Pure Luxury

They don’t make’em like they used to – until you see the new Luxman LX-380 valve amplifier from Japan that I’m reviewing here. Japan went down the nostalgia road somewhat before the UK and this new amplifier mines Japan’s not-so-distant past beautifully.  It doesn’t just look good, it feels solidly hewn and its controls are delicious to use.  Luxman always produced great products – I’ve owned many and this amplifier gets right back to the qualities that attracted me and so many others decades ago.

The LX-380 is not quite pure though: it is a hybrid.The preamplifier stages are solid-state; only the power amplifier is valve (tube) equipped, using 6L6GCs.  These are compact tetrodes considered good for 30 Watts in guitar amplifiers where overload is tolerated, but for around 20 Watts in everyday audio use where long life from lower anode volts is preferred – and indeed Lux make this point in their user manual, “operating conditions of the output tubes having some allowance  they say.

So the LX-380 delivers 20 Watts per channel. It may seem feeble against the 100 Watts or more we expect nowadays, but in conjunction with sensitive floorstanding loudspeakers (90dB from 1 Watt) it is more than enough for very high volume.  If you don’t want to wake the dead then it will drive smaller loudspeakers nicely too but I’d recommend large standmounters as a minimum for reasonably high volume coupled with strong bass.

I’ve seen worries about the unreliability of valve amplifiers, the expense of running them and what have you.Yes, power output valves do need replacement after a few thousand hours of use but 6L6GCs are plentiful and around £42 for a matched pair -not a king’s ransom.  Expect around 3 years for three hours of use per day, every day – heavy going. Auto-bias makes bias adjustment unnecessary.

Our underside view shows large yellow high-voltage film capacitors and large resistors typical of valve amplifiers. Switching is carried out by sealed small-signal relays.

The LX-380 is very user friendly then: it is what it looks, an everyday integrated amplifier, built to standards long gone and with a sound only valves can give – easy going, free from transistor fatigue and with a capacious soundstage.  The tubes are hidden and heat output is moderate, so everyone -including the cat – is safe.

Like any self-respecting valve amplifier the LX-380 is heavy, weighting 17.6 kg (39lbs). But it doesn’t take up a lot of space, measuring 440mm (17.3in) wide, 403mm (16in) deep and 197mm (7.8in) high. Most of the weight lies in the two output and one mains transformer but the case is solidly built and Luxman don’t skimp, using a chunky machined alloy fascia with a superb standard of finish.The control knobs and switches are likewise solid machined alloy, having beautifully smooth yet silent actions.  I should mention that Luxman advise space be left around the unit for heat dispersal; I’d suggest 6in (15cms) or so above.

Although the volume control looks like a conventional motor driven (remote control) Alps, in fact it is an electronic attenuator with discrete resistors selected by relays operated from a normal volume potentiometer.  This gives the feel of a volume control and allows a motor to be used to rotate the knob by remote control.

A 6L6 output valve, sitting in a printed circuit board mounted ceramic socket – a common arrangement in modern valve amplifiers.

Such a system has the accuracy and quality of a resistive attenuator, including its immunity to overload, whilst also ensuring frequency response is unaffected by volume control position, as it unfortunately can be when a conventional volume control is used in a poorly designed circuit.  To do this you must use logic to switch the relays – it is a complex but very purist way of changing volume.

Clever stuff then – electronically sophisticated and expensive to produce – but effective in theory and in practice our measurements showed.  The volume control of the LX-380 is a great piece of modern audio engineering in an amplifier that’s seemingly old by looks.This well illustrates what Luxman are offering here: the best of today with the best of yesterday.  The past brought up to date.

Like all Luxman amplifiers this one carries a wealth of facilities. It has four Line inputs to accept CD, DVD players and what have you.They are very sensitive, suiting low output devices like low gain external phono stages and old portable players or analogue tuners with low output.

There is a phono stage for LP, front panel switched to suit MM or MC cartridges.The entire preamplifier is solid-state so you don*c
get valves here.

Unlike most modern amplifiers this one has Record Out and Monitor input RCA (phono) sockets to handle externa! open-reel recorders, or cassette decks – a real blast from the past! The valve power amplifier can be accessed direct from Main In sockets – useful for today’s portable players and DACs that have their own volume control and high output (IV or more).

