Mark Levinson 333.5 vs Emotiva XPR-1 Monoblocks

We are pushing Thiel 3.6 speakers with our dual-monaural Mark Levinson 333.5 amp. we are considering a switch to the Emotiva XPR-1 Monoblocks. Does anyone have actual experience with both the 333.5 (or 333) and the XPR-1's?

If not with the Levinson amp, then any experience vs. the XPR-1's with another higher end amp?

We have 2-30 watt receptacles ready for the job in hand. Also have 20 amp receptacles. Both services are on dedicated circuits.
Emotiva does have a 30 day in-home trial. This would allow you to hear the amps in your system/room. All of the reviews for the XPR series amps have been positively glowing, they appear to be very good amps. I have an XPA-5 and really, really like it.

According to Tech Support at Emotiva, a 20 amp circuit is really not necessary. But if you have it, might as well use it.

This would be a good time to buy those amps, they are on sale right now, you can save $440 on a pair - w00t!!

Thanks for responding. The we are my Audiophile, Jazz loving, vinyl loving wife and I.

Howdy Rlwainwright;

We have a UMC-200 and XDA-1 (modified power supply). Emo has just completed the "39" firmware upgrade to match the Oppo 103 lip sync issue. Good stuff.

We can't afford to buy the XPR-1 pair with out giving up the 333.5. Mary is extremely reluctant to give up the Levinson. So, before we make a mistake, we thought others might chime in. It's always been we for almost 36 years of marriage. I met her when she was sweet 16 and she was the first girl to say yes when I asked her to dance. The band played "Stairway to Heaven." And.... it continues to be.


Might I ask why you and your wife are considering the change?

Not trying to step on any toes, but Levinson equipment is usually compared to the likes of Krell and Pass, whereas Emotiva equipment is usually compared to the likes of NAD and Rotel. Two completely different classes.

Emotiva equipment is typically reviewed or considered, in light of its cost, as being a good bang for the buck. On the other hand, Levinson equipment is usually review as being good equipment with its cost just being what it is.

My point is that each is good at its price point, but they are in different leagues.

I've never heard the XPR amps, but I have listened to systems built around Levinson equipment and it is good, without qualification.

Simply looking at the specs of each amp kind of tells me that the Levinson is also the better built amp, in spite of the fact that it is rated at less power.

If memory serves, the Levinson is rated at 300 wpc at 8 ohms, 600 wpc at 4 ohms and 1200 wpc at 2 ohms. The Levinson is actually rate down to 2 ohms.

The Emotiva, on the other hand, is rated at 1000 wpc at 8 ohms, 1750 wpc at 4 ohms and according to Emotiva, 4 ohms is the minimum load.

I just looked up the specs on your speakers. They have a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and looking at their impedance curves indicates that they spend a lot of time approaching 2 ohms. I really don't know how this is going to work with a massive amp that is only rated to 4 ohms. Maybe it can deal and maybe it can't.

Really, it seems to me that the Levinson is a good match for your speakers.

Personally, if you just have the upgrade bug, considering the equipment that you mentioned, I'd be looking at upgrading either the pre amp or the DAC.

I have an XDA-1. It is a nice DAC....for the money, but it isn't the last word in anything. The same can be said of the pre amp.

All valid points, which is why I started this thread. We don't want to make a horrible mistake. We have a highly modified Audio Research LS2B MKll linestage & Cary CDP 303/300 both done by Great Northern Sound Company.

Our Art Audio Vinyl One phono preamp was modified by RHB Sound Dezign and a friend separated the power supply. We are using a VPI Scout and a Clearaudio Maestro Wood cartridge.

Truth be told, we are Levinson snobs, and it seems that the 333.5 is superior to some of the models from the later series. Our unit was just updated with new parts and both channels were calibrated by Alex Lok in Raleigh
Zero chance I'd replace a Levinson with an Emotiva... especially the 333.5.

No chance what-so-ever.
I would keep the ML.
Emotiva is good for HT but they still have a long way to go in pure 2ch.

It sounds like you have some time, thought and money invested in your system. Just a personal opinion, but I feel that replacing a Levinson with Emotiva units would be a step backwards.

