Mark Levinson No.512 CD Player---Opinions

Wow!! I just listened to the new Mark Levinson 512 CD player against the usual known suspects of Eoteric, EMM, dCS, and alike and I am convinced that Mark Levinson is back. I was able to spend ample time with the local dealer in Southern California in comparing the unit and we both agreed it was sensational. FYI, it is $15k but it is well worth it. Complete tonal balance and dynamic as anything I have heard for the price. I would be eager to hear others' opinion about this player.
1.i believe that levinson never went away. 2. they have consistantly made great front ends 3. no 'cd' player on God's green earth is worth 15k...not levinson or the usual suspects......its very easy to find dozens of players (new and used) that sound fantastic(for a cd player) in a nice hi fi system....and you could buy at least 3 to 5 of them for 15k......that said, if someone wanted to spend 15k on a CD player more power to them....just as long as they are rational enough to know it is only a CD player (a player of cd's).

Once again I find myself fully agreeing with you - a Lavry DA10 or Benchmark Dac1 can turn most any transport into a player equalling most 3K good quality designs (so can an excellent DSP for that matter). After this I suspect it is as much about taste and preference as to further subtle differences (tube etc.).

I have no doubt the 512 CD is absolutely awesome (I haven't heard it) - perhaps it may have just just the spot with Pkancel - the "synergy" thing. I'd be interested though to hear if other folks think the Meitner and Esoteric etc. have been dethroned, however, I think it takes a track record to determine this. If it has been around five years and people still love it then it gets added to my hypothetical list (as I very rarely splurge).
Hi Pkancel, what does it look like (the 512)? I have seen some pictures of demo's without a top, and the styling appeared to be not so elegant as in 'the old days' (390s, 380s). I have not seen pictures of the production unit yet, not even on the levinson website.
Furthermore, what were the other components auditioned by you?
Tecnically, I think it's very strong with the Teac transport - but I wonder which DAC concept is used.
Here are the images:
I was very unimpressed by the 512 in comparison to the Burmester 001 in a demo earlier this week but I'll be back next week to demo them again against a unit I know well, the X-01 Ltd, this time in a proper environment. I really like the styling of the 512, it's just one hunk of machine, clean straight lines. As to past models, I never really thought much of the performance of the 390S.
Bar81, what material (CD / SACD)? If you don't like the 390s I think it's obvious you won't like the 512.
I'm disappointed with the styling compared to ML's previous disk players. It now looks like every other box styled player. I am glad to see the Esoteric transport in there however.
Just some CDs my dealer had (Dave Matthews, Kind of Blue, classical, etc.); I don't really pay attention to SACD performance as the selection of titles isn't nearly broad enough for my tastes. I'm going back with my own CDs next week for a proper demo with gear I know and in a room I'm familiar with; that will allow me to make a proper judgment.
The stylish black metal machine is massive and has ll of the Levinson styling aspects. I think that it sounded far superior to the 390S but as Bar81 points out, the Burmester 001 is just better in every way. $15k versus $23k for the Burmester. Also, I have owned/do own other less expensive CDP's and none of them do the music any justice. I am glad that my pocket can afford my ear otherwise I would be miserbale with my hearing versus buying comparison.
To see the 512 player on the link was very dissapointed on the design side comapre to the 15K price. Mark Levinson had always a strong character, as the look of a player. Now the Chinese will have an easy job to copy this player look.:)

On the other hand, I'm a bit surprised that they use the Neo VRDS. I belive the 390S was built on a completly different way. ML used a pro CD drive in the past, read the data fast in advance, stored and played the sound from memory.
Esoteric went on the ols shcol way, built a very precise drive and an expensive DAC, just like Sony and Accupase. Now I'm just wondering how this player works.

I belive there must be financial problems behind. I heared that HK wanted to sell ML. Probably they have less mone on research.

But of course these things are not important, the most important thing is the sound.
The Esoteric VRDS-NEO drives spin at a 4x rate and reads data into a buffer (see the Teac USA Esoteric website. The control over the disc is very accurate given the mechanical design. Not sure whether ML is in trouble financially- but Harman does have a contract with Lexus and compared to other high end manufacturers, one would imagine that Harman should be able to distribute the cost of its boutique brand or afford to have it only break even or even be a status and loss leader.
I think I was a little too harsh on the 512 earlier. In comparison to the Burmester 001 I found the 512 less dynamic; it was very midrange focused with a sweet, lush and slower sound that may be conducive to female vocals and small ensemble performances. The 512 simply didn't have the speed, resolution or low end to compete with either the 001 or the Esoteric X-01 Ltd. (the X-01 in particular separating itself out with its vice grip on the low end).
I've not heard the 512, but I'd be curious to find out if the one Bar81 is auditioning has been broken in, power cord used, dealer setup, etc. I know from experience Levinson digital doesn't like sharing circuits with other components, and breakin does take a while. I doubt if many dealers, do more than switch the equipment on (maybe) and only play the equipment when someone's auditioning it. This may be why the Levinson's sound may be changing. The Burmester and Esoteric pieces may have been in the store and played for longer. Anyway I'm not disputing BAR81s experience at all. The 512 may sound exactly as described. The Esoteric, does have a great grip on the low end in my experience. Keep posting Bar81, I'm curious how things turn out.
Actually, the 001 was straight out of the box with zero hours (although I understand that Burmester does burn in the units at the factory, which, if true, every manufacturer should do imo). The Levinson had been out on the floor for about three weeks. The X-01 Ltd. obviously was well broken in. The PC used was Shunyata along with a 948 power conditioner and Transparent cabling.

