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Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of my Mark Levinson No. 360S DAC. I purchased it sometime around 1999 when the new high resolution formats had come out (DVD-A and SACD). It has been a solid foundation of countless audio evaluations I have performed near two decades now. The 360S was the hand tuned version of 360. I think that made it cost $2000 more? I forget how much it cost but probably around $7,000. In today's dollars, that would be well over $10,000. So not cheap. Used ones seem to go for as much as US $3,000.

This thing weighs a ton for a DAC and that is the reason I hate you all for asking me to rip it out of my cabinet to test it!

Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Audio Review.jpg

Lots of connectivity was provided but alas, no USB, HDMI, etc.:

Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Back Panel Audio Review.jpg

The brochure talked at length about modular architecture that would allow addition of new input types. Well, no. Nothing of the kind ever arrived. As such, to use it in this day and age, I have had USB to S/PDIF or AES bridge.

HDCD was supported for decoding of those CDs. Balanced XLRs are provided of course. And you got cool indicator such as "emphasis" which hardly any CDs ever used (pre-equalization).

Something is missing from the back panel. Do you spot it....?

No power input! The IEC plug is underneath in the center of the device so that it can have a short connection to the transformer! Clever way to deal with mains leakage that way but makes it a pain to connect and disconnect. Did I say I hate you guys for forcing me to do this a few times for this test? I thought I did!

Some kind of ugly remote came with it which I lost long time ago.

A few years ago one channel went bad. It was a capacitor that had gone past its useful life. Changed that and it has been working solidly.

Oh, back to limitations, it only supports maximum sample rate of 96 kHz.

The interest to have this measured comes from it using Bur-Brown PCM1704 (dual per channel) R2R DAC chips.

The guts of this machine is quite serious:


DAC Audio Measurements
Here is our usual dashboard:
Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Audio Measurements.png


While the tested unit bests the specifications from manufacture for THD+N, overall score is nothing too impressive today:
best vintage audio dac review.png


Right above is a little dongle with the same spec. :(

Dynamic range meets spec and again, is nothing too impressive:
Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Both though beat the CD spec which is something to hang my hat on. :)

I could not run my usual multi-tone test because it uses 192 kHz sampling rate. So here is the 7 band one:
Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Jitter performance started off quite good but after a few passes as I average the signal jitter spikes popped up:

Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Jitter Audio Measurements.png


The 360S has smart front-end logic which determines to sampling rate of the incoming signal and once there, it no longer chases it and uses a fixed internal clock with much lower jitter. The issue with that is that it can run out of data or get too much if its clock stays out of sync for too long with the source. That must be what is happening here as it attempts to resync its clock. Fortunately even with its internal smarts failing, it still produces jitter that is below 120 dB so totally inaudible.

Reconstruction filter shows decent response:
Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Filter Audio Measurements.png


The higher noise level (relative to newer DACs) causes its IMD versus level to not look particularly good:

Mark Levinson No 360S DAC IMD distortion Audio Measurements.png


And there is that sudden rise in distortion at around -28 dB.

THD+n versus level is good but again, not compared to today's products:
Mark Levinson No 360S DAC THD vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Here is the spectrum of 1 kHz tone going to 90 kHz as used above:

Mark Levinson No 360S DAC 1 kHz FFT Audio Measurements.png


So no funny business: just plain old harmonic distortion that seems to keep going and going.

I bought this DAC because I saw a measurement in stereophile that said it had superb linearity and it easily bested the built-in DACs in SACD and DVD-A products of the time:
Mark Levinson No 360S DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Now that is darn good! Who says R2R DACs have to have poor linearity? Only those companies who don't know how to implement it well.

Conclusions
No, you would not run out and buy the Mark Levinson No 360S today. Where there cheap choices then that were good? We will never know without a time machine to go back and measure as we do today. I can say that nothing is broken in it. It produces performance above 16 bits resolution without any glaring mistakes or issues as we commonly see in R2R DAC products today.

FYI now that I pulled it out of my system, I will be putting a Matrix Audio DAC in its place. Thank you my old friend for two decades of service. You were expensive to marry to but good mate to have had.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I need to throw a retirement party for the No 360S. Given his long service, I can't be cheap about it. So please help make that happen by donating using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

blueone

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#3
Thanks for running these tests. I used to own a No39 CD player a long time ago. I loved that thing. Awesome ergonomics. I always wondered how these old Madrigal/Levinson products performed with modern test equipment.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #6
Mark Levinson amp next?? :)
Yes but I am not sure how I am going to convince my wife to help carry it. And what that will cost me! :D
 

vkvedam

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#9
@amirm which Matrix DAC by the way?
 

restorer-john

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#10
Nice review, Amir. You should sell her to help finance the Klippel! ;) If you found the remote, you'd get a very decent price.
 

NTomokawa

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#11
makes it a pain to connect and disconnect.
My previous amplifier, the Luxman L-3, had its signal connectors placed on the bottom of the unit, in the name of "shortest signal path".


The contortion of holding the unit up (20 lbs) with one hand, performing the connections then putting it back down is something only L-3 users could understand.
 

restorer-john

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#12
Try wiring up a TAE-86B when rackmounted... (yes they are RCA jacks on the top left and RH side)

1578793068573.png


Or a big Pioneer SA-9900 in a cabinet. The cables need to pass through the rear handles...

1578793177794.png


Peak insanity was the two piece, plug together Sansui G-33000 with all its connections on the side, recessed for pure evilness. All 45.4kg of it. 100lbs!

1578793438926.png
 

g29

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#13
The ML380S preamp also used the 90 degree power cable configuration.

I often wonder why these amp kits don't do similar to make room on the backplate and to keep from running the high power lines up the entire internal length of the amp, past the amp boards and finally to the PS.
 

Xyrium

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#15
I wonder if that cap replacement caused the 1dB difference in SINAD from channel to channel, given it appears fairly dual-mono from the interior (can't see the xformer). Come on Amir, if you're going to change a cap in one channel, you have to do it in the other while you're in there! ;)
 
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#18
It sounds great! :)
would you agree that preamp sections of these desktop DACs is what separates them apart? do you recommend external preamps with DAC's like D5 and others?

when I look at the insides of my D5 and this DAC it just looks underwhelming on my end.
 

Xyrium

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#19
would you agree that preamp sections of these desktop DACs is what separates them apart? do you recommend external preamps with DAC's like D5 and others?

when I look at the insides of my D5 and this DAC it just looks underwhelming on my end.
That's a great assertion, and one that has kept me away from using the little wall wart or USB powered DACs as a preamp. I've always worried that they wouldn't have enough juice to go the distance, but in the tests that Amir has done, even the tiniest op amp powered USB DAC can still provide a solid 2V output for SE inputs to an amp, and the better stuff with balanced outputs is hitting their nominal 4V. That's just power voltage output of course.

I was assuming (I know, I know...) that when he measures these DACs, the output of the preamp signature is combined with that of the DAC, at least in the initial dashboard figures.
 
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