Mark Levinson No. 380S Preamplifiers

No. 380S

Two-channel, solid-state line preamplifier with remote control, optional phono stage, 3 pairs balanced inputs on XLRs, 4 pairs single-ended inputs on RCAs, 1 pair balanced main outputs on XLRs, 1 pair single-ended main outputs on RCAs, 2 pairs record outputs on RCAs, communication connections on 8-pin modular RJ-45 jacks, IR input and trigger output on 3.5mm phone jacks, and RS-232 on 6-pin RJ-11 jack. Maximum voltage gain: 0, 6, 12, or 18dB, individually selectable for each line input. Volume-control range: 80.0dB. Gain resolution: 0.1dB steps above 23.0 on display (–57dB), 1.0dB steps below 23.0 on display (–57dB). Frequency response: 10Hz–40kHz, ±0.2dB. Input overload: 1.6V on XLR, 800mV on RCA (18dB gain setting); 3.3V on XLR, 1.6V on RCA (12dB gain); 6.6V on XLR, 3.3V on RCA (6dB gain); 13.2V on XLR, 6.6V on RCA (0dB gain). Input impedance: 100k ohms. Output impedance: <50 ohms. THD+N: <0.001%. Channel separation, any input to any output, input terminated: >90dB. Residual noise, 20Hz–20kHz, input terminated: <–94dBV. Power consumption: 50W maximum.

User Reviews (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9  
uriah50   AudioPhile [Sep 03, 2012]

I've had this 380S for over 9 years and it's the best pre amp I have ever owned.
Rather than repeat what the others have said below, I'll just say all the reviews
below mine are great. I have never had any issues with my unit and have no intention
of ever replacing it in the near future. If you can find one used at a good price, pick it up,
you will enjoy it.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
GGanaway   AudioPhile [Jun 13, 2009]

I’ve been fortunate enough to own 3 of the more popular Mark Levinson preamplifiers: My first was the No 380, which I owned for 3 years before upgrading to a No 32. I sold the No 32 a month ago to help simplify my system and stepped down to a No 380S as its replacement.

While it’s been 3 ½ years since I owned the No 380, I have upgraded all cabling in the system making it very difficult, if not impossible to compare the two. I did spend a weekend with a demo 380S just prior to purchasing the 380. I based that decision purely on budget limitations. That said, I will do my best to base my review on my experiences with the 380S as a stand-alone preamplifier. So here goes, the 380S uses the same design approach as the No. 380 and gains its improvement with upgrades to 50 components. As many have pointed out, the No 380S is a very, very good preamplifier; whose shortcomings are only apparent when comparing it to the No 32 or other reference preamplifiers. My experience is that 380S offers lower grain, and greater transparency than the 380. It has a more open sound and the equipment seems to get out of the way of the music better. These differences are identifiable, immediately apparent and constantly in your face with every note, every recording session, every concert hall, every recording. These improvements (to me) then and now are worth the $2,500 price delta new. Current market prices for the two make them only about $1,000 apart and for that it’s a no-brainer, opt for the 380S.

As I have come to spend considerable time in 2-channel audio as a hobby, I’ve read countless reviews of equipment. The reviewers use descriptive terms like: transparent, warm, deeper soundstage, pace, decay, and the all too common “better bass” to describe components. For me all of these are understandable, but at the end of the day; listening is an emotional thing. It boils down to how true the reproduction is to the original recording session – it is as simple as that. I don’t want warm sound or harsh sound or even transparent sound. I simply want to hear what the recording engineer heard and for me the 380S does an ample job of that, particularly at today’s used prices; but I still miss my No 32.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Hammer77B   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 14, 2002]
Strength:

Ease of operation, logical controls, great user interface. Great control of the music no matter how complex. Works well with different amps (Levinson, Carver, tubes, Mcintosh, etc.)The background is so quite, no noise to speak of, the music blossoms from this deep black background and is presented in all it's many colors and shadings.

Weakness:

Expensive, but on the used market well worth it!

