Owned the L1 thought they are the same except for the phono stage.I could see where a diferant tube might change the sound or maybe a bad one .Hope this helps.JK
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It's been a while since I had my L1, but did you use the tape input or the cd input?
One of those was a direct shot and provided a cleaner signal path, and this was by design. I believe the manual talked about that. I ran my that way with amazing results. Still miss it...(except when I reach for my remote and beer at the same time..)
There were updates to both which you can tell only by comparing the dates on the circuit board inside. But I doubt very much that's what your hearing. First the tubes must be upgraded if you want to perfect the sound. Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio has 6H23 best quality tubes which you can purchase-best bang for the buck still $30@. NOS could be better but expensive and life will be shorter. Next for for CD use aux or tape, but never CD which hasbuffering.
Thanks to all for the responses. I actually called AI and they said that my ears were not deceiving me; the L1 sounds better than the M3 and the M3A sounds even better than the L1. Now I have to decide whether to upgrade to the M3A. I'm also thinking about just buying a Conrad Johnson EV1 and running it through the L1. Any opinions on whether that would be better sound than the M3 or M3A? BTW, those dual volume knobs are driving me CRAZY!