Mark Levinson No.526 preamplifier Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

I measured the Mark Levinson No.526's electrical performance with my Audio Precision SYS2722 system (see the January 2008 "As We See It"). Looking first at the No.526's performance as a line preamplifier, the gain with the volume control set to its maximum of "80" was 13.5dB, balanced input to balanced output; and 7.5dB, unbalanced input to unbalanced output. The unity-gain setting was "66.7" on the front-panel display. Both sets of inputs preserved absolute polarity (ie, were non-inverting). The balanced inputs offered an input impedance of 47k ohms across the audioband, while the unbalanced input impedance was 44k ohms at low and middle frequencies, dropping inconsequentially to 31.5k ohms at 20kHz. The output impedances from 20Hz to 20kHz were 150 ohms balanced and 75 ohms unbalanced. The front-panel headphone jack offered a maximum gain of 7.5dB, and with the output impedance set to Low, the impedance was a very low 2.7 ohms across the audioband. Set to High, the impedance measured 76 ohms.

The balanced frequency response with the volume control set to "80" is shown in fig.1. It was down by just 0.125dB at 100kHz, and didn't change at lower volume-control settings or with an unbalanced signal. Channel separation (not shown) was superb, at >120dB in both directions below 7kHz, and, as can be seen in fig.2, any power-supply–related spuriae are vanishingly low in level. The wideband, unweighted signal/noise ratio, ref. 1V and taken with the input shorted to ground but the volume control set to its maximum, was 77dB; this increased to 88.4dB when the measurement bandwidth was restricted to the audioband, and even further, to 91.3dB, when A-weighted.


Fig.1 Mark Levinson No.526, frequency response with volume control set to maximum gain at 1V, into: 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red), 600 ohms (left cyan, right magenta) (0.5dB/vertical div.).


Fig.2 Mark Levinson No.526, spectrum of 1kHz sinewave, DC–1kHz, at 2V into 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).

Even with the low noise floor, any distortion was even lower, as is revealed in fig.3 by the downward slope of the trace below 5V output. This graph was taken from the balanced output driving 100k ohms—the Levinson preamp clipped at 24V (!), but still managed to output 19V into 600 ohms at the clip point. The percentage of total harmonic distortion plus noise, measured at 5V, remained low, at around 0.001% across most of the audioband, even into 600 ohms, but rose slightly in the top octave, reaching 0.003% (fig.4). Fig.5 reveals that what distortion there was comprised equal amounts of second and third harmonics in the left channel (blue trace), and just the third harmonic in the right (red). But at –114dB (0.0002%) into 600 ohms, the No.526 was pretty much as linear as it is possible for a preamplifier to be. Intermodulation distortion (fig.6) was also vanishingly low in level.


Fig.3 Mark Levinson No.526, balanced distortion (%) vs 1kHz output voltage into 100k ohms.


Fig.4 Mark Levinson No.526, balanced THD+N (%) vs frequency at 5V into 100k ohms.


Fig.5 Mark Levinson No.526, balanced spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC–1kHz, at 2V into 600 ohms (left channel red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.6 Mark Levinson No.526, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at 2V into 100k ohms (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).

Turning to the No.526's phono input, I measured its behavior at the output of the balanced outputs with the preamplifier's volume control set to "80." The phono input preserved absolute polarity, and offered gains of 53.6dB (MM), 63.3dB (MC Low gain), 73.6dB (MC Medium), and 83.2dB (MC High). With the input impedance set to 47k ohms, the MM and MC input impedances both measured 44k ohms at 20Hz and 1kHz, dropping slightly to 38k ohms at 20kHz. The lower MC input-impedance settings were accurate; for example, the "100 ohms" setting measured 102 ohms.

The RIAA error (fig.7, blue and red traces) showed a rise in the lower frequencies and above the audioband that reached +0.75dB at 10Hz and +0.5dB at 100kHz. With the infrasonic filter switched into circuit (cyan, magenta traces), the output began to roll off below 30Hz, but was down by just 0.4dB at 10Hz. Note the excellent channel matching in this graph. The phono input was very quiet, the audioband S/N ratios measuring 90.1dB for the MM setting, and still 78.8dB when set to MC High. A-weighting increased these ratios to 94.6 and 84dB, respectively. (For these measurements, I floated the Audio Precision's outputs with respect to ground and used a separate ground connection.) However, the phono input's channel separation was very disappointing, at just 40dB at 2kHz.


