when you're playing at this level, which is a great place to be playing, there's more than just stuff that sounds right or correct (which both these amps do). one of them however has the intangible thing that the coolest brands have...they are the stuff of legend. you already know which one that is.
There are so many more choices than limmiting yourself to just those two amps.
There are other leading contenders to the great amp throne: Dartzel, Edge, Halcro, Ayre, Pass, Burmester, Krell, as well as tube amplifiers galore.
The more important issue is what amplifier will work synergistically with the rest of your system?
I think the Boulders are better than the Levinson but both amplifier are quite expensive so I would want to hear them in my system before purchase.
Have a listen to Boulder first. What these guys do, nobody else comes close to. It's just a question if this is "your sound" or not. If it is, then you're home! Try 1010+1060, if you like that and can afford it, listen to 2010+2060. :)
At this level, also listen to MBL. They have a different philosophy and sounds quite different to Boulder. What they have in common is that both brands are at the very top at what they're doing; it's just a matter of preference which one you'll like more. Note that MBL amps really want an MBL preamp too. I recommend trying 6010D + 9007, that's a killer combo and not too insanely expensive. Only listen to the larger amps if you can afford them, they can make you quite depressed otherwise..
While Jaybo is referring to the elusive "X factor" some amps circuits seem to have (1 of these, the 33H), another less elusive and equally as important factor is the speaker you'll be using...
Look at it this way: you can choose the speaker first & then the most appropriate amp for it -- or the other way round. OR, the "type" of speaker or amp.
That's easier than shooting in the dark:)
So, what are the speakers?
If there aren't any, I recommend you purchase a carefully used pair of 33H.
I agree with the above comments in that it is all about system synergy. I have owned tons (literally) of ML gear and many of their amps. I have not owned the 33H however, but I have heard them on many occasions with various speakers. I always used the ML amps in harmony with ML pre amps and digital front ends. I have used them with many different speakers as well (I know I have a problem...I am working on it) The ML stuff is very good but I always found it just a bit cold and sterile. As I went up the line, things did get better. I last had a pair of 436s driving my Maxx2. The sound was good, very good actually, but it still seemed to lack something.
About a year ago I decided to explore other options, I listened to AR, Spectral, Halcro, Boulder and a few others. I found the Boulder to be the only choice for me. It was totally smooth and effortless and was by far the most relaxing almost disarming of all of the amps I heard. I did have the luxury of hearing the system (other than the room) as it would be assembled in my home, so I think my finding were valid and the results have shown that to be the case.
I think the Boulder has an organic feel that I think most amps including the Levinson lack. In closing I would say depending on the speakers you are using, their are no bad choices here. If I were you I would find a great dealer, make some arrangements to audition all of the best amps you can and enjoy the process. Their are far worse ways to spend time....and money. Good luck, Jerry
Maybe you should simplify your life and be an objective audiophile. What you then do with the money you save is up to you. Hell, you could even buy more records with it: you know those things that actually provide you with music!
if someone would re-read the question and compare the three amplifiers' sound, let's say through a high-resolution speaker (B&W801's, watt/puppies, thiels, maggies), MAXX1973 as well as myself (and others) would learn more about the boulder sound (i never got to hear them in person). should i just assume some nonsence based on their advertisements, their price-tags,
or what "freaky fremer" has to say about a $25,000+ phono-stage designed to make $2 records from a flea market sound like the voice of g-d him/her-self?? okay, i'm already a little biased, but i do pride myself on rationality as well as an interest in beauty and music coming together in a deliberate fashion, and because COMPANY-X had a dedicated person/persons do ALOT of listening tests with their components before sending them out to dealers, along with colorful brochures (or none at all since that would simply be an insult and meaningless propaganda to the "discerning customer").
However, SOMETIMES, at the dealer's showroom, in a delicious moment of TRUTH which has happened to me several times, one channel refuses to come on, or the cd player refuses to read the cd.