Like amplifiers of yore, there are Bass and Treble tone controls, here with switched turnover frequencies. This makes fine adjustment of frequency extremes possible – great for subtly tailoring the sound of connected loudspeakers. In true audiophile fashion the tone control circuitry can be switched out with a Line Straight lever switch.

The front panel switches and controls do not appear to switch directly: rather they actuate relays, so there was a small kerfuffle when I flicked a lever, because this initiates mute/relay/unmute sequences.You get longer life and better sound quality over that life with this approach but not the instantaneous response of switching direct.

A solidly carved remote control unit alters volume and has a Mute function but does not select input or the other controls and has no On/ Off function.

The rear panel carries two pairs of *speaker sockets, for A and B loudspeaker pairs. Front panel switching selects A, B, or A +B together.

The rear panel carries chunky modern loudspeaker terminals – no sign of the horrible spring clips or shaky screw terminals of the past that allowed shorts and tarnished quickly.They accept spades, 4mm banana plugs or bare wires. All other inputs are unbalanced through the usual RCA type phono sockets; there are no balanced XLR connectors.

Internally there is one protection fuse within the mains transformer primary circuit but none in the secondary HT lines, to protect the output transformer primaries in event of tube failure – something I consider important. Since fuses and fuse holders are cheap I am surprised at this.

SOUND QUALITY

The Luxman sounded unhappy driving our in-house reference Martin Logan ESL-X hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers: bass was limited.  This surprised me because valve amps like our Icon Audio Stereo 30SE (30W) are a perfect match.

One of the ECC82 small signal preamplifier valves, also used for phase-splitting. Valves like this have a long life of around 10,000 hours.

Contrarily,PMC’s twenty5.24 loudspeakers were a match made in heaven.The PMCs have obvious and well-extended bass as well as strong treble with a smooth and easy midband.  This did not just suit the LX-380 but the two sounded fabulous together.  This does suggest however that the LX-380’s limited bass power of 8 Watts (see Measured Performance) needs to be understandingly accommodated Loudspeaker matching is an issue but I believe it will suit most conventional floorstanders.

Digital was fed in from an Oppo BDP-205D Universal disc player, meaning CD and hi-res from an optically attached Astell&Kern AK120 portable player.  For LP I used our in-house reference Timestep Evo modified Technics SL-1210 Mk2 turntable with improved control circuits and linear external power supply, carrying an SME309 arm with Audio Technica VM750SH MM cartridge and, alternatively, an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge to assess both MM and MC inputs.

Four 6L6 output valves and three ECC82 double triodes are visible, together with twin output transformers and one big mains transformer. Vertical daughter boards at front and rear carry preamp and support circuits.

Spinning Josefine Cronholm’s ’In Your Wild Garden’(CD) the reason for buying a valve amplifier was thrown at me: her voice had enormous contrast against a silent background that made for a feeling of great dynamic power.

“There was ease of deIivery, a fluidity of event that makes for a lifelike presentation free of the mechanical sound from transistors.”

 

Valve amplifiers do this,they have seemingly muscular delivery that suggests primary feedback taps.  

The result was an utterly gorgeous sound, vocalists having a lovely rounded presence and lively nature.  Treble was as sweet as I could hope for, the emphasis of the PMC’s being reasonably obvious at times, but also contributing to conspicuous and precise stereo images across the sound stage.

The Berliner Philharmoniker playing Strauss ‘Don Quixote’ (24/96) stretched wide and filled our large listening room, massed horns having a lovely brassy quality and plenty of dynamic push. But when all fell silent for a solo violin the Luxman tracked this change beautifully, conveying its emotional impact in full.

Whatever I played, digital from the Oppo was graced by the Luxman^ signature sound – but so too was analogue from LP after switching from Line 1 to Phono and pressing the Technics On button. With Audio Technical VM750SH MM cartridge the bass line behind Mark Knopfler’s ’Madame Geneva’ was firm, expressive and easy to follow via the PMC loudspeakers.The whole delivery was liquidly smooth, atmospherically spacious and a performance to wallow in.

