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Mark Levinson
№ 5805

Price (when reviewed): 35 990 PLN

Contact: Harman International
400 Atlantic Street, 15th Floor
Stamford, CT 06901 | USA


Provided for test by: AUDIO STYL

MARK LEVINSON AUDIO SYSTEMS (MLAS, Ltd.) is a company founded by Mark Levinson in 1972 in Woodbridge, Connecticut. It's one of the most famous, recognizable manufacturers of high-end electronics: amplifiers and digital players; for some time now they have also being offering a turntable. Currently the company is a part of the HARMAN INTERNATIONAL INDUSTRIES, that in turn is a part of the SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS. This is a review of their latest integrated amplifier № 5805.

n May 2014, Mark Levinson announced that they plan to launch 17 new products within two years. The ambitious plan was a result of building a completely new research and design center in Shelton (Connecticut, USA). The project was supervised by Todd Eichenbaum, director of the R&D department, who joined Harman after more than twenty years of working for Krell. The first product representing the refreshed series was the № 585 integrated amplifier. Its premiere took place at the High End Show 2014 in Munich.

A year later, in the same place, company presented powerful monoblocks, the № 536, and in 2016 the № 526 preamplifier and the № 519 joined the flock, the latter being a music files player and streamer, DAC, preamplifier and CD player in one. The group was symbolically closed in 2017 with an integrated amplifier № 585.5. It was an expanded version of the model № 585 with an added phono preamplifier section.

It was already known back then that work was underway on the next project, which was to bring - as far as possible - the "company" sound of Mark Levinson into lower price regions. To be exact – to cut the price by half. As a result of these works, an integrated amplifier was developed, opening a completely new 5000 series. It is available in two versions, marked with numbers 5802 and 5805. They differ in functionality, but apart from it their technical specifications are identical. The premiere of these devices took place during the High End Show 2019 in Munich. For this test we received the more expensive of the two, and therefore fully equipped, № 5805.

| № 5805

Mark Levinson is a company offering a characteristic sound, but above all a unique design of its products. It is so characteristic that they could even skip placing a logo on new models, and we would still know that we are dealing with Levinson. Therefore, the design changes made to the 5000 series were risky.

Looks | And yet it's still, without a doubt, a Levinson. Although the division into two, rounded aluminum side elements and the acrylic center was repeatedly copied, it usually remained just that - a copy. In turn, the appearance of the № 5805 is both modern and reflects the history of this brand. On the aluminum, 25 mm thick elements of the front panel there are silver, aluminum knobs, sandblasted in a way characteristic for this brand. The left allows user to select inputs and move around the menu, and the right one adjusts volume and accepts (by pressing) menu selections.

In the middle of the acrylic panel is a large, red, two-line dot-matrix display known from other devices of this company. Settings, i.e. the selected input, volume level, and also parameters of a digital signal whenever applicable, are clearly legible. Below there is a standby button with a red, illuminated border (which flashes in the standby mode), a menu launch button and a headphone output. There is no separate headphone amplifier though. Instead, the company used a special preamp output stage called MainDrive.

The device features a thick, anodized, black, rigid chassis made of bent aluminum sheets. This is one of the elements that had to be sacrificed – in the higher series chassis are bolted from aluminum plates. To reduce vibration, the inner side of the top and bottom of the chassis are covered with a rubber-like material. The amplifier stands on four aluminum feet.

Connectivity | The rear is quite crowded because there are four digital and five analog inputs. The former are: two optical TOSlinks, one coaxial RCA socket and asynchronous USB input supporting PCM signal up to 32 bits and 384 kHz and DSD256; other inputs accept PCM signal up to 24/192. According to the manufacturer, all inputs decode MQA, so one can try to play UHQCD + MQA discs, released by Warner Brothers in Japan. The fifth "input", or in fact a receiver, is Bluetooth with the aptX-HD codec support (you can learn more about aptX-HD HERE).

There are five analog inputs here while the № 5802 sports none. These are three line inputs, one of which is balanced (XLR), and two phono ones - one for MM cartridges, the other for MC. Next to them there are micro switches, that allow user to select different loads for MC cartridges. There is also a preamplifier output. It is as part of the loop for an external home cinema processor – the № 5805 can be part of it, driving the front speakers.

