“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Mark Levinson No. 52 Reference Dual-Monaural Preamplifier Preview

Mark Levinson No. 52

Mark Levinson No. 52


  • Product Name: No. 52
  • Manufacturer: Mark Levinson
  • Review Date: January 17, 2012 22:50
  • MSRP: $25,000
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • All-analogue, true monaural design
  • Two-chassis configuration separates analogue audio circuitry from control section
  • Chassis constructed from heavy aluminum extrusions and plates
  • Inputs:
    • XLR - 3

    • RCA - 4

  • Phono - 1
  • Outputs:
    • XLR - 3 pairs

    • RCA - 3 pairs

  • Additional connections:
    • 12 volt trigger
    • IR port
    • Ethernet for control and connection to Levinson's proprietary ML Net (used for connection and control of Levinson products)
    • USB port for firmware updates
  • Integrated power cleaning via mirror-imaged DC power supplies and AC regeneration circuits
  • Isolation of power and control cables between two chassis
  • Extensive shielding for critical components
  • Brushed metal black and sliver faceplate with red illumination


Welcome to the world of AV porn.

If that didn't get your attention, this will: the new Mark Levinson No. 52 Reference Dual-Monaural Preamplifier will retail for a cool $25k. 

If you've never lived in a big city with a Lamborghini or Ferrari showroom, you may not have had this particular type of experience. The experience of nearly getting into an accident because you turned your head and saw, displayed behind huge sheets of glass, about $4 million worth of cars. You'll be tempted to pull over. You'll be tempted to press your nose up to the window (even though you'll leave a smudge that you'll have to rub off with your $10 Woot shirt). But you will NOT, under any circumstances, try to enter the place. Yes, you'd like to run your finger down the side of one of the cars. Yes, you'd like to see, if only for a moment, what it would feel like to sit behind the wheel. But no amount of Jager shots will give you the courage to try to bluff your way past the snooty employees and, most likely, ex-military/ex-MMA security guards.

Mark Levinson gear is like that for AV nuts.

After 40 years of putting out gear that nearly none of us can afford, Mark Levinson is celebrating by putting out more gear we can't afford. Their new 40th anniversary lineup includes the No. 585 Integrated Amplifier ($10,000), the No. 519 SACD Disc Player ($8000), and the No. 560 Digital Audio Processor ($6000). By far the most sexy, and therefore the most expensive and interesting, is the No. 52 Reference Dual-Monaural Preamplifier. 

To start with, usually when someone releases a "Reference" model, it refers to other offerings in their line. It's like saying, "Here's the best one we make." Not Levinson. As far as we can tell, they don't make any other Dual-Monaural Preamplifiers so the "Reference" must refer to everyone else. At this price tag, we can believe it.

Like all high-end gear, the No. 52 has systems in place to protect your sonic experience from degradation from sources you didn't know where a problem before you read the manual. First, the basics. The Levinson No. 52 has three balanced and four unbalanced inputs plus a dedicated MC/MM phone input. There are two sets of XLR and RCA stereo preamplifier outputs along with an auxiliary pair of XLR and RCA outputs that can be configured for fixed or variable level output with independent source selection. The Aux outputs sound an awful lot like a Zone 2 but, according to the press material, they also function as a pass-through full-range subwoofer or record output.

The No. 52 has a unity gain SSP (surround sound processor) output that provides the ability to function in a home theater system while maintaining independent stereo operation. To give this level of stereo performance, the No. 52 has pretty much separated and isolated everything. The No. 52 utilizes a dual chassis design where the analogue audio circuitry and the control sections are completely separated by walls of aluminum and shielding. The power is kept separate from the rest of the circuitry by mirror-imaged DC power supplies and AC regeneration circuits in the control section. Individual left and right DC umbilical cords connect the control and audio chassis with a third cable carrying the actual control signals. Within the audio chassis, the volume and the main and auxiliary signal paths are on separate left/right boards and are extensively shielded. All of this is wrapped in extruded and plate aluminum with a brush black and silver finish. The lighting, eschewing the traditional blue or green, is red, announcing to all the world that your gear is too cool, and too expensive, for it to look anything like anything else.

Levinson has included a few other ports in the No. 52. It has an Ethernet port but it is only used for control (including Mark Levinson's proprietary ML Net - which is NOT for streaming but only for control of other ML products). Instead of allowing firmware or streaming with the Ethernet port, the No. 52 has a USB port for updates. There is no word on native iDevice or USB storage support though we doubt it. We expect that they will want you to fork over $6000 on their No. 560 Digital Audio Processor for that. There are IR control ports as well a 12 volt triggers.


We wish we had some more pictures of the Levinson No. 52 Reference Dual-Monaural Preamplifier. The thing is sexy as heck. Do we really think all the separation, shielding, and whatnot will make a significant sonic difference? Who cares! If we could own an Levinson, we probably would. All that technology certainly isn't, like some other high-end offerings we can think of, harming the signal. Plus, gear like this is more like a yacht than a car - no one needs a yacht but we all certainly want one. If you've got $25k to burn... well, you're probably out earning money and not reading this website. But if you do, feel free to post a YouTube video of you standing in front of it saying, "Neaner, neaner." We won't hate you for it.

For more information, please visit www.marklevinson.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
author portrait

As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

View full profile