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Mark Levinson kicks off 50th anniversary with limited-edition ML-50 amp package

Mark Levinson ML-50 limited-edition monoaural amplifiers
(Image credit: Mark Levinson (Harman))

Mark Levinson's 50th-anniversary celebrations have begun with the unveiling of a limited-edition ML-50 amplifier package – a creation limited to only 100 pairs globally. Each package includes two monaural amplifiers and an accessory kit that includes a pair of 3m power cords, a microfibre polishing cloth, white gloves, and owner’s documentation.

The design echoes some of the most popular models of the brand’s storied history and promises an unparalleled audio performance capable of driving virtually any loudspeaker.

Since 1972, Mark Levinson audio products have garnered respect in hi-fi circles (including this very publication), so to create the new ML-50 the Mark Levinson team borrowed inspiration from some of its past successes – the ML-50 model name itself harks back to the first Mark Levinson power amplifier, the ML-2, produced from 1977 to 1986. 

To that end, the No 20 power amplifier and its updated models (the No 20.5 and No 20.6, produced between 1986 and 1995) inspired the large front panel handles found on the ML-50; the No 33 (1994-2003) and No 33H (1997-2007) reference amplifiers sparked the idea for the outrigger feet that provide the solid foundation for the ML-50 chassis; the glass front panel and red backlit Mark Levinson logo on the ML-5 are lifted from the No 53 reference amplifier (2008 to 2019); and the No 536 amplifier (2015-present) became the starting point for the ML-50's audio performance.

Mark Levinson ML-50

(Image credit: Mark Levinson)

The most aesthetically striking aspect of the ML-50 is the clear glass top cover that showcases the internal circuitry. To elevate the drama, internal LED lighting casts a glow over the interior and can be switched between red, white, and off.

The solid aluminum front panel design also features a large black glass panel insert with a red-backlit LED Mark Levinson logo and a machined aluminium standby power button encircled with a red LED light ring. The central glass panel is flanked by a pair of silver machined aluminium handles, too.

The power supply and audio circuits of the No 536 platform have, says Mark Levinson, been enhanced to offer even higher performance. A lower noise floor has apparently been created by increasing the high-voltage supply (voltage gain and pre-driver circuits) capacitance by 50 per cent. Next, the team gave it increased dynamic power with a 20 per cent increase in the capacitance of the main high-current supply, and added reconfigured Schottky rectifiers for a lower-impedance path from the transformer to the filter caps. Mark Levinson says distortion has been lowered by doubling the output stage bias, resulting in more than quadruple the amount of Class A power: 20W into 8-ohms. The overall Class AB power has also increased to 425W into 8-ohms.

A new vibration-damping mechanically isolated foot design can also be found at all four corners underneath the chassis of the ML-50. These feet mimic the curved shape of the front panel and elevate the chassis further above the surface on which the amps are placed, for increased convection cooling in conjunction with the new twin-channel top panel venting and massive external heat sinks.

As a fully balanced design, the ML-50 offers balanced XLR as well as single-ended RCA audio jack inputs and two sets of Mark Levinson Hurricane binding post speaker terminals.

Want to make an ML-50 package yours? Sadly, you'll have to wait a little while. The Mark Levinson ML-50 limited edition amplifier package will be available from select retailers in the final quarter of 2022, at a retail price of $50,000 per system pair (roughly £36,900 or AU$68,900, although official pricing for these regions has not been confirmed).

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Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.