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Mark Levinson No 523 Dual-Mono Preamplifier

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Regular price $9,800.00 USD
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Mark Levinson No 523 Dual-Mono Preamplifier

Mark Levinson's proprietary Pure Path discrete, direct-coupled, fully balanced, dual-mono signal path and Folded Cascode connections function as the anchors of the definitive-sounding № 523 preamplifier. If you've been seeking to hear music with the kind of purity and accuracy experienced in the recording studio and played back with undetectable coloration, № 523 awaits. It offers degrees of tonality, soundstaging, clarity, and imaging that inspire hyperbole but which must be experienced to be placed in proper perspective. Its host of connectivity and feature set give you all the customizability and options you'll need to hear every source like never before.
Achieving unrestricted purity and off-the-charts precision, this U.S.A.-made reference instrument's state-of-the-art components suite – including a discrete R-2R Ladder volume control, Class A Pure Phono MM/MC phono preamplifier, and Class A Main Drive headphone amplifier – features complex circuitry, leading-edge engineering, and military-grade build. Everything is hand-selected for a specific task, from the gain-stage JFETs to the tantalum nitride resistors and 6000-Series aircraft-aluminum chassis. It all explains why the objectives of many preamplifiers – high gain, low noise, wide bandwidth, hypnotic linearity – become reality with № 523.
Mark Levinson No. 523 Dual-Monaural Preamplifier

Superior Volume Control
The basis of many volume controls is the venerable analog potentiometer – a device with a number of performance drawbacks. The mechanical connection wears out, creating scratching or crackling noises; it is nearly impossible to manufacture an identically performing pair, and mismatches in a stereo pair can cause level imbalances between the two channels; and due to their varied reaction to parasitic capacitances at different volume settings, the sound changes depending on where the volume is set. Rather than attempting to improve upon this flawed design, Mark Levinson engineers abandoned it. Instead, they employed a complex circuit architecture called an R-2R Ladder.

In the R-2R Ladder, a string of resistors, all with identical resistance (R), form the side of the ladder, with another set of resistors forming the rungs, all identically with double the resistance (2R). This unique circuit takes whatever current appears at its input and successively divides it in half at each “rung" of the ladder. Different combinations of “rung" currents can then be selected and added together, precisely delivering nearly any output current, and thereby, volume setting. An R-2R Ladder is a highly accurate device. The currents through the rungs are determined by fixed resistors, capable of very tight tolerances, able to be closely matched to one another in value. Analog switches “steer" the currents, are precision devices, and have no mechanical contacts to wear out. In short, the R-2R Ladder solves all the problems inherent to potentiometer-based volume controls. That's why it is a cornerstone of Mark Levinson Pure Path design philosophy.

Military Grade Components
All Mark Levinson equipment employs electronic components carefully chosen for their specific task. Gain-stage JFET pairs have high gain, low noise, low distortion, and because they are encapsulated in the same package, the two devices operate under nearly identical conditions. Capacitors used in critical filtering locations are film types, noted for their consistent performance regardless of temperature and frequency. Finally, resistors in critical gain-setting and feedback locations use tantalum nitride thin-film elements. An extremely costly material, tantalum nitride typically finds use in sensitive military equipment because it is unusually stable with respect to temperature, exhibits very low noise, and is unaffected by magnetic fields. In fine audio equipment, those characteristics make the sound even more revealing and effortless, free of the low-level nonlinearities caused by lesser resistive materials as they heat and cool under dynamic conditions. Housed in an aircraft-grade 6063-T5 extruded aluminum chassis, the No. 523 features extremely high build precision, to exceedingly low tolerances.

Pure Phono
Preamplifying from turntable to line level can a difficult task, and it is an area where some equipment makers skimp on components and design. The No. 526 and No. 523 preamplifiers introduce a new Mark Levinson phono stage, Pure Phono, itself following Pure Path design principles including discrete design, free of op amps. The Pure Phono stage operates exclusively in class A throughout, employing tantalum nitride thin-film resistors polypropylene capacitors with punishingly low tolerances.

