McCormack DNA-125/225 Upgrades

There has been much written here regarding the fabulous results of Steve McCormack's personal mods to the older DNA amplifier series (0.5, 1, and 2). Many of you know that I have been waiting for mods to become available to the newer DNA series (125/225). They are now available and I have mine scheduled to go in January (yes, there is a relatively significant backlog at this time). Steve is planning Gold and Platinum level upgrades, as opposed the the B, A, and A-gold, as in the past. These sound like very exciting mods and, if you are interested, call Steve for details.

Just a heads up to those who had wondered when these mods would be offered. By all accounts these mods are outstanding and will bring the 125 or 225 to the level of THE finest amps available.

I have nothing to do with SMCAudio, just a happy user of McCormack.

Daltonlanny, I think the DNA 125-225 Revisions will not take into the territory of the DNA 500, it will be a totally different amp. Remember that the DNA 125, 225 and 500 were built to meet a price point and the standards of the factory. The 125, 225 and 500 amps differ only in power output rating. I am sure that the Mods will actually tailor and clean up the sound of these already well tested amps. If you notice the price of the mods, the Platinum, I am sure for the 225 model go for $2400....that is as close as the full retail price of the amp itself....if you calculate the mark up of the factory, you can say that in reality you are getting an amp with at most $1000 parts on it, but for $2400 of modifications, I bet that the labor would be close to maybe, I am estimating about $75 hoursx10=$750...and the rest, parts=1650 in parts. An amp with $1000 worth in parts+$1650 more in parts would be in reality $2650Xretail markup= 6-7K. This is a wild guess, I am sure that the CJ factory actually spends less on each amp. According to someone in the this thread, he said that SMc stated that the amp with the Platinum upgrade can go against amps that retail for 15k....I am not to doubt that. If his designs were put into production, are attractively priced, because the DNA amps are very well priced in comparison to other brands and still are able to produce flooring reviews from magazines and audiophiles, as well as to work out in the calculation of the company ambitions, I would not that that Smc can pull a near miracle with $2400 of your hard earned dollars. This is my take on this. I will have to begin scrounging money for the upgrade.

Reading this thread, and particularly Paul's post, made me think about what you are really getting for your money with these upgrades. I owned the DNA2 and seriously considered having it upgraded by SMc. My conversations with the folks at SMc showed them to be dedicated, professional and very helpful. However, as I researched it, my decision was that for the cost of the upgrades, one could buy a sonically equivalent or superior new (or used) amp. I am sure the 125,225 and 500 are nice amps, but I belive a significant amount of the upgrade cost through SMc must be labor, since that is their main source of revenue. Therefore, wouldn't it be better if McCormack made a "Signature" series of these amps, which incorporates the upgrades and takes advantage of the lower cost of line-based assembly, rather than for consumers to have to pay SMc to both take apart the factory installed components then install the upgrades, just to get the desired performance. On the flip-side would be the low cost production of the Parasound JC-1 Halo, in which all the concievable modifications are incorporated into the design, and the assembly is performed in as low-cost a manner as possible (overseas). I am not advocating overseas production (in fact all of my components are American made), and I am not saying the Halo is a better amp than a modified McCormack, but simply pointing out the different production philosophies and the potentially high proportion of labor cost to sonic benefit of the upgrades associated with these McCormack amps.
I would love to hear a modded DNA amp vs. the JC-1. What a great test that would be - for me. Here's why.

I have a DNA.5 Deluxe that I self-modded to near revA status. I had lots of help from both Bob Crump (who voiced the JC-1) and Steve McCormack himself, on parts selection and other options that I could carry out myself without serious circuit redesign. Yes, this DIY approach saved me big time $ over Steve's mods, and was really the only way I could afford to upgrade my amp. I was also able to implement the cap bypass design that Bob used in the JC-1 with excellent results.

The McCormack amps are a gem by themselves, with the mods they are truly in a different league. How much better can it get?

Having read the various posts here, I felt I should weigh-in with a few comments of my own. First of all, the whole point of McCormack Audio is performance *value,* while my personal goals with SMc Audio are oriented more toward absolute performance, with somewhat less regard for cost ;-) If McCormack Audio were to implement the sort of things I am doing in my upgrades, the products would be entirely different, and several times more expensive.

As a designer and audiophile, SMc Audio is an important outlet for me because it allows me to pursue my dreams and create product solutions that are purely performance driven. It’s a lot of fun, I get to express my audio creativity in some very cool products, and I get to deal with you folks directly, which I also enjoy.

To say that this is a subjective business is something of an understatement. There is no “best amplifier” that everyone will agree on, but I think it is important to understand that my Revision A upgrades and the new Platinum and Gold Edition amplifiers will get you into “the best” territory for a lot less money than you might spend otherwise. It may seem odd to invest as much (or more) in an upgrade as the amp cost originally, but that is what it takes to deliver the best combination of parts, attention to detail, and hand craftsmanship I have to offer. And for those who are fundamentally happy with these amps to begin with, this may truly be the best and most cost-effective path to state-of-the-art performance.

Finally, please understand that hearing the stock McCormack amps really doesn’t prepare you for what the fully upgraded versions are capable of. You have no idea how many times I have heard the phrase, “How much better can it get?” only to hear the same person ultimately reply, “Wow! I had no idea you could make *that* kind of improvement!”

Thanks to all for your interest, and please contact me if you have questions.

Best regards,

Steve McCormack
I think the upgrades provided by SMc Audio to my DNA-2 Deluxe are an incredible value.
There is more to it than just a parts and labor ratio. With the more extensive upgrades, you are essentially getting a new amplifier along with a new warranty. If you have a problem or question, the designer and technician are a phone call away. There are many factors besides the huge perfomance and sound quality benefits.

The stock DNA-2 Deluxe was a very good amp, powerful and musical. With the Gold revision and input transformers, it has exceeded my initial expectations and my appreciation for the quality continues to grow. There is no pondering the parts vs. labor ratio here.

There are a few new amps that have become available since I decided to have mine upgraded and most have magazine reviews that wax poetic how wonderful they are. It is not possible for most of us to audition all the choices, so our "research" is often based on the feedback from others.
To my knowledge, there are no magazine reviews of the McCormack revision amps, but a long list of feedback from satisfied customers. I consider this type of endorsement more credible than most magazine reviews.