Power Amplifiers

Mark Levinson Nº 531H Monoblock Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

Design And Setup

The Nº 500H amplifiers are all-new designs from Mark Levinson. They incorporate many typical Levinson design features, while allowing a discretionary influx of new ideas. The Nº 500H amplifiers are a little smaller and lighter than most Levinson amps. They are designed to provide nimble power into real-world loads with good transient response and ample power for every day program material

Like most Mark Levinson amplifiers, the Nº 500H series are fully-differential amps. This means that the signal remains balanced from the line level input to the speaker outputs. And similar to other Mark Levinson amps, the Nº 500H amplifiers feature numerous output devices. In the case of the Nº 531H, there are 16 output transistors per channel.

Another design hallmark of Mark Levinson amplifiers is the inclusion of a lot of capacitance for each amplifier channel. So the design of the Nº 531H includes a substantial amount of capacitance for each amplifier channel, only this time numerous smaller capacitors are used so the capacitors can be situated closer to the output devices. Levinson claims that this design feature provides greater transient response when power is needed quickly

The Nº 531H is a current feedback design as opposed to a voltage feedback design. This topology is said to provide faster operation, improved slew rate and greater bandwidth at high gain levels

Like other Levinson amps, the Nº 531H has impeccable build quality. The front panel has a very nice anodized aluminum finish. There is a soft start On/Standby button and a Power/Status LED in the center of the front panel. The status LED glows steadily when the unit is on and flashes different patterns to let you know if it is in standby or a protection mode. The inputs are switchable between XLR and RCA. The Nº 531H amps also have the Mark Levinson exclusive hurricane binding posts. Also on the back panel are Ethernet and 12V trigger controls and a master power switch

Like other Mark Levinson amps the traces on the printed circuit boards are curved. Also, the Nº 531H has an isolated chassis and isolated signal grounds to minimize noise. This is said to optimize detail, even at low listening levels. The case is cooled passively by some large heat sinks. The sparsely-populated case was designed to hold up to five channels, so the amps always ran very cool.

The biggest area where the Nº 531H deviates from past Mark Levinson amplifier designs is that it doesn't "double-down" when the speaker impedance is halved. As a matter of fact, Levinson doesn't even provide an official specification for the amp's output into a 4 Ω load. Mark Levinson claims that the "double-down" capability is not absolutely necessary since the Nº 500H amps are designed for real-world program material. According to Levinson, with real-world material, the average level is relatively low with much higher peak power demands. So the Nº 500H amps are designed for good transient response and peak power delivery as opposed to high continuous outputs. That is one reason why the Nº 500H amps contain relatively small transformers and are overall lighter-weight than what you would expect from Mark Levinson. Bear in mind that they also don't cost nearly as much as the larger Levinson amps.