Review: Levinson Media 51 Transport

Category: Digital

I just put a Media 51 in my system matched with the media 40. It is a remarkable piece. The sound and video are spectacular. The thing is built like a tank. The price of course is breathtaking, but with a pmdt trade in and negotiation with the dealer I got down to merely breathtaking as opposed to oxygen sucking breathtaking. I don't know whether the price is justified but it is a great transport. I decided against Hidef for the same reasons Levinson did. Without a standard the material available is a waste of money. What does anyone do with their beta tapes? Based on all Levinson put in this piece my gut is that when a standard on Hidef is in place I will be provided with an acceptable solution. Obviously the projection equipment I have this connected to is pretty good so the picture I have generated pretty well matches Hidef(Faroudja scaler Vidikron Vision 2). I'm wondering whether anyone else has experience with the 51 and cares to weigh in. On the audio side it is the best I have heard so regardless of the video debate it is quite worthwhile.

Associated gear
Mark Levinson Media 40
3 Harmonic Precision HP-110-V2 Mono-amplifiers For Main Speakers
2 Proceed HPA-2 amplifiers
Pioneer Elite CLD 99 LaserDisc
2 Revel Ultima Salons
1 Revel Ultima Voice
4 Revel Ultima Embrace
2 Revel Ultima Sub 15
Sonoran Plateau Cable, Interconnects, and Power Cables
2 Sistrum Racks with Audiopoints.
This player really is quite exceptional on 2 channel, the only way I have heard it so far. It is however, a departure in sound for Levinson. The sound is more Linn-like to my ears, with a smoother top end, huge sound-staging and a tuneful, rather that rock solid bottom end.
I too am at great odds with the price, but more so on why they insisted in putting multi-channel outputs on this piece. This is a fantastic 2 channel player, but who would run the 5.1 analog outputs, especially considering most people who own this piece will have a No. 40?
Why not have the multi-channel outs? Some people might want to use the processor in the unit itself.
I have no problem with the multi channel outs. It doesn't adversely impact the equipment and at this price choice doesn't hurt. Having said that with the 40 it is really not necessary, but everyone may not pair the two pieces. I agree with you that in some ways the sound is a departure for Levinson. Somewhat brighter than other Levinson pieces. I like it. While I love the Levinson 400 amps I went with the Harmonic precisions because they were a little more tubelike and gave me a certain musicality that differed somewhat from the Levinson amps. Not better just an interesting difference.
Decided to purchase a Media 51 last month. Although not fully burnt in, my preliminary assesment is that the multi-channel sound and video are spectacular. This is definitely the best DVD player out there. I heard detail in my surround soundstage that I never thought existed. I briefly compared the stereo performance against Mark Levinson reference 30.6 and 31.5. I would still revert back to the latter for my stereo CD playback. A detail review will be posted after full burn-in.
Associated equipment:
Mark Levinson No. 30.6, 31.5, Krell SACD Standard, Marantz DV12S2, Lexicon MC12 bal.
Jeff Rowland Model 9 TiHC, Mark Levinson No. 32, Mark Levinson 432 (x2 for sides and rears), Mark Levinson 436, Revel Sub 30
Revel Ultima Salons, Ultima voice, Ultima Embraces, Ultima Gems (side)
SME 30/2A Dynavector DRT-XV1S
Marantz VP12S4 projector, Pioneer plasma, Kimber Select and Cardas cabling
I think the burn in is important this piece. I have noted dramatic improvement in the sound of my system after breakin of amps ect. After having lived with the 51 now for a few weeks I am even more impressed with the soundstage. The detail as good as I have heard. The video was pretty much spot on from day one.