Mark Levinson: International Man Of Mystery

I know in my younger days I dreamed of owning a pair of the no. 33 monoblock amplifiers I thought their design on there equipment was at the top of the audiophile game! I was able to borrow a no. 39 CD player and that was my first experience of one piece of equipment extracting sounds I never heard on many of my CD’s! My first and only $6k CD player experience. A great piece in its day and probably holds it own today!

When was Levinson gear the most popular? Was it before he sold it or after?

Have watched ML in a number of videos. He’s quite a character, very refreshing. In his case, he didn’t intentionally sell Mark Levinson to a large consortium. It seems Mark is highly gifted in audio, but much less so in the ways of business. He ran Mark Levinson into the ground, and was squeezed out by an investor. A decade later, Harman Kardon bought the Mark Levinson trade name only. It’s a bit like Gordon Ramsey selling the trade name “Gordon Ramsey” to Sizzler, but none of the restaurants, recipes, Michelin stars, or even cooking pans, just the name. And then Sizzler putting “Gordon Ramsey” on everything.

Which is not to say the current day Mark Levinson brand is not good, I have no idea. It just has, down to the very atom, nothing to do with Mark Levinson. It’s a sort of legal fraud to my estimation.

Continuing with the Master Class software. I received a reply from a speaker manufacturer in Switzerland over on Audiophile Style. He spoke highly of the software.

Levinson claims, in so many words, that his software literally will take any PCM file and turn it into the sound quality of the original analog master. Not just sounds like vinyl, but sounds like the master the vinyl record was taken from. Allowing the audiophile to have master class analog sound with the ease of digital library management. That’s a massive claim. That’s going way way out on a limb. If it’s true, I’m unclear why Master Class is so obscure. I can’t find a single review online for it, pro or user.

For something claiming to be so revolutionary, I’d think someone out there would test it to see how true the claims are. After all, the person making the claims is not some dude in his mother’s basement, but one of the founding fathers of high end audio. And he was married to Kim Cattrall!

The Swiss speaker maker said the master classed files sound a bit better when played in the Master Class software, which is a rudimentary player at best. But he has had phone conversations with Mark and was told that even Mark recommends playing the rendered files in other software instead of using Master Class.

The user manual gives instructions for batch conversions. Just trying to figure out if the meta data survives the Master Class rendering process.

Seems this sort of technology would be interesting inside a DAC where the conversion is done on the fly. Apparently the Burwen Bobcat did something of that sort.

If I could literally convert my 4000 CD’s into master analog tape quality for $600, wouldn’t that be the bargain of the century? Wouldn’t 4000 analog master tapes be worth millions??? Not in terms of resale value :joy:, but level of source quality,

I wrote to Daniel Hertz to ask more about Master Class and received a nice long email from Mark Levinson himself. Turns out Master Class does not yet transfer the original meta data with each new render. I’ve been down that road with WAV. It’s a deal breaker for me. It multiplies the time commitment by order of magnitude to have to manually type all the meta data. Mark said a future update will solve this issue. And I shall wait to begin the free trial until the meta data issues has been solved.

If @Elk goes on vacation to Antarctica, I could post 3 or 4 original high res tracks along with their Master Class renders for us to collectively discern if the Master Class philosophy is meaningful.

Wasn’t he married to Kim Catrall? Why do I think that?

Yes, he was.

Mark has taken a direct personal interest in my own wee stereo system, something Paul McGown never has, just sayin’ :rofl::rofl::rofl:, being all high maka maka with the elitist Ask Paul videos for the chosen few :nerd_face:. I mean really, has Paul ever met Kim Catrall?

I feel like Steve Martin in “The Jerk” when he first learned his name was in the phone book. Now I’m somebody :star_struck:

(I kid because I love)

If you are concerned about copyright, ask Mark for permission to apply his software to a sample track, and get permission from the track holder or use only a small portion of it for review purposes.

The forum does not have the ability to host files. You will thus need to find a home for the exemplars.

