Synergy - Mix and Match - Solid State of Mind

Small to Medium Sized Room - Any Component From Column A with one from Column B

Column A - Amplification

McCormack DNA-2 LAE
GamuT D200MkIII
Ayre Acoustics V-5x
Belles 150A Reference
Theta Digital Dreadnaught II (2channel)
Clayton Audio S-40
Natural Progression NP-220
BAT VK-250

Column B - Speakers

Focus Audio FS-688
Focus Audio FS-788
Reference 3a Dulcet
Harmonic Precision Caravelle
Cliffhanger Bulldog

Sold everything I had. Would like to start over. Will choose source and control based on which combination proves to be the best match. Like black silences, warm sound, tonal accuracy, soundstage, holographic imaging, immediacy and don't like sounds just "disappearing as fast as they materialize" i prefer it to leave my ears a bit slower then the time it takes to show up...don't know how to explain, anyway, please help, can't audition them all...

Oh, and I don't think I'll be upgrading them, ever. I still need to get maybe an EMM Labs DCC2,and a valve preamp somewhere down the line...Working for an NGO and I often use money out of my wallet to cover for budget inadequacies. Just want something special to come home to after a hard day's work.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Belles 150A Reference with the Harmonic Precision Caravelle. Hopefully TheAudioTweak will see this and respond, he has more intimate knowledge than I of the Belles amp. He owns the Caravelles, I've heard them quite a few times at his home and they're no contest. Good Luck!
I heard the Caravelles at THE Show and they are an excellent speaker.

I used to own a McCormack DNA-2 LAE. The LAE is everything they said it is/was (Peter Moncrief of IAR proclaimed it the best SS amp in 1998). But the LAE simply is no match for my McCormack DNA-2 Revision A.

I'd suggest buying the LAE and have Steve McC convert it to a Revision A Gold.

I have until March to purchase these two parts of the system. They will most likely be the heaviest parts so it would be wise to take them with me, as opposed to having them shipped.

I was under the impression that the DNAs were lean, is this correct?
Lean? The LAE, yes. the Revision A, far from it.

Do not be confused with off-the-shelf DNAs and Revision A DNAs.

What about noise. Are the silences black?
I am not aware of any noises/audible distortions (such as when idle). As for black silences, the best I can say is that the silences are there and they are not there.

The silence is there because this is a very fast amp. The rise and fall time is as good as I've heard from any amp.

In fact, that is one of the biggest attributes with the LAE version and was known at the time as the fastest amp running. The Revision A meets or exceeds that speed. So silence in that there is inter-transient silence prior to the initial attack of a musical note.

The silence is not there in that well-engineered equipment (which includes fast transistors, etc.) will also pick up much more of the ensuing decay of a musical note after the initial attack whereas lesser components will not.

Therefore, a musical note lingers and evaporates more naturally into the noise-floor rather than dropping off prematurely.

Don't know if this answers your question or helps in any way, but after owning about 6 amps over a 3 year period, I haven't even considered another amp in the 27 months I've owned this Revision A model.

The only other amp I would entertain would be a DNA-2 Revision A Gold and the latest options McCormack currently offers.

This amp convinced me that the amp is the key to any system's performance. (whether good or bad).

Thanks for the feedback guys. I always had a special feeling about the McCormack. In your experience, does it "prefer" a certain kind of speaker impedance...or sensitivity... can they still be appreciated with speakers that are easy to drive... I'll probably be tempted to the McCormack with a full range speaker...

Either way, I'm glad that your responses so far have made me feel better about the amp I was leaning toward.
I am not aware of any preferences as you state, as I've used the same pair of full-range speakers for the last 4 years now. My Aerial 10T's are 4ohm loads and a rather low sensitivity of 84 or 86db.

BTW, you might check out for the McCormack mods.

The Caravelle is a full range speaker for sure. I would defintely check it out as I am a very happy owner. For tube gear you may want to check out VAC. The Caravelle works quite well with my VAC. A friend is borrowing my Caravelles as we speak using Krell. The most three dimensional Krell I have ever heard. Good luck.
Stehno, that was exactly what I was getting at "decaying prematurely", you put it best. I didn't do a good job of explaining, but you knew exactly what I was talking about. I have been visiting smcaudio a lot recently and feel that their upgrade paths seem well thought out...

Also, what kind of characteristics am I looking for in a speaker...From the replies so far, it seem that the McCormack wouldn't be that nice with overly "bright" speakers...

The speakers I've picked, immediately tell you I'm looking for midrange performance... The FS-688 is a terrific speaker , FS-788 retains the younger sibling's midrange performance but adds some bass...The Dulcet came highly recommended, but I doubt show me what the amp can do..The Cliffhanger may be outdated, but I like little speakers that sound big...I like the JMlab Mini Utopia as well, which I forgot to include. The Caravelle's I am still learning about, to be honest. So, out of the ones I mentioned, what would be the ideal companion for a DNA...
Cagliostro, if others are telling you that the McCormack wouldn't be that nice with overly "bright" speakers..., then perhaps they are confusing the DNA- Revision amps with the DNA off-the-shelf amps.

With a Revision A or better DNA-2 amp, you should not need to concern yourself with overly bright speakers.

