It’s very well put together, generates plenty of power and features a high resolution DAC section. Its sound is quite luxurious as well which is the most important part of all.
Mark Levinson No585 Integrated Amplifier
- Oozes luxury through its build quality and audio performance
- Detailed yet smooth sound
- Wide, high and deep soundstage
- Incredible properties of rhythm and pace
- Mesmerizing performance in every way
The first word I think of when I hear the name Mark Levinson is “quality”. That’s because Mark Levinson feverishly pursues the highest quality in everything they do. It starts with the concepting of their products and carries all the way through to the retail end of their business model. So it is always a pleasure to get their products in for review. Not only does this mean I will get a high level of personal and professional attention, but it also means I will be reviewing a product that will bring great pleasure during the time I have it in my system.
Fully Balanced Differential Class A/B Integrated Amplifier
200W RMS per Channel, 8 Ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz
<0.01% at 1 kHz, 200W
20 Hz – 20 kHz +/-0.13 dB; 2Hz – 250 kHz, +0.2dB/–3dB
1 Balanced XLR, 3 Unbalanced RCA
1 AES/EBU (XLR); 2 Coaxial S/PDIF (RCA); 2 Optical (Tos-Link); 1 Asynchronous USB (USB-B)
1 Unbalanced RCA Line Out; 1 Pr “Hurricane” Binding Posts
>45 kOhms (RCA & XLR)
<0.02 Ohms at 20 Hz
>400 @ 20 Hz, Referred to 8 Ω
7.59” H x 17.25” W x 19.95” D
Mark Levinson, No585, Stereo, Amplifiers, Integrated Amplifiers
Most of our readers are aware that Mark Levinson products exhibit massive build quality and impressive performance. That is their hall mark, if you will. In many cases, though, firms come out of the gate with great products and then stagnate over the years only to be forgotten by their consumer base. This is not the case with Mark Levinson. They are always striving to upgrade and improve their product line.
Enter their newest offering, the No585 integrated amp. This amp is a reflection of proven amplifier technology given a fresh spin by their engineers. It most keeps pace with the changing world mostly through the inclusion of a high resolution DAC section that represents some cutting edge thinking. Take two short minutes to enjoy this promotional video on the No585 and then read my detailed review below.
Mark Levinson has been improving, updating and refining designs of their amplification components in recent years. The epicenter for their design advancements is Harman’s new Shelton, Connecticut facility. This facility and the people who work there comprise what Harman Luxury Products Group refers to as their “Engineering Center of Excellence”. The No585 integrated amp is a major realization of the development work taking place in this world-class R&D facility.
I want to start by discussing some of the broader design elements of this amplifier before giving an overview of the technology inherent to the No585. The first thing one notices about the No585 is its sheer size. It is over 7-1/2” inches tall (with feet), nearly 20” deep and weighs 72 pounds in the raw. This is one very large integrated amplifier. Not surprisingly, it has a high power rating – 200 Watts per channel into 8 ohms!
The No585 has a built-in DAC that can process LPCM signals up to 32-bit, 192kHz or DSD up to 5.6 MHz. All types of digital inputs are supported here, including asynchronous USB. This DAC uses the latest ESS Sabre DAC chip with a proprietary current-to-voltage output stage which I will discuss in a bit more detail below.
This amp has line level outs in case you want to bypass the internal amps and use it as a DAC or pre. It does not have a phono stage. The No585 does have a subwoofer output with selectable 80Hz high-pass filter for integration with a subwoofer. Speaker binding posts are the famous Mark Levinson “hurricane” posts. The amplifier has extensive DC trigger controls as well as Ethernet and RS232 connections for set up, monitoring and control of the unit.
I have read over the technical information provided by Harman. Some of the most salient design objectives were to provide “a deep, expansive soundstage; accurate image placement; extended low bass response with good pitch definition; and detailed high frequencies free from ‘etching’.” How would this be achieved? The answer can be summarized through a thematic discourse. The design ‘themes’ that take the No585 in the stated direction are:
- Cascode Architecture
- Differential Design
- All-Discrete Analog Circuitry Throughout
- Multiple Power Supplies
- High Quality Components
Cascoded amplifiers have been around for decades and they can be used for a variety of benefits; the one cited by Harman is that they are used in the No585 to enhance the linearity of the amplifying transistors. Specifically, Harman is using a folded cascode which employs three individual transistors that operate as a single transistor with greatly improved characteristics including an output voltage range that extends almost all the way from rail to rail.
