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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With the need more and more for HDMI 1.3A I am wondering if I can replace the 40 with something... The Levinson 502 does not sound as good as the 40 to me. This only leaves the Krell 707 which I have not heard.


So anyone with direct experience with a 40 vs the 707 ?


The Levinson has such good DAC's and analog stages its hard to beat.
 

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Hi fellow Az AV Club member Chris.


Phil H of our club (who does not like his name and info on the web) also has the 40 with the HDMI box. He also said that the 502 doesn't sound as good.


DO you have any reason to believe that the blu ray player doing the digital decoding to PCM, than HDMI to your 40, would sound any better or different than if the blu ray player could send the bitstream to be decoded in the 40.


Phil H swears by the quality of the 40's DACs, saying they sound better than the three separate Levinson stereo DACs he used before.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Steve,


The 40 seems just impossible to beat so far. IMHO..


The question is, what does the 707 sound like ? The weird part in the reviews I have read is that no one mentions the 707 DAC's or analog stages.


Yes, if the BluRay does the decoding and outputs PCM, well then, im good...


Yea unless some miracle occurs I can't see anything beating the 40.. BUT sometimes you never know.


I sure wish someone out there would make a INSANE surround processor. I know 2 people right now that would buy it, maybe 3. What would be fun would be a Audio Research tube based surround processor with HDMI 1.3..


What amazes me is that you see 40's on Audiogon for $6-7K... What a bargain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yes. I think that it does.


But I dont use it for that purpose. Its a HDMI / digital surround decoder with variable gain output.


I hook it up as my "processer" to a tube based preamp. The preamp has "bypass" and when I do home theater I simply place the tube pre in bypass. So all analog sources hook directly to the tube preamp.


So I dont care at all about analog inputs. In fact I dont care about any input other then HDMI and even that is switched externally.


I just wish it didn't have that second video/brain box. Annoying and large and in my case completely unused.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xymox /forum/post/19551939


Hi Steve,


The 40 seems just impossible to beat so far. IMHO..


The question is, what does the 707 sound like ? The weird part in the reviews I have read is that no one mentions the 707 DAC's or analog stages.


Yes, if the BluRay does the decoding and outputs PCM, well then, im good...


Yea unless some miracle occurs I can't see anything beating the 40.. BUT sometimes you never know.


I sure wish someone out there would make a INSANE surround processor. I know 2 people right now that would buy it, maybe 3. What would be fun would be a Audio Research tube based surround processor with HDMI 1.3..


What amazes me is that you see 40's on Audiogon for $6-7K... What a bargain.

Hi Chris ,


Having listen to a ML 40 ,proceed AVP and AVP2 and theta Casablanca I,II and III and many others the ML 40,AVP2 were the start of a down grade in sound quality and their 2 chan pre amps and amps from ML.


Casablanca III and 6 shooter is IMO the best sounding PRE/PRO but is bettered by analog from player to analog pre amps 2 chan and/or CJ met1 pre.If you must use HDMI ,it is a problem in hi end HT/2 chan systems.


30k can get a nice sounding 2 chan pre,as I use AR ref amps looking at new AR ref pre,bat rex, allnic pre etc for use in HT and 2 chan.

Also upgrading bluray player to modded oppo ?Projector to be purchased too.


Cheers Victor.

PS tubes do rule.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi Victor,


In fact I intend to use the 40 with the new AR Reference Anniversary Preamplifier.


I do need HDMI as it is a also a theater, not just a 2 channel listening room. I am good with HDMI 1.1 in the 40.


I have preferred the Levinson DAC / analog output stages over the Casablanca in the past. But that is my opinion of course. If a new one has HDMI then it might be worth looking at again. Anyone know the timing on this product ? The web site is just taking names with no product details at all and a release date of autumn..


Its still surprizing to me that in all these years no one has a high end processor with HDMI 1.3 while $100 receivers do..
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xymox /forum/post/19556544


Its still surprizing to me that in all these years no one has a high end processor with HDMI 1.3 while $100 receivers do...

