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Under the hood however it would appear that Harman’s mighty resources have been more successfully exploited. The ML website states: "[For the N°512] Levinson engineers devised a proprietary anti-jitter technique employing a memory buffer and a Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) circuit. After the transport reads and decodes the digital stream it is sent to a memory bank that stores it temporarily. The DDS circuit then accurately reclocks the output. By placing a buffer between the player’s transport and the rest of the digital circuitry and reclocking the signal, any jitter introduced by the transport itself is effectively removed."

The measurement figures for jitter (121ps for CD & 37ps for SACD), distortion (0.001% over the top 20dB at all frequencies dropping as low as 0.0003% at -10dbs) and dynamic range (108dB) are indeed all absolutely SOTA. Analog Devices provide the quartet of AD1955 24-bit DACs (two per channel) and any long-term Levinson watchers will be intrigued to note that the PCBs they’re attached to are no longer made from the brand’s previous favorite cutting-edge Arlon™ laminate but from the presumably even more cutting-edge Nelco™. And who knows, maybe somewhere down the line Levinson will make all of this obvious expertise more widely available with the release of a more affordable (and somewhat better connected) standalone DAC?*


* Any tech-heads of a more nervous disposition out there can visit Analog Devices’ website where they will find a link to the Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) Support Group. Who says corporate America doesn’t care?

Concerning the machine’s internal volume control it may be a universally acknowledged truth that the less cluttered the signal path the happier the signal but I’ve learnt somewhat counter intuitively that CD players offering this option never fail to benefit from the addition of a really first class preamp. Is the addition of a N°326S £10K’s worth of benefit? No. The sound direct is still superb and indeed  a little faster overall (a similar slight change in emphasis can be heard switching from balanced to single-ended interconnects) but the forfeiture in both dynamics and soundstaging entails that if you can afford to, do use the N°326S preamp.

Listening & comparing: The majority of my listening was limited to CD rather than SACD for the following two reasons. Firstly even the briefest glance at the music collection of the most fervent fan of the newer format will reveal that super audio titles are likely to be outnumbered by a ratio of at least 20:1. Secondly comparing the same material on both formats it soon becomes clear that this is indeed a machine which elevates RedBook to a level where it isn’t always possible to tell the two formats apart. And neither is this achieved through any apparent diminution of the higher resolution option. Here there was no apparent ‘leveling off’. Partnering equipment consisted of Levinson’s own N°326S preamplifier, N°532W stereo power amplifier and ProAc’s Carbon Pro 6 speakers.

Supports were from Grand Prix Audio and cabling was JPS Aluminata throughout. Of course this setup should have been particularly simpatico to demonstrating the N°512 at its best but brief listening with other manufacturers’ amplification didn’t stop the N°512’s signature from coming through.