Mark Levinson No5105 Turntable Page 2

In addition to total freedom over choice of interconnects and cartridges, the No5105 also responds to changes in mats with nearly the audible changes when applied to lighter, lesser platters. The one supplied is a thin, almost papery type, so I also tried conventional felt mat and rubber mats. Each time the sound changed just enough to encourage experimentation. For the review, I used the supplied item.

sqnote None More Black
As if to match the plinth's gorgeous finish, the initial impression was made by the ultra-quiet background. While no LP playback can ever match digital silences unless using a DS Audio optical cartridge, this came pretty close. The sound of Charles Mingus' Ah Um [Mobile Fidelity UD1S 2-010, One-Step], in addition to providing an opportunity for me to try 45rpm, possessed an airiness and space that almost approached the same via the much dearer TechDAS Air Force III Premium [HFN Jun '19]. In terms of soundstage recreation, we are talking mere inches.

For reproducing a live feel, the atmosphere of a club or simply the spontaneity of any small jazz ensemble, this background silence is a peerless boon. The images and sounds were suspended in total freedom from the speakers, delivering that sought-after disappearing trick we all desire from our systems. As for the timbre of the instruments, the piano in particular enjoyed a sparkle (or is that tinkle?) which yielded a level of authenticity that rendered the listening all the more vivid. In other words, this deck extracted all that a One-Step LP provides.

Party Trick
With vocals my prime concern, however, I slipped Carly Simon's No Secrets [Speakers Corner ELEKTRA75049] onto the platter, 'The Carter Family' being my guaranteed tear-jerker. Detail obsessives will delight in the way this analogue front-end handles nuances, especially breathiness and realistic, rather than irritating sibilance.

As for the myriad sounds on 'You're So Vain', there's an undeniable delight in hearing Mick Jagger's unmistakable, rather nasal contribution in the background.

If this deck has a party trick, beyond the openness and the mesmerising absence of vinyl whoosh, it has to be the lower octaves. James confirmed that, the issues created by using a heavy platter apart, a three-point suspended subchassis was ruled out not least because it complicates set-up without necessarily delivering any sonic rewards. And that's absolutely the case if you are able to site the No5105 on a substantial stand, away from airborne interference.


As an experiment, though, I located the deck between and slightly to the front of the speakers, and still it remained free from microphony. The substantial platter, plinth and complex feet, allied to perfect levelling, all but guarantee that this is a silent runner. As heretical as this sounds to Ye of the Flat Earth Persuasion, I was reminded – favourably – of the sheer competence in that area of massive direct-drive decks of yore, like the larger Denons and Trio/Kenwoods.

Key Player
With the Whitesnake compilation, Love Songs [Rhino R1 1643449], the challenge was to convey not just wall-of-sound guitar pyrotechnics, but stadium rock/power ballad grandiosity. Just as the No5105 was adept at intimacy with the Charles Mingus session, so did it fill the room from the opening notes of 'Love Will Set You Free'. What this says to the listener with catholic tastes, while also satisfying the needs of single-genre monomaniacs, is that the No5105 is neither a rock nor a jazz nor a pop nor a classical deck, but one of equal opportunism.

Of course, you're thinking, this applies mainly to the package with the Ortofon MC, but it remained consistent with the other MC cartridges I tried: a Koetsu and a Denon, neither of which resemble the Quintet Black S in basic attitude. What remained consistent was the neutrality of the presentation throughout the midband, which I also challenged with the title track of Jackie Wilson's Whispers [Demon DEMREC685], his voice spanning multiple octaves like an opera diva.


Just as it caressed the warm tones of Carly Simon's voice, so did the No5105 deal with the power and the dynamic contrasts of Wilson's pipes, which veer from the actual whispers of the ballads he sings, to soaring upper-register cries that stun the listener. Regardless of the cartridge, this deck holds it all together, and because of this, it emerges as a key player in the current revolution.

Along with VPI's 40th Anniversary turntable [HFN Apr '19], EAT's dearer models, all-in-ones from Clearaudio and numerous others, there is a discernible movement inspired, I've no doubt, by the vinyl revival. These companies are doing at the high-end what Pro-Ject and others undertake at the lowest price points, in effect, trying to make LP usage as simple as CD – in many cases, for those who've never touched an LP before. Of course, the true agenda for ML is to complete its 5000 series. And believe me, it has done it in style.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
For all the wrong reasons – looks, build quality, ease-of-use – I adore the No5105. Enough for the purists among you to castigate me, perhaps, but my admiration for it would only be meaningless if the sound didn't match the form. This is a sublime device which does everything you'd want of a deck at its price, while delivering pride of ownership usually restricted to luxury pens and watches. I'm dazzled.

Harman International Ind.
Northridge, CA, USA
Harman Luxury Audio Group (UK)
01223 203200