These cascoded transistors are connected as differential pairs in order to reject common-mode signals. The outputs of these folded cascodes are then fed to a current mirror circuit which mirrors and adds currents from both halves, thereby canceling out a vast majority of the nonlinear components in the signal. The gain stages then feed a Darlington output stage which uses several emitter-followers that isolate the output of the folded cascode from the load being driven.
Positive benefits of the design and execution of the No585 gain stages is that they provide accurate, low noise, low distortion and wide bandwidth amplification. And there is very little global negative feedback – less than 20dB to be exact.
The No585 uses an R-2R resistor ladder network for the volume control. This is widely regarded as the best volume control topology out there. Of course, Harman has made improvements to lower the resistance of this circuit and by using special analog switches with very low voltages in routing the currents through the circuit.
In reading over the technical information provided, I was able to count no less than 10 individual power supplies in the No585. At the heart of these power supplies is a massive 900 VA toroidal transformer. Separate windings mean that this amplifier operates as a true dual-mono amplifier.
The No585 uses tantalum nitride thin-film resistors and small-value polypropylene foil capacitors in critical locations within the architecture. There are no coupling capacitors in the signal path.
On the digital audio side, the No 585 uses a Cirrus Logic receiver chip and the latest ESS Sabre DAC. They also employ an Analog Devices SHARC DSP chip to implement the Clari-fi algorithm.
The No585 offers a wide range of adjustments that are unique. One of these is that they allow user selection of three digital filter options – fast, slow and “minimum phase”. This gives the listener even greater control of the sound he/she is hearing.
The non-illuminated remote control is weighty and well made. It offers full control of all the major functions of the amplifier. Besides volume, mute, power, etc.; this also includes full menu control, transport controls for playback of USB files, balance adjustment, a polarity toggle (makes a bigger difference than you may imagine) and a direct Clari-Fi button.
Setting up the No585 was generally very straight forward. I placed it in my rack, connected my source components to the most appropriate (i.e., “best”) input, connected my speakers and plugged in the No585’s mains power cord. That was all it took to get the unit connected and ready for music making.
Not so fast, though, as this is a modern digital component with a flexible interface that needed some attention to optimize the whole affair. You are thankfully guided through the set up and menu system by a very well-written 16-page owners’ manual.
The first thing I did after plugging everything together was to go through and rename the inputs to match the connected components. Many common names are pre-installed and these can be readily selected. If they are not there, then you can key in a unique name (like “Blu-ray 2” or “Oppo”, etc.). You can also hide unused inputs for convenience and to cut down on potential future domestic disputes.
The menus allow selection of the PCM Filter – slow, fast or MPhase (minimum phase). These settings affect the presence of some very minor ringing or pre-ringing and are there for you to tailor the sound to your personal tastes.
If running compressed audio, then you can also turn on Mark Levinson’s Clari-Fi circuitry. This is an advanced DSP algorithm that is said to recover clarity and detail lost in the process of compressing audio files. Clari-Fi is also available via direct input from the included remote control. This level of direct control is a nice touch.
There are a number of other settings for power saving, display, volume control, etc. There is also a HT bypass setting if you want to use the No585 to drive the main speakers in a surround system. All in all, this is a very flexible product.
Probably the biggest hurdle for me was that I needed to download and install USB drivers so my Windows computer could send high resolution audio to the No585 via the asynchronous USB interface. The drivers are easy to find on the Mark Levinson web page and worked like a charm. So this was not much of a hurdle in actual practice.
So I just finished watching some promotional videos related to the No585 that are on the Mark Levinson web site. One of the quotes on there is that Mark Levinson is building products with an “heirloom feel”. I love that quote and I agree wholeheartedly! There is something very satisfying and reassuring about the build quality of the No585. There is luxury in everything they’ve done here – the look of the product, the clean machined lines of the faceplate, the weight of the volume knob, the weight of the unit itself, the look of the red LED display, even in the authoritative click of the internal relays. What better way to inspire confidence in a product than through this high level of quality workmanship?
