Introduction to the Mark Levinson No533H Three Channel Power Amplifier
Mark Levinson has been one of the most well know high-end audio brands for decades now. While usually associated with two-channel stereo, they also have a line of home theater amplifiers and electronics for those that want Mark Levinson with their multichannel system as well as their stereo. Much has already been written about their No531H and No532H amplifiers but the No533H has barely been noticed. With most of the work in a home theater being done by the front three speakers, the importance of high quality amplification for them is well understood, and the No533H was.
MARK LEVINSON No533H THREE CHANNEL AMPLIFIER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Fully-Differential Three-Channel Power Amplifier
- Power Output: 300 Watts RMS into 8 Ohms per channel
- MFR: 10 Hz – 20 kHz ± 0.5 dB
- THD: <0.5%
- Input impedance: 60 kOhms (Balanced), 30 kOhms (Unbalanced)
- S/N: >85 dB at 2.83V
- Inputs: Balanced XLR and Unbalanced RCA
- Control: One Ethernet 10 Base-T port, One 3.5mm trigger input and One 3.5mm plug trigger output
- Dimensions: 7.65″ H x 17.75″ W x 19.83″ D
- Weight: 90 lbs.
- MSRP: $10,000
- Mark Levinson
- SECRETS Tags: Mark Levinson, Amplifiers, Power Amplifiers
Design And Setup of the Mark Levinson No533H Three Channel Power Amplifier
The No533H is part of a line that includes the No531H monoblock, No532H stereo amplifier, and No535H five-channel amplifier. Shipped in a well-padded box, the unit has a set of handles on the rear to help move it around. Weighing in at 90 lbs. and feeling very solid, the build quality of the No533H is never in question. One of the first things to notice are the massive heat sinks set in the middle of the case. Offering 300 watts per channel into 8 ohms, there is a lot of heat that needs to be dissipated when driven at full power and the case is designed to handle that. There is also no fan or other active cooling that would produce noise. These heat sinks do the job of keeping the unit cool and allowing silent operation.
For each channel there are balanced and unbalanced inputs, and a pair of binding posts with the Mark Levinson “Hurricane” speaker cable connectors. Beyond their distinctive look the connectors make it easy to lock onto bare wire or spade lugs without needing a binding post wrench. They also accept standard and locking banana plugs without issue. Additionally there are 3.5mm input and output trigger jacks, a standard grounded IEC connector, and a 10Base-T Ethernet jack.
One may wonder “Why in the world do I need Ethernet in my amplifier?” There are two main reasons for Ethernet on the No533H: A dealer can connect to a clients system remotely, connect to the amp, and verify that everything is working correctly; and it can integrate with a Mark Levinson controller. With a compatible Mark Levinson controller, the status of the No533H or other amps is automatically checked and if it reports a fault, is over temperature, or has another issue is can then be shut down automatically. Errors that occur in the amplifier are logged in the device so you can read them through the integrated web server, making troubleshooting easier.
The No533H was connected to a Marantz AV7005 with balanced cables and to Definitive Technology Mythos STS speakers and a Mythos Nine center channel. With the Marantz the hot and cold pins on the XLR connectors are reversed from what they are on the No533H; swapping the speaker cables will account for this (red into black, black into red).
Mark Levinson No533H Three Channel Power Amplifier In Use
The 2009 remastered version of Let It Be opens with the solo voice of John Lennon inside of the Apple Studios. I was astonished at the cavernous feeling the No533H produced, providing a feeling of what the recording studio was like. It felt like you were hearing the band in this large studio space, instead of coming out flat without the ambience. Once the guitars kicked in there was a huge change in feeling as the recording location was different, but those first notes come across sharp and distinct. The piano notes from “Let It Be” have are clear with a sense of space around them. As the song progresses it gets complex and busy, but never jumbled and indistinct.
