Amp away for 20 year upgrade...back-up amp to the rescue

I just sent my SMc Audio Revision A+ modified McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe amplifier to SMc for an apparently much needed upgrade.  I bought the amp in 1997, had a Revision B mod done in early 1998 and then the A+ revision done in 2002.  On a whim I decided to call Steve McCormack two days ago to find out what was current with their modifications for the DNA-1.

In the course of a 25 minute chat I learned that virtually none of the mod parts in my amp are part of their current upgrades and that for a reasonable price (approx. $1300) I would get an entirely new motherboard, upgraded soft recovery diodes as well as new output caps., resistors, input and output jacks and wiring scheme.  So away it went today via Fedex.

Out of the closet comes my Musical Concepts modified Adcom GFA-555.  In listening through it right now, I remember how endearing this amp can be as it flatters the music with good ebb and flow and a recessed soundstage so the music never seems to "come at you".  Very enjoyable.  So why own and upgrade my full service amp?  Verisimilitude!!   That you are there or even better, they are here presence to the sound.  The lack of transient attack and air around instruments also belies a sense of realism.  Again, don't get me wrong, I'll be enjoying music for the next month or so that my main amp is getting a spa treatment, but it will be exciting to hear the music back in the room with me and the open soundspace where the music seems here again.
Interesting. Congrats on the move-I know the feeling of excitement that comes with having Steve upgrade his amps-I had a DNA.5 upgraded to A+ and a DNA-1 upgraded to B+ right around the same time you did. I am tempted, but both my SMc amps sit around as back-ups to my ARC Ref6 and Ref150se combo. Please give us a report when you get the amp back. I might still have one or both upgraded. 
report please!!

i have dna 750s and am still saving tor an upgrade  about 1500-2K EACH  (OUCH) !!!!!  BUT HOPEFULLY BE WORTH IT.

report your thoughts when it arrives. r u getting the new faceplates as well? or keep old ones with label sticker?
@arcticdeth   Good question about faceplate.  I saw pics on the SMc site where the faceplate is changed.  I guess I'll leave that to Steve and Patrick.  

A decent back up amp is a must.

I'm glad you have one.  I found that I had way too many pieces of equipment lying around and I sold my second Mark Levinson 23.5 and also my Mark Levinson ML3.  I really didn't want to sell the ML3 at all.  What a great amp and a classic.  But, too much stuff around.

I still have my very modified Bedini 250/250 MK II which I upgraded and modified in discussion with John Bedini a few years before he passed.

A nice, warm amp that works very well.

When one of my Audio Research REF 250 amps had an issue, I had to send both in for repair and I moved my other 23.5 (yes I had two) to power the upper panels on my Monolith III speakers and the Bedini to the woofers.

I could still listen to music and enjoy.


 Congrats on owning so much fine gear! Those are some amazing amps in your bullpen.


I sold both the Conrad-Johnson MF2550 and the Rogue RP-5 tube preamp and went with a McIntosh C2500 tube preamp and a McIntosh MC152 power amp.  This works much better in my room with the GE Triton References speakers.

Thanks.  Living in Southern California I found that sometimes it gets so warm that tube amps are the way to go.  Before I bought them (listened to these very amps for two years at Stereo Design in San Diego), I didn't know they were also space heaters.  Great on cool/cold nights, but warm nights, well...

So, sometimes out comes the Bedini.

I have to say, the 23.5 is still one of the best amps I have heard even compared to newer amps.

The Bedini, I modified with separate power supplies, massive capacitors, and upgraded driver and output transistors that are much more linear and better sounding than the originals.  Cardas internal wiring, removed the speaker fuses, upgraded power cord, and a slow start circuit. I also added Threshold like heat sinks and increased the bias.  Wow!  love this amp


Correction:  Tube amps are not the way to go when it is too warm.




I did for a few months, they didn’t have the power i needed. low to mid volume, amazing, clear, tight, airy, all those 10 dollar words. but mine are older, and break up very quickly at high volumes.