I know that is all well and fine but what did this amplifier actually sound like? Let’s dive right into the answer:
I started with the LP of Marc Cohn’s self-titled inaugural album on heavy vinyl remastered and pressed by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. Before getting the vinyl copy, I must have listened to the CD a thousand times on some really amazing systems. I know this album intimately well.
The first song on the album is “Walking in Memphis” and right out of the gate, the No585 impressed me with a big and powerful sound. I felt the amp had a rock steady grip on the speakers which led to an incredibly realistic frequency balance from the lowest lows to the highest highs.
I love the way the piano is captured on the Marc Cohn album and the No585 let it shine, especially allowing the instrument’s percussive qualities through. The Levinson also handled Cohn’s voice brilliantly and I enjoyed the holographic sound of a man sitting at a piano in this very room signing “Silver Thunderbird” (which is one of my all-time favorite songs, BTW).
Another astonishing quality of the No585 was its ability to play back music with unbridled pacing and energy. This really stood out on the vinyl remaster of Steely Dan’s masterpiece, “Aja”. The first track on this album is “Black Cow”. The pace was torrid over the No585, certainly far more bouncy than what I remember from this song as it played over the radio back in the day.
I then listened to Cowboy junkies “Black Eyed Man” off a CD played via an optical connection and through the No585’s internal DACs. This album also reinforced the full range sound of the No585, especially on the frequency extremes – I loved the way the No585 tracked the bass lines and the airy treble just blew my mind.
When it comes to the heart of the music, the mid range that is, the No585 was no slouch in this department either. This was heard through Margo Timmins’ voice, her delicate voice floating above the speakers in an eerie display of aural realism. But more impressively there is the duet with her and John Prine, “If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man”.
The No585 tracked each singer’s vocals very closely making a massive statement about the transparency of the circuit design. I was most impressed by the unit’s ability to not only divide but also to combine their voices at the same time.
So I found myself on a mission listening to old favorites for a couple of reasons: the first was to use them as a possible way to find a chink in the No585’s armor (I didn’t hear any chinks in the armor) and also to enjoy them anew because I was seriously grooving to the sound of the No585. This is what led me to fire up my old Queensryche “Empire” CD. The dynamic rock sound was the most prominent characteristic here but also the rhythm and pace proved to be spot on once more.
Speaking of pacing and stuff like that, try Mickey Hart Planet Drum “Supralingua”. Hart played percussion for the Grateful Dead and this is an album of percussion- and synthesizer-focused material. The strong points I heard over the No585 involved not only the driving rhythms and low bass but also the stage was wide open. It stretched from the floor to the ceiling. It was better than Dolby Atmos in a way. This helped me hear every little sound in the wide ranging and oft times dense mix.
So it didn’t matter whether I was listening to LP, CD, compressed audio or high-resolution audio because no matter what I listened to, the No585 had me enraptured and transfixed by what was going on audio-wise. This is one product that was mesmerizing to listen to at all times. It just made everything sound its best!
THE MARK LEVINSON NO585 is the best sounding integrated amplifier we have tested.
- Luxurious execution
- Flexible interface and functionality
- Mesmerizing audio performance
- Incredible pacing
- Open soundstage
- Deep and tuneful bass
- Built-in phono stage
- Case that fits on a standard shelf (this one is too deep)
- Hardware upgrade path
Let me go ahead and state that the No585 is the best sounding integrated amplifier I have ever had in my system and quite possibly the best I have ever heard anywhere at anytime.
Let me go ahead and state that the No585 is the best sounding integrated amplifier I have ever had in my system and quite possibly the best I have ever heard anywhere at anytime. I could not hear a single audible weaknesses in the performance. In fact, if I were pressed to choose just one word to describe the No585, I would choose “mesmerizing”. That word showed up in my listening notes many times.
Along with this great sound you also get a very nice box – heavy, tightly machined, luxurious and with the iconic Mark Levinson look – two-tone faceplate, red LED readout and the hurricane binding posts. This product can easily serve as a centerpiece to a true high end system, bringing pleasure for years to come.