Remote | The amplifier comes with a nice, quite handy remote control, custom designed for the 5000 series. It allows user to select inputs, adjust volume and operate device's menu. There are also buttons that allow to operate a digital player (CD or files, I don't know that) – I guess it will be introduced soon. Oh yes, the menu. You can change a lot of things in it. Such as the type of standby - from the most economical (<0.4 W) to the one that allows you to play immediately on a high level. But then you have to reckon with a constant consumption of 70 W. We can also change the sensitivity of line inputs, the name of all inputs, and also choose one of seven filters for PCM signal, four for DSD and turn on upsampling of the signal to a hi-res PCM or DSD.

There is also an Ethernet port on the rear panel. Today it seems to become a standard and you can find it in many integrated amplifiers (with Hegel H590 being one of them) that feature a digital section with an integrated streamer. Although in this case there is actually no streamer – the port is used only for controlling amplifier's menu via a website and for firmware updates.

Technique | It's a large and powerful amplifier. The company reports that at 8 Ω load, in the 20 Hz to 20 kHz band, it is capable of outputting up to 125 W RMS; however, they do not specify output for 4 Ω load. Interestingly, Hans Ole Vitus, the head of the Vitus Audio company, has a similar approach to the matter of output, because it has technical basics:

Many other manufacturers offers information on output at 4 Ω, 1 kHz, often at peak, i.e. in a short period of time. Who needs this parameter? Of course, it tells us something about the capabilities of the amplifier regarding transients, but that's it. It will not tell us if the amplifier is able to drive given speakers. And the loudspeakers are not a resistor, but impedance. When you look at this mathematically, you will see that the difference between RMS and peak measurement is 2.99. This is a huge difference!

“High Fidelity”, October 2019, No. 186, see HERE

The output stage of the tested amplifier features three pairs of transistors working in class AB, in ThermalLink mode, i.e. with temperature influence compensation. The voltage section is based on two fast transistors working in class A and "draws" - as company literature says - of the solutions used in the № 534. In turn, the preamplifier is a redesigned version of the PureDirect system, used in the № 585.

The power supply uses a large, over five-hundred watts toroidal transformer with separate secondary windings for each of the channels and for control circuits. Next to the output stages there are eight capacitors with a capacity of 10,000 μF each. The digital section was based on the PrecisionLink II system used in higher models of this company. Its heart is the 32-bit ESS Sabre D/A converter with a de-jitter circuit and a balanced, discrete I/U converter.

As some of you surely know, the Polish premiere of the Mark Levinson № 5802 and № 5805 took place on September 14th in the Silesian Philharmonic Concert Hall building.


I listened to № 5805 in the „High Fidelity's” reference system and compared it to my pre-power set including Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier and Soulution 710 power amplifier. Additionally I compared Levinson to another integrated amplifier, Vitus Audio SIA-030.

Both analog and digital signals were delivered by Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition |№ 1/50 | (SACDs and CDs), and analog signal also from Mytek Brooklyn Bridge (NAS, Tidal). The amplifier was powered using Acoustic Revive Absolute Power cable. Signal from Ayon was sent using Crystal Cable Absolute Dream IC, and from Mytek using Acoustic Revive XLR-1.5 Triple C-FM (1.8x1.4)

MARK LEVINSON in “High Fidelity”
  • TEST: Mark Levinson № 519 | streamer/DAC
  • TEST: Mark Levinson № 585 | integrated amplifier
  • AWARD | BEST PRODUCT 2014: Mark Levinson № 52 | preamplifier
  • TEST: Mark Levinson № 52 | preamplifier
  • TEST: Mark Levinson № 512 | Super Audio CD Player

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    • John Coltrane Quartet, Ballads, Impulse!/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UCCU-40001, Platinum SHM-CD (1962/2013)
    • Kortez, Bumerang, Asfalt Records JB 029 2CD, CD (2015);
    • Novika, Tricks of Life, Kayax 013 CD (2006)
    • Patricia Barber, Companion, Premonition Records/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2023, SACD/CD (1999/2003)
    • The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out, Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment/SME Records SRGS-4535, SACD (1959/2000)
    • The Oscar Peterson Trio, We Get Request, Verve/Lasting Impression Music LIM K2HD 032, K2HD Mastering, „24 Gold Direct-from-Master Edition UDM”, Master CD-R (1964/2009)

    The № 5805 is well-built, well equipped and features a balanced artistic design, combining the classic "look" of Mark Levinson devices with a "twist", which takes it to the 21st century.

