MARK LEVINSON No.585

MJ18.05.2015

Integrated amplifiers

The Mark Levinson No.585 inherits the best of company’s trademark sound: powerful control, pitch black background and huge dynamic contrasts – all work in perfect synergy to show off all sound nuances in a very attractive style. Without judging if this is the correct way of presentation I can only say that this is the exactly what is needed to nail you down to your listening chair for hours.

100% reference

Function and form

100%
Ease of use
90%
Sound
97%
Appearance

The No.585 is a ´plug &play´ type of device. The only thing to be done is to connect any source and to connect any speakers. Any means any. Analog or digital data, it is up to you, the Levinson handles everything. Its internal topology reflects Mark Levinson’s trademark of strictly mirror-imaged dual-mono architecture to ensure that both channels are fully identical. The device is built around bipolar transistors – though I prefer Mosfets I have to acknowledge that from what I witnessed with new Luxman’s M-900u a M-700u radically changed my view of what I though was achievable with bipolars. No.585 continues confirming that.

Unlike the Levinson’s power amplifiers (No.432, No.532 and No.532H) the No.585 does not provide separate transformers for each channel, rather it provides one single 900VA toroid with individual secondary windings for the left and right channels. Volume controls use discrete 15-bit ladders and low-noise analog switches – it becomes apparent by turning the volume knob when characteristic clicking sound can be heard.

On paper the No.585 provides 2x200W into 8 ohms with guaranteed stability down to 2 ohms which I find quite important as a lot of speakers have minimum impedance there (though not explicitly specified). The No.585 is a Class AB amp so one cannot expect doubling its power rating into a half-load, yet I assume it is safe to estimate that this beast can play to 4 ohms with more than 280 Watts and this is the power enough for even the most dynamic recordings in a standard listening room. Combine the power with respectable damping factor of 400 and excellent signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB and you can really connect the No.585 to any loudspeakers.

The No.585 supports pure stereo 2.1 and 2.2 modes (two speakers plus one or two subs). You can apply a high-pass filter to the Levinson’s pre-out outputs to cut down everything below 80Hz with 12 dB/octave, which may be useful if you want to set your monitor speakers free and let a subwoofer (or two) do the job. It is standard for the ML that it makes system integration through Ethernet, RS-232 and trigger bus.

The connectivity of the No.585 is more than sufficient: 3x RCA and 1x XLR analogue inputs, one pre-out output and proprietary winged nuts (hurricane they call it in Mark Levinson) of speaker terminals. However, the no.585 goes a step further and expands its possibilities with other attractive features: six digital inputs. An ESS Sabre 32bit DAC is an integrated part of the amplifier – it accepts PCM (32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz or 192kHz/32-bit) and DSD data through AES/EBU (1x), S/PDIF coaxial (2x), opticalToslink (2x) and asynchronous USB (1x). In case you fell in love, unlike me, with the hype around so called hi-res formats, here you are.

Bass management

Weight
88
Slam
92
Articulation
90

The ML No.585 has firm grip on speakers, the control and authority are apparent from every move of membranes. There is a grave-deep bass guitar, dueling with drums, in Antolini’s Arabian Desert Groove (Knock Out 2000, In Akustik). Both instruments are presented with precise contours, laser-cut transients, subterranean lows and juicy and dynamic sound. To be more specific the sound is perhaps not necessarily more dynamic than with other good amplifiers but subjectively the balance of the No.585 creates the impression of explosiveness and great contrasts.

I could hear it in richly orchestrated full-range music, was it symphonic music or swing ensembles. The firm hand of the No.585 stops instruments creating clusters or clump together, rather it nicely delineates every single nuance of the performance and sends it to the speakers. There is no haziness or electronic noise in the musical background, the recordings are like freshly cleaned and pure.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
90
Air
90
Transparency
88

The soprano of Judith Blegen in Carl Orff’s meisterwerk Carmina Burana (Robert Shaw, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Telarc) was clean and extended without any sign of thinness or fragility. The recording like this is extremely demanding for acuity of soundstaging as the usual orchestral scene is enhanced through several soloists plus a massive choir. And it was the very communication between the orchestra, choir and the listener (myself) that made me smile – finally, this was right...

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
87
Dynamics
94
Temporal resolution
92

The canvas that the ML No.585 uses for painting its sonic pictures is a bit of mixed bag. I already mentioned that there is objective lack of the background noise and that the sounds are emerging from a deep-black universe. Yet, like the black canvas absorbs the light so that we can’t see its texture, the Levinson misses them a bit too – the faintest nuances that help to complete the listening experience are not apparent as much as with some other great amplifiers. This sensation is very difficult to describe – all the minute details like noises from the orchestra or a nail touching a neighboring string on the neck of a violin are present. What remains in the dark are the softest ambient clues, the air movements - the inner breath of music. Is this the reason why listening to the Mark Levinson No.585 is perhaps too precise, perfect and polished to be realistic? Well, do not take me too seriously as my thoughts do not take pricing levels into consideration. Within its category the No.585 is among the finest integrated amplifiers ever built.

Spatial resolution

Holography
90
Soundstage width
90
Soundstage depth
90

The façade of the No.585 is simple: the amp can be set up with six satin white buttons and two knobs. There is no need for a manual as the software is very intuitive and easy to use. The No.585 provides personalization possibilities for useful functions: you can name the inputs, set the sensitivity of each (+/-12 dB in very fine 0.1dB steps), and choose the filtration mode of digital ones (fast, slow and minimum phase filters are available).

There is one more thing. Harman implemented its proprietary Clari-Fi™ system in No.585. The system should improve the playback of low-resolution comprised audio formats by reconstructing the missing information. Though it is possible to extrapolate a lot of thing I remain convinced that music is a way too delicate animal so that it could be just reconstructed. At least I did not hear a proof yet, nor with the No.585. I also assume that if you want to play back MP3s that you will not need an amplifier of the ML No.585’s caliber. So I consider the Clari-Fi to be just a nice add-on function for non-audiophiles.

Price as reviewed:350 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

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

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

Associated components

  • Sources: Luxman D-06
  • Amplifiers: Mark Levinson No.432
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Atohm ZEF max
  • Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Studio2

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