A Legend Returns

Audiophiles know the name Mark Levinson well. After his eponymous first enterprise was purchased by Harman International—which means he can no longer use his own name on audio products—Levinson went on to found several other highly regarded audio companies, including Cello and Red Rose Music. Now, in a story exclusive to UAV, the audio designer, recording engineer, and professional musician is launching his latest venture from his adopted home country of Switzerland, calling it Daniel Hertz, S.A.—"Daniel" after his father and "Hertz" after his mother's great-uncle Heinrich Hertz, whose name is now used as the universal unit of measurement of frequency.

Photo by Ales Madr

Among the company's initial offerings is the flagship M1 speaker ($75,000/pair), which sports a horn-loaded compression tweeter, 10-inch composite midrange/woofer, and 18-inch composite woofer. The M1's sensitivity of 100dB/W/m is far higher than most consumer models, allowing it to play very loud with very little power. Like all Daniel Hertz speakers, the M1 is manufactured at the Petrof piano factory near Prague in the Czech Republic, which accounts for its solid build quality and gorgeous black-lacquer finish.

Photo by Ales Madr

The M2 ($25,000/pair) incorporates the same tweeter and 10-inch midrange/woofer without the 18-inch woofer found in the M1. Also pictured here is the M3 subwoofer ($18,000 each) with its single 18-inch driver.

Photo by Ales Madr

Rounding out the initial speaker offerings is the M7 ($17,000/pair), which utilizes the same tweeter and midrange/woofer as the other models. The only difference between the M7 and M2 is the midrange/woofer's distance from the floor, which affects its low-frequency characteristics.

In the descriptions above, you might have noticed that there are no frequency-response specs, which Levinson eschews because he believes they are not very meaningful. As he points out, speakers with similar frequency-response specs usually sound very different. When asked about the specs for the new speakers, Levinson replied, "Our drivers are measured to be as flat as technology allows. The speakers are tuned by ear using live recordings made with ruler-flat mics, and they are optimized to faithfully reproduce the sounds of all musical instruments, voices, and film soundtracks. A realistic spec for the M1 and M2/M3 combination is 20Hz to 20kHz, while the M2 and M7 can be said to extend from 50Hz to 20kHz."

Speakers aren't the only type of product you can expect from Daniel Hertz. Taking its name from the ancient Greek word meaning "ultimate," the M5 Telikos monoblock power amp ($6000 each) is conservatively rated at 200W and, according to Levinson, is "especially refined in the milliwatt region," which is particularly important with a speaker of high sensitivity like the M1. Other products in the pipeline include the M6 2-channel preamp and M9 media-center PC as well as interconnect and speaker cables.

Photo by John Begansky

The M1 speaker and M5 Telikos power amp were unveiled at the Audio Engineering Society convention earlier this month in New York. A pre-launch party at Real Mastering Studios wowed engineers and journalists with two M1s, each powered by two M5s in a bi-amp configuration. According to mastering engineer Rob Fraboni, whose recordings were used to demo the system, "All agreed that they had never heard music reproduced at this level of quality before."

Photo by Ales Madr

The Daniel Hertz website is still under construction, so for more info right away, you can e-mail Levinson directly. As with his previous endeavors, I expect great sounds from this one.

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Boyeah's picture

Mr. Mark Levinson's after his folded brand Cello which had promised life time warranty
for all the Cello gears, now can't even get parts to service it, amongst the high end users, Mr.
Mark Levinsion don't have much integrity left.
Regardless how good this new brand may sound, once bitten twice .......

Daniel's picture

Red Rose is made in China, honestly speaking its quality does not match the asking price. I am fairly disappointed. Also the Daniel Hertz SA is also an OEM in China to me.

Bill's picture

Good to know what he's up to as, at least in recent years, Mr. Levinson is more famous as Kim Cattrall's ex and co-author with her of "Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm." :-)

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Daniel, according to the press release announcing the new company, the speakers are made at the Petrof piano factory near Prague, and the electronics are made in Switzerland, not China.

Barry Willis's picture

One point of clarification: Mar k never received a penny from Harman International in its acquisition of Mar k Levinson Audio Systems. He was a young entrepreneur who was forced out of his own company by a group of unscrupulous investors (lead by Sandy Berlin) who then put MLAS through bankruptcy to deprive him of his percentage of ownership. What they wanted and got was the right to the Mar k Levinson brand name. They also attempted to ban him from ever working in the audio industry again, an effort that was thwarted in a settlement in Federal court. This is all a matter of public record should anyone care to look into it.

SamWell's picture

Curious that Mr. Willis feels ML needs defending. I think it better that ML, or his apologist Mr. Willis, defend ML's marketing hyperbole instead. Mr. Levinson has a very mixed reputation in audio circles these days.

