Spectral DMA 180 Questions


I currently use a Spectral DMA 50 power amp in a system that includes Thiel 1.6, Spectral DMC 15, Krell CD 300, and a project RM 5 running through a mccromack phono pre, with MIT cabling throughout.

I got the DMA 50 used several years ago, and it's fantastic. It was much more informative and fuller than the McCormack dna 0.5 I'd been using with the thiels, and it erased any remaining brightness that was there with the mccormack.

I now have the upgrade bug, and I'm considering replacing the DMA 50 with a spectral DMA 180, given that it has a more evolved design, more power, which might result in better bass and more accurate presentations overall. I've heard that the DMA 180 is on the warm side, as is the DMA 50, and I'd prefer this with the thiels. My questions :

1. What is the difference between the DMA 180 series 1 and 2, sonically?

2. What are the opinions in general of the DMA 180? Should I be considering other spectrals, such as the 100, 150 or 90?

3. As far as warmth, would the DMA 180 be a decent match with the thiel 1.6, which can sound bright with the wrong electronics. In my current setupd, there's no problem with brightness or fatigue.

I listen to rock, classical chamber and orchestral music, and old jazz.
If I recall the amp must be used with a Spectral Preamp plus interconnects. If not the amp may become unstable and possibly ruin other components. I would sure call a Spectral dealer and ask them their spin.

Thanks for the response, preamp compatibility is is not an issue, since I'm currently using a spectral preamp, the DMC 15, and the right interconnects. The mccormack is just a phono pre that feeds the spectral pre.
Spectral, Krell and Thiel. My ears are bleeding from here.....

Someone buy that man a tube!
If you can afford it, get the DMA 250 or a DMA 100 if you can get by with less
power. Both are rear on the used market. Don't pay attention to the
obvious Spectral haters. Remember to each hie own.
Thanks, Dr Joe.

I was thinking about the 180 because a friend of mine, a spectral devotee, had said there was some warmth there. I'm pretty much hooked on spectral, I think the 100 should be interesting, and I hadn't really thought about it before.

When I auditioned preamps, I did the 12, the 20 and the 15. They were all fantastic, but it just got better going up to the 15. Amazing steps forward in the newer designs, and I would expect something similar in their power amps. I know spectral didnt want to put something new out there unless it represented an advancement.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for the 100. One thing is they have these different versions, or series, and I don't know the trade offs.
I agree with Joe on Spectral amp choices with the DMC-15. I would add to the list a DMA-150 series 2,(used $3000-$4000). My own history with Spectral amps includes the DMA-100 class A, 200, 180 series one, 150 series 2, 360 monos and now the DMA-250. The 180 series 2 has less grain,( warmer then the series one). The 150 series 2 is even warmer then the 180 S2 but with a much leaner bottom end and less dynamic due to the smaller power supply design of the 150. if you have the budget I would go with a 250,(Used $5500-$6000). The 150,360 and 250 series are compatible with the Mit Oracle series spk cables. The 180 series is not. early Mit 850 evo is the best cable you can use with the 180. A nice match with a 150 S2 is MIT V2.1 oracle spk and rca int. The used prices are droping on mit V2.1 with the new .2 series out now. I found the 2.1 cables alittle warmer then the V1.1. The V1.1 cables offer a lot more resolution and extension.
Lawrence is right on the money .We have talked many times and he also
knows Spectral very well.
No... Lawrence and I are not Spectral shills. We just appreciate what
Spectral does. If you don't do it right I can see why many don't like the
sound. This stuff is the ferrari of audio. Needs very fine tuning.
Lawrence and Joe,

Thanks for your comments.

Lawrence and Joe,
Some years back I had a DMA 150 DMC 30, earliest version...now I Ayre monoblocks/VTL 6.5 pre...I like the system...but wonder how things have progressed in Spectral land

