At a Levinson crossroads .... need advice.

I need a little advice folks ...

About two years ago I purchased a Mark Levinson No.360S DAC and was very pleased with how it fit into my system. To this I added a No. 37 transport to match the 360S and was initially happy with that as well.

Here is a breakdown of what I put together :

Modwright SWL 9.0 Linestage
Mark Levinson No. 23.5 Amplifier (Summer)
McIntosh MC275 Amplifier (Winter)
Mark Levinson No.360S DAC
Mark Levinson No.37 transport
Proac Response D Two
Velodyne DD-10

Cardas Crosslink ICs
Acoustic Zen ICs
Signal Cable Silver ICs
Cobalt Cable 10 GA copper speaker cable

Like I stated before; I am very, very pleased with the sound. I have the system in a medium sized bedroom converted into a listening space. Everything was wonderful for about 3-4 months and then the transport started to skip. After a month or two of occasional skipping it started skipping all the time. I took it in locally to a trusted tech and he did the best he could but it didn’t help. I purchased the No. 37 from a seller on Audiogon but I felt enough time had gone by that it wasn’t fair to ask for assistance. I had only put 15-20 hours on the unit but I feel you have a fairly short time after the purchase of an item to report a problem. Six months after a purchase is just too far down the road for me. I have my PC plugged into the 360S as well and listen to FLAC files more than CDs but I do like to spin a CD every now and then. I paid close to $2K for the 37 and not it sits on the rack covered and silent.

My question is "What to do?" I found out the only place to get the unit repaired is Pyramid audio in Texas and I have read mixed reviews on their service. I called and talked to a technician and repairs could easily run over $1000. I have emailed a few members selling units and asked about the No. 37's reliability. Most people I talk to were pretty happy with the units. I was wondering who else out there has gone though this experience and how did it work out? Anyone out there happy with their No. 37 repairs from Pyramid? Any estimate on what this will do to me financially? I am wondering if I have a defective unit and should sell it as is for a fair price and move on or maybe it just needs a new laser assembly and it will be good as new. I'm not all that familiar with this unit but it's a big turn off when Harmon bows out of repairing vintage ML gear and will only supply parts to one or two repair shops in the world. Certainly there are gifted techs out there that could do the work if they could only get the parts. I certainly don’t want to play "tennis" with this unit shipping it back and forth to Texas if the repairs are not complete. If I put another $1000 into this thing and have more problems I'm going to be less than happy.

As always you input is appreciated.

I called Levinson about repairs and they told me that the only shop that they could recommed to be to fix my ML 20.6 was the "The Service Bench" in Norwood MA. 02062 (781-769-4337) I gave them a call and they were very helpfull. A lot of people who work there used to work for ML and it is my understanding that the Owner of the Service Bench was the person that wrote most of the service manuals for the ML gear.
I will be shipping my amp off to them this weekend. I was told it would cost $800 plus parts for each amp.
I live in Alaska and the shippoing will cost me as much as the repairs and modifications.
This is the price we pay for playing in the Hi End.
Give them a call. I got a hi level of confidance with their expertise when I talk to them.
Joe Nies
Mike, I don't know who the "most people I talked to" were, but I recall that ML had a lot of problems with the transport mechanism in those units. If they were still supporting their products, i'd say fix it because if i remember correctly, they had an 'improved' upgrade for them.

However, with ML out of the picture, I'd say cut your losses ;-( You might see what you could get for it as a parts unit from one of the independent ML repair people, or by offering it on eBay.

Those units had great performance when they worked, but an unfortunate large majority of them developed transport problems. Right now you're standing in a shallow hole. Don't start digging ;-)
Give this a try ...

