The Levinson Sound?


I have never listened to a Mark Levinson amp, but am curious as to what sound characteristics they have, especially the older amps from the 90's. How do they compare to say Pass Labs amps? Any info would be appreciated.
333jeffery
They best the PASS in my experience.

in fairness, it was an all-Mark Levinson electronics array including cdp that was being auditioned 
What generation ML amps are you looking to compare? 
I am interested in the 300-series amps.
I’ve heard No. 334 and X150.5 in the same system for a few hours when a friend was trying to decide to replace his 334 with the Pass unit. At the end we both agreed we liked the No. 334 better so he decided to keep it. His had gone through a major (and expensive) service which included new capacitors and a couple of other electronics a few months before the comparison. I must add the sound after the service got dramatically better so an unmolested unit may not sound much better than the X150.5. The Levinson just sounded fuller with more uniform sound top to bottom. By comparison the Pass sounded a bit disjointed across the frequency range with some frequency ranges sounding more forward and others relatively more recessed. Don’t know how to describe it any better.
I had a 336 which I really liked, but after replacing the caps I sold it and tried several different other amps.  

I could have easily lived with the 336, but now have JC1 mono's which to my ear are a little more lively and open than the 336.  Neither amp will fatigue and both are fantastic.  The 336 is the best of the 3xx series IMO.

Good luck.
I've often heard that Levinson's amps have a "dark" sound to them. What does this mean? I see the 33 and 33H's come up for sale from time to time and wondered if they are as good as folks let on. They are out of my price-range but I am curious about them.
I feel the 3 series is still the best amp Levinson has made today. I have owned 331, 334.332 and now the 335. In all fairness i have heard the 4 series and did not like them at all. The newer 5 series i have not heard them enough to pass opinion. The 3 series had the cap problem, but once corrected is a great amp. To me it was the older Levinson pre amps that sounded dark not the amps. The Levinson 3 series does not have the bass slam that the Krells of the same age had. But for me they where better across the board. For me the best cable to put with the 3 series is Transparent cable the Reference line or higher.  I have had friends tell me when they listen to my system that it has a tube quality sound when matched up. The Highs and Mids are very detailed and sweet sounding.
enjoy Pete

Thanks! for sharing- 68pete

did you ever listen to the ML No. 383 integrated ?

Happy Listening!

FWIW…. I’d say so far, these posts are on point with the Levinson sound attributes.

I’ve only heard ML with ML pre & amp, using Maggie 20s.

IMO, being very blunt and a bit insensitive, listening to Levinson is like listening to an amp which has to have a sheet thrown over each speaker while the music is playing. Maybe that’s the ‘dark’ aspect. They sound ‘polite’. Deep resounding bass. But IMO just to civil and not keen on leading edge definition. However, not tube like.

I’d say they are surely accurate and musical, but the presentation for me, is not demonstrative or engaging enough. At least in the setup I heard. Imaging was spectacular, albeit mild mannered..

Their builds enable some fairly tuff load speakers to be driven surprisingly well.

Could be a solution for bright sounding speakers.

IMHO age is another consideration. There are loads of nice well mannered amps around that don’t have the Levinson name plate which are contemporary or recent . production.

The cap issue referred to earlier is fact with age. A friend of mine has had a couple of them and needed to get that work done on his.

Krell amps, for example, of the same vintage or era would be the antithesis of ML amps.

Look around. Have fun at any length. Good luck.

Hello jafant
I have not had the pleasure of the Mark Levinson 383, other than a audio show just for a couple of minutes.
"I've often heard that Levinson's amps have a "dark" sound to them. What does this mean?"  

Here you go 333jeffery... An Audio Glossary

https://www.stereophile.com/content/sounds-audio-glossary-glossary

dark...
A warm, mellow, excessively rich quality in reproduced sound. The audible effect of a frequency response which is clockwise-tilted across the entire range, so that output diminishes with increasing frequency. Compare "light."


