How a pair of Mark Levinson ML2 stands with the best amps today ?

I saw a pair of these.  They appearead overkill amps with superb construction. Just about sound quality (not reliability) how they stand with today best amps ?
Yes, they do! Designed by Tom Colangelo. 30 mono watts in the later versions @ 8 ohms and doubling to 60/4 ohms and 120/2 ohms! Ideal for the Quad 57's. Sold new for $3600 pair in 1977. A true and worthy classic design!

More designers should look at these, legendary amps, and mimic them.
They could drive anything, to given level, with out becoming a tone control.

Cheers George
Here is a 3 angle pic of a pair of these magnificent Mark Levinson ML2’s 25w into 8ohm monoblock beasts.
Yes you read right only 25w, but it’s pure Class-A, and the amp supposedly can double all the way to 1ohm or very close to it, 50w into 4ohm 100w into 2ohm and 200w into 1ohm.

Cheers George
Hi GeorgeDo you think they could drive speakers with 87 db/1m/1W sensitivity ?.  They are 6 ohm load speakers.  Thanks

It depends how loud you listen and what type of music you listen too, these ML2’s are absolute magic with Quad 57’s and they are 86db. But I wouldn’t have a party and play AC/DC through them. Yet with Wilson Audio Alexia at min 0.9ohm and a mean of 3-4ohms at 90db you almost could "maybe". But either speaker would sound their very best before the ML2's ran out of wattage.

Cheers George
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Totally concur with George-hifi.
ML-2 is a legendary amplifier without peers - really.
Not only can it compete with modern designs (2020), it’ll subjectively and objectively outperform 99% of them.

Sonics far superior to anything of the time (70s) from Threshold, Krell, Phase Linear, Harman, Marantz or anything else. Phenomenal build quality & design.

ML later opted for far more complex, massive no. of gain-stages, massive feedback circuits and so was the magic of ML-2 gone forever.

Problems? Low power - read: low sensitivity speakers playing in large, deadening rooms, 25W in 8 ohms is not gonna cut it.
I know some who’ve modified them for higher power, but you’ll need electronics knowledge and tools to do it, so not recommended for John Doe.

I’ve heard a cpl of Chinese clones... they’re not even close, so don’t bother. In one word: If you find one = get it !!
Problems? Low power - read: low sensitivity speakers playing in large, deadening rooms, 25W in 8 ohms is not gonna cut it.
Yep, great sounding amp to a given level. better driving 4ohm speakers then you’ve got 50w first 25 Class-A.
A step further a 2ohm speaker then you have 100w first 25w Class-A!!!

Have a guess where I’m going ?? Wilson Alexia 90db and over 100w available for it's horror load impedance bass, again to a given level, I’d guess medium to medium/loud listening level with efficiency

Cheers George
GeorgeOpinion on using the ML-2 on True Sound Works Diva's.My Classe dr3b works really well therefore my thought of the ML-2.Thanks

I think the ML2’s over the Classe by quite a margin.
The Classe uses Darlington output transistors combined driver/output, not great can’t be controlled as well, never really caught on in hiend audio.
And the ML’s use separate driver and Bi-Polar output much better scope for tuning for stability etc.

Cheers George

Those Levinson amps will drive a 2 ohm load for 30 years.

 Power supply, capacitance is off the chart, even by today’s standards.

  Have them serviced by a competent tech, or the factory techs.

 AMAZING AMPLIFIERS, you will love them.
topmshelf audio amps.

Here’s lots of info on them
The WTconcept resto site was a great to see one with dozens of HD pics gets a complete resto job done,  but it closed down, even "WayBack Machine" hasn’t got it in it’s entirety

The Aboslute Sound:
One of the Ten Most Significant Amplifiers of All Time:

Mark Levinson ML2
"This John Curl designed amplifier established Mark Levinson, the man, as a driving force in the audiophile marketplace. The 25-watt ML2 monoblock, Levinson’s first power amp, was designed for wide-swing-impedance speakers such as the legendary HQD system (Hartley, stacked Quads, Decca Ribbon)."

Cheers George
Wonderful built quality and sound quality a classic.Jump on a pair ASAP!!


Based on your summation,  the ML2 was an excellently designed/implemented simple/straightforward (relatively speaking) circuit superb sounding class A amplifier. Any idea why the decision was made to add gain stages and feedback thus losing the "magic" of the original? Seems they should have left well enough alone.


Today's ML's don't have much feedback as the distortion specs show on the 534 and 536 poweramps.
The the poweramps have input sensitivity that's almost 3v for full output this is a low gain amp, and distortion figures of 0.3%THD  showing low feedback designs.