I suppose that it depends on your definition of high-end but ADA, Classe, etc. are all HDMI 1.3 or better..
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Classe is owned by B&W. While good, its not at the same performance level as a Meridian 861, Levinson 40, Casablanca. You can see from a photo on thier site that it seems to use a switching power supply and has no high end caps on the audio boards. You can also see they use stock surround decoder chips. Meridian and the Levinson run their own surround decoder software in powerful DSP chips.


Classe is sorta of a mid performance unit.




ADA,,, well,,, its more of a custom installer product. They are marketed not so much as a high performance brand but as a high end custom installer product with high margins for the custom installer. The have rack mount ears you cant even remove. The fit and finish is made to go into a rack, not sit out where people can see it. The audio performance IMHO is at or slight above a good receiver but has many more custome installer features like multi room and RS232 control.


One of the reasons making a high end HDMI 1.3 surround processor is so difficult is a legal problem. Writing your own surround decoder software implies you will be decrypting the HDCP encrypted content. In every 1.3 device today this is done inside a chip. VERY few people have licenses/authorizations to make these types of chips. This is why when you open any surround decoder that has HDMI 1.3 its the same chip. These chips cannot be modified to allow unauthorized decryption. Levinson wrote their own surround decoding software and used a reprogrammable chip to run the code. The HDCP Police will not allow a manufacturer to do this. You must use one of the authorized chips. So,,, the days of being able to write a much higher performance surround decoder are over. Sad how copyright protections have crippled the ability to make high quality products.


Luckily, if the BluRay player can decode into a multi channel PCM and do that over HDMI then we really don't need a high end surround decoder but more of a multichannel preamp. Of course it still needs to do surround decoding for older devices like dvd and optical/coaxial signals.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xymox /forum/post/19558665



ADA,,, well,,, its more of a custom installer product. They are marketed not so much as a high performance brand but as a high end custom installer product with high margins for the custom installer. The have rack mount ears you cant even remove. The fit and finish is made to go into a rack, not sit out where people can see it....

[laughing]


I know, I know, the rack ears make for sonically inferiority and not being able to see it while listening makes for a lesser experience.


I'm running out to purchase that true, 'state of the art' Levinson!!



(and I thought I had heard everything on sonics)
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xymox /forum/post/19558665


Classe is owned by B&W. While good, its not at the same performance level as a Meridian 861, Levinson 40, Casablanca. You can see from a photo on thier site that it seems to use a switching power supply and has no high end caps on the audio boards. You can also see they use stock surround decoder chips. Meridian and the Levinson run their own surround decoder software in powerful DSP chips.


Classe is sorta of a mid performance unit.




ADA,,, well,,, its more of a custom installer product. They are marketed not so much as a high performance brand but as a high end custom installer product with high margins for the custom installer. The have rack mount ears you cant even remove. The fit and finish is made to go into a rack, not sit out where people can see it. The audio performance IMHO is at or slight above a good receiver but has many more custome installer features like multi room and RS232 control.


One of the reasons making a high end HDMI 1.3 surround processor is so difficult is a legal problem. Writing your own surround decoder software implies you will be decrypting the HDCP encrypted content. In every 1.3 device today this is done inside a chip. VERY few people have licenses/authorizations to make these types of chips. This is why when you open any surround decoder that has HDMI 1.3 its the same chip. These chips cannot be modified to allow unauthorized decryption. Levinson wrote their own surround decoding software and used a reprogrammable chip to run the code. The HDCP Police will not allow a manufacturer to do this. You must use one of the authorized chips. So,,, the days of being able to write a much higher performance surround decoder are over. Sad how copyright protections have crippled the ability to make high quality products.


Luckily, if the BluRay player can decode into a multi channel PCM and do that over HDMI then we really don't need a high end surround decoder but more of a multichannel preamp. Of course it still needs to do surround decoding for older devices like dvd and optical/coaxial signals.

A question...have you heard them or are you just commenting on them with no first hand experience...


Although I am not here to start a fight I will say that I previously owned a Meridian 861V4 + 621 combination and I can tell you -- with absolute certainty -- that, to my ears, the ADA outperforms that Meridian combination...and, in case you do not believe me, I know of someone else who came to the same conclusion as I did only he moved from an 861V6 and is not looking back...


