Don’t buy used McCormack DNA 1990s amps

This is a public service announcement.  There are some yahoos on other sites selling 1990s McCormack DNA amps, sometimes at ridiculous prices.  While they’re great amps, and I happily owned a DNA 0.5 RevA for 20 years, they’re all gonna fatally fail.  Why?  Because their input board is at the end of its useful life, and when it fails your amp is dead and not repairable by anyone — not even SMcAudio.  It’s a boat anchor.  The only option is to sell it for scraps or get an SMcAudio upgrade that’ll cost around $2000.  Given my love of my amp I chose to do full upgrades given what else I could’ve gotten for the same same price and just got it back and will forward thoughts if anyone cares.  But the purpose of this post is to warn off any prospective buyers of a circa 1990s DNA amp that it’ll fatally fail soon, so unless you get a great price and plan on doing the SMcAudio upgrades just avoid these amps on the used market.  You’ve been warned. 


Just looking for some advice based on the direction this discussion seems to be going: I have a DNA-1 Deluxe that took increasingly long to go through its safety checks before starting until it didn't. I have the box and am set up to send it in with a proposed total replacement of the main board and all power supply capacitors. How far should I go down this rabbit hole before opting out and getting a Benchmark AHB2 or other options? I'll be driving Harbeth M30.1's. an old pain of Celestion SL600's and a slightly new pain of Acarian Alon1's. Thanks.

@davidbeagrace Good question to which there is no easy answer as it’s a very personal decision. I ultimately decided to upgrade my DNA 0.5 RevA at SMcAudio when it failed for the following reasons:

  • I really like the sound of my amp
  • I know getting the amp upgraded will just give me more of everything I already like, so it’s a pretty sure bet
  • The upgrade cost with partial gravity base was “only” $2500 and would basically give me a whole new amp
  • The other amps I was considering that I was fairly confident would be a significant upgrade we’re all >$5000
  • I didn’t really want to go thru the whole search process to find another amp

Taking all those things into account drove me to go with the upgrade. Due to a problem with my preamp I haven’t been able to listen to the amp but hoping I will this weekend, but I’ll forward thoughts once I’ve got some hours on it. Sorry about your amp — I know it sucks — but hope this helps, and best of luck with your decision.

Has anyone here had their McCormack DNA-1 renewed by McCormack/conrad-johnson? Feedback? Thanks.

@davidbeagrace I recently tried a Simaudio Moon 330a. Thinking it will be a very nice match with your harbeths. Used can be found around $2500. Not discouraging you with McCormack. Just another option that may work just as good or better. 

@davidbeagrace The only place I’m aware of who renews/upgrades the amps is SMcAudio who built the amps originally but worth exploring CJ.  However, you might also wanna contact @bigkidz as he may be willing/able to help as well.