Luxman, the iconic high-end audio manufacturer dates back to 1925, and it remains as one of the most revered names in high-end audio. Many of their tube and solid-state components have achieved iconic status, and are legendary for their exceptional quality and impressive sonic characteristics. Even integrated amps made over 35 years ago still sound great today, as I recently witnessed with Richard H. Mak’s L-430 1983 integrated amplifier.
A year ago I reviewed the L-509X integrated amplifier and was very impressed by what I heard. And when an opportunity to review Luxman’s top of the line 900 series power amplifier and preamplifier presented itself, I got really excited and immediately took on the review opportunity. After spending two months with this combo, I can easily say this is the best amplification I have ever had in my system, and I am going to sorely miss them when they leave. Read on to find out why.
C-900u Control Amplifier
Luxman refers to their top model preamplifier, the C-900u, as the Control Amplifier for good reasons. It is much more than a simple line stage, but a “Control Centre” as it comes with additional control functions such as treble and bass tone controls, loudness, display options, as well as the ability to control the operation of the connected Luxman power amplifier(s) through a special cable connection.
The C-900u is the result of Luxman’s pursuit of the absolute best tonal quality. The unit uses four independent modules in the balanced amplification circuit that enable hot and cold components of both channels to be handled independently of each other, which effectively suppresses noise generation. Increased primary slew rate and ultra-wide bandwidth contribute to an extremely low level of distortion, especially in the high frequency range. The new and improved version of the ODNF (Only Distortion Negative Feedback) circuitry and a robust power supply achieve higher S/N ratio and improved sound quality without any distortions. Luxman’s original LECUA 1000 (LUXMAN Electrically Controlled Ultimate Attenuator) volume attenuator, which was originally designed for the 80th anniversary C-1000f control amplifier 14 years ago, has since been improved even further. It allows for more precise volume adjustment over impressive 88 steps with no compromise of sound quality from 0dB to 87dB.
The C-900u features a clear fluorescent display that by default shows the currently selected input as well as volume level. Using the Zoom function, the volume level display can be made four times larger.
The loopless chassis design created with highly rigid metal enclosure completely eliminates the ground loops, which degrades the sound quality. Isolator legs made of cast-iron prevent any kind of resonance thanks to their interesting design, where material density decreases from the center to the edge of each leg. They also minimize vibrations from the supporting surfaces and the power transformer. There are no visible screws on the blasted white exterior finish of the control amplifier, which adds to its graceful and elegant appearance.
The back panel features three balanced (XLR) and three unbalanced (RCA) inputs, as well as XLR and RCA options for output and one RCA preamplifier input for an A/V processor. Each unused input is covered with supplied small plastic caps. There are also two interfaces to connect the control centre to one or two power amplifiers (depending on configuration) with supplied RJ-45 cable in order to power the control centre as well as power amplifier(s) on and off with a single click of a button on the remote.
The supplied remote control is also of high quality and underscores the Japanese relentless attention to the smallest details. Using the remote, a user can accomplish a multitude of functions besides the obvious input selection and volume adjustment, i.e. loudness, line straight signal path, external pre operation, various presets and others.
M-900u Power Amplifier
Luxman’s top of the line power amplifier is designed to bring out the best sound from the speakers. By connecting four push-pull structural output units in parallel, rich sound is achieved in the entire frequency range. As with the C-900u, the same high-power ODNF circuitry, now up to version 4.0, is used in this amplifier with 4x2 output configuration. It achieves the rated power output of 150 W per channel 8 Ohms, which doubles to 300 W into 4 Ohms with an instantaneous maximum output of 1200 W per channel into 1 Ohm. This allows the M-900u to quickly and easily provide high energy when source material requires it and drive speakers without being negatively affected by speaker impedance changes. The amplifier features the BLT connection, which allows it to be used as a monoblock with the output rating of 600 W per channel (8Ω).
The suppression of the electromotive force from the speakers is achieved by the damping factor of 710 as well incredible power linearity. The amplifier uses high-performance EI type super-regulation transformer in the power supply with a large capacity of 1,250 VA.
The large needle style LED illuminated power meters provide accurate power readings. The meters are equipped with the ON/OFF switch, which can turn off the needle operation or the illumination or both. The M-900u operates in pure Class A mode up to 12 W.
