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-   -   BAT Rex II Pre vs Mark Levinson No 52 Ref (https://www.audioaficionado.org/showthread.php?t=45951)

gadawg 06-02-2019 01:02 AM

BAT Rex II Pre vs Mark Levinson No 52 Ref
 
I've had the opportunity recently to put a BAT Rex II preamp in my system and compare it to the Mark Levinson No52. Both were driving my Mark Levinson No 536's and the digital front end is the Esoteric P-02x/D-02x. Since I've been using the built in phono section in the No52 I couldn't compare vinyl through the two units.

First I have to say that the BAT is built like a tank and while its a two box preamp its a little different than what I'm used to. Both of the Rex II boxes have power cords and their own power supplies as one box supplies the positive rail while the other the negative rail. The 8-6H30 tubes for the gain section are in the control section which unlike the Levinson is the box with the controls on it. Overall there are 18 tubes in the Rex II ,of which only 16 are active at any time. You get your choice of tubes for AC Shunt regulation in the power module but I like the 6C45 over the 6H30 here. There are a ton of write ups on the Rex II so I won't go into much more technical detail other than saying it is really very well built and the BAT web site is fairly informative.

First ... the Rex II does require warm up. About 45 minutes to really sound its best. The Levinson wins here as in the normal power mode it only mutes the outputs so the solid state circuitry is powered up all the time. However ... once the Rex II is warm it takes on a totally new personality. I can see some liking the Levinson much more and others liking the Rex II as while they both sound great there are some very significant differences. As it warmed up what I noticed the most was that the Rex II seemed to have a richer sound overall with more presence than the No52. You might say its colored and the No52 is more neutral? All I can say is that the "color" that the Rex II brings to the table in my system is actually very pleasing. The density of the tonal colors are much more vibrant through the Rex II than the No52. That said ... the midrange of the Rex II doesn't seem to have the same clarity of the No52. The top end of the Rex II at first doesn't seem as extended either but after listening for a while I decided that the top end of the Rex II was simply more burnished on top and I think I like it. Little bit of that tube thing going on here. The Rex II also has a more solid bottom end than the No52 ... maybe not quite as detailed as the No52 but overall a more solid bottom end presentation.

I think overall where the No52 is better no question is that the No52 is the quietest preamp I've ever encountered. Even with the volume all the way up (no music playing LOL) there is nothing coming out of the tweeters and that dead quiet background I think lends itself to allowing the No52 to bring forth details that the Rex II just couldn't manage to serve up in the same way. That applied all the way up and down the frequency spectrum so I'd say the No52 is more detailed across the board. Here is where system synergy comes into play ... if you have a very neutral sounding system to begin with then the Rex II "adds" something that you might very much like ... I did. If it already leans to the warm side at all then the No52 might be a better match.

Where the RexII is better no questions is in the area of presence and solidity of the bass. On Beck's morning phase album where the first three songs really have a lot of depth and presence the Rex II really expanded on that in ways I've not heard before. The sound seemed to really come alive and was much more holographic via the Rex II than the No52 and the Levinson is no slouch in this area ... the Rex II is just better here. In addition to a startlingly holographic presentation the solidity of the image across the soundstage was excellent ... a tiny bit better than the No52 here as well. Finally,the Rex II just has a solidity in the bottom end that the No52 couldn't replicate.

So ... I think depending on system synergies and personal taste ... either Preamp could be a good choice. I can tell you the Rex II really has me considering keeping it and buying the matching phono preamp to go with it. It works really well with the Levinson amps so no issues there. I'll listen a while longer before I make any decisions as I have plenty of time here. One thing is for sure .. if you're in the market for a top notch preamp ... the Rex II is worthy of consideration for sure! I have to admit I'm certainly considering it.

George

audio bill 06-02-2019 08:12 AM

Very nice comparison George, thanks for sharing it. Good luck with your ultimate decision and enjoy your favorite music in the best of health!