At high volume there was no hiss or hum, LP sounding as deeply silent as CD. I swapped the VM750SH for our Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge and flicked the front panel lever switch to MC (no clicks or thumps).

Again, there was virtually no hiss and plenty of available gain – so no apparent matching problem. But the Cadenza was less glassy up top and a tad more amenable and considerably more powerful in its bass.

The reggae-like bass line of Dire Straits ‘Ride Across the River’ was expressed superbly well, sounding strong, deep and articulate. So in spite of poor measured figures I heard a great result here.The PMC’s give strong bass without drawing bass current and this suited the LX-380 perfectly.

Ranks of gold plated phono socket inputs, including Tape and Pre-out/Main-in. At left is a Phono input, plus earth post, catering for LP. A front panel switch selects MM or MC cartridge matching.

CONCLUSION

They don’t make like they used to: in the LX-380 they now make ‘em better.You pay for this sort of quality and attention to detail but Luxman amplifiers always were more expensive than the herd.They have to be with all the facilities that come included.With ourTimestep Evo updatedTechnics SL1210 Mk2 turntable and a new Audio Technica VM750SH MM cartridge, spinning LP in particular brought past wonders back to life in entirely modern form, giving a luscious sound. So if you hanker after an easy to use amplifier built the way they were – with no digital in sight – the new LX-380 from Luxman is a must.  Just use it with suitable loudspeakers to ensure strong bass.

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

The 6L6GC power amplifier output stage is quoted at 20 Watts and just about managed this within a 1% distortion limit. However, it was down to 8 Watts output absolute maximum (3% distortion) at 40Hz due to output transformer core saturation — quite a severe drop. Together with a damping factor of 1.7 the LX-380 will be no bass machine. However, with floorstanding loudspeakers of 90dB sensitivity — not uncommon — 5 Watts or so is enough for extremely high volume so the LX-380 is fine if used in an appropriate system.

Distortion was low, measuring 0.2% at 1 Watt and 1kHz, comprising mostly second harmonic. This figure rose slightly to 0,26% at 10kHz — still a good result. Distortion increased with rising output, hovering around 0.5% at full output (volume).

The output transformers swap power, which needs big cores, for bandwidth — easier to achieve with small cores and bobbins. Frequency response measured flat to a high 60kHz our analysis shows — very wide for a valve amplifier. It also reached flat down to 3Hz — not the best idea as core saturation occurs very early at such low frequencies. Digital usually contains no deep lows but LP can have strong warp signals at 5Hz, but a Subsonic filter is fitted.

Frequency response was unaffected by the 88dB stepped LECUA volume control that is placed within the preamplifier that is solid-state. Line input sensitivity was very high at 120mV and noise low at -95dB, with no hum.

Phono stage equalisation was accurate, giving flat response from 10Hz to 20kHz with MM and MC. The Subsonic filter rolled off output below 100Hz, being -1d13 down at 50Hz and -17dB down at 5Hz — plenty enough to suppress LP warp signals. The Bass tone control, set to 150Hz turnover, compensated for subjective lightening of bass reasonably well when turned up by a very small amount; it has fine resolution.

Phono input sensitivity was very high, 2mV MM and 0.12mV MC being enough for full output. Overload was high at 85mV and 11 mV respectively and noise was also low at -82dB and -65dB respectively, the latter representing a superlow 0.07pV equivalent input noise.

The LX-380 measures well in all areas except bass power, where a limit of 8 Watts was out of keeping with all else. NK

From HiFi World Feb 2018

 

Please follow and like us:

從微觀角度賞樂,再新定義敏銳、直率與力量 Luxman P-750u 耳機擴音機

日本國內三大暢銷高級音響品牌之中,既有固守現在產品類型的,需要確定有足夠需求,才開發 新產品;亦有專注Hi-End路線的,認為Hi-Fi市場非常穩定,依照原有策略即可持續經營;而Luxman 則選擇第三個方向,就是致力開拓年輕人市場,在CAS、桌上音響以及耳機系統上努力耕耘,並取得 豐碩成果,成功降低顧客平均年齡。 Luxman也是三大品牌之中,現時唯一擁有純耳擴的廠家,經歷多次轉款,來到最新的P-750u, 也是第二台擁有平衡輸出的型號。