    That goes for its sound too. Listening to the numerous discs, I quickly determined what the amplifier could and couldn't do, what one could expect from it and what one wouldn't get with it. Something else though, turned out to be much more interesting - searching for something that could be called a "target". Who this device is intended for? Because only a combination of this information gives a solid description of the product.

    Let's start with the basics. The Levinson amplifier has a fantastically balanced sound. I mean, it has a great tonal balance, very well set dynamics and a sound stage matching everything. This is an amplifier whose performance has been worked on for a long time - you can just hear it - and this is not a result of selecting some measurable parameters values, but of modifying the sound AFTER the parameters had been determined. This is an amplifier that is well thought through.

    It would be simple to compare its sound color to what I know from tube amplifiers, above all classics such as McIntosh MC275. But this is also the sound that the Vitus Audio SIA-030 amplifier takes even further up to a new level, that actually also costs 35,000, just Euros not Zlotys :) So we are talking about a slightly warm, dense, full presentation. That is why every album listened to with the № 5805 sounded smooth, liquid and nice. It's a weighty sound, with a saturated lower midrange. Therefore, recordings in which the human voice is important sounded incredibly addictive, powerful and full. That's how both Patricia Barber, whose recordings are almost perfect, but also Kortez' and Novika's, that are also good, but highly compressed and less resolving.

    Because it is a calm amplifier, so to speak. It has a slightly rounded sound attack and a slightly withdrawn treble. And it is these two elements that make it so pleasant to perceive, so trouble-free. I can't imagine a recording it wouldn't do something cool with, would not be "compatible" with. And with the higher quality ones, say, the aforementioned Barber from Companion, or the Master CD-R version of the We Get Request by Oscar Peterson, we get something extra every time, which causes shivers to go down our spines and which justifies spending a hundred, two hundred or even more on a CD, SACD or LP.

    And when we sit down quietly in front of the speakers, when we pump up the volume in Levinson to '55' and more (I am talking about the level in my system, i.e. with my speakers and in my room), we will be surprised every now and again – sometimes with detail richness of the recording, sometimes with its dynamics, and maybe with how deep the bass can get. It will surprise us, because it is not an amplifier that would be particularly remarkable in these respects. It's just good, it's the right level for this price range. Combined with what I wrote earlier, which is a perfect tonal balance, it offers something more, some "finished product/sound".

    Because it is an amplifier that slowly “unfolds” for us. Right from the start, from the first song you can hear that it is a high quality performance based on well-thought-out choices. However, you cannot immediately tell how perfect it is in all this. It does not go deep into the recordings, there is no remarkably deep and wide sound stage - these are elements one gets only with more expensive devices from this manufacturer. Here and now, from № 5805 we will get something else - a guarantee that we will not even look for these elements. And this is, I think, the most important feature of all audio products.

    We know well the sound, which is described as "audiophile", which would be an insult in this particular case, at least from my point of view. Because audiophile sound is - generally - a sound that is extremely resolving, detailed, often even saturated, but completely devoid of "soul". It attacking listener with aggressive treble, creates an extensive sound panorama with precisely separated instruments, emphasizing the separateness of all these elements. It's a bad, bad sound, a caricature of natural sound.

    The latest Mark Levinson amplifier is exactly on the other side of the spectrum of what should not be done in audio. In short - it doesn't offer an "audiophile" sound, it is not a typical "hi-fi" product. Its sound is full, it has a low tonal balance and brings a lot of information. It also differentiates dynamics in an above-average way. However, it rather joins sounds together instead of separating them. Selectivity is not particularly important here, because the decay is shortened, and the decay phase is slightly favored. The texture of the sounds is also smoothed. Because of that, on the one hand, they are similar to each other, but on the other, it is why the sound is so pleasant, smooth, enjoyable. As always in audio – you get some, you lose some.

    | Analog vs digital inputs

    This is a well-thought-out device, also when it comes to its on-board components. The DAC offers a slightly stronger sound than the reference player and a bit brighter too. The attack of sound from the digital input is stronger, which makes the sound more selective. I suggest choosing one of the “slow” filters and the result should be really good. Even though it will still be less resolving sound than with expensive CD and SACD players, but a really satisfying one nonetheless. It is an equally smooth sound, slightly warm, but more open, with a higher center of gravity and a stronger emphasis on the foreground.

