Mark Levinson products have always been highly regarded for their sound quality and the N°502 is no exception. Towards that end, every part of the audio path from the input to output was carefully considered and designed to ensure optimal sound quality.
Mark Levinson engineers designed the chassis to double as an integrated radio frequency (RF) shield providing immunity from the RF emissions commonly radiated by other devices. These emissions are a common source of noise that can find its way into the sensitive audio circuits and degrade sound quality. Noise can also enter a system through the input and output connectors which are usually connected directly to the chassis, providing a direct path for noise to get in. To prevent this from occurring in the N°502, the input and output connectors are physically isolated from the chassis.
Inside the chassis, the N°502 utilizes two AC power transformers to completely isolate the digital and analog signal paths. A digital power transformer is used to power the digital circuits, and a toroidal power transformer is used to power the analog circuits. In addition, both power supplies are carefully shielded in a chamber inside the chassis to further prevent transformer noise from leaking into the delicate analog circuits and degrading sound quality.
Another method employed to reduce noise is the use of eighteen-layer circuit boards with minimal surface etches. They help to lower radiated emissions from inside the chassis. We also isolate the control signals from the audio signals to eliminate interference. In the event that any common mode noise is present inside the system, all of the analog audio signals are routed inside the chassis as differential (balanced) signals to cancel this noise out.
To reduce jitter and digital noise, a specially designed low-voltage differential signaling circuit is utilized. A proprietary direct digital synthesizer frequency lock loop controls the audio master clock resulting in extraordinary jitter performance. This closed-loop control algorithm improves bandwidth and resolution.
Great care was also taken in the implementation of the level controls for the N°502 which offer an adjustment range of 120dB, preserving the full resolution of the signal. In order to reduce noise and distortion, fewer passive components were employed, and digital quantization noise is exceptionally low, even at the lowest volume settings. This ensures that the level controls do not significantly degrade the sound of the audio passing through them — a common problem in many other less-rigorous designs.
The N°502 features Harman International’s proprietary Logic7 technology in addition to the standard suite of Dolby and DTS listening modes. Logic 7 is widely regarded in the industry as the best surround-sound process available. In simple terms, Logic7 works by utilizing a unique algorithm that engages all of the speakers in a system to enhance the realism of the sound. By analyzing the spatial cues included in the original sound, Logic7 presents them in a manner that makes the overall experience much more engaging and enveloping.
Another notable feature is the N°502’s bass management system which utilizes phase-matched signal paths to prevent signal cancellation. Whenever two signals combine, as occurs in all bass management systems, the potential for signal cancellation increases, which will significantly alter the sound. By phase matching the signal path, the N°502 ensures that you hear every detail as it was intended, regardless of the speaker configuration.
Although Mark Levinson products are known for their superior sound quality, the N°502 also establishes a new benchmark for picture quality. In addition to providing an array of analog and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) inputs and outputs, the N°502 also includes a state-of-the-art video processor that can convert all of the inputs into a single output and scale them to the optimum resolution for driving the display device. This simplifies the overall system configuration while providing the absolute best picture quality possible.
To clean up and sharpen compressed images from sources such as standard DVD and satellite/cable TV broadcasts, the N°502 includes advanced noise reduction and detail enhancement. Combined with the built-in scaler, standard-definition sources look like true high-definition sources. The N°502 also includes motion-adaptive video de-interlacing with edge interpolation for improving both standard-definition and high-definition sources. And for the highest quality video sources currently available today, the N°502 readily handles 1080p/24Hz video inputs and outputs with ease.
The N°502 features an impressive six HDMI inputs, each with its own receiver to deliver exceptionally fast HDMI switching and the ability to “preview” one HDMI input while watching another. It also features two HDMI outputs, so it can alternately drive two different displays. Combined with impressive video processing capabilities, the N°502 sets a new standard for picture quality, even when compared to dedicated, stand-alone processors.