I have not heard the new Spectral DMC-30SS pre amp.Est 10k retail,(new power supply,volume control,etc),replacement for the 30SL. The 30SL with gen one or two series modules has lower noise, more extension,resolution,etc. Then the original DMC-30. The DMA 150 series 2 and on to the 250 are much more refined with higher resolution and a warmer top end then the original 150 amp. With all the newer spectral amps I would use as a min cable the Mit V2.1 ultra wide, aka prism spk and V2.1 rca int. The Mit/Spectral 350 S2 rca and 770 S2 spk will not show you how warm and resolute Spectral gear can sound. Spectral gear also requires extensive isolation and line conditioning with dedicated circuits and audio grade wall receptacles to obtain the lowest line noise. Placing the amp on its own circuit pluged directly into the receptacle with a Z-Cord 2 and a Z-Stabilizer. Or One of the Mit cables with a Z-Stabilizer built in,(all AC2 cables, Shotgun,Magnum or Oracle). Then running the pre and digital on separate circuits with a high current isolator( MIT ISO-HC, 500 watt Isolator),one per front end component. Is one option to obtain the best results.
Curious as to why lawrence feels the 180 series 2 should not be used with Oracle cables. I'm currently running it with V2.1. What is the downside of this?

I asked Spectral and Mit's Bruce brisson the same question. They told me that the Oracle series spk(V1.1,2.1,3.1 ultra wide) is not compatible and the 180 series. The amp my oscillate and damage the output devices. If you are running V2.1 spk at this time I would call Mit or spectral and talked to one of there tech's that has been there long enough to know the 180 amps history. One sign that the 180 amp my be oscillating is if it is running hotter then normal. At the time I had my 180 I was using 850 ref spk and I was interested in upgrading to V1.1. They told me that the Oracle series can be modified to run the 180 safely but I decided to upgrade to a 150 S2 then 360 mono's and now a 250 with V1.1.

Thanks for the info - I'll contact MIT.

Curious as to how the Spectral 250 compares to the 360s for you?

I found the 250 to be more refined then my earlier pair of 360 amps and the 250 is fuller in the bass at low levels. If you were planning on upgrading from your 180 S2 I would go with a 250 or upgrade your pre amp to a 30SL W/Gen2 modules or the new 30SS. If you have a DMC-20 or standard DMC-30. The pre amp upgrade will provide better overall results then a amp change.
Hi Lawrence

Wow I'm surprised that the 250 is fuller than the 360. I have a dmc 30sl with gen 1. Did you upgrade to Gen 2 ?

I have not upgraded my 30SL yet. I am in the process of purchasing a replacement for my 3000/2000 CD play back system that I sold. Sense I have been unable to locate a used SDR-4000S CD player, I am looking into a Linn CD12. Once I receive the Linn CD12 I will send the 30 SL back to Spectral for the gen 2 upgrade. The 250 at low level is fuller but at higher levels the 360 is more dynamic do to the higher power. Remember the 360 mono's were a early pair. The current 360 series should have improved.
Is it really a MUST to run spectral power amp with Spectral pre ? When I visited Wilson Audio they were using Spectral poweramp and Nagra PL-L tube preamp in their listening room, with all transparent cabling. And the system sounded great !
The use of a Spectral preamp is not mandatory with the S series of universal amps, 160s, 250s and 360s. They have a input buffer. Running a standard Spectral amp without a Spectral preamp can lead to amp stability issues per Spectral. The standard amps are said to have more resolution. Per my own experience with Spectral I have found that the early preamps,(DMC-10 series, 12, 20 series and the base 30 model were leaner and do not have the refinement of the DMC-15, 30SL,etc. I am not surprised that the Nagra PL-L tube pre sounded great.
If you are using the matching MIT V2.1 rca int with switchable impedance networks,(V1.1,2.1,3.1 etc). I found the 150S2,180S1 and 250 sounded best in the medium position,(40-100k). The 150,180 and 250 per Spectral have a 100k input impedance. The 360 has a 10k input impedance. The specs for the switchable impedance networks are low (5-50k),medium(40-100k), or high(over 90k).
Is it recommended to use balanced ICs with Spectral gear ? I've noticed that they have balanced inputs as well.
The Balanced inputs can be used with Spectral amps, preamps, etc. Spectral recommends using the rca unless you are running very long int. I have never demoed balanced int with Spectral but have been told by others that you my lose some resolution. There is another thread that discuses this issue.
The 180 is a real powerhouse capable of very refined sound.
It requires decent AC conditioning, but so do nearly all other amps to sound their best.
Mine have revealed increased musical enjoyment with every upgrade I've provided. Feel free to contact me.ATB.
Hey, Robert. If you ever decide to sell, let me know. I have missed the DMA50 ever since I sold it to you! I am just getting back into audio after my wife and I purchased our new home and now have a dedicated room for audio/home theater. Regardless of your decision, I would be interested in knowing how you think the DMA50 and 180 compare. Tim