The factory lubricant on the rails that the laser sled travels on dries up and cakes ... when the laser sled hits the dry deposite it binds monentarily and looses lock with the CD data stream and it skips

Once the laser is past the dry spot, it locks back on the CD and continues to play until it hits another dry deposit and skips

If you can clean and lubricate ( with White Lith. ) the rails that the laser rides on you should be able to save a trip to the repair shop

If you feel uncomfortable ... take it to a reputable tech and tell him you want it cleaned and lubed as a preventative maintance ... don't tell him it skips or he'll try to sell you the whole drive ... when chances are it just needs a cleaning and Lube
Agree with nsgarch. I had a 37 which had problems as well (which I eventually replaced with 31.5 - no problems whatsoever with that one). I have now totally abandoned ML. Cut your costs and look for another transport.
Mike, I can't help, but I am glad to know that I'm not the only one that uses solid-state in the summer and tubes in the winter! Since there's two of us, that almost makes it seem.......sane.
Mike, referring to Viridian's remarks, I noticed your dual amp strategy too. Not only that, but I had those same two amps! And for the same reason ;-) However, much as I loved my 23.5, I like tubes with my electrostats, so I sold my ML and devised this solution:

Neil, how cool, a toaster that looks like a Mac amp. I should've thought of that! They should give one away with evey one of those fly Mac turntables as a premium.

Looks like there are three of us; pretty soon we will have a whole ward.

a toaster that looks like a Mac amp ... They should give one away with evey one of those fly Mac turntables as a premium.

When you buy a toaster now ... most places will give you a Bank free of charge
My experience with Levinson was dark, dank and smelly. New $8k DAC, orphaned, promised upgrades never materialized, $5k amp, defective on off switch and premature cap death, found out it was my problem (even though they knew about the issues) $5k pre-amp, unserviceable for the costs involved, after a 5 year life.

Their ex-head tech, before Harmon took over said I should buy a nice new shotgun for my other hobby before spendig money on any new ML or repair costs. He knew what was coming, evidently.

I've been in high end about 30 years now and have never, ever had a company, OF ANY SORT, treat repairs or customer service so arrogantly and the repair costs are just nothing short of unconscionable, IF anybody gives enough of a damn to even try. I've heard horror stories about repair ATTEMPTS that cost a fortune and were a total waste.

I don't know about the repair places mentioned, but I've heard about the costs and quite spotty repairs. I'm sure that's not all true, but I voted with my pocketbook, cut my loses, and sold it for the disappointment that it had become.
i had a #37 that made a scraping sound and also did some skipping (after about 4 years from brand new). there is a kit that costs under $50 that replaces the lift-mechanism that puts the cd in the "play" position. you have to open the unit (remove the BOTTOM panel) and then replace what you see (exactly). it does not take special tools but you do have to have confidence that you can do it. there are no electrical connections or other issues however in doing this service. otherwise, yes, if you involve an authorized repair service,
you will be spending alot of money- get an estimate 1st...
all this is disappointing, but other manufacter's cdp's/transports also have had mechanical issues as well, ESPECIALLY the more expensive they are, the more aggrevating. when levinson was doing "better" years ago repairs were still expensive but the units were very thoroughly bench tested-
by the same people that put them together in the 1st place.
someday perhaps the company will recover from its more recent spotty reputation.
i also had the 360S and it did an awsome job, esp. on hdcd (ref.recordings) with the #37. the sound was just shy of the "reference" 31.5/30.6 at a fraction of the price; in fact levinson eventually stopped making the reference-level gear as a result. but again, this solid reputation for leading the digital front-end technology has suffered. and now some say the new levinson SACD player has some reliability issues. for $15k it "should" outperform meridian/esoteric etc. players and play for thousands of hours without any hiccups. AND, if it doesn't, you send it back and get a NEW unit, with levinson paying shipping both ways. then you get customers BRAGGING about the service, which results in a whole bunch of NEW sales of the cdp. which is the "american way", right? btw, i am trying to be serious here. i mean, just how many leading brands are going to be dissed into the ground and eventually disappear from the market, only to leave you with alot of strange looking and expensive foreign brands (like nagra) or a lot of controversial "conversion D/A technologies". i always looked up to a few industry leaders and put up with their occasional short-comings, rather than wondering if the oversampling/upsampling/resampling "gizmo's" inside of the competition were better or just out there to impress the digital-tech lovers.
I had a ML reference system for years and had no problems at all. It worked beautifully for the whole time I owned it. Never putting a foot wrong.

