Levinson 360 vs Benchmark


I've owned a Benchmark previously so I use that one as a comparison that I may relate to.
Has anyone had the opportunity to compare these DAC’s? I liked the build quality and cosmetic of the Levinson equipment of that ERA so they interest me.
Thanks -
patrickp
You hit the nail on the head ...
I paid nearly $2000 for a used No. 37 transport which was supposed to be in perfect shape. Within a year it was skipping ... I had a very competent local tech look at it and he did all he could but it needed a new laser assembly. I contacted an authorized Levinson repair facility … they wanted $700 up front and estimated $1000 or more. No way … I blew it off for $800.
My current amplifier is a ML 23.5 and I love it, I have yet to find an amp I like as well in the $2500-3000 range. I brought it to two techs to get the caps replaced and get it tuned up. The first one wouldn’t touch it and the second one informed me it would be very tricky. When it dies … I will have a difficuly decision to make. This is classic equipment and it’s too bad that Harmon is guarding the repair process by holding onto all the parts and the knowledge base to repair. I hear some of the Levinson circuitry is very complex and without the right repair info can be nearly impossible to fix. I know Harmon has to make a buck but it’s sad how much of this classic equipment is ending up in dumpsters. It doesn’t need to be that way; there are plenty of techs that can do the work. But I digress –
I am considering trying out an Audio Research DAC next … I really like their equipment and although I am expecting a much different sonic signature I have a feeling I will enjoy it. I am a bottom feeder when it comes to equipment. These are the kind of problems I will need to deal with when buying older used high end equipment. I have a couple of really good local techs and I have an affinity for older equipment. My system is fairly basic … the 360s and the Levinson 23.5 are the gems. I lucked into a Modwright pre which is a great combination with the 23.5 and I found an old Denon TT on craigslist in near mint condition. I was lucky enough to have beers with Jeff Dorgay (Tone Publications) a year or so ago and took the opportunity to pick his brain. He really is an expert on older gear and system synergy. I asked his advice on building a reasonable vinyl setup for my system. He suggested keeping the Denon and trying an Audio Research PH3 SE … I picked one up, retubed it and have never been happier. He also really liked the Benchmark DACs and that prompted me to give one a try. He convinced me to stick with my direction of buying older gear and keeping it repaired. In some cases it’s like having an old Corvette or Porsche. Everything is expensive to keep up but they are a snapshot of the past. Technology gear has horrible depreciation – which is good news for all of us. Since most of the source material I feed my DAC will be CD’s or FLAC files I don’t need anything that will handle hi def files. That opens the field up to purchase DACs from ARC, CJ, Music Fidelity, Krell, Wadia that when purchased new, sold for a fortune but now get blown off for a song. I think it’s the analog side of these DACs that make them so great. CD technology is what it is, as long as I stay away from Hi Def files these DAC’s are a real bargain.
Sorry to be so long winded folks but I felt like some of this info might be of value to some.
Sorry to hear about your 37, I know that had to be very annoying. I had a 23.5 as well, and bought a 333 when they were released. I didn’t have the opportunity to compare tem side by side but I suspect overall the 23.5b may have been a better amplifier.
I still am struggling with a Levinson DAC, who knows, I may give into the temptation anyway. They have no moving parts like a player/transport and may be easier to get service on than the amplifiers. Who knows? Maybe I’m just attempting to justify it to myself? I’m beginning to feel like the classic stuff, aside from digital possibly, may be the last of the true audiophile equipment. Manufacturing costs and potential market size is making it very difficult for such things anymore.
I would like to hear what you think of the AR stuff if you go that route, I had considered that as well but I have no experience with the line.
Right now my system is ‘more basic’ than yours. 
I have an Aragon 8008bb amp, a ML 380 pre, and a Logitech Touch to steam with. My most pressing need right now is a better DAC. The Logitech is listenable and sounds okay but just isn’t the same quality as some of the better more expensive options. The Logitech errors on the side of ‘ missing’ rather than adding grunge or artificial detail. If something must be compromised then I would rather it be done in that manner.
It’s really great you were given the opportunity to speak with a person so knowledgeable. I like the FLAC files as well but I do listen to hi-res files on occasion. Hi-res (the ones that were actually recorded that way and not just up-sampled) sound amazing to me. From what I have heard 96/24 is fine, I really didn’t hear any improvement when going from 96 to 192 that I could reliably say made any real difference to me. I agree with you in regards to CD’s data rates. They are what they are. I don’t do analog any more I’m sorry to say, streaming is just so convenient and trouble free. I guess I’m one of those contributing to the demise of ‘real audio’ - analog sources. 
The ML 360 does 96/24 so I want one! It makes no sense given repair costs and availability. What to do?
I’m in conflict!!! LOL
I actually liked the Benchmark – I may end up with that it makes the most sense but then again, the love of audio and fine equipment has little to do with what makes sense. I’’’ be making a decision soon ….
http://www.partsconnexion.com/t/clearance/new_clearance.html
Thedautch - Thanks
I took a looks and it looks interesting. Generally I'm not too excited about mods' but this one may be worth investigating.
I went to the Partsconnexion web site. Replacing the output ICs in the Benchmark may have an audible effect (though I'm not sure why, since the Benchmark measures so well, analog-wise), but they lost me on this statement:

"The caps and resistors chosen in this mod simply have better tone and ambience characteristics, as well as being higher resolving. The wire and connectors we use allow for enhanced detail and more precise imaging."

Caps, resistors, and intra-box wires don't have "tone and ambience characteristics". This smells like BS. You'd also need modded and unmodded units side-by-side to even make a cursory decision about which one sounds better.

I'm still fascinated by the consistent conclusions that the ML units are such obvious winners.