McCormack DNA 500

Is the McCormack DNA 500 really as great as reported?
Anyone with enough experience to comment?
I've always been impressed with McCormack amps and preamps. But have noy heard this one.
Yes Eagle,
I've seen your link to the DNA 500. It sounds too good to be true. I would like to hear from other owners of the amp. Sue Kraft ( if I got her name right) of the Absolute Sound thinks it is not as good as the EDGE NL 10. The IAR review sounds like nothing comes close to it. So, we've got some difference of opinion (as expected). Therefore, I would like to hear more views.
If it were as good as the IAR review said it was, then we are looking at the amplifier deal of the century at its price.
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There is a guy at the audiocircle forum with a very good system and apparently no shortage of cash. He has had many high quality amps in for a ride...he says the DNA 500 tops them all.

I can't remember his name but a search at that fourm should turn up his posts. You could then shoot him an e-mail regarding all the amps he has compared in his system.

His name may be Zybar?...not sure

I'm always amazed at the reaction of so many people when they all shift their attention to "the-best-I-ever-heard" product reported by a reviewer or two. We all have our preferences and compromises and of course a brand or two that we have been very successful with. But the IAR situation just simply gets old after awhile. The ridiculous VTM200 amp review is a case in point. Gosh, does this publication ever change?

Yes, ARC and McCormack do indeed make some great products, but when they come out as the best by one reviewer year after year after year, this indicates a few things: 1) are all the other designers of audio gear unable to produce "equally" musical gear? 2) is the reviewer simply having a tough time getting out of his/her little box? - almost sounds like religious devotion instead of subjective reviewing; 3) and when such "best" claims are made, what context is this? .... a brief listen of each in completely different rooms and setups? ... or was it an extended session where one amp was exchanged for the other a few times?

And is the McCormack the best SS amp to drive something like Apogee Scintillas or the MBL 101 speakers? Or was it found to the prefered amp to drive the reviewer's favorite Vandersteen or Thiel speaker? Choosing an amp has everything to do with the speaker it is to drive.

Without the reviewer listing the competitive products in the comparison, such "best" statements are of zero value. And even then, it is in the context of the reviewer's priorities that are often far different than our own.

Using the "live performance" as the definitive reference is a fine goal, but I can't get the orchestra in my room nor can I get my system into the orchestra hall. And the room is a huge factor in itself. So this ultimately does not work very well either.

I'm wondering how it compares to the Mcintosh MC402? (400wpc; price $5100. Rave review in TAS 147). A Mccormack at $7000; or a Mac (with the beautiful build quality, looks, etc.) at $5100.......hmmmm. I like Mccormack gear, but for $7K, it would be nice if they at least gave you cosmetics equal to Levinson, Pass, etc. The older Mccormack amps at least had a beefy, industrial look; the new Mccormacks "look" like budget gear, Creek for example. Just my 2 cents,
This amp is at the top of my (very) short list for a near-future amp upgrade, so I am very interested in the responses to this thread, not only by those who have read the reviews, but by those who have actually heard (or preferrably owned) one. I did notice the Kraft and Moncrieff reviews referenced a slight lack of focus in the HF, that wasn't mentioned in the 6Moons or Jim Merod Onsoundandmusic reviews. Can anyone shed light on what would seem a deficiency? I liked Chip Stern's 6Moons review the best because of the interview with Steve McCormack, and because I thought the article was well done. Other amps I am looking at in the price range include the SimAudio W6 monos, and the Belles 150A Reference monos (see gushing review by Doug Blackburn in Soundstage).
Has anyone sonically compared the McCormack DNA-500 with the Parasound Halo JC-1 monoblocks?
If so, how did they compare sonically?
WOW! The writer of that review must have set a new record
for including the model number in almost every line of copy.
I'm sure it's a very nice amp, but if you wait for the next
best amp review, you will be able to purchase a used DNA 500
on AudioGon for about $2500.00.It will be listed by a person who bought it after reading the above review, that way you can test it with YOUR EARS, not your eyes.If you don't like it, sell it and you will probably break even.
Enjoy the music.