I am very sorry to hear people are being let down by this legendary company. A sign of the times I guess. It is sad to see the end of an era.

One good thing about technology is that other companies are always just there maybe 1 step away from bringing SOTA performance to the more sensibly priced components.

Horseface if I were you I would check it is not something simple like lubricating or a clean internally. If that does not work there are many players which will out perform that ML and give more peace of mind of ownership.

Good luck.
Thanks for all the responses.

At this point I think I will compare my Levinson No.37 to having a crazy, hot girlfriend. The transport is really attractive to me. In fact when placed on top of the 360S ... downright sexy BUT it's unpredictable and at least in this case, unreliable. I am on the verge of selling off all my Levinson gear (Yes, there is more) except for the 23.5 and 360S. I have a local tech (very good) who will completely recap the 23.5 for me. He will use upgraded caps where it makes sense and I should be able to baby the 23.5 for at least another 10 years. The 360S I will run until it dies and then bury it in the back yard.
I should be able to get $500-600 for the transport as-is and someone who is more adventurous than I can have a rebuilt unit from Pyramid for $1200-1500. To be honest ... I might just get the Oppo Blu Ray and continue using my computer as my main source. I'll save my pennies and look at a Modwright KWA-150 or a Pass Labs 250.5 to replace the 23.5. I'll keep the 23.5 as a backup. It was the first "really good" piece of equipment I ever bought and just like the Nikon F3 I have sitting next to my digital SLR - I cant part with it for sentimental reasons ... well, that and I am getting to old to lift it.

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked Harmon Specialty Group for mercy, now I'm broke.

Great solution. You've done a great "think through" and you're not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak (like I did): you're carefully exorcising the demons.

Have fun listening
the levinson 23.5 is no longer "the last word" in stereo amps, but it can still bring music to life WAY better than nad or
denon, hafler, etc. something i had to experience for myself through my demo B&W 801's. and the BASS coming out of those speakers was !!! instruments with "texture" and nuances you could easily hear for the 1st time made a huge impression on me- not to mention the unbeatable looks of the amp. like i said, if levinson goes away it may have a decidedly negative affect the overall market. for example, pass labs, an absolutely terrific company, now makes the X amps and XA amps. both good, but one has lots of clean power, while the other offers sound at another level altogether.
this is a real conundrum for someone with the ability to spend this kind of money, but which do you get?! at least with tube amps you can flip a switch to get triode or pentode. or i could mention the ever-changing krell amps.
i had an FPB-300 which i thought was a really great amp with all the power you would ever need. but now i see krell evo monoblocks with 900W/ch??!! Macintosh wasn't happy with 1000W/ch either, so now they have 1200W monoblocks with the biggest meters you can buy. WOW, right? hey, i like all the stuff mentioned here, but a ML-23.5 with the thick aluminum case-work and the subtle white etchings on the front with the tiny red led was enough for me. 200W/CH that tested to output much more (almost 300W)- THAT amp can drive just about any speaker in the world. and it made music. another example of my admiration for levinson- the ML-20.6 monoblocks ("only" 100W) drove a pair of WILSON WAMM'S i got to hear years ago (with a bryston stereo amp bridged to mono to drive the two subwoofer cabinets). some of the best sound i will EVER get to hear, even WITH all of the HUGE improvements in amplifier technology that has occurred since that time. the dealer had classe audio, bryston, and even goldmund on hand that they could have used, but the ML gear just seemed like the logical choice to produce the clean power and transparency needed. experiences like that don't ever get forgotten.