The only question I have for you is how many of the units that you are knowocking have you actually heard...


PS. The ADA was purchased for its souund and, by the way, the rack ears work perfectly in my MA racks in my equipment room...
 

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But Joel, the ADA is for installers... how could the ADA out-perform big Meridian rig?? The ADA has only 'average receiver' performance and it not designed to be looked at.


I was searching for the poster's thread on his experience with the brand new ADA, but it is absent... Assuming, I guess. You know what they say about 'assume'...
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xymox /forum/post/19556544


Its still surprizing to me that in all these years no one has a high end processor with HDMI 1.3 while $100 receivers do..

The 707 is HDMI 1.3 and it's fantastic. I wouldn't be surprised if the 707 is better in every way over your 40. Quite an expensive piece if you're only using it for HDMI though. An S-1200U or Classe SSP-800 are probably your best bets for your needs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by thebland /forum/post/19559128


But Joel, the ADA is for installers... how could the ADA out-perform big Meridian rig?? The ADA has only 'average receiver' performance and it not designed to be looked at.

Noted and understood




Quote:
Originally Posted by thebland /forum/post/19559128


was searching for the poster's thread on his experience with the brand new ADA, but it is absent... Assuming, I guess. You know what they say about 'assume'...

What would that be...that it is "the mother of all f*ck ups" [see the movie Under Siege with Steven Segal] or } OR that it makes an "ass of u and me"!
 

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One thing at a time:

Quote:
You can see from a photo on thier site that it seems to use a switching power supply

That's a toroidal (linear) power supply upper right

Quote:
You can also see they use stock surround decoder chips. Meridian and the Levinson run their own surround decoder software in powerful DSP chips. ....VERY few people have licenses/authorizations to make these types of chips.

Levinson uses stock decoder chips too. Logic 7 is an overlay on top of that. Nobody makes their own chips. Only Meridian AFAIK writes their own code, and not for the hi-rez codecs. The SSP 800 has more MIPS of DSP power 1200 I think vs. the G68 and 861 which have 900, so in that sense it's a more 'powerful' (and therefore better
) processor.

Quote:
Writing your own surround decoder software implies you will be decrypting the HDCP encrypted content

The MHR interface has little if anything to do w/surround decoding software or HDCP -- it was originally a way pass DVD-A digitally/legally.


Perhaps better men than I can look at the innards and tell how something sounds. Me, I'm limited to hearing with my ears not my eyes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hahahaha.....


My,, how I love forums....


Some of my background.


I have been written up in various magazines like Perfect Vision, Stereophiles Guide To Home Theater and Robb Report. Ive had mentions in Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. The theaters I do tend to be reasonably high performance and got noticed. I did the CES DTS booth system for years.


Im a engineer who, back in the day, made the best video projector taking awards for "product of the year" from Stereophiles Guide and Perfect Vision. Even today its almost impossible to beat the picture with even a professional D-Cine projector.. So I do understand analog engineering. I use post production equipment for home theater use. I have extensive experience building my own high performance audio gear. I'm a hobbyist in analog engineering.


Ive been doing high performance theater gear since before Dolby Pro Logic. Back during Laser Disc days.


Exotic high performance theater is my career. Been doin it for like 20+ years now.


____________________________________________________________ _


I never meant to bash a product. I just feel some of the products mentioned are not at the same level of performance as the 861/40/707


The reason I am posting is to see what might be out there worth looking into.


Responses in chronological order:


____________________________________________________________ _

Quote:
I know, I know, the rack ears make for sonically inferiority and not being able to see it while listening makes for a lesser experience.

If you cant see it your wire run lengths might be so long your loosing tons of performance right there. The longer the wire the more loss. Period. You might have noticed most super high performance 2 channel audio has very short wire run lengths. This is for a reason. The same applies to theaters. I have clients where the gear is all up front close to and inbetween the speakers and it needs to look as good as it sounds.


Style is a important design consideration IMHO. Products in the price class can afford to have good styling. The simple fact is the ADA is ugly. Sorry it just is. You are absolutely correct tho, style is not the most important quality at all. In fact it could be butt ugly and I would not care at all. Its all about how it sounds.


