In the 1990s, it seemed that Madrigal Audio Laboratories’ Mark Levinson brand could do little wrong. Even though the company’s namesake founder no longer was involved, the remaining team continued to bring to market a series of high-end components that were prized by well-heeled music fans, championed by the audio press and used to power the reference rooms of audio retailers worldwide.
Levinson products became famous for their design, innovation and addictive “house sound” — a slightly dark, but detailed, liquid and totally refined presentation. The company was one of the first to popularize fully balanced operation to lower the noise floor, and was famous for using very high-quality parts throughout.
The gear became so sought-after that Madrigal created a junior line, Proceed, to bring trickle-down Levinson technology to those with lighter wallets, and to put a toe into the water of the burgeoning home-theater movement.
Then suddenly in 2002, parent Harman International combined Levinson under a new umbrella with Lexicon, which it also owned. There was a plant closing and layoffs, and Proceed disappeared. Whatever the intent of the corporate moves, in the years that followed the Levinson name lost some of its luster. The product line shrunk, the gear got harder to find and many fans of the old days were left wondering what happened.
Today, though, Levinson’s current leadership seems determined to return the brand to its once-lofty pedestal. Efforts began in earnest about four years ago when the company hired Todd Eichenbaum from Krell as director of engineering and set up a 12-person design and development team. A new plant also opened in Connecticut, and Harman gave Levinson access to a $400 million R&D budget.