Well I feel compelled to respond here. I actually own
a DNA 500. I have had mine for about 4 months now. My
previous amp was a BAT VK500 which I was very happy
with. The problem with the BAT was the bulk and the
furnace like heat it pumped out.

I will say that in my opinion that DNA 500 was a big
upgrade from the BAT. The difference in dynamics,
resolution and control is huge. My Sig 805 sounded
great with the BAT but with the DNA they jumped to
life. I'm a little pressed for time right now but I
will say that the DNA 500 has radically changed my
system for the better. Feel free to email me or
respond here if you have any questions.

Back to work guys.

You mentioned that the DNA 500 was a big upgrade from the BAT VK 500 (itself a very respectable amp). Can you please elaborate further when you have the time? Any comparision with other high quality amps?
Hi Thf,

let me state it simply - yes.

I've owned McCormack gear in various forms for almost a decade and went from a stock DNA-1 through the upgrade cycles to Steve's most recent mods. My most recent DNA-1 mod was driving original Mirage M1's and while they sounded fabulous, I felt they needed more power to bring them alive and auditioned the DNA-2 LAE and finally, the DNA-500.

Well, I kept the DNA-500 - end of that story.

I have heard alot of very fine and very expensive SS amps mated with similar quality preamps, speakers, etc. Every time, I have been drawn back to Steve's sound and felt very fortunate for the modest sum it cost me to own it.

The final plus is, Steve eventually gets around to offering mods to all of his gear and, if you can afford his pinnacle upgrades, your in the elite end of high end audio - at a still modest sum. No doubt you can find better but believe me, you will spend alot more before you do - IMHO.

If your fortunate enough to live in an area with some good audio dealers, you should be able to bring one home and audition it over a weekend. If it's a floor model, that's better because it's well broken in so you can at least hear the DNA-500's potential. I find home auditions the true critical test because nobody else provides your combination of components and room accoustics.

I wish you the very best in your search.
Well, I wish I had an endless supply of cash as somebody up above said... :-)

I do own the DNA-500 and I am using it with a Tact 2.2x preamp, VMPS RM 40 speakers, and an Empirical Audio modified Sony S-7700 as a transport directly into the Tact.

The DNA-500 is effortless in its presentation while being very musical. It gets the harmoincs of the music right. The overall presentaion is well balanced and not any one area stands out or seems deficient.

I have found that it excels regardless of the music and handles whatever I throw at it. In a typical session it isn't uncommon for my to go from The Bad Plus to Tori Amos to Wilco to Ben Harper to Sam Cooke to Roland Kirk to Vivaldi. In all cases the amp keeps me emotionally involved in the music while squeezing out tons of detail.

Other amps I have owned or tried in my system include:

Kora Cosmos Reference Mono Blocks
Rowland 201's
Pass X250/350
Plinius 250
VAC 100/100
Sunfire Stereo
Mesa Baron
Krell KSA 100
Meridian (can't remember the model number but it was big)
Sherbourn 5/1500A
Adcom GFA 555 MK ii
Spectron (original model, not current one)

Zybar, that's an impressive list of amps! Does the DNA500 flat-out beat all of them, or were there any of those other amps that did some things better? Any you regret selling?
Overall the DNA-500 beats them all.

No regrets at all!!

THE Kora amps had the magic in the midrange that only Class A Triode tubes can produce.

The DNA-500 is very liquid without a hint of grain or harshness I usually hear in SS amps, but it isn't tubes.

(Chip Stern reviewed the DNA-500 at 6Moons, and basically calls the DNA-500 the best solid state amp he's heard).You think old Chip has heard a H2O or Audio Research T class amps BET NOT. I think McCormack makes great gear too. I'd like to hear the DNA500s.I did like the DNA225 but the ARC 150M was just a lot better amp.
George! The DNA500 is on my current "short list". Just wondering if you have heard any of the latest X .5 series Pass amps & how they might compare?


