Garbage In Garbage out

I stumbled into an interview with the guy who owns you may have heard of him. /snark.  Actually I was on youtube watching @OCDHIFiGuy who had an interview with the guy you may have heard of. 

Anyhow, I watched about 2 hours of Mr. Mark talking about the backasswards Hi Fi industry and how hedge funds have bought once venerable names and turned them into mass market Mid-Fi. For example Harmon Audio owns his name and brand and has diluted it. McIntosh is another example of corporatized Hi Fi. Post W. Zane Johnson Audio Research seems to have fallen away as well. (I'm hoping the new owner is a purist)

What really struck me was how Mark detailed the variability in the original studio gear as it recorded a session  and how it can make for some really lousy recordings. "Audio systems don't reproduce music they reproduce recordings of music" 

He talked about the Holy Grail original highspeed analogue master tape and how it cannot be reproduced without discernable loss.

He also had what I considered a brilliant observation on how inefficient speakers are turning wattage into heat (like your car brakes do) and the result is lost detail. He likes -100db or better efficiency. He quoted Nelson Pass on "The first watt is the most important watt" and cited the Bell Labs 1936 papers and how advanced they are and how they influenced great audio men like Klipsch and Pass.

Some hours later I am re-thinking my entire (apparently mid-fi) existence. 



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Do you really think Mark Levinson, a man well into his 70's, can intentify the differences between tape masters and hi res digital in blind testing?  No and he'd never be fool enough to try and prove his claims.  Lots of opinions out there but very few will be able to back them up. 

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I'm with you on sensitive speakers and low wattage SETs.  I'm ok with 96dB and above.  Currently listening to a 2 wpc amp.  

I had a well known 300 wpc amp and was thinking I needed new speakers.  Put my speakers on the market.  A guy came over to listen to them and brought his own SET amp and DAC.  After 5 minutes I told him that I would honor my offer to sell to him but after he was done listening, the speakers were off the market.  the amp went on the market and sold next day.  

If the first watt sucks, there is no need for any more watts.


@recklesskelly Wrote:

You should re-think your post. As Levinson is a much smarter marketer and businessman than you.  

I agree!


Those first Mark Levinson products - the JC1 head amp and the JC2 preamp were designed by John Curl. The ML1 preamp and the two power amps - the ML2 class A 25 watt Mono’s and the ML3 200wpc - were designed by Tom Colangelo. Mark Levinson used his wealth to hire top notch engineers for his products.

Ivor Tiefenbrunn's "It all starts with the source" helped sell many thousands of Linn Sondek LP12 turntables! I'm onto my second one!

@yesiam_a_pirate Wrote:

He also had what I considered a brilliant observation on how inefficient speakers are turning wattage into heat (like your car brakes do) and the result is lost detail. He likes -100db or better efficiency. 

This has been known for over eighty years. See articles below George Augspurger was an engineer for JBL in the 1950's. In my opinion, a high powered amplifier that can drive lower impedances will never be a proxy for a speakers lack of true efficiency. 



@recklesskelly  When did I claim to be to a marketer or businessman?  My role in audio is as a consumer.  But I agree with your depiction of Mark as a marketer.  Being successful in this industry takes great marketing.   Engineers can design a circuit that will deliver 500 watts with less then .5% distortion but its marketing that makes it "warm" or "bloom" or have "air".  Well marketers, critics, and a whole lot of golden eared internet fanboys.     

The fact remains none of these guys blind test. I have alot more respect for the wine industry.  To be a master of wine you have to correctly identify regions, varietals and vintages purely on taste.  Fewer then 500 have passed the exam since its inception in 1953. Thats less then the number of people that summit Everest every year. The truth is we have a natural tendency to overstate our own skills, and don't like to admit how much psychology and social cues play into our opinion.  It would be cool if they had audio testing standards based on listening skills, but then we'd probably end up concluding that most of this stuff sounds the same no matter how much we'd like to justify price with performance. 

Mark's observations are his own subjective opinions. His previous experience founding an audio company and now running a division at Harmon havent given him some ungodly perceptive skills.  If anything those skills are worse now then when he was younger. The guy put a big amp in a pretty box. His most impressive accomplishment imo was keeping Kim Kottrall happy for a few years.  


Mark Levinson himself was blessed with an excellent name for anyone trying to sell high end audio products.

Lexus cars use Mark Levinson branded audio gear, but does he actually still own the rights to the Levinson brand name?



The fact that loudspeakers turn most of the energy fed to them by the amp into heat is quite unfortunate.

It’s easy to forget that the voice coil inside your loudspeaker can often get up to several hundred degrees centigrade.


"Being successful in this industry takes great marketing."

Very true. Think about a company like McIntosh.

Do you for one second think they would still be relevant in the marketplace if they decided to ditch the glossy black faceplates and sexy blue meters?

And it's not just the audio industry, it holds true for every industry. 


@recklesskelly no thanks. That’s what caused the belly ache in the first place.

As for the whole high vs low sensitivity debate, the claim that speakers need to measure high in sensitivity is nonsense.  The whole argument falls apart pretty quickly in practice.  Take an 85db speaker and compare it to a 100db one.  A 15db difference would imply the high sensitivity speaker is 5x louder or in other words, uses 1/5 the power to equal the same volume.  My Dynaudio Heritage speakers just happen to be 85db efficient and I’ve played around with the Klipsch Heresy enough to know that it’s not 5x louder.  It’s not even a 2x or 3x.  It didn’t take much difference in dial to get them to even out.  And yes I realize an amps volume isn’t a linear increase in power but neither is the way we perceive sound.  I was also able to achieve sufficient listening volumes with a 50 watt tube amp so what’s the point of using high sensitivity speakers?  Go with whatever sounds best, there are always pros and cons.   The first speakers I ever owned were the Cerwin Vega AT12s, which measure 97db.  It didn’t take long for me to blow out the mids and tweeters in college.  I played them loud, developed a bunch of heat and melted the coils. A very expensive lesson in high efficiency speaker design was learned.  One thing I like about Dynaudio is they make bullet proof drivers.  I’ve had a pair of the original Contour 1.8s for over 20 years and not a single blown driver and I still frequently hit the mid to upper 90 DBs at my listening position, especially when watching movies.  I’ve plugged them in wrong, I even shorted an amp once with them plugged in, fried the amp but the speakers were fine.  I doubt too many 100+ db designs would last as long in my possession.  I might give the Heresy’s another go, the mark IV looks like a good update.






Hang on, another opinion extolling the virtues of powerful amps and inefficient speakers is right around the waveguide.

There's another (timely) thread discussing mid-fi vs. hi-fi and it comes down to opinion. Don't let some marketing team's ideas about how to best sell their product determine what you want to buy, especially if it involves them denigrating equipment you already own.

I have a feeling that the latest Maria amps he is making is very similar to the PeachTree GAN1. His has support for analog sources (via A2D conversion) and a volume control. both of which the GAN1 lack.

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