Fig.7 Mark Levinson No.526, phono input, response with RIAA correction and without (left channel blue, right red), and with infrasonic filter (left cyan, right magenta) (0.5dB/vertical div.).

The MM overload margin was excellent, at 18dB at 20Hz, 20dB at 1kHz, and still 16dB at 20kHz (all ratios ref. 1kHz at 5mV). The MC margin varied with the gain setting, but in the worst case, High gain, was still 8.7dB at 20Hz, and 10.5dB at 1kHz and 20kHz (ratios ref. 1kHz at 0.5mV). The phono input's distortion was primarily the second harmonic (fig.8), though this was at a low –80dB (0.01%), even at an input level of +12dB ref. 5mV. Intermodulation distortion (fig.9) was good, with the difference product at 1kHz, resulting from an equal mix of 19 and 20kHz tones at an input level of 100mV, lying at –64dB (0.06%).


Fig.8 Mark Levinson No.526, MM phono input, spectrum of 1kHz sinewave, DC–10kHz, at 9.6V into 100k ohms (10mV input; linear frequency scale).


Fig.9 Mark Levinson No.526, MM phono input, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at 3.8V peak into 100k ohms (linear frequency scale).

I tested the No.526's digital inputs with the Audio Precision's optical and electrical digital outputs and USB data sourced from my MacBook Pro running on battery power with Pure Music 3.0 playing WAV and AIFF test-tone files. Apple's USB Prober utility identified the No.526 as "USB2.0 High-Speed True HD Audio" from "HARMAN," and confirmed that its USB port operated in the optimal isochronous asynchronous mode. Apple's AudioMIDI utility revealed that, via USB, the No.526 accepted 16-, 24-, and 32-bit integer data sampled at all rates from 44.1 to 192kHz. The optical and electrical S/PDIF inputs locked to datastreams with sample rates of up to 192kHz.

With the No.526's volume control set to "80," data representing a full-scale 1kHz tone resulted in a level of 16.77V at the preamp's balanced outputs! Though this is very high, it is below the No.526's clip point, suggesting that the gain architecture is well managed. The digital inputs preserved absolute polarity.

The No.526 offers three digital reconstruction filters: Fast, Slow, and MPHAS. The impulse responses of these filters with 44.1kHz data are shown in figs. 10–12. The Fast filter (fig.10) is a conventional linear-phase FIR type; the Slow filter (fig.11) has minimal time-symmetrical ringing; and the MPHAS has, as expected, a minimum-phase impulse response (fig.12), with all the ringing following the single sample at 0dBFS.


Fig.10 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, Fast filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).


Fig.11 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, Slow filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).


Fig.12 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, MPHAS filter, impulse response (one sample at 0dBFS, 44.1kHz sampling, 4ms time window).

The Fast and MPHAS filters behave identically in the frequency domain (fig.13), with a steep rolloff above the audioband (magenta, red traces), and almost complete suppression of the aliased product at 25kHz of a full-scale 19.1kHz tone (cyan, blue traces). The Slow filter, as its name suggests, has a much slower ultrasonic rolloff (fig.14, magenta, red traces), with the 25kHz image suppressed by just 12dB and the appearance of higher-order aliased products (cyan, blue traces). The frequency responses of the Fast and MPHAS filters at sample rates of 44.1, 96, and 192kHz are shown in fig.15; those of the Slow filter at the same rates are shown in fig.16. No surprises anywhere here.


Fig.13 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, MPHAS filter, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan), with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.14 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, Slow filter, wideband spectrum of white noise at –4dBFS (left channel red, right magenta) and 19.1kHz tone at 0dBFS (left blue, right cyan), with data sampled at 44.1kHz (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.15 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, MPHAS filter, frequency response at –12dBFS into 100k ohms with data sampled at: 44.1kHz (left channel green, right gray), 96kHz (left cyan, right magenta), 192kHz (left blue, right red) (1dB/vertical div.).


Fig.16 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, Slow filter, frequency response at –12dBFS into 100k ohms with data sampled at: 44.1kHz (left channel green, right gray), 96kHz (left cyan, right magenta), 192kHz (left blue, right red) (1dB/vertical div.).

