Fremer lays an Ostrich egg...
From the start, let us say i am a little biased. i read with particular interest the review about the Levinson 53 Amplifiers in the current Stereophile, amps i currently own of course. i also have a Levinson 326S preamp, an EMM Lab CDP, and Von Schweikert VR9SE speakers, all linked up with transparent wire.
my previous amps btw were Levinson 33H mono's which i loved.
According to Mikey, the amps basically suck. no life. no harmonics. uninvolving. flat. they measure great for the most part, except for some anomilies outside of stuff the human ear can detect anyway. they are put together nicely too. But... they have a (dreaded) switch-mode power supply which i get the distinct impression MF decided ahead of time was going to screw up the sound. and so it did (i guess- who really knows what goes on in his head?) so every OTHER sentence in the review emphasizes transparency and dead quiet, neutral sound while the "meat" of the article states the amplifier doesn't have "heart and soul". the Absolute Sound did not reach the same conclusion, but did intimate the amps had an austere quality.
AND THIS is MY review- the ML#53's are not for everybody. they are DEAD NEUTRAL. they are DYNAMIC. DETAILED. my system COOKS when i put on a really good recording of a really good performance. if however the signal lacks in significant areas then I HAVE TO EXTRACT THE MUSIC out of the sound my speakers are making. if i love the performance this is easy for me to do. if i don't care that much about the CD, then it gets sold or just not played that much. other good attributes- the amps never get HOT, they are not impossible to move around (with a little help), they have protection circuitry that kicks in whenever the power goes out. AND FINALLY there is a pair of speakers they won't power up somewhere on the planet. i would like
to see them so i can warn people not to match them up. this could take awhile however.
it floored me when Fremer sold his SF Amati Homage speakers and got Watt Puppy 7's instead. He couldn't say enough good things about the Sonus Fabers, and yet he traded them for a much more analytical sounding speaker, probably for the super-detailed, super focused sound. His reviews of $$,$$$ phono stages are hilarious- what a set of ears he possesses!
when it comes to VPI turntables, he disliked the Aries but LOVED the less-accomplished Scoutmaster. I would guess the Classic-3 is pretty good as well, but i have 0.01% confidence
in M.Fremers' opinion of it. BUT i would welcome anyone ELSE'S professional opinion. At $6,000 it's not an inexpensive investment. add an SDS and a cartridge (and a record cleaning machine) and you're looking at $8500. If in fact VPI (and SO MANY OTHER TURNTABLES) have long engineered an OUTBOARD MOTOR UNIT to isolate noise and enhance the sound, wouldn't you want to know EXACTLY what the deal is with the Classic line? i sure would, and i am a HUGE fan of SOME of VPI's products and i own several.
OTOH, i am a mere peon, peasant, ignorant on the subject of SOTA Analog, and whatever other descripion you might want to label me with. But i think i can say my opinions are consistent and follow a logical pattern.
trying to detect that quality from M.F.'s writings is difficult and at times impossible. and yes, even laughable. i myself have owned (over a long period of time) Levinson, Krell, S. Faber, Pass, and Rowland amplifiers and listened to them in my own home. the ML#53's are very accomplished amps and represent some of the best solid state available, cleaner and faster than the ML-33H's that Stereophile liked so much. Yes they are probably better suited for classical and jazz, and hi-rez recordings are invaluable to bring out the best in them.
but they do not "sound flat and uninvolving". amps don't generally do that anyway- speakers do. Put on a Rachel Podger SACD on Pentatone of Mozart and/or Haydn (or Julia Fisher) and bathe in the warmth of
the sound flowing out of your speakers. Everyone (including ordinary people with ordinary hearing) who have heard my system thinks it sounds "really nice". That's good enough for me. I also think it sounds "really nice".
And i can be pretty picky.