OR, everything "works", but the speakers sound so anemic that they sound like the wires are out of phase (but they're not). well, i can forgive but i won't forget.
so who out there has heard both these amplifiers? i own the 33h's and i think they're even better than the OTHER stuff that levinson makes, which is ALSO quite good, due to some very well designed circuitry. but maybe Boulder would really complement my meitner cdp much better. i haven't a clue at this point. the ml-33h is dead quiet, VERY dynamic, and is not at all "dry sounding" when listening to chamber music or Karrin Allyson (i think she is so ... there's no word for it yet i'm afraid- she's really good imho). please let me know what the boulder sound is all about please... thanks.
The Boulder sound? Well, the best way to describe it is that it has no sound. Boulder amps just play music, and nothing else. There's no wow factor, nothing sticks out. The first time I auditioned them, I sat down with a friend in a sofa and played some nice CDs. We sat there for well over an hour just listening, talking about the music. Suddenly I told my mate, 'Hey, this sounds really, really good doesn't it?'. He nodded his head and that was that.
To put it in technical terms, I'd have to say exceptionally natural, very detailed and completely effortless at any volume. Seductive too, you can get addicted to it pretty easily. With a good record playing you quickly forget that you're listening to a record. Compared to some other top gear I've found that Boulder does not paint a very big soundstage, but what it does it does very well. This is a matter of preference I believe. When I've heard Boulders, they bring the music to my room, whereas for example MBL brings you to the music (i.e. the room boundaries disappear). The difference is very noticeable, it's up to you to decide what you prefer. :) This might have to do with speaker synergy though, you may experience it differently.
how about s'morganic? there are a hundred great sounding amps in that price range. the x factor isn't about sound or hi fi equipment...its bigger than that. it isn't even built or designed...it just is.
I apologize for not addressing your question, but take the liberty of seconding what AudioOracle wrote, specifically, that there are other solid-state amps which meet or exceed the sound quality of the Levinson 33H and Boulder amps. If the speakers do not require tons of power, I suggest that you begin your search with the darTZeel (... which is where you may very possibly end your search). For high-powered amps, the Edge amps that AudioOracle sells will often outperform Levinson or Boulder. For that matter, the top Lamm, Gryphon and FM Acoustic amps should all be considered. Classic Rowland (Models 2/6/8ti/9ti) is more than competitive with 33H and Boulder-caliber solid-state amps. Levinson and Boulder are well built and have historically maintained their value, but, in my opinion, they tend to sound like hi-fi, while the very best solid-state sounds like music. In short, you may want to widen the field of contenders.
FYI, I agree (mostly) with Raquel's assessment of the amps mentioned.
I am a little kinder towards the Mark Levinson amps, since I used to own a couple (and have fond memories of them!). I believe they are really good solid state amps. However in my opinion, they lack a bit of soul, (which I define as that organic quality that really brings the music to life. Feel free to call it what you will!) However, I have not heard the 33H, and it might just have it.
I also agree that if you truly want a really great amp, both the DarTZeel and the Lamm amps have soul. Personally, I prefer the Lamm amps, however, the DarTZeel is pretty extraordinary for a true solid state amp. (The Lamm amps I directly compared it against was a hybrid amp, that had one (6922) tube in each monoblock.) I felt that the Lamm had just a bit more bloom to the mid-range, and the treble seems a bit better as well. (It was difficult to compare the bass response, as the Lamm had 220 wpc (in two monoblocks) vs. the DarTZeel's 100 wpc, (in a stereo amp), so it was not quite fair to compare the two. The DarTZeel had good bass, but the Lamm was clearly better, however this was using Rockport Antares speakers, which is truly a full range speaker, as the bass response goes all the way down to 20 hz. That 13 inch woofer demands power, and the DarTZeel gives a good account of itself, but in the end it just ran out of juice.) If your speakers are more efficient and/or sensitive than the Antares, it might work just fine for you.