Changing the bit depth of the incoming data from 16 to 24 with a dithered tone at –90dBFS dropped the noise floor by 18dB (fig.17), implying resolution of at least 19 bits. With an undithered tone at –90.31dBFS (fig.18), the three DC voltage levels are well defined and the level of random noise is low enough to allow the MPHAS filter's asymmetrical ringing to be seen on the leading edges of the waveform. With undithered 24-bit data at –90.31dBFS, the No.526 output a well-formed sinewave (fig.19).


Fig.17 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, spectrum with noise and spuriae of dithered 1kHz tone at –90dBFS with: 16-bit data (left channel cyan, right magenta), 24-bit data (left blue, right red) (20dB/vertical div.).


Fig.18 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, waveform of undithered 1kHz sinewave at –90.31dBFS, 16-bit data (left channel blue, right red).


Fig.19 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, waveform of undithered 1kHz sinewave at –90.31dBFS, 24-bit data (left channel blue, right red).

Harmonic distortion was low with digital data, the third harmonic with full-scale data lying at –90dB (0.003%, fig.20). Intermodulation distortion was also low, though the Slow filter allowed a slew of aliased images to be seen with an equal mix of 19 and 20kHz tones (fig.21), compared with the much cleaner-looking Fast and MPHAS filters (fig.22). Finally, the No.526 offered excellent rejection of word-clock jitter via its digital inputs, though there was some spectral spreading of the peak that represents a high-level tone at one-quarter the sample rate (fig.23).


Fig.20 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC–10kHz, at 0dBFS into 100k ohms (left channel red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.21 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, Slow filter, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at 0dBFS into 100k ohms, 44.1kHz data (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.22 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, Fast filter, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC–30kHz, 19+20kHz at 0dBFS into 100k ohms, 44.1kHz data (left channel blue, right red; linear frequency scale).


Fig.23 Mark Levinson No.526, digital input, high-resolution jitter spectrum of analog output signal, 11.025kHz at –6dBFS, sampled at 44.1kHz with LSB toggled at 229Hz: 16-bit AES/EBU data (left channel blue, right red). Center frequency of trace, 11.025kHz; frequency range, ±3.5kHz.

Overall, the Mark Levinson No.526 offers superb measured performance.—John Atkinson

Harman International Industries, Inc.
8500 Balboa Boulevard
Northridge, CA 91329
(888) 691-4171

tonykaz's picture

I hear women say'n that about $500 Purses & Shoes.

You didn't mean it that way, did you?

I'll guess that you meant that it wasn't worth destroying your next three years financial life to own, so you sent it back. I would too, even if they let me have it for dealer cost ( about 50% ) or used/demo type of scratched damaged level ( 35% of Retail price ).

I think this "to die for" concept started with the early Christian Martyrs but it kinda died out till recently when wannabe up-scale women started shopping at Lord & Taylor, ISIS got it from them and reallllllly means it. ( ouch )

Now it aptly applies to the staggeringly priced Audiophile Gear.

I'm no longer an Audiophile!

I'm one of the fresh/new Stereophiles!!! ( I may even be the oldest )


Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Tony, I wish your rant had some new information. But, nice guy that I am, I'll throw you a bone here - one that you might have missed in the review:

"....nonetheless, it has things the No.52 (the $30k preamp) doesn't: a DAC that can accept 32-bit data, a newer-design class-A phono circuit, a headphone output, a front-panel polarity switch, Harman's Clari-Fi digital-restoration module—which scans for file type (and thus degree of compression) and then uses existing data to guide it in restoring "waveform deficiencies"—and a defeatable, fourth-order, 80Hz high-pass output filter for use in a surround-sound system or with a subwoofer."

So there - you see? User with $30k preamp sees that the $20k preamp has new goodies that the $30k preamp doesn't have, and so Levinson obviously needs to create a new $40k preamp. Just sayin'.

tonykaz's picture

I still give the Front Cover to Mytek Brooklyn, it has MQA, it can even do Surround, for a measly $2K.

Only a very few will end up owning the ML ( the "Luxury" buyers ).

Besides, it's the actual quality of the recording that matters here, the sound quality differencial of DACs seems to be rather minute slivers overshadowed by stuff like iFi USB Cable technologies.

