Mark Levinson 50

HARMAN Luxury Update

HARMAN Luxury Update

Celebrating 50 Years of Audio Excellence

by Dave Tovissi
Vice President and General Manager, HARMAN Luxury Audio

For nearly 50 years, Mark Levinson has been known for setting the highest standards in audio reproduction, encouraging the discovery and appreciation of music the way the artist performed it.

Dave Tovissi VP & GM - Luxury Audio

Originally a bass, trombone and flugelhorn player for a jazz band, Mark Levinson (the person) founded Mark Levinson Audio Systems (MLAS) in the spring of 1972. At that time, Mark had partnered with other high-end audio engineer pioneers including Dick Burwen, John Curl and Tom Colangelo. These industry icons were responsible for developing and manufacturing more than a dozen different preamplifiers, including one of their first audio products, the LNP-2 “low noise preamplifier.”

Mark Levinson LNP-2

The first amplifier released by Mark Levinson was in 1977. The ML-2 was a 25 watt/channel Class-A monaural amplifier with development led by John Curl. Even today, this amplifier is still recognized as one of the best sounding amplifiers ever designed.


The company would later release its first Class A/B stereo amplifier in 1979. The ML-3, with its large toroidal power supplies, could produce 200 watts/channel into 8 ohms. The team at MLAS produced two other amplifiers before the company went through bankruptcy and its assets were acquired by Sandy Berlin and Madrigal Audio Labs in January 1985.

The first product released by Madrigal Audio Labs, was the №20 power amplifier in 1986. It was also the first time the scientific number symbol was used to designate a Mark Levinson model number on a product. During the Madrigal era, the team at Mark Levinson designed and engineered many products that earned “reference class” designations from the audio press. As the company grew, HARMAN International took notice and made a capital investment in 1993 that allowed the Madrigal team to increase its product development pace and expand its manufacturing capabilities. In 1995, HARMAN acquired the remaining shares of Madrigal putting the Mark Levinson brand under HARMAN ownership for the first time.

Lexus sedan

Under HARMAN ownership, the Mark Levinson team set about to create a premium automotive solution that would eventually come to market in an exclusive relationship with Lexus. Released in 2000, the Lexus LS430 flagship sedan featured a Mark Levinson audio system that would redefine expectations and become the industry benchmark for OEM car audio systems. Our partnership with Lexus remains strong and Mark Levinson audio systems have continued to set the bar for performance.

In 2002, thirty years after Mark Levinson was founded, HARMAN International consolidated the assets of Madrigal Audio Labs and its brands with the Lexicon brand to create the HARMAN Specialty Group and immediately went to work building the future of the brand as we know it today.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Mark Levinson produced amplifiers, preamplifiers and source players as part of the 300 Series. These were the first products with three digits in their model numbers. Once again, Mark Levinson products would become industry benchmarks for performance. The №326S preamplifier is one of the most popular models from that era. It leveraged technology from the №32 reference preamplifier and astounded listeners with a wide soundstage and clean sonic characteristics which set it apart from the competition.

Mark Levinson No326S

In 2008, Mark Levinson launched the first of the 500 Series. The initial 500 Series models were led by the №53 reference monaural amplifier, a product that challenged the way audiophiles perceived switching power designs in high-performance amplifiers. It was joined by the №532 amplifier and the №512 CD/SACD player. Four years later, the Mark Levinson brand would commemorate 40 years of high-performance audio with the introduction of the №52 reference preamplifier at CES 2012. The №52 was heralded as the finest preamplifier ever manufactured at the time. Its two-piece design isolated the analog signals from the control path and rendered audio with astonishing clarity. Like the №53, the №52 featured a glass front panel with a red illuminated Mark Levinson logo – a design detail that inspired us for our 50th anniversary limited edition product, as you may have noticed.

In 2013 with the brand now under the Luxury Audio Group banner, HARMAN made another significant investment in capital and human resources and opened the new Mark Levinson engineering center in Shelton, CT. This team, led by Director of Engineering, Todd Eichenbaum, developed a complete range of 500 Series products that became the latest models to be considered industry standards for their respective classes. The first product was the №585 integrated amplifier, and it would soon be followed by the №534 and №536 amplifiers, as well as the matching №523 and №526 preamplifiers. The №526 was featured on the cover of the May 2017 issue of Stereophile magazine with an impeccable review and inclusion in their “Recommended Components” listing with the highest possible ranking of “Class A.”

2016 saw the release of the incredible №519 audio player which remains to this day one of the most advanced digital music players available on the market. It combines a powerful streaming audio engine with our proprietary 32-bit/192kHz PrecisionLink DAC, a wealth of wired and wireless digital connectivity, a slot-loading CD player, a large full-color front panel display, our proprietary Main Drive headphone amplifier, Roon end-point status, MQA decoding and rendering, and app control via the dedicated №519 app.

JBL SDA-1700

In May of 2019 at the High-End Munich show, we introduced our first four-digit series of products – the 5000 Series. The №5802 and №5805 integrated amplifiers were the highlight of the show. The brainchild of then Director of Engineering, Todd Eichenbaum and Dimitri Danyuk, our Principal Hardware Engineer and patent-holder of several Mark Levinson technologies and products, the 5000 series proved that meaningful innovation continues to occur in the audio industry. Two months later, the №5805 graced the cover of the July edition of Stereophile Magazine and was awarded their highest recommended status for audio components.

