Donald North Audio (DNA)

The replies above taught me that I’m a very different buyer than many DNA customers. Scarcity is a negative. Having one dude do everything is a net negative over the long run too. He will retire and pass away. All electronics age, as capacitors always fail and as components are routinely discontinued. With a single creator and extremely long waiting delays, a serviced amp may have been mucked up due to impatience and thereafter have an unclear and “troubled” provenance.

Focusing on scarcity and desirability is great for collector value, but not for tech products with predictable declines.

People may get “screaming deals” on old and poorly maintained vintage Mercedes Benz cars too…and then spend 2x or 5x the purchase price on quality or authorized service.

Thanks, @Roark, that’s great advice. I’ve decided against it for the reasons you mention and because I’m more than likely to go with the Starlett instead (I’ve got dynamic driver headphones, for the most part). The Starlett is better suited to my budget, in any case, and I’d prefer to buy new so that I can be confident about the long-term reliability of the amp. The cheaper, simpler tube options for the Starlett also appeal.

If only it were easy to get ears on one of DNA’s amps to hear if the tuning is right for me and my gear! The good news is that I’m willing to buy a DNA amp sound-unheard because they retain their value so well.

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I largely agree with this sentiment, but at the same time, I feel like it’s almost a necessary risk. I’m having a hard time thinking of how you can buy a truly top of the line tube amp in this hobby without tying yourself to a single builder. Donald of DNA, Justin of Ampsandsound, Jack Woo of Woo Audio - where else does one turn for a truly TOTL headphone tube amp?

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That is neither here nor there. Any company can discontinue support for a product at any time. Having a person dedicated to his product is actually a positive in my eyes. I dont expect anything electronic to last forever and I think I could probably fix it myself if it ever gave out and Donald wasnt available.

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I don’t hold anything against DNA buyers, and don’t want to come across as a troll…

Headphones are a niche hobby with a very limited number of people willing and able to spend that kind of money. There is seemingly nowhere to go other than the solo builders. However, this state of affairs affects the financial risk and notion that scarcity is desirable. One may well take a bath in trying to sell 5 or 10 years down the road, as everything from collectables to stocks goes in and out of fashion.

That’s likely true, as small builders tend to use point-to-point wiring. Simplicity is a double-edged sword on value too, as copying or recreating can be done by many people (witness the rapid rise of Chinese products, including mid-grade tube amps).

Again, I’m not trying to stir up trouble or upset DNA buyers. This pertains to the logic of new and used product values from solo builders.

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You are welcome, was not trying to dissuade you at all. I was commending your due diligence in considering the option, we often find ourselves diving off the cliff without looking below.

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Oh, I didn’t take it that way at all! Like I said, I largely agree with you. If I knew of an amp that would have longer guaranteed support, but with similar quality and price, that would have been very appealing. It’s a crazy niche market (‘crazy’ both as adjective and adverb), and I’m glad there are a few people willing to indulge us. Thanks, Donald, Justin, Jack, et al! :slight_smile:

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I agree here pretty strongly. Support must be part of the purchasing decision for almost everyone at these price ranges (I can buy a DNA but I certainly dont want to just throw that money in the trash if something goes wrong). IMO we are quite lucky with tube amps such as this (and EC, A&S, traformatic, etc) in that they are easily serviceable by people other than the creator. I would be much less comfortable buying something like a dac or heavily digititaly controlled amp (bakoon, auris, etc) if I knew the designer/company was not available to even look at it if something went wrong

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The average decent cap has a lifetime > 30 years, and honestly you have to be unlucky to have them go before 50. You’d have a hard time sourcing output transformers for a lot of older gear, many of them are custom wound or worse hand wound by the manufacturer, if those failed the gear is mostly junk. But again I’ve only ever seen transformers “fail” in really old gear (pre WW2).

I have a pair of going on 30 years old Quicksilver tube mono blocks (I’ve owned them for 25 of those years) here made by a guy, I’m petty sure if I asked he’d service them today, and he hasn’t made them in 20+ years.

You do have to know what your buying and what the risk is.

There was an Eddie Current Studio T sold recently for more than it’s original list price, though it was sold with tubes, so moderate loss for the original owner. It’s widely though to be his best amp, and he isn’t going to make anymore, so if you want one, you take the chance.

FWIW if I were to list my Stratus, I’d probably list it at the $3K I paid for it and throw in the $700 in Tubes it has in it, and see where it goes. Anything which is listed extremely rarely, that is highly valued, and can’t be easily purchased through other means, it’s going to come down to how much one person wants it. Whether its DNA or EC amps, or ZMF headphones.

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Aint that the damn truth. I desporately wanted a masskobo 428 (dumb little fantastic portable amp that the seller refuses to ship to the US) and had to just pay what the seller wanted because I wasnt going to see another for sale for almost a year. On the other hand I only paid $1800 for my first utopia because they are common as hell and I just had to be patient enough to find someone who just wanted to unload it. The fact is, these super uncommon items are pretty damn volitile because if you find someone who knows what it is they will pay a lot but if you cant find that person you need to take a massive hit just to get it gone

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Now that the stratus is $4.5k it seems that a stratus in general for $2.4K is not going to pop up a lot anymore. (On top of how rare any dna amp get listed in general used.)

I hope someone that can’t afford a stratus at $4.5k can buy this and be happy that they found one in their comfortable price range. I’ve had a few people tell me they took the stratus off the table once the newer version price hike went in effect. Good luck to someone for getting a killer deal! Not a bad blindbuy since this amp would be basic to resell down the line. Of course my opinion is very biased towards DNA amps and maybe other won’t like them as much as me.

Not worried about owning a DNA amp even after Donald’s retirement since the amp can be serviced by many if needed.

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I didnt realize the amp was revised when the price went up. any idea what changes were made?

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Also, I personally think DNA amps are highly undervalued at retail. Buying direct avoids all the extra cost a company has to spend on advertising and mark up costs to stores. On top of how awesome Donald is to deal with. We as consumers have a lot of great choices and of course everything has its pros and cons to it. I like buying from more boutique smaller companies as quality seems very organic and honest. It’s nice to put a face behind the creativity. Companies like DNA and ZMF really represent that area of the market amazingly well.

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The newer version has Audio Note Output Transformers. Their transformers are made very well!

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So true. I had speakers from one off the biggest names ever in high end audio, and once the company went through changes they were unable to offer any service for the speakers.

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Just saw this listing today and it sold before I could put in an offer in. The used market for DNA is insanely hot. Yet and A&S forge have been on headfi for 2 months.

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Go figure. Didn’t expect it to last long considering it’s almost impossible to buy used and it’s $600 under what a lot of people would have paid for it. Hopefully someone is stoked on that gem in the rough.

It says a lot about his amps when they sell so quickly close to retail and only pop up once in a blue moon. A local store posted another companies boutique amp yesterday and it’s in perfect condition but sadly selling for only about 25% of retail.

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If it is a noticeable financial risk, don’t buy it. My rule of audio and other leisure pursuits: spend only what you could lose without blinking.

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@CinciJeff how are you liking your new amp so far?

Completely logical and you’re not alone in thinking this. Boutique amp makers like DNA are mostly ran by an individual or a family and most will disappear from the market as soon as the founder retire. A recent example will be Cavalli. Regardless of the quality it is very difficult to convince most people to get into these product and those that do will have to bear both the financial and the risk of failure without service in mind.

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