  (they don't show the THD for the poweramp section of the integrated's, but one would think it's the same)

Maybe they lost their way in the 10-15 years ago when they dabbled in Class-D with the very expensive No.53 monoblocks, with very complex output filters to get rid of the switching frequency, they were probably high gain and high feedback

Interesting read that Mark Levinson wrote on Class-D.

"Interleaving of multiple Class D Amplifiers is potentially a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough.Personally I think that the best option would be something that combines a Class D Amplifier for the heavy lifting with something Class A for fine detail. Probably implemented in the style I did for AMR’s AM-77 "Jikoda" Style. In this case both of the circuits involved can operate fully open loop. In many ways the problems in Class D Amplifiers are analogous (but not identical to) those in Class B Amplifiers (but without an option to implement Class AB or Class A) so similar solutions apply. All Class D amplifiers are essentially delta-sigma DAC’s. If the input is not digital PWM signals (aka "DSD") but analogue audio then it is also a Delta Sigma Analogue to digital converter...Now DSD (aka SACD) which to my ears fails to come close, never mind equal true PCM CD Replay in most aspects of sound quality, operates at 2.8MHz switching, or around 10 times as fast as common Class D Amplifiers...Why anyone would want to listen through an A2D followed by an D2A Converter that are around 10 times worse than single speed DSD is beyond me. But with enough hype and snazzy naming it cannot help but sell high and wide."

And, don't worry, we haven't forgotten:

Cheers George

I appreciate ML's comments. I recognize technology moves onward and evolves. I just find it quite admirable that a class A transistor   amplifier  from 1977  still can on sonic grounds (the most important quality/criteria  IMO) outperform  so many current production amplifiers. A 43 year old SS amplifier that people still covet for excellent sound quality.


Any idea why the decision was made to add gain stages and feedback thus losing the "magic" of the original? Seems they should have left well enough alone.
According to my records the original Mark Levinson Audio Systems company produced three other amplifiers before Mark lost control of his company, and he and Tom Colangelo were no longer part of it (~1984). Those were the ML-3, ML-9, and ML-11.

All of them were much more powerful than the ML-2 (into 8 ohms!), while the ML-9 and ML-11 were designed to much lower price points. And I believe the ML-3 was also significantly less expensive than a pair of ML-2s, while being 8 times as powerful (into 8 ohms).

And after 1984 or thereabouts it was essentially a completely different company.

-- Al

Here is an very old shot of the ML3 I had to repair
200 W/channel at 8 ohms, 400 W/ch at 4 ohms, 800 W/ch at 2 ohms

It opens up like a clam very thoughtful design for techs and you can power it up like that, it was so big it wouldn’t fit on my work bench, so I used the kids homework table. Some 24 bi-polar outputs per channel 2 x massive transformers, true dual mono amp.
Didn’t come within cooee of the 25w ML2 monoblocks for sound quality

I just find it quite admirable that a class A transistor amplifier from 1977 still can on sonic grounds (the most important quality/criteria IMO) outperform so many current production amplifiers.
If you look at it nearly all tube amps today are based on the 1949 Williamson circuit,
Similar can be said about transistors, especially Matti Otala’s, Nelson Pass, John Curl, etc etc designs

Cheers George

Reading Al’s post concerning other "original" ML amps with higher power output, George answered my first thought/question. Did the higher powered ML3 rival the sound quality of the revered ML2? I should have known that would be the answer .How do true talents such as Mark Levinson and Dennis Had (Cary) get booted from their own companies? How can one discard that level of passion, commitment and talent? This would the same as Audio Research getting rid of the( late)  William Zane while still very active and involved with the company..


How do true talents such as Mark Levinson ... get booted from their own companies? How can one discard that level of passion, commitment and talent?

Hi Charles,

The "Background" section of the following court case summary provides an excellent overview of the relevant history:

Perhaps the financial troubles that were referred to contributed to Mark & Tom’s decision to produce the relatively low cost (and presumably much more widely marketable) ML-9 and ML-11.

-- Al

Al, thanks for the link. I just arrived home and will read it in the morning. 
I think I can provide some useful information on the ML2. I'm sorry to be so late to this conversation. I have been out of the audiofile world for decades, and I've decided I want to do some serious listening through a good system again. I'm thinking you folks can help me catch up with new developments and products.

Mark Levinson hired me to be chief engineer for his company in December, 1974. I was the ninth employee and first engineer at the company, and I participated in the development and production of the ML2 amplifier. I relate that info simply as background.