Live at Radio City from Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on Blu-ray is still a reference track after all these years. The 24/96 TrueHD audio offers a huge amount of detail and the Mark Levinson brought out every last pick of the guitar. Notes were strong and clear, without a harsh metallic glare that some equipment will impose on this recording yet still maintaining the tone of the strings. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds each had their own spot on the stage as the front three speakers blend to form a cohesive soundstage for the listeners.
A good reference title for audio on Blu-ray is Tron Legacy, as it has a mix of everything and pushes a system to the limits. The opening arena battles, with Clu descending down the staircase, radiate all around, taking advantage of all the channels available. Here the Mark Levinson did a masterful job with the front channels, even as it was pushed to reference levels. There was no loss in fidelity or accuracy in the soundtrack with explosions radiating all around and a pulsating bass line that taxes even dedicated subwoofer amplifiers. The soundtrack from Daft Punk places demands on an amplifier that you won’t find with a typical recording, but the Mark Levinson won’t blink when facing such a challenge.
With “Tangled Up In Blue” off the SACD release of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, the character of the Mark Levinson No533H really shines through. The pace and rhythm of the recording come across loud and clear, pulling the listener into the music and communicating the emotion of the track. Sometimes other amplifiers will sound laid back and passive on this Dylan track, but the No533H communicates the raw emotion, with the strain of Dylan’s voice coming across loud and clear.
One track that doesn’t come across quite as well on the No533H is Silent All These Years by Tori Amos. The No533H does a very good job with the soundstage and instrument delineation, clearly communicating how it was mixed in the studio, but the Mark Levinson pushes the midrange a little bit. Tori Amos has a wonderful voice that comes across well on most equipment but here I find the midrange makes her sound a little chestier than usual. This little push might help Dylan sound so energetic, but with Tori Amos it takes away some of the fragile and delicate nature of her singing.
Mark Levinson No533H Three Channel Power Amplifier On the Bench
The Mark Levinson No533H was tested using SpectraPlus software and a LynxTwo soundcard with either 4 ohms or 8 ohms of resistance. Two channels were driven while one was measured.
With a 1 kHz test tone, the No533H measured higher than expected with 0.02%-0.04% THD+N at 4 ohms and similar measurements at 8 ohms. There is typically around 85dB of headroom available with a 2V output, though with the 5V test there it a large spike in the 3rd harmonic that drops headroom down to around 65dB. The main noise floor is a good 110dB below the fundamental, but those third and fifth harmonic spikes are a bit high.
On the IMD testing the 60 Hz and 7 kHz tone tests show around 70 dB of range above the harmonics, though looking at the numbers those 0.09% readings are much higher than I would have expected to see from this amplifier.
The 19 kHz + 20 kHz graphs show similar performance with around 70-75 dB of dynamic range available and harmonics that extend out the full range of the bandwidth.
Frequency response on the No533H is very flat over the first 30 kHz, with a gentle roll off out to around 80 kHz where the angle becomes steeper. The THD+N vs. Frequency graphs show that the level of THD+N is a consistent 0.02% or so across the whole spectrum.
Overall the No533H was a decent but not spectacular performer on the bench tests. There were no massive issues that would be readily apparent and cause obvious issues, but the THD+N levels and IMD levels were higher than I expected them to be for an amplifier of this class.
Conclusions about the Mark Levinson No533H Three Channel Power Amplifier
The Mark Levinson No533H is a very upfront, energetic, powerful amplifier than has a large reserve of power for when your theater needs it. The three-channel design allows you to pair it with any set of front speakers regardless of how power hungry they are. The build quality is top notch, with distinct and well-designed binding posts and a silent design that still manages to dissipate all the heat it puts out. The integrated handles are very nice for moving it into place with or without help.
The Mark Levinson No533H is a powerful, but expensive, component for your home theater. Since amplifiers are not replaced every year, unlike HDMI standards, you can buy the No533H and install it in your system knowing that the weak link in your system is not your amplifier for the rest of time. The No533H sounds fantastic, measures fine, and is impeccably constructed. There isn’t much more I can ask for in an amplifier than that.