Reviewer: John Potis
Two Channel System
Digital source: Pioneer DV-535 DVD player and Bel Canto DAC2, McCormack UDP-1 Universal player [on review]
Analog Source: Sota Jewel, Sumiko Premier FT3, Micro Benz MC Silver
Preamp: Shindo Partager, McCormack MAP-1, Bel Canto Design Pre6 [on loan]
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Bryston 7B ST
Speakers: Silverline Sonata II, Ohm Acoustics Walsh 4 with 4.5 Mk 2 upgrade, Third Rethm [for review], Thiel PCS [for review]
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor interconnects and speaker wire, DH Labs D-75 digital interconnect, JPS Power AC, Analog AC, Digital AC and Kaptovator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Balanced Power Technology 3.5 Signature with Wattgate upgrades
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, ZCable Ultra-1 ZSleeves
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling. Speakers set up on long wall in quasi Audio Physic orientation.

Multichannel System:
Digital source: Sony DVP-NS500V
Multichannel Preamp: McCormack MAP-1, Bel Canto Design Pre6 [on loan]
Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
Speakers: Mains - Magnepan MG MC-1 or Ohm Walsh 4.5.2; Center - Magnepan MG CC2; Surrounds - Magnepan MG MC-1
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor interconnects and speaker wire

Review component retail: McCormack UDP-1 $3495, McCormack DNA-HT5 $3995

The crowd goes wild as he lays down the simple and familiar guitar melody which he made famous some 25+ years ago. It's the song they've been waiting to hear. In perfect unison, Chad Cromwell starts with the repetitive drum beat as John Regan begins to plumb the depths on his Fender bass. About six minutes later, the rhythm strays from the classic and familiar Rock beat and picks up a jazzy bounce. Clearly this detour is in open defiance to what the band's front man knows the audience eagerly awaits. What follows is a member-by-member introduction of the band and then an authentic Jazz interlude that demonstrates that this band hasn't been sitting musically stagnant for the last quarter of a century. Clearly, this isn't guitarist/keyboardist John Mayo's first foray into Jazz either - he demonstrates real chops. Also revealed is that the band has a sense of humor as they tease the audience by further postponing the inevitable. No matter. To me the excursion is at least as much fun as what the band is withholding by teasing us. The rest of the audience doesn't seem to mind either. Finally, the aging guitar slinger approaches the microphone and queries the audience: "I suppose you want me to do this thing?" Once more the crowd erupts as they hear the voice-fused-with-guitar lyrics of "Do you feel like I do". It was worth the wait.

Of course I'm not at a live performance. I'm home watching Peter Frampton's 1998 Live in Detroit DVD. I'm listening to it loud. I always seem to crank this one up - not because I have to but just because I like to. It just seems appropriate. The guitars sear as is mandated by the music's genre, but Regan's bass lines stand out in terms of power, tonality and incisiveness. Cromwell's drums register with equally adept tonality and clarity, not to mention gut-wrenching power.

For the past couple of years, I've been using the Magnepan MGMC-1 loudspeakers at the four corners of my multi-channel system augmented with their CC-2 center channel speaker. [Review here - Ed.] Bass is relegated to a pair of Velodyne SPL-800 subwoofers. By any standard, it's one musical system that gets both the bombast of cinema and the nuance of music right.

Today and in preparation for a future review, I'm making use of a pair of Ohm Walsh 4s with what Ohm Acoustics refers to as their 4.5 Mk II upgrade. These Walsh speakers are amazingly full-range and their use means that I disconnect the aforementioned subwoofers. Fortuitously, they make an excellent match with the Magnepan center channel and are therefore a fairly seamless substitute.

But today the entire system seems to have been kicked up a notch. I'm using the same McCormack MAP-1 multichannel preamplifier that I've been using for the past 2+ years but I've elevated the system through the inclusion of McCormack's new UDP-1 universal player and their DNA HT-5 multichannel amplifier.

The McCormack MAP-1 Though I had reviewed this multi-channel preamp for another site [review here], I chose to include the MAP-1 for special recognition in 6 moons' end-of-year Syzygy segment, a piece intended to point to the year's most important products. I think I said it best the first time around:

“Thus far 6moons has yet to dive into multi-channel music, but like it or not, it's out there and it should not be ignored. McCormack's handsome MAP-1 is the company's stereo RLD-1 preamplifier replicated three times in one chassis. That makes it a stone-cold bargain at $2495 USD, even if it didn't use top-shelf components and wasn't built like a tank - which it is. It also makes for one mighty fine sounding preamplifier. The MAP-1 comes with a remote control for source switching, on-the-fly system balance/set-up and volume adjustments.

Equipped with two sets of 5.1 multichannel analog inputs and another three sets for stereo, it should have enough ins and outs to accommodate most systems. An audio oriented piece, it has no facilities for video switching and due to its complete absence of nested video menus, it's as easy and straightforward to use as a stereo preamplifier.

What sets the MAP-1 apart is McCormack's proprietary analog ambience retrieval system - what they call ARM. For those desirous of creating surround from two channel sources (laser discs and VHS, for example), the ARM circuit works wonders. Of course, its McCormack RLD-1 lineage means that performance with both SACD and DVD-A is excellent.

The MAP-1 is an important product for its ability to allow a quality two-channel system to ergonomically and seamlessly coexist within a quality multichannel one - at a price that keeps sane the contemplation of a multichannel system. You can spend a whole lot more than for the MAP-1, but I doubt you can get a whole lot more."

I'm as happy today with the McCormack as I was a year ago when I wrote that, and two years ago when I first acquired the piece. So when Srajan and I discussed the possibility of a review of McCormack's new Universal player, the UDP-1, I pressed my luck a little and enquired about the possibility of filling out a complete McCormack system with the addition of their power amplifier as well. It turned out to be a wise move on my part. I've always wanted to hear a McCormack amplifier. They've developed a sterling reputation as a first-rate performer at a second (or third) tier price level. McCormack has become synonymous with solid performance and solid value.