The No 585 has been created to achieve top quality sound in every detail. It is a combination of exceptional universality with a powerful AB class amplifier which supplies 200W of power at 8 Ω and 350 W at 4 Ω, as well as makes it possible to connect a wide range of digital sources of high-resolution sound, up to 32-bit and 192 kHz, as well as DSD (including DSD128) through a USB connection
n May 2104, the “Luxury Audio Division” which is part of the Harman company, the owner of such brands as Mark Levinson, Revel, Lexicon and JBL Synthesis, announced an ambitious project to launch 17 new products in the next two years. The basis for these ambitious plans was the creation of a completely new Research and Design Department in Shelton (Connecticut, USA). The project has been overseen by Todd Eichenbaum who joined Harman after working for Krell for over twenty years. Apparently, the effect of these changes has been amazing. The №52 preamplifier that we tested was awarded a special GOLD Fingerprint award by us, as well as our Statement Product Award 2014 (more: HERE and HERE). That was one of the best audio products that I have ever tested, as regards its sound, design and quality of manufacturing.
The first product that was designed by engineers in the new building and successfully launched was the integrated amplifier, the №585, the second product of this type (integrated amplifier) in over forty years of this manufacturer’s history.
The device is very well constructed and looks equally perfect. Its functionality is exceptional – the details are given in the “Design” section of this article. When placed on a shelf at home, it will give the whole interior a luxurious look. When comparing its look to the previous Mark Levinson’s integrated amplifier, №383, it is impossible not to notice that the new design is both more modern and functional. The previous version is still excellent – good things are simply good and passing time does not change that. However, the new one makes an audiophile’s heart beat faster from the very first moment. The device has a large body and a high front panel – it is really impressive.
Recordings used during the test (a selection):
No matter what we say, notice or miss to see, the №585 amplifier is already a classic. It has been created by one of the most recognizable high-end companies which, on the one hand, belongs to a powerful corporation (and therefore has considerable financial means and excellent facilities) but, on the other hand, is still cultivating the ethos that is indispensible in this branch of industry, i.e.: sound above anything else. Additionally, this is only the second integrated amplifier in the company history, which is exceptional. As any other audio product, this one also sounds and modifies sound in its own way – there are no and never will be any “transparent” devices. However, it performs its function in a very balanced way, which can easily (and without hesitation) be called a ‘concept’ (idea). The idea is worth looking at, as it is one of the most reliable concepts of how an integrated amplifier should work.
The way sound is modified in Levinson’s new integrated amplifier is different than the sound of the №52 preamplifier (in combination with the Soulution 710) that I remember. It may not be completely different, as it is still the same company, but accents are placed differently in it. It is music in which the amplifier has total control over speakers. It is said that power gives us breath and liberates us from limitations. However, fulfilling this postulate proves to be extremely difficult. Power itself is not everything: 1000-Watt D-class amplifiers, available in almost every audio shop and quite inexpensive, do not give us the feeling of control over recorded material in the same fashion as a current-efficient, 100-Watt AB class amplifier does.
In this respect, Levinson behaves as if all these D-class monsters are just scrubs. It has the bass by its short and curlies, and does not allow for any excesses. When coupled with the №585, powerful LF Harbeth M40.1 speakers behaved like newborn puppies that were trying to find their mum (or dad, in the given case) with their eyes still sealed. The control manifests itself, for example, in a precise attack and fast decay. So, subjectively, it may appear that we have less bass here than with a small amplifier which costs, say, 3000 PLN. Such Clones Audio 25i is such a little thing that a whole flock could be placed inside the Levinson’s amplifier, but it delivers low frequencies in such an energetic way that it seems we have connected the columns directly to the mains socket. However, there is no doubt that, to a large extent, this effect is achieved thanks to adequately selected distortions, their type and distribution.