If I had to sell the Levinson, just to try the Emotivas, I wouldn't do it.

What are you looking for? More power?

I tend to agree with you. I enjoyed our ML-2 Monoblocks and thought they were the best. Then came the 333.5. It killed the ML-2's.

With the XPR-1's, I thought more efficient Monoblocks with twice the power and good technology would give certain attributes common to great Monoblocks as compared to a dual monaural design. However, my heart says the 333.5 is a world class unit in the top 5% of amps.

Also, we wanted to replace our 3 Acurus theater amps with a Sherbourn PA 7-350. It's funny, my friend snubs his nose at "high-end" names while you and Mary and I snub our noses at lesser quality. In audio/HT, we do not enjoy 90% as good for 50% less cost. It's like wearing slightly scratched glasses for a cost of 50% less. We need to compromise a bit of HT multi-channel audio to have truly high-end 2 channel audio.
Compare the 333 with Pass Labs 0.5 series and you understand how poor a ML really is. You must be a fool to use it. In focus and in depth it is quite poor. I do not Judge about sound, but sound realism they do not understand at Mark levinson. I never heard a ML win an a-b comparing with a Pass labs amp. Only people with less knowledge are people who could buy it!!
WOW-buy by name recognition, not sound quality. The Emotiva XPR-1 Monoblocks are one of the best amps I've ever have listened to. Try 'em before deciding that they are NAD quality,
you will be pleasantly surprised. I had an ML336, even after replacing the power supply caps, it did not cut it sonically, compared to an ARC VT-100 MKII.
Do not stare blind regards the name Mark Levinson. Use your ears and you will understand that it is not even half as good as you think. In 15 years I did this many ML amps, never I had a feeling of this is exeptional good. Always there were many amps in the same price which were superior. So that is why only people with less knowledge would buy them!

All other comparisons aside, I feel that you still need to look into the compatibility of the Emotivas with your speakers. As mentioned above, my understanding of your speakers' impedance curve is that it presents a nominal 4 ohm load to the amplifier, but spends a lot of time in the 2 ohm range. The Emotiva mono blocks, monsters that they are, are only rated to 4 ohms as a minimum.

I do not know enough to answer the question of whether the Emotivas can handle your speakers, simply by virtue of their monstrous 8 and 4 ohm ratings or if they will constantly shut down or self destruct.

Like I said, I don't know enough to answer the question. I only know barely enough to believe that there is an issue that should be addressed.
You obviously don`t hold much regard for the ML amps and that`s your choice.Levehappy and his wife really enjoy their amplifier and isn`t that the whole point? The objective is to have an audio system you want to listen to.The ML has met that crucial requirement for them.Enjoyment and happiness with your music reproductionis the goal.Why insult them?
It is very simple why. Depth, focus, resolution you can hear and compare. Even sound you can compare. I never heard a ML can make a violin sound likt it should. But I Always say: sound is a matter of taste. Let's say I have my doubts about the sound. But.....individual focus and even depth and how wide a stage is you easilly can compare. ML Always looses in tests for this part. I even did it with ML owners. I like to open people eyes and ears. They never said: Bobby your amp is less good in depth, resolution and individual focus than mine. They did hear the same. The bought this amp from people with less knowdledge. And they did not have this knowledge either. This is not about insulting. This is about speaking the truth. Why? Because I would love to give every single audio lover the same level in sound I have. In all these years I went to many audio shows the level of knowledge is very poor. Customers do not get the best info and certainly not the most honnest information. And yessss I see it as my job to change this. I want people to hear and explain the differences in sound. And also in brands. I visit many people at home with expensive audio systems. Seldom I hear a good balanced audio system. There is a lot to do to change this. Cause of the low level in knowledge people often with expensive sets have not a level what should be there for the money they did spend.
I had a client who bought Pl-300 speakers from me. later he bought on my advice the 800D from B&W. Wenn he bought them he played with the No33 mono's. I was amazed that there was almost no depth. I used the cd of Yacintha with the number; light my fire; the crossflute was at the same line as her voice was ( at the recording the crossflute is about 4 metres behind her voice). Even the individual focus was very poor. A few weeks later he said: I am still not happy. I did understand why; mannnnn I would not want it even for free in my room. He asked what to do. I said: buy Pass labs. a few weeks later he send an email. He bought the X600.5 and XP-20. He had to admit that it was superior in every part. ML was not that good to be honnest he said. He still own's this power and pre amp set and he loves his set these days.
Well, it looks like this thread is off on a tangent. I thought we were considering, or discussing, the Emotiva XPR as a possible alternative to the Levinson unit that the OP has.

