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Mark Levinson No. 585 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

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Sometimes things just… click.

I witnessed that this morning with this Mark Levinson No. 585 “do-everything” style of integrated amplifier as I hauled its massive chassis up onto the test bench.

Mark Levinson and perhaps the rest of the Harman Group certainly know how to package a fine product to elicit feelings of pride in the owner.

Fit and finish are superb, but it’s the little details like a remote with the right heft, embroidered gloves and a special screwdriver for the remote that have me impressed with the packaging.

But of course you should know that with me, the buck stops with the sound.

Firing up the 2018 master jazz production called Hudson, everything is perfect, and everything is right. I’m greeted with instant space and depth in this recording featuring some of the jazz world’s best musicians.

If you haven’t jumped on the Hudson train yet, it’s a rag-tag crew of no-names like John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier and John Medeski. Of course, I kid whe…

Cardas Golden Reference and Cross Interconnects

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It’s weird to want to start a blog post by talking enthusiastically about the sound of metal, but then again, this is to be a blog post about cables.

But when I say metal, I don’t refer to the actual conductor materials in the cable, though they play a big role.

I’m talking instead about the sound of cymbals, the influence of interconnects on the sound, and how that’s one of my go-to testing and evaluating tools.

I’m in the camp that believes subtle audio differences are experienced at least partly subconsciously, and quick A/B comparisons don’t let your brain settle into the sound of any option.

For my sound quality evaluations, I like to sink into a track for a while in one mode, let the thoughts about the sound quality flow, and then not worry so much about hastening the switch between modes or components.

I make the switch, re-queue the track, and then settle in again, with focus on what new thoughts are created in my brain. After the experience, I mentally compare the two s…

Audio Note M3 Phono Tube Preamplifier

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Uh oh. 
I’ve fallen in love with two different tube preamplifiers today. Just that kind of Friday I guess!

Of course, these preamps could make anyone swoon. First it was the Aesthetix Calypso, and now it’s Audio Note’s delicious M3 Phono, which despite its name is not just a phono pre (although it is one stinkin’ beast of a phono pre) — it’s a full on line preamplifier, and it’s captured my heart, swiftly and easily.

This one is tube-based front to back, and uses interesting valves to craft its magical sound, like 6X5s, OB2s and 6072a tubes.

Bobby Hutcherson’s album Wise One is a record I’m wise to place on the queue when I fire up such a refined piece of equipment as this. 
Why? Because well-recorded vibraphone is a really good measuring stick for components’ abilities to accurately portray a soundstage, and to hold those image positions firmly as the vibes move up and down the musical register. Any of Gary Burton’s wonderfully-recorded discs work just as well.

When an amp or a p…

Aesthetix Calypso Stereo Tube Hybrid Preamplifier

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I’ll admit I didn’t let the normal random chance determine my little listening session with the Aesthetix Calypso preamplifier here.

I happened to be walking by the photo area when I spotted the machine, and our photographer Jeff said I could borrow the little she demon for a minute to satiate my audio curiosity.

It’s not that I haven’t heard the Calypso before — I have. I’ve seen a few sprinkled in high end demo systems at audio shows, and there used to be one hanging out in Music Room One over at PS Audio down the street.

But I’d never gotten a chance to fiddle with one on my own, even briefly. Fiddle is the wrong word- I don’t want to press buttons and spin knobs, I wan to hear this amazing piece of circuitry.



And amazing it is. See I knew about the special nature of this preamplifier because it served as a major inspiration for Bascom King when he designed his BHK Signature Preamplifier for PS Audio.

Both preamplifiers sport tube input stages. Both feature N-channel-only output p…

Wilson Benesch A.C.T. C60 Limited Edition

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Grip is a term often associated with the bigger drivers of great speakers. Usually we’re talking about the low end, but something about the word “grip” implies a type of bass definition that is likely affected by a treble or midrange transient element. After all, music is not a set of test tones, but a wild soup of transients and concurrent complex sound sources.

It’s so complex, we need to describe it with general “feel” words like grip and bounce, or with more common visual descriptors like dark and bright.



Grip for me means excellent transients. It means I can listen to my favorite solo bass album and reap the musicality buried within the wash of deep dark tones.

The Wilson Benesch A.C.T. C60 Limited Edition speakers we just got in and which I just tested are absolutely huge (another visual metaphor) in sound and the bass grip rivals or betters anything I have ever, ever heard.

Going further, the midrange “grip” is uncanny. I guess in this case I mean the same thing in a slightly diffe…

Mark Levinson No. 585 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Image
Sometimes things just… click.

I witnessed that this morning with this Mark Levinson No. 585 “do-everything” style of integrated amplifier as I hauled its massive chassis up onto the test bench.



Mark Levinson and perhaps the rest of the Harman Group certainly know how to package a fine product to elicit feelings of pride in the owner.

Fit and finish are superb, but it’s the little details like a remote with the right heft, embroidered gloves and a special screwdriver for the remote that have me impressed with the packaging.

But of course you should know that with me, the buck stops with the sound.

Firing up the 2018 master jazz production called Hudson, everything is perfect, and everything is right. I’m greeted with instant space and depth in this recording featuring some of the jazz world’s best musicians.If you haven’t jumped on the Hudson train yet, it’s a rag-tag crew of no-names like John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier and John Medeski. And of course, I kid when I call the…

D’Agostino Momentum S250 Stereo Power Amplifier

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Mr. Dan D’Agostino has cornered the “heirloom watch” market for amplifiers in this country, I’m pretty sure of it.

At TMR, we see designs from all over the world and from different points in audio history. And let’s just say we’ve noticed that most of the amazing, gorgeous and mechanically impressive designs come from overseas.

Just last week I was testing an immensely well-designed CD transport from a company called C.E.C. I couldn’t help but marvel at how many perfectly fit parts were in this thing, and how dense and well-built it was.



That’s what you will expect to receive when you fork out $30K or so for a piece of audio engineering. Beyond that actually, it needs to be gorgeous. Nothing soothes the mind about spending in the big leagues like a set of looks that will brighten your eyes before your ears get their fill.

I’m not really a watch guy, but standing this close to the D’Agostino Momentum S250’s intricate meters makes me think that maybe I could be a watch guy.

For me thou…