____________________________________________________________ ____

Quote:
have you heard them or are you just commenting on them with no first hand experience...

I have 2 decades of experience with all these brands. Some brands have specific sound characteristics IMHO. Brands tend to have sonic characteristics in my experence. ADA and Classe are examples in my opinion. NOT BAD just not at the level of engineering or performance that the Levinson has IMHO. I am always willing to revisit a product and do direct A/B.


Personally the only way I truly judge a piece of gear is to put both products into the exact same system and A/B. Ive done that for decades. For example 861 vs 40. Ive done that over and over. These are very close and have things that are good for both. Ive done this with previous casablanca processors, I personally have always preferred the 40/861 over the casablanca in the past but again, its fairly close.


Using a special DTS QUAD copy of Dark Side Of The Moon ( not that horrible 5.1 version ) is one of my test discs. I use this to judge multi channel imaging. Quad requires 4 equal channels of reproduction. IE all four speakers/amps/interconnects all need to match. This is a very difficult test. I listen for imaging between the rear channels also between the fronts and rears. I have used this test for quite a while. Normal surround processors do not put real effort into the rear channels. This is instantly apparent using this test. Rears are almost a after thought for most companies. Not so for the 40, 861 and casablanca. The 40 *for some unknown reason* is just WAY better at this test. The rear channel processing or analog stages is just way better. I honestly dont know why. Rear channel performance is important for more then just multichannel music, movies benefit greatly from good rear channel reproduction.


I also do a whole list of other things each time I evaluate some new product. Even the GUI and automation protocols are important to me. I am also a Crestron programmer so I do nice fully 2-way interfaces to these products and how they work is also important.


ANYWAY.... Yes I do lots of direct testing trying as hard as possible to do direct A/B using very high quality gear in the rest of the system. Typically I use the very highest end product from amps/speakers to interconnects. This is a luxury I have that most reviewers dont have because I have access to both products at the same time and the rest of the gear tends to be state of the art revealing the differences in the products more clearly.


There seems to be big differences in the sound for every surround processor so far in my experience. No piece of gear sounds the same.


I also have a list of clients who all have very high performance systems and all of them play with new gear all the time. So I also get to do A/B's in a number of systems to confirm what I have personally experienced. Also this client base is very experienced in high performance gear with decades of experence as well and offers me lots of feedback on products as well.


I have clients with both tube based and transistor based systems.


I also can luckily count a few well known reviewers as friends. I get interesting product info from them as well and can ask them what they think of something off the record.


____________________________________________________________ _


spearl8, thank you for a civil response.

Quote:
The 707 is HDMI 1.3 and it's fantastic. I wouldn't be surprised if the 707 is better in every way over your 40. Quite an expensive piece if you're only using it for HDMI though. An S-1200U or Classe SSP-800 are probably your best bets for your needs.

Price is not really important in my quests, performance is. Im looking for the very best performance devices.


The 707 is interesting and I do not have direct A/B experience with it yet. Do not simply write off any product like the 40 without direct A/B. The 40 is a very impressive bit of engineering and a huge expense went into making it.


____________________________________________________________


rblnr

Quote:
Quote:
You can see from a photo on their site that it seems to use a switching power supply

That's a toroidal (linear) power supply upper right

Indeed thats what I thought too, but if you look at that board on the far right it seems to have too much electronics on it for a linear supply. But yes, could well be. Hard to judge... Maybe there are other things on that board. Switchers can have toridal designs. In fact its the best way to make a switcher.


You guys should have caught me on that one because a Meridian 861 uses a switcher
and it sounds good !... hehehe, you missed flaming me there, come on I expected more ! hahaha... i love forums..

Quote:
Levinson uses stock decoder chips too. Logic 7 is an overlay on top of that. Nobody makes their own chips. Only Meridian AFAIK writes their own code, and not for the hi-rez codecs. The SSP 800 has more MIPS of DSP power 1200 I think vs. the G68 and 861 which have 900, so in that sense it's a more 'powerful' (and therefore better) processor.