I am now entering the final stage of my decision making. The Cliffhanger comes from a company that seems to be out of business. I think it is rare now, and will be like a Dodo in the future. I'm impressed with it's form and function, it likes power and likes solid state, has a ribbon tweeter and substantial bass.

I was really considering the Focus Audios because even though they don't go so low, they just do things that speakers costing several times as much can't match. Things that bookshelf speakers are known for. But the bass on the Bulldogs makes it more versatile and big sound from a small speakers seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered. Right now, it's a toss up between a Bulldog and JM Lab Mini Utopia. The bulldog has lower sensitivity than the Mini Utopia but has a minimum impedance of 6 as opposed to 4 on the Minis. While this may make the Bulldogs hard to drive, I read somewhere that the Clayton likes to work with 4-ohm speakers. The S-40 has been raved about and is something I would like to try at some stage. But, while sounding warm and tubey, the Clayton doesn't seem to have some other sonic attributes that I admire and so I have decided to go with the McCormack. The system now has two components taken care of, now I just need to work on complenting the power and speakers with cables and source components. I definitely need tubes somewhere, but I don't know if I should go with an Aesthetix Callisto pre or just bypass the pre altogether and use a CD player w/ tube output stage and volume control.

I thank you all for your help, I was hoping some BAT owners would speak out because I initially wanted an amp-preamp combo from the same manufacturer and I have admired BAT for a long time. I was discouraged by talk of the house sound being described as "dark" even though I've looked at their design philosophy and given two thumbs negative feedback, dual mono, just 2 gain stages...a clean signal path...a while ago that seemed like a no-brainer to me but these last few days I've been spending hours drooling at the McCormack upgradse site,, seems like in the case that I am not satisfied I will have a lot of options available through upgrading that will fix whatever I'm not happy about. Whether it's matching the Amp's input sensitivity woth other components or tweaking the sonic characteristics...

This process has been so time-consuming and I've glad to have reached the end of it, for now. Now I just need to worry about the source. With cables I think just resort to trial and error.
Cagliostro, I don't know which BAT amp you're considering, but I used to own a BAT VK-500 with BATPAK. That was about 4 amps ago.

As for the speakers, if per chance you were to purchase a DNA-2 Revision A, you owe it to yourself to purchase full-range speakers. With the right cable, you may be in for quite a shock what deep, tight, well-defined bass really sounds like and what it does to the entire presentation as a whole.

Stehno, I can't afford the shipping on full-range speakers :( I wish I could audition the BAT's, but I can't. Initially, I felt that since I could not have big speakers, I'd just settle for small ones, and focus on the strengths of small speakers. I decided to go for "big sound in a small box" type speakers.

Stehno how was your experienced with the BAT, I'm sure the monster was very well behaved...:)
Can't afford the shipping? Hmmm. My Aerial 10Ts (about 350 lbs. boxed) shipped 1500 miles via UPS for about $200.

Regarding the BAT vk-500's performance? Like I said, that was 4 amps ago. That should tell you something.

If smaller speakers are your desire, then I'd give the Caravelles a serious listen. I heard them at THE Show last month and they are an impressive speaker.

If you don't need all the power of a DNA-2 Rev A amp, then one or two DNA-2 0.5 Rev. A amps could work just fine. For one thing, they weigh substantially less than a DNA-2 Rev. A.

With regards to the Focus Audio speakers, both the FS688 and FS788 do like to work with a lot of power, so I wouldn't match them with the Clayton. Of those you've listed, I like the GamuT and BAT as good matches to Focus, and also think you could find what you're looking for with the Ayre. Have not been a big fan of the McCormack or Theta, and have not heard the rest on your list.

(note: I am a Focus Audio dealer).
Stehno, I'm shipping them overseas.
Philnyc, perhaps you can share what you dislike about McCormack and Theta. And, how would you rate the bass on the Focus Audio?

It's not so much a dislike, but as you might be able to tell from my preferences for the GamuT and BAT, as well as my own gear (I own/sell Blue Circle gear), I do tend to like a warmer sound over analytical, and from my limited experience with McCormack and Theta, I have found them to be more analytical than warm.

As far as the bass on the Focus speakers, I think the FS688 has a surprising amount of bass for a speaker its size, although I would not say that it has as much as a good floorstander in its price range (~$3K). The FS788 has excellent bass when paired with an amp that can provide a better-than-average amount of is not the deepest (only goes to 35hz), but it is seamlessly integrated throughout its entire frequency range, so you will get a very coherent sound with excellent speed and no boominess (the one exception is if you use a bi-wire jumper with uncharacteristically high inductance with a speaker cable that has low inductance). Much of the FS788's bass performance will also depend on the size of your is best suited for rooms of less than 400sqft to get the optimal performance.

Hope this helps...
I got a Gamut D-200 Mk3. Can anyone reccommend a fast, yet noiseless tube preamp...

A DeHavilland UltraVerve, a tube preamp based on octal tubes (6SN7 and others) fits the bill for fast, noiseless, and I could think of a few other adjectives such as musical, natural, etc. Not sure how it will act with your Gamut or other SS amps, but that's something I'm going to try for myself very soon with a Plinius, Ayre, or something sililiar.
I wanted to make advantage of my new amp's balanced imputs... The dealer said it sounded better balanced... :(