Just like the C-900u Control Amplifier, the M-900u uses the same loopless chassis design to eliminate ground loops. Once again, cast-iron legs are used for the elimination of any vibration, both externally and internally. The white blasted finish of the chassis with large vents for heat dissipation add to the elegance and stated presence of this massive unit.
Back panel features balanced and unbalanced inputs and large Y-lug supported speaker terminals.
Just by reading through the impressive technical specs and design cues, it is clear that both units have been designed to work together in perfect synergy. So in my listening sessions, I did not even bother trying the M-900u with other preamplifiers, as I knew the results would not be optimal. Throughout the course of my testing, I’ve used three different sets of speakers: my old PSB Stratus Bronze, Audiovector QR5 as well as Esse Quadro L’Una 177 stand mount monitors. My biggest surprise and delight came from pairing with the Esse Quadros and the Audiovectors.
As I get more and more involved in this hobby, I discover musical styles, artists, and performances I never paid any attention to in the past. As a rule, the material is extremely well recorded, which adds tremendous amounts of enjoyment of the music itself. A perfect example of such a recording is American blues artist Sara K.’s album “Hell or High Water”. I was instantly captivated by the opening track called “Stars” with its transparent, rich and very present guitar sound as well as Sara’s voice coming at me straight from the centre of the soundstage. Each acoustic guitar string sounded very distinct and perfectly clear.
My other recent favorite is Kari Bremnes' “Norwegian Mood” album on SACD. Although I enjoy the entire album, a few tracks in particular, like the melodic and ambient “Coastal Ship” definitely stand out by showcasing the true capabilities of the Luxman combo. Absolute transparency of the sound, with all the micro details, complete instrument separation within the soundstage, precise imaging, and deep bass are some of the characteristics of this performance. The faster paced and electric guitar driven “My Heart Is Pounding Like A Hammer” starts more subdued before building to a powerful guitar solo all while retaining the same transparency of each instrument and Kari’s voice.
The recently released album “Alma Oscura” by an American jazz and soul vocalist Lauren Henderson is an amazing Latin Jazz performance, which I have also been enjoying lately. The first album track called “From The Inside Out”, featuring Leo Sidran on guitar, Michael Dover on clarinet & Michael Thurber on bass, is a slow tempo sensual tango piece with seductive female and male vocals. Although the bass is quite boomy here, due to the quality of the production (intentional, I believe), the rest of the instruments, as well as vocals, are quite clear and well distinguished, even when the song picks up the pace towards the end.
Continuing with the Latin theme, my next track of choice was Yello’s “La Habanera” from their 1987 album “One Second”. It’s a very intense yet very dynamic track that can give a system quite a workout, especially with the powerful drum parts. Luxman amp and preamp were up to the challenge without missing a beat. Those drum parts were reproduced with absolute control and confidence, especially in combination with Audiovector QR5 speakers, which go down to an impressive 25 Hz. My other track of choice from the same album was “The Rhythm Divine” featuring the fabulous Shirley Bassey on vocals, whose powerful and emotional voice filled the room.
Staying with the electronic music, I queued up a track called “Closer” from “album title goes here” (yes, that is the actual album title) by Canadian artist deadmau5. Starting with the famous sound sequence from the 1977 Steven Spielberg movie “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, it slowly builds up to a dynamic and pulsating dance track with deep bass beats that will have you toe tapping and even dancing in no time. Nothing on this track, not even the highest notes, sounded harsh or piercing.
Pivoting musically full 180 degrees, I decided to play a very challenging track called “Intra Venus” by Australian extreme progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris. The good thing about their music, if you appreciate this genre, is the quality of the production given the complex nature of the music. With two guitars, bass, drums, violin, harsh and clean vocals, the result could easily sound like one huge mess or incomprehensible wall of sound. Yet, each element was reproduced clearly and distinctly, including drum blast beats, bass lines, guitar, and violin leads. This was easily the most satisfying reproduction of the track I have ever heard.