What was the impression- 68pete ?

Happy Listening!

333jeffery
The Levinson Soud?

Great sounds, from old and new still, I still respect them.
They haven't sold out to Class-D like Rowland Research did, and lost a lot of audiophiles respect because of it.

Cheers George
Hi I still own 332 and I love the sound but I'm not using it because I'm set with accuphase. You won't go wrong if you get one
Do the Levinson amps pair well with tube preamps?
Hello

I'm from Lisboa - P O R T U G A L

I have 335 and it's a genuine Levinson, all of the following are no longer made by Mr. Mark Levinson (I mean ...)

the whole line of 334 - 335 - 336 does not suffer from the capacitor problem

only the 331 - 332 and 333 are previous and this series is that they suffered this problem

the 336 is multichannel for home theater

The 335 is excellent the best of them all better than the legendary ML 27.5

good hearings ..... ...

.
blindjim, the sound experience you describe, if it was with an older ML amp, is most likely because that amp was due for an overhaul. I have no doubt there are “better“ amps out there but that’s not the point of discussion here. I’ve heard countless amps (and speakers) that sound very detailed when heard for the first time or for a short period but become intolerable after an hour or so. The No. 334 (and X150.5 to a lesser degree) are for all evening all genre music listening when paired properly. 
Though I can certainly understand why Levinson has a following. The Levinson house sound just isn't as appealing to me as much as some of their direct competitors. The Levinson's don't seem to have the open micro and macro dynamics as some of them. Also, their reputation for customer service (especially at these price points) isn't all that welcoming to me either.
jafant
Like i said i only heard it for a few minutes at the audio show. But it did not stand out if i remember correctly. I think the audio shows are a good place to get exposed to products but a lot harder to form a feeling  on something when you hear it for a couple of minutes. Rooms, speakers and cables  all enter into it even music played.
clemvice
The Levinson 336 amp is 2 channel amp 350 wats into 8 ohms and doubling down each time 700 into 4 ohms 1400 into 2 ohms. Not a multi channel amp. The power cord is hard wired so you can not swap it out . Unless you modify the amp
To add to 68pete's comments on the 336, it absolutely suffered from the same capacitor issue as the 331-333 models.  All 33x amplifiers did.
Alormd1241, kudos for using J.Gordon Holt’s dictionary. If we all use this reference the discussions here will be so much more productive.
unsound...Your welcome. Very nice reference for the forums for sure...
68pete

hello

Ok . 336 two channels

the power cable on the 335 is not rigid, it is replaceable by any other.


the MLevinson 331,332 and 333 were equipped with PHILIPS capacitors that burst

later MLevinson rectified and released the EXCELLENT 334,335 and 336 already with other capacitors, no longer suffered from this problem

excellent amplifiers , 334,335 e 336

good hearings ..

.
later MLevinson rectified and released the EXCELLENT 334,335 and 336 already with other capacitors, no longer suffered from this problem

Wrong.

Ok . 336 two channels

Correct.

the power cable on the 335 is not rigid, it is replaceable by any other.

Wrong.

excellent amplifiers , 334,335 e 336 

Correct.
333jeffery
I'll answer your question with one word: Music. 
I purchased mine in July of 03. 

