Mark Levinson 37 transport or new cdp today..?

Hi all,

Considering purchasing a dedicated transport for my system, and had in mind a 2nd hand Mark Levinson No.37.

My question is - how does a ML No.37 (given its age) stack up against even something like a Rega Apollo(transport section only) these days? 10 years is a long long time in digital, and I'm wondering if a relatively inexpensive CDP today like the Apollo (as a transport) or another (new) transport would better the older ML No.37?

Budget is a factor for me - I can probably only spend around 1K (maybe $1200USD) used or new, which is why I was thinking of something like an Apollo..

Can anyone provide me with their thoughts pls ? =)

I currently have a Meridian 598 (DVD transport) running (via coax digital) directly into a Meridian 568.2mm. Whilst the Meridian 598 is ok, I've seen a few posts here from people who've own it who've advised it is a bit uninvolving compared to other players. I know for example that even compared to my older, far cheaper, Rega Planet, that, the Meridian 598 seems to lack definite 'involvement'/boogie factor in the music, even considering the Rega is a far far cheaper player.

Wondering if a new source (transport) may be the answer.

Appreciate people's thoughts as to whether older (reference) transports such as Mark Levinson are still worth it today, compared to the transport sections of new 2010 model cd players? (Price considered given my budget =)


The bad thing about ML is when the transport breaks, and it will, they won't fix it or will charge huge money to if they do.
I just bought a 47 Labs Flatfish transport and matched it with my kick ass modified Audio Note DAC, and the combination is phenomenal. The cool thing about the transport is it has no drawer. It is a top loader. I have run through a lot of DVD players and CD players. The drawers were always their eventual downfalls. The lesson here is, get a top loader.
The laser is the downfall.
i agree with Rwwear. A 10 year old transport could fail at any moment. Repairs could be costly and a big pain. I havn't had a transport last 10 years with the laser going out.
Thanks guys!

Sincerely appreciate your responses. I had heard the No.37's second hand are a bit of a lottery (with problems) - you're taking your chances.

So I guess my other main question is would the transport section of some current cd players provide pretty good sound in comparison to a ML 37? (ie, Rega Apollo/Saturn etc..?)

Thanks for your advice everyone!
The DAC makes the biggest difference. Get a good universal like the Oppo, Pioneer, Denon, Marantz etc unless you are just interested in playing CDs.
I still use my ML 37 after 12 years.

A good transport needs to not miss any info on the CD and deliver it in a timely manner to the external DAC.

The ML37 does this in spades.

If you like the "sound" of the ML37 transport, then go for it as I have proved for myself that the unique Mark Levinson "sound" of the transport is coming from its clock circuit. By hooking up my Logitech Transporter to be a slave of the clock signal from the ML37 using a Big Ben audio clock, the Transporter sounded exactly like the ML37.

The only issue I've ever had with the ML37 is when a friend misfed a CD into it and the CD got trapped in the drive-drawer mechanism inside the box. Taking the lid off soon had the problem identified and fixed. Apart from that, nothing has gone wrong with it and it remembers play lists you set up for each disk and other neat tricks like that.

So it is still relevant today even in the ever diminishing world of CD playback.
I don't agree with Rwwear. In the ML37/39/390 CD players the weak link is the drawer mechanism, not the laser. The drawer mechanism gets mistimed easily, and you have to follow ML's procedure to reset it. The open/close drive belt also breaks, stretches, or otherwise need replacement. ML doesn't do in-factory service any longer, but they have authorized service centers that will fix these transports. The 390S isn't that old, and uses the same parts.

I've had my ML39 for over 13 years. It's mechanically identical to the ML37. During that time the drawer was serviced once by the dealer (it was still under warranty), and I've had to reset it several times, but considering how many thousands of discs I've listened to over 13 years the drawer has been pretty good. (On the other hand, the main circuit board had to be replaced two years ago, and that was $1300. It's as good as new, but that'll be the last time I pay to fix it.)

I know ML37s are going for about $1500-1700 right now, and for that sort of money it would be a tough decision. For $1500 you can't get any other transport built like a 37, but electronics over ten years old are often cruising for a failure. I'm not one that believes transports have anything to do with CD sound, so unless you just like the quality feel of the 37 I think you're probably just wasting money.
I'm just generalizing Irv. I have no experience with the ML37. But I do know that ML does not support their older products well and when they do, it can get pricey.
I have the Mark Levinson 31 and it works fine,never had problems,I bought it used about two years ago and the only issue was the remote control.One screw was stripped on the remote cover and the previous owner was unable to change the batteries in the remote control so the old batteries were left for long time and so they leaked and corroded a small part of the board making the play button non functioning.I managed to fix the screw but never got around to getting the control button fixed,one I will.The transport itself is phenomenal.they DONT make them that beefy anymore.It's just one piece of fine engineering and who knows how much they would charge for one in todays market.
Rwwear, since your statement that Levinson does not support their older products directly contradicts my personal experience, how did you come to the conclusion that they don't? Have you ever owned a Levinson product?
I do have a Levinson product and have dealt with them trying to have customer's products repaired. Read the forums about how expensive it is to have a Levinson product repaired if they will do it at all. I have read many. Here's one example:

