Mark Levinson No.39 CD player Page 2

There are a host of other convenience features written into the '39's software—ranging from the ability of the player to teach its remote signals to a learning remote to a whole host of programming and playlist features. Now, I've never programmed a CD player to recognize my favorite software—I tend to either play discs straight through, or to jump around them according to the whims of a moment. But the '39 allows you to program polarity, either for the entire disc or track by track. That's a feature so useful that I might even be willing to program in my entire collection to take advantage of it.

The No.39 is fully balanced in both the analog and digital domains. Info from the disc, or from the SE digital inputs, is immediately converted to a balanced signal before any processing or routing takes place. Analog conversion is accomplished with two 20-bit converters (of opposing polarity) per channel.

Despite what you may have heard, single-chassis CD players are not immune to jitter. There are fewer opportunities for jitter to be introduced in single-box designs, but you don't eliminate it entirely. To address the jitter question in its separates, Levinson uses a combination of CLJR (Closed Loop Jitter Reduction) on the transports, and Intelligent FIFO (First In, First Out) circuitry on the DACs. The No.39 employs Madrigal's CLJR system, in tandem with a double-speed CD-ROM drive. A custom-made crystal oscillator reclocks the digital signal immediately before its conversion to analog. This, team Madrigal claims, eliminates transport-related jitter from the signal. The same crystal controls the all-digital servo as well as the D/A conversion process.

Madrigal claims that, in terms of playing CDs, the '39 performs as well as the '37/'36S combination. However, eliminating the FIFO circuitry from the No.39's processor module does mean that a '30.5 or a '36S will sound better when processing outside digital sources.

The No.39 incorporates HDCD decoding and implements it superbly—it makes the strongest argument I've yet heard for that process. The digital filtering and processing maintain what Madrigal calls "true 24-bit throughput capability" (24-bit in the digital domain, dithered down to 20-bit resolution in the D/A stages). This allows for playback of state-of-the-art digital sources, as JA and I discovered when we held a listening session at my house after taping this year's Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. We listened to our tapes straight-in from the Nagra-D's 20-bit output and were happy enough with what we heard to be insufferably smug about the potential for this year's chamber music CD. I'm sure the martinis helped somewhat, but the sound from the omni mikes was simply ravishing.

"...is the arithmetic of sounds"—Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
The Mark Levinson No.39 resembles other Levinson gear in styling. It's compact and nicely finished, with a small number of large silver buttons on its fascia. The slender 1/8" drawer is on the right, under the company logo, above a large power/standby button. A large, easily readable display features oversized red LED numbers and letters. I'm not all that wild about the red readout, but it is legible from any angle or distance obtainable in my listening room, even when the display is flooded with intense New Mexico early morning sunlight—something I can't say about green or blue LEDs.

The usual transport functions all have their buttons, as do repeat and display intensity. There are also three multifunction buttons: Mode, Mode +, and Mode -. These last control the diverse programing functions; all of them are replicated on the substantial remote control, as are several additional features and a numeric keypad, which can be used—among other things—to directly access specific times on a disc (footnote 1).

The rear panel has an IEC-style detachable power-cord connection, S/PDIF RCA and AES/EBU digital outs, TosLink and S/PDIF RCA digital ins, balanced XLR and SE RCA analog outputs, an external infrared input controller, and two custom Levinson communication ports utilizing locking jacks: a master/slave digital-out and a digital slave-in. These custom ports are for use only with other Levinson gear—if you already own such pieces, consult your dealer as to how best to use the ports.

"...is an outburst of the soul"—Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
I wish all high-end gear was as simple to use as the No.39. Once you learn your way around the modes, using the player/processor is so intuitive you'll forget how many functions it can actually perform. Of course, if you only use it as a player with fixed output, there are no mysteries to unravel in the first place—all the transport functions are clearly marked.



Footnote 1: Among other things, the three mode buttons enable you to: playlist individual CDs; control the variable output, balance, and switching functions; use the Link function; set the sleep timer; and relabel the inputs. If you have a custom-installed multiroom system, have your dealer inform your installer of all the special functions available.
COMPANY INFO
Mark Levinson
2081 South Main Street
P.O. Box 781
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-0896
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