以第四代ODNF技術組成全平衡架構

Luxman P-750u的線路規模,比不少歐美家用耳擴都要 豐富,打開機殼頂蓋,可以看到內裏塞滿線路板,並非機物 體積大但內部空洞的類型。P-750u耳擴的核心部分,是品 牌專利的ODNF(Only Distortion Negative Feedback)放 大技術,上一代P-700u採用的是ODNF 3.0A,到了P-750u 已進化為ODNF 4.0,順帶一提,同廠的C-700u前級,亦用 上同類技術。

ODNF 4.0線路,就設置在機身中央偏右,一共兩片 PCB,各兩負責單一聲道。每一片ODNF 4.0 PCB同樣擁 有兩分完全對稱的放大線路,兩聲道加起來一共四分,組 成全平衡放大架構。全平衡以外,大電流輸出亦為重點之 一;另一重點在於PCB上的訊號路徑,轉折位造成圓角而 非常見的直角,這是Luxman慣常設計,他們認為這樣有助 工程師找到更短的訊號路徑走線,亦可以令訊號傳送得更 順暢。

日式匠心貫穿每個細節

音量控制方面,同樣找得到Luxman獨門技術, 那就是LECUA(Luxman Electric Controlled Ultimate Attenuator),利用集成電路(IC),準確控制音量升降, 尤其着重低音量時的左、右聲道平衡,精準度以及耐用程 度更勝傳統衰減器。此外,P-750u的三段「SENSITIVITY」 設定(即是調校增益),同樣由LECUA技術去達成。 至於電源供應部分,與上一代P-700u一樣,P-750u亦 擁有一隻廠方稱為OI型的變壓器,以及兩支10,000μF電容 器。不過,後者外新增了一對容量各為3,300μF的特別訂 製電容,專注為初級、驅動級電路供電,加強電能儲備, 應付動態變化就更為從容。

P-750u當然擁有傳統的6.3mm TRS非平衡耳機輸出, 亦有兩組平衡介面,分別為一對3pin XLR,以及一組4pin XLR。

選用非平衡介面時每聲道輸出為4W(8Ω)、2W (16Ω)、1W(32Ω)、53mW(600Ω);訊噪比 113dB(IHF-A);總諧波失真0.003%(1kHz),表現比 上一代優勝。 換成平衡介面,每聲道輸出增至8W(16Ω)、4W (32Ω)、213mW(600Ω);訊噪比116dB,比上 一代低1dB;總諧波失真比非平衡更低,達至0.002% (1kHz)。 耳機向來比揚聲器敏感得多,不但擅於重現細節變 化,更容易被聆聽者接收,故此耳擴每一個環節都不能馬 虎,否則難以令聲音變得平順、降低底噪。隔離外界干 擾,包括電波與震動,需要特別小心,Luxman一眾工程師 對之未有輕視,他們為P-750u設計出一個以3mm厚鋼板為 基礎的雙層機殼,再加上源來同廠旗艦900系列的鑄鐵機 腳,為內部組件提供安穩的工作平台。

難推、易推一機搞定

要試聽Luxman P-750u耳擴,當然要為它找來兩個門當 戶對的拍檔,分別是beyerdynamic T1(2nd Generation) 耳機和Electrocompaniet EMC 1 MK3 CD/SACD機,線材 是一對Analysis Plus Power Oval 2電源線、TiGLON MS- DF12X XLR訊號線,再加上beyerdynamic原裝4pin XLR 平衡線,組成全平衡組合。接駁時要小心相位,P-750u的 XLR輸入,預設是2-3+,假如配合2+3-的訊源例如EMC 1 MK3,就需要在耳擴機背按下反相掣。 只要花半分鐘去比較單端與平衡,就會輕易愛上 後者,在控制力、分析力、分隔度、動態表現、寧靜 度,都比單端優勝。而P-750u實在推力雄厚,三段 「SENSITIVITY」之中,只需「MID」檔位就足以應付T1這

款600Ω耳機。除非是極之難推,或是喜歡帶有強烈侵略性 的聲音,否則絕少機會用得着「HIGH」。「LOW」的驅動 力明顯比「MID」低一截,似是專為一眾便攜頭戴式或是入 耳式耳機而設。

