Review: McCormack DNA-225 Amplifier
I've been a follower of Steve McCormack throughout my audio life. I, in fact, still own a quad of his original aluminum tip-toes. This turned out to be a "gift" to the audiophile community, as he did not pursue a patent. IMO, this is one of the most effective products, in it's design and it's performance, for eliminating vibration in audio history. We owe him a debt of gratitude just for this simple product.
He was one of the "first", as well, to offer the audiophile, modifications to their prized equipment. This is still his passion and one we/the press should be more focused on.
The product of this review is the DNA 225. This is one of his original product lines that was manufactured in Virginia. He later moved to California, (where his shop is currently located), then developed another line of products and eventually has/had an association with Conrad Johnson.
I bought my first 225 to replace a Parasound 3500. This was a huge upgrade. Then, later when a "Platinum" version came up for sale, I jumped on it. It turned out to be 7 years removed from it's upgrade date and had at least two previous owners. Still, I could hear the improvement. It sounded less like electronics were in the signal path. Greater soundstage depth, width. An ease of presentation, all the while presenting authority and great bass extension.
At this time, their website offered for view, the various upgrade paths and costs. Since then, (as I learned recently), they prefer you call and discuss your system/needs. According to Pat, they have, by a far measure, made so many improvements to (the past "Platinum" upgrade path), that now, that path is no longer recommended (or offered), and they now are so "in tune" or "streamlined", that the upgrades available now offer much more bang for the buck at a lower cost. Pat says they have developed their own internal wire design. They have also done extensive listening as to come up with different types of solder to use at various areas on their circuit boards and other electrical contact points as a result of intensive listening. I think you can see the extent in which they go in order to offer us the best product available for our pleasure.
I sent my "Platinum" in for the latest upgrade which is now called "Ultra-15". I already had the Plitron transformer, so we went from there and I gave them a 2K budget. (When all was said and done, including shipping, I had 2.5K in my upgrade). This included upgraded fuses, oriented for optimum sonics and a carbon fiber top plate.
Comparing my older "Platinum" to the "Ultra-15"... is really an extension of the"Platinum". However, this "extension" is compounded x 3 or 4. The soundstage leaves me without any sort of feeling of electronics standing between me and the artist. The listening experience I have always had, becomes more of a performance. The center stage is very real.
One other thing, ( The vocals sound somewhat different than what I've been use to for the past 30 odd years, Why, well I found it's because, now, there's a broader "color palate". This is important and is the only way I find that I can accurately describe this difference. You hear a broader range in any vocalists' vocal performance. This is way cool!) It was somewhat off-putting at first until I realized what was going on here.
If you own or want to own a DNA/225, I suggest you contact SMc Audio. I suspect it will be the best call you make in you're audio adventure.
So, you may be asking yourself, Why don't I read about this more, even on the forums? My answer is this... I believe that those who seek out this option are ones who have extensive knowledge regarding their systems vs. what's "out there". They know of SM and they choose to seek him out and are happy with the result. They are tired of the forums, the inconsistency, the in-fighting. They just want to hear great music in the privacy of their own homes. I have to say, I am solidly in this camp!
Very highly modded VPI HW-19 MkIV, DIY outboard motor enclosure, EAR 834P w/volume, Bob's Devices step-up, SDS, Shunyata Hydra 4 & 6, Usher BE-817, Martin Logan Depth i x 2,
stock McCormack DNA 225
Platinim McCormack DNA 225