SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth 4-Piston brake review – XC weight, trail power?

Does matching SRAM’s new Stealth XC lever with the proven G2 trail brake deliver best of both performance?

A close up of a MTB brake on a bike
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

SRAM’s Level Ultimate Stealth 4-Piston stoppers deliver an excellent braking control to weight ratio with easy fitting/servicing. They’re very expensive though.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent lever feel

  • +

    Consistent, controlled power

  • +

    Easy bleed and fitting

  • +

    Lighter than Level two-piston

  • +

    Tool-free reach adjust

Cons

  • -

    No bite point adjust

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    Premium price

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    New HS2 rotors are heavy

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SRAM’s Level Ultimate Stealth 4-Piston ‘lightweight trail/downcountry’ brake pairs the new Stealth lever with the existing G2 four-cylinder brake. The result is lighter than their pure XC brake, but with decent trail power, excellent control and easy servicing to make it one of the best MTB brakes around. It’s very expensive though and your choice of rotor makes a big performance difference too.

SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth 4 pot brake lever

The Stealth levers hide the hoses behind the bar and have a smaller reservoir to save weight (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and specification

The exciting bit of the brake is the new Level Ultimate Stealth lever. The obvious feature is the way the hoses now point towards the bar (that’s the ‘Stealth’ bit) which is designed to hide the pipes from the rides and sync well with internal headset set ups. While overall form is similar to the Code DH lever, the Level lever gets a smaller fluid reservoir and no bite point adjust dial, so it’s lighter and more compact. You do get a lever reach dial though and the carbon lever blade of the Ultimate version swings smoothly on a tiny cartridge bearing. The G2 caliper is more compact and lighter than Code too, but you still get easy pad removal and the far end of the caliper ‘Bleeding Edge’ fluid insertion point.

SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth 4 pot brake lever

The Ultimate spec version has a carbon fiber lever blade and cartridge bearing pivots (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

Relatively easy bleeding is one of the big wins with SRAM brakes as the far end flush through on the calipers reduces the chance of air pockets. The new levers have a reshaped bladder designed to reduce bubble issues too. Together with minimal fluid leak when threading/shortening hoses meant I installed and trimmed both brakes without needing to rebleed either of them. The hinged clamps and Matchmaker dropper/shifter mounts make bar fitting easy too.

The cartridge bearing mounted levers feel great too, with a finger friendly arc, zero wobble and progressive power increase through the stroke. The progressive modulation makes them less scarily snatchy than XTR or Magura four-pot brakes too. Peak power and aggression are definitely more mid range than maximal, but then this is labeled as an XC / light trail brake so that’s fair enough. I’ve not had any issues with pump out or fade even on heavy braking descents on hot days either. While it comes with steel backed organic pads with standards there are loads of aftermarket pad compound options for G2 calipers, so you can tune bite/longevity to taste.

They definitely solve the major issue with G2 too, which was an OK brake but not much lighter than SRAM’s noticeably more powerful Code. However, the Level Ultimate Stealth 4 is 90g lighter per complete brake than Code and 58g than G2. More surprisingly at 233g, it’s also 10g lighter than the two-cylinder version of the Level Ultimate. That’s also lighter than Formula’s 243g Cura two-pot and significantly lighter than Shimano XTR four-pot at 272g. That means from a brake point of view the Level 4 is a definite weight saving win.

Brakes are sold separately to rotors though and that’s where you can reverse weight wins dramatically. I’ve been running the brakes with both SRAM’s new, thicker HS2 rotors and the older alloy centre rotors. Braking is definitely sharper and more positive overall (SRAM claim a 7 percent power gain) with the 2mm thick HS2 rotors. At 213g for the Centerlock 180mm version, it’s very heavy compared to Shimano’s RTS81 Centerlock at 139g. The 170g six-bolt version is also heavier than older SRAM Centreline (152g) and Hope, Formula etc six-bolt rotors at around 145g. 

SRAM Level 4 pot brake close up

The Level 4 pot calliper is actually 10g lighter than the Level 2 pot making it SRAM's lightest MTB disc brake (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

With reasonable, really well modulated power with awesome lever feel and easy installation and servicing, the Level Ultimate Stealth 4-Piston is a great trail brake to use. The fact it’s comparable in weight to many ‘XC’ brakes is an added bonus to anyone counting grams too. The rotors you pair them with make a noticeable difference to power and mass though. They’re also very expensive compared to Shimano XTR and Hope XCR.

Tech specs: SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth 4-Piston brake

  • Price: $300 / £320 / €360
  • Options: Clear anodized only
  • Weight: 223g (front brake, hose cut to fit 120mm fork)
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg