Mark Levinson No.38 preamplifier Compared to the No.38S

John Atkinson compared the No.38 with the No.38S in July 1995 (Vol.18 No.7):

Before the Mark Levinson No.38S took pride of place in my system, I used the sample of the No.38 reviewed by Robert Harley for several months. The basic '38 is functionally the same as the 'S version, but soundwise, there was no contest. The balance of the less-expensive preamp is smooth, but in comparison with the 'S, it lacked detail and clarity. It's not that it sounded dark in, say, the way the Melos SHA-1 does, but the No.38 failed to get enough of a handle on the excitement embedded in the recordings. On the bright side, the '38 sounded very inoffensive, and no one who visited my listening room was bothered by anything wrong with the sound. But neither did they feel moved to comment overmuch on the things that were right with the sound.

By contrast, substituting the '38S for the '38 was like removing the windshield from your car—the faint smearing of the glass, which usually goes unnoticed, is really noticeable when it's no longer there. The No.38 may be a good, solid preamplifier design, but in comparison with the No.38S, it didn't cut it. I found that, once I had heard the 'S, I couldn't go back to the '38. It was gratifying to hear others passing through my listening room comment on the system's natural and enjoyable sound quality with the '38S in the chain.—John Atkinson

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