顯微鏡下看世界

P-750u的分析力十分出色,總是非常仔細地重現不同 細節、弱音,弓弦摩擦聲、吹管樂師的花舌技巧是真花舌 還是喉花舌、歌手咬字與收結是否出色等等,都毫不掩飾 地告訴你。 音色上,這台耳擴十分中性,沒有明顯偏冷或偏暖, 可以準確還原錄音製作意圖。 好吧,如此這般,P-750u是否鑑聽耳擴?又不盡然, 因為它並非工作聲,不會把細節放到主體之前,依然將音 樂放在第一位,不是給你存心找碴。它的厚度不俗,人聲 有肉地,亦有感情。背景夠黑,細微起伏夠多,一切都連 貫流暢,致令音樂中的感情能夠一一展現,情深之處,要 令你聽到毛管棟也屬尋常。 光鮮、亮麗、高頻延伸出色,高音特別晶瑩,不過 中、低音仍然質感充足,儘管不是豐厚型,但厚度理想之 下,聲音不帶任何瘦削與單薄。(阿基米德)

載自 “Hi Fi 音響: 2018年 1 月號

Please follow and like us:

頂班名單之列 – Soulution 746+SACD/CD 機

文―Lee388

Soulution這個瑞士Hi-End級音響器材品牌,無可置疑是近年在發燒圈其中一個聲名鵲起得最快的 Hi-End品牌,而且Soulution器材一直奉行貴精不貴多的策略,所以他們的器材可謂件件精品。

而今次在[音響技術]試音室試聽這部 Soulution 746+ SACD/CD機,絕對可以稱為精品中的精品,因為這部 Soulution 746+是限量生產20部,今次有機會試聽也是因為廠方為了趕及香港「視聽展」而特別安排了一部到香港,所以能夠近距離接觸和細聽,使我感到非常雀躍。

在我熟悉的環境下聽這部超級分體電源式 746+ SACD/CD機,(為何我稱為超級分體電源?因為只要看到746+ SACDICD機的分體電源機身與主機同一樣尺寸,比起一般前級的分體電源體積還要大,所以無法不用“超級”來形容。)一開聲已經被這部 746+ SACD/CD 機的密度感所吸引,就是因為這種極強的密度,營造出一種極為真實的人聲質感,播放這張聽說是以原裝母帶送到Abbey Road 錄音室重新製版的「淡淡幽情」,這首“獨上西樓”一開始就是鄧麗君的清唱,這種彷如真人般,歌聲就從一對揚聲器中間瓢逸而出,這種真實感使我即時有毛管直豎的感覺,幸好聽這首歌時,已經過了農曆七月十四!大家可想而知 746+ SACD/CD 的質感和密度如何高強。

746+ SACD/CD 機除了優異的密度感外,低頻也相當結實,而且是有層次和有變化,我從以下兩張CD就能完全感受得到。找來這張由馬友友和Itzhak Pen-man有份演奏的「藝仗回憶錄」電影原聲大碟,這張CD有幾首歌曲內包含了不少低頻訊息,不過這些低頻不是埋身抽擊這類,這是深沉暗潛的低頻,這是考驗訊源對低頻的解析力,不過這方面絕對考驗不到 746+ SACD/CD機,它有能力把所有訊息交代出來,反而配合的後級和揚聲器稍有偏差,會有機會播不出這些珍貴、微弱的低頻,當然在「音響技術」試音室的一套參考組合,絕對是巨細無遺。另一張是小澤征爾久病初癒後的最新錄音,帶領Saito Kinen Orchestra 演奏Ravel的歌劇,我選來此碟最後一首是Ravel的 “Alborada del gracioso”,這首音樂動態強勁,而且要 求器材瞬態反應快。在 746+ SACD/CD 機播放下,這種突如其來的大動態低頻,真的拳拳到肉,快上快落,絕無拖泥帶水,我相信有這樣絕頂的表現,必定與746+ SACD/CD有強勁電源作為後盾有關。