Down Under 06-02-2019 09:10 AM

Mark Levinson gear-incredible detail with all the warmth of a Minnesota winter.

rnrmf1971 06-02-2019 10:07 AM

Great Review, thanks for posting about it.
I like reading comparisons to the 52 because my only comparison was versus my previous Mcintosh C500, and I thought the 52 was warmer, fuller, and more detailed.
The guy on Audiogon with the ongoing thread, whitecamaross, recently had some BAT gear in house and also said it had a warm signature.
Since I usually gravitate toward that sound, I'll keep BAT in mind for the future.

gadawg 06-02-2019 10:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Down Under (Post 967022)
Mark Levinson gear-incredible detail with all the warmth of a Minnesota winter.

Well maybe more like a North Ga Spring ... LOL. Actually the No326s I had before the No52 had a touch more warmth to it just not the level of detail that I was hoping for. The No52 has crazy great detail and when I had a Vivaldi stack in my room (only for one evening) it sounded even more amazing. I think what I'm hearing here is the Rex II with a tad bit more warmth than the No52 may have more synergy with the Esoteric digital stack. That said ... the difference between the No52 and the Rex II here is more like splitting hairs and not an OMG moment. The presence and the depth of image though is less like splitting hairs and more like splitting logs! :-)

George

gadawg 06-02-2019 10:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rnrmf1971 (Post 967032)
Great Review, thanks for posting about it.
I like reading comparisons to the 52 because my only comparison was versus my previous Mcintosh C500, and I thought the 52 was warmer, fuller, and more detailed.
The guy on Audiogon with the ongoing thread, whitecamaross, recently had some BAT gear in house and also said it had a warm signature.
Since I usually gravitate toward that sound, I'll keep BAT in mind for the future.

Have you thought about adding that Bricasti DAC w. volume control to your setup? Bet that would be an amazing combo as well. I've heard the Bricasti DAC and its very nice!

George

rnrmf1971 06-02-2019 07:15 PM

BAT Rex II Pre vs Mark Levinson No 52 Ref
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by gadawg (Post 967037)
Have you thought about adding that Bricasti DAC w. volume control to your setup? Bet that would be an amazing combo as well. I've heard the Bricasti DAC and its very nice!



George



Iíve thought about it but I donít have the need for a DAC. I have my Oppo 205 which I like for disc playback and I have a Lumin streamer.

Thatís basically why I sold my Esoteric K-01X. While it was superior as a DAC compared to the Oppo, itís a feature I didnít use and personally, thatís what I think set it apart. For disc playback I thought both performed to a level that was satisfying to me.

johndoe21ro 06-04-2019 08:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by gadawg (Post 967001)
I've had the opportunity recently to put a BAT Rex II preamp in my system and compare it to the Mark Levinson No52. Both were driving my Mark Levinson No 536's and the digital front end is the Esoteric P-02x/D-02x. Since I've been using the built in phono section in the No52 I couldn't compare vinyl through the two units.

First I have to say that the BAT is built like a tank and while its a two box preamp its a little different than what I'm used to. Both of the Rex II boxes have power cords and their own power supplies as one box supplies the positive rail while the other the negative rail. The 8-6H30 tubes for the gain section are in the control section which unlike the Levinson is the box with the controls on it. Overall there are 18 tubes in the Rex II ,of which only 16 are active at any time. You get your choice of tubes for AC Shunt regulation in the power module but I like the 6C45 over the 6H30 here. There are a ton of write ups on the Rex II so I won't go into much more technical detail other than saying it is really very well built and the BAT web site is fairly informative.

First ... the Rex II does require warm up. About 45 minutes to really sound its best. The Levinson wins here as in the normal power mode it only mutes the outputs so the solid state circuitry is powered up all the time. However ... once the Rex II is warm it takes on a totally new personality. I can see some liking the Levinson much more and others liking the Rex II as while they both sound great there are some very significant differences. As it warmed up what I noticed the most was that the Rex II seemed to have a richer sound overall with more presence than the No52. You might say its colored and the No52 is more neutral? All I can say is that the "color" that the Rex II brings to the table in my system is actually very pleasing. The density of the tonal colors are much more vibrant through the Rex II than the No52. That said ... the midrange of the Rex II doesn't seem to have the same clarity of the No52. The top end of the Rex II at first doesn't seem as extended either but after listening for a while I decided that the top end of the Rex II was simply more burnished on top and I think I like it. Little bit of that tube thing going on here. The Rex II also has a more solid bottom end than the No52 ... maybe not quite as detailed as the No52 but overall a more solid bottom end presentation.