Hmmmm.... I would have to open up a 40. I was told over and over again when the 40 came out that they wrote their own code. This was a selling feature at the time and was part of the whole 861/40 era. I think you might be mistaken here. BUT I might be as well. I dont equate 'powerful" with better of course, its all about the math, its all about the algorithms. Meridian is famous for this. As a AES member I have listened to many fun papers delivered by Dr. Rhonda Wilson over the years at AES shows. She is quite the algorithmist.


I was under the impression that the 40 used "balanced DAC's" IE 2 DACs in a complimentary arrangement and these drove the balanced outputs. I was told once long ago that these dac's derived their signals way back in the decoding stage ? Is this complete marketing BS ? I was also told all 6 channels did this and had equal analog parts so every channel had the same quality and signal path. I have not personally opened up a 40. This is weird as I usally open up everything.


I think the 40 seems to have exceptional analog signal path engineering after the DAC's,,, as has been the tradition in the pre Harmam days of Levinson products.


I have not personally opened up a 40 to verify these things. I have opened up many other products like the 861 however. I will in the upcoming months however just because I am curious now.

Quote:
Perhaps better men than I can look at the innards and tell how something sounds. Me, I'm limited to hearing with my ears not my eyes.

I think with your engineering knowledge if you opened up enough gear and also listened you would start to notice correlations. Having built my own gear since I was 16 I have clearly noticed certain parts have certain sound characteristics. Caps, various way of making a gain stage ( transistor vs op-amps )... In fact every part seems to effect sound. Ive done lots of A/B of various specific electronic components. So when I look at gear and I see specific parts in a signal path I do think its possible to generally get a idea for a basic class of sound quality. Mostly this applies to really high end audio like tube gear or high end transistor gear BUT this of course also applies to a surround processor.


___________________________________________________________



Whew.... I do hate defending threads in a forum. Its a lot of work..
 

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I have a 40, and recently bought the Classe.


I was hoping to get rid of the 40, having had some bad experience with ML support.


Unfortunately, the Classe did not compare to the 40.


It's probably good in its league, but I resold it rapidly. I would have been very unhappy with it, it sounded lean and harsh compared to the 40.


It's also true that the ML digitizes all analog inputs. The 40 sounds extremely poor with analog signals compared to a good 2 channel preamp, I use it only for HT and digital signals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Yes, I have clients who keep trying to get rid of the 40 and just keep coming back..


ML Support is now Lexicon / Harman. There was a difference in the pre-harmanized Levinson and the harmanized Levinson.


I do like the new 53 amp. For me it has a great sound for a transistor amp. Again this is IMHO..


Indeed the 40 does a terrible job of A/D.. I ONLY use it as a Surround decoder. Mostly my clients use a tube preamp with pass thru and all the analog sources go thru the tube preamp. I also don't use the 40 as a CD DAC. Again there are better options, for example Esoteric makes some nice gear for this purpose. A TRansport combined with a DAC and Rubidium master clock are pretty good for doing CD's and again the analog out of these DAC's goes to a tube preamp like the AR..


I am ONLY discussing the 40 as a surround decoder.
 

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YES !


I have finally reclaimed my original screen name here.. There were email password recovery issues. But all is fixed now...


I wanted to have that Sep 2000 join date. Been here 10 years and that is kinda a accomplishment. Also it connects me properly with all that stuff I did long ago thats now in the AVSForum archive.


So I am the poster previously known as Xymox... No more Xymox..
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xymox
With the need more and more for HDMI 1.3A I am wondering if I can replace the 40 with something... The Levinson 502 does not sound as good as the 40 to me. This only leaves the Krell 707 which I have not heard.


So anyone with direct experience with a 40 vs the 707 ?


The Levinson has such good DAC's and analog stages its hard to beat.


I have owned the Krell Evo 707 for about 18 months. It replaced the Krell KCT and the Lexicon MC 12 balanced processor. The Krell 707 sound is fantastic. With stereo music it is very clean, very detailed, fast and dynamic yet has a tube-like bloom. The bass is tighter, faster deeper. With HT it's performance is also incredible. It is in a totally different league than the Krell KCT and Lexicon MC 12B. The 707 is the single greatest upgrade I have ever done in my HT/stereo system in over 30 years. It is a spectacular piece of equipment. I don't know how it would compare to the Levinson piece.
 
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