Barry Willis's picture

Mar k Levinson doesn't need defending, and if he does, he's perfectly capable of doing it himself. What's needed are solid facts instead of half-baked opinions. There is and always has been a huge amount of misinformation constantly circulating among audiophiles -- not just about ML, but about almost anything under discussion. Audio geeks might be the most pathetically misinformed sub-species on the planet -- especially those who snipe at each other from behind the anonymity of nicknames in online forums, arguing about things they've never experienced or don't understand, gossiping about people they've never met, and forming opinions based on nothing more than hearsay.

Mar k Levinson's picture

I'm very happy to see such interest in Daniel Hertz SA. Let's separate opinion from fact. Daniel Hertz electronics are Swiss Made and our speakers are built at the Petrof Piano factory in the Czech Republic. No compromise has been made in any aspect of their quality. Time will tell the full story. The most important measurement in audio is customer satisfaction. Of the thousands of products built by my previous companies, most are working perfectly, some even after 35 years of daily use. Very few appear on the used market. Although all dedicated to excellence in sound and construction, each of my companies had particular and different design philosophies. Daniel Hertz is focused on bridging the gap between the residential and professional audio worlds. This is serious audio equipment made with the ultimate in artisanal workmanship. The response of music lovers and customers will always be most appreciated by Daniel Hertz SA. And you can get a matching piano from Petrof too.

SamWell's picture

Here's an interesting fact: Googling both Barry Willis and Mar k Levinson finds that Barry Willis, who obviously hates audiophiles and likes to call them names (maybe he should try a different profession) is likely a paid PR flack for Mar k Levinson.

mark levinson's picture

Dear SamWell, When high end audio started in the early 1970's the idea was to enjoy high quality engineering, sonic excellence, and above all, all kinds of recorded music. There was a feeling of enthusiasm, excitement, and passion among those who started making high quality audio equipment. Communications were generally respectful and friendly, even between competing manufacturers. The atmosphere was positive. Your comments reflect the negativity which has sadly permeated the high end audio world. To be sure, you are not alone, there are many who seem to take pleasure in generating negative and hurtful remarks. What kind of world do you want this to be? Many dedicated artisans and engineers are doing their best to make a contribution to audio with Daniel Hertz SA. If you can't appreciate that, why not find some positive outlet for your energy? Find a way to make a contribution to something, rather than write untrue and negative comments on blogs intended for serious discussion.

GRP's picture

Hello Mar k and good to see you are well. I'm still using my ML-1, ML-2's, LNC-2 and ML-6A's from the good old days (all via your old friends at Sound Components in Coral Gables). This venture looks like you've returned to your roots. All the best.

mark levinson's picture

Dear GRP, Thanks for your kind words. I remember well the great team at Sound Components - one of the iconic stores that introduced my first products with such passion. I'm glad to hear your original MLAS products are working well for you decades later.Yes, Daniel Hertz SA is a return to my roots. It feels wonderful.You are welcome to email me directly at marklevinson@earthlink.net. My best to you as well.

GRP's picture

Thank you for the reply Mar k, email sent. Kind regards.

Ken Askew's picture

Curious that samwell feels the need to snipe, and that he requires no facts to do so.

Murray's picture

It's great to see Mar k Levinson back. The audio world is better for it. Perhaps he can provide some insight into the change from the terrific ribbon tweeters of his Red Rose designs to the horn loaded type in this latest offering. Best wishes for your continued success.

Barry Willis's picture

Here's a Wikipedia entry for SamWell: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samwell_(entertainer)

mark levinson's picture

Dear Murray, You asked a good question. The best ribbon tweeters have their charms. The patented Daniel Hertz high frequency horn (which does not sound like a horn at all) reproduces music more faithfully than any other driver we tested, comparing live music to instant playback of recordings. It also has the advantages of being essentially a point source for ideal imaging, having 115dB SPL sensitivity (more acoustic output, less heat, no dynamic compression), and almost impossible to damage with high power (your ears will bleed first). As part of a 100dB/1W/1M high efficiency system, the need for battleship amps disappears. This performance was not previously available. Daniel Hertz draws on the best from the past but also make use of new parts, circuits and developments that we simply did not have before. Certainly, listening pleasure is possible with many nicely designed lower cost systems. To get Daniel Hertz quality, it's time to turn the page.

Dennis Rivadeneira's picture

Hello, I'm one of the very fortunate folks to get the pleasure to work with the M1's. At Real Mastering we take very extensive steps to ensure the highest levels of audio excellence. I've heard many great sets of monitors, now the M1's have become my most trusted reference tools. Thanks Mar k!! p.s They most definitely do not sound "chinese"

Mar co Centola's picture

I am one of the 3 lucky engineers at Real Mastering that get to use the M-1's on a daily basis. Online Forums are great to formulate ideas but their is too much bad information out there. One cannot formulate ideas on how speakers sound by reading about them. We invite anyone to come take a listen, and formulate an educated opinion. I believe the M-1's have the most natural response, I have ever heard and the clarity is jaw dropping. For audiophiles and engineers great monitors are indispensable and we at Real Mastering feel we have gotten exactly that.