I think overall where the No52 is better no question is that the No52 is the quietest preamp I've ever encountered. Even with the volume all the way up (no music playing LOL) there is nothing coming out of the tweeters and that dead quiet background I think lends itself to allowing the No52 to bring forth details that the Rex II just couldn't manage to serve up in the same way. That applied all the way up and down the frequency spectrum so I'd say the No52 is more detailed across the board. Here is where system synergy comes into play ... if you have a very neutral sounding system to begin with then the Rex II "adds" something that you might very much like ... I did. If it already leans to the warm side at all then the No52 might be a better match.

Where the RexII is better no questions is in the area of presence and solidity of the bass. On Beck's morning phase album where the first three songs really have a lot of depth and presence the Rex II really expanded on that in ways I've not heard before. The sound seemed to really come alive and was much more holographic via the Rex II than the No52 and the Levinson is no slouch in this area ... the Rex II is just better here. In addition to a startlingly holographic presentation the solidity of the image across the soundstage was excellent ... a tiny bit better than the No52 here as well. Finally,the Rex II just has a solidity in the bottom end that the No52 couldn't replicate.

So ... I think depending on system synergies and personal taste ... either Preamp could be a good choice. I can tell you the Rex II really has me considering keeping it and buying the matching phono preamp to go with it. It works really well with the Levinson amps so no issues there. I'll listen a while longer before I make any decisions as I have plenty of time here. One thing is for sure .. if you're in the market for a top notch preamp ... the Rex II is worthy of consideration for sure! I have to admit I'm certainly considering it.

George

Wow, George! That sounds like you've got a fantastic preamp there! :yes:
__________________
Amp: BAT VK-655SE
Pre-amp/Digital: exaSound e32 w UpTone JS-2 Power Supply; SOtM tX-USBultra w UpTone LPS1.2; Apple Mac Mini w UpTone DC Conversion Kit & UpTone JS-2 Power Supply; Squeezelite w Logitech Media Server 7.9.0
Speakers: Triangle Magellan Cello II
Cables: AudioQuest WEL XLR, AudioQuest Everest, AudioQuest Hurricane HC, AudioQuest NRG-1000, AudioQuest Diamond USB
Rack: Solid Tech Hybrid
Tweaks: Omicron Stabilizzatore Armonico & Gold Evolution SE; IsoTek Sigmas GII w Optimum EVO3; Furutech FT-SWS (R) AC Outlet; Synergistic Research Blue Quantum Fuse

gadawg 06-04-2019 08:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by johndoe21ro (Post 967268)
Wow, George! That sounds like you've got a fantastic preamp there! :yes:
__________________
Amp: BAT VK-655SE
Pre-amp/Digital: exaSound e32 w UpTone JS-2 Power Supply; SOtM tX-USBultra w UpTone LPS1.2; Apple Mac Mini w UpTone DC Conversion Kit & UpTone JS-2 Power Supply; Squeezelite w Logitech Media Server 7.9.0
Speakers: Triangle Magellan Cello II
Cables: AudioQuest WEL XLR, AudioQuest Everest, AudioQuest Hurricane HC, AudioQuest NRG-1000, AudioQuest Diamond USB
Rack: Solid Tech Hybrid
Tweaks: Omicron Stabilizzatore Armonico & Gold Evolution SE; IsoTek Sigmas GII w Optimum EVO3; Furutech FT-SWS (R) AC Outlet; Synergistic Research Blue Quantum Fuse


I think you may be correct ... Thanks!
I couldn't help but notice you have the BAT VK-655SE ... how are you liking that bad boy? I've read a lot of great things about it but never got a chance to listen to it. Now that I really am liking the Rex II down the road I may look into a pair of those as system synergies could be at play. Any thoughts? I was also thinking about a pair of the Rex II amps but I'm afraid those might run out of steam with my listening habits! :D

George

Formerly YB-2 06-04-2019 08:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by gadawg (Post 967001)
.............I can tell you the Rex II really has me considering keeping it and buying the matching phono preamp to go with it.
George

Keep us posted. Am 'kicking tires' on a new phono preamp and, based on the above, your review of the BAT VK-P6/12xx would be most informative.


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