Purchased a used/NOS 38S upgraded (at the factory) to 380S status. Liquid sound, not harsh or to analytical, balanced with no bloom. If you haven't moved to 380S and can afford to do so, DO SO! There is a noticable difference and it's for the better.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Huy   Audiophile [Apr 08, 2000]
Strength:

Neutral sound and supremely transparent soundstage. A straight wire with gain.
Addictive remote control that offers every fine 0.1 db volume adjustment.

Weakness:

Very revealing of components upstream, including interconnect cables. You need high quality upstream components.
It takes a long time to break in to achieve optimal sound - at least 400-500 hours.

I have upgraded the Bryston BP 20 preamp to the Mark Lenvinson No. 380S preamp a few months ago. For the first 4 weeks, things didn't seem quite right with the sound of the No. 380s. The sound tends towards the dark side of neutrality. I was thinking to myself that maybe the No. 380s didn't sound as good as the BP 20 so I was starting to get cranky because the BP 20 was 1/5 the price of the No. 380s. However, on the 5th week, the sound of the No. 380s finally came into its own. In one phrase, the No. 380s is a straight wire with gain. There is no denying this. I will not attempt to classify the sound within the frequency range and break it down into the Bass, Midrange, High Frequency section becaucse this is the function relating to the components upstream. The role of the preamp is to function as close as possible to a straight wire with gain.

With that in mine, the sound reproduced by the No. 380s is absolutely transparent. It recreates a convincing holographic event within my dedicated listen room (16'Wx21.5'Dx8.5'H). The ambiance cues are retrieved convincingly. Halls and recording venues are easily discernable. Micro and macro dynamics are effortlessly reproduced. Voices and instruments occupy the front half of my room with uncanny realism. One area the No. 380s really outshines the BP 20 is in the separation of specific objects within the sound field. No more smearing between specific objects compared to the BP 20. This is most notable on large and complex recordings. On relatively simple trios or quartets recordings, the smearing is not as evident. Aslo, aside from the fabulous sound, the No. 380s comes with a remote control that lets the user adjust the volume in 0.1 db increment. For me, every recording has that one optimal volume setting and the No. 380s suits that task perfectly.

The No. 32 provides just that little more ease and control of reproduced sound; however, the No. 380s is very very close - maybe too close to call. Given that the No. 380s is roughly 1/3 the price of the No. 32, it is a no-brainer in choosing between the two Mark Levinson preamps.

One last note, I really liked the sound of the Classe reference preamp (In tandem with the Classe Omega amplifier); however, the remote control of the Classe reference preamp provides only 0.5 db volume adjustment compared to 0.1 db volume adjustment of the No. 380s.

Provinsional 4 stars for value because it is still quite expensive; however, 5 stars for overall rating because in my humble opinion the No. 380s is one of the finest sounding preamps I have ever heard and it may well be the best out there right now!

Associated equipment:

Theta Data Basic CD transport
Mark Levinsion No. 360s DAC
Mark Levinsion No. 380s Preamp
Classe CA 401 Power Amplifier
Mirage M1 si's bipolar loudspeakers
Cardas Golden Reference, Quadlink Interconnect cables
Space and Time Quatum II bi-wired speaker calbes

Similar Products Used: Used Bryston BP 20, Carver CT-7.
Auditioned Mark Levinson No. 32, No. 380, No. 38s, Classe CP 60, Classe reference preamp (in tadem with Classe Omega amplifier).
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
WSLam   an Audio Enthusiast [Jul 08, 1999]

Another fine piece of Madrigal equipment. I bought them about half a yr ago, and have enjoy it since. Soundstage, tone, dynamics are all excellent. And it doesn't sound that 'digital' to me. I would love to hear the new No. 32 to compare though.
Highly recommended, EXCEPT if you think multichannel MUSIC will take over 2 channel. Then you might want to wait for an audiophile class multichannel preamp/processor.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
JAMES JOHNSON   Audiophile [Sep 19, 2001]
Strength:

unbeliveable inner detail

Weakness:

