I would suggest the Audio Research VT100 MKII or MKIII. I have heard the MKII on the 3A's and we have used one with our Vandersteen 5's. The sound is very musical and dynamic. We have two musicians in the house and they both agree with the above statement. I hope this helps...
go to soundstage.com and read all of doug blackburns stuff. he owns 3a sigs and has heard lots of amps. i know 2 of his favs are the belles and the warner imaging.
I had the 3asigs and thought the mccormack dna1/revaGold was the best for them. I also had a vt100m2 I tried with them. I thought that sounded very musical, great midrange, but did not bring out the speakers awesome bass capability like the dna could. Other tastes will vary!
Used both McCormack DNA 125 and Belles 150a with very good results. But the Rogue 120 mono blocks that I am using now are giving me the best results on the 3a sigs yet. (Detailed, warm and very musical.) Mark Obrien from Rogue audio used the 120's with the vandersteen 3a sigs at the 98 CES with much sucsess I hear. Hope I helped!
...got to agree with John_1. The Vandersteen 3As are great with McCormack amplifiers. I've used the DNA.5, DNA-1DX, and presently the DNA-2DX, and I strongly recommend the the DNA-2DX. BTW, R. Vandersteen and Steve McCormack used to exhibit together and used each others products. DNA-2s can be found used for really reasonable prices, and IMO are definitely Stereophile Class A, but they've never been reviewed-- thus the low used prices. I compared (in home) the DNA-2DX to Levinson 331, and SF Power 2, and it was no contest; I easily preferred the McCormack. Happy Hunting. Craig.
I tend to agree with Fredzip80 based on my experience with Vandersteens as both an owner and having heard various set-up through the years. As John_1 states you may lose a bit in the bass department, read slam, but you gain it in the midrange, read presence. I always felt that of all the ss amps I have heard with the Vandersteen 2 and 3 series including Threshold, Krell, Acurus, Levinson and McCormick the last at an audio show, tubes are better. So things aren't perfect at audio shows but Richard Vandersteen was there and it should have sounded much better than it did. I wasn't alone in what I was hearing. The sound was as ho hum as I've heard these speakers sound. I always felt there was a synergistic match with ARC products in a variety of different set-ups. Heard the Vandy 3a sigs with ARC VT100Mk2 and LS 15 during an extensive audition (2 hours) and there wasn't tooo much missing in the bass. Could feel the air brush across my face on the Shelly Manne "Poinciana" track. But then again I'm biased towards tubes in general and ARC in particular. I keep on hearing about how wonderful these speakers sound with McCormick. My experience with that amp was limited to about 30 minutes so other views may hold greater value. You have some feedback, now you need to listen for yourself Fsabella.
When I had my Vandersteen 3A sigs, I used two M-L 331's in a bi-amp mode. That worked very well.
Thanks very much to all of you for the advice and feedback. I'm looking forward to this project!
I've owned a pair of Vandy 3A Sig's for about 6 months, and have been using a Bryston 4B-ST amp with them. I got my Bryston new for $1650, and think it is a terrific combination with the speakers.
As one who is very familiar with the Vandersteen's and a former owner of the Audio Research SP-9 Mk III, a very high priority of mine would be to sell the SP-9. You will never get the best from the Vandersteens with that preamp. I don't know your budget but top of the line alternatives include CAT, Hovland, Ayre, Aesthetix. A good budget alternative would be Audible Illusions (Modulus 3 is better than 3A). As far as amps go, I have heard the 3A Signatures with Belles (not impressed), Bel Canto (not impressed), Ayre V1 (very good, but not fantastic) and Rogue Audio (not enough bass). Have heard the 3A's with Krell, Plinius SA-100 and Pass Aleph 4. I would match the 3A Signatures with the Alephs. The Aleph should be available for about $3000. They are warm, smooth, have great soundstage and detail, with terrific bottom end extension and very good top end extension. The Vandersteen's are so dynamic that they really don't need an explosive amplifier like the Plinius or the old Krell amps. The 3a Signatures I find to be less dynamic than the 3A's with a slightly improved top end over the 3A's, so I think it would be a very good match with the Aleph's which are a little laid back in the high end. If that is still not enough slam or high end detail, consider a Pass X-250, but in my opinion, it shouldn't be necessary since the Vandy's move a lot of air on their own. These amps will take your system far beyond the McCormack amps' capabilities. But, if I were you, I would work on the preamp first. If you a/b the SP-9 with any of my preamp suggestions you will never go back.
Sorry. I didn't mean to bad-mouth the entire McCormack DNA series. My experience is limited to DNA .5 Deluxe and DNA 1 Deluxe. I understand the DNA 2 is in a different class, but I haven't heard it. Even the .5 and 1 are very good amps for the money, but the Pass amps are clearly in a different class, IMO. And the Vandersteen's are a speaker which is capable of letting you hear the difference between the DNA .5 or 1 and either Aleph 2's (monoblock version of Aleph 4) or Aleph 4.
