Where the No. 5805 comes up short next to the best is in vocal articulation and coherence. It’s not that voices are indistinct, but my go-to track for determining such things – ’Animales hambrientos’ by Bebe [Cambio de Piel, Warner Spain] - is telling. When it’s good, I think I know Spanish. Here, I thought “I wish I knew Spanish”.
Overall, though, the amplifier delivers a very fine performance. It’s crisply dynamic and presents sounds in a soundstage with excellent solidity. It’s a very much ‘turn it up’ amplifier, too; not simply a party animal and it can play well at low levels, but when you play something fun, it makes you want to turn it up.
Perhaps the acid test of the No. 5805 came when casually listening to a series of YouTube clips through the optical input, being fed from my TV. I had a few friends come round, and I’m not ashaimed to say we all got a bit ‘refreshed’ and had given up on regular music and video entertainment and engaged in a spot of random YouTube clip watching instead. Over the course of the evening, we churned through everything from Frankie Boyle insulting his audience, through the ‘let’s play the most obscure piece of music you can find’ game, and eventually to essentially giggling at silly memes and Mitchell & Webb clips. Eventually, we gave up when trying to count just how many SS soldiers Clint Eastwood shot up in each clip of Where Eagles Dare, and carriages (well, Ubers) awaited the revellers. Then it struck me. I had managed to turn on, use, enjoy, and turn off, a high-end audio system - while drunk and in the company of fellow members of the ‘inebriati’ – switch it to play from TOSlink, play it loud and enjoyable enough to shout down ‘The Knights Tippler’ and nothing went ‘bang!’, nothing required adult supervision, and fun was had. In contrast, had I been using a more conventional high-end system, I’d have never even thrown the first switch!
Finally, how you rank the headphone socket largely depends on just how much of a headphone enthusiast you consider yourself. If you use headphones on an occasional basis, and use a pair of moderately demanding headphones, it’s perfectly fine, and has the same detailed, fast, and engaging properties of the amplifier itself (primarily because it is the amplifier itself!). If you consider yourself a headphonista and spend most of your listening sessions under a headband, then the No. 5805’s headphone socket is about average; good for a ‘built-in’, but no match for a dedicated headphone amplifier. In this context, and with more demanding headphones, the headphone socket is a little grey and undynamic. I think for most users of the No. 5805, they won’t ever go for a separate headphone amp and they will use the amp with mid-range AKGs or similar and really enjoy what they hear.
Is it possible to build a set of components that do what the No. 5805 does for less? Of course, but that’s not the point. People who buy the No. 5805 would never countenance buying separates in this fashion, and neither would they go for a separates system that featured Mark Levinson’s more upmarket models. I first thought of the No. 5805 as ‘training wheels’ for the bigger stuff, but that’s not how this amp’s story arc plays out. Instead, this is a product designed for people who will likely never go for the bigger stuff. This is all the Levinson you need today!
The No. 5805 is Levinson reborn, after all. It’s not Mark Levinson for the rest of us, it’s Mark Levinson for a new generation; a generation that appreciates good things, but is time-poor, space-poor, and therefore unwilling to accept the plethora of different boxes that makes up a traditional audio system. In other words, it’s Mark Levinson for right now!
Type: Integrated amplifier with built in DAC and phono stage
Power output: 2 × 125 W into 8 Ohms
Minimum load: 2 Ohms
Analogue inputs: 1 pair balanced, 2 pairs unbalanced. Phono: separate MM and MC (only one can be connected)
Digital inputs: 1 asynchronous USB 2.0 B Audio, 2 optical, 1 coax (S/PDIF)
Sample rates/Bit depth: PCM up to 384kHz up to 32 bits. DSD: native of DOP, single, double, or quad speed. Full MQA decoding
Control inputs: Ethernet, RS232, and USB A
Input Impedance: 20k ohms (balanced) 10k ohms (single-ended)
Phono: MM: Input resistance 47k ohm. Input capacitance: selectable. Gain: 39dB. MC: Input resistance: Selectable. Gain: 69dB
Manufactured by: Mark Levinson Music Systems
Distributed in the UK by: Arcam
Tel: +44(0)1223 203200