Bol1972, are you saying that the OP should trade is ML amp for a pair of the Emotivas?
Hello Everyone;

You all have great thoughts. Maximizing the audio attributes means working with the system in areas of acoustics, power and signal cabling, power cleansing, etc. Something as simple as furniture placement can reek havoc on depth and width. Vibration control is vital.

In response to Tonyangel, I went right to the manufacturer for the unlisted specs:


Thank you for your interest in Emotiva. 4 ohms is not the minimum impedance that the XPR-1 monoblocks are able to support. That is just the lowest power rating that we provide. Customers are using the XPR-1 monoblocks to support Martin Logan speakers such as the Montis which drop to 0.52 ohms at their minimum impedance and the XPR-1 handles them with ease. The XPR-1 monoblocks have a 2.5 kVA toroidal transformer and 240,000µF of secondary capacitance in order to support current swing of demanding speakers. Yes, Thiel speakers do like a lot of current but there are certainly more current demanding speakers on the market and the XPR-1 monoblocks will be able to power them. Since you already have the 20 amp circuits installed there will not be an issue to operate these amplifiers to their full potential. I disagree with this person’s comment about being a lower class product as I have personally replaced Krell, Bryston, and McIntosh amplifiers in our customers’ systems with our amplifier of both the XPR and XPA line of amplifiers. The XPR-1 monoblocks is a fully balanced, fully differential design that is going to compete with other monoblocks 10x their cost. If you have any further questions please let us know. Thank you for your consideration.

Nick Kaumeyer

Sales Representative

Emotiva Audio Corporation
Well, it looks that the Emotivas are, at least, a viable alternative. Still, I would take what they say with a grain of salt, as I would the word of any manufacturer's representative.

If you have the wild hair to try them out, let us know how it goes. I just wouldn't sell the Levinson until after I heard the Emotivas. That way, all you're risking is the price of shipping on 200+lbs of amplifier.

"If you have the wild hair to try them out, let us know how it goes. I just wouldn't sell the Levinson until after I heard the Emotivas."

There in lies the dilemma. No sell, no buy.

You would be surprised the improved in the cherished characteristic when I had a 30 amp service installed for the 333.5.

I have read 30 different opinions from Sunday about Pass, Krell, Levinson, Electocompaniet, Jeff Roland, Linn, etc. Each system requires different parameters to sound it's best.

It takes 300 hard hours to break in an amp, cables, and speakers etc. A lot of folks make quick judgments without doing the due diligence required to maximize gear.

I began making my own cables and killed $1,000 cables which turned the system into all the things that is presumed to be lacking with the 333.5.
Hi, Not that this matters!, I got offended when the emotiva rep compaired his xpa-1 mono blocks to Krell!, I will say this one time!, their xpa-1 monos will never out perform my krell 700cx amp, that is BTW, a mono amp design in one chassis!, case closed!, cheers!
the latest ML amps are better in sound compared to the older ones. But still I miss the deep and wide stage like Pass Labs does. For me the absolute sound is: sound realism of instruments like they sound in real. A very deep and wide stage. Within this stage an extrem sharp individual focus of all instruments and voices. Lot's of black what gives you the 3d touchabel image. Excellent timing and a lot of details. Wenn I visit people with very expensive sets and there is not depth in there sets. You do not understand music. And the most important thing ( and impressive part) in highend audio. This is the level in 3 dimensional touchable image.
Levchappy, I suppose the question now would be how hard would it be to replace the 333.5, if it turns out that you don't like the Emotivas? If the answer is,not hard at all,then perhaps you could take the chance and risk only the return shipping on the Emotivas.

If the answer is that it would be difficult and/or very costly, I'd take a step back,let some time pass and see if the urge to try something new wanes.