But, lets not tell the Orthodontists any of this. ML, Harmon and Samsung need these Good/Better/Best "Luxury" DACs to be a Sales Success.

It's safe to say that I've never enjoyed the Applause of Admiring Customers but I always seem to get re-hired after completing their troublesome projects. I'd be damn lucky to assemble a kit DAC and have the darn thing actually work. Annnnnnd, if it did actually work, I'd doubt that I could discern if it sounded any good.

Give me a Lamb Transfer Machine and I'll have it singing like a International Harvester.

Tony in Michigan

ps. the Schiit Yggy DAC has 7 individual Circuit boards that each look as jam packed as the one board of this ML. the Yggy cost = $2,500, go figure! ( it might even sound as good or better )

ps.2) nice hearing from y'all ( again )

dalethorn's picture

I don't know all of that gear (very little of it actually), so I enquire for my own use starting with certain principles. For example, if I want the most realistic sound, I know I will need a good-size room and big speakers that can output realistic sound. There's no getting around that, unless you intend to compromise. Then I need amps appropriate to the speakers, and from there work backward to the source (CD, digital etc.) Do you think that people who want the most realistic sound, who are buying the big speakers for their listening room, are inclined to skimp on amps and DACs and source components? Do you decide on those items mainly by price? I'd like to read case studies of audiophiles who want the real thing, but are able to get there with relatively cheap ancillary components. Those systems should be an interesting study.

tonykaz's picture

I'm old school Scotland ( Linn ). I start with a darn good source and darn good recordings and build out from there. Speakers come last.

In the USA, folks start with Speakers and build back to the Source.

I can recall a CES ( 1980s ) where the Cerwin Vega guys were playing Sheffield Lab records making their crappy but gigantic loudspeakers sound pretty darn good. But... try playing really crappy recordings on a well done Wilson system and you're gonna get really crappy sound.

Most vinyl was made to be played on really crappy Sears & Roebuck crappy record changers. We could forgive ( back then ), the World was a nicer place.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Sorry, but that reply does not address what I said. A case study of "best sound" large speakers - which ancillary components can go with those speakers that don't compromise the sound?

tonykaz's picture

Of course.

The very best I've owned were the Elecrocompaniet Mono Amps, today the Mastering Engineers are using gigantically powerful Class D. They're talking over a thousand watts per channel.

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

In that case, I will confess I'm still skeptical about Class D, in spite of our advances in electronics. People say they can hear the difference between 96 khz and DSD 384 or what have you, and they *can't* hear the difference between Class A and Class D (all other features being equal of course)?

tonykaz's picture

All this stuff has different sound quality, I think.

But, Class D definitely does a superb job with music.

The Gigantic plus is that Tons of Power comes realllllllly cheap and does make Loudspeakers come to life. It's like Infinite Head-room with no down-side.

Harmon's finest System, the M-2, uses Class D.

We Audiophiles are the last ones to find out.

We still have Class A on our Alters.

We're Old School

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

Dodging the issue again, Tony. If you're good with Class D over Class A, then I assume you're probably OK with CD's 44 khz over any high-res format. Unless you say otherwise.

tonykaz's picture

I'm ok with 16/44.1

I feel like the higher rez. files are like using a Box Car to haul a milk crate.

Besides, MQA is a 16/44.1 format.

The Pro-Audio folks mostly use 48 & 96, I'm not having to Standardize to their communities needs.

Consumer music barely has 10 bits of dynamic range, and my hearing starts tapering off at 8khz.

24/192 is the Sizzle,
16/44.1 is the Steak

Tony in Michigan

allhifi's picture

A mesmerizing intellect !

(What would we do without you ...)

allhifi's picture

TIM: What's with the referencing of industry margins/%'s ?

No other industry proponents(I know) advocates such discussion. What's up with that?

Great stuff cost 'large'. That you nor I may have the resources required is no need to 'dis' and dismiss it -regardless of the math employed.