Continuing with metal, I moved onto classic Finnish death metal legends Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, whose 1999 album “Chaotic Beauty” was just reissued on vinyl with a new dynamic mix. My song of choice here was the mid-tempo “Bride of the Crimson Sea” featuring female vocals of Kimberly Goss (Sinergy). The new mix definitely improved things on this intense album and Luxman M-900u and C-900u combo delivered all the power and haunting beauty of this track with transparency, speed, precision, and clarity.
Robby Valentine’s 2018 album “The Alliance” is my go to recording for Queen-inspired stadium rock. Featuring clean and dynamic production, it drew me once again thanks to the Luxman ability to properly reproduce all the musical elements on faster rocking tracks with amazing vocal harmonies as well as slower and emotional power ballads like “Eleanor Robyn”.
In two months of having the Luxman pair in my system, I certainly pushed them hard at times. But nothing could derail this powerful duo. It seems that there wasn’t any musical genre or performance that the Luxman could not handle, and that is a true testament to the company’s long history of producing high quality audio gear with utmost attention to quality and the ability to faithfully reproduce musical performances that are transparent, balanced and very involving from the first notes. I never try to justify the pricing of high end equipment. Ultimately, it is up to an individual user to decide how much they want to spend. Yes, Luxman M-900u power amplifier and C-900u control amplifier are not cheap (MSRP is $14,995 USD each), but for anyone who is a serious audiophile and has the means to support this hobby, this combination is a serious contender not only in this price category, but can even challenge components that are more expensive. As I stated in the beginning, this is the best amp and preamp combo I have ever had in my system that I will definitely miss.
Special thank you to Mark Jones of Audio by Mark Jones and Jeff Sigmund of Luxman America. for the review units.
- Pear Audio Blue Little John turntable, Cornet1 tonearm
- Hana EH MC phono cartridge
- Gold Note PH-10 phono stage
- Gold Note PSU-10 power supply
- SPL Performer m800 power amplifier
- SPL Director DAC-preamp
- Oppo BDP-95 Universal Player
- Bluesound Node 2 streamer
- PSB Stratus Bronze loudspeakers
- Esse Quadro L’Una 177 standmount loudspeakers
- Audiovector QR5 loudspeakers
- Crystal Cable Special Series XLR and RCA interconnects
- Crystal Cable Special Series speaker cables
- Crystal Cable Special Series power cables
- Synergistic Research UEF Blue power cable
- BIS AC20 power cables and power strip
High-power 4-parallel module, ODNF circuit, version 4.0
A powerful drive circuit is necessary to amplify sound signals from a control amplifier with high fidelity and to exploit the performance of various speakers. M-700u has achieved the output of up to 840 W + 840 W (1Ω) instantaneously from the rated output of 120 W + 120 W (8Ω) and 210 W + 210 W (4Ω). Speakers can be driven with its sufficient power under any load conditions. Moreover, the BLT mode allows the user to use the unit as a monaural amplifier with the rated output of 420 W(8Ω). A 4-parallel push-pull structure with 3-stage Darlington is used in this circuit to acquire such high power. The latest version, ODNF 4.0 circuit, that has achieved primary slew rate speed indicating the startup performance by feeding back only distortion components, ultra-wide bandwidth, and low level of distortion is adopted for the amplifier circuit, which is inherited from M-900u, our top-end model. Precise reproduction of a small sound signal has enhanced the elaborate sound expression and the expressive capability of tranquillity. Setting up to 6 W with which sound range can be practically and sufficiently acquired to the Class A operation range, it has made its high power consistent with sound expression of high density.
* ODNF is an abbreviation for "Only Distortion Negative Feedback".
luxman power amplifier
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The Luxman L-550AXII Integrated Amplifier Understated as it Gets...
Magic isn’t always where you expect it, and sometimes conventional wisdom suggests trying combinations that you might not think will impress.
The deep synth-bass line in Jerry Harrison’s “I Don’t Mind,” (from Casual Gods) has a rock-solid foundation, anchoring Harrison’s blazing guitar bits, as the backing vocals dart in and out of his lead vocal. Even as this class-A amplifier is warming up, the sonic landscape it renders is large, becoming extra-large in about an hour. Those wanting a super-size drink will have to shell out the extra $3,000 for the larger L-590AXII, which offers a bigger power supply and 30 watts per channel into 8 ohms, vs. 20 per channel for the L-550AXII. But this is damn good.
