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 Post subject: Mark Levinson, Pass Labs
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 5:13 am 
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Kicking around the idea of going for a new (used) power amp and I am the rare breed who values reliability over "now I hear it, now I don't" sound differences. Shore up in the cheap seats!

My question then, asked only of reasonable members here, is the following:

All other issues aside ( :lol: ) are Pass Labs amps more reliable (I actually mean bullet proof) and, if something goes South, more serviceable than ML, a brand of Harman International, a company that I know from experience cares little about legacy products.

Thank you all.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 5:43 am 
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Pass Labs service is excellant... .Levinson, not so much...other brands that have good service and are still in operation, fairly important!!!, are Plinius, Balanced Audio Technology, and Krell just to mention a few that are in the same league as the two you mentioned.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 5:55 am 
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Krell has been known to be rock solid and runs forever. Bryston also.

In general a lot of people feel the used gear built years ago are better quality than the recently built, esp when the brand was still boutique vs being acquired by large congol.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:14 am 
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Mark Levinson tends to depreciate more heavily than Pass Labs, as a result you may be able to buy a more powerful amp for less.

Pass labs is lovely equipment and would be my choice if it is affordable.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:43 am 
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PBB wrote:
ML, a brand of Harman International, a company that I know from experience cares little about legacy products.



Consensus on the web seems to be that Pass Labs/First Watt amps are bullet proof. And Nelson Pass is known to stock enough parts for legacy gear that you need never worry about an amp being unrepairable.


I lusted for a Pass Labs amp since the Aleph series was introduced 25 years ago. Eighteen months ago, I bought an almost-Pass Labs amp - a First Watt F5 clone, designed by Nelson Pass and built with his approval/support with DIYaudio.com parts, by a fellow that moved on to another Nelson Pass design. I've been playing with audio gear since the early 1970s, and have gone through many amps both tube and solid state. IMHO, you won't regret buying a Pass Labs amp. I do suggest that you consider one of their LOW power, full Class A amps. I drive Martin Logan electrostatic speakers with the F5, which is 25 wpc and gives me plenty of volume. Nelson Pass suggests that if an F5 won't power your speakers to satisfying volume levels, then there's something not-quite-right with the design of the speakers. I tend to agree.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:02 am 
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There are only really two factors in reliability - does the manufacturer test every component before placing it on the board, and does the manufacturer keep any of the limited edition parts on hand after the fact, eg. transistors, pots etc. All gear fails eventually.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 8:43 am 
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Reliability has to do with a number of factors. All electrical components have a safe operating range, and some designers work carefully within those limits, some designers (Bob Carver for example) are known to run their designs close to the limit. The quality of the parts used is also important as reliability can varies greatly between passive components. Sometimes a manufacturer gets a batch of bad parts from a otherwise good supplier...I believe it was the Levinson "3" series of amps that suffered from bad Phillips caps.

Reliability only tells part of the story, and I would argue that "serviceability" is equally important. I always feel better if I can get a service manual for something I buy, or at least schematics. Some companies use well known parts that can be sourced easily, others use obscure devices they sourced directly off shore. Also some manufacturers have parts rebranded with their own proprietary parts numbers, or worse yet scratch off the parts numbers to make third party service impossible. Also the design of the component can impact the effort required to work on a given product. The older Levinson stuff appears to have very complex construction, while their more recent amps were designed with serviceability in mind.

Mark Levinson was owned by Madrigal Labs, who was later bought out by Harmon International. Harmon eventually closed the Madrigal factory, and started building new Levinson products at their own facility. Now Harmon has been bought by Samsung, so who knows what the future holds. Early Levinson schematics can be found online, but Harmon has never released any service manuals or schematics for the later products, and they are all very complex designs. Basically Levinson owners are at the mercy of Harmon for repair. From what I've read online, Harmon hasn't been great about supporting older Levinson gear. That said, I personally would like to buy Levinson amp to try out at some point. I recently had a Proceed Amp 2 (Madrigal's lower line) and thought it was excellent, and it happened to be very easy to work on.

