I would start with pass labs.
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I'd endorse Pass amps as well since I listen to similar music. I haven't heard the Levinson amps recently, but I am now using a XA30.5 with Zu Druids/JL subs and achieving great synergy. Before the XA30.5 I had the Pass Aleph 5 for about 9 years without feeling the need to upgrade. The only caveat is your choice of speakers since these amps are not as powerful as the Levinsons. The newer Pass amps, the older Aleph series or First Watt amps should be great alternatives.
I owned a 332 for a couple of years. I believe they are of an age where a recap/rebuild is due, if it hasn't already been done. That brings us to service, and I have a real issue with Levinson on that. Expensive and horrific service, lackadaisical attitude, their own techs telling me to "get out (sell) while I could" (during the switch to HK), orphaned $8K DACs purchased because they were "future proof" modular and software upgradeable, etc (but they didn't guarantee that Levinson would just not give a s**t about them in 3 years. I've had 5 pieces of Levinson gear and when the first needed service, I learned my lesson and got rid of all of it.
Pass/First Watt is first rate, Nelson actually cares and stands behind his gear. I think my Pass stuff was far superior sound wise and at least as good finish wise as Levinson.
I'm a gearwhore and do a lot of trading. I will never have another piece of Levinson in my home or office (although it does sound okay). Pass and First Watt is always welcome and certainly sounds cleaner and less veiled, with plenty of grunt, than the 300 series Levinson gear.
If you want your 332 back, here's what you do. Let your buddy have to get some service on it. He may jsut give it to you instead of paying and waiting to see if anyone at HK gives a crap. OR, buy a Pass and let him listen to it: he'll undoubtedly propose a trade.
I am not prejudiced against Levinson gear: I just have experience with it.
Had the same experience as Jeffb28451 living with a ML333 for 8 years. Mine went back twice. Then I found out from the tech that it had actually been serviced one more time when the dealer was it as a demo. It will cost around $1200 to fix. I have to say that the amp did sound better after the recap. I traded mine in for a Pass X350.5 and agree that it was a big improvement. You can get an used X250 around $3k. It will not sound as warm in the midrange as the .5 series, but still a good amp. You will have a much better bass control (and fuller, deeper bass) than what the ML 332 can deliver.
No. The 33x series had a well-known issue of capacitors failing. Per my discussion with the repair techs, the design was driving the original caps hard. They had switched suppliers and the new caps were supposed to be more robust. The caps typically fail after about 5 years, but many owners had no issues. And others, like me, had mote than their shares. The new caps did sound better though.
I have owned several ML amps and also the commonly recommended Pass amps (by others on this thread). Personally, I much prefer the Levinson amps! I have owned the 331.5 and now a 334. I have never had any issues with either one and the 334 is powerful enough to drive any of the speakers I presently own (Wilson W/P, Thiel CS6, Gemme Audio, Magnepans) in a medium sized room to more than satisfying levels.
Should you ever need service, you can have caps replaced for a fraction of the cost charged by Harmon/Levinson/whoever is now owning them. Typically about $500 will re-cap the entire amp with better sounding, performing and reliable caps.
I would recommend considering a 334/6 or the 43X series.
I have owned 3 Pass Labs amps 150, 150.5, Aleph 5 and recognize their strengths, but was never that crazy about any of them in comparison to other amps. I prefer all class A (which the Aleph 5 offered - but not enough total power). I find the Pass amps when reaching into Class B really suffer (150(.5)/250(.5)/350(.5)) and no longer perform to the levels that are acceptable to me. Though when you get to the 350.5 you have a lot more room to operate in Class A before the SQ drops off.
By your (OP's) comments on alternative ML amps being the 333, 335, 336 my question is what type of speaker/room size he needs to address. You can get the 334 for right around your $3K level and it sounds better than the 333 (though without as much power).
I appreciate all the Info and views. It seems like I am going to have to pick a Pass amp and compare and see what I think. I can say I do believe everything is system specific as to which amp would do better so it will be an interesting test.
Anyone every try a Jeff Rowland model 5? I only ask because there are 2 for sale within a couple hours drive and wondering if its worth the trip, Also do these sell fast on audiogon? I dont really want to buy an amp I cant sell easily
Ckoffend is right about Levinson 334. It will cost you about 500 dollars in parts for 334 and 331. The Levinson 332 and 335 parts will cost you 650 dollars. For Levinson 333 and 336 to replace all 8 capacitors it will cost you 820 dollars in parts. Levinson 333/336 has better bass than Pass because it uses 50000uf at 125V with 150V surge for filter capacitors. No one uses this high voltage. Only USA made Cornell Dubilier makes these capacitors. I have repaired many Levinson amps. Once the caps are replaced with USA made high end Cornell caps you will never have any problems.These caps are are very hard to find.In order to get these caps you will have to order from Cornell Dublier factory.
Also if your Levinson 331/332/333 were made before 1997. I recommend replacing the three surge resistors on the slow circuit. The Levinson is one of the best sounding Amps ever made. I have sold many caps for Levinson 331/332/333/334/335/336 also for Levinson 33H. The original Philips caps were used in these amps.
I would have to endorse the new series of Mark Levinson amplifiers. I actually decided to use the new 500H series powering my Salon2's after I heard and saw Kevin Voecks using and demoing them in his own personal system. These amps are powerful, quiet, and cool running. You are welcome to come listen to them in my system for yourself.
i'm a Pass fan as well but won't be getting rid of my ml432 anytime soon. opinions will vary greatly but for those of us who love the luscious midrange and overall non-fatiguing sound of ml, there are few substitutes. i matched mine up with a Pass X-1 pre and couldn't be happier. can understand why some folks are bitter on ml after experiencing horrendous service. doubt i'd be a fan boy if the same experience came my way. until that happens, i'll be sticking with the dark side.