I'd recommend you search out gear more to/at your 'level' -or find another hobby/bitching bench.

peter jasz

(P.S> Women's clothing appears of real interest to you. Why not enlighten us with the margins of those consumer goods -and pick up a pair of stiletto's -for yourself of course- while you're at it.)

tonykaz's picture

Are y'all back-reading ML reviews?

in the 1970's & 1980's I was an Audio Industry Importer, Manufacturer, Dealer and Mail Order outfit. ( jus say'n )

Now-a-days I'm disappointed with the Vinyl Collectors Claiming High Ground Performance for their hideously expensive Playback systems. I'll take my Soap Box with me to Oakwood Cemetery, when my time finally arrives.

Thanks for writing

Tony in Michigan

Trace's picture

I see Me. Kaz is on one of his non-germane rants. Always amusing/pitiful. If Mr. Greenhill compares the Levinson to the Theta Prometheus monos I can relate as I own his review samples. In relating to the clarity/dynamics it would seem to be a good pairing and am sorry the test could not have included them.

tonykaz's picture

You nailed it!

Staggering price levels are non-germane to Music gear, they are germane to the world of Modern Art.

Maybe, just maybe, you might get the reviewer to autograph this piece and buy it from Harmon.

Tony in Michigan

ps. like the reviewer, I once owned ML gear. I'm not a "Luxury" buyer any longer.

allhifi's picture

Yeh Tony, but you probably wish you could be (deep down, secretly) !

(RE: "... I once owned ML gear. I'm not a "Luxury" buyer any longer.")


tonykaz's picture

Last year I was going thru a Cancer Scare, I cleared at the tail end of 2017 but I remain on a careful watch.

Plus, my hearing is tapering off above 8Khz.

High End Audio was once an exciting hobby for me. Most of my Audio peer group are long-gone.

Now, I'm looking at AirPlanes and flying.

The entire World is changing, I'll remain active as long as I'm able.

The Tesla Engineering is becoming the next Apple with Elon Musk being the next Steve Jobs.

21st Century, here we come.

Tony in Michigan

allhifi's picture

Hi Tony. Thank you for clarifying. Wishing you good health moving forward.

You mention HF hearing extending to 8KHz. You know, lately, I've undertaken considerable interest in what "lies" in the lower frequencies (i.e. 1-Hz to 100 Hz. range -and then extending to 1-5KHz.)

I believe the notion of physical hearing acuity above 10/15K KHz., to be nothing more than an interesting observation.

Designer's (and listener's) should be far more concerned with 'Low-Frequency' resolution, as it is here, within these fundamental (core) frequencies where ALL of the audio signal information rests upon.
If LF resolution is absent -so too must all (harmonic) frequencies that follow.
Bottom line: HF hearing to 8 KHz. should NOT prevent one from enjoying the full-bandwidth of music; 8-KHz. remains quite high.

Moving on, oh yes, Tesla, Battery/Fuel-Cell Power is both long-overdue and quite necessary.

More than enough trillions of dollars have been harvested from crude oil. Enough billionaire, millionaire's have polluted their pockets for the past 100-years -as has governments "take". Nothing quite like so much money that "everyone" can take a healthy/happy slice.

Take care Tony,

peter jasz

mrkaic's picture

John, do you happen to have the measures of the residual noise at open input? From Figure 3 I eyeballed it to be around 0.04 mV, which appears quite good. But it would be interesting to know the precise value.



Staxguy's picture

It's a very good looking product (just look at the interior photos), the Mark Levinson No. 526 Preamplifier ($20,000.00 USD), and the Clari-Fi digital technology sure sounds interesting, but what has happened to Mark Levinson?

It is 2017, and the SN ratio is 97 db (100 dB, A-weighted). What of 24-bit audio? What of at least 130 dB?

For $1750, back in 1973, Mark Levinson made the LNP-2 Preamplifier, which boasted dynamic range of > 130 dB.

Today, for about $2000.00 USD you would find that in a product like the Brooklyn MyTek DAC.

To my eye, Mark Levinson of today has gone a bit McIntosh, in the box-preservation department, harking back to the days of the 33 (1990's).

Would I take a Mark Levinson No. 526 and associated components over a Daniel Hertz ML 6L Preamplifier and ML 5L Monoblocks?

Ah, there is nothing wrong with 97 dB. That's 1 dB over the CD's 96 dB dynamic range, though not yet into Sony's Super Bit Mapping (20-bit) territory...

BTW, TonyKaz, are you the famous Kaz of inner|fidelity?

Looking at the circuit boards today, they remind me abit of Asus and their Xonar ...

