Mark Levinson n°39 or dedicated DAC?


I currently own a Mark Levinson n°383 (integrated amp) and have been offered to buy a 39 (CD player). A lot of my music is now stored uncompressed on a server and I've been looking for a good DAC for a while now.

The 39 has two digital inputs that would allow me to connect a source (eg. Ipod) and benefit from both my CDs and the stored music.

I know the 39 is not the youngest anymore but I'm still hesitating between buying it or move to full digital with a DAC like the one from Bryston. The 39 would be the perfect match with my 383 but is it really outdated. Technology has not evolved that much (lots of figures but lots of marketing too).

Anyway. What would you do or recommend?

Buy the 39?
Buy a dedicated DAC?
I believe Harman/Levinson does not support the #39 CD player anymore.
Any problems, you have a shiny doorstop.
This support issue is probably the main potential stopper indeed. The person who sells the 39 just got it revised and everything seems to work fine. I know I'd take a risk by buying it. I'm just wondering if the 39 is really as outdated as one could think. I like the analog sound style of the late 90s ML products but what I don't know is if some of the more recent DACs are miles away from the 39 or just different (as in more details, wider soundstage, ...)
If the price is right I'd go for the #39 . I've owned a bunch of Levinson gear, not only do they rarely need service but Levinson has always found a solution for any problem , obsolete or not .
I don't understand why you would want 90's era digital technology in 2011. Without putting a price tag to the Levinson 39 to match up to current DACS... this is a theoretical debate... (I don't know of any blanket advice on choosing between old digital gear and the new digital pieces in)

When you compare the sound quality difference between 90's era digital technology and 2010 technology with different output stages, power supplies, reliability strictly by reputation... you are forced to compare the dollar values you assign to each piece. That's tough unless you do a lot of this kind of thing or one piece is completely undervalued. It does not sound like you are going to be buying and selling lots of equipment as part of the hobby.

I would think a modern DAC would allow you to use high resolution formats and choosing a DAC that does this with files stored on your server would eliminate a 90's era DAC.

The other important question is,"would the rest of my system be resolving enough to distinguish a difference".
Get a standalone DAC that is up to date and does up to 24 bit/192 kHz sampling rate...preferably a DAC that allows you listen to the source's native bit depth and sampling rate w/o upsampling/dithering as default. I love the PS Audio Perfect Wav DAC for this very reason. 16 bit sounds best played back 16 bit. 24 bit sounds best played back 24 bit. The Perfect Wav does this great for $3K price tag and I'm sure you could find a lightly used one in the $2k price range. It's a hard DAC to beat for the price, imo given the fact you don't have to upsample like most of the other entry level dacs these days.

I'm not trading in my Levinson 360s anytime soon, even if it is 90's technology - LOL. It's almost vinyl like in its rendering and handles 24/96... Using one of the many bridge products out there I feed digital from my Mac MIni into the Levinson and couldn't be happier. Are there better dac's out there; sure but you're talking a big jump in class and cost (i.e. Weiss, dCSs, Berkeley, AMD, etc.).

Personally if the price is right I’d go for the Levinson 39.
I have a ML39 and it sounds pretty good to my ears. got some GREAT reviews when it came out. I gave up on ML when my beloved ML20.6's died and could not be repaired, they were at the Service Bench for 14 months and they could not fix the problem. The ML39 is the only ML gear in my system now, I went for a different pre-amp and amp.
If they do need service? The Service Bench is a cetified ML repair center. They can service most all of the ML gear except for ML amps like the 20.6's (ML/Harmon Kardon are really a bunch of jerks (IMO) for not servicing their gear.
A new high end player 2011 would probably be the best way to go.
With some great music servers out there today I'm not sure if a CD player is the way to go anymore. When my ML39 dies I will probably go with a server, I might get one sooner.
Joe Nies
I used the #39 straight into (no preamp) an Audio Research VT-100 Mk-III (Audio Artistry Dvorak speakers).

I much prefered the sound of the Rega Apollo into a BAT VK-300 SE (Thiel 1.6 speakers).

I emailed my tech. friend.
The laser is no longer available, for this piece...
Thank you for all the feedback.
I took my decision and will buy a dedicated DAC. Probably the Bryston BDA-1. Let's face it, CD is dead and despite the fact that I really like having CDs and LPs, it's probably time to move on for good... dematerialized media = future.

Very wise decision. I use to own a No. 39 and really loved the sound but that was ten years ago - a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.
A good move ... I have a Proceed CDP which is very similar to the ML39 ... only real difference is an 18 bit DAC vs the 20 bit in the ML. I just acquired a Sony 5400es and even after 20 hours burn-in in I was pleasantly surprised at the improvements that have occurred in the digital realm. Feeds a CJ Premier 14, ML331 and Thiel 3.6's.
Buy a dedicated DAC if you have a transport or digital source you like. I have a 390S that served me well enough until a transformer blew. Now it just sits in an attic closet because I do not want to deal with the hassle and obscene costs associated with getting Levinson gear repaired. A good digital transport/source and a great DAC (There are so many; the best I have heard is the new one from Acoustic Plan) will IME far outperform a Levinson 39/390S, or any other CDP of the same vintage as the 39/390S. YMMV, of course.
I have a Proceed CDP which is very similar to the ML39 ... only real difference is an 18 bit DAC vs the 20 bit in the ML. I just acquired a Sony 5400es and even after 20 hours burn-in in I was pleasantly surprised at the improvements that have occurred in the digital realm.

St01, without going to far OT can you describe a bit more the comparison between the CDP and the Sony? Is your Proceed the CDP, or CDP2 or 3?
Hello Tonyptony ... responding to your question my unit is the Proceed CDP from 1997. I am not aware of a CDP2 or 3; they used that type of designation for an earlier generation product called PDP, PDP2 and PDP3. Is that what you were thinking of?

Any way the Sony sounds better than the CDP on many fronts. First instrumental timbre, next tighter bass as well as more bass ... e.g. the bass player in a jazz band is now much closer to the live performance, and finally less of the edginess one can hear in some CD's. The CDP was very musical, and still is, but D to A conversion technology appears to have advanced and the Sony benefits from it. The Sony requires a lot of burn-in ... out of the box I thought I may have made a mistake, but after 25 hours it was better. After 100 hours there were no doubts ... I listened to Mozart's 40th at Avery Fisher and while that sound was still fresh in my mind, to both the CDP and Sony at home. Dispelled all doubts as the instrumental timbre was so much closer to the live performance. I hope this answers your question.