cost to dam mkuch

Make no mistake about it the 38os is straight wire with gain.
Only tubes can give the live three-dimensional depth of field wrong this is so much better and no dam tube change ever. I was on my way to buy the cj17, I herd the sound and it was beautiful a bit more romantic then the real thing.
If live music is your love then the 38os is the way to go. I must also mention that separation is just right on most music, the inner details, a long with the base is beyond any tube unit I have ever herd. What if you could hear every musician playing in thier own spaces with complete fidelity to the music and hall all at the same time with no smearing of inner detail on every cd I put on and If I record a live performances it is played back with out a complaint. I hope you have the best equipment to go with it or I can only say for get about it. I will soon be replacing that dam cd player.
Associated equipment is Sonic Frontier power two-amplifier setup for my infinity references standard 1b speakers on the mid and high panels with a Classe DR9 for the base panels.
I trust my musician friends to know there own sound. I have a Rotel rcd 971 cd player and a revox b77 tape deck for playback of live music. I know I must change my cd player I’m looking for a dealer in my area with good prices on the no39.
I also want to mention I purchased the dealer demo with a trade for my old tube pre-amp and for this time I got a break, the prices just increased. I still get the five-year warranty. The sound was already broke in. If you can find this thing at a discount please go and listen, you will not regret it.

Similar Products Used: Sonic Frontier
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
PJ   a Casual Listener [Dec 17, 1998]

My 380S is actually an upgrade from the original 38. When I listened to the 38 the first time I installed in my system, I felt many thing have disapeared. Compared to the original straight connection from the Sony DAS-R1 DAC, the exploding highs and the height of the soundfield disapeared. All sound images were closed in within the two speakers.Although adding warmth to vocals, the total sound lacked in liveness. Swapping the interconnects and the internal cabling of the main amplifier did improve the sound but still not to the previous level.However, being spoiled by the convenience of the volume control and perfect balance match, I kept using the 38 for 3 years. After changing the DAC to No.30.5, I couldn't get satisfied. Then came the 380S. I did not have the chance to listen to the 380S before deciding to modify the 38, but reading the reviews, I decided to do so.After using the 38 for 3 years, the whole main board being swapped to the new 380S at the cost of $2750 is a good deal.This was a true improvement. Now the soundfield explodes outside the speaker systems, although much more palpable,you can feel the instruments being surrounded by air.I do not know how the 380S compares with the ultra heavy Accuphase C-290V, the tube ARC Reference,or the Levinson's most recent No.32 Pre, but it is a very good sounding pre. If you own a 38,but want to have somthing better at a reasonable price, and want to stick on to the Levinsons, upgrading to 380S is a recommendation.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
James Drucas   Audiophile [Mar 16, 2001]
Strength:

Excellent preamp well made and excellent sound quality

Weakness:

none until I bought the #32

Excellent quality and good looks. the top end krell preamp sounds a little bit better but not worth the price difference, but the #32 is by far the best preamp I have ever heard. I still own both 380s and #32. Now use 380s in my other system for gaming on my computer and tuner.

System
380s
1 pair 436's
2 pairs of linn ninka speakers bi-wired
Tara labs air cables
Audioquest granite speaker cables

Similar Products Used: Most of the mark levinson line, krell, Cello Audio Research
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Jimmy James   an Audiophile [Aug 23, 1999]

The 380S is as close to reference as I will ever get and as close to reference as most audio equipment mfrs could aspire to. It does everything right. It bests the 380 in presentation, lack of grain, more air and bloom, finer detail. But all this just barely beter than the 380 but it is without a doubt perceptable. Is it worth $6500 to $7000. I don't know. I paid quite a bit less. Shop around. I do know the next price point for something claiming to be better is $15,000, the new ML 32 and the Connie Jay Art (15?). I have not heard either one but talked to people who have (owners) and they claim the differnce is night and day (wouldn't you?). 380s works best in balanced input and output modes. Single ended inputs in conjunction with outboard phono section add too much (buffering?). A ML 37 thru the 380S sounds better than a 39 thru a 33(1-6)amp. I do not think it has a solid state peer at a discounted (20% at least) price point.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-9 of 9  

(C) Copyright 1996-2018. All Rights Reserved.

audioreview.com and the ConsumerReview Network are business units of Invenda Corporation

Other Web Sites in the ConsumerReview Network:

mtbr.com | roadbikereview.com | carreview.com | photographyreview.com | audioreview.com