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Mark Levinson Sound that Speaks for Itself

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  #11  
Old 10-24-2017, 10:21 AM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Originally Posted by gadawg View Post
I'm hoping to find some of the new ML stuff at Axpona this spring as I can't find any dealer around me that has any on display that actually functions. That's totally a dealer issue but that's another story! When I sent an email to ML and asked about differences between the No52 and the 523 they responded and said that depending on the rest of the system I might like one over the other. That's telling me they think they have outdone the 52 with the new product. Again ... would love to hear it myself.
The dealer issue is disappointing to me in the extreme. Considering that I spent the last 20 years as a manufacturer’s rep (Sales Engineer) for two of the worlds preeminent computer technology corporations, I have some experience with the impact on the brand that dealers affect. They’re invaluable to the brand.

Mark Levinson - or Harman, simply does not have dealer cultivation and nurturing in their strategy. Contrast that with McIntosh.

I have 0% regret for my ML purchases because of their sonic attributes. But I was suddenly and unexpectedly forced into retirement a couple months ago the age of 55 for health reasons and I may need to sell some of my gear (probably not). The lack of robust demand for pre-owned ML gear is in part due to the lack of retail interactions wherein customers and dealers experience the delight and joy of this fine gear.

And I assure you, there is much to enjoy and delight in. The No. 523 and No. 536’s are special.
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126’s, Mark Levinson No. 536 amps with No. 523 pre, Bel Canto 2.7 DAC and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Platinum, Gold and Silver IC's

Last edited by Karl Maga; 10-24-2017 at 01:17 PM.
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  #12  
Old 10-25-2017, 11:41 PM
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gadawg gadawg is online now
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Mike,

Hoping you find a way to remain healthy and are able to continue to enjoy our wonderful hobby! Wishing you the best!

George
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  #13  
Old 10-26-2017, 06:53 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Originally Posted by gadawg View Post
Mike,

Hoping you find a way to remain healthy and are able to continue to enjoy our wonderful hobby! Wishing you the best!

George
Thank you George, my health is stable. I’m not worried about that for the next 15 years, but the retirement changed my income level. Until that settles, I’ll have to defer significant additions to my system. Thank God it’s (my system) already in great shape!
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126’s, Mark Levinson No. 536 amps with No. 523 pre, Bel Canto 2.7 DAC and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Platinum, Gold and Silver IC's
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  #14  
Old 02-18-2018, 07:41 PM
tdimler tdimler is offline
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Thought I should chip in here. I recently had a 523 on loan.

Super piece of gear....beautifully built...and heavy!

Very, very smooth sounding. Hard to fault.

I have an all digital setup and my Mytek Manhattan II DAC has an excellent analog pre-amp so adding something like the 523 means spending a lot of coin for very marginal improvement.

The 523 gets my highest recommendation, but it was also eye opening as to how good things can sound direct from a great DAC.
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  #15  
Old 02-19-2018, 05:45 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdimler View Post
Thought I should chip in here. I recently had a 523 on loan.

Super piece of gear....beautifully built...and heavy!

Very, very smooth sounding. Hard to fault.

I have an all digital setup and my Mytek Manhattan II DAC has an excellent analog pre-amp so adding something like the 523 means spending a lot of coin for very marginal improvement.

The 523 gets my highest recommendation, but it was also eye opening as to how good things can sound direct from a great DAC.
Your post compelled me to do a “side-by-side” comparison today. What I observed: my No. 523 brings a ton of value and improvement compared to my Bel Canto 2.7 straight to the ML 536 amps. Perhaps the Manhattan II analog is that much better than the Bel Canto. As a DAC, my Bel Canto sounds superb. I wonder if a better DAC would make a noticeable difference?
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126’s, Mark Levinson No. 536 amps with No. 523 pre, Bel Canto 2.7 DAC and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Platinum, Gold and Silver IC's
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  #16  
Old 05-30-2018, 08:15 PM
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And the wait is over .... more to come once the burn in is complete but I can tell you it’s going to be positive for the Reference 52 for sure.

George
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Last edited by gadawg; 06-01-2018 at 07:07 PM.
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  #17  
Old 06-02-2018, 12:17 PM
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First observation ... the built in phono section is superb! With the 523 I thought it was close to but not as good as my ARC PH8 which I considered amazing since I was comparing a $7000 phono section to the “built in” section. With the 52 ... It is quieter and much more detailed with a velvety quality the PH8 just can’t match. I’m hearing much further into the music than before and again thought the PH8 was really good. One note on break in ... while good out of the box it really opens up after first 48 hours. Can’t wait to hear how much better it gets over the next few hundred hours.