I am only making the comments that I am making because, although I am a bang for the buck kind of guy, I was also very impulsive in my not so distant youth. I have screwed myself more than once looking for something different, when what I had was already good.
I am ALSO one of those lunkheads who think Mark Levinson gear sounds really good. Plus the poster states he had his amp updated (a 333.5 is already an updated product to begin with). I don't know what an Emotive product can or can't do, but ML can make music. So does Pass Labs Rowland Boulder Krell (yes, Krell) Halcro VTL Audio Research etc. But ML has been AND REMAINS in this class of components. These companies like to show you what their gear looks like when you remove the top cover and for good reason. Compare that with a Marantz receiver from the 70's (a decent product, no question) but you CAN SEE as well as HEAR the difference in build quality and superior parts.
And if this stuff is a bit too expensive there are many companies that make components that sound pretty darn close to the major leaguers, but they have thinner cases, less power reserves, less expensive circuit boards, etc. Just don't pair 2nd tier stuff with a very sensitive (as in detailed) speaker- unless you plan to upgrade later on when you have more money saved up.
If you want a better ML amp get a newer ML amp. I can highly recommend a pair of 33H monoblocks- an amazing amplifier if you can get someone to sell you a pair. that's just one suggestion.
This is getting good!, I agree with French Fries! uhh? @ French Fries, why did you post yes, Krell, as if Krell subject to bad reviews or something!, I have a Krell 700cx amp,however, It is at krell getting up-dated and renewed!, everthing, I am doing all that because you would have to spend a hell of alot more money by eany other brand to better this amp, they say the evo E amps are better, LOL!, they are so damn ugly I have not brought myself to go and listen to one, Ha,Ha!, I really do not have to have the best, just an amp that really makes me Happy, cheers!
Dear Audiolabyrinth,
in regards to Krell equipment, i guess it was that whole Fabio craze that seemed to create a bit of superficiality and "muscle-amp" promotion that Krell did not deserve but could have avoided just the same. I owned an FPB-300 myself for quite awhile and it threw a big stage and sounded wonderful to my ears.
A Rowland dealer told me the amp sounded "like crap" but consider the snobbish attitude he had about anything he didn't carry in his shop.
I am not so sure the Evo line is so terrible as you seem to imply.
Nor for that matter is the D'Agostino gear as good as certain reviewers seem so
impressed by. I think the fancy little meter on the front tells me to look elsewhere...
French_fries, Audiolabyrinth, Tonyangel and all;

Truth be told, we have a real craving to replace our 3 Acurus home theater amps with the Sherbourn PA 7-350.

In 2009, Sherbourn was acquired by Jade Design, and combined with Emotiva.

If we sold the 333.5 and the Acurus amps we'd have the cash to pull off the deal. However, without reading our threads, Mary has the same "what if" concern as Tony and most of my new friends here.

Therefore, for now, we will enjoy the UMC-200 with the latest firmware update, the Oppo 103, the Acurus amps and our 7ch theater. We will continue to pine over the PA7-350

I'm not trying to improve the 2 channel audio because like many of you understand the Levinson 333.5 is no ordinary beast. Besides if I gave it up I could no longer call myself Levchappy. Now that the fear of displeasing the Audio Gods is firmly reinstated......

Does anyone have experience with the PA7-350
@ french Fries, Hi, I love my Krell fpb 700cx amp!, sounds excellent to me!, one of the best mid-range sounds I have ever heard from solid state, the cx line is quite a different animal of a amp than the fpb, fpb-c amps all together!, seems better in every way, I owned an original fpb 200 years ago, I have only owned this 700cx for 14 months, I love this amp so much, I sent it to krell to be completly renewed in every way!, Its only 8 years old, I wanted to do it now why my family can afford to do so, instead of doing so a few years from now!,, cheers!
@ Levchappy, A wise decision on keeping the levinson 333.5 over emotiva amps!, Kudos, you may keep your user name here deservenly!, LOL!,, Happy listening!
I agree Bo1972, Pass Labs is superior to Levinson, and even though far form cheap, their equipment competes with other brand costing much, much more.

Is it true that Pass amps run extremely hot. What was the last best Levinson amp that you've owned for at least 2 years?