Rob Fraboni's picture

I am the founder of Real Mastering and the proud owner of the M-1s and let us not forget the SWISS MADE M5 Telikos power amplifiers that are especially refined in the low voltage region, where it really counts, in mastering. As a musician first and then as a record producer, technician and mastering studio owner, I feel I am on the real path to understanding the effects of recording equipment and techniques in evoking an emotional response in the end listener. And that alone is my and my peers' goal. All the rest falls under the "Talk Is Cheap" category in my book. Enough pontificating, please. Let's experience and feel music again and understand where it comes from and what it is intended for. In as much as any audio gear or recording techniques further this goal, I applaud them. Otherwise, I rather be enjoying a delicious meal with people I love. Quality is quality, the rest is not. By best to all of you who will take the time necessary to consider these opinions, which is all they remain

Mar co Centola's picture

Forgot to mention. Headroom for days. Samwell should stop wasting people's time and start by giving us some (any) valid reason why he does not like the M-1's.

Shlomo Angel Mesonero Gonzalez's picture

Yes, you're back and we are all the better for it. Our hobby is not the center of the universe and is very unfortunate how many of its members just use it as a forum to display their neurosis. Glad to see you are in Europe were the environment will enrich you while allowing you to escape all the bloody nonsense in this side of the Atlantic. Wish you the best Mar k;I'm sure you will do great! Hopefully I will hear more from your new company when I return to Euskadi ( Bilbao )in a few months

Baman's picture

I remember several years ago that the BEST audio equipment that I could purchase was ML....I didn't then nor do I have even now the wherewithall to purchase such incredible sounding audio equipment..... I only with I did.... I also wonder if I'll ever even see some of it on the used market.... Great to see Mr. Levinson back and at it again....

mark levinson's picture

Dear All, Thanks so much for your comments,kind words and encouragement. There is one difference I'd like to mention. Daniel Hertz SA's purpose is to serve those that demand only the very best. Many manufacturers have expensive products for image but survive from lower priced product sales. Daniel Hertz SA has one preamp, one power amp, one level of speaker quality in several form factors, and one interconnect(and two speaker cables, because pure silver litz is not affordable for long runs). There is only one level of quality. There is an old Latin saying, "the best or nothing." There are many companies offering wide ranges of product, but Daniel Hertz may be the only company with just one grade. This allows us to put our entire energy into several products, and to taking commensurate care of our customers. The power of big companies is seductive, but the passion and freedom of an artisanal company like Daniel Hertz is addictive.

JP's picture

I go to the dame church as baman, Mar k. I have always appreciated the opportunity to enjoy your products and hope that from time to time I can acquire some of your current quality products. I must agree totally in the best or nothing as it also applies to my business. Best wishes on your continued success and innovation.

Dave Pace's picture

Traditional high-end audio was based up analog. The world has gone digital. Consider how difficult it is for the old guard to make a sophisticated A/V controller. The situation is both embarrassing and pathetic. Small companies can't even afford the $10 year HDMI licensing fee. The audio world is in much better shape today as excellent products and performance more affordable than ever (not counting the new wave stuff greatly marked-up from China). The local $1K Mar tin Logan Preface is a bargain or the bi-amped Focal CMS50. The fact is America (90% overall) usually can't compete. So we buy the best quality and value which is typically from Canada, Europe and Asia. Lastly the "very best" (marketing campaign notwithstanding) gear changes every year (except for pure analog), so the wise practice restraint.

Petr Komarek's picture

It's nice to hear so many satisfied voices with products of our traditional piano producer Petrof here. Czech republic is small country in center of Europe an here lives a lot of skillful people. :-)

Scott's picture

"...Mr. Levinson is more famous as Kim Cattrall's ex .... " I sure would like to ask him what HE thought of her in the sack ;-).

Arthur D Ross's picture

Dear Mar k, I am so glad to see you back producing a product line with no compromise. I became a customer in the mid 1970's when I wandered into Lyric Hi Fi in NYC. "Lord" Mike Kaye took me under his wing the top of the line ML jewels were delivered and installed. I especially remember those amazing speakers (HQD?) and those cables with the Swiss Fischer connectors! Of course the preamp and 4 mono amps operating push-pull were nothing short of incredible as well. We added a Mitch Cotter custom turntable and Koetsu cartridge, and special modules to the preamp to match the cartridge. I especially enjoyed Mike's calls telling me we were driving up to Hamden (?) because Mr. Colangelo (?) wanted to make some upgrades! But I especially remember the shocked look on your face when you learned that we had added a Crown 11-channel equalizer to the system. Somewhere along the way a pair of Sequerra ribbon tweeters were added, and, of course his 10B FM tuner! Those ML years were so special to me

narut t. (thailand)'s picture

I am fortunate to know that the real Mar k Levinson's product is about to be launched. This year is 2010. if you were forced out of the original Mar k levinson company. it's almost 30 years ago. The real mr.Mar k Levinson must be really old now. :) how come some heroes in audio business face the same fates; Krell founder Dan was forced out of his very recently. I am wondering if Mr.D'agostino will open a new company or not. Krell and Mar k Levinson brand names are merely the thing of the past.


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