Mark Levinson No.585 integrated amplifier Page 2

Two fully differential, class-AB, 200W amplifiers, based on modules from the No.535H five-channel amplifier, comprise the output section. These employ 12 power transistors per channel, and these modules. reportedly chosen for their small size, low power requirements, and superior reliability. They enable the No.585 to deliver 200Wpc RMS into 8 ohms, and 350Wpc into 4 ohms.

The No.585's power-amp section is protected from internal and external component failures by some of the most extensive precautions I've seen in some time. A mains relay, driven by the AC line voltage and frequency-sensing circuitry, manages standby current consumption and protects the No.585 from various fault conditions. Protection circuits continuously monitor the amplifier's output current, DC level, and ultrasonic content, and send this information to a microprocessor that then prevents damage to the No.585 and/or speakers. Protection against overheating is provided by two sensors on each channel's amplifier, and by two thermal switches inside the power-transformer housing.

Todd Eichenbaum brought the No.585 to my listening room, and helped me install it in my system. Knowing that I listen to classical music, he suggested that I select the DAC's minimum-phase filter to process PCM digital music streams. Eichenbaum explained that, rather than print a manual for the No.585, Mark Levinson decided to post it on their website for easy downloading, so that it can be quickly updated and made available to users at no cost whenever new firmware becomes available. The No.585 is accompanied by only a thick booklet of Quick Setup Instructions.

The No.585's 71.7lb weight was too much for my wall-mounted shelves, so we placed it atop my Velodyne subwoofer (not used for this review), which sits against the room's front wall, 7' behind and midway between my Quad ESL-989 speakers. I then moved my digital source components—a Bryston BCD-1 CD transport, BDP-2 media player, and BDA-2 DAC—out of the wall system and placed them next to the No.585. I ran a digital interconnect from the AES/EBU port on the BDP-2 to the corresponding digital input on the No.585. FM radio signals from my Day-Sequerra FM tuner arrived at one of the No.585's three RCA inputs via unbalanced interconnects.

I perched my Lenovo W510 laptop computer atop the Bryston stack, and connected it to the No.585 via a USB link. I downloaded from the Mark Levinson website and installed on the Lenovo the appropriate USB driver, thus allowing the laptop to recognize the No.585 as a USB device. I also downloaded and installed JRiver's Media Control software, so that I could stream DSD files from the Lenovo's 200GB solid-state drive.

Speaker cables ran directly from the No.585's hurricane terminals to the Quads, and interconnects to my Tannoy TS2.12 powered subwoofer from the No.585's line-level output. I adjusted the sub's acoustic output to complement the Quads', until the histogram bars in the real-time analyzer (RTA) function of my Studio Six iTestMic were level at 100 and 30Hz.

I did most of my listening in the nearfield with my current reference speakers, the Quad ESL-989s or Revel Ultima Salon2s. The Quads' inner edges were 6' 8" apart; the left speaker was 18" from its sidewall, the right speaker 18" from a built-in wall unit; both were 5' 5" from the front wall. The Tannoy TS2.12 (review in the works) was in the room's right front corner, 3' behind the right-channel Quad. I heard the best imaging and soundstaging when the Quads and my listening seat approximated an 8' equilateral triangle, measured from the centers of the full-range arrays. More precisely, I sat 7' 8" from each Quad and 10' 8" from the Tannoy.

All that done, it was time to run the No.585's own setup routine. I set the No.585's line-level outputs to Variable, and turned on the amp's high-pass filter to the speaker outputs to shield the Quads from deep bass signals. Playing "Silver Springs," from Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (CD, Reprise 46702-2), I adjusted the Tannoy sub's output until Stevie Nicks's smoky voice sounded clear, open, and free of chesty coloration.

Immediately drawn into and involved in the music, I soon realized that I'd inadvertently increased the volume until the No.585's display read 62dB. Mick Fleetwood's drums were rendered with enough power and solidity that the Quads began to cut out on peaks. Soon, the No.585 went silent, and its display announced that it had an overheat fault condition. Sure enough, the areas of the top plate nearest the internal heatsinks were almost too hot to touch. I switched the amp into standby, but it continued to display the fault message. I reached around to the back and flipped the main power switch, waited one minute, then flipped it back on. The No.585 began its normal turn-on sequence: I hadn't broken it. Whew!

But then I listened to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, in the recording by Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra (DVD with WAV file, Reference RR-70 HDCD). I was playing a copy of this file I'd made on a USB thumb drive, and it ends with a burst of static—to which the No.585 responded by displaying "LEFT CHANNEL OVER CURRENT" and shutting down. Again, the heatsinks were very hot. I switched off the amp, unplugged it, waited 10 seconds, plugged it in, and turned it on. Again, all was fine.

In a subsequent e-mail exchange, Eichenbaum wrote, "This operation of the No.585 is exactly as we intended. Temperature sensors on each amplifier monitor the heatsink temperature and prevent it from increasing to a level that is unsafe to either the user or the unit itself. The No.585 puts itself into a forced standby mode at that point so everything cools off." He reminded me that the Quad ESL-989s' protection circuits are triggered by power levels exceeding 100W, which the No.585 can easily exceed. Setting the amp's volume too high and triggering the Quads' protection circuits "could have demanded way over the No.585's rated 200Wpc while only producing a low sound level pressure."

