|Mark Levinson No. 433 Triple Mono Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Mono Amplifiers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Sunday, 01 April 2007|
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There are few high-end audio brand names that carry with them such universal admiration as Mark Levinson. The mere mention of Mark Levinson components conjures up feelings of quality, luxury and lust that I can only equate with brands at the level of, say, Patek Philippe, the Four Seasons resorts and perhaps even Lexus. Since the late 1970s, Mark Levinson gear has been the subject of many audiophiles’ dreams and has kept consumers and even modest editors wondering how they can spend their tax returns to land such well-crafted audio reproduction gear. When you find out a Mark Levinson amp is coming your way, even if you are a jaded reviewer, you get excited.
The Mark Levinson No. 433 is a first for the brand, in that it’s not only a true multi-channel amp, but it is also a long-awaited solution for the company’s customers and dealers who have moved into home theater and music in high-resolution surround. Despite the slow to market style of the Levinson brand, I can’t help but think of the old cliché “good things come to those who wait.” For me, the wait for FedEx to get the amp across the country was nearly unbearable.
To the untrained eye, it would be hard to pick out the No. 433 from the rest of the Mark Levinson line of power amplifiers, as it shares the same stylistic flair, with its slightly bowed gray accent panels that flank each side of the faceplate. The No. 433 is also on the larger side of the spectrum, measuring 17-and-three-quarters inches wide by seven-and-a-half inches tall and 20 inches deep. One cannot ignore its weight, unless your name is Bruce Banner and you have a tendency turn green when you’re angry. The No. 433 weighs a whopping 115 pounds. The reason behind the No. 433’s substantial heft is its true triple mono design. In a nutshell, the No. 433 is actually three discrete amplifiers, each with its own low-noise toroidal transformer power supplies in a single chassis. While this methodology is nothing new to the modern amplifier, this three-channel design is new to Mark Levinson and the No. 433. Each of the No. 433’s channels output a solid 200 watts per channel at eight ohms and doubles to 400 watts per channel at four ohms. The No. 433 has a stated frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz at less than five percent total harmonic distortion, provided the user has adequate AC mains that can handle the No. 433’s significant power requirements.
Getting away from specs for a moment, all this power, not to mention the presence of not one but three transformers, raises the question of heat. Heat is the enemy when it comes to any and all things electronic, especially amplifiers, which explains why a lot of today’s modern amps are literally covered in heat sinks or use fans. Amazingly, the No. 433 isn’t covered in heat sinks; in fact, it doesn’t appear to have any. In actuality, the No. 433 does have internal heat sinks (one for each channel), which aid in the unit’s convection cooling system that is basically achieved through the use of vents in the casing above and below each of the No. 433’s amplifier sections. While my past experience with vent-like systems has been less then stellar, the No. 433’s implementation of its convection cooling system works rather well, well enough that I wouldn’t cringe at the thought of putting a No. 433 in a Middle Atlantic rack.
Turning my attention to the rear of the No. 433, I noticed a host of connection options for an amp. For starters, there are the binding posts, which are a wing-nut design capable of accepting only spade lug terminations, which is about par for the course for power amps in the No. 433’s class. Next to each pair of binding posts is a set of single-ended and balanced inputs. You can select between each option by either leaving in or removing the small metal bridging straps located in each of the balanced inputs. When the straps are in, it means you can only use the single-ended inputs and vice versa. Along the far right edge is the No. 433’s 12-volt trigger and Mark Levinson’s own RJ-11 and RJ-45 communication ports, which allow the No. 433 to speak to other Mark Levinson components via a proprietary cable system that looks very much like a phone cable. Lastly, there is the 120-volt power cord receptacle. Along both the right and left side of the No. 433 is a pair of handles to aid in positioning the No. 433 in your room or equipment rack. All in all, the No. 433 is rather Zen in its design and layout and can be had for a cool $10,000.00 retail.
The No. 433 arrived at my new house just as my contractors and installers were putting the finishing touches on my new reference home theater. Before help could get away, I employed a few extra hands to assist me in getting the No. 433 onto the bottom shelf of my Middle Atlantic rack. I connected the No. 433 to my Meridian G68 surround sound controller via a compliment of Ultralink HT Reference interconnects. I decided to power the front left, right and center speakers with the No. 433, with my trusty Outlaw Audio 7200 amp powering the rears. All of the speakers, Meridian 300 series in-walls (review pending), were connected to the No. 433 and 7200 via Ultralink HT reference in-wall speaker cable. While I did the bulk of this review using my Meridian in-wall system, I did have a few other loudspeakers on hand, mainly the mighty Magnepan 3.6s and Definitive Technology Super Towers, to double-check my findings with the No. 433.
I rounded out my system with a Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray player and Meridian G98 DVD Transport as sources, with all high-definition and standard-definition television coming by way of Dish Network’s HD DVR. I went ahead and EQ’d the whole set-up with Audyssey’s new stand-alone sound equalizer (review pending), with all power filtration coming by way of Monster Cable’s HTPS 7000. My display of choice was a 92-inch acoustically transparent Screen Research screen, with the epic Sony 1080p SXRD “Pearl” projector providing the visuals.