與 Soulution 746+ SACD/CD 機相處了多天,知道播放一般CD已經相當厲害,當遇到製作精良的SACD更加可謂如虎添翼。我播了一張 Stockfisch出品的DMM- CD/SACD Vol.2 的單層 SACD版,音樂一響起,已經感到一種純美、清澈的聲音,好像把錄音與播放之間的隔膜消除了,音樂晶瑩剔透感強烈,人聲焦點精確與背景音樂構成的層次感也相當突出,不過當遇到一些原本錄音不太好,又或者製作不認真的SACD, 746+ SACD/CD 機亦會毫不留情,鐵面無私地把錄音的缺點展露出來,絕對不會為這些不良錄音塗脂抹粉。

老實說要成為當今最頂班的 SACD 或 CD機,分析力這一個環節是非常重要。起初接觸 746+ SACD/CD 機時,我感覺它是不太強調分析力這部份,使我有點懷疑 746+ SACD/CD 機能否躋身於當今最頂班之列,不過慢慢細味之下,發覺原來 746+ SACD/CD 機不是以誇張手法來表達分析力,不會以一種霎眼嬌的方式,把一些無關重要的細節過份放大,這是採用一種有碗話碗,有碟話碟的方式。其實要使人感覺好像很高的分析力,只要把高頻量感微微提升,就輕易使人產生高分析力的錯覺,而 Soulution 廠方為求傳真和平衡,所以捨棄這種技倆來取悅發燒友。就如播放這張Esoteric版 Arthur Grumiaux 拉奏莫扎特第三及第五小提琴協奏曲SACD, 746+ SACD/CD機絕對能清楚交代Arthur Grumiaux各種弓法和變化,可以清楚聽到細膩、優雅的琴聲,小提琴有種馥郁芬芳的古典味,給予一種極具文化氣息,聽畢Arthur Grumiaux這張錄音後,我突然想到 746+ SACD/CD機的特性真的有點像 Arthur Grumiaux。

結語
當今最頂班的 SACD 或 CD 機有那幾部,如大家是本刊的忠實讀者應該良中有數,因為我們大部份司有試聽過。今次有機會試聽了這套 Soulution 746+ SACD/CD 機後,我認為這個頂班鴐名單內可以加添多一部。如大家喜歡Arthur Grumiaux 這類型的小提琴家,我相信 Soulution 746+ SACD/CD 機應該合閣下的口味。

轉載自 “音響技術” 409 期

Please follow and like us:

SACD/CD 播放機的顛峰之作 – 瑞士Soulution 746+

文―大草

要建立一個音響品牌的名聲絕對是高難度動作,特別是位列Hi-End殿堂的極品級名牌,生產的每一件器材不但會備受音響界各方注目,同時也會成為品牌擁躉追捧的對象,所以他們在推出新產品之前都會經過深思熟慮,對於產品的功能、外觀、線路設計、元件的選擇和佈局,每一項細節都會再三推敲才付諸實行,只有嚴謹和認真的工作態度才會令用家信服,同時也令發燒友甚至業內人仕讚賞。來自瑞士的Soulution正是一間能夠在短短數年時間,便成功在高端音響市場建立起極佳名聲的Hi-End音響廠家。

揚名立萬
Soulution的兩位老闆Cyrill Hammer與Roland Manz都是不折不扣的發燒友,他們在1997年收購了瑞士老牌馬達工廠Spemot之後,便集中力量生產汽車和工業專用的高級馬達,生意好到不得了。在2000年,Cyril―和 Roland創立了Soulution,並且聘請T德國Hi-End音響品牌Audiolabor的總工程師Christopher Schurmann為他們專注設計和監督生產全新理念的高級音響器材,而且是抱著不惜工本的態度和不設下時間限制,結果Soulution的第一款產品720前級和710後級要在2006年才正式面世,由於這套前、後級是經過精心策劃的研發和花費大量光陰才成功製作的產品,而且叫價也不便宜,自然惹來四方八面的關注。不過我見証音響圈這麼多年來,只要品牌的負責人真正熱愛音響和用心來開發器材,在市場上瞬間揚名立萬的例子實在是屢見不鮮,而Soulution更是一個超級成功的例子—當720前級和710後級推出市場後不久,便已經獲得歐洲和亞洲的音響天書大讚,譽為質素超群和物有所值的晶體管放大器。經過連續幾年在CES亮相之後,這套前、後級和跟著面世的740 CD機,亦成功得到美國音響天書的高度評價,自此之後,Soulution儼然成為製作精緻而且音效高超的極品級石機品牌新貴!隨著700系列的其他新型號與及[略]為便宜一點的500 系列相繼登場,Soulution在Hi-End音響界的名聲持續穩步上揚,縱然Christopher在三年前離開了Soulution, 但經驗豐富的設計團隊已經完全肩負起開發新機種的任務,746 SACD機、725前級、711後級和701單聲道後級先後在CES和慕尼黑音響展大放異彩,並成功贏得一眾 Soulution擁躉的歡心便是明證!Soulution的最新產品是剛剛面世的746+ SACD機“

