Mark Levinson No.32 Reference preamplifier Page 5

And that goes for the rest of your playback chain. Cable a little bright? Cover your ears! Get that unique Hammond tonewheel character right and pleasing, and you're saying something. The Hammond sound was simply incredible through the No.32/Klimax kombo, all lashed up with Synergistic Research Designer's Reference Active Shielding and Nordost SPM Reference on the Utopias: extended, linear, powerful, yet perfectly integrated into the rest of the frequency spectrum. And yes, with just a hint of sweetness at the very top, like a cherry perched on that dessert you'd better not be thinkin' of eatin'! Yummy.

But despite its hewn-of-a-piece presentation, I was floored by one special characteristic of the No.32: the enormous amount of unforced information passing through its circuits, from the quiet between the notes down in the noise floor to the most impressive of crescendos, and from the deepest bass fundamentals through to the top of its treble extension. As a result, of course, palpability—a quality I much prize—was much enhanced. In that way, the No.32 proved a rather intimate component: no secrets. I had the sense that the floodgates were open, the signal flowing unimpeded, the quality of the source components allowed to pass through and reach me, utterly unmolested.

Given this superb level of information, so much about individual recordings became more clear and available. The Barber club date glowed with a gorgeous, full palette of midrange tonal colors, sandwiched between a powerful, involving bass and sweet, open highs. Interestingly, especially in the midrange, I experienced this rainbow of tonal color as "cool" rather than "warm" or "euphonic"—very attractive, and not quite like anything I'd ever heard before. Not analytic, you understand, or dry, just there—and, I conjecture, unchanged from the source feed.

This enormous level of utterly natural detail was evident throughout the audible frequency range. I've been exploring deep-bass performance and enjoying myself groovin' along to a great film soundtrack called Run Lola Run (TVT 8220-2): technoid Art of Noise marries Morcheeba, and David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti give away the bride under the watchful eye of a moody German director thrown in for laughs. Listen to one of my favorite tracks, "Casino," and enjoy the splendid midrange for a bit. Commercial releases should all sound this good. Despite the complexity of the score, just before the 3:00-minute mark, a crescendo begins whose stunning sonic boom doesn't crest until around 3:54. How's the quality of that bass in your system?

The No.32 passed awfully deep and powerful bass, but not the single-note sonic depth charge some equipment dishes out. Rather, its fundamentals and full palette of tonal color, shading, control, and pitch differentiation down at the bottom were so well rendered they almost imploded my chest! Above, that wonderful and engaging midrange physically pulled me into the music, while the gorgeous highs beckoned me on seductively.

There's some primeval connection between sound and emotion. I was feeling it deep. Somehow, the level of my involvement was tied in to that spectacular level of detail. It gave my little audiophile brain more than enough information to achieve that immersive, goosebump-inducing sonic state I crave—that all of you reading this crave, I presume.

As I had with the new Pat Barber recording, I noticed a few molecules of darkness at the very top of the range that seemed a part of the No.32's presentation. But, as before, slightly tuning the high frequencies by rotating the flanking ASC Studio Traps to show a bit more reflective than absorbent surface to the Utopias' drivers opened up that just-"objectionable" (only to a maniac) touch of somberness.

With sudden inspiration, I spun Jon Hassel's Fascinoma (Water Lily Acoustics WLA-CS-70-CD), one of my favorite releases from producer/engineer/analog maven Kavi Alexander. The smooth and heady detail I've noted enhanced this purist recording's acoustics immeasurably; the palp factor was enormous, allowing an easy, plush acoustic to develop, especially in the midrange, where, it is said, music "lives."

Mark Levinson
2081 South Main Street
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-0896