From Mark Levinson’s current preamp lineup, the No.523 is their second from the top and the only “analogue” preamp. Both the No. 5206 before it ($10,000 MSRP) and the No.526 after it ($22,000 MSRP) have an onboard DAC. The No.523 is more a “traditional” preamp with line and phono (MM & MC) inputs and line outs to a poweramp. The gain and load settings for the phono input are adjusted on screen so no switching of toggle switches to the values that match your cartridge. The five line inputs are split into two XLR and three RCAs. Easy and straightforward.
Sonically, in our opinion, it is slightly brighter sounding, smoother, and have a slight edge in clarity over the No.32 which was their earlier two chassis $18,000 preamp (we have that for sale in a separate listing). The No.32 is an impressive sounding preamp and clearly deserving of its place in a top notch reference system but the No.523 adds a bit more color to the music. If you prefer a darker background, go for the No.32. But if you want a a slightly more colorful sound, the No.523 makes an interesting alternative choice. Built and finish is first class and definitely in the realms of “reference standard”.
Cosmetically, the unit looks very good with just very minor scuff marks here and there that are common with use. We have the original remote and box. Manual is available online. Preamp will be securely packed for safe shipping.