事先張揚
由於廠方事先張揚746+ SACD機只是限量生產20套,而且是背負著746這個旗艦型號,所以毫無疑問它的設計應該是746的變奏。眼前的746+當然同是分體電源設計,事實上主機仍然是採用746的機殼,而且左下角也是印上Soulution 746這個型號,甚至連用家手冊亦只是附上 746那本,兩者最大和最明顯的分別是體積和主機同樣大小的巨型分體電源機箱!而746的分體電源機箱只有一半 的高度!要詳細了解746+SACD機,當然先要從外觀講起。

或許發燒友會覺得有點奇怪,Soulution是最近幾年在Hi- End音響界竄紅得極快的瑞士品牌,每一件產品面世,不論是前級、後級、CD機還是唱頭放大器,都能夠憑著精緻造工和超卓音效令一眾用家信服,但這些器材的所有型號都有著一脈相承的近似模樣外觀,甚至是新舊兩代的機種也要憑著印在面版上的型號才能分辨開來……其實這個方方正正的簡潔外型設計是出自瑞士著名設計公司Greutmann Bolzem Design Studio的手筆,驟眼望望或許有點平平無奇,不過卻有種愈看愈耐看的典雅感覺,難怪Soulution這麼多年來都沒有打算為這幾個熟口熟面的外型設計作出任何重大改變。

造工精緻
外觀喘feel與否或許會有點主觀成份,但機殼的造工精緻漂亮那就肯定無可爭議。面板、頂蓋、底板和兩邊側板都是選用10mm厚的實芯航天級鋁合金板經過準確車製和精細打磨之後組構而成,主機的面板只有必須的裝置:65 x 150mm的黑底紅色LED字體屏幕,右邊一排6粒小按鍵,功能分別是電源、開關抽屜(停機)、前一首I快速回轉、播放I暫停、下一首/快速前進與及程序,按鍵對上是抽屜出入口,右邊是負責選擇的鋁掣按鈕。按動和扭動這個旋鈕同樣可以操作這台SACD機的基本功能!不過配合程序按鍵便可以操控重複、相位、數碼輸入/輸出、時鐘輸入I輸出、LED字體光度和SACD/CD層選擇等這些隱藏功能。屏幕的紅色LED字體大小和排位適中,就算是我的一雙老花眼在遠距離也能夠娣得一清二楚,抵讚!

 

背板的設備同樣是簡潔分明:左邊是接駁分體電源供應的模擬和數碼線路獨立電源插座,中間是單端RCA和平衡XLR模擬輸出各一組,右邊頂部是時鐘輸入/輸出BNC 端子,對落是數碼輸入和輸出各4組端子(SPDIF-BNC、SPDIF一RCA、AES/EBU 和 Toslink)。

表現更佳
貴為Soulution的旗艦SACD/CD播放機,746+的設計與用料當然是精銳盡出。主角之一的雷射機芯是選用Esoteric的VOSP UMK- 5,毫無疑問,UMK-5是Esoteric 的優秀產品,同時也是音響市場上有數的高質雷射機芯,不過各位讀者或許會和我一樣感到好奇,以746+這個極品級數的機種,為什麼不向Esoteric訂購更高級的 VRDS-NEO雷射機芯呢?廠方的回應是VRDS-NEO機芯須要整份原封不動地移植到746+身上,他們的工程師不能夠對這份機芯作出任何改動,但UMK-5的設計卻容許他們作出很多提升表現的針對性摩改,例如機芯安裝在厚身的銅製底座上,並且加裝適當的阻尼墊片來達致理想的隔震效果,所以他們認為現在746+身上的UMK-5 比起安裝VRDS-NEO在音效上會有更佳的表現!