N


clemvice
Never said any thing about the 335 was only talking about the 336 power cord as i own the 335
To my ears the 23.5 and 27.5 series amps are some of the best sounding Levinson amps ever produced. The 300 series also sound fantastic but the earlier series were best because of the 300 series capacitor issues. Levinson from my understanding fixed this issue about mid way through the 334 and later series of amps. The 300 series versus the 20 series of amps are similar in sound but some folks like the 20 series and others the 300. Personally I like both but ended up with a gently used 27.5 mainly because it doesn’t have cap issues. I would not rule out a 23.5 or 27.5 if I were you. Overall, I think Levinson amps are neutral sounding and will reproduce what you feed them. I have heard this from numerous audiophiles through the years. They are NOT dark sounding. Pass on the other hand completely opposite. I have never heard a Pass amp I liked. If you have dark or extremely warm speakers they probably are a nice fit.
I can remember the day, back in the late 70's that my Grandmother came home with her SX series Pioneer receiver. Grandma wasn't wealthy but she knew what she liked! That thing drove her over priced speakers into realms that, at that time, I could not imagine. Even my young untrained ears could hear a marvelous difference; a sound that I can only equate to "thick & full". It layered sound so well and did not leave voids in the spectrum as its predecessor did. Then a few years later I audition a Levinson setup and it drove the same chills up my spine that the Pioneer SX did, only on a higher magnitude. I heard a lot gear in those years but the ML got a hold of me. The Levinson badge was too rich for my blood back then but is definitely in my wheelhouse these days. A lot of older ML gear can be had for decent prices now. This is why I cherish the 332 that I have today. In fact it is probably the most unique 332 you will ever see. 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0yvjhlC62G7SHVJczc2ZUV2OGs/view

I put a lot of work into that failing frame both electronically and aesthetically. But it must be said....this series is aging and in a lot of cases failing. If you get one it is silly to expect it to work as it was designed if it has not been seriously serviced recently. Yes, the larger caps are beyond their useful lives but you cannot ignore the smaller signal caps as well. As many others echo, Mark Levinson's service is one of the worst in the industry. THEY WILL NOT SELL YOU ANYTHING. THEY WILL NOT SELL ANYTHING TO AUDIO DEALERS. If you break a speaker binding, ship the 150lb monster and pay the minimum bench fee (a few hundred bucks). If you need any mundane part, ship and pay up. If you want an ML fuse, ship and pay up. Want to get bias adjustments, ship and pay up.

IMHO this series is now relegated to those users that have the technical skills, at the component level, to keep it running like new. If you are a casual consumer for vintage gear then your money could be better spent elsewhere (ie Bryston, Krell). I am not saying the amp is not worth it! It is worth every penny to me. The sound stage is astonishing and the power reserves make it drive the most complex loads effortlessly. What I am trying to do is prevent people from besmirching a fine name like Levinson when they buy an old  300 series amp and it blows the black electrolytic goo from the main caps on their $5000 Persian carpet a few months later. If the amp is overhauled then I say go-for-it. If you are unsure then buyer-beware and commit to it only if you have the skills, time and patience to bring it up to spec. Do not expect any support from ML.

Hello

Mark levinson equals Rolls Royce !

and Mark Levinson 335, of the ancients is the best of them all

Thank you very much

Greetings to all commentators in this post .


.
How do the 500-series compare to the older amps? I see some 532's up for sale every now-and-then.
generatorlabs
Your amp is stunning Just beautiful  Sorry to hear about your bad dealings with Levinson. I know the company has gone through a lot. Sold and bought not to mention moved several times. But that is no excuse for poor service. They have always answered my questions (emails) in a timely manner.
enjoy Pete
Thanks! for sharing- generatorlabs

it is imperative to post both positive and negative experiences when dealing w/ customer service. You are fortunate and talented to be in a position to repair/modify these amps.

Which ML repair facility were you referring as above?

Beautiful Amp btw.
Happy Listening!
@jafant Which ML repair facility were you referring as above?

I have been fortunate that my dealings with ML centers was minimal. I have not dealt with them anymore since I realized how they shut the world out for simple requests and simple parts. I have had to resort to sourcing parts from third party vendors and scouring both domestic and foreign ebay sites. I had to get documentation from underground sources in Europe. I got a Voltage gain board from a police-raid auction in the Netherlands. It is a little silly that one has to go through this to repair an amp.