    To tell you the truth, if you don't want to spend PLN 10,000 - 15,000 or more on a separate digital player, the Levinson on-board DAC plus a good CD transport and / or file transport will do the job. It's a good, really very good sound. But if we want to have even better sound, if we spend tens of thousands of zlotys on an external, complete player, then the amplifier will show us such "upgrade" nicely, it will pay back with greater vividness and depth of the sound - it's resolving enough to do that.

    | Headphones

    The same is true for the headphone output. It has a tonal balance focused on the midrange, with withdrawn treble and bass, but only enough to make the voices clearer. The space is set up so that the sound seems to surround us, which is very attractive. This brings the foreground forward – obviously we are talking about specific spacing of headphones. So there is no sense of depth. On the other hand, the width of the stage and the pleasant smoothness of this sound will result in a very comfortable listening. The amplifier has enough headroom to drive even difficult magneto-static headphones, without hardening the attack and brightening the sound. From separate, external, high quality amplifiers it differs primarily with its lower resolution.


    There is a good chance that company having unlimited budget on research and talented designers, we will produce high-quality audio products with a very satisfying sound. However, when the device can not be too expensive, when you need to skillfully balance between what you want and can achieve in a hard reality when designing it, the bar goes up. So it's different from what so-called "common sense" would suggest. It's much harder.

    Everything in № 5805 by Mark Levinson has been arranged in such a way that the final result is a classic company's sound at a much lower price level than before. It's a rich, smooth, nice sound with a great tonal balance, beautiful colors and strong, well-controlled bass. There is everything we love audio for. There is proper timbre, there is momentum and dynamics. And there are all these excellent functions that come really handy - only the file player (streamer) is missing. And all this at a price that just a while ago seemed difficult to imagine for any product with Mark Levinson characteristic logo on the front panel.

    All that deserves our – RED Fingerprint, a distinction for unique products.

    Front and rear | We have already provided you with most information in the introduction and it makes no sense to repeat it. I can only add that the device knobs are finished in the same way as in the more expensive Levinson products and that the buttons are also made of aluminum. The sockets on the back are arranged according to how the individual sections are located inside.

    At the top there is an analog section. You can see high quality input and output sockets. Below there is a digital section, and even lower, the control section. One finds here a USB port that could be used to upload a new firmware, also an Ethernet socket, an input for an external infrared sensor, a RS-232, for control in automation systems, and trigger sockets. On each side there is a single pair of gold-plated, nice speaker terminals.

    Inside | Let's look inside the amplifier and it we will find confirmation of what I described a moment ago. In the middle you will see the analog and digital sections bolted to the back panel. These are large, electronics-packed SMD assembled PCBs. The preamplifier circuits are built using transistors, and in the phono section I found nice polypropylene capacitors. Input switching and volume control are carried out in integrated circuits, also the phono preamplifier is also based on the integrated circuits. The volume control is executed using a low-noise stereo Micro Analog Systems MAS6116 system. The whole board is sort of a dual mono design, so there are two such layouts - for the left and right channels.

    The digital section has its own separate PCB with gold-plated tracks. This is a proprietary system called Precision Link II, known also from the № 585 amplifier. Its heart is the ESS Sabre Reference ES9018K2M D/A converter. Left and right channels are separated and balanced. I found there some integrated circuits and transistors, as well as polypropylene Wima capacitors.

    There are separate output stages for the left and right channels and their respective PCBs are bolted directly to heat sinks. In fact, there are two PCBs per channel, because on the smaller one there is a voltage gain section, assembled in SMD technique, and below there is a current section board, with transistors. There are also two large rectifier bridges.

    It is a solid, advanced, high quality design.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    Nominal output: 2 x 125 W RMS/8 Ω
    Damping factor 20Hz-10kHz: > 82
    THD + N: <0.035%/1kHz/125 W, 8Ω | <0.18%/20 kHz/125 W, 8 Ω
    S/N: >103 dB (A-weighted)
    Bluetooth with AptX-HD.
    Headphone output with MainDrive module
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 438 x 145 x 507 mm
    Weight: 28.1 kg


    Reference system 2018

    1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
    2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
    3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
    4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
    5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
    6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
    7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


    Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
    Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
    Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

    AC Power

    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
    Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
    Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
    Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
    Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
    Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
    Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
    Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
    Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


    Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
    Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
    Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

    • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


    Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

    Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

    Record mats:


    Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

    Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC