How did you bribe your wife to install acoustic panels?
I went to war for that and lost.
I went to war for that and lost.
Nice review, 4yanx.
And as a McCormack DNA-2 Rev. A amp owner, I think I understand where you are coming from.
I've owned my Rev. A for over two years and have yet to hear anything even close to it. So far anway.
If your DNA-225 Rev Platinum is anything like my DNA-2 Rev A, you should be thoroughly enjoying older and less well-engineered recordings.
I've done a number of upgrades and tweaks that I consider well worth my while. However, none of them can quite match the sonic gains of the DNA-2 Rev A.
That's why after owning about other 6 amps including a DNA-2 Limited Anniversary Edition amp and demo'ing a few more, I am quite confident in saying that the amplifier (good or bad) is the key to any system.
Get this part wrong and it probably does not matter what else one does to their system. Get this part right, and nobody will understand your enthusiasm. That is, until they hear it.
It is MY room and I'll place in that room whatever I choose! And, hey, are you saying my panels are ugly?!
Seriously though, she is very understanding about audio and appreciates improvements. Oh, she may roll her eyes at first, but if something makes an improvement, she'll concede that it does and often give really useful input that makes me change or consider something else. After all, especially when we listen on weekend nights, she wants it to sound as good as I do. That said, if we shared that room for multiple uses besides music, I MIGHT not be so lucky....
Thanks for the excellent review. I'm using a Classe CA300 now but am considering the DNA225 with Platinum upgrade. If you get a minute could you compare these 2 amps directly? This will give me a firmer idea of the McCormack. I will probably not get a chance to hear one so I'm trying to listen to as many opinions as I can. Thanks!
Rja, I had the Classe CA-300 and the original DNA-225 at the same time. While I found the low end control of the Classe very good, indeed, I found its presentation of the soundstage less "3-D" and with less air than the McCormack and the top end more than a bit edgy. Though I no longer have the Classe for a direct comparison, the Platinum DNA-225 best it in every area, and in no small degree, than what I recall from the Classe.
Saltyfries, I hesitate to compare the Platinum DNA-225 to the DNA-500 because I have not had the both of them in my own system. I heard the DNA-500 in two other systems and its incredible control AND liquidity struck me most and these are attributes shared by the Platinum DNA-500. IF anyone in the Bay Area, CA has a DNA-500 that they'd like to bring over for a comparison, I'm game!
John (Stehno), I very much appreciated your last line:
Get this part right, and nobody will understand your enthusiasm.
After rereading my review I was hoping that it didn't come off TOO enthusiastic. More listening in the past few days leads me to believe that impossible. Gotta hear it!
Oh, Saltyfries, I forgot your question about impedance. As you may or may not know, the 100K ohm input impedance of the original lead to a crucial need in selecting a volume control of very high qaulity and with fine increments - lest the volume get out of hand and be plagued with the "one notch too low, the next too high, syndrome".
I used a Herron VTSP-1A with the stock DNA-225 and LOVED it. It has, IMHO, one of the best volume controls available. With the Bent in conjunction with the upgraded Platinum, I am using the XLR inputs on the DNA-225 (only RCA previously). In that sense, I am not comparing apples to apples, and I am not a tech type that can explain much in that respect. I can say that volume control is not an issue and that the background is just midnight black, even with the volume cranked beyond where I'd ever use it.
Thanks 4yanx. Steve directly answer on AA also.
Hi Saltyflies -
Thanks for your input. Again, I acknowledge the desire for "greater exposure" as noted above, but I must point out that I already have more work than I can keep up with. This may be seen as either good or bad depending on your viewpoint. I see it as a positive, and I confess that I value being a small, quality-conscious company.
Regarding your questions:
1) What are the differences between a DNA-500 vs. DNA-2 (fully modded) – specifically does the 500 sound more like the newer or older models.
I can only give you the short-form answer here. To try to answer this question in depth would be equivalent to a thorough review. In brief, the DNA-500 is a new design and clearly reflects this in its performance. It is more neutral than the earlier amps, more like a “window on the performance.” The DNA-2 (including the fully upgraded versions) have more of an identifiable personality, with a bit of roundness and warmth. Both are extremely powerful and are able to drive any speaker with ease and authority, but the dynamic reach of the DNA-500 can be literally frightening. (I read a comment from one owner who stated that the DNA-500 can “take your head off with a well recorded rim-shot.”) The 500 is also built with an excellent parts complement. On the other hand, the DNA-2 Revision A upgrade is totally rebuilt with the finest parts I have found. This gives it an edge in relaxed liquidity and instrumental texture. It “fleshes out” voices and instruments in a very seductive way. Well, that’s as far as I’m going to go on this topic here. Please call me if you would like to discuss this further.
2) My understanding is the modifications change the amps input impedance from 100k ohms to 10k ohms. What impact (if any) for passive preamp users?
