Beyond the Audio Research SP-11 with Tympani IVas

I am thinking about changing my system around a bit, just for fun and would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

I plan to keep my Magneplanar Tympanis, but as mentioned in another thread, change my Levinson 23.5 to Bryston monoblocks or perhaps Pass Labs and also change my preamp.

I use this system for some CDs, also computer audio and HDTV - I really dont need a phone stage at this point in my life and work schedule.

I like well built audio components that are pleasant to touch and to use, and mostly effortless to maintain, so no tweaky garage built ergonomics, faceplates or switches please.

LAMM products have caught my attention, but I really dont know much about them and other than a Jadis JPL preamp, I have had Audio Research for most of my adult life.

In terms of my listening taste, I have never complained about a lack of resolution or "inner detail" with any component I liked, but I often find that components sound too bright and fatiguing.

So thanks for any thoughts or suggestions.
I actually used a Levinson 23.5 and Audio Research SP-11 MKII in my system for quite a while. They are a good match. The Levinson 23.5 is one of the all time great amplifiers and Bryston would be a step backwards. If your system sounds bright at times maybe you need different wire or a better source.

I have received a private email recommending the Magtech amplifier and preamplifier, if anyone can comment on Sanders Sound products with Magneplanars?
I recommend keeping the Mark Levinson 23.5. Seriously you would have to spend lots more money to find an amp anywhere close to this one. Also, the next upgrade in my opinion would be to obtain an Audio Research REF 3 pre-amp over your SP-11. I had an SP-11 and compared it with the Boulder top of the line pre amp, REF 3, SP16, SP17 and Krell's pre-amp. The REF 3 beat them all except the Boulder and it was very close. When you get to that level, things are in small increments, not large ones. But, over the SP-11, even my retubed SP11, there was enough of a difference, not very large, but enough that I sold my SP-11 and bought the REF 3. Really I wanted the remote ability and nothing was better than my SP-11 but the REF 3 for the money. So, keep the 23.5. Everyone I know that had one and sold it regretted selling it later. I finaly got one and now I have to sell either my Audio Research VTM 120 monoblocks (retubed) or my ML3. But, something has to go. The 23.5 sounds wonderful.


Thanks for your thoughts, and part of me would like to never part with the 23.5 in my collection.

That being the case, is there anywhere these days to have classic Levinson serviced without getting ripped off?

Thank you.
There are lots of facilities and people that can service Levinson amps. Listen, as long as a schematic is around and replacement devices (solid state) can be obtained, a good service tech can service an amp. We are not talking rocket science here. This is an amp. Problems are typically, output drivers and pre-drivers blown because a) the owner unplugged or plugged in something and shorted while the amp was turned on, b) heat silicon for transistors got dried out and the device shorted against the heat sink, power supply failed, regulator failed.

But, no matter how fancy, it is still a solid state amp. and by-the-way, replacement drivers can be found that are within the spec range of the original devices. Just because the original device isn't made any more does not mean that Motorola or some other company does not make a similar device or better device that will fit and work.

The 23.5 is an excellent amplifier, but it is not easy to service. The technician who services my equipment already repaired several and once told me that it is a lot of work as the amplifier is very compact and accessibility is not great.
If they were not yet replaced consider having all the electrolytic capacitors exchanged - the amplifier could get quite warm and they can be approaching end of life now.
Although you can find equivalent drivers and output transistors, when you replace one of them with equivalents you should replace all of them with matched sets.
Absolutely agree with you Microstrip. I work on equipment myself (Electrical Engineer, with Amplifier design background) and have modified many amps over the years. Thresholds are the best to modify, Bedini's (great amps) and easy to modify, even Robertson's. The pre-drivers and output drivers are outdated and not as linear as the newer better drivers. The power supplies can be upgrades into duo power supplies and wow! My modified Bedini 250/250 Mk II blows most $3,000-$5,000 amps away. Seriously. Interesting output design. Inverted push-pull or sort of a pull-pull. Totally eliminates having to match NPN and PNP output drivers and you only need NPN's. I will look into the 23.5 and see if any leakage is occuring and see how much the large electrolytics caps would be to replace.