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Mark Levinson Sound that Speaks for Itself

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  #21  
Old 03-12-2018, 09:29 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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What was the rest of the gear stack you auditioned the 523 with? Until recently there hasn’t been many here who’ve had it in house. I’d enjoy hearing more about your audition.
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126ís, Mark Levinson No. 536 (2) and No. 523, Bel Canto 2.7 and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Gold Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Silver Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Platinum 6 AES
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  #22  
Old 03-13-2018, 12:04 AM
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gadawg gadawg is online now
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So I got to audition the 526 and the 536s in house with my Wilson Sasha 2s and EMM Labs DA2 fed from my Aurender N100H. Also have a pair of Martin Logan BF212s. Analog was via VPI Prime and w. Soundsmith Zephyr cartridge and ARC PH8 phono preamp. All ICs are Shunyata Anaconda with Shunyata Sigma SC. I still run fairly low end AQ power cords but did try a few different ones that night including the Kimber PK10 and previous gen Shunyata Alpha. It became apparent that cable synergy is very important as when we had the Kimber PC in place I liked the Kimber USB but with either the Shunyata or AQ PC I liked the AQ diamond usb better. Also demoíd the Kimber 3038 SC and it sounded really good also, maybe a better match with this setup than the Sigma ... obviously now that Iíve committed to electronics for a while Iím going to demo cables in more depth later this year.

Compared to my MC601s the Levinson amps had better detail, soundstage size and presence. The Big Macs had a warmer sound but not the same level clarity and resolution. Both amps are dead quiet. I could see someone liking either amp though based on speakers and listening preferences. For me, the 536s sounded more like my favorite amps ever the Pass XS300s than do the 601s which if I won the lottery would displace these Levinsons. That said, for the money these are really really good and worthy of an audition for anyone looking for a serious amp.

The 526 preamp is really good also. That displaced my older 326s and was better in every way. That said, compared to my EMM Labs Dac the 526s Dac really couldnít compete. It wasnít bad by any means and did have better bass than the DA2 but the sense of space and air with the DA2 vanished completely with the 526s built in Dac. Similar experience with the ARC PH8 compared to the internal phono stage although here the built in wasnít quite so far behind.

Now that my 523 has come in Iíve noticed something odd ... it seems to be a bit smoother than the 526 and I canít help but wonder if somehow the built in Dac in the 526 is somehow affecting the performance of the pre as a whole. Donít know but very happy with the choice to stay with the 523.

I had hoped to compare the 52 Ref as well but that one wasnít around. I had previously heard the 52 and 53 combo and remember not really liking it but Iím guessing that had more to do with the class D 53 than the 52 but Iíve not been able to audition the 52 against the 523. A factory rep told me though given the same price he would close the 523 while a coworker still feels the 52 is still king. Probably voiced a bit different so will come down to personal preference.

The 536 and 523 combo is really as engaging to me as just about any other combo Iíve heard. I liked it better than some far costlier combos but clearly not as much as the Pass xs300 and XS Pre. Maybe next time!

I do want to say though that this new Levinson stack sounds very different than the older stuff so if you loved the house sound of say the older 380 pre and 33s this is a very different cup of tea. Some like me will like the change ... others will not so itís critical to audition and make sure you like the flavor.

I will be upgrading the analog rig next year along with a complete HRS rack. Then...comes the Alexx in 2020. I have no doubt these amps can drive the Alexx or any other speaker connected to them.
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  #23  
Old 03-13-2018, 06:55 AM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Thank you George. You have an extremely fine collection of components, I’m sure it sounds fantastic!
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126ís, Mark Levinson No. 536 (2) and No. 523, Bel Canto 2.7 and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Gold Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Silver Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Platinum 6 AES
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  #24  
Old 03-13-2018, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karl Maga View Post
Thank you George. You have an extremely fine collection of components, Iím sure it sounds fantastic!
Thank you sir! My biggest problem now is that I auditioned the top end Kimber speaker cables that the Levinson rep brought with him and thought they sounded significantly more musical than my Shunyata Sigma's with the new setup. That just means I'll need to do the cable auditioning thing again and eventually spend a ton more $$$ ... Uhhhg!

George
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  #25  
Old 03-13-2018, 03:30 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdimler View Post
Great system! I recently had the 523 in house for an extended audition and thought it was a top shelf piece. I agree that the new Levinson stuff is the best they've ever made....supposed to be highly reliable as well. I'd really love to try the 52....sonics aside, it really has the cool factor!
Tell us more! What did you here? What was the rest of the System?
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126ís, Mark Levinson No. 536 (2) and No. 523, Bel Canto 2.7 and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Gold Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Silver Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Platinum 6 AES
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  #26  
Old 03-15-2018, 11:08 AM
BillK BillK is offline
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I can say that I had a 380S for about a decade and I never thought more of the 326S - I was actually rather disappointed with it.