The Pure Phono stage also contains physically separated channels and balanced inputs for purity. The Pure Phono stage offers a fixed-gain MM section with five capacitive cartridge-loading settings, and an MC section with three gain settings and 10 resistive cartridge-loading settings. And an ultrasonic filter intelligently compensates for rumble and warping.

Completing the Signal Path
The No. 523 offers five line-level analog inputs: two balanced (XLR), three single-ended (RCA), in addition to the Pure Phono (RCA with grounding pin) input. The preamplifier delivers its signal to balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) stereo outputs, as well as a 1/4-inch (6.3mm) Main Drive Headphone output integrated into the front panel metalwork – a first for Mark Levinson.

The Main Drive Headphone amplifier circuit drives up to 32-ohm headphones in class A by employing the main output circuit rather than a secondary signal path: a perfect example of reducing clutter in the circuit design.

A selectable fourth-order, 80 Hz high-pass filter enables seamless integration of a single or dual subwoofers for full-range performance with a wide range of loudspeaker setups. System-integration connectivity includes Ethernet/IP control, RS-232, USB for monitoring and configuration via web page, plus 12V triggers and an IR input. An included machined metal remote delivers the robust feel and precise control befitting of a component of the preamplifier's caliber.

Specifications
Line stage gain, normal gain setting: 13.5dB balanced; 7.5dB single-ended
Line stage frequency response, 20Hz to 20kHz: ±0.02dB
Line stage frequency response, 0.4Hz to 370kHz: +0.1 / -3dB
THD+N @ 1kHz (2VRMS single-ended or 4VRMS balanced output): <0.003%
Signal-to-noise ratio (ref. to 2VRMS single-ended or 4VRMS balanced, max vol): >115dB @ 1kHz
Crosstalk @ 1kHz: <-107dB
Channel separation: below noise floor (>115dB @ 1kHz)
Input impedance: >45kΩ
Output impedance: <80Ω single ended, <160Ω balanced
Maximum input level, normal gain setting: >10VRMS, single ended, >15VRMS, balanced
Maximum output level: >11VRMS single ended, >22VRMS balanced
Headphone output impedance: selectable; <3Ω or 75Ω
Headphone maximum output, low impedance setting:
   30Ω (0.3W), 20 to 20kHz: <0.1% THD: >3VRMS
   300Ω, 20Hz to 20kHz: <0.1% THD: >9VRMS
Headphone THD+N, 20Hz to 20kHz, 2V RMS: <0.03% @ 30Ω, <0.01% @ 300Ω
Phono stage: RIAA frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz, ±0.3dB
Infrasonic filter: defeatable, 15Hz, 2nd order (12dB/octave)
Moving Magnet mode: Input resistance: 47kΩ
Input capacitance: selectable; 50, 100, 150, 200, or 680pF
Gain: 40dB @ 1kHz
THD+N, 20Hz to 20kHz, 2VRMS output: <0.03%
Moving Coil mode: Input resistance: selectable; 20, 33, 50, 66, 100, 200, 330, 500, 1000, or 47kΩ
Input capacitance: 50pF
Gain: selectable; 50, 60, or 70dB @ 1kHz
THD+N, 20Hz to 20kHz, 2VRMS output: <0.02%, 50 or 60dB settings, <0.04, 70db setting
Analog inputs: 2 balanced (XLR), 3 single-ended (RCA) line, 1 single-ended (RCA) phono w/ ground
Analog outputs: 1 balanced (XLR); 1 pair single-ended (RCA), 1 headphone (¼", 6.3mm TS)
Control connectors: Ethernet (RJ45), RS-232 (RJ12), Trigger In and Out, IR In, USB-A, Mini USB
Mains voltage: 100VAC, 115VAC, or 230VAC, factory set
Power consumption: 0.4W Green Standby, 5W Power Save, 67W Normal Standby, 70W On, idle
Dimensions (HWD): 3.75" x 17.25" x 18"
Weight: 39 lbs.