier design created by Steve McCormack and Jerry Boncer while working a Mod Squad and McCormack. The DNA-2 LAE stands head and shoulders above the DNA-0.5 Deluxe Edition, by a huge margin, and in every sonic aspect you can think of. It's worth mentioning that Stereophiles's talented staff of 21 reviewers found that the sound of this DNA-0.5 placed a competitive second place to the mighty $35,000 Krell Audio Standard. So it makes logical sense that the far superior DNA-2 LAE could significantly surpass the Krell FPB, as we found.
McCormack also makes two lesser versions of the DNA-2, with the same power rating but with lesser versions of premium parts at critical locations. We directly compared the LAE DNA-2 with the entry level standard DNA-2 (priced at $4395). The standard version is very good, but not in the same league as the LAE. It sounds more closed in, less transparent, fast and extended, and artificially harder with some clogging as is typical of solid state sound. We would rank the standard version in class 2, alongside the ARC 100.2 (which has similar hardness problems). So we strongly recommend the LAE (Limited Anniversary Edition) if you can afford it. The standard DNA-2 would still be a great choice for the bass end of a bi-amped system. We have not had the opportunity to hear the intermediate Deluxe Edition version of the DNA-2 (priced a $5,000).
If you want a solid state power amp, the DNA-2 LAE is simply the best sounding one you can buy, at any price.
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Submitted by: , Audiophile from Kansas
This product's model year is 1998 and Jimmy has used it Less than 1 month
Date Reviewed: 10/9/99 4:31:30 PM
Review Summary:To RH:
I would love it if you sent me an e-mail of the IAR Review.
Also, does McCormack have a web site? What is the cost of this amplifier.
Please let me know all the details.
I wish Audio Review hadn't changed the format of these reviews. You might want to post your e-mail address somewhere on the review site so that we can have better access to contacting you.
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Hi Mark; I could write a couple of pages about the virtues of the McCormack DNA-2DX, the Rev. A, and a pair of Rev. A's by SMc, but they've pretty well been covered by the reviews posted by Mikec above.
These are seriously powerful, smooth, refined amplifiers. I just had a pair up-graded to Rev. A for bi-amping, and they really are fantastic amps-- 300 wpc 8 Ohms, 600 wpc 4 Ohms, and 1200 wpc 2 Ohms. A used DNA-2 should be available for around $2500., and Rev. A is $2500. Good Hunting. Craig.
I can give an enthusiastic recommendation for the Aragon 8008bb. I little less money than the DNA's, but I have really enjoyed this amp. For even less money you could pick up a used 4004mkII, which I have also owned and enjoyed. These amps are very powerful and could drive your magnepans with no problem. I use my aragon to drive Thiel CS3.6's, which are very hard to drive and the amp has no problems.
For what it is worth, my brother and I auditioned a pair of 3.6's, which were first being driven by VTL750 monoblocks. Very nice. Then the dealer (Audio Concepts in Houston, Texas) asked if we wanted to hear something very special. We declined. Not true, of course we agreed. He installed a single stereo SS amp and played through the very same system. Incredible change. Deeper, higher, clearer, etc., etc. Both of us did a double take the instant music came out.
The amp was a BEL 1001. I understand it is 50 watts per channel, but 200 watts in mono. I think they are around $4,000 each new (stereo), but every once in awhile I see one used, but don't remember the price.
By the way, I am not in the stereo business, and do not own either the BEL or 3.6 speakers, but just thought you might be interested in the tremendous impression this setup made on the two of us.
Be carful with Llano Designs as noise and warranty may be concerns. as for the Bel, Aragon, and Bat amps they are all good values. If you want to be happy long term I believe the Sierra Audio Denali is the new king of the amps. retail is $7500. but I have seen one or two used for around $4500. It's big and it runs hot but nothing is built like it or sounds like it. Smooth sweet Mos-fet sound with resolution to dye for. highly reccomended. see "bound for sound" review.