I may be wrong but I believe there are only 3 U.S. based ML repair facilities. There is one at the ML headquarters, which I believe is in CT. Then there are 2 other "Authorized" facilities. I think one is in Texas; don’t know about the other. All of these centers follow the same doctrine however. You want anything, pack the monster up, ship it and pay up. Don’t have the original box? Be prepared to shell up big dollars for that. You cannot use an ordinary box with an ML amp. It will exit an improper box with great force under its own weight!
Very unfortunate that they treat the legacy equipment in this manner. I could understand protecting newer designs especially if it uses new techniques but spending 400-600 dollars to get a broken speaker bind post replaced is a little ludicrous. ML has great equipment, and the old stuff in the right hands will live a long time; you just need the patience and skills to grant it a second or third life.
Very informative- generatorlabs.
It is all about the business. ML has repair/restoration techs on the clock
and keeping out too many middle men is healthy for their bottom line.
I have much respect for guys that can repair/restore/mod their own gear.

Yes, Pyramid Audio in Texas, is a long standing Authorized ML repair center.

Do you know if the No. 383 Integrated Amp has the cap issue like th other "3" series products?
Happy Listening!

Hello

the genuine mark levinson are those of MADRIGAL (Mister Mark Levinson), today is the group Harman Kardon

I am not disqualifying the current powers because they even have excellent power as is the case of the excellent 585, EISA award 2015/2016 , https://www.eisa.eu/history/hi-fi-2015-2016/

EISA award
http://www.marklevinson.com/productdetail/~/product/no585.html


on technical assistance, in Portugal have provided assistance, there have been no problems, there are some skilled multi-brand technicians.



.




@jafant Do you know if the No. 383 Integrated Amp has the cap issue like th other "3" series products?

I am not an ML expert by any means but my gut feeling tells me that this problem was limited to the 331, 332 & 333. The design of the electronics changes significantly with the later models. Most notably is the choice of moving away from T0-3 type power transistors. From a service perspective the newer design makes it so much easier to service. To remove a board that has T0-3 transistors requires un-soldering ALL the transistors because the legs of the transistors pass through the heat sink. (a real PITA). However, the newer designs with internally mounted transistors have a caveat. If they fail, they can fail violently and often will vaporize a board. I have seen pics of some of these boards. Not pretty at all. I think I said in another post that the ML amps are basically controlled lightning. They have massive power reserves that will destroy if unchecked.

The large caps on the 331-333 were problematic from a manufacturer perspective (Phillips). Oddly enough ML still chooses to install Phillips caps where most of the self-service community will install slightly larger Cornell-Dublier caps.

ML has identified a few counter-measures. One includes installing mylar strips on the frame of the chassis. I imagine the caps swell and contract, especially at initial power up. The caps are strapped to the chassis. I think the outer casing would eventually wear through the blue plastic coating causing the metallic can of the cap to contact the grounded chassis. If a cap is failing internally it would provide a path to ground for large amounts of current. This will heat up a cap quickly and then you get the black goo volcano. Don’t try to order these $0.25 "safety strips" from ML. They wont sell them. Don’t try and order large, small or so much as a decal from ML. They will not sell them.

Then there are a few other items that ML identified as failure points. These include soft-start resistors, small bypass caps and mid-level power supply caps at various locations.

I think by the time you get into the newer models such as the 336 and higher the cap problem had been well identified and fixes were already in place during assembly.

This however does not mean it cannot happen to ANY amp with large cans like the ML. As caps get older they start to become resistive. Resistance causes further heating and evaporation of electrolytic material. It becomes a run away train that cannot be stopped. If you have a ML amp with OLD large can caps by Phillips then be cautious and be prepared to spend a nice chunk of cash to make it right.
Thank You- clemvice
agreed- the No. 585 Integrated is very sweet. It is on my must -demo list to be sure. Do you own this ML amp?
Happy Listening!
Man, you are very informed on these power amps- generatorlabs.
Must be a cool project to work on these beautiful beasts!
I look forward in reading more about your listening impressions, muscial selections within your system.
Happy Listening!
Thank you for the kind words Jafant.
I wish I could say this was a pet project for me. 
These legacy amps still command a good amount of cash.
If I could buy more of them I would but people know ML quality and hang on to them. I wouldn't touch a newer, recent, amp. You will not find one at bargain prices. You certainly won't find service manuals floating around. If I can't work on it I don't want to own it. I don't think any of the original innovators are involved with this line anymore either.