Leaving the music selection to the ghost in the machine, ROON drags us from Jerry Harrison, through Adrian Belew’s “Oh Daddy,” to Thomas Dolby’s “Nuvogue.” Again, the complete trippiness of these selections and the ones that follow bring us closer to a super-sized presentation after all, with the 550 opening up a bit more as the clock gets closer to the two-hour mark. Though it might rub your green sensibilities a little bit the wrong way, to get maximum enjoyment from your 550, consider turning it on at least an hour before you are ready to begin serious listening. Then take a 60-minute walk and return. Now, don’t you feel better?
Coming off a fresh viewing of the new Bee Gees’ documentary on HBO, the Gibb brothers talk about how one of the keys to their sound, is their alternate lead vocals, and the interaction of their voices as a sole instrument. Even if you’re not a Bee Gees fan, you probably have a few of your own examples of this kind of vocal styling. This is the kind of aural workout that instantly reveals the delicacy that the Luxman class-A amplifier offers. The classic “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” does the job nicely, resolving the differences between each voice, rather than just blending them together as one big, fat voice. Subtle but great.
The dollar per watt quotient
You might be thinking $5,995 for a 20-watt per channel integrated amplifier is crazy talk. Yet, in light of amplifiers from Audio Note, Wavac and a few others, the Luxman is a steal. Another competitor, albeit from the same manufacturer is the $7,995 LX-380 tube integrated, also delivering 20 watts per channel. We’ve been promised a review sample is in the works, so this will also be an interesting comparison. But a tube amplifier is a somewhat different game.
The L-550 AXII can be summed up in one word – refinement. Everything about this amplifier, even the packaging is refined, and thoroughly executed. Many in the audio industry like to push the luxury goods moniker around, yet few components display the density of thought and the level of attention that Luxman bestows on their products.
Grated, some may be drawn towards the glowing bottles anyway, and that’s just fine. But if you’re the kind of music lover that would like 95% of the tube sound with none of the tube hassle, the 550 is the one you want. Whenever I’ve had a Luxman Class A integrated here to audition, it’s always the same hamster spinning around in my head – those last few molecules of airiness, or freedom from hunting for tubes, and agonizing over the tube choices I’ve made. Get off the rollercoaster, life is short. Forget those demons telling you that there’s no happiness with a solid-state amplifier.
A few quick comparisons
This is also a level of performance that will have you questioning the tube thing. A lot of time was spent comparing this amplifier to the Conrad-Johnson CAV 45S2. Though similarly priced, the C-J has no phono stage, no coolio output meters, and no tone controls. The glass bottles still offer a slightly more spacious presentation, but the Luxman is a quieter amplifier, with more bass control.
Pushing play on the St. Vincent/David Byrne collaboration “Who,” sets me back in the chair. Nope, tubes just won’t do that. Going back to bass heavy favorites from Aphex Twin and Kruder & Dorfmeister underline this line of thinking. This is a big part of what you’re paying for. Sure, you can get a 100 watt per channel amp from someone else for half the price of the 550, but it can’t reproduce music this. It won’t have the finesse and delicacy that this amplifier possesses. Do you want a medium sized glass of awesome or a super-size cup of mediocrity? Think about this as the inception thought burrows in your head. Add tire and suspension choices to this kind of thing, and you know you know why I rarely sleep.
If you’ve had the opportunity to spend any time in Japanese culture, you quickly see how everything in their world is done with purpose. This level of mindfulness permeates every aspect of the 550. At first glance, you might think the tone controls are a frivolous addition, yet they are so gentle and inconspicuous, the first time you give in and reach for them, you’ll find yourself unable to live without them. Audiophiles be damned, they work. What do you think a great mastering engineer does?
An equal level of attention is paid to the phono section and the headphone amplifier. Everything has an equally high level of performance. The MM/MC phono is dead silent, with the only drawback being fixed loading at 100 ohms. Both the Kieseki Purple Heart mounted to our Luxman PD-171 table, and the Denon 103r currently in a Technics SL-1100/SME 3009 work brilliantly, offering dynamic analog playback.
At first, you might even find the speaker selector switch unnecessary. For some of you it might be, but being in the middle of a speaker roundup, it made A-B comparisons effortless. Audiophiles enjoying more than one speaker setup will find this all too easy to get used to.
