Levinson 39 vs Bricasti M1

I got the Levinson bug recently and got a #39 processor/player.  And a 38S pre.  I’ve been using a CEC TL1 with the Bricasti for years.  Great combo.

i was only planning on using the 39 as a transport.  I got a great deal.  Cheaper than the 37 (transport only).

Anyway, I was shocked that the 39, as a player, sounded nearly (and in some cases) identical to the Bricasti.  I have A/B’d dozens of times and the 39 is so close that I’m considering selling the Bricasti and getting a 360s D/A.  I can use my M2tech Evo for USB connectivity.  I realize I won’t be able to play newer hi-rez formats but that’s not a priority for me.

Just wanted to share.

P.S.  My Bricasti has the upgraded power supply but not latest firmaware.

I believe that the later 39 models have PCM1704 dac chips, so they are very good in their own right.

One of my R2R dream machines, been looking for one for ages, to do redbook with.

Yes they do have PCM1704K d to a chips (selected) and a HDCD input filtering chip, this is about as good as old school R2R Multibit gets, most new today are discrete R2R because the PCM1704 is no longer made because of it huge manufacturing cost and was the last of the best R2R’s chips made.

And forget the preamp, you really should try the No.39 direct to poweramp as it has an output stage most active preamps couldn’t match, should sound far more transparent. Here’s how to do it.

Fixed/Variable Volume
The Nº39 gives you the option of engaging a high quality analog volume
control, allowing you to use the Nº39 as a digital-sources-only
“preamp,” driving a power amplifier directly. This capability is particularly
useful in simple systems involving only two or three digital
sources. (The volume control circuitry is completely removed from the
signal path when this option is turned off). When first engaged, the
volume control circuitry will be set to a low volume to avoid any
chance of overdriving your loudspeakers
Balance Control
If you have engaged the volume control circuitry by setting the + VARIABLE
menu item, then you will also see a balance control within the
setup menu, indicated by arrows pointing in both directions (when at
the neutral position). Pressing the mode + key will move the balance
and the image to the right, indicated by a number of decibels and the
arrow pointing to the right; pressing the mode – key will reverse this
process. (This menu does not appear in the – FIXED volume mode,
since it would not apply.)

Locked Volume
Lastly, if (and only if) the volume control circuitry is engaged, you have
the option of setting a maximum volume beyond which the Nº39 will
not go. This is particularly helpful if you have a combination of high
sensitivity speakers and high senstivity power amplifiers, which might
make the normal maximum volume setting on the Nº39 dangerously

Cheers George

George, thanks for all the great info.  I’m going try running direct tomorrow.  I like the 39 so much I want to get a 360S.

I like the 39 so much I want to get a 360S.

Then that’s settled the 39’s mine, your a good bloke Marty.

Made a mistake above the, 39 only has the PCM1702 dac chips, not the later PCM1704
The only problem with owning the 39 is the laser Philips CDM12 Industrial, original Philips almost unobtainium new even used $$$

Cheers George
I bought from George Meyer AV in LA.  They’re an authorized Levinson repair shop.  It was just recently completely refurbished.  I would not be surprised if they had a spare Philips laser or two.
George-  went direct today.  ML39 to Rowland Model 1.  It was interesting.  On one level the transparency was amazing.  But maybe too much so for me.  I’ll have to listen some more.  But since I stillI play vinyl it’s kind of a hassle to rewire.

But the most impressive thing was changing the Levinson to Rowland chain to XLR.  I know the manufacturers recommend that but since I was running RCA, I thought oh well.  Maybe down the road.

Then I reminded myself (I have a project studio) that I have tons of XLR cables.  So I threw Mogami gold cables in...  Wow is an understatement.  Not only did they sound better than my Nordost Frey or Organic (by Argento) the imaging snapped more into focus and there was quite a bit more detail.  All for less than 200 bucks.

ill probably try some expensive XLR but let me tell you, I don’t need to look elsewhere.
But maybe too much so for me. I’ll have to listen some more.

I think you may change after a few days/weeks of listening, I’ll say this though, the best recordings now will blow you away, but the bad ones may irritate more because they’re not being softened anymore.
To me this means your getting everything, warts and all, no punches pulled.

Also I’ll leave this thought with you.
As for XLR hookup. The 39’s PCM1702 dac chips are pure single ended. By using the xlr output you are using another opamp in the signal path that pseudo changes se output into xlr. I think the purer sound should come from the 39’s se outputs, not the xlr’s.

Cheers George
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I will go back and listen more thoughtfully.  In truth, I only spent about an hour,

Interesting, your comment on XLR.  I read that both the 39 and Model 1 have a true balanced signal path.  Alls I know is that it sounds better.
P.S.  I’ve been exclusively listening through tubes for past 25 years.  This high end Solid State thing is new to me.  And I dig it.  
I read that both the 39 and Model 1 have a true balanced signal path
Impossible for the 39, look at page 3 pin 11/14 it the only current output, and it’s single ended for one channel to the I/V opamp. Anything after that is going to be "pseudo xlr" made up by another opamp to create it. I would rather no have that in the signal path, so the single ended output should be better.

The M1 Bricasti yes, it's the other way around as it's dac chip has + and - outputs so it's balanced. Trouble is it's Delta Sigma conversion which I feel is not as good as R2R Mulitbit like the 39 for converting PCM Redbook 16/44 and 24/96.  

Cheers George
Hey George.  You are too far in the tech weeds for me to keep up.  I don’t doubt the technical aspects of what you’re saying.  I’m just reporting what I’ve heard.

But I like coming along for  the tech deep dive.  Know anything about the Sonic Frontiers SF-D2?  I have a mk.1 and mk.2.  Both busted.  I’ve heard the chips are near unobtainium.  
I have a mk.1 and mk.2.  Both busted.  I’ve heard the chips are near unobtainium.
   Yep, if it's been confirmed those Ultra Analog d to a converters have bit the dust, then I'm afraid you have what used to be very nice expensive dacs, that have now progressed to be very nice expensive door stops. RIP

Cheers George 
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I thought Parts Connexion had parts to repair their dacs.
Yes but they didn't make this part, which I believe is now extinct and the company long gone..

Cheers George
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A replacement part is listed
That would have been good to know, as I know someone who needs one.
So I emailed  Parts Connexion for price, they said.
"Unfortunately we do not have any."

Cheres George
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I can’t see them replenishing their stock of the Ultra Analog D20400 dac chip modules, as Ultra Analog Inc. hasn’t existed now for over 20 years.

Cheers George
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I did not ask what you thought, I can think for myself.
You have fingers ask them yourself!

I simply ask if I can buy the spare part you said was in stock.
A couple of days ago I wanted to compare digital cables from my ML 39 (as transport) to the Bricasti.  First up, the Crystal Clear Audio XLR (don’t know which model but about $500 10 years ago.  Great cable.

Next was an old Tara Labs RSC Master Gen. 2.  Ok.  B-.

Nordost Silver Shadow.  Good but not nearly as good as the Crystal Clear.  

Then I remembered I had a Signal Cable RCA Silver Res.  For laughs, I tried.  Best of the bunch.  10 times less than the other cables.  

Ain’t audio fun!

P. S.  I’ve had a Nordost Valhalla in before.  It was nice but not $2,000 nice.

his is also a great one that’s cheap the way I bought it, QED Silver 75ohm digital, purple in colour and it can be bought off the roll so you put your own rca’s on.

Cheers George