JBL SDA-1700
JBL SDA-1700

In November 2020, during the pandemic lock down, we introduced four more 5000 series products to the world. We did so by hosting our first-ever livestream event called Mark Levinson Reveals. Broadcast live at multiple times around the globe, we revealed our №5101 SACD player with streaming capabilities, the №5105 turntable, the №5206 preamplifier, and the №5302 dual monaural amplifier. During the 60-minute livestream, we were able to take questions from our customers and industry press around the world. We shared our vision for the future of the brand, and our plan to attract a broader and more diverse audio enthusiast.

JBL SDA-1700

Since the Mark Levinson Reveals event, we have spent the past fourteen months delivering upon that promise for the future and preparing Mark Levinson to celebrate its 50th year (1972-2022) milestone. Our investment in the Mark Levinson brand continues. One of the biggest investments occurred late last year when we relocated the Mark Levinson engineering and product teams to our Northridge, California campus. Northridge is not only our Center of Acoustic Excellence where our acoustic engineering team resides, but also where Dr. Sean Olive and our corporate HarmanX research teams operate out of.

Our investment in people continued when we also recruited and hired Danial Shimiaei to lead our Mark Levinson engineering team. Danial’s extensive audio background and innovative approach to audio design is already partnering with Dimitri Danyuk, our Principal Hardware Engineer, on creating the next collection of industry-leading audio products.

In addition to the continuing investment in people and capital, we are amplifying our marketing presence to increase the awareness of the brand and to help attract a larger customer base. We have launched a new website, delivered new advertising campaigns, and partnered with social influencers to increase awareness of Mark Levinson. As of late last year, we have grown the awareness of the Mark Levinson brand within our target audience by a whopping 30%, and over 70% of targeted respondents would now consider Mark Levinson products for their home or car audio systems. The target audience for Mark Levinson products are people who appreciate and purchase luxury products, and they have indicated that they will be in the market for new audio products in the very near future.

As part of our new marketing outreach, we hosted a large group of these consumers at the Mark Levinson Vinyl Lounge event in Miami during the Art Basel week activities in December. Attendees to the Vinyl Lounge event had the opportunity to listen to Mark Levinson products in Lexus vehicles and at various listening stations across the beautiful Sacred Space venue. We chose this as the stage for the unveiling of our №5909 premium wireless ANC headphones – a true best-in-class product and the first of our luxury lifestyle products that will help bring new customers into the Mark Levinson family.

JBL SDA-1700

Guests of this invitation-only event included many of Mark Levinson’s social influencers and A-List celebrities attending Art Basel. They were not only introduced to the audio performance of Mark Levinson products but were also treated to a private concert by Grammy award-winning songwriter and artist Julia Michaels, who spoke to the audience about the importance of music reproduction and why she was proud to represent Mark Levinson at the event.

The №5909 was formally launched at CES 2022 in January, with rave reviews from the press and industry experts. Acclaimed as the best wireless headphone product launched at CES by several outlets (including Rolling Stone Magazine) the №5909 is the first lifestyle product taking the Mark Levinson brand beyond the listening room and the Lexus vehicle. The №5909 is also the first headphone designed and launched by the HARMAN Luxury Audio team.

Marl Levinson No 5909

The outstanding reviews were not unexpected by the team who worked on this product. We knew that if we adhered to the learnings from decades of research by Dr. Sean Olive and the team of HARMAN engineers, the result would be a world-class product. We didn’t simply create a great sounding pair of headphones, we created one the most luxurious headphones ever released to the market. The №5909 boasts an award-winning Red Dot industrial design, premium finishes, fine leather, and all the accessories needed for passive listening or for taking great sound on-the-go. The product went into production in December and will be globally available in the first quarter of 2022.


The №5909 wasn’t the only product launched at CES this year. We also introduced the exclusive, limited-edition ML-50 monaural amplifier package. The ML-50 was created to celebrate 50 years of Mark Levinson audio excellence. Its industrial design features a glass top panel to allow owners to appreciate the internal beauty of its Pure Path circuits and reference-level engineering. Inspired by glass engine covers found on many of today’s super cars, the ML-50 amplifiers will draw photographers like a celebrity on the red carpet. They will be displayed at High-End Munich in May of this year.


By its model number alone, one can deduct that we looked to the past when designing this amplifier. The ML-2 (produced from 1977 to 1986) was our performance and legacy inspiration. The №20 series of power amplifiers (1986 to 1995) inspired the large front panel handles. The №33 reference amplifier (1994 to 2003) and the subsequent №33H (1997 to 2007) sparked the idea for the outrigger feet that provide the solid foundation for the ML-50 chassis. The glass front panel and red illuminated Mark Levinson logo are lifted from the №53 reference amplifier (2008 to 2019). Lastly, our current №536 amplifier (launched in 2015) was the performance reference starting point for the ML-50. Limited to just 100 pairs globally, the ML-50 is sure to be on audiophiles’ shopping lists this year and will be a highly sought-after heirloom component!

As we kick off our 50-year celebration of the Mark Levinson brand, we want to acknowledge those engineers who have worked tirelessly to build the reputation of the brand. From the original founders to the present-day team of engineers, we all share a passion for reproducing music; the way it was intended to be heard by the musicians who created it.

As for the next 50 years, you can count on Danial and our team to stay true to the Mark Levinson DNA. We will continue innovating and pushing the limits of what is possible to attract more passionate audio enthusiasts to our products. Later this Spring when we host our first Mark Levinson Product Council, we will be looking for passionate dealers to give input and feedback for our future direction. If you want to be considered as a member of the dealer council, drop me a note at