Though I am thinking of their external DAC.

Would I buy the Mark Levinson, if I had more money. Ah, yes, likely to go with the JBL speakers...

I should probably work on a 97 dB wallet. :)

allhifi's picture

Ummm, you say:

" For $1750, back in 1973, Mark Levinson made the LNP-2 Preamplifier, which boasted dynamic range of > 130 dB."

I suspect that amount in 73' about equals $20K today.

It's near impossible to believe poorer performance (both measured and subjective SQ) with today's premium-part/high-end brands, including of course today's impressive ML brand.

I'd also bet your LNP-2 ML would be un-listenable when compared to any high-quality preamp today -and specifically the No. 523/526, near regardless of 'measured' performance.

Just the thought of those shitty volume pot's (likely used) noise is enough (and a major reason) why resolution could not possibly exceed 70-80- db., regardless of ML "boasting" 130 db. dynamic range.


Staxguy's picture

BTW, I like the sound of the Mark Levinson Pure Path technology.

It is so well in contrast to the Convergent Audio Technology CAT SL-1 Renaissance Black Path ($9995.00 USD), which is so Aghora Tantric!

PurePath TM is more Christian, more Promise Keepers!

Ah, Charlie Hayden would have a revival!

ToeJam's picture

I own a No. 523 and a pair of No. 536's. My DAC is a Bel Canto 2.7. I've found the clarity of sounds and the spaciousness between voices in harmony is remarkable. I don't have experience with other fine DACs or Preamps as these are my first non-AVR purchases, but I couldn't be happier with what I hear coming from my B&W 800's. However, the quality of a recording is revealed to an extreme, and a great deal of good music is noticeably less appealing on this system. On the other hand, fine recordings are magical.

allhifi's picture

TJ: You have some great hi-fi equipment !


christophervalle's picture

When referring to the Koss Pro 4AA, do you mean the original? Decades old? Whenever I put on a pair of those, I was reminded of Uncle Fester with his head in a vice. Painful? Maybe, but he sure looked happy.

Glotz's picture

The comparisons were very meaningful, while admittedly super-convenient. It still resonates well.

allhifi's picture

ML has some superb equipment.

Why in the world they'd offer the No. 526 (with built in DAC, S/W cut-off filter and such) is a bit foolish.

Have a stand-alone unit for this --or better (cheaper) yet, a simple open space within the unit (say/call it a "520"-series) and then option a DAC, Phono stage, Server/Renderer or other 'processing' circuits (a la carte) satisfying customer requirements.

All three (pre's) are a waste of skews -- No. 326S, 526 and a 523 ??

Instead of a sensible, high-tech "modular" build (or better yet, 1-U/2U size) separate chassis), ML has made the entire exercise unnecessarily complicated.
The best stuff is always separates. Yet here (No.526), we have a "chinsy" 4"X 6" circuit board stuffed in the center of the chassis --for an additional $5-K !!??

The stand-alone No.52?(dual-chassis) flagship preamplifier is fine, but a $20-K PRE/DAC --seriously ?

peter jasz

rick3803's picture

I have an old ML No. 32 and it still reveals its transparent signature. I don't know why ML would install a DAC when they always harped about noise. Why not separate? The headphone jack and phono "card" or "stage" is convenient. The phono stage for my unit was about an $1800 option. They were easily installed by the owner or dealer. My front end is digital so I opted out. I wish I had gotten it.

My display is also more easily seen. The red numerals on the 32 are much larger reminiscent of the old style whereas in comparison, the red numerals on the 526 are really small. The features on the 526 reflect rapidly changing audio market and that's good. I'd like to hear a 526 to see if it has improved but there isn't a dealer near me (Atlanta). Audio appears to be getting more complicated with those bloated video/audio processors and the like.

Levinson went under a while ago and is slowly making its way back into the trust of former owners and the few dealers that remain. Many were shafted. I'm leery of Harmon's influence on that DNA and Levinson's commitment to quality and service like they were 20 years ago. The sound from my system is just so good.

My gear is all ML and is in need of service. That's something I hadn't thought about (like recapping etc). ML doesn't service their product anymore. They used to do it and I trusted them as manufacturer. Is anyone aware of a reliable company who knows ML gear and has a good rep? NYC area or the SE?