Preamp for McCormack DNA-125 Gold? Budget $2k

Any ideas for a preamp match for my McCormack DNA-125 Gold upgrade? It is actually just short of Gold (I didn't have $1750 to spend on the upgrade, but did have $1500, so it is close). My speakers are Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signatures (not very demanding). I have been using a CJ PV5a preamp: not the best unit, I know.

My budget is $2000 used (or new). Should I pursue a balanced preamp and then consider getting the amp upgraded with balanced IC's as well? That adds another $500 to the cost of the amp, but I could always do it at a later date.

My other option would be to sell the McCormack and get a good integrated for $3500 used. Not having heard any good ones, I don't know if this would best a decent preamp and the DNA-125 Gold.

My musical tastes tend to be classical and jazz.
Balanced I/Os does not mean the component is a differentially balanced design. Unless the McCormick is, I would sell it. Actually, I would sell it either way...

You can buy a new Wyred 4 Sound SX 250 for this. There's a pair of SX 500 monos on AG for $1400. I would grab them. I own the W4S MC 250/500, 4 channel amp for biamping. They are balanced designs but have RCA inputs, too. So do what you need for now, but move toward a differentially balanced system.

I am using the Raysonic 168 with built-in variable tube outs direct to my active XO then to my amp. The tube output compared to a $3K balanced pre I was using, so I sold it.
Get yourself a good, transparent tube preamp. There's a few of us here who run McCormack amps with Audio Prism Mantissa pre, or a Red Rose if you want to pay the name premium. Hard to find but they do come up for sale from time to time.

There are certainly others out there, but I would go tubes for sure over solid state.

no affiation, but there is a classic motif(by cj)on audiogon with phono...rare and of the all time great pre's....nice with the mccormack too.
For your budget I'd consider the Cary SLP-98. I don't think you will find any better at that price point.
Chiho,don't even consider getting rid of the Mccormack for a class d amp you couldn't make a bigger mistake.And if you have the cash look at a Coda int.,or coda pre amp to go with the amp,lots of options.You will be wowed at first with class d but in time disappointed.
McCormack is releasing the LD 2, the replacement for the RLD 1. Street price should be right around 2K.
Tube preamps work very nicely with the McCormack amps. The BAT VK5i and Joule Electra LA100MKIII work very will as I have run mine with them both. It just so happens I have a VK5i if you are in the market too ;)
My advice would be to evaulate what you don't like about your present setup. For about 2 years I had a DNA 125(stock) with a Threshold NS-10 (ss), Thiel 1.6s,& Transparent ics (rca) & sc. a really good and enjoyable sound without fatigue, but I wanted more imiaging, soundstage etc etc, so I sold the amp and that lead to different pre,to different speakers, to different cables, more $$. The Mccormack is a really good bang for the buck and the CJ is also, but I think the CJ is laid back with a smooth sound, and the Mc is also. I am not familar with your speakers or your tastes, so it is hard to make a recommedation. In hindsite with myself I should have been switching out cables instead of eq. See if you can borrow or demo a different pre, some high end stores offer auditions, also cables can make a big difference. boper39
Mccormack amps are easy to match. Modwright would work, the Audible Illusions, even Passive amps works well with them.
Good luck.
Thanks for the responses so far. I am enjoying hearing the opinions. It certainly gives me a list to work with. FWIW, I am running a Tyler Acoustics full-range speaker, which I can't quite characterize how they sound (I am not really an audiophile, just a person who likes good music). Mostly, I like hearing the precision and speed of certain classical passages, and love the weight of a live jazz performance, where I can almost see the smoke drifting up toward the ceiling.
What is the opinion of the Audio Horizons stuff? I see a very long thread, but nobody has mentioned them here.

Also, what about the Rowland Capri? I read somewhere that they are a good mate for Tyler, but not sure how the primarily balanced preamp would mate with the unbalanced amp.

Modwright had popped up onto my radar. Dan only lives 4 hours from me, so perhaps I could go up and listen to a demo.

The Joule LA100MKIII and BAT VK5i had also seem well regarded.

I had a CODA integrated a few years ago (the ones made in Sacramento) and had all sorts of issues with it, as did the person I sold it to. They probably lost my business.

Thanks again for the ideas. It will be tough to demo, so hopefully I can make a good choice on a used unit. And, I think I will be keeping the McCormack: I doubt I could do much better for the $1500 I could get for it.
Have you thought about one of the McCormack Preamps? If you like the sound they produce you could have it upgraded also. I currently use a TLC-1 Deluxe driving a pair of DNA-1 Deluxe Golds with outstanding results. My deluxe is schedule to get the Platinum package sometime after the first of the year. These should be within your price range with some change to spare. A TLC with the new McCormack face plate appears on Agon from time to time.
The Rowland capri + MCCormack DNA is also a good combo. I forgot about that combo but had that too. Not bad at all!!
Nolitan: can you elaborate on what you liked about each of the pre's you tried with the McCormack? I see you have been through several.....