The ML2 is capable of 100 watts into 8 ohms in a bridged configuration. That requires two ML2s per channel, one driven normally and the other driven in inverse polarity. Both connections are on the back panel. Although they were uncommmon, triamped HQD systems with an ML2 on each tweeter and bridged ML2s on the mids sounded amazing, and amazingly loud. I don't recall the various large amps used to drive the Hartley woofers, which ranged up to 24 inches.

I'll be happy to provide additional information on request. It's been over 40 years, but I still remember my MLAS experience pretty well.

George Mayhew

Thanks George.  It is great to hear/read about engineers/designers.  The ML-2 is one of my favorite amps.  Same for the ML-3.  That was/is a monster also.  Doesn't sound quite as good as a 23.5, but, it is pretty nice.

George, did you have anything to do with the design of the 23.5?  To this day, it is still one of my favorite and still better sounding amps.

These were all great amps. I owned an ML-2, ML-3 and No 23.5 in the mid 80's. I started with an ML-2 but I was driving Magneplaner Tympani-IVs in a very large room. At low volumes, it was absolutely exquisite, but it ran out of power at louder volumes, and since I was in my 20s then, I liked to crank them louder than I should have. I switched to an ML-3 which had tons of grunt. When I sold my Tympani IVs and switched to Duntech Sovereigns, I also traded in my ML-3 for a No 23.5, which I agree was more refined. But these were all great amps in their day, and I think the ML-2 and No 23.5 could still hold their own against current amps (at least under $20K). 
Mark and I parted company in 1978. The ML2 was fully developed and shipping to dealers by then. The ML3 was still conceptual.

Two or three years later, after the ML3 and other ML products were introduced, Mark sold the company to Madrigal Audio. I was busy with my own (non-audio) company and I wasn't following the details except for occasional conversations with my former coworkers. Tom Colangelo, who had been my assistant, and Mark continued to develop and market products for the brand, brilliantly in my opinion. I was saddened to hear of Tom's death in 2007. I've never met a more talented and dedicated designer.

I don't have ML2 but have ML333.

I also have the latest Class D Purifi Eigentakt and Benchmark AHB2 (Stereophile Class A rated today).

The ML333 has more dynamic and extended treble than Class D Pirifi while driving 802D3.
The Benchmark AHB2 sounds very similar to ML333 , but when play loud classical music, it has less bass slam.

[please excuse my poor English]

A friend sells his ML-2 pair (2nd hand).

- is the ML-2 topology fully balanced ? I read that the XLR input was an option; this suggests that the circuit is not fully balanced. Which in turn implies that the RCA/Camac inputs are more "direct" (no additional circuit to balance the signal just after the input). Is it correct?

- On this sample, there are only Camac inputs & XLR (my Aries Cerat Incito preamp is not fully balanced, but has an XLR output; so RCA outputs of my preamp are more "direct"). So it means I would enter the "connections compatibility hell".

- if Nr 1 is correct => preferred output for my preamp is RCA <> preferred input for ML-2 power amplifier is Camac...


SPEAKERS: analysis Epsilon, 85dB, 4 Ohms nominal (3 Ohms above 3 KHz); flat impedance curve. Moderate level. Classical music. 50m², but listen midfield; excellent acoustics (brick walls and curvated vaults ceiling).



Based on your summation,  the ML2 was an excellently designed/implemented simple/straightforward (relatively speaking) circuit superb sounding class A amplifier. Any idea why the decision was made to add gain stages and feedback thus losing the "magic" of the original? Seems they should have left well enough alone.



A very late reply to Charles1dad question above about later ML's using more gain stages + Feedback etc:

As Georgehifi correctly mentioned, their newest offerings appear to be simpler design with low feedback.

I was of course referring to the ML amplifiers post ML-2's and up to no 33's.

They got crazy complex (just look at the schematics) and the sound was really not that great. I have listened to /owned many big ML's. Although their build quality is always second to none, their sonics remained a lot to be desired.


ML-2's are a totally different beasts.

Good luck



Could anyone here (Georgehifi) comment to how the ML2’s compare to the 20.6’s sonically?
I have JBL Hartsfields that I was running with Marantz Model 5 tube mono blocks (trioded), until I acquired a pair of Mark Levinson 20.6 mono blocks recently. I can’t believe it, but the 20.6’s sound considerably better~
I also own Quad 57’s, so ML2’s may be something for me to consider purchasing~

Thanks for any response and enjoy the music~