There is not even a shadow of this kind of nonchalance or balancing on the verge of correctness in the way the №585 sounds (although Clones is simply an excellent option in its price range). Instead, we get clarity and focus. It seems that the device is “above” everything and is looking at it from this distant perspective. While small amplifiers that produce extensive bass are extremely focused on their task, just one wrong move makes them go overboard. When it comes to the №585, it seems to be “the cause of anything that happens”. Thanks to this, the sound is incredibly “normal”, as I would put it. There is nothing in it that would require our attention, unless the sound director and/or record producer has intended to attract it by means of the recording itself. As a result, the records come to the foreground and they change the sound which comes from the columns or headphones, and not the other way round (part of the test was to connect a headphone amplifier to a low frequency output and to listen to the sound of the DAC installed inside the №585).
Such presentation of bass is quite characteristic and slightly different from the №383. With the №383 there was more content. Everything was deeper and more vivid. In the case of the №585 the beat is faster and, I would even say, clearer, but shorter and it decays faster. This is, however, what we pay so much money for.
Resolution is one of the most basic categories which are used to describe the operation and quality of audio products. There is a reason for that. If resolution is not associated with too much selectivity, it produces dense and warm sound. The №585 is not warm and the way it controls bass makes us adapt a perspective from which we look at the music played. The transmission is, however, characterized by very high resolution, but it is neither dry, nor harsh. It seems that in this case the discussed feature can be observed mostly in high range. The amp controls bass and the midrange as transparently as it is possible, with a lot of certainty, like huge mono power amplifiers. That is why even very old recordings, such as those of Charlie Parker from the year 1952 or the Oscar Peterson’s concert from the year 1957 were characterized by inner “harmony” and naturalness. Neither resolution itself, nor tonal “accuracy” and clarity can ensure that effect. It results from something at the intersection of these elements – something that the tested device provides very naturally and without enforcement.
№585 is an amplifier which can successfully replace complex two-piece designs in many systems. However, it has its own personality, which makes it different from other, also excellent integrated amplifiers. The most expensive amplifier of this type that I know, which I once tested for “EnjoyTheMusic.com” - Soulution 530, produces much softer, silky sound (this amplifier is three times more expensive than the №585). Although its control over all bandwidths is fantastic, it is hidden from us a little under a dense, soft cover. The Accuphase E-560, in turn, emphasizes the attack of high frequency sounds more strongly and controls the attack of low frequency sounds more softly. The bass seems to be bigger and denser because of that. It certainly is the case, but it is actually the №585 that goes lower.
№585 is not only an amplifier, but also a DAC. The in-built converter section in the amplifier is excellent. It produces close, tangible sound characterized by nice tone. I do not think it is necessary to buy an external CD player, unless we can spend over 20,000 PLN. Also the USB port proves to be very good, as the sound was not very different from the sound from the RCA input. I think that the №585 will become a perfect duo with an audio file player having a USB output. It is an exceptionally valuable offer from a manufacturer that has been a model of reliability for other representatives of the industry for over forty years.
I perfectly understand the people for whom Mark Levinson is a synonym of reliability, certainty, something that you can always rely on. The sound of the tested integrated amplifier is as good as its design and the quality of workmanship. Its sound is exceptionally steady – controlled, fast bass; soft, nice treble and the midrange, without a shadow of coloration. The soundstage is huge, also in its depth. The dynamics seems to be unlimited. On the other hand, we will find no softness or dense bass, nor a palpable lower midrange here. This is because we are talking about a slightly different aesthetics of sound. It is about rendering signal from the source as faithfully as possible – about going beyond the line at which we focus our attention on transmission and not on electronics.
The artistic design of audio products is a rather “neglected” field. Although there are some exceptions, the rule is to copy old, exploited solutions and, even more often, create new projects from scraps. Nothing good can result from this, apart from another boring “black box”. However, in order to balance this somehow, it must be said that a shift towards the other extreme, i.e. towards making the artistic design dominate functionality, is equally “weak”.
Harman International is one of the biggest corporations producing audio equipment worldwide and its clients are recording studios and music lovers who demand more than just some noise sequences from pseudo-speakers. Even so, separate brands that exist within Harman International have retained significant autonomy, which can also be seen in artistic designs produced by top-class designers who work at the company’s Design Centre. It is worth mentioning that there is also “our man” – Rafał Czaniecki. This young, talented designer has been cooperating with Harman for a few years in the role of AKG Lead Industrial Designer! The AKG Y headphones series owe their look to him.
