Mark Levinson No.5805 integrated amplifier

Mark Levinson isn't known as a budget brand, and most people would not consider $8500 a budget price for anything short of a new car. One could argue, though, that Levinson's new No.5805 integrated amplifier ($8500 with DAC and phono stage) is a budget component—combining high performance and build quality with a price tag that's moderate by hi-fi standards. Plus, there's a lot of functionality in one box.

Say you want to build a very good audio system in the fewest possible steps and boxes. The 5805 includes a digital source, MM+MC phono stage, a preamplifier, an amplifier, and a headphone output, all in one product. That's five major functions at an average cost of $1700 per function—significantly less than the average cost in the relevant categories of Class B of Stereophile's Recommended Components list—and think of all the money you'll save on interconnects! The No.5805 starts to look like quite the bargain, assuming it works well and sounds good. So . . . does it?

The very model of a modern integrated amplifier
The No.5805 is large—a typical 177#188;" wide, but deeper than usual at a shade under 20"—and distinctly heavy, at 62 lb. It's also nicely styled, its matte-black surfaces set off by red lights, hourglass-shaped knobs, and glass and brushed-aluminum accents.

But it's the feature set that impresses most. The Levinson's eight inputs are evenly split between digital and analog. The former include one USB 2.0, one coaxial S/PDIF, and two TosLink S/PDIF, while the latter include one balanced (XLR), two line-level unbalanced (RCA), and two phono (MM or MC, both RCA, although only one of them can be used at a time). There's also the apparently obligatory home-theater bypass mode, and an Ethernet port for control, not music. Output choices are typical for an integrated: one set of loudspeaker connectors, a set of variable preamp outputs (RCA), and a ¼" headphone jack (footnote 1).

The preamplifier circuit is based on Levinson's proprietary, discrete, direct-coupled, dual-mono architecture. The volume control uses a resistor network coupled to the preamp's single gain stage—not the traditional amplify-then-attenuate volume control. The volume can be adjusted in 0.5dB steps, which is small enough.

Levinson says that the phono (pre)amplification stage is similar to the highly regarded circuit used in their 500-series preamplifiers—but there it's all discrete, while here some integrated circuits are blended in to control costs. The RIAA equalization stage is also, in its way, a hybrid: part passive, part active. Loading is more flexible than in most built-in phono preamps: In MM mode—which, according to company specs, has 39dB of gain—resistive loading is set to 47k ohm, but there are four capacitive-loading settings. MC cartridges, for which 69dB of gain is available, can be resistively loaded at between 37 and 1000 ohms. There's a defeatable rumble filter and a phono-specific ±3dB balance control.

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Those digital inputs accept PCM up to DXD level (32/384) and DSD up to 11.4MHz (4xDSD)—the latter via PCM (DOP) or native DSD. PCM processing allows a choice of filters: seven for PCM and four for DSD. For PCM, upsampling is offered to 352.8/384kHz, but it's user-defeatable. Upsampling is available for DSD, too, to 4x. The No.5805 can decode and render Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) encoded audio.

Unusually for a hi-fi product, if less and less so in recent times, the No.5805 does Bluetooth—specifically, Bluetooth aptX-HD, which is marketed as "lossless" and claimed to be capable of high-quality audio. The hitch: While the No.5805 will do Bluetooth with any Bluetooth-enabled device, only devices with a certain Bluetooth technology can send data via aptX-HD. That includes Android devices, but apparently not iPhones. (I've read that you can set up a Mac laptop to send data that way, but it requires some technical sophistication—and time constraints prevented me from doing so for this review.)

Why do I care about Bluetooth? Because I don't care about video. I own a television, but it mostly sits in a corner, disconnected. Except for social watching—the occasional movie or sporting event with family or friends, for which I'll pull out the TV and connect the sound to my stereo system—I watch movies and sports alone on my MacBook Pro, sitting in a chair with my feet up. My viewing chair is my listening chair, so it's great to be able to toss my computer's audio over to my audio system wirelessly, with negligible levels of latency. I may watch movies on a 13" screen, but at least I get good sound.