Have you ever owned somewhat recent Lamm amp? If so, how does it compare to the Levinson 333.5 and The Pass amp?

I know what you mean. It really sucks when experimenting with an upgrade means getting rid of an existing piece of equipment.

On another note, and not to get off on another rant about this vs. that, but I took a look at the specs on the Sherbourn amp that you are interested in.

Assuming that the manufacturer's published specs are on the optimistic side, the specs do not instill much confidence with regard to the amp's abilities. Most notable to me are the power ratings at 8 and 4 ohms. The 4 ohm rating is less than 50% more than it is at 8 ohms and they clearly state that the minimum recommended load impedance is 4 ohms.

Again, I don't know how this amp is going to handle your speakers with the 4 ohm nominal impedance, with it dropping down near 2 ohms a lot of the time.

Honestly, and again, just based on the published specs, I think I'd consider keeping the Levinson and getting into an Emotiva 5 channel amp. That way you can keep the Levinson for two channel and back that up with the other 5 channel amp for home theatre.

I'm only saying this as a personal thing, because I've never been wild about Acurus amps. They aren't for everyone.

I really appreciate your dialogue. Our Home Theater speakers consist of:

L/R Fronts Kef 104.2 (refurbished)

Center Thiel SCS2

L/R Surrounds Kef IQ3 SP3500

L/R Rears KEF 102.2

Our three Acurus amps do a fine job, but there is always room for improvement.

We are using an Oppo 103 3D Bluray player and an Emotiva UMC-200 pre-pro.

I would keep the Levinson for sure, especially if you had Alex go through it. Should be good for years to come.

But let me know if you sell it... : )
I wouldn't say *extremely* hot but yes, very warm to hot.

I did own the no. 23 amp from '88 until '92. It was ok, but I found much better.

Never owned Lamm.
bo1972  - you're so full of it !!!  Never heard such a blatant BS in my life !
What is it with you and Pass Labs ? A good discount or a kickback?
I've heard them ..and compared them to ML and other amps. Some were  good, some were NOT at all ! And even a lesser Emotiva pair - XPA-1 Gen 2, not the XPRs  mopped the floor with a Pass Lab amp on one occasion ( with B&W 802 ).  
And to say the 800-s B&Ws don't sound good with ML 33s - that's really brilliant !! Considering that B&W as a company uses these monoblocks as their reference amps !  That , obviously, eluded you. However, these amps  do need to be properly fed which requires  A LOT of power. There's so much more to a good sounding system than just switching components ...but , as I see, you know nothing about it. 
Mark levinson and "emo" should never even be spoken in the same sentence.  Keep the levinson, and forget the other Chinese amps. 

Poor parts, poor amplifiers.   

There is no comparison, levinson all day long. Better design, better parts, better in every aspect! 

I own the gen 1 xpa-1 monos. 

 I had my Sunfire sig refurbished by Bill flannery, and did compare them, the Sunfire stereo amp embarrassed the emo amps, was not close!  The Sunfire amp is from 1996, the emo monos from 2008. 

Keep  the mark levinson amps, you will thank everyone later. 

As mentioned, get the 30 day trial, u will send them back. 
Comparing the quality of Emotiva to Mark Levinson would be like comparing a Kia to a Rolls Royce.

The way this guy is always promoting Pass labs you would think he's getting a kickback on everyone sold. 
Had a chance to audition XPR-1s. VERY, VERY impressed ! Was quite reluctant to give them back to the owner...and my system consists of strictly ML gear from glorious days of Madrigal reign.
It's a shame they no longer make them. This pair was one of the best deals ever. I wish I had learned it sooner. 

I have intimate experience with both the Emotiva XPR-1 and XPA-1 (Gen 1) as well as XPA-1L (Class A 30 watts). 

I took a quick look at the Levison 333.5 amps and I will say that the Levisons will contain components (caps, resistors, etc.) that are far superior that anything Emotiva will have.  That being said, Levinson will have its own sonic signature that you may or may not like.  The Emotiva products are awesome in the fact that the company charter is to take a set of low cost components and design the best product they can with them, then take out the dealer markup and sell at a very low price (for what you are getting).  It may or may not outperform other amps and combinations.