It is an integrated amplifier in which we will not only find analogue inputs, but also a DAC with a USB port, among others. The front panel is very functional, but still “transparent”, as there are not too many regulators. It is visually divided into two parts: a flat one which features a display and buttons, with knobs on the sides, and the main body. The “flat” section looks like a control panel of a top-class digital machine tool or of other devices used in industrial automatics. It is also equally convenient to use.
The red dot-matrix display will give us the name of the selected input and volume. After entering the menu, the display will perform the function of an interface where we can change the name of the input (by selecting one of the few that have been programmed or chosen by us), input gain, the low-level output operation mode (alternating – from the preamplifier or constant for recording), activate the low-pass mode (of second order, below 80 Hz, for powering the subwoofers), the brightness level of the display and many other parameters. Using the knobs, we change the active input and volume, whereas the remaining buttons let us change signal polarization, the “mute” mode and the mode of balance change between channels. Most of these functions can also be performed using a pretty ugly remote control.
It is also necessary to mention a small button with a red LED located below, which activates the device from the “standby” mode. The company takes care of the natural environment, so we can select one of three different “standby” mode options in the menu: normal, in which part of the section is active and two power-saving ones. It is also possible to select the “power off” mode of the amplifier, if there is no signal on the input for a set period of time.
The back of the №585is as functional as its front. The analogue section is deployed symmetrically along a vertical axis, which is typical for dual-mono structures. There is a row of analogue inputs close to the upper panel: one balanced XLR input and three unbalanced RCA inputs. There is also one unbalanced preamplifier output/for recording. Close to the outermost sides there is a pair (per channel) of characteristic Mark Levinson “Hurricane” speaker binding posts. As it has always been the case with Levinson, they are very convenient to use.
I have not mentioned this yet, but there are two additional modes available in the menu for the digital inputs: digital filter selection and Clari-Fi processing activation. We have already become used to the presence of digital filters in CD (SACD) players and DACs – they are a great tool for modifying sound. Levinson offers three such filters: Fast, characterized by fast descent outside the bandwidth, Slow, with slow descent, optimized for phase coherence and low oscillations before the impulse, and Mphas, with even more emphasis on phase coherence. The company claims that it is best suited for acoustic music.
And, finally, I want to write a few words about Internet connections. Levinson offers its clients the possibility to control its devices remotely, using the Internet. It also includes the possibility of having products diagnosed remotely by the company technicians – that is why there is an Ethernet port in the rear panel.
There are a few separate electronic boards. There are power amplifiers on the sides, mounted to solid heat sinks. They are based on three pairs of AB class power transistors (per channel), operating in the push-pull mode. The power amp has been mounted using Through-Hole Technology (THT). There are many fantastic passive elements on the boards, e.g. precise resistors, and EVOX and WIMA capacitors.
The preamplifier has its own, separate shielded board. It is a kingdom of Surface Mount Technology and integrated circuits. The inputs are switched by relays, whereas volume is controlled using integrated resistor ladders. You can also see nice EVOX and WIMA polypropylene capacitors there. However, there are no integrated circuits on the preamplifier output, but six pairs of quite large Sanken complementary transistors (2SA1859 + 2SC4883) per channel. It is amazing that the use of these technologies allows us to obtain sound that has so far been attributed to tube devices! Let us add that the input sockets are of excellent quality and that the amount of internal cabling has been reduced to an absolute minimum.
The DAC section is located under the analogue section and, unfortunately, I was not able to reach it. It is only known that the 8-channel ESS Sabre32 chip is used in it. The channels are connected in parallel and comprise a stereophonic system. The I/O section is based on a symmetrical circuit with transistors. A very nice CMedia chip controls the asynchronous USB port, allowing for asynchronous transfer of PCM signal to 32 bit and 192 kHz, as well as of DSD signal.
The amplifier is perfectly constructed and will serve us for many years, constantly remaining the object of our desire.
Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: fuse – power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) – wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One