Has Mark Levinson Missed a Trick with their 5000 Series?

Hear Here

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Last year I arranged a home trial of the new "sensibly priced" 5805 integrated amp, although I'd go for the 5802 digital only version myself as I use no analogue sources.

It's a great amp and includes a good DAC. However, they also offer the new 5101 "Network Streaming SACD / CD Player". So, if you want an all digital ML system, the minimum box count is 2. With the 5101 and 5802, you have digital streaming from Tidal, Qobuz, etc, internet radio, CD player and SACD player - all for a (for Mark Levinson) fairly reasonable price.

However, let's take a closer look. Many of us will have had in the past the excellent No 39 or 390S CD Player / Processor - possibly ML's best selling item of all time - I'm guessing but quite likely - and rightly so. This excellent box of 1990s ticks offered a CD player, inputs for 2 Aux digital sources and a variable output via an analogue volume control. I bought one of these over the Wadia equivalent because of the analogue control compared with Wadia's digital one. Then all I needed was a simple power amp.

Looking at what's offered with the 5000 series, shouldn't we ask:

Why do we need 2 identical DACs in our 5000 system (the 5101 and 5802 / 5805 both have DACs)?

Why doesn't the 5101 include an analogue volume control?

Why isn't there a 5000 power amp?

ML are obviously aiming these products at the cost-is-an-object customer who wants the excellence of ML equipment. I resent having to pay for 2 DACs, I don't need analogue, so also resent having to pay for a preamp section if it's just to adjust the volume.

So, the trick that I think ML has missed is this - add a volume control to the 5101 making it an updated 39 / 390S (adding maybe a couple of hundred to the price) and offer a simple power amp (saving a couple of thousand from the 5802 price). Then we wouldn't be forced to pay for 2 DACs, and we could choose from a range of amps from ML, or even keep our existing one. Then the 5000 range would be a much more attractive and even more affordable proposition.

One could argue an alternative case - for a "Streaming SACD/ CD player TRANSPORT" with no DAC or Aux inputs and that would be great matched with the existing 5805 or 5802 integrated, whilst also saving a bundle of unnecessary electronics.

I'd seriously be in the market for either of those combinations, but I'm baulking at a 5101 + 5802.

What d'ya think? Peter
 

Kingsrule

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Feb 3, 2011
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The current ML and the old ML are 2 very different companies. comparisons are meaningless
 

Hear Here

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The current ML and the old ML are 2 very different companies. comparisons are meaningless

The history of the Mark Levinson company is irrelevant to the point being made. It would apply equally to any company introducing a new range of products at a price level aimed at less well heeled buyers than their existing customer base. I applaud ML for offering this range - just the specs of the individual products seems wrong if they want to temp these new customers into parting with their cash. Peter
 

Hear Here

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OK Here's whats relevant...the new ML stuff sucks and very few care about it.....

Does it suck? I've seen only very good reviews of the amps. Do you know something different? Or is it that you don't believe the new owners of the brand are well intended? I'm genuinely interested on your take. Thanks
 

Hear Here

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Sorry to new readers of this thread. My previous 2 posts were in reply to other postings from someone who has realised his idiotic comments and has quietly deleted them. This leaves my posts looking rather forlorn and irrelevant. Perhaps you can use your imagination to guess the gist of the deleted posts?

In principle I think it wrong that posts can be deleted once they have been replied to - standard with most forums. Peter
 

gadawg58

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Apr 7, 2018
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OK Here's whats relevant...the new ML stuff sucks and very few care about it.....

So that is a rather broad statement ... I'd like to know which of the new Mark Levinson products you have auditioned in your system and compared against what other products that lead you to the conclusion that they "SUCK"? Do they all Suck or just some?

The No536 mono blocks are very competitive at the price point ... do they hail as the king of all amps? Certainly not ... nor are they priced like some of the solid state monsters out there that fight in a different ring. I know many years ago Mark Levinson, Krell and a few others were for many in the industry the king of the hill for a time. Just because they choose to play in a different arena now I do not believe qualifies as sucking.

That said ... over the past several years I have had the following in my home to audition or own ... No536 amps, No 52 Ref Pre, No 526 Pre, No 326s Pre, No 33's mono amps, No37 transport and No 360s DAC. Their new equipment has a different sound signature than their older equipment for sure. I found the No536 amps very compelling and purchased them when compared against Pass Labs 160.8, McIntosh MC601s, Older No33s and a few others. The preamps are good also and I've owned a couple of them although I ended up buying a BAT REX II Tube Pre when I had a chance to hear one in my system.

So if you say many don't care about them now because they aren't competing for the pole position in amplification today then I could understand that statement. Would even agree for those looking to buy the very best of the best that Levinson has no entries in that category for now. Its just that they have chosen to try and connect with a different audience and at least for now seem to have built some really good amps/preamps/integrated amps at the price points. I will state that while I think their amps and preamps have gotten better and their integrated is certainly worth considering ... their new digital products are simply to me not very compelling for the price and many including myself have no love for a slot loading CD player so that doesn't help although I'm not sure technically there is anything wrong with it .. just seems kind of cheesy to me for an expensive unit. Also ... I demo'd the No519 at home and it sounded no better than my Oppo DVD player I moved in from my home theater for a comparison which "might" entail sucking since its an order of magnitude or two more expensive than the Oppo was. I ended up going with the Esoteric D-02X/P-02X digital combo but that was because of a great deal and I'm happy with that choice. I liked the Vivaldi Stack and the MSB Select better just didn't hit my price range.

Take Care!

George
 
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Hear Here

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Hello George.

Something is very odd here. The email I received advising of your post started with a quote:

Kingsrule said
OK Here's whats relevant...the new ML stuff sucks and very few care about it.....

Then your message followed. Now when I click the link in the email to this site, I see your text but not with the quote. Very odd. Also the post from Kingsrule you refer to is missing, as is at least one other post in reply to my original message. Again very odd. In fact I commented on 14 March that these posts had mysteriously vanished and therefore my replies to them made little or no sense.

So I must ask you this - where did you find Kingsrule's post? You've responded to it but it's been "missing" from the forum since some date prior to 14 March.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Now regarding your reply to the evasive Kingsrule, I tend to agree with you that ML has always produced exceptionally good products but at relatively high prices. The only ML I've had the pleasure of owning was a No 390D (factory converted from 39) CD player / processor. Altogether a great bit of kit, chosen in favour of its main competitor at the time - the Wadia.

My original post was discussing the latest ML range - the 5000 series. My view is that they haven't thought through the buyers options within the range, in particular considering that this new range is designed to attract customers with more modest budgets. I've only had the 5805 in my system and I thought it was very good. However I discovered that adding to the system with other ML 5000 series would mean I have to duplicate various features such as the DAC. I queried why they hadn't considered this point before deciding on the spec of individual units within this 5000 series range.

Peter
 

sbnx

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Mar 28, 2017
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sort of off topic from the OP but similar to some of the other posts. the OP is right about he 390s CD player being an outstanding product and a lot of people even today will snap them up if they come up on AG. Back in the 90's and early 2000's I owned a lot of ML gear. 23.5/31.5/35/333/380s etc. (I always wanted a pair of 33's but that just never happened) But after this they simply sold out IMO. They continued to get good reviews but the build quality was no where near what it once was and they were simply capitalizing on the established brand and chasing profit. Same story with Krell. These two reference brands from the 90's were simply replaced by other companies who had a real passion for sound.
 

gadawg58

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Apr 7, 2018
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Hi Peter ... seems strange indeed because when I log in I still see Kingrule post. Weird for sure. I also agree with you that to put together a full 5000 series system there is some duplication and it would be nice if there were some way around that. Possibly considering that the bottom line cost of the DAC in the CD player or the amp may not be that extreme they decided just to leave it in both pieces so that it offered flexibility to those just buying one or the other and they didn't have to build a dedicated 5000 series transport/streamer without a DAC? I'm just guessing as to motives here but in the end I agree with you!

George
 

gadawg58

Member
Apr 7, 2018
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sort of off topic from the OP but similar to some of the other posts. the OP is right about he 390s CD player being an outstanding product and a lot of people even today will snap them up if they come up on AG. Back in the 90's and early 2000's I owned a lot of ML gear. 23.5/31.5/35/333/380s etc. (I always wanted a pair of 33's but that just never happened) But after this they simply sold out IMO. They continued to get good reviews but the build quality was no where near what it once was and they were simply capitalizing on the established brand and chasing profit. Same story with Krell. These two reference brands from the 90's were simply replaced by other companies who had a real passion for sound.

So I agree that the new Mark Levinson for the moment has bowed out of the "reference" level components ... I don't agree that the new product isn't high quality. I own the 536's and they are incredibly strong ... built differently than the No33's for sure but not worse. The new designs in the amps and preamps are quite good actually and they punch way above their price range. It remains to be seen though if they will decide to take the next big step and re-enter the reference level competition as their last No 53 Ref amp just wasn't very good. With the current economic outlook it might be a while ... Just to counter one thing you said ... I had a chance to meet (over the phone) Todd E. who is the engineering director at Mark Levinson and as many know he worked with Dan at Krell then came over to ML after Dan left and started his new company. What I took away from the phone call was that Todd is very engaged with what they are creating and has a real passion for doing that .. We talked not only about the new Levinson amps but about some of their best creations at Krell and this guy is very passionate for sure! I think what remains to be seen is if the parent company will let him really take Levinson where he certainly is capable of taking it. Stay tuned ... :)

George
 

andromedaaudio

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Jan 23, 2011
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Mark levinson has been all over the place design wise.
Afaik they are a spin off of the big harman kardon concern .
They need to be at the cutting edge of whats possible and give a boost to the harman kardon regular products
In my view they kinda lost that after 2000-2005
With the digital mono bloc power amp for example ; or the interiour of the 532h which they launched 2010 -2012 or something like that .
I think they redesigned the amp but anyway , it looked more like a brand without real vision .
May be the 5000 series will put them back on track .

I think if they would just keep the old 360S dac Ml 390 S player design in place , make it usb connectable , streaming ready new exteriour
They would have a SOTA digital product even today.
Same for the 32 pre amp keep the old circuit design in place , just refine it some more , i think people would love it .
The power amps are another story , they are just to slow for todays fast designs , may be the 5000 series bridged the gap i dont know
 
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Hear Here

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Feb 14, 2020
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Hi Peter ... seems strange indeed because when I log in I still see Kingrule post. Weird for sure. I also agree with you that to put together a full 5000 series system there is some duplication and it would be nice if there were some way around that. Possibly considering that the bottom line cost of the DAC in the CD player or the amp may not be that extreme they decided just to leave it in both pieces so that it offered flexibility to those just buying one or the other and they didn't have to build a dedicated 5000 series transport/streamer without a DAC? I'm just guessing as to motives here but in the end I agree with you!

George
Thanks again George.

Well, I discovered something very odd today. I still use Internet Explorer as my browser. Yes, it's rather old, but I prefer it and it holds my hundreds of Favourite links.

If I look at this thread using Explorer, I see my own posts, plus yours and the one added today by snbx - none by Kingsrule.

However if I copy and paste the page's address into Firefox, mysteriously everything has returned! Kingsrule's posts are there as it your quoted sentence from one of his posts.

I wonder if other threads have missing posts when viewed on Explorer. Certainly I've not been aware of any replies to me apart from the ones in this thread.

Curiouser and even curiouser! Peter
 

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
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So I agree that the new Mark Levinson for the moment has bowed out of the "reference" level components ... I don't agree that the new product isn't high quality. I own the 536's and they are incredibly strong ... built differently than the No33's for sure but not worse. The new designs in the amps and preamps are quite good actually and they punch way above their price range. It remains to be seen though if they will decide to take the next big step and re-enter the reference level competition as their last No 53 Ref amp just wasn't very good. With the current economic outlook it might be a while ... Just to counter one thing you said ... I had a chance to meet (over the phone) Todd E. who is the engineering director at Mark Levinson and as many know he worked with Dan at Krell then came over to ML after Dan left and started his new company. What I took away from the phone call was that Todd is very engaged with what they are creating and has a real passion for doing that .. We talked not only about the new Levinson amps but about some of their best creations at Krell and this guy is very passionate for sure! I think what remains to be seen is if the parent company will let him really take Levinson where he certainly is capable of taking it. Stay tuned ... :)

George

George,

Thank you. Some good insights in this thread. As a former Levinson/Proceed owner, I still have a soft spot for the brand. A year or two ago I heard a 519 driving a 534 at the dealer where many years ago I bought a Proceed CDP to drive a No. 331 amp. The dealer's demo rig sounded good but not great, probably due to poor setup of his Revel Salon 2 speakers. I was a bit disappointed. At any rate, I think many of ML's problems since their glory years have been due to unstable ownership. The brand deserves better, and here's hoping they can bring it all the way back.

Jacket62
 

gadawg58

Member
Apr 7, 2018
23
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George,

Thank you. Some good insights in this thread. As a former Levinson/Proceed owner, I still have a soft spot for the brand. A year or two ago I heard a 519 driving a 534 at the dealer where many years ago I bought a Proceed CDP to drive a No. 331 amp. The dealer's demo rig sounded good but not great, probably due to poor setup of his Revel Salon 2 speakers. I was a bit disappointed. At any rate, I think many of ML's problems since their glory years have been due to unstable ownership. The brand deserves better, and here's hoping they can bring it all the way back.

Jacket62

They didn't do themselves any favors with the No 519 for sure. If you listened to the No 534 with a great front end then its really an impressive amplifier. I have several friends here in Dallas that have all traded in various flavors of amps on the No 536 mono blocks. We have a great dealer and have been able to audition at home and when plugged into our systems it was clear pretty quickly that at least the new amplifiers are special.

George
 

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