The XPR-1 is an excellent amp for the money.  That being said, it is a tad soft and just a tad cold out of the box.  Replacing the stock fuses with Isoclean fuses tightened up the sound and made the transient responses quicker.  It also warmed up the sound as well.  Please be aware that the XPR fuse holders are not designed well.  They are very tightly conformed to 31.8mm length and they are not very strong in holding the fuse.  The edges of the fuses may have to be sanded/grinded a bit because 32mm length is too long and will not fit properly.  If you have the DIY skills for this, the XPR is an awesome choice.  I do not know how it compares to Levinson, though.

The XPA-1 is also a great amp.  It doesn't have the softness issue of the XPR, but it can be a bit bright.  Fuse replacements fix this as well (they use 20mm fuses, so sizing is not an issue).

The XPA-1L and XPA-1 Gen 2 with the Class A switch fix a lot of problems that come with the solid-stateness of these amps (especially if your source/preamp equipment is very solid-state sounding).  It makes the overall sound more smooth and natural.  However, I would not recommend buying these if you are not planning to run them in Class A mode.  The Emotiva amps do not have a proper circuit for the non-Class A mode and there is crossover distortion that may come across as being bright in the highs.  The smaller XPA-1L is nice in Class A mode, but does not have the brute force of the higher power amps and you will not get as much bass / midbass strength.

@levchappy what did you end up doing?  I'm looking at amps for my 3.6's as well.  Currently I am using a Krell TAS in stereo mode.
The late Jim Thiel preferred hooking up Bryston Amps w/his speakers. The two companies had a close relationship through the years. Many of the shows featured Bryston electronics w/Thiel speakers. Bryston amps were also used at Thiel HQ's.
Emotiva... hahahaha
Not in the same class... Wattage?? means nothing without current delivery...

Hello all. Although this is a very old thread, I stumbled across it, and could not resist to add my two cents. As many have pointed out above, in the first place, there really is no comparison in the build quality, sound and performance, between the two amplifiers. Yes, both big and heavy, both look really good on paper, and that is where it ends. It is often frustrating when I read so many posts from people comparing product A vs B, and they never heard the second one, or Both. This is quite the sport, where so called "experts" pass on their opinions for an amplifier they never heard.

I know how I felt when I bought home my Mark Levinson 335 and hooked it up to my Mezzo Utopias, then switched to my Dynaudio Contour 3.4's. My mouth dropped, and I immediately started listening to dozens of CD's to take it all in. And I did not replace an Emotiva product. I swapped out a Conrad Johnson tube amp, and a Krell KS300S. Both insanely good amps, yet the ML just took my breath away. Don't get me wrong, The CJ and the Krell amps are phenomenal, in every sense of the word. But the topic of discussion is The Mark 335 vs the Emotiva monoblocks. For any of the commentators with "any" negative remarks about the Mark, I would first ask, "have you ever listened to this amplifier, that you are passing judgement and comparison ?" Willing to bet 10 cents to the dollar, that the answer is NO.

This seems to be quite the trend in the audio trade. You get people that have never seen or heard a piece of equipment, critiquing and comparing it against something else. How often does somebody with a limited budget, buy a 2k amp, which happens to be twice as expensive as their last amp, and is blown away by the quality and performance ? Now that they are quite proud of themselves, they have become the expert, and are ready to down play the quality/capability of a 10k amp, which they never heard, and/or cannot afford to buy. Then, you have people reading these notes, passing them on, and believing the non sense. 

To sum this up, my friend and associate owns these Emotiva monoblocks, and is quite proud of them. Powerful and clean as could be. But he spends quite a bit of time at my house, listening to my Mark Levinson. Actually, we both do, as I rarely ever go and listen to his gear. But, he was able to buy his entire system, for under 12k. That is about 1/4 of the price of my system. The one we compare to. The moral of the story, is that you get what you pay for. Not to knock the Emotiva amp, or any other product. But if you are going to make a bold comparison, and judge against such an incredible piece of gear, as the Mark Levinson 335 or 33- anything, just make sure you get your story straight. Like somebody on this tread mentioned, don't compare a KIA to a Rolls Royce. It just isn't credible.