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Mark Levinson Sound that Speaks for Itself

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  #31  
Old 01-04-2019, 06:31 AM
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Happy new year to all of you.

So, I did some investigation on the 523.
And to be honest I am quite impressed. The signal path pf the 523 is kind of completely discrete.
In theory this should give a better performance. It is done all in SMD technology and therefore quite compact. The volume control looks identical to the 32, 52, 326 ... it looks like they used better resistors. But it looks like a 10-bit ladder network, where the 32/52 is 16 bits.
This should give a less precise volume control and only 60 db of control range so I am not sure if this is correct, but less components in the signal path so in theory better sounding.
Can someone confirm that it goes down to -60dB and then silent?

What they also could have done is manipulate the gain of the first stage and at low volume settings reduce that gain. That would actually be quite clever as most line-amps have 12 to 18 dB of gain and a volume control that is often attenuating the gain with more than this 12 to 18 dB.
With a source that delivers 4V you have more than enough voltage to drive most pre-amps, so you attenuate most likely most of the time.

The power-supply is also quite extensive. multiple stages and also discrete.
Not the regeneration of AC like the 52 and 32, but still quite extensive.
I would say that the power-supply is better than in the 326.

The team responsible for the 523 is different than who did the 52 and 326. This is when the team moved to the Harman, Lexicon premises.
You can see that the 5xx series have a different build, different design choices and although still very much a Mark Levinson, the look different from the outside.

So the original question of this thread is still open: How does the 52 compare to the 523?

Cheers, Peter
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  #32  
Old 01-04-2019, 07:47 AM
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Hi Peter,

You can read my other threads on this topic on the site as over the past year I’ve gone from the 326s which I enjoyed for 4 years then put the 523 along with the 536s in my system. The 523 is an entirely new level above the 326s. Both have low noise noise and have great detail but the 523 soundstage is in another league both in terms of height/width and depth. The presence the 523 brings to the table is really quite amazing.i had that in my system for a few months and actually spoke with Todd E at Harmon about the 523 and 52. They think the 523 comes very close to the 52 in some areas and betters it in others. That said when I put the 52 in my system it was clear it is in another league than either the 326s or 523. 326s doesn’t have the presence and soundstage of the 523 or 52 and the 523 just isn’t as detailed as the 52 and the 52 kicks it up a notch in soundstaging again and the phono section in the 52 is much quieter than the 523. They all image very solidly, have great harmonics and bottom end extension and detail. The new team at Harmon has done a great job with the 523 and 536s and they are quite proud of their work. Heck the 585 is a solid integrated as well. The only area I really feel like they’ve totally missed the mark is the 519 and 526. The Dac section they are using is nothing special and those units are expensive so I feel they have very little value. I had the 526 in the system for about a week and the Dac is just like most other 2-3k DACs.

On last note ... had I never heard the 52 I would have been thrilled with the 523 although I would have gone with a separate phono pre which I might still do but the one in the 52 is really good.

George
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  #33  
Old 01-04-2019, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gadawg View Post
Hi Peter,

You can read my other threads on this topic on the site as over the past year I’ve gone from the 326s which I enjoyed for 4 years then put the 523 along with the 536s in my system. The 523 is an entirely new level above the 326s. Both have low noise noise and have great detail but the 523 soundstage is in another league both in terms of height/width and depth. The presence the 523 brings to the table is really quite amazing.i had that in my system for a few months and actually spoke with Todd E at Harmon about the 523 and 52. They think the 523 comes very close to the 52 in some areas and betters it in others. That said when I put the 52 in my system it was clear it is in another league than either the 326s or 523. 326s doesn’t have the presence and soundstage of the 523 or 52 and the 523 just isn’t as detailed as the 52 and the 52 kicks it up a notch in soundstaging again and the phono section in the 52 is much quieter than the 523. They all image very solidly, have great harmonics and bottom end extension and detail. The new team at Harmon has done a great job with the 523 and 536s and they are quite proud of their work. Heck the 585 is a solid integrated as well. The only area I really feel like they’ve totally missed the mark is the 519 and 526. The Dac section they are using is nothing special and those units are expensive so I feel they have very little value. I had the 526 in the system for about a week and the Dac is just like most other 2-3k DACs.

On last note ... had I never heard the 52 I would have been thrilled with the 523 although I would have gone with a separate phono pre which I might still do but the one in the 52 is really good.

George
Hi George,
I thought you never tried the 523, I must have misread.
I agree with the built-in DAC of the 526, even though I never heard it, it should not be part of a good line/pre amp. And if it cost 3K extra it should outperform a unit of twice the price as it sits in a design that cost >15k
In fact, the phono board should be an option too in the 523 in my opinion. Some will never use it and then don't want to pay for it. Indeed you need the choice. I prefer everything separate so you can tweak, mix and match.

I am building my own pre, something that still works for me as the mechanics are easy and it doesn't need control. It will be like a Lehmann Decade on steroids. A step-up transformer as MC input. the first 10 to 20 dB you get "for free" with no additional noise is to me the only way to go. Too expensive in a pre-amp mentioned here as it will add $2-3k to retail price.

But currently I am enjoying Roon/MQA/hires audio via the Meridian Ultra DAC so much that vinyl is a bit on background now.

So I hear (read) that the 523 is very good, but sonically a different animal. Maybe indeed the change of the team and the influence of Todd E who earned his credits at Krell and naturally brings his own flavor of choices.

An interesting quest though, searching for the ultimate pre ....
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  #34  
Old 01-15-2019, 12:38 AM
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Hi I've just bought a 526. I am seriously impressed with it. I have only tried the XLR input from my cd player and it is most impressive. I can try out the DAC section of the 526 later using my Esoteric K1 grandioso as a transport.
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  #35  
Old 01-16-2019, 10:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audible1 View Post
Hi I've just bought a 526. I am seriously impressed with it. I have only tried the XLR input from my cd player and it is most impressive. I can try out the DAC section of the 526 later using my Esoteric K1 grandioso as a transport.
Yeah ... I would stay with the DAC in the Esoteric for sure. I tried the 526 and for me the DAC was about at the level of a typical $2-$3k dac. I'll be interested to hear your impressions but the DAC to me simply didn't fit with the quality of the rest of the unit. It is an awesome preamp though for sure so enjoy and congrats! Congrats on the K1 also!

George
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  #36  
Old 02-15-2019, 08:28 PM
audible1 audible1 is offline
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I did some listening with AES/EBU cable from the K1 grandioso to the ML526. The ML isn't too bad, if my audio memory serves me correct, it is about as good as my old K-03x sounded. I no longer have the K-03x or K-01x, besides, the K1 grandioso is really a great leap above the K-01x.

Don't know, whilst i'm not using the inbuild 526 DAC, it isn't hurting having it here. May come in handy one day.
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  #37  
Old 02-16-2019, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audible1 View Post
I did some listening with AES/EBU cable from the K1 grandioso to the ML526. The ML isn't too bad, if my audio memory serves me correct, it is about as good as my old K-03x sounded. I no longer have the K-03x or K-01x, besides, the K1 grandioso is really a great leap above the K-01x.

Don't know, whilst i'm not using the inbuild 526 DAC, it isn't hurting having it here. May come in handy one day.
Congrats on a seriously great preamp. What amp(s) are you driving with it?

George
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