Historically there have been two channel products and then there has been Mark Levinson. No. other brand has seemingly come to represent the pinnacle of high end in the eyes of audiophiles like Mark Levinson, and their No. 326S preamp reviewed is No. exception. Retailing for $10,000 the No. 326S is a single chassis, seven input dual mono. stereo preamp. The folks over at Mark Levinson state that the No. 326S has a lot in common with their reference two chassis preamp, the No. 32, in fact the No. 326S shares many of the same components.
The No. 326S is a sleek piece of kit featuring a black, brushed aluminum façade with a slender display flanked by two gray dials, one for input selection the other for volume. Below the small display there are five small hard controls for setup, enter, display intensity, balance and mute. Around back you'll find more than enough inputs for any old school or modern two-channel system. The No. 326S has both single ended and balanced inputs as well as an optional phono. stage, which eliminates the No. 326S's seventh unbalanced input. On top of the No. 326S's input options it also features RS-232 support, 12-volt triggers and an IR input connector, making it easy to integrate into a state of the art home theater or whole house control system.
The No. 326S is about as straightforward as they come, out of the box (minus a bit of break-in) the slender preamp is ready to sing. Making connections is easy as is customizing the names and features of each input. The No. 326S's remote has a good feel in hand and is relatively omni-directional. From a sound perspective there are few two channel preamps, solid state or tube that can match the No. 326S's openness, warmth and definition. There are more forward sounding and sharper preamps out there however they don't posses the musicality and soul the No. 326S does.
Read about the high points and low points of the No. 326S on Page 2.
• For a true state of the art, high-end piece the No. 326S is so
effortlessly simple to install, use and live with day to day it makes
less capable products look and feel complicated.
• Sonically the No. 326S floats my boat and I don't think I'm alone.
The spaciousness and air the No. 326S is capable of reproducing is
addicting and can result in extended listening sessions. The No. 326S's
bass extension is superb and its high frequency response has few
• The No. 326S, unlike a lot of reference preamps, doesn't mind if you
throw it a few less than perfect recordings from time to time, it
understands and is surprisingly capable and musical with even the
nastiest of recordings, i.e. 128kbps iTunes downloads.
• The No. 326S does take a bit of breaking in and warm-up before it
sounds its absolute best. We're not quite talking tube amp warm up
times but you will notice a difference in sonic quality after a good 15
to 20 minutes.
• As great as the No. 326S is it is becoming increasingly difficult to
find as there seems to be fewer and fewer Mark Levinson dealers these
days. However, since the restructuring of Harman International, Mark
Levinson's parent company, things are looking good for the future and
resuscitating the Mark Levinson dealer base.
Ten grand is a lot of money, especially in these current economic
times, however as far as cost no object, reference-grade audiophile
preamps go the Mark Levinson N° 326S is a relative bargain. With it's
ability to accommodate numerous source components as well as ability to
be integrated into a home theater or control system the No. 326S is far
more well rounded in terms of ease of use and livability than many of
its competitors. More over, the No. 326S is simply brilliant when it
comes to playing back seemingly every genre of music. It is one of the
best two channel preamps I've heard to date.