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Mark Levinson Testimonials
Unsolicited Customer Testimonials sent to David J. Schulte and The Upgrade Company LLC
Each client has paid The Upgrade Company LLC in full. No kickbacks, no commissions, no fees of any kind for recommending our products and services.
Mark Levinson No. 320S and No. 27.5 Signature Edition Upgrade
I have been listening to classical music for roughly 50 years, both on recordings and in concert. The subtly and complexity of such music is an amazing experience live, but the same music played at home has always been flat and disappointing, even with fairly expensive hi-end audio gear. I spent a long time reading about what the SE upgrade is all about and reviews by people who actually had their equipment upgraded by The Upgrade Company, all who reported major improvements in their systems' sound reproduction. Still, I was very skeptical, dealers warned me to leave my fine equipment alone. But the electronic principals regarding RF/EMI interference made sense to me, having had some experience with electronics and Hi-Fi equipment over the last 45 years. I decided to send the Esoteric K-05 to The Upgrade Company. It came back in a short time, and after 100 or so hours of break-in, the sound improvement was stunning and remarkable. Older but great performances available only on Redbook CDs lost much of their digital graininess and glare; there was more detail in the instruments' sounds and textures, and the sense of the hall accoustics was totally amazing. The sound on SACDs sounded even more smooth and 3-dimensional. I had been missing a lot of the aural sound information I thought wasn't there. But on many recordings, I am discovering the aural magic that some recording engineers long ago were able to stuff into 2 analog channels.
After considering selling my rather old Levinson 27.5 amp and buying a newer model, David figured that once upgraded and cleaned up inside, the 27.5 would sound stellar. Additionally, this amp was one of the best sounding amps ever made by the original Mark Levinson company, and it's size and power output is just right for my room. David also said my Mark Levinson 320S preamp would come alive with their SE upgrade. I sent them both to The Upgrade Company for upgrading. When they came back, and with the addition of 1 TimePortal power cable to demo, I must say the results after some burn-in is flat out shockingly amazing. I have never heard any system regardless of cost reproduce music this realistically.
The difference is not subtle, even my non-audio equipment wife can hear the difference. I thought I would need to replace my Thiel 2.4CS speakers to achieve sound this good, but with such clarity, room-filling 3-dimensionality, bass extension, smoothness from the SE-upgraded electronics, I may never need to spend more money on new, possibly worse performing, and for certain, very expensive equipment. My SE upgraded equipment has the "you are there" excitement of live symphony and chamber music performances. I can now play music at concert volume levels without distortion on crescendos - just pure clear sound with it's associated spatial information, especially noticeable in the smoothness of the violin sound in orchestral music. There's this uncanny sense of palpability, texture and spatial location of each instrument that I cannot describe adequately but is overwhelmingly noticeable, to the point of feeling the musicians are really in front of me with eyes closed. Additionally, I can hear the remarkable sound improvement in other parts of the open living/dining/kitchen, not just sitting in the sweet spot.
I don't believe in ripping my CD/SACD collection and buying a lot of expensive digital audio computer equipment, and the associated endless complexity this entails. Doing so would be a huge hardware/software hassle and expense compared to the modest cost of The Upgrade Company's Signature Edition upgrades, RFI EMI RIDDANCE, and their unique TimePortal Cables. David's claims of 10X performance improvement always sounded like hokum, but seriously, after listening to all my electronics with his upgrades, it probably would require equipment costing 10 times what my equipment cost to sound as good, based upon what I've heard in showrooms.
I'm done reading Stereophile equipment reviews of $15,000 DACs and $30,000 monoblocks; as much as hi-end audio manufacturers claim to have the latest improvement in sound, but for unreasonably high costs, it is a shame they won't publicly buy into & license David's proprietary technology and produce that level of sound at a cost level most of us can afford, all the while dramatically elevating the OEM "State of the Art" through this new technology.
Even though I am beyond satisfied with the results so far, the experience of live music in front of me is now so pervasive that I plan to get 2 more TimePortal power cords and an SE upgraded Furman power conditioner from Upgrade Co.
I am very pleased and excited to hear music sound this good -- it's better than I could ever have imagined.
My experience with The Upgrade Company started as a curious response to an Audiogon ad touting markedly increased performance for Mark Levinson components. I had just purchased a No. 380S and was wary of letting someone mess with the guts of my baby. To make a long story short, David Schulte should be awarded an honorary psychology degree for having to deal with antsy audiophiles like me. The desire for better sound got the best of me and I had David upgrade my preamp. My 380S sounded better after the full break in period, but not what David considered a significant improvement from my descriptions. He had me send the preamp back and did some more work on a circuit board that may have been overlooked. David Schulte does not accept mediocre results. That core value of The Upgrade Company really impressed me. When I got the preamp back this time, it sounded much better and just kept getting sweeter as it continued to break in for the recommended 350 hours. Resolution improved markedly over the stock No. 380S. David’s claim that it now sounds as good or better than the No. 32 is not an exaggeration.
