The 390s seems more dynamic and colorful, without overemphasizing any part of the frequency range. The 39 was also flat in frequency but felt more compressed. I have characterized this before as the 39 having a "New England" sound and the 390s sounding somewhat more "West Coast," without the overemphasis of the frequency extremes that this suggests. Yeah, you can hear the difference.
Check the listings for a used 39. The upgrade cost will depend on whether you want to upgrade the faceplate as well as the electronics. Ask your dealer, he's the one who's gonna have to do it or send it in to Madrigal.
Just got my 390s back. I know it's not broken in yet, and I've been without it for almost a month, but it sounds significantly more liquid than the 39 did. Prior to sending the 39 out for the upgrade I had been listening to 39 direct through a HeadRoom Max headphone amp driving a pair of Sennheiser 600 cans (we moved, and our new place wasn't done yet). This gave me an opportunity to listen very carefully to some familiar discs and try to discern where the improvements might appear (if at all).
Everything about the 390s seems smoother, more open and dynamic. The depth of detail with the 39 was good, really good - but this is a quantum step up. Still building my listening room, so I won't be able to really judge it for awhile yet - by then it should be nicely broken in.
You can pick up a clean 39 for $3500 and then the upgrade will cost you another $1800 ($2300 if you have them swap out the faceplate). So for under 6k you end up with a player that sounds as good or better than systems (one or two-piece) costing twice as much (or more). As far as finding a 390s used? I don't know - I'll be keeping mine for a long, long time :)
This question has been asked several times before. My answer is that the 390S upgrade is a no-brainer for anyone who owns a 39. I agree with the comments that described the sound of the 390S as "more liquid", or "smoother" than the 39. I like to say more "continuous".
BTW, I own a 39 which I had upgraded to a 390S a few months back.
Mine is in for repair, and I'm weighing whether to do the upgrade. Sounds like it will be worth it. I have been using the 39's preamp direct into 334, with astounding results (B&W 804's). Now I am thinking of adding a pre-amp, and wonder if the upgrade should be done on the 39 if I add a 380s. Also considering a tube preamp, possibly the new Mac C2200, as it has a phono stage. I'm not sure if I would run the 39 or 390 direct to 334, or use it through a tubed pre. Any ideas? Probably a 380s with a good tube phono stage might be the way to go for the table. Or would there be a smooth way (short of disconnecting/reconnecting) to use the 390 direct with the balanced output, and rca from tube preamp to the 334?
The 390S upgrade gave us more. The word is more. The transparency is more. Drums are more hollow. Instruments are more real and natural. Voices are more real and life-like. I bought the 39 without audition. I upgraded without audition.
Use the balanced output direct to amplifiers and you will experience more. I'm pushing Thiel 3.6's with Levinson ML-2 monoblocks. I'm carefully switching cables between phono and cd. This is not a matter of if you should, but when you will. Do it!
if you currently own a 39, upgrade it without any hesitancy
if you are planning to buy a new cd player, go to the dealer have a audition and bring it home.In my opinion, 390s even beats the combo of 37 and 360s, however it is just my experience, your result may vary due to enviroment and gears matching. I won't spend 8 thousands bucks to buy an ugly gear even someone states that its sound is no:1 in the world. will you marry a witch just because her voice is fabulous. I doubt it.Some euro gears' price are rediculous in usa
strange philosophy about audio you have there m8. But to each is own, my priority is sonics, and as far as that goes, the AA Capitole (which i think is the player you are referring to when reading between the lines) is top class. I really don't see 'looks' as having a place in high end audio, and definitely not a criteria for choosing a >5K CD player. IMHO
As far as the ML390s goes I just received mine and it sounds great straight out of the box. I am using all ML equipment. This player will remain in my system for a long long time with no regrets and the service department is great.
I didn't mean to offend the owners of AA.Just respond to the different views of "look". If the Ferrari does not have the look will you buy it, if the Porsche does not have the look will you buy it. You wanna power and you got the power , just put the jet engine in the car. Will Michael Schumacher drive a car with jet engine. You said you didn't see the look having a place in high end audio, I can't dispute. It is some kind of taste.
I'd like to chime back in here - Since I've gotten my 390S back (and it's finally broken in), I'm amazed at the improvement over the past few weeks. Don't even question the decision to upgrade (other than the $$$). Worth every penny.
BTW, I've been comparing the sound of the 390S direct to a 332 vs. the 390S to a 380 to a 332. All ic's are balanced.
I find that while the direct setup sounds REALLY good, I don't think it sounds as good as the 390>380>332 with respect to imaging, depth of soundfield, tonal balance, and bass detail (from my notes). I need to continue the evaluation, as I only spent a few hours listening that night, but my initial notes on the direct setup was "not even close".
This came as a surprise to me, as I had read a great deal of discussion (here and elsewhere) on the sonic benefits of driving an amp direct from a variable source, and was even contemplating the possibility of being able to sell the pre-amp after I had proven to myself that this was the case. I can only assume that this speaks to the quality of the 380 in its own right, but I was under the impression that the 390 had a good deal of the 380 "under the hood".
Curious what others have found on this front.
All I can offer is that having read reviews comparing the ML 39 to the Wadia 830 and finding that both had their areas of superiority you would think the Wadia 301 would be better than the 39. Right, well maybe, but when I listened to the 301, and was lucky enough to hear a ML 390s, it was like chalk and cheese. In the UK, that means the difference between day and night. You decide - I already have - the ML 390s rocks!
I have owned quite a few players from NAIM (3.5,CDX), Meridian (508.24), and also had the no39, which I recently upgraded. I also audtioned Wadia (860) and Linn (ikemi), and to me, there is no question the 390S is THE most natural sounding player of the bunch. It does all the things I thought the others did well (e.g., lush timbre ala 508.24, nice pace ala Naim, and more believable soundstaging/imaging vs the Wadia, which while impressive to the ears on short listen, ultimately fatigued and sounded "gimmicky."
Versus the 39, the upgraded unit is MUCH smoother, quieter, has tremendous microdynmics, and best of all, paints each note in a truly paplable manner, surrounded by air. Imaging is first order.
This is a no-brainer upgrade for 39 owner/potential oweners to consider. The old saying is true: spend your $ on front end and back end first, then fill in amp/preamp! One more thing, toss the stock PC, and go with a BMI/Shunyata brand (I have the low end Mamba which is great).