If I find a bargain I jump on it. For example I bought a pristine Adcom amp and preamp on Craiglist the other day for $100 with the knowledge that it was broken. With under $12 in mosfets and 2 caps, I brought them back to life. I jumped on it because it was a Nelson Pass design, I wanted to see it for myself and I knew there were service documents floating around.
My sensible side will not let me go too far off the deep end. 
I am more of a practical enthusiast, improving those things I can get my hands on at a decent price.

As for my listening impressions: I primarily use this amp in a listening room that also serves as a recording studio. Yeah I know, over-kill! But even studio monitors with 10" drivers can present a challenge in an environment where the source signal can be very raw. I spend a lot of time in that room so when not behind my console the amp is pleasantly working in the background providing rich, room filling sound. There is something amazing about an amplifier that does not have to flex its muscle. It will produce complex passages with no effort ,especially on the low end. The 300 Series produces a very musical, non-fatiguing sound. Those that have properly working specimens will not let them go. Those that do let them go often regret it. The only group that remains pissed off at ML are those that have a great piece of gear but find it unreasonable to spend $1200 - $1500 to get it serviced. A lot of audio shops turn the repair work away because they know they cannot get support, service manuals etc.Those that are in that situation, walk away quickly and trade in for newer, hassle free options. I don't think it should be that way. Look at all the old McIntosh, Krell, Dynas etc that remain in service today. They are like that because the respective manufacturers allow their gear to live in infamy with proper manuals, parts channels, etc made available to the public. I wish ML had the foresight to take down the wall of silence they put up. For those who live in other countries, I challenge you to call an "AUTHORIZED" ML service center and ask if you can buy a service manual. I really want to believe things in the ML world may be different in other countries.
jafant

Hello,

I've got the Mark Levinson 335 since 2007, no problem, no electronics review

the capacitors are NOT PHILIPS, they are SPRAGUE, except for error, they are blue

again I repeat, that only the first series 331,332 and 333 are equipped with PHILIPS capacitors

the series 334, 335 and 336 the problem was solved with other capacitors, in Portugal who has this series has not yet repaired it.

Happy Listening !

.
Thanks! again generatorlabs
I had Adcom back in the 80's to early 90's. It suited my needs and listening style in those days. Well built gear indeed.
You are correct, in that, the 300 series is highly regarded amongst audiophiles. For an amp of this caliber, $1000-1500 is not too much to bring it back to original spec.  Very cool to own a recording studio as well.

Where are you located?
Happy Listening!
Thank You! for the clarification on the 300 series of amps stocked w/ Philips caps.  What other gear, including cabling, is in your system?
Happy Listening!
To all in copy. My no. 334 is still OEM since july of 2003. Not a scratch. Even have the 2 pairs of special Madrigal gloves. (Except for the power cord, I'm using a Voo Doo Cable Fire) The OEM is a 3x14 awg power cord.

I have not had any issues with the capacitors, yet. I spoke to Pyramid sometime ago and they quoted a price for a new replacement board and all eight capacitors for under $750. Plus shipping both ways- of course. From my understanding, the capacitors can store juice for quite sometime, even after powering down. I certainly don't want to be poking around under the hood and exacerbate issues.

My white inner Levinson carton is in perfect condition. I sent an email to Harman Luxury Division regarding the outer brown carton. They responded within 24 hours! I recently purchased a new oversized outer carton directly from Harman Luxury Division for $50. Just in case I need to ship the sharp finned 110lb monster.