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Hi Elk - yes, while I joke around, I do wish to comply by your rules. Mark is loosey goosey about all of this. He says to feel free to share a Master Class upgraded music files with anyone - he honestly needs all the publicity he can get. His software goes against long held audiophile dogma in that one part will monkey with the original file to make it “analog master quality”, while the second also optional part is to bake in your person EQ settings to the file. That’s enough to make audiophile orthodoxy explode! And yet his market are those very same persnickety audiophiles. It’s a tough row to hoe.

I wouldn’t know where to begin in terms of acquiring permission of the rights holder.

One idea is to pick a very very common few tracks that everyone here already owns. And given we are a collection of honest gentlemen, trust that only those knights of the roundtable who already own the selected few tracks contact me via PM for a download link, once I’ve prepared them.

I’m not going to use the EQ function on the file renderings, but instead just do the “A+” conversion to analog master. I love EQ’s, but prefer to adjust on the fly rather than bake it in.

Close your ears, but last night, down a foggy Parisian alley, through an unmarked door leading into a smoky speakeasy, a European Master Class owner left a briefcase with 6 GB of Master Class files for me. So far, they sound quite good. It’s all stuff I already own anyway, thus Interpol has not intervened just yet :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

It has piqued my interest enough to get Mark Levinson to send me the link for the 10 day free trial. Thus I’ll be busy exploring that for the next 10 days.

Think over my knights of the roundtable idea.

They are not my rules, but the pesky statutory mandates of the Copyright Act.

We need to keep the PS Audio forum squeaky clean.

I again suggest you get permission from the copyright holder or use only a small portion of the track for review/educational purposes.

To locate and contact the copyright holder, search for the song title, writer, or publisher on CCLI, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SongFile, or Music Services.

What about my idea of taking, for instance, Rhapsody in Blue, something everybody owns. And then not posting the song on the forum, but issue an invitation for any Forum Gentlemen who already owns Rhapsody in Blue to send me a PM for a link in which they can, for educational purposes, compare the Mark Levinson Analog Master Class version vs the regular version? Or Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”? Things all audiophiles have anyway?

I don’t possess the computer skills to extract a sample from both files.

Wanted to report back on my Mark Levinson’s Master Class software adventure. As a reminder, Mark has created a Mac only music player/ music file converter that, for my purposes, converts digital files into a more analog like digital file format. You can read more about it here.

It costs $700, I did the 10 day free trial.

As a music player, it’s positively antiquated (circa 2009?), especially compared to the likes of Roon. You must manually load files stored on your computer. I didn’t use it as a player. And while I love EQ’s, I didn’t use the EQ.

What I did instead was use the 10 day window to convert as many favorite albums as possible to the Master Class mojo AIFF version. The process was a total PITA. Meta data does not survive the conversion, only the track names. Thus I had to convert one album at a time. For efficiency’s sake, I did not bother with fixing the meta data during the 10 day window, as that could be done later. Instead I just converted like a sweatshop.

When the 10 days were over, and given I got much faster at it as time went on, I had converted 1012 albums. Not a typo, 1012. It took about 4 minutes per album.

Loot in hand, I’ve begun to fix the meta data and import a collection into Roon. Still a long ways to go.

Setting aside the antiquated interface, and cumbersome workflow, I must admit, the results have been amazing to my ears. A bigger upgrade than any cable I’ve bought. An upgrade that trounces what the Matrix brought to the table.

I know. What Mark has done violates every audiophile superstition in the book concerning messing with the original file. His philosophy is that we “mess with the file” with every piece of gear, cable, or speaker we buy and that fixing the original file is actually the best way.

To me wee ears, I must agree. My favorite albums never sounded so good.

If the workflow was dramatically improved, if the meta data conveyed, and if Master Class could be a plugin for Roon and handle streaming, it would be worth every penny of $700 - to me. But alas, it is few of those things. Yet the end sound product speaks sweet nothings to my ears and tastes. Bravo Mark Levinson. Thanks for the ride.

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To clarify, with Master Class you retain the original version of the file, it remains unchanged. The processing yields a Master Class blessed AIFF version of the original. In comparing the two versions, I much prefer the vinyl like results of the Master Class version.

In a recent Ask Paul video about vinyl distortion, Paul mused about a device that could allow people to experience vinyl with digital. Master Class is such technology, just needs more development.