I listened to the AVA 440 solid state a few years back (it was the version prior to the insight, I ended up buying a AVA FET Valve Ultra). I own 2 McCormack amps (as well as a CJ solid state).
Hands down, if you are going with solid state, between AVA and McCormack, go with the McCormack.
Quite frankly (no pun intended), McCormack has MUCH better build quality, and McCormack/CJ service takes a back seat to no one.
I have the DNA 0.5 deluxe edition driving a pair of SongTowers I just received a week ago and they sound great! I have not heard the Van Alstine but if you start with the McCormack and find the urge to change they are easily sold on Agon.
AVA and Salk have a bond between them of some sort.They always demonstrate at the audio shows together and recommend that their products be used together.Go to AudioCircle and read some of the posts in the AVA and Salk circles to see what I mean.Owners are avid about the matchup.They seem to match up well according to what I've read.Remember,you'll only know if you try for yourself.
Can't say much about McCormack amps, never needed to go there... but I don't understand how someone could object to Van Alstine customer service? I've had excellent service from there, and plenty of other people say as much (which is how I decided to take the plunge with their products).
The build quality of Van Alstine pieces is not meant to be the eye candy that passes for "high quality" among too many audiophiles nowadays, but the units are built to last for a long, long time. The emphasis is not on magic components, but on correct circuit topology. Frank does not completely explain how he does it, but a glance at the literature tells you that, at least, he knows how to do the required math.
Obviously it's not for everybody, but I thank my lucky stars that I stumbled on such a good line of equipment. Saved a lot of money, a lot of time, but most importantly, the total lack of BS from Frank is pretty priceless. Just as an example, if you find yourself with audiophile anxiety over your cables or power cords, just talk to Frank and you'll soon be over it.
I've owned AVA Fet Valve Ultra 550 and it was a very good amp: sounded great; very powerful; built very well; and extraordinary customer service.
Gra3: "MUCH better build quality". Were you speaking strictly about more expensive/exotic parts or did you experience poorly assembled AVA amp? Frank does not necessarily use sexy parts, but parts which perform well, both electrically and soundwise, regardless of their lower comparitive cost.
Just open up the 2 amps side-by-side and look.
McCormacks are built better. "Eye candy" is Trebejo's phrasing, not mine. "Sexy" is Rockanny's term, not mine.
As to Frank and his customer service, while I have no issues with my FET Valve, I will not be doing any more buiness with Mr Van Alstine. I suspect his judgment in several areas.
The OP asked for folks who had EXPERIENCE with both products. That is something I have. Trebejo says "Can't say much about McCormack amps, never needed to go there" but he feels the need to weigh in. Rockadanny says he owns an AVA Fet Valve, but mentions no hands on experience with an AVA solid state product.
Going to Audio Circle for any sort of honest review of equipment is a bad idea. Audio Circle is an audio board in name only. It is a home for proprietary forums wherein criticism is typically not welcomed. The Van Alstine forum is a cheering section for Van Alstine products. This is true of the Odyssey forum, the VMPS forum, the Bryston forum, etc.
Gra3 - Fan boy? Very presumptuous of you. Just giving my experience. True, my experiences are not exactly as OP requested, but are related since I owned a current AVA product, and also in response to your post about AVA build quality and service. Just because my opinion differs from yours does not make it invalid or biased. Don't need to have heard a Mc amp to comment on build quality and service of AVA. Unlike you, assuming where one should not, I attempted to get your take on the build, as in, in your experience is AVA actually poorly built (improper parts, shoddy workmanship) or just has parts less "high end" than Mc. Or perhaps not as beautiful to look at. I was seeking clarification from you as opposed to making assumptions. Gra3 - Paranoid?
Gra3--the reason I felt the need to weigh in is that your post contradicted my direct experience in a pretty drastic way. Unfortunately, your second post does not really merit any further response, you clearly have personal issues both with Frank and anyone that has had an excellent experience with him. I am a little surprised that you imagine that the original poster or anyone else is interested in listening to such an attitude.
In any case, Jimheard, let me encourage you to take a look at one of the Van Alstine hybrid tube/ss amps, they are not tubey in any bad way and you are still "solid". Frank's solid state gear is good, but the unconventional tube/ss hybrid is where you get to see a bit of the genius.
One straightforward option is to pick up the phone and call both designers, btw. That should clarify things that may seem muddied by someone's personal issues here.
I have a DNA 125 and it's a great amp. I picked up the RLD 1 pre shortly after and the combo blows away the McIntosh 7100 amp and C15 pre combo it replaced.
The McCormack deluxe are very good amps. But the new Van Alstine450
Synergy lineMosfet amps and their FET valve amps are very
Dynamic and have 12 seperate power supply regulation.which in respects better then the McCormack runs cooler, great dynamics and control. And plays rock steady. The Synergy is also more Vacuum tube like,
With very good instrument layering especially for a Solid State amp.
It is my opinion and currently getting very popular.