After hearing my preamp sound so impressive, David recommended sending my Ayre CX-7 Evolution CD player for an upgrade to get a tremendous improvement at the source level. I was initially reluctant to send my fairly new CD player in for modifications, especially after I had just done the factory Evolution upgrade. David sent me a very modest JVC DVD player that he had upgraded to test against my Ayre player. To my amazement, the little JVC’s sound was every bit as good as my $3,000 player! I was sold and had David do his magic on my Ayre CD player. My CD player now sounds better than machines costing many thousands of dollars more. It's tough to describe all the sonic improvements, but one of David’s favorite phrases is, “there’s more of everything.” Greater resolution is the most noticeable improvement. It's almost as if more background singers got invited to perform on my favorite CDs. I’m hearing voices revealed that simply weren't there before. Guitars sound rich and soulful. Drums and cymbals have gained a wonderful presence and realism. Reverb effects go a mile deep now. My entire collection of contemporary jazz, rock, and popular music is more fun to listen to, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
I’m constantly amazed at how much information is on the CDs we buy, but we miss hearing because bits and pieces of the music get lost somewhere along the signal path. The Upgrade Company does amazing things to let more of that information through to delight the ears and the mind. David’s upgrades gave me the most bang for the buck of any equipment upgrade I’ve ever done. Count me in as another audiophile who has lost his fear of The Upgrade Company. When I can get some extra dollars scraped up, I’ll have David upgrade my amplifier. In my humble opinion, any equipment at any level will definitely be transformed by the Upgrade Company. I’m overjoyed that I took the leap of faith. Thanks David!
Associated equipment: Mark Levinson No. 333.5 amplifier, Wilson Sophia speakers, Transparent Reference with MM technology interconnects and speaker cables.
Audiogon member ID Navsound
Mark Levinson No. 28 preamplifier upgrade
The ML 28 arrived in fine shape on Monday. When I hooked it up, I was amazed.
As you know, I was considering trading my Mark Levinson 28 for a Mark Levinson No. 32 to gain the performance upgrade I needed so that my pre-amp matched the rest of my system. With nothing in the system changed except for your upgrade of my ML 28, the highs are crisper, the sound is richer and fuller and the sound stage is deeper and more distinct. I got a terrific improvement in performance for a fraction of the money I would have spent on the ML 32.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
Audiophiles employ all sorts of superlatives to describe sound. I could do the same here, but in the interest of hopefully being as specific as possible, I am reserving my use of adjectives to just three in describing the improvement to my Mark Levinson components resulting from your upgrades:
Astounding! Dramatic! Awesome!
To be very honest, when I first learned of your service, I was skeptical and found it difficult to accept that a perfectly fine working set of Levinson equipment could possible be improved with electronic component upgrades. Even after your technical expertise convinced me by phone that the upgrades would result in improvement, I was extremely wary of placing my expensive equipment into the hands of an unknown way off in the far reaches of Michigan.
However, your professional demeanor on the phone, coupled with testimonials of others, convinced me to take the risk and glad I am that I did. I was also concerned about the potential damage or loss of my equipment in transit. Your favorable experience with UPS gave me the final confidence I needed to ship the equipment to you for the upgrades.
With the Levinson 380S, 390S, and No. 332 upgrades, I have what is, for all practical purposes, the equivalent of a completely new system. Comparing the sound now to that prior to the upgrade earns my observations that the difference is indeed--astounding, dramatic and awesome. Moreover, the upgraded components are not even broken in yet!
I could not be more pleased. Our phone discussions during the upgrade process gave me even greater confidence in the outcome, but I was totally unprepared for the spectacular results.
If my comments are of any value in convincing prospective clients to upgrade, feel free to use this letter as a recommendation or any way you like. You may provide my phone number and photo too, although I would prefer that my phone number not be published on the Internet.
With deepest sincerity,
Richard H. Kerr, WA
Older upgrade BEFORE our full RFI & EMI shielding technology was implemented
Mark Levinson 326S Preamp Upgrade
Sound is rounder and stage is better. The overall presentation is much better. Good job.
Dr. Jeff Belkin MD
Review of The Upgrade Company's Signature Edition upgrade to my Mark Levinson 390s CD processor
By Stephen Hapke
Let me first say that I am not affiliated with the Upgrade Company in any way nor do I personally know or have worked with David Schulte before engaging the services of his company to modify a recently acquired Levinson model 390s cd player/processor to try to enhance its performance. I first got interested in audio in the 70s when I went away to college and entered the realm of high end audio with the purchase of a pair of Levinson ML2s in 1980. Since that time I have steadily and somewhat frequently changed my audio system and have evaluated various manufactures products via home demo. Besides Levinson I am familiar with Krell, Pass, Boulder, Audio Research, Lamm, Conrad Johnson, Classe, Ayre, Hovland, VTL, Jadis, YBA, Jeff Rowland, and Cello power and preamps along with those and other brands in analog or digital source equipment I am also a pianist who study for 12 years as an adult with one of the major symphony orchestra’s pianists.
