Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by any other name would sound as

Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by any other name would sound as

Postby Peer Gynt » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:06 pm

In the Fatboy thread I asked if you could drop a Fatboy on the Levinson 515. The answer was that it would take a bit of work.

I thought it would be better to start a new thread than to continue to divert the Fatboy thread.

The key starting info is that when I first saw the Levinson 515, I commented that it was a VPI, even before I read in the fine print that it was designed and built in collaboration with VPI.

Today I went back for an audition. It sounded quite good in the private listening room, and we were fortunate to come to terms, so I brought it home. I set it up in the higher end system here and I can share some thoughts.

The boxes were shipped directly to the dealer from VPI. It did not go to Levinson first.

The model I got was the 515MC which is supposed to be set up. The set up had several significant flaws.

It sounded lousy when I played the first cut. So I started looking more closely. I found that the anti skating was set up in reverse. I found that there were no cartridge tools or specs. I had to go grab some tools. On looking the specs up, I found that the tracking force was half a gram too high. And worse, it was close to its lower limit for the cartridge mass. I was able to adjust it to 2.5 grams (the top of the recommended range), but it will go no lower for this cartridge without adding weight to the counterweight.

After sorting these things out, I put a record back on and started again.

It was better in my system than it had been in the full Levinson and B&W system at the store.

I think it’s going to be a killer deck when it’s broken in. Even now the arm and cartridge are showing excellent promise.

The motor is a bit noisy, but it’s only hour 1 in service. The belts were aggravating. They did not automatically align themselves. One would jump off over and over until I figured out how to guide it with the point of a lead pencil.

I’m going to check speed after break in. I think it’s got a bit of subtle wow, but so did my signature during its first several hours.

Interestingly, two mats are provided ... a VPI style and a Linn style. I tried them both and found that it really snapped into focus with no mat, and with the use of the Levinson record weight. It’s not a clamp, although the spindle will take a clamp.

I think at the $12,500 retail price point, there ought to more attention to the set up.

And I’m going to have to look into alternate counterweights.

For now, two sides into it, it looks like a winner. Comparisons with Classic 3SE and my pair of LP12s will be fun.
Last edited by Peer Gynt on Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Dorian » Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:51 pm

Peer Gynt wrote:I think at the $12,500 retail price point, there ought to more attention to the set up.

LOL, yeah just a bit! My impression of this table is that it is an overpriced lifestyle product. Could it really better than a Prime Signature with all the trimmings and a $5K cart?
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Peer Gynt » Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:39 am

If someone were hunting for their “forever table,” maybe they would choose otherwise ... but until you’ve actually heard one in a familiar system, you really don’t have a valid opinion. Is it better than a Prime? I dunno. I know I don’t want a Prime. I might like an Avenger though. Just not today.

I’m not hunting for my forever table. Just like with motorcycles the best bike is the next bike, here the best deck is the next deck. Best guitar’s the next guitar ... etc

I will say that I’ve played six more sides, and the subtle wow is gone. The belts have broken in a bit too. I need to powder them. Maybe tomorrow.

It sounds better here than it did at the store. I like the CJ sound I’ve got here better than the Levinson sound in the system at the store.

I’m going to put a Lyra Delos on it so that it can be compared fairly to the LP12 in the same system.

I don’t know if it’s the Cadenza Bronze, or some other issue, but the 515 is really agreeing with this system. I generally like Ortofons and I’ve not heard one in this system since I put the LP275Ms in place instead of the biamped Krells.
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Brf » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:20 am

Again, congrats on the new table. Although I have never heard one, on paper its a winner.

With respect to factory set up, it is tough to maintain fine alignments etc when you need to repackage the table and hand it over to the courier company who then bounces it around like a basketball for a couple of days. You are lucky that you have the prerequisite skills to perform the set up but I imagine that most Levinson buyers will have their retail store perform the final installation.

If the table sounds excellent now, wait until it breaks in and you have had an opportunity fine tune it to your liking. I am glad to see someone on the forum who actually owns a 515 and now we can get some first hand feedback.

Looking forward to see a picture.
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Dorian » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:36 am

Glad to hear that you are liking it. Personally I would not buy that table for that money, but to each his own. Enjoy.
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Peer Gynt » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:23 pm

I would not buy that table for that money either. In fact, I wouldn’t buy ANY audio component for msrp. But there it is.

There were a few more adjustments today.

The alignment was decent, but the overhang was off. I like that the metal alignment template is included.

The counterweight is too light. I added the thumb screw from a VPI counterweight, and it improved the adjustment range. It would not track some of the symphonic tympanis in Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man at 2.5 grams, but it’s doing it at Ortofon’s high recommendation of 2.7.

I was able to get anti-skate to perform as Soundsmith suggests. The monofilament was the correct length instead of being too short like on my Classic.

VTA was ok from factory.

Bearing was lubed correctly.

The motor was having serious trouble coming up to speed. Talcum powder to the belts has improved this. It’s still a bit slow according to my Speed Checker disk and strobe, but it may be on target once it’s broken in.

The motor noise is diminishing.

I need to get a better foundation for it. I moved a CD player to install it close to the phono equalization preamp. That table isn’t stout enough.

I like the look of it. Very subdued. Elegant in the old school sense.

It is sounding like a high end turntable should sound.

No, I’m not sending it back to be leather clad. :-)

Some of the things I really like about it are:

The gimballed arm with screw driven counterweight. It is extremely simple to set up once you figure out that it needs it.

The speed selectable motor and controller. And the fact that this unit tucks in as though it were designed to go with this table.

The Cadenza Bronze cartridge. I’ve always like Ortofon, but I’d not tried this one. It seems very nice, especially on vocals.

Just the general appearance of it. People want to compare it to other TTs. Believe me, there are a lot of nice TTs out there.

The WAF is high. My wife really likes the look, especially in comparison to our Classic which she considers clunky. The higher bling factor VPI’s don’t appeal to her.

There’s more, but I’ve got to run now.

Oh, did I mention that it is really sounding GREAT?
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Dorian » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:27 pm

How much of a discount off of MSRP did you get?
VPI Prime #959 & Outer Ring| SoundSmith MIMC Star | Herron VTPH-2A | Primaluna DiaLogue Premium HP Integrated | KEF LS-50s | Phoenix Eagle & Roadrunner | Audio Sensibility Cables | Symposium Ultra | AQ Niagara 1000 | Stillpoints LPI | Focal Clear
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Johnny » Tue Jul 10, 2018 8:52 pm

Peer Gynt wrote:
Oh, did I mention that it is really sounding GREAT?


That's all that matters! I like the look of the ML 515 also.
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Re: Levinson No. 515 - a VPI by and other name would sound a

Postby Peer Gynt » Tue Jul 10, 2018 11:49 pm

Speed has settled in and is correct.

Static continues to be an issue, but I believe this is tied to the temporary location. It’s time for me to find a better place for it to live.
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