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Mark Levinson No 326S Stereo Preamplifier

Part II

July, 2006

John E. Johnson, Jr.

 

The Sound

I tested the No 326S preamplifier with a McCormack CD transport and DAC, Yamaha Universal DVD player, Mark Levinson No 433 and 436 power amplifiers, and Carver Mark IV ribbon speakers. Cables were Nordost.

Schubert and Liszt are among my favorite piano composers.

In this BMG Classics (8-28765-84202-0) release, with Evgeny Kissin as pianist, the piano was as sweet as I have ever heard, and the sound of the hammers striking the strings was crystal clear.

 

Telarc strikes again in this SACD entitled Round-Up (Telarc SACD-60141).

It has music, but also outdoor recordings of cattle round-ups.

I wish movie soundtracks had this kind of clarity. Maybe with DD-True HD and DTS-HD, we will.

The "William Tell Overture" had very tight tympani with no audible harmonic distortion. Very powerful.

Crackling campfire, crickets, and coyote: Accurate reproduction with absolutely black background (no noise of any kind).

 

A large choir with full orchestra represents a huge challenge. This disc (EMI Classics 7-24355-79522-9) is a good example.

The voices always remained incredibly distinct from the musical instruments. Never was there any congestion.

As you will see in the Bench Tests, this is partly a result of very low IMD.

 

Mozart's Symphony 41 (Jupiter).

The opening salvo is about as thunderous as any symphonic piece, and yet, with the 326S, all instruments remained distinct, including violins, oboe, and clarinets, against the brass.

One thing that struck me was how neutral the 326S sounded. No frequency emphasized any more than others. Again, the Bench Tests will show you why.

EMI Classics 0-94635-09222-6)

 

In this recording of Beethoven Violin Sonatas (EMI Classics 0-94635-08542-6), with Pinchas Zukerman, the piano follows the violin line, but the two instruments remain completely distinct on the soundstage.

 

Barber's "Adagio for Strings" is an excellent test for congestion (IMD).

This particular recording is a recent EMI Classics release (0-94634-52872-6).

There was no congestion in spite of so many different strings playing over several octaves.

In the 2 Songs from Opus 13, Barbara Hendricks' voice had perfect sibilance.

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