My two cents worth anyway.
i agree with Raquel and Kurt. i've owned three Mark Levinson amps; the #335, #33H and the #33. i enjoyed them all, likely the most musical was the #33H.....which while short of the effortlessness of the monster #33, was a bit less 'processed' sounding.....always listenable.
i've only listened to the Boulder (both 1060 and 2060) in unfamiliar systems....but i've heard them quite a few times on familiar speakers. they really do nothing wrong and have low distortion and are not sterile sounding. OTOH i have never been drawn into the music with Boulder and always get that processed sense more like the big #33 Levinson....maybe all those circuts and output devices.
for me the darTZeel is the one; but i agree it does need a reasonable load to be fully dynamic. on my 93db Evolution Accoustics MM3's they do everything one could ask in my very large well damped room. the MM3's do have powered subwoofer/woofers so the dart only powers the mids and tweeters. i've heard the dart on full range speakers in normal sized rooms and they do just fine.
the dart does not sound like ss or tubes; it sounds like music...sweet, detailed, natural, low noise floor, great micro-dynamics, very articulate bass, and a texturally rich and pure mid-range.
the Lamms are different from the dart but also are quite good (i prefer the dart personally).
i have yet to hear a mega-watt ss amp that i could live with long term.
I would also add to your listening list the ASR Emitter Exclusive along with the Darts. I have listened to the Darts at Mike L house and they truely are fantastic. My ASR is also in the same league. Either of these amps will give you tremendous listing pleasure. It really depends on your speakers and the rest of your equipment/enviroment.
I own both 33s and 33h's. I prefer the 33 to the 33h but over all the ASR is more musical.
well, to turn the coin over for a moment, the dartzeel amp offers a reportedly lovely voice, but only comes in one color (i mean one size of course). one preamp also, which is prohibitively expensive (10-15 grand oughta distinguish between two strad violins made 3 years apart). but i'm just as big a phool as anyone, and truly great sound is what it is.
so get a tivoli radio and get 92% of the 33h's performance or 90% of the dart's. i'll keep reading and learning from these discussions nonetheless. thanks to all.
Mikelavigne have you heard Gryphon Antileon Signature?
It's sound is SEDUCTIVE and effortless!
Amen George - Gryphon is great sounding gear.
Levinson's lifespan is comming to an end. Boulder 1060/2060 needs very good speaker like Maxx2, S.F. Stradivari. Since I don't know what speaker you have, I would say Pass Labs x600.5 or x1000.5 will drive any speaker with ease and gives you pure class A ''taste''.
If I had enough space , I would go for X600.5 for my Sophia 2.(I had ML 331&431 and have also Boulder preamplifier and know the sound of Boulder)
Having the chance to listen to the top amps of Boulder, Edge, ML, FM Acoustics, DartZeel, Gryphon at a friends show room (he is authorized dealer for all of these brands) the Boulder and FM Acoustics are by far the most exciting amps that I have ever had the pleaseure to listen to. The ML´s you´ve mentionned are no where close to either Boulder nor FM Acoustics.
I bet you if you ask a hundred different people which amp is best, you will probably get a hundred different answers. Just look at the answers to the thread on the best speaker you ever heard. Therefore, there is no best. Just personal taste and synergy. At such exalted levels, those amps mentioned above are all great amps. At this level, you MUST listen for yourself.
Hi MAXX1973, I listened many hours at a dealer to both the ML 33H/32 and the Boulder 1010/1050 on S-F Stradivari's through Accuphase DP100/DC101 wired by N-O Valhalla's. To me the Levinson was more satisfying than Boulder. IMHO I though there was more naturalness in ML, more clinical for Boulder. And I threw all sorts of Classical/Pop/Rock/Jazz & test CD/SACDs at it before I made my choice. Just MHO.
....and, yes, as Geshi mentioned: you have to listen yourself and make your own opinion!
Mtkhl567, did you listen to the ML32/Boulder1050 combination? The No.32 is a stellar Pre-amp, the Boulder 1010 doesn't even come close, what you heard is the No.32 shinning through in your comparative listening. The No.33H - Boulder 1050 comparison is a different story, the 1050 easily outclasses the No.33H (with good clean AC power).
I've owned the No.32, No.33H, and Boulder 1050s... infact I swapped out my No.33H pair for the 1050s.
Anupmc, I did not cross components when listening, it was straight Levinson vs Boulder vs Accuphase, the latter being eliminated pretty quickly.