There would be a big difference between the DNA 225 and the DNA 500.
You shouldn't use the former to compare to another as a basis to conclude on the 500.

And Steve McCormack has mods he is now just doing on the DNA 500 that he did on my 300 watt DNA-2 Rev. A.

Try that on for size and then let's hear some comparisons.
The 500 is excellent as many have pointed out. I do think there is some good advice above to listen to several and buy what is best for your system and ears. I auditioned many, including the DNA500, but ended up with the Cary CAD500MB0 , their new SS 500W Mono's. The McCormack was a very very close second, and in fact the main reason I went Cary was they were so close and my pre and cdp are both Cary. I always laugh when someone says anything is the "best" and leave off "to me" because it's not really possible for it to be universal....FWIW

The new DNA 500 mods you spoke about:

Soft Recovery Diode Bridge
Cabron-Siltech Wire Matrix
Black Gate Bypass Caps

Is that correct?

From my experience, it is EVERY BIT as good as reported. I have owned Hafler DH-500, Hafler 9500 and 9505 (run stereo and bridged), Nakamichi PA 7, and Sunfire 300. Long story short, I currently have Legacy Focus SE speakers, a Pass Labs XP-30 preamp, and 3 years ago purchased 2 McIntosh MC 601 mono block amplifiers new. Since the purchase of the MC 601’s I have been quite disappointed in their bass response. The bridged Hafler 9500/9505 had more weight in the bass region. The Sunfire, Nakamichi, and McIntosh all fall short of the Haflers in the bass department. The McIntosh MC601’s are great in the mids and highs, much better and clearer than all of the previously mentioned amplifiers. I recently purchased a used Mccormack DNA 500 based on the reviews and the fact that all of the reviews mentioned the weighty bass. I purchased it to use only as a bass amplifier for the woofers. I have had it hooked up for about 4 months now running it full range to the Legacy Focus SE’s just to see what it is capable of. So far, I have not even put the McIntosh MC 601’s back in the system on the mids and highs as planned. The DNA 500 is superb. It seems to do everything right from the bass, the mids all the way up to the highs. It is every bit the equal of the MC 601s in the mids and highs – even a small notch less bright (advantage for the Legacy Focus SE’s). IT STOMPS the MC 601s in the bass department. It tops any amplifier I have ever had in my system in the bass department. The term “Velvet hammer” fits perfectly. It is not too much bass, just bass you never realized you were missing with other amplifiers. This helps acoustical music tremendously. An acoustic guitar sounds so much better and real when an amp has the reserves to produce proper bass. I will soon put the MC 601’s back in just on the mids and highs just for comparison. But, so far I have been so happy with the DNA 500 running full range, I haven’t messed with putting them back into the system yet.

I’ve tried many amps with my Maggie’s. Dna 2 made the difference. No need for trying anything else.
McCormack amps are amazing.
 Worth the money.
you can call and talk directly with the owner/designer. Upgrades are amazing,  it really is top tier gear, which is an understatement.
Proud owner of  DNA-750s’

I was very skeptical with my,purchase a couple years back, let me assure you, the headroom is great, a nice smooth sound, not harsh at all.
I have owned a stock DNA-2, DNA-500, Signature DNA-2, and a totally rebuilt TLC-1 Signature preamp that is very, very, close to the SMc Audio VRE-1.  That preamp is outstanding and bettered about 20 others I previously owned.

I am currently awaiting a pair of Steve's new top-of-the-line SMc Audio DNA-1 Ultra G Monoblocks with the new Gravity Base System.  I have also owned several other highly regarded Class A, D, and AB amplifiers but none I was quite ready to consider my end game (although the Clayton M300s I have owned twice were very close).  I can't wait to hear these new SMc amplifiers - they are supposed to be here on Monday.

  please write a few words about the new McCormack amps. 
   I’ve been drooling over the SMc vre 1 pre, but will be out of my range, even used.
  Those new SMc amps look absolutely amazing.

 Interested in hearing what you have to say about them.