By the way, I have heard the DNA 125 (not with Vandy's) and didn't think it even came close to either DNA .5 or DNA 1 in sound quality. What do other people think?
Rayhall; I appreciate hearing of your experience and all your above posts re: DNA amps and 3A speakers. John_1 is also a big fan of the Alephs with the 3As, but I have to note that he liked the DNA1 Rev.A Gold even better with his 3As than the Aleph 2s. It's true that the DNA-2DX is a significant step up from the other DNAs, and it really sounds good with the 3As. But to keep up with the Joneses (Passes?), I've made plans to have my DNA2 upgraded to Rev. A Gold. Hope to post positive results one of these days. Cheers. Craig.
Rayhall, you must be alone in your opinion that the DNA-1 is superior to the DNA125. Both reviews in Stereophile by ST & KB of the newer amps agree that they are clearly superior to the older ones. Steve McCormack himself agrees, except for his Rev. A of the older ones, which he says may be just slightly superior to the new ones. All the reviews on Audioreview.com of the newer McCormacks praise them over the old. I own a DNA225 & will vouch that it is a superb amplifier, & I used to be a McCormack skeptic.
Garfish, I must admit to not being familiar to the changes associated with Steve McCormack's various revisions of the original DNA series. I know that many people sing their praises. Don't get me wrong about the DNA .5/1 Deluxe or non-Deluxe. When I first heard them, I almost bought one. When you take into account price, they are a super buy. They have great bass slam which the Aleph doesn't have, very good midrange and overall very good dynamics. But to my ears they are a little rolled off in the high end when compared with an Aleph. The Aleph 4's also provide better detail, soundstaging, and excellent bass extension, if not great slam IMO. The Aleph doesn't have outstanding dynamics and is a little "suppressed" in the upper midrange. I guess I would give all these characteristics different weights than you, Craig, but I would come out with the Aleph way ahead of either the DNA .5 or 1, Deluxe or non-Deluxe. Again, I have no experience with any of the revisions by SMcAudio. Then you are comparing an amp around $2000 vs $7000 (retail prices). It ought not to be a fair comparison. Still say that the Vandersteen 3 series (particularly the 3 and 3A non-Signature) were some of the most dynamic speakers I have ever heard. They have plenty of get-up-and-go regardless of the amplifier used. You could mate them with a less dynamic amplifier. The 3A Signature, having a little bit more high end detail than the 3a(although still forgiving) could be even a better match than a 3A with the Aleph 2,4 or 1.2, given that these amps are all a little laid back in the upper mids. Kevziek: Hmmm. It is possible that I just got a bad audition of the DNA-125, but I found it to be a little lifeless. Don't remember the other electronics but the speakers where Alon 5's. Amp seemed to have a lot less slam than the earlier DNA's, but I must admit I found the Alon 5 to sound a little weird on its own. No amp that we tried seemed to straighten out the sound. So, maybe that was the fundamental problem.
I have tried VT100mk II, McCormack dna.5 deluxe. dna1, PSE Iv, Audio Research D115II, and now Vt130 and SDA1. To me, the best solid state is SDA1 in bridged mode, providing 300watts per channel. It easily beat out the mcCormack. Even PSEiv was a little better. It was just sweeter. But, the best match overall was the Vt130. It makes the VT100II sound ...well not so exciting and like a solid stage. vt130 has so much more emotions.
A footnote to the McCormack/Vandersteen banter.. Richard Vandersteen used the McCormack amps (DNA 1's I believe) at shows for quite a while. Don't know what they use now. As a former DNA1 Deluxe owner, I'm not sure if this is the best match possible with the Vandy's. Both products are on the laid back side IMO. I would agree with the Audio Research VT100 MkII as I have heard both the 2 Sig's and 3 Sig's with this amp. The D series amps would also be an interesting choice and the higher powered versions make swell space heaters. You can camp out around them during the winter months.
Kevziek; glad to hear that you're enjoying your McCormack amp. I haven't heard it, but would like too. Rayhall, to put the McCormack DNA-2DX into perspective versus some of the excellent Pass Alephs, the 2DX retailed for $5K, and is a true dual-mono design with 300/600 wpc into 8 and 4 ohms. This amp did not get a lot of attention because it was never reviewed by STPH or TAS, and also the company was going under during its production run, ie I have one made in CA. and one in Va. The 2DX truly is a great sounding amp, and different but very competive with any amp in its price range and above, IMO, eg I liked it much better than the ML 331-- more natural. I've discussed this amp at length with Steve McCormack, and am planning on putting another $4K into upgrading it to Rev. A Gold+. BTW, the DNA2 is truly a great buy used at $2 to 2.5K. Cheers. Craig