Mark Levinson No. 380S
Description: 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.
June 13, 2009
5 of 5
5 of 5
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.
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Spec and image from Stereophile’s John Atkinson January, 2006 Mark Levinson No. 380S Review.