Mark Levinson No.38 preamplifier System

Sidebar 2: System

I was particularly interested in hearing the No.38 after having spent some time with two other fully balanced preamplifiers: the $4495 Audio Research LS5 ($5990 with the BL2, the latter needed to accept single-ended inputs), and the $3495 Sonic Frontiers SFL-2. (Both of these preamplifiers were superbly musical, and highlighted just how good the best of today's preamplifiers have become.)

I auditioned the No.38 driving a Krell KSA-300S, or Audio Research VT-150 tubed monoblocks. Loudspeakers were Thiel CS3.6es, the Vision Acoustics Soloist (reviewed elsewhere in this issue), and, at the end of the auditioning, the stunning new Genesis II.5 (review forthcoming). Interconnects and loudspeaker cables were primarily AudioQuest with the Thiels and Soloists, and Transparent Cable (interconnects and loudspeakers) with the Genesis.

The digital source was the Sonic Frontiers SFD-2 driven by a Mark Levinson No.31 transport via Wonder Link balanced digital cable. Toward the end of the review I briefly tried the Audio Alchemy DTI Pro between the No.31 and the SFD-2, with NBS digital cables (footnote 2).

LP playback was from a modified Well-Tempered Turntable and Lary Pederson–modified Well-Tempered Arm, fitted with an AudioQuest AQ7000nsx cartridge. The phono stage was the Vendetta Research SCP2B.

I listened to the No.38 on its own, and in matched-level comparisons with the LS5. With single-ended input capability, the LS5 costs half again as much as the No.38, and has nowhere near the features of the No.38. Nonetheless, the LS5 establishes a benchmark level of performance.—Robert Harley

Footnote 1: I'll have a full report on the very interesting DTI Pro in an upcoming issue.
Mark Levinson division of the Harman Consumer Group
1718 W. Mishawaka Road
Elkhart, IN 46517
(516) 594-0300