When Mark Levinson teamed with Lexus to provide superior quality to car audio, it was a perfect move on the brand’s part. Anyone unfamiliar with the Levinson brand would immediately equate it with luxury high-performance. Anyone familiar with the brand already knew that.
I had the great fortune to get a preview of Mark Levinson’s latest luxury machine last week, the No. 53 monoblock amplifier. Company vice president of marketing Walter Schofield and national sales manager Ed Stadlen gave me and colleague Bob Archer of CE Pro magazine a little factory tour to take a good look at the guts of the No. 53, before we moved on to the theater room for a demonstration.
Demonstration being an understatement. We had a solid two-hour listening session (no way we were going to just hear two or three songs in the presence of this system) with a focus on a pair of sleek, industrial-designed No. 53s driving tremendous Revel Salon2 tower speakers ($22,000 per pair). Levinson’s No. 326S preamp and No. 390S CD player rounded out the powerful setup.
Schofield said the monoblocks, which are being targeted for a summer release at around $50,000 per pair, were “lighting fast, the fastest I’ve ever heard,” and he wasn’t kidding. The demo material gave the No. 53s a good workout, including two songs from Bob’s collection that really let them shine—Steve Morse’s blistering rendition of Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato” and Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” featuring the Count Basie Orchestra from the “Sinatra at the Sands” disc.
“La Villa” completely soared on this system, with the frenetic finish crisp, accurate and totally thumping. I didn’t Google how many pieces were in the Basie orchestra, but I’d never heard each instrument in a big band sound so well defined and clearly pinpointed on stage as during “Fly Me to the Moon,” and of course Ol’ Blue Eyes’ vocals were pristine and full.
I popped in more mellow tracks “Englishman in New York” from Sting’s “Nothing Like the Sun,” and String Cheese Incident’s “Road Home” from the “‘Round the Wheel” CD gem. These tracks continued to highlight the No. 53s incredible depth and detail, especially in the midrange.
Yes, it’s always fun to test drive luxury high-performance.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.