McCormack Power Drive DNA-1 power amplifier Page 3

I'll close the listening impressions with a capsule comparison of the DNA-1 in relation to other superb amplifiers: the reference VTL 225W Deluxe monoblocks, Krell KSA-250, and the Boulder 500AE that so captivated J. Gordon Holt.

First, the DNA-1 had tighter, deeper, faster, and better-defined bass than the VTLs. In the mids, the VTLs had greater lushness and ease, with unparalleled liquidity and harmonic rightness. It is this quality that makes the VTLs so special. The VTLs also threw a deeper soundstage, but the DNA-1 had a slight edge in keeping individual instrumental lines distinct from the whole. Both amplifiers were eminently involving and enjoyable. Significantly, I didn't feel compelled to immediately pull the DNA-1 from the system and get back to the VTLs. Even after the long-term auditioning was finished, I left the DNA-1 in place and continued to enjoy music through it. I usually feel an urgency to get back to my beloved VTLs after spending a month or more with solid-state amplifiers. Overall, I preferred the VTLs (especially when used in conjunction with the solid-state powered Muse Model 18 subwoofer), but the DNA-1 was not far behind.

The DNA-1 was more like the Krell KSA-250 than the VTLs in bass performance. Both amplifiers had a satisfying punch and effortlessness, but the KSA-250 gets the nod. The DNA-1 also lacked the 250's ultimate soundstage depth, and generally had a more forward presentation. Significantly, the DNA-1 had many of the qualities that make the KSA-250 such a great amplifier.

In relation to the Boulder 500AE, the DNA-1 was more laid-back and had a greater sense of ease. The 500AE, though, had a remarkable transparency, vividness, and clarity, qualities that reminded me of the Threshold S550/e. The Boulder had many appealing characteristics, but was a bit forward in relation to the DNA-1. Both amplifiers had superb bass; the nod goes to the DNA-1 for speed and articulation, but to the 500AE for a greater sense of weight and dynamic impact.

The best word to describe the McCormack Power Drive DNA-1 is "musical." It consistently offers an involving, satisfying musical experience. Apart from the specific performance attributes detailed in the body of the review, listening to music through the DNA-1 was just plain enjoyable. This is one solid-state amplifier I could be happy with for a long time. Further, the DNA-1 represents an extraordinary value; this combination of musicality and sheer output-power muscle are unprecedented at the price, in my experience.

In comparing the DNA-1 to other solid-state power amplifiers, the one that comes immediately to mind is the $6250 Krell KSA-250. The two amplifiers have many things in common: fast and powerful bass, midrange liquidity, smooth and silky treble, and superb soundstaging. Ultimately I preferred the Krell, but not by as wide a margin as the difference in price might indicate.

The DNA-1 is a strong Class B product that is knocking on the door of Class A performance. That's saying a lot for a $2000 amplifier, especially one with this power output and ability to deliver high current into low impedances. In short, the McCormack Power Drive DNA-1 amplifier is a real find, and a bargain at the price—a true high-end powerhouse amplifier that won't break your budget.

If you're in the market for an amplifier anywhere near this price, I urge you to audition the DNA-1. If you don't, you'll never know what you're missing.