((02-28-05: Tonyptony
Get ready to pay $1000 just to have them look under the hood. It's their new customer-friendly policy.
Tonyptony (Threads | Answers | This Thread)))
Sonic Frontiers cd players are supported by Sonic Frontiers company and Parts Connection which was the designer of SF products. To bad ML has dropped the ball on their players, this is why I do not any of their products.
Rwwear, I don't have to "read the forums". I have several Levinson components and I just had a discussion with the factory recently about support for the amps, which are out of warranty. (Nothing is broken, we were discussing cap renewal.) Enough with the rumor-spreading. Either you have the facts or you don't, and you clearly don't. Service is definitely not cheap, but what do you expect for components with a prices that range from $6000 to $35,000? Are you thinking labor will cost you only $50/hour? I think service costs should make anyone question buying a 10-15 year-old electronic component that cost $6000 new, regardless of manufacturer. I remember talking to Krell about service for my old KMA-100s. Let's just say anything is possible, but it costs.
The #37,#39 & #390s are/were great transports/CD players. I believe all have long been discontinued by Levinson except perhaps the #390s. There should be parts available. Having owned one for several years, I know firsthand the the drawer has issues and will need servicing at some point. The new Levinson under Harman is a mere shadow of itself. They do not service the equipment themselves but have I believe 2 repair centers in the U.S.A. They have instituted a flat repair rate for each product which must be apporved to bill to your charge card before they will issue an R.A. The service price is always the maximum amount approved. The service may take quite a while.

As for transports, there are great differences in how they sound. A Levinson transport/DAC/CD Player was one of the best at the time and probably can still hold their own.

My Reference 31.5 transport and 30.6 DAC were easily bested by the P.S. Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC. Which retail about $6000. for the pair. However there is a trade in program for old DACS and transports towards the new P.S. Audio stuff through Music Direct and other dealers for the next couple of weeks. One can even purchase the bridge that will soon be available insert it in the DAC and then use the system as one of the currently best music servers available.

As for older components eventually breaking and being expensive to repair this is a fact. So unless you could never part with your favorite Levinson, Theta, etc. Then it is probably a great idea to look at newer technology.
However there are great older amps and preamps out there that can be purchased for a fraction of the price, and can be repaired fairly easily by others than the original manufacuter that makes them a real bargain. For instance my speakers (Legacy Helix) are quad amped and need at least 3 stereo amps to run them. I'd love to purchase Krell EVO amps for them but that would cost about $75000.00 for the amps I'd want new. Instead I've invested in Krell MDA-500 monoblocks, MDA-300 monoblocks, and the KSA 250 amps to run my speakers. So I have about $10,000.00 in amps that sound incredible in my system instead of the $75,000.00 and even if they do need some repair work in the next few years costing let's say $5000.00 to rebuild them all, I'm still ahead. And the sound. . . has to be heard to be believed.
I'm certainly not a Krellaholoic, there are many amps I admire and could use to build my system around.
Even Audio Research has an update for the legendary SP3-1a preamp listed on the website. That was an incredible piece that I'm sure sounds great today!

In conclusion, the best thing that could happen to Levinson/Revel product is for some other audio group purchase the name from Harman and revitalize a great and legendary line from sheer folly.

Good listening!
My Reference 31.5 transport and 30.6 DAC were easily bested by the P.S. Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC.

Sgr, I would be very interested in a bit more info on how the PS Audio compared to this great classic gear (which I have heard many times).
I have the facts. I've been in the audio business for over 25 years. A company that charges like Levinson does should have better support. I don't blame the old Levinson but I do blame Harman who couldn't care less about customers. I know for a fact that our Shure rep had all of their Harman products taken away from them because they wouldn't drop Shure and replace it with a Harman product.

Tony a friend has the Perfect Wave DAC and transport and they do sound very good.
Irvrobinson I had an interesting talk with the Harman guys at CEDIA and they acknowledged they had had a problem with their service but assured me things have been improved. And they no longer charge upfront for service. So, I owe you an apology. They also had a great setup at the show.
Rwwear, apology accepted.
My father has a 39 cd player and it broke, and they pre charged him a grand just to look, then another $1,300.00 to fix the problem. He was not happy. I suggest a Bel canto CD2 used on AG , very nice as a transport[its what I use] good luck, chris
From my understanding Levinson charges $1k upfront but if it cost less to fix it then they refund the difference or if it cost more then the $1k goes toward the repair. I was told this by a Levinson service tech a few years ago. They were very helpful.
Buy a PS Audio it is much better than the Levinson!!
Get a used CEC TL class transport. They are top loaders, never break, look beautiful and sound enchanting! I have a TL-1X made in 1997 and never have had a day of trouble with it in about 8 years. Had it modded by RAM with a new Superclock added and will compare it to any transport, old or new.

If this is any help I had a Mark Levinson DAC36S repaired 2 years ago. I am lucky in that I live in the same town as one of the service centers. I drove over and they charged me $990.00 just to work on it. It turned out to be a teflon circuit board. They charged me total about $1550.00 and told me there were no more teflon circuit boards avaiable if it broke again. They also told me it would be $990.00 just to look at my 37 transport if there were any problems. I sold both a year later.
I was just about to ask a similar question. I sold my ML 37 transport 7 years ago because moving to DC and downsizing. Now, I am using a mac front end with my old Theta digital generation pro Va DAC but still remember how realistic the 37 sounded. I have not been able to get that kind of sound since. I am considering changing the DAC, but not sure how to get the magic I had with the Levinson transport from the computer.