I do not have the techical skills of our new friend generatorlabs, unfortunately. And I believe his unit is most unique. However I don't mind utilizing a centralized service center. Pyramid Audio reports that one staff member has Levinson experience dating back to the 1990's. Besides, I would have to ship any of my other equipment if it needed to be repaired. (Ayre, Oppo, Anthem-even Cables)

As for the topic of this thread: The Levinson Sound? I love the whole dual mono design. It sounds very much like music. Effortless with great separation and soundstaging. Great frequency extention at both ends. 

N
Would a Levinson 20.5 amp that's been recapped be worth consideration? Do they produce high current into low impedance speakers?
again I repeat, that only the first series 331,332 and 333 are equipped with PHILIPS capacitors

the series 334, 335 and 336 the problem was solved with other capacitors, in Portugal who has this series has not yet repaired it.

Happy Listening ! 

And once again you are wrong.  My 336 caps failed which I returned to Levinson for repair and was told that ALL 3xx amplifiers suffered the same issue.  It's not the caps themselves, it's the way they are used in the circuit which shortens the life of them.
Post removed 
@hk_fan And once again you are wrong. My 336 caps failed which I returned to Levinson for repair and was told that ALL 3xx amplifiers suffered the same issue. It’s not the caps themselves, it’s the way they are used in the circuit which shortens the life of them.
I can definitely agree with this. I believe ML knows this too. However the Phillips caps were a prominent weak point. Their service bulletins state that Phillips caps should be replaced with United Chemicon caps but I have read many cases where they replaced failed caps with Phillips caps again. Also these caps do have a finite useful life. If you have 10 to 15+ years on your amp then you should not be upset if they do fail. The amount of actual usage hours will affect this. When ML publishes safety bulletins (in an act of supreme irony they don’t publish safety concerns to the public) they are identifying areas of the amp that make engineers raise a brow. Three areas of concern were the Phillips caps, the contact points of the main caps and the in-rush resistors. The cap contact issue was rectified with mylar spacers The potentially violent failure of in-rush resistors was addressed by using open wound chromium wire resistors. Neither of these are parts they will sell to the public or 3rd party repair shops even though they are safety related. They will however automatically perform these fixes on any amp that comes across their service bench, at your expense. The main caps are punished every time the amp is started from a dead-off position. It is exponentially worse if one of the 3 in-rush resistors is failed open. One open resistor means the remaining survivors and the caps have to bear the in-rush; the next resistors will fail in short order. If your ML starts occasionally blowing fuses on power up, you potentially have a bad in-rush resistor or the main caps are going bad.

I will venture to say that those that keep the ML in idle (not off) when not in use will have longer cap life. In-rush current is not nearly as bad when turned on from idle. The problem with idle-off is you are burning approx 200 watts for absolutely no reason except to keep the output transistors at a nice toasty temperature. I for one am not going to watch my electric meter spin around faster with an amp chewing up 200 watts as I sleep or when I am at work. In fact I don’t know if I like the idea of keeping this hulking power supply of an amp alive at all when I am not physically home.

I cannot say the technology to bring the power supply up slowly with pulse width modulation was available at the time the 300 series was introduced, due to the current demands. I really wish it was. It would certainly make sense on modern equipment. These caps could really live a lot longer if they were slowly brought up to nominal voltage over the span of 30-60 seconds. I have even read of some guy trying to slowly bring these amps up to voltage with the use of large Variacs. The brute force approach of using single stage in-rush resistors with the Phillips caps that falter under this stress seems like an unfortunate mix.

Even with all of the above, which some might consider negative, I am here to say that the ML is still a superior product. 
@333jeffery Would a Levinson 20.5 amp that's been recapped be worth consideration? Do they produce high current into low impedance speakers?
Those are nice pieces and if taken care of are worth consideration, especially if the price is right. However I believe the entire front to back architecture of the 20.5 is full Class A. They are going to warm a small room. They will produce high current. Just Google the magazine article "Arc Welding with a Mark Levinson amp". I think they were using that series of amp in that punishing experiment.