Instead I discovered the Ayre KX-R, later the KX-R Twenty and they were simply sublime, on another plane altogether.

Just for fun I recently borrowed a 526 and while it's much better than the 326 was, it fell a little short of the Ayre, giving up soundstaging and detail but pretty much matching it for bass. Not as good, but also $12K less., plus the Ayre is a line stage pre only.

Last edited by BillK; 03-15-2018 at 11:18 AM.
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  #27  
Old 03-15-2018, 11:29 AM
joey_v joey_v is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillK View Post
I can say that I had a 380S for about a decade and I never thought more of the 326S - I was actually rather disappointed with it.

Instead I discovered the Ayre KX-R, later the KX-R Twenty and they were simply sublime, on another plane altogether.

Just for fun I recently borrowed a 526 and while it's much better than the 326 was, it fell a little short of the Ayre, giving up soundstaging and detail but pretty much matching it for bass. Not as good, but also $12K less., plus the Ayre is a line stage pre only.
Why do you have to rain on his parade?
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  #28  
Old 03-15-2018, 12:15 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillK View Post
I can say that I had a 380S for about a decade and I never thought more of the 326S - I was actually rather disappointed with it.

Instead I discovered the Ayre KX-R, later the KX-R Twenty and they were simply sublime, on another plane altogether.

Just for fun I recently borrowed a 526 and while it's much better than the 326 was, it fell a little short of the Ayre, giving up soundstaging and detail but pretty much matching it for bass. Not as good, but also $12K less., plus the Ayre is a line stage pre only.
I guess that Ayre must be off the charts good then! They certainly have a good reputation. Put me down as a skeptic though. People’s assessments are subjective (mine are) and it’s good to hear yours. For instance, when the 802D3’s and later the 800D3’s came out, I auditioned them with the result being that I traded in my 800D2’s, 804D2’s and HTM2 in for Revel Ultima2’s.
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126ís, Mark Levinson No. 536 (2) and No. 523, Bel Canto 2.7 and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Gold Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Silver Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Platinum 6 AES

Last edited by Karl Maga; 03-15-2018 at 03:37 PM.
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  #29  
Old 03-18-2018, 09:25 PM
tdimler tdimler is offline
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Karl......my simple setup is a Mytek Manhattan II into a Jeff Rowland 625 S2 into Salon2's. The Mytek has an excellent pre-amp IMO. The 523 provided a measure of smoothness over going direct from the Manhattan II plus a little more body. I also was lucky to have the newest version of the darTZeel NHB-18NS to try. It did everything the Levinson did plus enlarged the image and it just gives a special glow to things like vocals and instruments like violin or cello.

Although both pre-amps provide improvement, without unlimited funds, the cost of gain is too great to justify in my situation.

The Ayre KXR-twenty is supposed to be a world class pre. Would love to try it too. I suspect it is very neutral.

Two other pre-amps on my short list are the Luxman C900-u and older Rowland Criterion.
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  #30  
Old 03-18-2018, 10:45 PM
Karl Maga Karl Maga is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdimler View Post
Karl......my simple setup is a Mytek Manhattan II into a Jeff Rowland 625 S2 into Salon2's. The Mytek has an excellent pre-amp IMO. The 523 provided a measure of smoothness over going direct from the Manhattan II plus a little more body. I also was lucky to have the newest version of the darTZeel NHB-18NS to try. It did everything the Levinson did plus enlarged the image and it just gives a special glow to things like vocals and instruments like violin or cello.

Although both pre-amps provide improvement, without unlimited funds, the cost of gain is too great to justify in my situation.

The Ayre KXR-twenty is supposed to be a world class pre. Would love to try it too. I suspect it is very neutral.

Two other pre-amps on my short list are the Luxman C900-u and older Rowland Criterion.
Thank you for elaborating. I always deliberate on the sound improvement vs. funds, so I understand your point. While there is better gear than what I have, I bought what I could afford, same as you. Iím sure you get a lot of enjoyment from your system too!
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Revel Ultima Salon2's, Voice2, Studio2's, PerformaBe M126ís, Mark Levinson No. 536 (2) and No. 523, Bel Canto 2.7 and REFStream, Marantz TT-15S1 with Ortofon Cadenza Black cart, ATI Signature 6007, Marantz 7704, JVC DLA-RS500U, Silver Ticket STR-169120, WW Gold Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Silver Eclipse 6 IC's, WW Platinum 6 AES
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