Mark Levinson No.30 Reference Digital Processor Review System
The No.30 was installed in my usual reference system: VTL 225W monoblocks driving Hales System Two Signature speakers, augmented by a Muse Model 18 subwoofer, all driven by an Audio Research LS2 line-stage preamplifier. Digital sources were a Theta Data universal transport fitted with coaxial and AT&T ST-type optical outputs, and a JVC DAT machine playing original master tapes. I also auditioned the No.30 with Nakamichi's new $6000 seven-disc transport, the 1000MB.
On hand were a large selection of digital interconnects, including Madrigal's, the Aural Symphonics Digital Standard, Theta's cable, TARA Labs Digital Reference, The Anodyne Group cable, WonderLink, and AudioQuest Digital Pro. The No.30's eight inputs made experimenting with cables convenient. Most of the auditioning was through the AT&T ST-type optical input, because it sounded the best and because it is not a variable in the chain, thus making the listening impressions more transportable to different systems.
In addition to the No.30 becoming my primary digital source for the past month, I performed direct comparisons with other digital processors: the Wadia 2000, Stax DAC-X1t, Audio Research DAC1-20, and Kinergetics KCD-55 Ultra (reviewed in the next issue). I also compared these processors and the No.30 to LP playback, using a Well-Tempered Turntable and LP Labs-modified WT arm, AudioQuest AQ 7000 cartridge, and a Vendetta Research phono preamp, all on a Merrill Stable Table. Sources in both CD and LP formats were Sheffield Lab 17 (Tower of Power Direct), Stereophile's Intermezzo, and Luke and the Locomotives.
Loudspeaker cable was 3' bi-wired runs of AudioQuest Dragon/Clear, and interconnects were AudioQuest Diamond or Straight Wire Maestro. To assess the No.30's balanced operation, a Boulder 500AE (reviewed by JGH last October) was installed, driven by the No.30 through an Electronic Visionary Systems Ultimate Balanced Attenuator and AudioQuest Lapis balanced interconnects. All AC power was conditioned by a Tice Power Block and Titan, and the No.30 was mounted on a Merrill Stable Table.Robert Harley