Test of Time: Listening and Ergonomics
A busy travel schedule meant that my listening sessions with the Mark Levinson were spread over several months. This turned out to be fortuitous, as I slowly learned to appreciate the No.585's unique features: its highly involving sound, superb integration with my music sources, and a user interface that provided greater control over my listening experience than I'd ever had. I realized that this integrated amplifier was one of the most involving audio products I've encountered in some time.

The extended listening period also allowed me to gradually depend more and more on the No.585's remote control. Once I'd matched the levels of my source components, I could effortlessly switch between them—something I can't do with my reference standalone preamplifiers. And being able to effortlessly adjust the volume from my listening chair revealed a quirk of the Quads' electronics: Each change in volume level briefly tripped the Quads' protection circuits, temporarily muddying the sound. That never happened with Revel's Ultima Salon2s.

The No.585's high-pass filter and line-level outputs are some of the best I've heard in a two-channel product. Unlike the high-pass filters built into all but the most expensive subwoofers, those in the No.585 preserved the purity of sound throughout the upper bass, mids, and highs: Those regions were not colored, distorted, or flattened. And because the Quad ESL-989s were relieved of deep-bass duties, they sounded significantly better than before with rock, pipe organ, and classical recordings of wide dynamic range. The huge drum sound at the beginning of "Hotel California," from the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over (CD, GEFD 24725), was tighter, less diffuse, and more precisely positioned in space. Lyle Lovett's voice in "Friend of the Devil," from Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead (CD, Arista ARCD 8669), presented a stunningly realistic aural hologram, with none of the chestiness and honk I'd heard from the Quads through other crossovers. With certain recordings, particularly of choral works, I preferred the Quads (with the Tannoy subwoofer) to the Revels.

In addition, the bass from the small Tannoy sub had better pitch definition and spaciousness and sounded more dynamic with the No.585 than with either of my reference preamps. John Atkinson's high-resolution recording of Jonas Nordwall performing the Toccata from Widor's Organ Symphony 5 (24-bit/88.2kHz AIFF file) delivered pedal notes of remarkable solidity and mass, but that were also clearly defined, fast, and clean. Oue's Rite of Spring recording came through with the full dynamic range of its pulsing timpani and thudding bass drum intact. Organist James Busby's performance of Herbert Howells's Master Tallis's Testament, on Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago 101), shook objects on the shelves!

I became increasingly involved with my music collection. Spurred on by the No.585's effortless power and ease of use, and the Quads' spaciousness and three-dimensionality of imaging, I began to listen to entire selections rather than specific segments that featured a particular audio quality. This was most evident when I listened to the DSD64 file of the 2010/2011 recording of Beethoven's Symphony 7, with the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (available here). Only weeks before, I'd heard this work in concert for the first time, in a transformative performance in New York City with Edward Gardner conducting the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. I'd been amazed at the music's fervor and dynamics, and the textures and timbres of the many instruments, each distinctly audible—and the emotional response of the audience, who applauded "to the point of ecstasy" (as the concert's program notes described the reaction of Symphony 7's very first audience, on December 8, 1813). Now, listening to the Tilson Thomas recording, I was reminded of being surrounded by the music, the clearly defined sounds of the instruments, and the ambience of Avery Fisher Hall.

Mark Levinson's No.585 is the most expensive integrated amplifier I have reviewed. At 200Wpc, it's more powerful than all but one of the integrateds listed in our "Recommended Components"—the Bel Canto Black. Its built-in DAC is a jewel, producing some of the best sound I've heard in my listening room, and equaling the performance of the standalone DACs I had on hand. Unquantifiable as they are, the No.585's sonic purity and ergonomics—its sophisticated but intuitive menu structure, and its simple but versatile remote control—made it easy for me to be drawn into the music again and again. I knew how much I liked it when I turned it over to JA for testing: I had to have it back for one last listen.

The doubling of its predecessor's power output, the addition of a superb DAC, and the unmatched sophistication of the No.585's easily learned control system set the new model apart from every other integrated amplifier I've reviewed. While its integration with my Quad electrostatics wasn't the smoothest, the sound was the very best I've gotten from those speakers. Which is why I'm giving the No.585 a strong Class A "Recommended Components" rating.

Mark Levinson
8500 Balboa Boulevard
Northridge, CA 91329
(888) 691-4171

Allen Fant's picture

Thank You! LG-

this integrated is on my short list to demo. I would really be interested in reading about mating this amp w/ the ML No. 512
CD/SACD spinner!

silvertone's picture


Thanks for the review.

Do you have the jitter spectrum graph taken for the USB input? Also, it'd be nice to see the same graph with 24 bit data? At this price point, I'd expect the Levinson to handle jitter better. Based on the graph, It seems they are relying strictly on the chipset to do manage the jitter.

Thanks for your feedback!

Musicforhire's picture

A "professional" audio reviewer using a subwoofer ?? Bel Canto ? Bryston ? And electrostatic speakers for transistorized amps ?? Oh wow ! I must be missing something.

Also, Silverstone, even a $499 DAC these days will not let you hear the so-called "jitter". Try the Chord Electronics Mojo amd, you'll know what i'm talking about