Upgrade suggestions from McCormack w/SMC mods?

Hi all,

I have been happily listening to my McCormack pre and power combo for a number of years, which have SMC's Gold Mods (DNA125/RLD1) and I purchased used. Definitely nothing better out there I have heard anywhere near what I paid, maybe not at 2x the price. But, I was wondering what DOES sound better than this combo, if anyone has either upgraded from McCormack separates w/SMC mods, or has done some A to B testing? I would be looking at primarily a solid-state amp (don't need tons of power), and possibly a tubed or sweet-sounding SS preamp. I would like to upgrade my system one of these days. I love the way it sounds right now, but after a couple of years, upgrade fever is hitting again. I will keep the McCormack stuff unless I find something that definitely beats it.

The other option is possibly just sending the units back to McCormack to get a Platinum revision and maybe the ARC circuitry.

I was possibly thinking of a Pass XA30.5 and XP10 as a potential upgrade, but no dealers in this area. I do have a McIntosh dealer, and they recommended the MC402 and C2300 combo. I tried a Sim Audio I-7, and it sounded a bit thin in my system: nice, but not at the level of the McCormack stuff I have now. Not sure how much better their separates are.
I was possibly thinking of a Pass XA30.5 and XP10 as a potential upgrade, but no dealers in this area.
Chiho (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
No problem. If you're open to paying return shipping and a 10% restocking fee for any returns, then Contact Reno HiFi for an audition of Pass Labs components.

You don't mention what speakers you're using, but if they can be driven by an XA-30.5, I am doubtful you'll return the amp.

FWIW, I have used an SMc Audio VRE-1 preamp with Pass Labs XA-60.5 amps (same input impedance and gain specs as the XA-30.5) with excellent results.
Mac 402 not that good, CJ Primer 350 much better bet. I heard the first in my friends system and have the CJ.
Try a tube preamp on the McCormack amp before you do anything else. You may decide that's the ticket without having to buy a new amp. Just make sure you find a tube pre that is fairly transparent to the source though.


Thanks for the info. According to SMC, my ALD-1 is actually quite similar in sonics, and not far off in performance, to the VRE. Maybe I will look at demoing the pass. I will be in Reno soon, but not with my speakers (Linbrook Sigs). These are moderately easy to drive, but like a bit of current. Thoughts? They nicely paired with a CODA CSI integrated a few years ago.


Thanks for the info on the CJ. I know Macs are very popular and easy to resell, but CJ stuff I have always liked the sound of. I had a couple of amps and a couple of preamps from them over the years.

Ptm: thanks for the recommendation! I actually noticed the biggest improvement in dynamics when I put the preamp in my system; it bested away everything I had tried up that point, which all retailed in the 4-7k range. 3 of those preamps were tubed, and all were lacking in clarity compared to the ALD-1. I was probably most impressed with the LS-26, but even it couldn't quite match the ALD-1. The amp I have really enjoyed, but perhaps my speakers could use more juice, as I found more dynamics when I borrowed some bigger hitting amps with more current ability.

Maybe I should be looking at a bigger amp, or upgrading the DNA to Platinum level.
The Pass XA-30.5 will not provide sufficient power for the Linbrook Signature speakers, IMO.

Reno HiFi will ship the Pass Labs amps to you. The fact that you are visiting Reno is irrelevant, as far as I can tell.
Well, I definitely found that going from my near Rev-A DNA .5 to a DNA 500 made a nice improvement overall.