MARK LEVINSON No.326S

TR18.01.2014

Preamplifiers

The virgin purity of a dialogue between a cello and a piano, subtly underlined by the echo of an acoustic guitar, was fascinating through the No. 326S. It was from "to die for" category, when you just hold your breath not to interfere with the performance that happens right in the middle of your listening room.

100% reference

Function and form

93%
Ease of use
81%
Sound
94%
Appearance

The design is a typical Levinson: brushed black aluminum, two big knobs and an array of greyish push buttons under a red matrix display. You do not need more to withstand the tooth of time. The No. 326S has been in the make since 2009 without a change and still belongs to the finest preamps ever designed.

Two discrete volume attenuator modules are constructed with Arlon 25N circuit boards with local power-supply regulation and bypass capacitors. They allow adjustments in 1.0dB increments up to 23.0dB, and
0.1dB increments above 23.0dB.

Connections: 3x XLR, 4x RCA (single-ended input signals are converted to balanced signals upon entering the chassis, and processed as balanced signals thereafter). Phono board is optional.

Bass management

Weight
90
Slam
91
Articulation
91

The No. 326S’s single-chassis features separation of the audio circuit, control and power supply sections. The sections are separated by their physical layout, as well as by a steel shield box that protects against EMI. Filtered AC power is routed outside audio circuit sections. The No. 326S offers a series of effective noise-suppression and isolation technologies to filter the AC power.  In addition, each channel’s audio circuits are located in a separate area of the chassis. For even greater isolation, the No. 326S deactivates unused inputs to prevent interference from associated components.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
90
Air
90
Transparency
90

Overalll transparency is the biggest strength of the No.326S. I have never had a feeling that it distorts or compresses. The showpieces like Could You Believe from Naim sampler (Antonio Forcione & Sabine Sciubba) are crystalline clear through the No. 326S. The guitar has amazingly precise outline and superb dimensionality that combines high resolution with great palpability. The dynamic transients of strings are like mini detonations on the exceptionally quiet and black background. I assume that the Mark levinson No. 326S is one of the quietest amps I have ever heard.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
88
Dynamics
92
Temporal resolution
92

The absence of any electric noise supports both micro and macrodynamic contrasts. This experience of the sound's clarity on the pitch black canvas is something that I realized only after few days when the No. 326S was removed from the system.  I missed it so badly!

Angels (Leo Green on the very same Naim sampler) is a slightly teenageish version of Robbie Williams's song, however it is a gem soundwise. Through the No.326S it shines like a diamond. The saxophone materialized in my room, the cymbals had the substance that differentiates the sizzle from a real life events and the drums acquired nice round thud that resonated in my belly.

Spatial resolution

Holography
91
Soundstage width
93
Soundstage depth
90

A very nice touch is that the volume is faded down and then up when changing inputs, which gives you a few microseconds to switch back if the next source is too loud. You can prevent happening this by defining the input sensitivity (the No. 326S allows to do that for each input).

P.S. I bought the reviewed unit.

Price as reviewed:270 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Excelia HiFi, Chrudim, tel. +420 724 00 77 44

Absolute Audio, Praha, tel. +420 777 739 377

Associated components

  • Sources: C.E.C. TL 51XR
  • Amplifiers: Mark Levinson No.432
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Kubala-Sosna Emotion
  • Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Studio2
  • Power conditioning: IsoTek Titan with IsoTek cables

Gallery

ACCUPHASE C-3800

Nature works with infinite number of colors – hifi & high end components have very limited palettes, however. Fortunately we have already passed the black & white point yet a real orchestra sounds different from what one usually ...

Recommended resellers

Nisel SK, Bratislava, tel. +421 905 203 078

Sound
92%

AUDIOMAT Opus 2

Philosophically speaking, how it is possible that the Audiomat listeners say that the voice of Frank Sinatra in Nice & Easy is perfectly realistic, undistorted and tonally correct? None of them have ever had a chance to hear ...

Recommended resellers

Interaudio SK, Komárno, tel. +421 905 884 677

Sound
78%

BEL CANTO Pre3

It was as if the recording venue had new air filters installed and an extra dose of oxygen was pumped in during a performance – the sense of vertigo was very strong and I did not want to return back to the ´dusty´sound of everything ...

Recommended resellers

Hanzel Audio, Komárno, tel. +421 905 400 770

Sound
64%

BESPOKE AUDIO passive preamplifier

This passive preamplifier is unprecedented. The level of customer care that is out into conceiving every single unit is amazing and throws you back in time, when shoes were made by shoemakers rather than chosen from a full shelves in ...

Recommended resellers

HI-FI studio TYKON, Ostrava, tel. +420 723 449 894

Sound
99%

CREEK OBH-22

The Creek OBH-22 was a heart-stopper. When I substitued different preamps with it or when I used it as a front end of integrated amplifiers, it did not do anything that would impair the sound. So actually it did what it was supposed ...

Recommended resellers

High-End Audio Studio, Praha, tel. +420 224 256 844

Sound
20%

LUXMAN C-700u / M-700u

To conclude I can only reconfirm that Luxman have made a quantum leap with the new generation models. The difference between its top amplifiers is rather the one in sonic character – the M-900u is closer to the previous Luxman’s class ...

Recommended resellers

HTP s.r.o., tel: +420 606 642 175

PP HiFi Otrokovice, tel. +420 603 581 305

Nisel SK, Bratislava, tel. +421 905 203 078

Sound
78%

LUXMAN C-900u / M-900u

After I carefully positioned a pair of loudspeakers I removed my usual pink noise CD and replaced it with music. The room was flooded with Beethoven’s Seventh and my jaw dropped – not only is the new Luxman’s combo a two-generation ...

Recommended resellers

HTP s.r.o., tel: +420 606 642 175

PP HiFi Otrokovice, tel. +420 603 581 305

Nisel SK, Bratislava, tel. +421 905 203 078

Sound
87%
Back to category