George
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ML No536|ML No52 Reference
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  #18  
Old 06-18-2018, 11:45 PM
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Default Mark Levinson No52 Reference Review

Ok ... I've managed to get over 200 hours on my new ML No52 Reference and it seems to have stabilized at around 100 hours so I feel comfortable sharing my impressions at this point. First, right out of the box I'll say that I knew this was a special preamp. It was a lot of fun to listen to immediately and was much more detailed than my No326s right away. I also noticed better bass extension and detail, and a much bigger sound stage. Fresh out of the box it was a little eager on the top end but not so much I didn't already really like it. Over the next 100 hours the top end became much more natural sounding without losing any of the amazing detail I had been hearing. I also had a No523 on hand and while it is an amazing product and I feel deserving of the reviews its getting, in my system it really couldn't open up the music like the 52 did nor did it have the incredible tonal saturation and density of the 52. The 523 had great detail, bottom end and potentially a slightly bigger sound stage ... really kind of reminded my of the ARC Ref6 sound stage size. Where the 52 really shines is in the timbre and harmonic structure of the music ... horns seems more brassy, drums were more taught, guitars more beautiful sounding, voices more liquid.

The 52 has the ability to present as many different layers as the recording can offer and at times I found myself thinking that I had just heard something further back or in between other instruments where with the 523 or 326 the sounds didn't separate themselves as easily. That said, there is no doubt that the 523 is much better than the 326s its just that the 52 was in a different league. It was one of those times where when you first turn it on its immediately apparent things just got a lot more intense.

One more quality the 52 has in droves is how quiet it is ... it is deadly quiet. At times music just jumps out of nothingness to a degree that its almost a little startling. In this regard it reminds me a little of the Boulder 2110 which is the only other product I've heard that sound emerges from absolute blackness. That said that would be where the similarities between the 52 and 2110 end and which you prefer would largely be a matter of taste. While I'm discussing the quiet nature of the 52 this would be the perfect time to discuss the phono section that is built in. It is one of the quietest I've ever heard. To me it sounds very much like what I'm hearing in the line stage. With the 523 I still preferred my ARC PH-8 which is an excellent phono pre. With the 52 I had a slight preference for the built in phono section which to me is amazing as the PH-8 is no slouch for sure! The only downside of the phono section is that is has a strange selection of loads to load your MC cartridge with. For me it worked out ok because I have a Transfiguration Proteus with an impedance of 1 ohm so I have settled at a 77 ohm load on the Pre. It only goes to 330 ohms though before jumping all the way to 47k. It does have one "custom" slot that a dealer than supposedly configure for any custom impedance but I thought it strange there was no 500-1000 ohm settings. Again, not an issue for me and if I need to change it I can so not a big deal for me.

The preamp operates in pure Class A mode and it has two main outputs that are driven by their own output buffer so what you connect to one doesn't impact the other. Each balanced output has an impedance of just 25 ohms so it should have no issue driving any amp or length of cable out there. There is an Aux output which can be configured as fixed or variable so you can effectively tri-amp if you wanted to! I have mine connected to a pair of the new 536s which are just fine for me! The remote is also one of the best hand held remotes I've used and while the form factor is identical for the remote between all three units the volume control on the 52 and 326s function the exact same way. The 523 will tend to get going a little too fast if you hold down the button and I found myself having to back off the volume just a bit often.

So ... I think I have found the pre that I will live with for quite a long while. The amps aren't going anywhere either for that matter. The only difficult question is if the 52 is worth double the price of the 523? Well, to me it was because I bought it. To others, depending on the rest of the system you may prefer one or the other. To be clear they are both great preamps but if you're asking ... the Mark Levinson No52 Reference pre can hold its own with any preamp out there. There's only a handful I could say that about and its definitely in the group! Gets my highest recommendation!

George
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Ref 52.jpg (90.7 KB, 29 views)
__________________
Wilson Audio Sasha 2|Pair of BalancedForce212's
ML No536|ML No52 Reference
VPI Avenger Plus w/ Transfiguration Proteus
EMM DA2 Reference|Aurender N100H
Shunyata Anaconda IC|MIT Oracle v3.3 SC
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  #19  
Old 06-19-2018, 08:23 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Glad to hear that you are pleased with the No. 52! As we’ve agreed in the past, the No. 536 amps are extremely good. They don’t get the recognition they deserve outside of those who have heard them.
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126’s, Mark Levinson No. 536 amps with No. 523 pre, Bel Canto 2.7 DAC and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Platinum, Gold and Silver IC's
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