The No.5805's fully discrete, direct-coupled, class-AB-biased amplifier section is claimed capable of 125Wpc into an 8-ohm loudspeaker load and almost twice that into a 4-ohm load. The single mains transformer, with separate output windings for each channel, is rated at 500+VA, enough current to make the amplifier "stable" into 2 ohms, according to the manufacturer. The voltage-gain topology, which the manufacturer says is "descended from" Levinson's midlevel No.534 power amplifier, is mated to an output stage featuring eight transistors, two of them operating in class-A. Output-stage bias is autocorrected in response to temperature, which I think is important. Claimed output impedance is low, about a tenth of an ohm across the audio band.

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The control system is feature-rich, including adjustable input pads so you can match the volumes of your various sources and set a maximum volume. The Mute function can be set to quiet the volume rather than silence it. "Taper" allows you to set how fast the volume changes when you turn the volume knob. There's an auto-off function that turns off your car—kidding—that powers down the unit after 20 minutes of inactivity. There's a choice of three standby modes: one consumes just 7W of power, thereby satisfying EU environmental rules, another that keeps the control system active to receive commands from the remote, and a third that consumes 70W and is recommended if you don't want to wait an hour for the amplifier to warm up before you can get optimal sound.

If you've utilized that Ethernet port to put your Levinson online, you can set all this up with a web browser; otherwise it can be done via the remote or the front panel.

Listening
Not many people buy a full-function integrated amplifier to utilize just the preamp or the DAC (footnote 2): They buy it to use it as the core component in a relatively compact audio system. So I started by listening to the No.5805 as most listeners surely would, making full use of its internal DAC and preamp and sending the amplifier's output directly to the loudspeakers. (I ran USB cables from my Roon ROCK server to my PS Audio DirectStream DAC and the Levinson No.5805.)


Footnote 1: There's no separate headphone amp—just a robust preamplifier that shares duty driving headphones.

Footnote 2: There are exceptions, but usually they're vintage. The Audio Research SP-10 comes to mind: Some people buy it—used, obviously—for the phono section.

COMPANY INFO
Mark Levinson
Harman Luxury Audio Group
8500 Balboa Boulevard
Northridge, CA 91329
(888) 691-4171
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
mtrot's picture

So, how does the sound compare to the 585? One can now occasionally find a used 585 for a similar price.

MZKM's picture

For $8500, I expected better measured performance. It is about as good (better in some metrics, worse in others) as the $850 Outlaw RR1260.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you already have or, in the market for under $5,000 speakers, Outlaw Audio RR2160, which was reviewed by Stereophile may be a good choice :-) ...........

Long-time listener's picture

"That said, the Levinson No.5805 is cheaper than just about everything else in its class."

Really? The NAD M32, at half the price, offers more power, a DAC with higher resolution (20 bits versus 18) and lots of functionality. I'd choose the NAD (I did).

Ortofan's picture

... measured continuous power output as the M-L No.5805, plus it includes streaming capability and a room correction function - all for only $750.
https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio_visual/hifi_components/r-n803/index.html
https://www.eisa.eu/awards/yamaha-r-n803d/
https://audio.com.pl/testy/stereo/amplitunery-stereo/2984-yamaha-r-n803d

The amplifier/DAC section is similar to that of the A-S801 integrated amp about which a TAS reviewer said:
"The Yamaha A-S801 looks good, sounds splendid, and has a long list of useful features at a price that makes it a flaming bargain! I suspect many readers are lifelong audiophiles like me, for whom system upgrades are a way of life, possibly even the purpose of life. But for lots of people who just want a good hi-fi to play their music on, a hi-fi may be a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. For those people, or for anyone who wants good sound with lots of flexibility at a reasonable price, the Yamaha A-S801 integrated amplifier would be my top recommendation. It may be the only hi-fi electronics purchase they will ever need."

mrkaic's picture

... then what isn’t?