btw, the Levinson wasn't changing, it sounded the same the second day as the first, it was just that I took some time to listen the second day even though it was dynamically compromised.
Wow, you would think they could do better than that.
Perhaps Levinson should start hiring some of their old engineers.

And yes, every manufacturer should burn power cords, interconnects, components, speaker wire, etc. It is a real pain to have to break in everything and sometimes takes weeks. It really is in the manufacturer's best interest. I'll bet many components get a bad rap, because people listen to the components and make evaluations what the unit sounds like then, not what it sounds like a month from now.
here's more information on Mark Levinson first SACD player
@Audioholik: thanks for this - this provides a better view of the player.

no problem

BTW, I was greatly surprised to see Mark Levinson finally joins the audiophile high resoulution SACD format, as until now they were only supporting 15bit CDs
This is the strangest thread I've ever read. It is typical of the information that circulates on the net. I am a Levinson dealer and know that no 512's have been shipped in the US to this date. They are expected sometime in November. I confirmed this with my sales rep at Levinson who assures me none exist to audition.
You must be right. I'm sure my dealer just happened to machine a 512 badge, a new enclosure, jam a VOSP mechanism in there and solder on some electronics just to pull one over on me.
Mark Levinson doesn't even have 512 on its website yet, it was just recently premiered at Tokyo International Audio Show with new SACD players from Luxman D-08 , Denon DCD-SX , Accuphase DP-600 , McIntosh MCD500 , Marantz...
The 532 , the 512 , and the 53 monos are scheduled for release in the upcoming weeks. I was contacted today by my rep and one of the cd players is almost ready to ship to me . I'll report when it arrives and send some photos from the system it's playing through. Maybe we can get some photos from the dealer in California. I would be interested to know his name, to call and to discuss the unit with him.
here are some pics from Tokyo presentation...

ML SACD pic1

ML SACD pic2

ML SACD pic3

ML SACD pic4
LOL @ Bar81
For reference, the dealer has also already delivered several pieces of the 532 and the 53 to his customers. It sounds like Levinson is telling you what you want to hear to keep you happy (they've done a lot to piss off their dealers in recent years regarding product availability and I'm sure they don't want to lose any more dealers). It's not surprising, bigger customers always get priority. I know of other Levinson dealers that, like you, have yet to receive a single piece of any of the above.
I'm the largest dealer for Levinson.
Who is this unnamed dealer?
>>I'm the largest dealer for Levinson.<<

In height and weight?

Doesn't seem to matter in any case.
I have also heard the new Levinson player and it is very nice. For those that can afford it, it is one of the best in class.
Azmoon's right.

It sounds terrific.

