Mark Levinson No. 31.5 CD Players

3.67/5 (3 Reviews) MSRP : $9495.00

Product Description

Reference Digital Transport

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Reviews 1 - 3 (3 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:2
Submitted by Mike a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 5, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I received the unit after anxiously awaiting delivery from a local dealer. I expected the unit to be fabulous from an aesthetic standpoint and I was not let down. The size, weight (though not as robustly built as my form Sony SCD-1) and design were outstanding. The pleasure derived from opening and closing that really cool door atop the unit almost justifies the asking price. Now, that is where the wonder wears thin and the metal is put to the fire. I set it up (remember this is a dealer demo so it is fully broken in) and let it come to thermal equilibrium for about 17 hours. I played a variety of disks from Eva Cassidy to Dian Krall. I also used BabyFace/Clapton MTV unplugged, the soundtrack from City of Angels and the really well recorded Burmeister Ref demo CD. I noticed on the first track of the Burmeister CD (sorry I don't know the name of the track) as complete loss of air and spatial representation. The sound became closed in and the voice took on the nature of sounding hi-fi-ish. It sounded nearly like a completely different person singing. Now don't laugh or scoff.., I put the CD back into my mainstay (while I am searching for a reference CD transport) transport (a Cambridge D500SE modified with a mortite damped chassis) and it kicked the snot out of the 31.5. I actually placed a call to an audiophile buddy and he heard the difference over the phone and picked the Cambridge with no prodding or information given about which unit was playing. He also thought the 31.5 sounded closed in, lifeless and very unnatural. I repeated this back and forth test for about 3 hours with about 6 or 7 different CD's in total. The conclusion was that I am passing on this product. I was very upset because I really really love the design and operational features of the unit, but this make me wonder if maybe Madrigal isn't counting on the customer becoming seduced by shear magnificence of the design and foregoing its sonic attributes. Well, not me, I need to feel the music, so the search continues. Next I think I will get a CEC TL0. I will post a review once I have thoroughly evaluated the unit.
PS>The unit sounded so bad I actually put a call in to Martin at Mark Levinson to find out if he thought maybe the unit I had was defective. The conclusion was neither of us think so, but I am going to try to have the dealer come by and listen to both the Levinson and Cambridge. I will write a follow up on the outcome. As it stands I must grade the unit based on what I heard in my home on my system. I could not in good conscience give it even 3 stars, due to the fact that, well it is not average when it gets its clock cleaned by a $450.00 cd player (being used as a transport).

Nestorovic NA1 amps
Kora Eclipse Preamp
Moded ART DIO DA (Donnie Smith in NY mod (the real deal)
Legacy Audio Whispers,
2 Legacy Audio LFExtreme Subwoofers
FIM and Murray James cabling

Additions on the way:
Tube Research Labs Pre with built in 2 way crossover
Tube Research Labs 50 Watt SET mono (I will be bi-amping)
More Murray James cabling and Virtual Dynamics cabling

Holiday Wishes,


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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1999

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:2
Submitted by Marcus Carmichael a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: October 21, 2001

Bottom Line:   
It suprised me that a transport could have much of an influence on quality. Admittedly, much of the benifits of using a decent transport are in reducing interference between components, this transport does an excellent job in this respect, or at least it must given the sound it helps to reproduce.
You pay mostly for build and cost of components in respect to this transport. It is to some degree overkill. There is negligable difference between this and a Levinson no.37 but it does look good and is a delight to use. If you have money to burn like myself then this is a nice way to burn it. Used with a suitable dac, this transport will give you an extremely accurate interpretation of the information stored on your cd collection. Needless to say poor recordings sound as poor as they are.

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1999

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Greg a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: August 22, 2001

Bottom Line:   
While the argument for CD-transports can be made that bits are bits and the magic is all in the DAC, I believe this is not the case. When coupled with a reference quality DAC and system, the detail, transparency, and presence the Mark Levinson No. 31.5 Reference Digital Transport provides are unparalled.

The unit's construction is both robust and appealing. The main transport, a 2x industrial CD-ROM, is physically isolated from the chassis by a special suspension, has adjustment screws and a bubble for levelling, and a dampening plate that is magnetically held in place over the CD. Access to the main transport is from the top (which makes rack-mounting problematic) and is protected by a really cool lid that silently raises and lowers over the entire transport area providing for nearly silent operation.

ML's proprietary Closed-Loop Jitter-Reduction circuitry is used to reduce jitter before passing the digital stream to a processor. AES/EBU 110 Ohm, S/PDIF 75 Ohm, HP ST optical, and EIAJ (Toslink) digital output connectors are provided. Needless to say, choosing the highest quality connection, which would be AES/EBU then S/PDIF, with a high quality digital interconnect is crucial in getting the most from the 31.5.

The 31.5 has lots of bells and whistles when it comes to display and control of the unit. The remote controls all the important functions and then some and is, like the main unit, ruggedly built. The 31.5 also includes the Madrigal Communications Linking system which allow one, if they have linked the 31.5 to other ML No. 3x units, to control various functions on other units from the 31.5 remote. For example: muting, volume control, signal polarity, etc. See for all the gory details on the unit's capabilities.

When comparing the 31.5 to various other SACD players, CD players, and transports (through a ML 30.6 digital processor), I was amazed at the level of detail, natural sound, and depth it pulled from a CD. While the top-notch SACD players like the Sony SCD-1 and Marantz SA-1 provided slightly superior sound for SACDs, they fell far short when playing CDs. As the number of CDs available far ecplise those of SACDs, and the future of SACD is uncertain as of yet, I felt investing in a reference CD system wasn't short sighted. In any case, ML has a good reputation of offering upgrades and if SACD or DVD-Audio makes significant market penetration, hopefully there will be an upgrade path that provides a reference quality solution for *both* formats.

In any case, for those of you interested in hearing what can be accomplished with a reference quality CD transport, I highly recommend auditioning the No. 31.5.


Mark Levinson No. 30.6 Reference Digital Processor
Mark Levinson No. 32 Reference Preamp
Mark Levinson No. 33 Reference Amps
Revel Ultima Gem Speakers
Revel Sub-15/LE-1 Subwoofer System
Transparent AES/EBU 110 Ohm Reference Digital Link
Transparent Reference XL Balanced Interconnects
Transparent Reference Bi-Cable Speaker Wire

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1996

Price Paid:    $8830.00

Purchased At:   The Audible Difference

Reviews 1 - 3 (3 Reviews Total)

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