Mccormack ones have never done this, on any speaker i own. they are absofreakinlutelyamazing, to sum it in one word.

backups: sunfire sig 600 - odyssey stratos - 2 mid late 90's yummy receivers (one of which is used to record my LP's to computer to burn to cds.
Great post. I have a DNA .05 Deluxe and it is a killer amp in stock form and have thought about the current upgrades.  I can imagine how fine it would sound with upgrades.  SMC is top notch.  I picked up an Adcom GFA 5400 recently and I really thought it was very musical amp, easy to like.  I am getting a DIY friend to do a major upgrade to it, hopefully with the expectation that is will be a very fine performer.  The DIY crowd has really figured out how to maximize the performance of this 5XXX line of Adcom amps. 

Extra amplifiers in the closet are like "packed power" to a cannoneer.   More is better.   
@whitestix   The Adcoms are ripe for modifying. They are a good, solid, robustly built amp with room inside for a modifier to work his/her magic.  You are fortunate to have a DIY friend with the expertise to do the mod.  It was many years ago that I had Musical Concepts modify mine.  The results as I recall them were a sweeter, more musical amp maintaining the tight grip on the bass of the original.

Steve McCormack's DNA concept struck me as right as soon as I became aware of it. It makes the amp quick, real quick, like few others you will hear.  It was fun to talk with Patrick at SMc as he discussed how relentless Steve is about maximizing his designs.  In fact, he mentioned that they have been designing some custom amps for very well-healed customers and that as they work on the circuits of these beauties they have discovered some cost effective improvements to implement in the DNA series as they modify them.

"Trickle-Down Technology"
Right on, my friend.  My pal has been a significant participant in the DIY forum on Adcom upgrades and claims the properly modded 5400 is a truly refined amplifier at a small cost.

I tell ya, when I got my DNA .05 a couple of years ago, merely on a whim, I was literally floored when I swapped out my CJ MF-80, which had been upgraded by Richard Thalman, and inserted the McCormack amp in its place.  OMG, from the first measure of the music, I fell in love with the power, speed and extension of the amp.  It is just profoundly musical. 

Last summer I got a First Watt F5 in a trade.  I always wanted a Pass amp, but they are quite pricey.  I will say that the F5 is more revealing of inner details of music and has a unique crystal clarity... ultimately being, in my view, a very neutral amp.  I use both amps to drive my Spatial Audio M4 Triode Master open baffle speakers, and can't say that I prefer one amp over the other.  The F5 yields a pure glimpse of the music but does not approach the muscularity of the sound of the McCormack amp.  I love both amps, no question.  We will see how the modded 5400 compared to the McCormack amp.  
@whitestix   I hope you post the results of the 5400 project. There are quite a few A'Goners who are prejudiced against modifying gear as they fear it will reduce the resale value when they decide to move on to other gear.  Perhaps some will rethink their stance if they hear enough success stories.

I have really taken a big bite of the modification apple as my SACD player, line stage and amp are all extensively modified.
Yes, I will do just that.  My DIY friend in San Francisco is a brilliant engineer with a lust for audio improvements that can be done very economically.  There is a problem, he tells me, with the delicacy of the boards in the 5XXX amps so mods can go sideways if not done with a high degrees of TLC.  I reckon he might have $100-$200 in new components in my 5400 so for the DIY cats, this could be a path to an excellent amp for a pittance.  Honestly, I thought the stock amp sounded quite pleasant (although clearly not comparable to my McCormack amp), but he tells me that I the amp I will be getting back will be profoundly better in every respect.  In part, he focuses on beefing up the power supply with lots of additional caps.  
That sounds like a good approach.  In all of my modded and stock equipment, I have opted for the modifiers or designers who emphasized the robustness of the power supply.  Music has an "effortless" quality to it through such gear.


I am a big Conrad Johnson fan.  I have not had a demo of any McCormack designs, yet, it could be on my radar.  Anyone here owned both and chose SMc  amps?

There is a sweet -looking DNA LAE for sale here, but, I would not know its sonic signature?  Would it mate well w/ a CJ pre-amp?

Happy Listening!

If I am not mistaken, didn't Conrad Johnson build the McCormack amps in their factory?  If that is so, I would think it would match up well with  a CJ preamp.  Is the preamp tube or solid state?