Mark Levinson No.326S Preamplifier and No.432 Power Amplifier

Equipment report
Categories:
Solid-state preamplifiers
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Products:
Mark Levinson No. 326S
Mark Levinson No.326S Preamplifier and No.432 Power Amplifier

The No.326S had a remarkable transparency, not just sonically (lack of veiling), but to the musical expression. For example, when I listened to guitarist John McLaughlin’s Que Alegria [Verve] from start to finish, the wide spectrum of expression on this album seemed to be heightened. The pensive, almost meditative tracks such as “Reincarnation” seemed even more introspective, and the exuberant “1 Nite Stand” conveyed a stronger feeling of this amazing trio locking into a groove and having a blast. I had this impression every time I listened to the system with the No.326S and No.432—of the system conveying the musical values on the recording. Bass extension, definition, and dynamics were another of the No.326S’s great strengths. Whether it was an orchestra’s double- bass section or an electric bass and kick drum working together, the bottom end had a solidity and power that anchored the music.

The No.326S had a very clean, precise sound, presenting the music against an utterly silent and velvet-black backdrop. Musical dynamics seemed to emerge suddenly from this inky blackness, with deep silences between notes. There was a distinctive lack of haze, both in the background and overlaying musical textures. This quality, combined with the dimensionality described earlier, fostered a deep feeling of engagement and involvement with the music.

CONCLUSION

The Mark Levinson No.432 power amplifier is a worthy successor to the company’s previous efforts in power-amplifier design. It combines brute-force output power with remarkable delicacy and resolution, and embodies the company’s aesthetic of subtlety in presentation. If you know and like the classic Mark Levinson sound, the No.432 won’t disappoint.

The No.326S preamp is a huge step forward for Mark Levinson preamplifiers in resolution, transparency, and dimensionality. With less of an identifiable sonic signature, the No.326S is truer to the source, musically and sonically, than any previous ML preamp. There’s much to like about the No.326S, including its jet-black background, unconstricted dynamic expression, bottom-end punch and extension, and clean, grain-free rendering of timbres. It’s also beautifully built and a joy to use. But what really makes the No.326S special is its remarkable dimensionality. This preamp goes beyond conventional soundstaging to throw a convincing illusion of threedimensional instruments in a three-dimensional space.

Based on my experience with the No.326S and No.432, the Mark Levinson brand under Harman International not only upholds the sterling tradition it spent 35 years developing, it has, in my view, actually expanded the reputation of one of the great marques of high-end audio.