Mark Levinson preamp no. 38 vs 38s vs 380 vs 380s

Good day,

can someone help me one the topic. What is the difference between the 38, 38s, 380 and the 380s. I was planning on getting another preamp so that i can use balanced cable to my Krell. First i had the MF to my Krell and then my father gave me his SF Power 1. Now i have the MF hookup to my SF Power 1.

My current system
B&W Nautilus 803
Krell FPB-200c
Sonic Frontiers Power 1
Musical Fidelity A3CR preamp
Sony SCD-1

The 38s has teflon circuit boards and sounds better than the 38. Same thing with the 380 and 380s. The 380s is the best sounding of the four models.
I owned a 38s and upgraded to the 380s, by far it was one of the most astonishing upgrades I've made. The 380s transparency is exceptional, on par with ARC higher end pre-amps, but has far more bass authority, and the ergonomics can't be beat.
I have owned Krell KRC-3, ML 380s, ML 39 (uses 38 pre), ARC LS25mkII and now I have a Hovland HP-100. These last three pres are all the sam $$$(used). Look into the Hovland or another good tube device. Looks like you've given SF Stereo some good biz. (I bought all my first hi-end gear there.)

I know your thread is about the diffs in ML pres. Fine. The 380s is the best, and most expensive, of the lot. Now go look at the Hovland. It will do musical wonders to your Krell. Will take its edge off a bit.

Now, if you want to get crafty......dump your pre and buy a ML 390 cd. In it you get a 39 cd and 380 pre. You could run your Sony SACD (and all those Spyro Gyra SACDs)thru the DAC on the 390. Or dump that thing and just get a Sony SACD transport. A 390 DAC just sounds better than a Sony.

SACD? I just don't get it.
On that last point, don't sell your preamp so fast. I have a 380 and a 39 that I just had upgraded to a 390s. I too was considering selling my 380 and running the 390 direct. I have run it through the 380 to my 332 using balanced cables and compared it to the 390 driving the 332 solo.

Depth of detail and dynamics were significantly better running through the preamp compared to running the 390s direct. The 390 direct sounded good but the 390/380 combo was far and away more engaging.

Just my .02


I am using a 380s with a Bel Canto eVo2 power amp and a 390s front end. I find the sound a bit sterile and the midrange recessed and boring. Would a Lev 334 for instance improve matters? Cables are Madrigal CZ-Gel with QED spk wire.

Much appreciated.
Try running direct from the 390s to the evo, if you want a rich midrange go with a rowland amp.
Hovland and Krell seems to work well. I know a dealer in NYC that used that combo when I demo'd speakers, and it sounded pretty good.
Just get the 380S. Midrange is far from boring when useing the right equipment with it as well as the right cables. A 380S is just neutral and honest. It's sound will remain the same for all your music and not degrade like a tube preamp because a tube preamp's tubes are always wearing out and dying a little all the time. As with everything else, you need to hear it in your system and then decide. Me, I love mine.
Ok guys thanks very much for your help,but i don't understand very well if is a usefull to spend 1000 USD more for 380s than 38s.
Many time I ear a upgrade model like 38s-380s and I can understand the technical variation regards electical component etc...
Please let me know as soon as possible the really performance compare with the price.
thanks a lot to all nice friends around the world.
kind Regards,
Alberto, everything is all explained above. Read what Abstract7 says on top on 4-22-02 that it is useful to pay more for better performance but that is up to you. I already e-mailed you a copy of a review on this 380S from Fi magazine as it's all explained in the review, did you read it yet? You can see it for yourself on the website which will explain to you everything your asking in your above question. The 380S was dramatically improved over the 38,38S, and the 380. Uriah
Hi Tod,

If you have FPB200C you should buy the Krell KCT preamp and use Cast cables. It will sound better than all the Mark Levinson preamps you mentioned. I had the 380S and the KCT blows it away in every aspect.

How would a 380S match up with a BRYSTON 4B3 amp ?
I had  an ML 38 and upgraded it to 380S status ($1500. ) back in the day.  Well worth the upgrade.

Still have the 380S . Its very quiet, very neutral.  If that is what you are looking for in a preamp, a used one is a great choice for the current going rates.

I recently added a Transparent Powerwave to both protect my 2 front end components and possibly increase SQ .  It has  given the preamp new clairity and a bigger soundstage, better bass.  I am no longer thinking about a new preamp. The ML 38/39 series have great egonomics, too.
I've owned both the 38S and 380S Preamps.... I could discern very little to no difference in sound quality.  Future owners would thrilled to own either.  The are excellent controllers with wonderful transparency.  The stated improvements from fan boys and Levinson are mere marketing ploys. 
Thank you Rossman. There are a lot of 38s on the market. 380s are harder to find. If the audible difference is small between the 2 I will snag a 38s. They are going between 2 to 2500 in price. I just acquired an old 23.5 amp which still sounds good after nearly 30 yrs. A 38s should be a nice match for it and upgrade from my Parasound P7
I love my 380S.  Since these units are getting old and the case has no ventilation, you may want to consider a recap.