Mark Levinson No.39 CD player Page 4

You'd be amazed at the silly—yet strangely useful—ways I found to benefit from the 0.1dB adjustability of the output. A few weeks ago I installed REL's $8000 Ariadne subwoofer in the system while my wife was out of town, then proceeded to go on a four-day bass binge. While playing back Michael Murray's recording of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in G (Bach at Zwolle, Telarc CD-83085) at house-shaking (but, I maintain, realistic) volume, I tripped a circuit-breaker. Using the variable output, I was able to find, within 0.1dB, the precise volume that would turn off my electricity. And it only took four tries...

Oh yeah, did I mention how well the '39 reproduces bass? It's deep and punchy where appropriate, but it always sounds organic to the music, never disconnected or different in character. I know some people like digital bass, but I frequently have found it off-putting. The No.39 gets it just right.

As I mentioned earlier, the Levinson also made a dandy D/A processor, even with 20-bit source material. When using the '39 as a processor, I found that the Sonic Frontiers UltraJitterbug improved the sound of all digital inputs—even my LD player's TosLink output. However, I didn't find the reverse to be true. Using the '39 as a transport, I found it hard to hear improvements when I put the UJB in front of a processor. I guess that CLJR circuitry is successful.

" the poor man's Parnassus"—R.W. Emerson (Journals, 1836-38)
What do you want in a digital playback system? If you want the utmost sound quality and totally unconfining flexibility, you're probably looking for separates—and you're also probably looking at a BIIIIG price tag as well.

But if you're looking for enough flexibility to feel as though your choices aren't being restricted, you ought to contemplate the Mark Levinson No.39. The fact that it's also one of the best-sounding CD players I've heard to date could just be considered a bonus.

Is it competitive with the very-best-sounding units out there? I can't say for sure because I couldn't convince anyone to lend me a contender long enough to find out. Picky little rascal that I am, I can think of a few ways to improve the sound of the No.39, but not by much. I just don't think our current standard can get much better than this, although I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

What I can say is that the Mark Levinson No.39 reproduces music on the most exalted level; that it is well-built and reliable; that it offers an awful lot of intelligently implemented options to anyone looking for a CD player, a digital processor, or a switching unit; and that its volume control is superior to, or the equal of, that of almost any preamp I've ever heard. That's aplenty, as they say.

Factor in the price, and it's pretty much a no-brainer. Anyone looking for topnotch digital sound has simply got to try the No.39. Even if all they want is a CD player.

Mark Levinson
2081 South Main Street
P.O. Box 781
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-0896