Experience Big-Sky Openness, 3D Imaging, Etch-Free Highs, and Sweeping Soundstages: Mark Levinson № 534 Dual-Mono Amplifier's Performance Matches Its Cutting-Edge Engineering
Most high-end manufacturers approach designs with several hopeful end-goals in mind. Mark Levinson developed the № 534 dual-mono amplifier beginning with a daunting list of firm technical demands and measurable specifications that, once met, would bring about verifiable sonic outcomes – not just wishful results. Inspired by classic tradition yet built to meet future needs, № 534 features fully discrete, dual-mono Pure Path amplification and fully differential architecture. Able to effortlessly drive virtually any loudspeaker, the U.S.A.-built № 534 delivers 250Wpc into eight ohms and a hulking 500Wpc into four ohms. It reproduces music with a combination of big-sky openness, three-dimensional imaging, etch-free highs, sweeping soundstaging, and sonorous bass that are as select as the engineering that makes it all possible.
Indeed, the Stereophile Editors' Choice Award-winning № 534 had to meet a strict list of requirements before the concept turned to reality. Levinson engineers insisted on harmonic distortion levels at <0.02% at 1kHz and <0.2% at 20kHz; bandwidth extending from 0.2Hz to 120kHz (and beyond); critically damped square-wave response with leading and trailing edges free of slewing artifacts; and optimized open-loop linearity and bandwidth, with global negative feedback within the 12-20dB range. This incredible musical instrument meets all those parameters and then some, and most importantly, transcends technical numbers to deliver immersive, natural, lifelike sound that will have you want to keep listening for a lifetime. Experience № 534 in your home with the security of our 100% Music Direct Satisfaction Guarantee.
“It packs into a single enclosure the fast, taut, neutral sound, dynamic range, transparency, and bass speed and extension of a pair of No.536es; it shares that monoblock's top-quality construction and design, enough power output for even the largest rooms, microprocessor-based connectivity to computers and home audio-control systems, ability to install firmware updates from the Internet, a first-rate protection system backed up by fail-safe thermal switches, and straightforward operation without vexing turn-on sequences. In short, the No.534 delivers the No.536's sound and build quality at two-thirds the price.”
—Larry Greenhill, Stereophile
A Mark Levinson Exclusive: Pure Path Circuit Design
Since 1972, Mark Levinson has been dedicated to the uncompromising art of sound, guided by the principle of musical purity. To achieve that goal like never before, Mark Levinson engineers scoured company archives and developed a circuit-design philosophy called Pure Path. On a conceptual level, its hallmark principles include a discrete, direct-coupled, fully balanced, dual-monaural signal path that delivers unrestricted, uncompromising purity. Far from merely arranging high quality components in an intelligent manner, Pure Path represents the meeting of science and art – and both measured and subjective performance. Pure Path highlights in № 534 include Folded Cascodes, an extremely high bias current, and very little negative feedback.
High Gain with Low Noise and Wide Bandwidth: The Folded Cascode
Mark Levinson components are designed around a Pure Path amplifier circuit concept that makes heavy use of a circuit design element called a cascode. Originally created for improving the bandwidth of vacuum-tube circuits in radios, cascodes both improve bandwidth and enhance linearity. A cascode combines two transistors so that they operate as a single composite device that functions like a single transistor, using the wanted characteristics of each component transistor, and rejecting the unwanted characteristics. Mark Levinson engineers began their design of the preamp gain stage with pairs of JFETs (junction field-effect transistors) chosen for their low noise and high gain. JFETs achieve such characteristics by being large, and with their size comes nonlinear gain – or distortion. To mitigate this, BJTs (bipolar junction transistors) are added to the circuit. BJTs exhibit very low input impedance and very high output impedance, which translates to excellent bandwidth and linearity. By creating a cascode of the JFETs and BJTs, Levinson engineers created a design with the best characteristics of both sets of devices. The output of the cascode is then connected to another transistor of the opposite "gender." Current flows through it in the opposite direction to "turn around" the direction of the signal current. This special connection is called a Folded Cascode and a hallmark of the Pure Path circuit: High gain with low noise, wide bandwidth, and excellent linearity.
Best-Possible Open-Loop Performance
The audio circuitry in № 534 is optimized for the best-possible open-loop performance. As a result, very little negative feedback is necessary, and the amount employed can be adjusted to achieve certain subjective or objective results. The open-loop gain and bandwidth of the circuit are painstakingly set using precision resistors and compensation capacitors. Additional precision resistors compose the feedback network.
Uncompromising Construction: Military-Grade Components
All Mark Levinson equipment employs electronic components carefully chosen for their specific task. Gain-stage JFET pairs have high gain, low noise, and low distortion. And since they are encapsulated in the same package, the two devices operate under nearly identical conditions. Capacitors used in critical filtering locations are film types, noted for their consistent performance regardless of temperature and frequency. Finally, resistors in critical gain-setting and feedback locations use tantalum nitride thin-film elements. Tantalum nitride typically finds use in sensitive military equipment because it is unusually stable with respect to temperature, exhibits very low noise, and is unaffected by magnetic fields. In fine audio equipment, those characteristics make the sound more revealing and effortless, free of the low-level nonlinearities caused by lesser resistive materials as they heat and cool under dynamic conditions.
Modern Flexibility, Connectivity, and Integration
№ 534 offers balanced and single-ended inputs for use with virtually any preamplifier or source player with variable output. For connection to loudspeakers, № 534 features four pairs of gold-plated binding posts with Mark Levinson Hurricane terminal knobs to support either standard or bi-wired loudspeaker connections. Speaker cables terminating in banana plugs can be used in the USA and other non-European countries. System-integration connectivity includes Ethernet/IP control, RS-232, USB for monitoring and configuration via web page, plus 12V triggers.
The Mark Levinson Advantage
Few, if any, names are more synonymous with premium-level high-end audio as Mark Levinson. Unafraid to take spare-no-expenses approaches and unbowed in their pursuit of absolute purity, U.S.A.-made Mark Levinson products continually set new standards for the entire industry. Focusing on prestigious sound quality, time-defying longevity, and meticulous craftsmanship, every component wearing the Mark Levinson badge is at once a symbol of sonic excellence – and a sign you and your music have arrived at an exclusive destination.
- Pure Path discrete, direct-coupled, fully balanced, dual-monaural signal path
- Expansive, fine imaging, extended low-frequency response/pitch
- 250Wpc into 8 ohms, 500Wpc into 4 ohms, with 2-ohm stability
- Fully differential Class AB architecture, operates in Class A for most conditions
- Little negative feedback, bandwidth, slewing, and open-loop linearity
- Customized low-noise toroid with separate secondary windings for each output
- 6000-Series aluminum chassis, extremely high precision, low tolerances
- Ethernet, IP, RS-232, triggers, web monitoring and control
- Designed and handcrafted in the U.S.A.