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High Efficiency Speaker Asylum: REVIEW: Mark Levinson No. 331 Amplifier (SS) by Tuvan

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REVIEW: Mark Levinson No. 331 Amplifier (SS) Review by Tuvan at Audio Asylum

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Writing about the sound of a stereo system is like sculpting the flavor of a meal.

The Mark Levinson No. 331 is big and heavy - so much that it's a floor standing component. The top panel and curved lower portion of the front panel are satin finished silver white, but it does little to lighten the visual impression. Heavy black heatsinks cover both sides and wrap around the front and back corners. As seen from the front, half the width of the amplifier is heatsink. The white Levinson logo and model designation is centered on a black metal plate recessed above the curved front panel and between the heatsinks. Pressing a circular button beneath the logo cycles between the three power states - off, standby, or on. A single small red LED blinks to indicate standby or lights continuously when in the on state.

Two pairs of special twist lock clamps for each channel's output are provided on the back panel. Connection to a balanced source is made through XLR sockets. Unbalanced sources are connected through RCA's.

Each of my No. 331's directly drives a Klipschorn woofer and K-55-M midrange covering frequencies below 6.3 kHz. Klipschorns are extremely sensitive, low in distortion, and dynamically expressive. They are usually characterized as aggressive and colored, especialy with digital sources and solid state amplifiers. In my experience, these undesirable attributes can be mitigated by eliminating the Klipsch AK-2 passive crossover and removing the path length induced time delays between drivers. I've chosen to accomplish this with a Yamaha D2040 active crossover. The Yamaha's AES/EBU digital input accepts the output of a Mark Levinson No. 37 CD transport. A Mark Levinson No. 29 amplifier drives the tweeters. This is the context in which the No. 331 is considered.

If the system's purpose is to illuminate the music, the No. 331's light is like a bright spring morning in New Mexico. Little attention is paid to the quality of the light, but shapes, colors, and textures are curiously engaging. This is the essential quality of the amplifier. Like fresh air it's colorless, odorless, tasteless. Music isn't attacked with ferocity or interpreted romantically, music is simply released. Its special quality is in freeing the speakers of inhibition and giving them a tireless enthusiasm for performing. A listener can be startled by the intensity of a musical climax or feel the tingle of goose-flesh as close harmonies build or have to fight vertigo as bass guitar and drums open a hellish chasm in the room. Not always, not even most of the time. But, when it happens, the effort and expense is completely justified.


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Topic - REVIEW: Mark Levinson No. 331 Amplifier (SS) Review by Tuvan at Audio Asylum - Tuvan 22:09:09 06/8/01 ( 7)