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On large scale orchestral works, like Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances [Reference Recording RR96] the 7008 was successful in maintaining image dimensionality in the swirl of massed strings and brass, but the soundstage was not as deep or wide as I have heard with my separates. Soundstaging was better on smaller scale acoustic works, like the wondrous ensemble work in “Brasileirimho,” from Yo-Yo Ma’s Obrigado Brazil [Sony 89935]. Everything in this piece comes to vivid and detailed life with the 7008 in charge, from the whistles and varied percussion, to Paquito D’Rivera’s clarinet flowing over it all. The soundstage here was wider but still not very deep, although the sound was anything but flat and the players were arranged in precise positioning on the stage in front of my front row seat.

The agility, energy and rhythmic flow that the 7008 provided really showed its best features on bass driven music, whether rock, blues or jazz. The 7008’s bass performance was its best feature. It seemed to put a vise grip on every woofer that I threw in its signal’s path, delivering bass that was deep, rhythmic and taut. Examples of this was experienced around every exhilarating curve, whether it was the crushing “pilons” that pound with effortless depth at the start of “Canto Del Pilon” from Daboa, From The Gekko [Triple Earth 115] or Sting’s taut, massive undertow of bass in “Spirits In The Material World,” from Ghosts In The Machine [AM Records 069493598-2]. The 7008, like a classic Porsche, loves to propel forward, with a rhythmic flow founded on a deep and taut bass foundation.

Racing Against The Best

Through the generosity of the Harman Specialty Group, located here in Bedford, MA., I was fortunate to bring to the track for competition with the 7008 the acclaimed Mark Levinson 383 integrated amp. The 383 ($6000) runs in the same price range as the 7008 and is rated at 100W into 8 ohms and 200W into 4 ohms. It also strives, like the 7008, to incorporate technology to maintain short signal paths and prevent noise from reaching its audio circuits. The 383 is tremendously overbuilt, with three separate power supplies providing power to various circuits, and with a unique dual-mono design where left and right audio channel circuits are powered by independent power supplies. In its preamp section, the 383 disconnects unused input signal and ground connections as well as converts unbalanced input signals to balanced signals all the way up to the amplifier’s final current gain stage. Like the 7008, the 383 has modes for integrating with surround sound processors and has amazing functionality through its remote control, including the ability to customize input names, gain levels and phase inversion, to name just a few. (The 383 does lack a headphone output section, enjoyed on the 7008). The 383’s build quality and ergonomics (including its first class remote) is second to none. Some may prefer the 7008’s thinner chassis and European styling, in comparison to 383’s large size and weight, but there is no question that the 383’s ergonomics trump the 7008 in both material and function. Like a fine racing car in the top of its class, the 383 is a joy to behold and operate.

Taking these two thoroughbreds out for marathons with the same associated equipment and recordings in place, proved that both have excellent power capabilities preserving space and focus and a sense of ease with all loudspeaker loads I employed, even at high torque and volume. Where the two differed most was in their overall perspective. The 383 presented a slightly more laid back perspective, putting the listener further back in the recording venue. The pros for this listener were an increased sense of air, weight and body to all instruments and voices. For example, in the aforementioned Obrigado Brazil, Paquito D’Rivera’s clarinet had a more woody and substantial presence with the 383 in place, giving the instrument more body and realism. Sure, it was not as light or rhythmically presented as with the 7008, but sitting further back with the 383, it sounded more real, hanging in space within the recording venue, more part of the whole. Similarly, although the 7008 had more upfront rhythmic presence on Lou Reed’s duet with Rob Wasserman, the 383 moved us back some, giving us the perspective of more space, air and solidity to the players and their instruments. This did not mean a less exciting or involving listening experience with the 383. On the contrary, the 383 seemed to invite more exploration into the musical event, creating more realistic weight and space around the musicians.

Bass was dynamic and taut with both amplifiers, with the 7008 edging the 383 slightly on being effortless and propelling the music forward, especially on rock and kick drum driven music. Sting’s bass was still taut and powerful with the 383, just slightly less “see what I can do” forward attitude in providing the musical foundation. I also found the overall perspective of the 383 to provide a somewhat deeper and wider soundstage than the 7008, similar to what I experience sitting in the last row of Boston Symphony Hall in the cheap “rush” seats. Giving up some of this for a front row perspective, and the more present and immediate listening experience that the 7008 (and the Porsche driving experience) provides, may just be the rush that some audiophiles would love to experience.

Back in the Pits

One of the last comments on these two wonderful pieces is that they are a joy to listen to at low volume. I find that lesser priced integrated amps lose some of their musicality at low listening levels (although I have listened recently to the new Krell KAV 400xi and like what I have heard at low volumes on this more affordable integrated). I encourage a test drive at your local dealer of both the MBL 7008 and the Mark Levinson 383 for a taste of the paradigm of integrated amp performance. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

Nelson Brill


MBL 7008 Specifications
Power Output: 120 watts @8 Ohms, 200 watts @4 Ohms
Frequency Response: DC-40kHz/-0,3dB; DC-135kHz/-3dB
THD: <0.04% at 1 WRMS
Input Impedance: high level 50K, bypass 10K
Idle Power Draw: 120 VA
Inputs: 1 pair balanced (XLR), 4 pairs single-ended RCA; optional phono
Outputs: 1 Pair 5-Way Binding post/channel, 1 Fixed, 1 Variable
Dimensions: 17.7(w) x 6.1(h) x 15.7 (d) in.
Weight: 44.44 lb/20kg
Price: $6,600; optional phono: mm=$1,050; mc=$1,460.

Company Information
Mbl of America
6615 E. Sleepy Owl Way
Scottsdale, AZ 85262, USA
Tel: 480-563-4393 (Peter Alexander)
Other Contact person: Jeremy Bryan: 917-306-7588 (mbl New York)