Around back, in addition to the phono input (MM/MC is switchable via the front panel), there are four RCA line level inputs, along with one XLR line level input, full tape in and tape out jacks, along with pre in and main out jacks too. The Luxman site mentions that the 550 shares the same attenuator circuit with the higher priced Luxman amplifiers and a number of overall upgrades from the original 550. You can read all of the details here at the Luxman site. It appears that the major difference between the 550 and the higher-powered L-590AXII is a smaller power supply and output stage in the 550.
Back to the sound
I must confess a bias toward Class-A solid-state amplifiers for all the above mentioned reasons. As much fun as tubes are, these devices are always in a state of degradation from the day you plug a fresh set in. Evaluating gear day to day, makes the consistency of a solid-state amplifier so much easier to deal with, though I still entertain tubes when there is no deadline on the horizon.
A comparison to the $7,500 Pass INT-25 we have on hand, which comes in right between the L-550AXII and the $8,995 L-590AXII is incredibly interesting, as the Pass amp has even more of that tubey delicacy, and is more resolving in fine detail. Taking a cue from Stereophile’s Herb Reichert, I brought out my Line Magnetic LM-805iA SET amplifier for another data point. On one level, this just brought out more confusion, as all of these amplifiers are fantastic, yet in different ways. Honestly, I could live with either of them.
While some might be averse to having an onboard phono stage, I’d really prefer that to an onboard DAC, because that technology is still changing. Today’s DAC performance will probably be eclipsed at the same price point in ten years, but a great phonostage will never go out of fashion.
If I had to have every last drop of resolution, I’d probably buy the spendier Pass amp. If I couldn’t live without the last bit of inner detail of the SET, I’d probably buy the Line Magnetic. But what makes the Luxman a perennial favorite, is that it’s the best all-rounder, wrapped in the most refined casework. 20-30 watts will only go so far, but if you have the right speakers it’s all you need.
Just as I thought this review was finished, as I wrote the above paragraph, the Zu Audio Omen Dirty Weekend speakers (97db/1-watt sensitivity) arrived. Putting those in the system was some of the most fun I’ve ever had listening to music, giving the Luxman amp so much reserve power, it made for an incredibly dynamic combination. Time to bust out the hair metal tracks. I won’t bore you with the fine details, but the Zu and Luxman combination is one of the best party machines going.
When the L-550AXII first arrived, we still had the $149,000/pair Focal Stella Utopia EM speakers in place and their 94db/1-watt sensitivity also made for a great party machine, with those big field coil woofers. However, this might be a little overkill, but it worked wonderfully. The 550 had plenty of LF control and HF resolution to make a great showing with the massive Focals, though for some reason we were playing a lot of hip hop then.
An excellent anchor
Regardless of what ancillary components you prefer, if you would like to build a $10k – $50k music system of very high quality, and you are a music lover that tends to hang on to your gear, this is an amplifier you will never tire of. Just add speakers, a DAC, and your favorite turntable. Off you go.
The Luxman L-550AXII Integrated Amplifier
Digital Sources dCS Vivaldi One, Luxman D-03x
Analog Sources Luxman PD-171, w/Kiseki Purple Heart, Technics SL-1100/SME 3009, w/Denon DL-103r
Speakers Focal Stella Utopia EM, Sonus faber Stradiveri, Eggleston Nico, Dynaudio Confidence 20, Zu Audio Dirty Weekend, Focal Kanta no.1
Cable Tellurium Q Black, and Black Diamond
Amplifier luxman power
Luxman amplifier range and why they’re so impressiveCategories: Hi-Fi
Posted on Tue, 21 Jan, 2020
Posted by Lannay
Luxman put the “lux” in luxury. This well established Japanese audio manufacturer do not miss a thing when it comes to the engineering of their fine components. Each of their amplifiers is tailored to the listeners experience, ensuring each aspect of the musical journey is assisted with the utmost attentiveness. Creating natural sound is at the heart of their product development, and each amplifier is passionately crafted to convey the true spirit of the artist and detail of each instrument. All this attention i paid so that the listener enjoys a pure and invigorating experience.