This is only true in the case of upgrades that include my new balanced input circuit or those that have been converted to monoblocks. Please note that this includes the DNA-500 in its stock form, but does *not* include the DNA-2 in stock form. An upgraded DNA-2 may or may not include the new balanced circuit, as this is optional. I now use a transformer for input balancing and phase-splitting, and this results in a 10K input impedance. Most active preamps will drive this without any problem, and many transformer-based passive systems (like the Bent Audio NOH) also do a fine job. However, passive units that use conventional volume potentiometers or resistive-ladder attenuators (without active output buffering) and a few tube preamps with unusually high source impedance (over 1000 ohms) are not likely to give the best match.
3) Grapevine says you’re cooking up a new buffered/ passive – any comments?
It’s true! I have been working hard on a completely new type of preamp design for several years and it finally about to become a reality. The prototypes are working extremely well and I could not be more pleased with the performance. I am planning to release both unbalanced and fully balanced models, but it looks now like the unbalanced version will be ready first. I am not prepared to say any more right now, but I will get the word out when it is ready to go.
I've been looking to replace my amp for some time now. Over the years I've followed McCormack; reviews, opinions etc. Today I ordered a DNA225 with the intention of having it upgraded to the Platinum Edition. I look forward to scheduling time with SMcAudio for the up-grade.
I don't subscribe to the flavor of the month club so I usually live with a component for years before I look for something better. Thanks for the review, it was my final impetus to get a new amp.
Rja, I am truly humbled that anything I might have to say would lead others to make an actual buying decision. However, I believe that you have made an excellent choice and hope that you will enjoy your amp for many years to come. I will have keen interest to hear of your impressions. Best of luck to you and, as always, enjoy the music!
Cool! You will still enjoy the amp for the two months before sending. This is a great opportunity to do some critical listening to a variety of recordings - maybe jot down a few notes of your impressions. Then, after you get the piece back and all for breakin, run the same recording again and compare to your notes! I'd be most interested in your results. Good luck!
I think I had a birthday between the time I started and when I finished your review. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I have been curious about the DNA amps for a while. Your review addressed many of the important issues, or questions one might have. There's also a few good LPs on the list you wrote.
I don't think I'll be going that FAR! Right now, the sonics are all I'm concerned about. I will say though, the standard face plate could definitely use a redesign. It's a bit dull and the logo is boring as well. But as long as the amp works and sounds great I'll have to put up with it.
It would be great if someone began a custom face plate machining business? There's all sorts of wild things that can be done with anodising these days. The possibilities would be endless. I guess electronics designers don't usually think in these terms although that new RED amp from Switzerland is breaking some new ground. Even the innards are interesting.
Finally received the Platinum up-graded DNA225 after a few delays. This amp replaced a Classé CA300. My initial impressions are very favorable. One thing that really surprises me about this amp is its power. Going from 300w per channel to 225wpc concerned me but the 225wpc actually seems more powerful than the 300w per channel. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.
Describing the CA300 in relation to the DNA225 could be summed up in one word: Dull. Overall the DNA225 has a fuller sweeter sound with better articulated and deeper bass and a clearer more pristine high end. All this with amazing speed.
The CA300 always had a harsh edge on the treble that seemed to worsen as volume increased. Sibilants would frequently become aggressive and annoying, spitty if you will. Although total elimination of sibilants may be impossible and probably unnatural, the DNA225 handles them with more grace.
Overall I am pleased with the amplifiers performance and feel the DNA225 is definitely a step up from the Classé. To be fair the Classé was 10 years old and had served me faithfully for that time. In fact, McCormack could take a lesson from the Classés build quality although this would undoubtedly increase weight and cost.
Thanks 4yanx for your review which started my investigation of this amp. By the way, I was able to purchase a dealer demo DNA225 with full warranty on Audiogon at a considerable savings.
Rja, congratulations on your fine new amp.
I would not be surprised if the amp gets even better as it burns in longer.
Regarding the increase in perceived power by stepping down in watts is not necessarily a 'phenomenon' as you say. As far as I know it simply has to do with quality of power, not quantity. There's power and then there's power.
Interesting that you noticed a perceivable reduction in negative sibilance. Normally the only way I am aware of reducing negative sibilance is to properly treat the noisy AC with rare but good quality AC line conditioners. I don't think McCormack is attempting anything like that inside his amps/revisions.
And it is possible to totally remove negative induced sibilance from reproduction. However, there are still often times negative sibilance embedded in the recording itself produced by the microphones and/or recording equipment. Obviously that type is impossible to remove. But anything generated within the home environment can be completely eliminated.
On another note, I recently purchased 8 Isoclean gold plated fuses ($25 ea) to replace the $0.25 off-the-shelf fuses in my three dedicated line conditioners and 5 more inside my DNA-2 Rev A amp (1 main fuse in the back and 4 inside the amp).
The 4 outside fuses went in first with little to no improvement within the first 48 hours. Then I opened up the amp to replace the 4 internal fuses. Within the next 48 hours, I experienced a very nice improvement. One that I would equate with my new Oyaide wall outlets.
The music is more detailed, faster, richer, fuller, and more natural. These fuses are sold only thru (I think)Artistic Audio out of Newport/Laguna, CA.
Again, I hope you enjoy your amp.