I've owned and enjoyed both the Audio Horizons and the Capri.In my system it wasn't even close,sold the Capri and kept the AH.
Funny this is the same quandary I am facing I've got a DNA-1 rev a with the balanced option and a pair of Alon 1s. I had considered the CAT SL-1, Audio Research SP 10, Modwright 9se and then I went through the passive thought process and considered the placette, bent tap or prometheus units.

I run a vinyl rig and a computer based rig and tonight I plugged my dacs (transdac and apogee duet) direct into the McCormack and used itunes volume control. I was blown away by the sound quality. It is clear to me that just about every preamp I have used has mucked up the sound. I have never heard my rig sound so dynamic and several layers of veil have been removed.
The unfortunate thing is this is a sure fire way to fry the Alons as one day I will forget to lower the itunes volume. Any ideas on a preamp that has the transparency that I am getting going direct?

I am using the balanced Promethius Ref 4 TVC into a pair of older DNA-1 monoblocks with very satisfying results. My monoblocks are an older pair with 100 kOhm input impedance. If I recall, most of the later revisions by SMc audio use a much lower 10 kOhm input impedance. If that is the case with your rev a, you might want to stay away from the resistor based passives like the placette. TVC's like the Promethius might be a better way to go. I can't comment on comparisons with active pre's because I've been using passives for the last 15 years. In the case of the Promethius, its an inexpensive experiment to give one a try.
JP11801 - Brownsfan is correct - your DNA-1 Rev A Balanced has an input impedance of 10KOhm. This limits your passive choices somewhat - transformer-based designs (TVC) units are your best bet, and resistor-based designs (with conventional volume pots or stepped-attenuators) will not match well. TVC passive designs have made quite a few audiophiles happy and are worth looking into. It takes an extraordinary active preamp design to deliver the kind of transparency you are getting from your direct connection, but you may also find it difficult to get the same level of dynamic impact from a passive design.

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
SMc Audio
My DNA-225 Platinum, matched with a Bent NOH passive, sounds both transparent and dynamic through Vandersteen 5's. As I've mentioned previously, the only amp upgrade I'd really consider is monoblocking with a second 225. I'd also like to try the new McCormack pre.
I should have said that I'd like to try the new SMc Audio pre (designed by Steve McCormack), NOT a new McCormack (of Virginia) pre.
Steve, thanks for you response, so far with a 1.2k cadddock based resistor axion passive I have no loss in dynamics from my active pre and better clarity. I will try the transformer units as well.

When my cash flow improves I'd love to try the RLD fully upgraded as that may be the best of both worlds.
Hey - whatever works! Glad to hear the Axiom is working for you. It's about as simple as a passive volume control can get (while still including "features" like a chassis), but if that's all you need for now, you're all set. I'll be happy to talk with you about the RLD-1 when the time comes.

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
SMc Audio
I have a similar issue. I have a McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe with Steve's gold upgrade. Ran an Audible Illusions for years and loved it until it fried itself and AI took a year to fix it and only returned it to me after I threatened to turn them in to the Colorado Attorney Generals consumer protection division. Went with a Rogue 99 Magnum about halfway through the AI debacle. Using Martin Logan Ascents with a Depth sub, Wadia 830 (only occaisionally) and an Apple TV/ PS Audio Digital Link III 'server" combo.

My wife hates this system since it's complicated and the Rogue has enough background noise to drive her (and me also) crazy.

I am looking for some sort of preamp or integrated that will drive these speakers and has a lot of remote switching capabilities since my DVD and television are also hooked up. I also want a dead silent background.

I've thought about a McIntosh C45 or C46 pre or a MA 6500 or 6900 integrated.

Any suggestions in the less than than $3000 range?
Why not look at the McCormack MAP, not as functional as some multi channel units but if it shares the RLD qualities it should sound great.
I am currently using a MAP-1 with a DNA-1 Rev A. I have not tried other pre-amps and so I cannot comment any further.

As a combination it is very musical, full (solid, well defined low end) and is on the warm side. It's great with many music styles. The MAP-1 is supposed to be have 99% of the sound of the RDL-1.

btw, my source is a UDP-1 deluxe. My thinking when putting the system together, was trying to get some "synergy" using components of the same manufacturer (although I don't know how one assesses system synergy in an impartial manner........). Anyway, matching components also look pleasant and my wife enjoys listening to music on it (it is always powered up).

my 2c worth - happy listening!
I highly recommend the Primare Pre30 to you, it goes for about $2K and is a terrific match in our home system with my DNA-125 platinum and Legacy Chassic HDs. Best description is of harmonious sound throughout the spectrum, highs to lows. It has both balanced and single ended inputs and outputs. Moderate gain is great match for the McCormack's high gain.