Power Amplifiers

Mark Levinson No 53 Monoblock Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

OK, enough of the graph stuff. Let's listen to some music. I tested the two No 53's with a McIntosh MCD500 SACD player, Balanced Audio Technology VK-5i preamplifier (connected to the No 53's via XLR cables), and Carver Mark IV ribbon speakers. Cables were Legenburg, Emotiva, and Marc Audio.

The following CD (also available as 50 kHz SACD) is what I always use to see what an amplifier is capable of. Well, the Levinson No 53 is quite capable to say the least. The introductory bass drum notes in "Fanfare for the Common Man" are thunderous and difficult to reproduce, but the Levinson did not flinch in the slightest. The brass were bright but appropriately so, not harsh. The crack of the whip in "Rodeo" was as sharp and snappy as I have ever heard it. I cranked up the volume with this disc, and it matched my reference amplifiers, McIntosh MC1201 monoblocks, during transient demands that indicated 1,000 watts output on the McIntosh meter (I used the No 53 for one channel and the MC1201 for the other). The nominal impedance of the speakers (Carver Mark IV ribbon) is 6-8 ohms. So, while the McIntosh MC1201 can deliver 1,000 watts into 8 ohms continuously, the No 53 can also deliver 1,000 watts into 8 ohms during short transients, which is realistically the only time you would really need that much power. This relates to the huge power supply that the No 53 has.

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One of my favorite tracks from this Telarc SACD is "The Great Gate of Kiev". The strings span several octaves, and were crystal clear, without any sign of metallic edginess.

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This Telarc SACD of Vivaldi and Bach Baroque music has period instruments and a quartet of voices from soprano to baritone. Although it is not the style of music that you would crank the volume, all of the instruments' delicate harmonics seemed to be present, with no addition from switching frequency artifacts.

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This gargantuan composition from Handel has more than 50 individual tracks, but in keeping with the season, I pulled it out and listened to both discs (Linn Records). Perhaps the last track is the most familiar, but the entire composition is a stunning masterpiece, and I played it on a stunning masterpiece. The sound would have pleased Handel, I am certain. The clarity that kept the midrange from being congested was simply amazing. In the high frequencies, detail from the No 53's was slightly better than with my reference MC1201's.

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My general feelings about the No 53 is that it reminds me of Pure Class A sound, and that is something I never thought I would experience with a switching amplifier. Velvety smooth with a satin sheen. The No 53 represents engineering brilliance, no question about it. This amplifier is not only revolutionary, it is a revelation in sound quality.