It is expensive, but still offers a lot of THD per buck. :) Are they trying to emulate tube amps with solid state technology? If so, they are getting close.

Axiom05's picture

If ML was still owned by Madrigal this unit would probably cost $20K (but I think the performance would have been much better).

Archimago's picture

Yeah, that's quite a stretch to call this level of technical performance "excellent". Across the board we see measured results and FFT's with rather middling (eg. J-Test with spurious tones) if not poor (eg. >0.1% THD+N at 1W into 4-ohms!?) results.

$8500 is certainly not cheap at this level of performance even though it does have quite a number of features as an integrated amp.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Although it has less number of features than 5805, it would be interesting to see a comparison review between 5805 and the new Krell K-300i integrated amps :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Don't worry, be happy with the PS audio Sprout and the ELAC speakers for $899 :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The above combo is available from PS Audio :-) ........

Robin Landseadel's picture

"One could argue, though, that Levinson's new No.5805 integrated amplifier ($8500 with DAC and phono stage) is a budget component"

But one would be wrong.

Bobber05's picture

Wryly amused by Mr Austin's comment about a waterfront cottage in the Keys with a flatsboat outback...New skiffs can easily run 6-10 times the cost of this integrated amp. A "cottage" in the Keys, more likely to be a mobile home on a canal and run you a quarter million.
Plus ungodly insurance. Dogs are still cheap tho....
Worth every penny when you get that first permit on fly.Especially when your dog is with you and says "good job,Ralph". Even tho your name isn't Ralph.

Jim Austin's picture
Grew up a bit north of there. Stuck in the '80s. Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
Anton's picture

I am not sure if you would know, but is this amplifier circuit the same as the one used in Crown amplifiers?

They seem so similar, but I am not technically informed enough to know. (The brands have the same owners, so I wonder.)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Most of the Crown amps are now Class-D amps, as far as I know ........ ML amps are Class-AB ....... In the (good) old days ML made lot of Class-A amps :-) ........

ML top model No.53 is some type of Class-D :-) ........

Anton's picture

Crown says...

"DriveCore's front-end drive circuits leverage the inherent efficiency of Class D output stages while also maintaining superb sonic characteristics. The end result is an ultra-efficient one-piece audio amplifier circuit that exhibits the exemplary audio quality of a highly evolved Class AB design."

I don't know if you could also call it class AB, or not!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JA1 is lot more qualified to answer your question :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

So, Crown may be an 'I'ntelligently 'D'esigned Class-ID :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile reviewed Crown Macro Reference power amp ......... It was a power house with impressive measurements :-) ........

Jim Austin's picture
I was told the No.5805 is class-AB.
jeffhenning's picture

Wow, I'm in the camp with the people that don't think that $8.5K is a budget component and that this box's measured performance is not exemplary.

You can buy a really nice phono pre-amp, a Benchmark DAC3 HGC and AHB-2 amp that will blow this away for the same price or less.

Another example of underachieving equipment getting a glowing review on this site.

Jim Austin's picture
Another example of underachieving equipment getting a glowing review on this site.
Have you heard it? Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
Bogolu Haranath's picture

ML5805 is capable of driving 2 Ohm loads ....... See measurements ........ Lot of integrated amps have hard time driving that kind of low impedance loads :-) ........

ML5805 won't lose the 'grip', so to speak :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

ML5805 may work well with the Revel Performa F228Be loudspeakers ($10,000/pair) ........ Stereophile Class-A :-) .........

dial's picture

Well, I can't think about customers still buying ML gear and not wanting separates : DAC/pre/Amp/even phono board (?). May be I'm wrong.

bunnybeer's picture

What’s with the signal to noise ratio measurement in the 60-dB range? Possibly a typo? Otherwise I would have expected to see a comment like “resulted in a disappointing 67.9 dB” rather than a statement to justify the result. That number does not seem like excellent measured performance for an $8,500 integrated amplifier by an esteemed company such as Mark Levinson.

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