• HDMI 1.1
is two versions behind from the current standard. The Mark Levinson argument is that all of the current chipsets today convert the full digital audio to PCM inside the preamp already, so why not do it in your player and stick with a more stable HDMI 1.1 connection? Consumers who always want the latest and greatest, especially when spending $35,000, are having a hard time wrapping their minds around why it's better to take an older technology when they are spending the big money
• The No. 502 isn't configured to be as upgradeable as the No. 40 physically. History proved the card system of the No. 40 didn't see that many upgrades, so perhaps the 502 will be more flexible when the story is all told on the unit thanks to software and firmware, but at $35,000, anyone would expect this unit to stay current for years to come.
• Lack of HDMI 1.3 means that the Mark Levinson No. 502 cannot do Deep Color. Blu-ray players
can't do this either, but this even better video technology is on the horizon and videophiles are atwitter over it.
• To date, there is, amazingly, no matching Blu-ray player to go with the No. 502. Consumers are expected to plunk down $35,000 and then plug in a consumer-grade Samsung or Sony that costs $500 for their source. Harman needs to make a limited edition run of 500 players using someone else's chassis and put out an expensive, stable and good-sounding player that can play any and every disc out there, including Blu-ray, CD, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD and others. If a tiny company like Goldmund can do it, a giant like Harman can do it. In fact, Harman's limited-edition idea was done with an audiophile CD player a few years ago by Mark Levinson. And yes, we all remember the Proceed PMDT. It's time to get over the fear, as wealthy people (not just the same old audiophiles) will want a total solution.Conclusion
Even their most bitter competitors are saying the Mark Levinson No. 502 is the best AV preamp currently on the market at this time. As high-end companies struggle to get a grip on their own relevance in a market that is being driven by consumer-grade retail powerhouses like Costco and Wal-Mart, Mark Levinson has made a true statement with the 502 AV preamp. Do they need a matching Blu-ray player? Without question, if they want to woo the Patek Philippe-wearing, Marquis jet-flying, non-audiophile demographic. At the same time, can you do any better in making your legacy music collection sound its best while pumping in master-quality sound via HDMI? Not without a Mark Levinson No. 502 in your rig. Even with the most feature-rich Japanese AV preamps costing from $3,500 to $7,000, the sound is unfortunately lean. With the Mark Levinson No. 502, you truly pay for your performance but, without question, you get the best of both the worlds of audio and HD video - right now in your theater. The Mark Levinson No. 502 is the cutting edge of AV preamps.