Great player if you have the dough.
Economy is bad but music is soooo good. I just spent 3.5 hours listening to the No.512 and I cut a check for it! When it will arrive, I don't know but that is an AMAZING piece of machinery. I can't wait to get it. I already have the Burmester unit and so this is going to be a part of a secondary system in SF.
Looks like Yamaha 70/80s styling. Perhaps it sounds great, but the beautiful design of the 390 is gone to a boring box. At this price level I would have to set this up next to a number units before acquisition. I am suspicious and would have to place it first next to a few Esoterics.
Anyone know how the CD performance of the 512 stacks up against the 390S?
Noticeably better in the midrange.
@Pkancel - I heard some rumours regarding the retail price, it it $22,000 or $15,000 or?
I believe it's $15K
I hope it's more reliable than the 390S. I had two of them, both horribly problematic.But I did like the sound when they worked!!$15k seems a crazy price for a front end, but then again Levinson must know their market. Paradoxically I suppose it will eventually whittle down to the rest of us poor mortals via Audiogon for a reasonable price, so there is justice after all.
Well, I just got my ML 512. Let me open with a joke. Two men meet on the street and one says, “How’s your wife?” The other man responds, “Compared to what?”
The player is heavy and solid, but I haven’t had the time to a great deal and I can only really compare it with a ML 31.5/30.6 combination. While I have heard the Esoteric and the Krell, I have not heard those in my system.
The 512 sounds very good, I am NOT yet ready to say great. It has to be broken in and I need time to just enjoy it. My surprise is how well the CDs sound. The ML 31.5/30.6 sounded a bit darker, meaning the bass was not as refined as it here. There is great detail, but the high end is what prevents me from saying great. But that may come when it is on for a few more days, it has in the past. New machines always sound a bit shrill to me.
The SACDs sound fine also, with a somewhat deeper sound with better placement coming from the ability to hear each instrument more individually. The bass is also better. When I first turned it on I would give it a B-. Now it is a B+. In time (just a day or two) it could certainly be an A.
@Forbushman - as you already purchased it, may I ask what the price was?
On a slightly different note, I was wondering if anyone has heard the 512 compared to either the previous flagship model, the #51 or the famed Meridian 808.2. No one I've queried, including reps with Levinson or Meridian seem to have ever done either one of these comparisons, so I'm hoping someone out there has to aid me in my purchasing decision. Anyone out there heard the 512 compared to these other flagship models? If so, what did you think?
It’s two weeks later and I have reached my conclusions about the ML 512. First, it is very sturdy and uses a different remote than I have associated with ML.
After two weeks, some of the sounds are startling. First, the quiet is so quiet when it is quiet that I first thought something was wrong. There is no shrillness whatsoever; the highs are wonderful and believable. I heard instruments, not speakers or equipment. The strings were startling real. I loved the “bass strings” and certainly heard things I never heard before. I even felt the piano keys being hit.
My comparisons are with the ML 31.5/30.6 and Krell DVD players. I have trouble, I think, expressing this, but the ML combo gave me great detail, the new combo gives better fidelity. It not so much detail it is realism. It did take me a while to get used to that. I hope that makes sense. The soundstage was superb. I listened to classical music, opera, jazz and movie soundtracks.
I found it took ten days to two weeks to really warm up and play well. I left it on overnight and the music got better and better. We are certainly are in grade A territory, perhaps A plus.
I know it sounds silly, but I haven’t had the time yet to go through a lot of discs, that may take a while. The CD sound is so wonderful that the distance between that and the SACD is not humongous. Again, that is because it is playing the regular CDs so well, NOT because the SACD part is lacking anything. Again, it actually sound is taking me a while to get used to. It is so uncolored and natural (and quiet).
I've had a chance to audition the 512 against the Boulder 1021, Meridian 808.2 and the DCS Puccini and I had a preference for the 512 overall, although all 4 are excellent machines. The Levinson may certainly be the "best buy" of the lot, being "only" 15K!
I finally heard this player at a store just to see what some of the hype was & having owned some levinson players in the past.
Now I would have loved to have done a a/b with some players I have & others in our small group. Sorry to say the store would never allow that. I heard enough to render a opinion. This player although good, does not rate up there with some of the better players in the price ranges below, equal & more expensive. Styling has taken a step back also. Sound wise, yes improved over the 390s, but no where near the performance of some of the newer players. Still more of a darker colder sound than I prefer.
With the levinson recent track record of service I could not justify the 15k price tag.
i have to save the 15 k so i can get a couple dig.amps for 50 k.
For $15K it should weigh 60lbs, be machined from a solid biilet of aluminum and be hand crafted with custom designed and tested parts. Oh, the remote should be made of solid gold as well:O)
Has anyone compared this player to the top offerings from Meridian, Ayre, ARC, DCS ?? It seems to me that at this price range, the players from those companies are the ones to beat, especially the one from Meridian since ST declared the SOTA for digital playback.
I have this player running through a pair of Mark LEvinson No.53's. A lot of the reviews listed above are spot on and I am absolutely in love with this CDP. Conversely, and for a bit more money ($8k) I do prefer the other setup I have which is the Burmester 001 in its latest form running through the Burmester 911's. I have not been able to find anything to de-throne the Burmester setup but I keep trying. I believe the No.512 to be the best out there at the $15k price point. I have also recently A/B'ed this with the Meridian 808.2 and can see why there is so much credit being given to that player but it is simply not quite for me.
Does anybody know if Stereophile magazine reviewed Mark Levinsons Super Audio CD/cd player No512?
Pkancel, what music do you listen to? Could you give me some specifics? What speakers do you use primarly?
First Stereophile has not reviewed the 512.

Bad news about the 512.

The last week in February, I went to play a cd on my 512 and the left channel had failed. Very soon, the left channel for the SACD playback would fail too.

My dealer did everything right and everything a dealer should do! And more! He kept pestering ML and they did not respond with an answer nor with a “RA” for over a month, but krept promising they’d get right back to him

Finally, I also called ML. Three weeks after I called I got a RA but learned that virtually all of the 512s had failed! The failure was so complete that all the units were being replaced, not repaired. I was told that something was failing on the grounding, the electronics that made it so silent on playback was shorting out.

I got back a new unit on Thursday. It is interesting that the items on the 512's display have changed. When you turn it on it says "Esoteric" not "Mark Levenson 512". It also says SACD 2 Ch instead of just SACD when an SACD was being played. ML assured me that that was just due to a software update, they use Esoteric transport, and will not affect their sound.

It’s just not what a company wants, advertising the competitor, I bet.

It sounds fine, but now I will have to wait some time to make sure.