My 390s was shipped to the Upgrade Company on a Saturday with Monday delivery so David would have the week to work on it. He received the unit Monday and needing the remote, that was shipped and work was started Tuesday after he listened briefly to the unit. He took Tuesday and Wednesday while in discussion with me to remove and replace a variety of cheap components on the circuit boards in my 390s. He had wanted to add in some Bybee filters for the output and responded to my suggestion that they might be added to the inputs also since I would regularly be using the piece in that way, upon checking the spatial constraints in the unit he decided that it would be infeasible to add the filters since the boards themselves would have to be drilled to mount them as the decoder box interfered with and was mounted very close to the main output board. He had thoughts of more modifications to the output board but the lack of a shop manual prevented us from accomplishing that mod with this initial work. The unit was returned to me Wednesday before closing and I had the unit Thursday afternoon to start “breaking in” the new electronic components that had been replaced. He noted that 12 hours for each stage, line in and cd, would be best before listening critically and that improvements would still be gained through 100 hours of breakin since there were many new components that had been installed on the circuit boards.
That night when we sat down to dinner and a movie it was obvious that something very special had happened to the unit. The character of the Levinson 390s remained but everything else about the sonic presentation had been dramatically changed through the modifications. I had just recently used a Levinson 31.5 Transport with a Levinson 30.5 DAC and this was an immediate improvement on that without even being broken in properly yet. On something as plain as a dvd of Bourne Supremacy, it was easy to tell that the unit had been drastically improved; soundstage, details, a sense of ambience, the layers of the studio’s sound mixing were many times clearer and cleaner then what they had been, all the clues that we use hoping to suspend disbelief were now right there for the taking. Voices were much more natural and real seeming, with a timber and presence that left you believing that the person was right over there talking to you, bowed strings in the soundtrack of the film no longer sounded like bowed strings they sounded like 6, 8, or 12 string player with their individual instruments and bows playing in unison arranged in a particular seating pattern coming from a layer of sound behind the vocals and other sound effects in the film. The next day before going out for business I threw a cd in the player and hit repeat disc to ensure that the unit would get some breakin before starting to listen to some favorite recordings that evening.
That evening as I spun, several recordings of Rite of Spring, Pictures at an Exhibition, Romeo and Juliet Ballet, 3 or 4 Piano Concertos, a little jazz and a couple of vocal cds I was amazed and overjoyed at the difference in the 390s and its capability to play music. What we’re talking here is not the normal level of change as an audio enthusiast purchases that better piece of equipment and goes running home with it to play and experience its level of presentation with some of his favorite music, we are talking a whole different realm of presentation. I have changed many pieces of equipment over the years swapping this amplifier or this disc player or this preamp for some predecessor and have always found happiness that some component of the music sounded a little more real or a little more believable. That this part of the frequency spectrum was now clearer than it had been. One of my favorite changes was the substitution of a Levinson Model 32 for a former unit which brought with it many more details and clarity to all the sources that were used to play music and seemed to cover the whole frequency spectrum. Compared to the equipment changes I have experienced they all pale in comparison to what was accomplished by having The Upgrade Company modify my 390s. This unit now displays a wonderful soundstage both wide and deep with individual instruments specifically placed in that soundstage, it is just much closer to the musical event then it was before. The first few recordings left me feeling like the music now seemed so natural maybe something had been lost in the attack, the aliveness that we want to hear might be subdued, all those poor recordings might now sound a little too glossed over, but as I worked my way through more discs I found that was not the case. While the music is more natural and we are much closer to it in every way, these modifications to not color the sound or unbalance it to a degree that you start to lose the differences between a well recorded and engineered cd and a bad one; the bad ones do still sound as they should, overmiked, poorly mixed, too highlighted, too shrill, or too muddy but even bad cds now possess a musicality that they did not have before There is an enormous amount of information being conveyed about each player on the stage of an orchestra recording, their location, their proximity to other musicians, and their relationship to other musicians in their ensemble. The dynamics of the unit are spectacular without being harsh and in no way do the improved details and dynamics over power the music presenting itself in a natural way, they enhance that ability so that it is much easier to believe that the event is unfolding before your very ears right across the room from you. It becomes difficult to put into words a change that doesn’t seem to have a personality but just does more things right then anything before it, but that is what we are dealing with. The discs now played through the 390s while being able to show their own merits or flaws are still much closer to the music then before the modifications and to a degree that is above the type of change we are used to in swapping the pieces of equipment we can typically afford to move between. This is not I got a better preamp, or a found a great power cable, or you can’t believe how good these interconnects are; this is the music and its characteristics and details are now right there in front of you and only David the magician may know exactly why but they are now there instead of being missing in action. The only way I can’t recommend this modification to someone is if they object to hearing all that is there in the recordings they own and possibly in their equipment, say if they don’t want to listen to all the layers of sound in a movie sound mix because of its constructed nature in the first place; otherwise this is a boon to anyone who wants to hear more naturalness in their discs of musicians of any kind, be it classical, jazz, band vocal or I would even suspect rock although I haven’t tried any popular music yet besides vocalists.
Associated equipment: Levinson 33h amplifiers, von Schweikert VR6s with matched drivers and modified by Albert von Schweikert, Straightwire reference grade interconnects, Custom made speaker cables.
Page information last updated: 20/04/2017
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