For over 95 years, Luxman Corporation have been at the forefront of audio manufacturing and have stayed faithful to their philosophy over this time. In 1958 they launched their first vacuum tube amplifier, the high-power MA-7A, followed by the SQ-5A vaccum tube integrated amplifier in 1961. Since the development of these products, aesthetically, there has not been much change, as their traditional looks are part their iconic legacy. Refining their amplifier, the technology and quality of components whilst keeping the same classic designs have made Luxman the true powerhouse of the hi-fi industry that they are today.
L-509X Flagship Amplifier
Luxman have full control over the products they stage which is why they’re products have remained completely coherent in design over the last 95 years. Quality is absolute. Their flagship amplifier the L-509X has all your amplification needs in one beautiful retro box. The full flagship analogue class A/B L-509X is one of the best integrated amplifiers on the market. Performance is impeccable with the L-509X boasting an MM/MC phono stage, headphone output, switchable speaker outputs and tone controls. Highly accurate LECUA attenuation ensures user-friendly control of volume functions.
Beautifully crafted, the build pays homage to high quality Japanese engineering. The L-509X oozes elegance, its luxury build with solid aluminium front panel and high end finish is hard to compare. Even beneath it’s breathtaking exterior, Luxman have not skimped, as even the circuit boards and power supply arrangement have been carefully constructed. The L-509X sports a white VU metre to match the other flagship models seamlessly.
Class A/B Amplifiers
L-509X integrated amplifier uses both class A and B amplification. Class A/B is more efficient than class A and has low crossover distortion due to both A/B switching for each half of the waveform. The class A region keeps most of the music signal, and the class B comes in to play to provide extra power to drive a wider range of loudspeakers. The L-509X is able to deliver a generous amount of power at 120w into 8ohms, and double that when the impedance is halved. This amplifier delivers a beautifully sweet tone, and is able to refine musical details impeccably and perform with exceptional transparency and clarity.
Luxman’s other class A/B amplifiers feature the same high quality designs and exclusive technologies such as LECUA and Luxman’s Version 4.0 Only Distortion Negative Feedback. The L505uX is the entry level class A/B integrated amplifier and is the second version of the L-505. It has earned itself a respectable reputation amongst audiophiles for it’s incredible audio quality. The L-507uX is Luxman’s other class A/B integrated amp, offering 110 watts into 8 ohms, less harmonic distortion, more power and a better phono stage than its little brother. A blue VU meter on both models indicate the amplification class.
Class A Amplifiers
Their class A purely analog amplifiers showcase the same stunning traditional design as the other models but enjoy the added benefit of a more detailed reproduction of the low range and rich sonic expression typical of pure class A sound. Class A amplification uses 100% of the input signal for output and tend to be single ended. A true high-fidelity performance is achieved as frequency response is heightened and there is no crossover distortion. Luxman’s L-550AX and L-590AX integrated amplifiers delivery this exquisitely rich and dynamic class A sound and share an orange VU meter on the front.
Luxman’s Product Range
Luxman’s high quality Japanese engineering is showcased further in their beautiful vacuum tube amplifiers. The SQ-N150 is a simply gorgeous amplifier, and fantastic in it’s ability to produce the warm and puree music reproduction known to Luxman. It is very small but beautifully engineered, with glowing valves sitting gracefully on top of it. As well as this, the LX-380 vacuum tube integrated amp looks similar to the original vacuum tube amplifiers. This classic amplifier pays homage to products of the past and is designed for your aural enjoyment with it’s reputation for delicate soft tones.
Luxman’s traditional looks, exquisite designs and unsurpassed build quality go beyond just their range of amplifiers. Your high fidelity requirements are met with expressive power with their line of stereo power amps, control amps, USB DAC’s, headphone amps and phono stages. Enjoy the pleasure of genuine analog playback with Luxman’s high quality CD players and turntables.
PRODUCT RANGE | VISIT LUXMAN SITE
Luxman was created in 1925 when radio broadcasting started in Japan and has long offered its great acoustics to the audio world. Luxman has been highly rated both at home and abroad as an excellent brand for high-quality audio products.
To say that I was reminded of a vintage Krell I’d recently heard would be too glib a shortcut as this amplifier delivers its warmth, not just figuratively but literally: Ms McEvoy was in the room with me.
Ken Kessler | HiFi News
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