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. 


So, to summarize, 

  • It is not unusual for 30+ year old amplifiers to have problems, that in the case of the McCormack Audio amplifiers could be related to boards, capacitors, and/or other things.
  • The board issue affects the older DNA-0.5,1,2 series amplifiers and not the newer DNA-125,225 amplifiers.
  • McCormack Audio Corporation of Virginia maintains a website but no longer manufactures McCormack Audio amplifiers. 
  • Repairs of existing McCormack Audio amplifiers, for the purpose of restoring operational function, can be obtained through Conrad-Johnson Design, Inc., i.e.:  "Service for McCormack products, including model and capacitor upgrades continues to be offered through our sister company, conrad-johnson design, inc."
  • If you want your McCormack Audio amplifier upgraded to a higher performance level than when it was new, the most experienced and best-regarded company to perform that work is SMc Audio
  • You can also have other people do stuff to your amplifier, or you can do stuff to it yourself, if you choose.
  • Some people who have done stuff to their own amplifier have screwed it up.

@mitch2 your last bullet point is very relevant. We have amplifiers in use by customers that are now at their oldest over 40 and at their youngest nearing 30 years of age. We have seen similar issues with an input circuit board that over the years either through misuse, exposure to heat (poor ventilation) or aging is no longer useful or completely gives up the ghost. Unfortunately we sold out of replacements a couple years ago and made a difficult decision not to produce them any longer. It is interesting to note that these days many of the repair requests we receive come from people who have tried to modify or upgrade the amp themselves or through a third party with not so good results, or bought a modified unit unknowingly that was butchered. Unfortunately the cost to repair what was done and return the amp to original spec outweighs the value of the amp itself. There is something to be said for leaving well enough alone and trust that the designer of the unit knew what they were doing.

Wish I had been aware of soil's warning before I bought my used DNA in 2018 from someone on Audio Mart. Upon powering up it took two minutes to move from safety check to operational. When I inquired of the seller about the time, he said that was normal.The two minutes gradually became 3, 4,5 and then stopped becoming operational at all.  When I spoke to Patrick at SMcAudio he indicated the start up safely check should be 10 seconds or so.. 


I have a 90's .5 that I picked up a few years ago.  One of 3 amps in my rotation.  Thankfully, still working great as of a few months ago until I switched it out for my Hegel. Probably put it back in the system soon to give it a run - fingers crossed!  ;-)

The board failure is a known problem that came to my attention when talking with my repair tech a while back.  I inquired about switching out the old capacitors and doing a refresh, so to speak.  He pretty much advised against it and warned me to not be surprised if it quits on me.  Hopefully, I've got one of the hardier ones!  Like others, I've been considering sending it in for a makeover.  We'll see.

My question is: that you know of, is there any actual risk of fire, other component damage, etc?  Seems like a solder or two failing on a board wouldn't be any real threat.  But, I'm not an expert by any means.  What happened when yours failed?


@pkatsuleas No risk of fire that I’ve heard of.  My amp started taking longer to power on, then worked sporadically and then not at all.  Hopefully yours hangs on for a while 🤞🤞🤞.  I’d suggest not turning it on and off a lot, and if it’s in your system just leave it on 24/7.