Pass Labs has a very good reputation for reliability and customer service, however they don't release schematics of their newer designs. I just bought a pair of Pass Labs XA60.5s, and they look really simple to service, however if they ever need repair I'll likely have to send them to Pass as they use discontinued transistors that Pass specifically keeps in stock.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:03 am 
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yes part availability is a factor . many company that get there part from god knows where, are eventually going to cease production, earlier rather then later. specialy integrated circuit.
but when I see them using transistors from Motorola, that usually make me feel better, because if one transistor company are reliable supplyer of parts, Motorola is one of the best one around for continuity in part availability or replacement availability.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:42 am 
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Tutone wrote:
Pass Labs service is excellant... .Levinson, not so much...other brands that have good service and are still in operation, fairly important!!!, are Plinius, Balanced Audio Technology, and Krell just to mention a few that are in the same league as the two you mentioned.


I can attest to the Krell and Audio Research equipment as having owned them they will go to a great length to make sure that you'll be satisfied with their service. The caveat is they can be expensive if the service is out of warranty the shipping cost of going back and forth alone can sometimes worth more than you think if the equipment weighs near the 200 hundred lbs. mark. However, on its way back they always put the repaired equipment in its new shipping box if it needed be. They did it to me of which I was very glad because of the old shipping box was too worn out from using way too much duct tapes to hold them together.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:09 am 
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Pass Labs customer service is second to none and their amps are about as bullet-proof as they come. Very down-to-earth, caring people over at Pass and I've gotten replies from Nelson himself on more than one occasion. Have owned many of their products and have never been disappointed.

Can't really speak to newer (5-series) ML but I've read that their older stuff seems to require re-capping sooner than many other brands.

For me it'd be an easy decision both sonically and in terms of build/customer service -- Pass Labs.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:39 am 
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Yes Audio Research has always had very good customer service, even though the nature of their designs may warrant repair more than some other brands (for example they use resistors as fuses in most of their tube amps). Shipping to them in in Minnesota is expensive, but they will provide schematics and assistance if you don't have a local Dealer that is able to do the work. Also ARC stocks parts for everything they've ever made, so if you can't find it elsewhere, they'll have what you need. I was wondering if things would change under their new ownership, but aside from one or two key people retiring is seems to be largely the same right now.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:11 am 
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Bryston.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:24 am 
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electrafixion wrote:
Yes Audio Research has always had very good customer service, even though the nature of their designs may warrant repair more than some other brands (for example they use resistors as fuses in most of their tube amps). Shipping to them in in Minnesota is expensive, but they will provide schematics and assistance if you don't have a local Dealer that is able to do the work. Also ARC stocks parts for everything they've ever made, so if you can't find it elsewhere, they'll have what you need. I was wondering if things would change under their new ownership, but aside from one or two key people retiring is seems to be largely the same right now.


Agreed!...I 'm very lucky that a friend of mine is a competent tech whom I trust to work with my equipment and who happens to be a fan and of course very knowledgeable all of Audio Research, MBL and Krell equipment just to name a few. There's nothing that he can't fix once he gets a hold of the said equipment schematics. Come to think of it I will be seeing him very soon as the LED readout on my Audio Research cd player is intermittently dimming out when loading the cd. However, it's not affecting the sound by any means but it still worries me a bit.


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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 5:58 pm 
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PBB wrote:
Kicking around the idea of going for a new (used) power amp and I am the rare breed who values reliability over "now I hear it, now I don't" sound differences. Shore up in the cheap seats!

My question then, asked only of reasonable members here, is the following:

All other issues aside ( :lol: ) are Pass Labs amps more reliable (I actually mean bullet proof) and, if something goes South, more serviceable than ML, a brand of Harman International, a company that I know from experience cares little about legacy products.

Thank you all.


Just because it's made by any manufacturer doesn't in any way guarantee 100% reliability or linear sound quality within their product range. What counts is if it does needs attention they are there for you.
I've only owned one ML and one Pass and my taste leans toward the ML which I had zero reliability issues with.
Having said that many older product just isn't supported by the manufacturer and shipping a brute 2 ways can be highly negative to the wallet and resale investment point of view


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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 6:24 pm 
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I used a lot of generations of ML and had little problems only with it...depends on the actual generation you want to go. The older generation is better sounding, but of course is getting old and in need for some re-fresh....


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