Patience will reward you. Keep an eye on $bay as well.
You're right, it's very hard to find "Golden Age" Levinson gear cause everyone's hanging onto it. If you really want to drive yourself crazy with waiting, but wind up with an even better preamp than a ML 26, wait for a 26S. It's lightyears ahead sonically -- ditto for the 25 vs. the 25S phono preamp. And a great ML amp? The ML 23.5 over the ML 23 any day! One of the most musical (tube-like) SS amps ever made -- along with the 20.5 monoblocks.
All these units were produced with RCA connectors instead of Camacs in their later production runs, an especially helpful feature with the preamp The preamp is also more desireable with the optional pair (just one!) of balanced inputs (I use mine with my DAC)
Thanks Paul and Nsgarh,
It has been 4 months waiting already. Although some friend offer me 38 and 38s preamp as well as good preamp like ARC LS7 and Sphinx Project 8 etc. I want to wait for 26 or 26s because I don't want to try other preamp with a risk of not match of 27 power amp and then draw a conclusion of Mark amp is not good enough. Should someone know any 26 or 26s avaliabe. I am interest to buy at reasonable offer.
You might have to wait a long time. The 38s is a very good preamp and you can always get your money out of it. You should take it until a 26s (NOT a 26!) comes along.
But other preamps will work well with a ML27. Just make sure it has balanced outputs so you can use the balanced inputs on the 27.
A1126lin: The 380s is a great preamp and it has remote volume which is a really nice feature BUT there's something about that mid-90's Levinson/Madrigal gear that has never been surpassed sonically (except for the Cello gear produced at about the same time.) What I'm referring to "sonically" is the musical, almost tube-like quality of the sound, yet still retaining the sharpness and accuracy of SS. The 26 preamp and 23 amp were the first attempts. Then, for the 26s and 23.5 they went to teflon printed citcuit boards and a higher quality of board components. The results were absolute magic. Same for the phono preamp, the 25 versus the 25s. People still covet the 25s as one of the finest, quietest, high gain phono preamps ever made.
If you check out my system components, you'd think it would sound very bright, but it doesn't. It's alive, very accurate and revealing, but it's not hard or edgy. You can listen to it all day long without fatigue.
If you onlyheard a 380s/336, you'd be justifiably impressed -- but it can get better. What can I say? That mid-90's Levinson gear is like apartments in New York -- you practically have to wait for someone to die before it's available!
A1126lin: You don't want a 20.0, or a 20.6. You want a pair of 20.5's.
The 23.5 has XLR's and Camac/RCA (the Camacs were replaced with RCA's in the later production runs.) It can also be bridged (400W into 8 ohms)
I'd love to have a pair of bridged 23.5's! (To be honest, I've never heard what a bridged 23.5 sounds like -- maybe it sounds crappy!:~)
Also, unlike some amps with fake "balanced" inputs (eg Rowland, Audio Research, ......) the Levinson gear is fully signal-balanced throughout the chain of components -- from the preamp input > output > amplifier.
Here are the original list prices (as of 12 years ago!) which came directly from Mark Levinson:
No. 26 (w/ on board MM phono) $4995
No. 26S (w/ 1 balanced inputs, no phono) $8495
No. 25 $1875
No. 25S $2995
PLS-226 (dual output power supply) $1395
I sold a ML 26 (with pwr. sup.) for $1900, and a ML 25 (without pwr. sup.) for $900 over a year ago.
I paid $2550 for a 25S (incl. PLS-226) and $2800 for a 26S (incl. PLS-226) I really didn't need the extra power supply (one will power both units) and (as far as I'm concerned) I paid $500 too much for the 25S even with the power supply, but "a bird in the hand!"
As you can see, there was also a considerable retail price difference! At that time, I'm sure the difference was component cost (not just the boards, but all of the parts.) The circuit design was essentially the same, however the balanced inputs were only available on the 26S, its PC board replacing the on board phono stage board.
The sonic differences? Think of it this way: The 26 is a very nice line stage for the money and if you have a high output moving coil or a MM cartridge and can get one with an on board phono stage, it's a tough unit to beat for the money. The 26S is in another class altogether. Most of them came with the balanced input option, not the on board phono stage. The unit just disappears sonically, which means it doesn't sound toobie, it doesn't sound solid state, it's just not there. I've heard it compared to a 380S without remote volume. Others have said it's better than a 380S. Whatever -- you won't touch the performance in a used piece of equipment for under $10K, and new? forgetaboutit!
The 25S phono preamp is one of the true "killer" phono preamps of all time. No sonic signature, amazingly quiet yet with enough gain for even 0.20mV MC cartridges, easy to change cartridge loading with the flip of a dip switch. Make sure you get the "hi-gain" unit (for MC's) they did make a low-gain version just to cover their bases I guess. To this day, I don't think anything under 5 figures really compares. Maybe a CJ, or Evans Groove+, but I haven't A-B'd them.
Thanks so much for your comment
Youradvise is so great. It seems my waiting for 5 months is worth and I shall keep on until a good Mark unit turn up. But I saw some 26 with balance input option ( or claim to have) how come?
I have a Mark 27 power amp. Sound sweet and power to me with my Proac 2.5. No matter what. I will wait for 26 or 26s. Depends on which turn up first.
Ken 1967, I bought (and sold) all my ML equipment on Audiogon. I have seen Levinson 25's and 26's on Ebay but I get very nervous with Ebay, expecially if the price is way above or way below market. I got one of my units (I can't remember which) by placing a want ad on AgoN. Be patient.
You didn't say if you do vinyl. If you do, I'd wait for the S versions and eventually get a 23.5 amp, or a pair of 20.5's. If you only do digital a regular 26 with balanced inputs (and a DAC with balanced outputs!) along with your 27 amp would be a VERY respectable setup.
Tony -- a friend auditioned a 32 (he had a 26S), and obviously, there wasn't much to criticise. But as he put it, "it was a lot of money to pay for remote volume control and a lot of balanced inputs and outputs, and a couple more (audio-video) inputs.
If I had a spare $30,000+ I might give it a whirl, but not so fast. I might prefer to spend the money on a new cartridge and an upgrade my digital front end first.
Ken, congratulations! I think $3K is good. There's one on AgoN right now for $4K - so it was a good investment, no?!!
The going (top) price you should pay for a CLEAN 23.5 at the moment is $2700. And I've seen them for as low as $2250, but you have to be fast!
The 27 is absolutely as good as the 23.5, it's just half the power (100W/8ohms). So it really depends on what you're driving. What are your speakers?
I got one plus the 25 phono stage.Super results if mated with 23.5 I got lock stock and barrel back in early 90's to drive my KEF 107.Another trick to make the whole system bloom is if you could get hold of NBS cable from Master series up or the top of kimber series then you're settled for life.
Check with Mr Kay at the Lyric of NY in order to find what you seek he'll help you.
PS.Don't hesitate to to go for valve cd players either Audio researche's cd 7 or audio aero.Then you'll start singing :Haven I'm in haven...
Best of luck George