除了讀取SACD和CD碟的訊號之外,746+的4組數碼輸入還可以對應PCM (16bit/32kHz-24 bit/192k Hz) 和 DSD (1 bit/2.82MHz通過DoP) 數碼流。所有接收到的數碼訊號都會通過強力的32bit浮點架構SHARC DSP芯片,以最高精準度作8倍升頻至DXD (24 bit/352.8kHz 或 384kHz),SACD 的 DSD數碼流則會在升頻過程中先轉換為 PCM數碼流。

精闢設計
每一份D/A轉換線路都需要一份模擬低通濾波器來壓抑高頻噪音和混疊訊號(Aliasing Signals),因而增加高頻的相位偏移。746+採用模擬3階巴素爾濾波器(Bessel-filter),雖然截止頻率為較高的 120kHz,但仍然會在音頻範圍出現15′ 的相移,所以Soulution特別開發出獨有以DSP為基礎的零相技術 Zero-Phase Technology,在數碼訊號進入D/A解碼 芯片之前把潛在的相位誤差預先作出修正,當訊號通過D/A轉換和低通濾波器之後,這些誤差便會抵消掉,所以746+最終輸出的模擬音樂訊號的相位偏移是低於V (20 H z- 100kHz)這個驚人數字!沒有受到相位偏移影響的音樂重播自然更傳真傳神。

746+每聲道獨立採用一份D/A轉換線路,D/A解碼芯片是Burr-Brown 1792,而且只是使用最高384kHz的D/A轉換部份,芯片內置的升頻和濾波功能都棄而不用,並且以雙單聲道模式運作,四份電流訊號通過以最高 100MHz高速運作的―-v轉換器轉成電壓和濾波,這個電流I電壓轉換級令746+在模擬區域有極佳的訊噪比和動態範圍。

746+除了內置準確度極高的晶振時鐘(誤差少於0.01 ppm)之外,還擁有特別設計的時鐘線路和相鎖環路,能迅速和準確地鎖定其他輸入的數碼訊號。

746+的模擬輸出級同樣是不惜工本之作,基本上是與720前級的設計相同(包括電源供應)!它是全對稱式設計,全A類放大,輸出阻抗只有2Q,頻寬高達 40MHzc3d B),它的單端RCA和平衡XLR模擬輸出級均是獨立設計,確保兩者擁有相同超卓音效。

超級電源供應

其實以上746+主機的各項設計剖析,在746主機的身上是同樣適用,不過Cyrill Hammer曾經對香港代理私下透露;746+主機內的某些關鍵元件是採用一些更高級或挑選程度更嚴格的貨色,只是不會對外透露詳情而已。相反,746+的超重量級設計外置電源供應卻是它的主要賣點!電源供應機箱內置5份電源供應線路分成三個獨立部份,分別供電給SACD/CD雷射機芯,數碼線路和模擬線路!每一個部份都設有多重濾波網路,以防止這三個部份互相干擾。這三個部份以模擬線路最為重料,廠方聲稱以製作放大器的方式來設計這份超低噪音和超級穩定的電源供應,漣波電平低於0.01 uv,並且採用超過 580,000 uF的電容儲備,電容器選用德國Mundorf音響級的精品,退耦電容更是M Cap Supreme金銀膜油浸電容!老實講,有不少音響名牌的放大器也沒有如此重料的電源供應。而雷射機芯與數碼線路的電源供應也是充滿誠意的重料設計。至於三條連接746+主機與分體電源供應的多芯直流電源線,也是採用瑞士發燒線廠Vovox生產的旗艦級線材 textura fortis!

衷心喝采
配搭746+SACD機的器材是本刊寫手了然於胸的參考組合:Dan D’Agostino的Momentum前級+Audia Flight的Strumento n08單聲道後級(配上NBSIII+電源線)+ Dyn audio的Evidence Platinum揚聲器,全套線材是Nordost的Odin2。經過兩星期的徹底熱身之後!我和一眾寫手兄弟都為746+的精彩演出衷心喝釆!聽這套 Soulution的旗艦SACD機會有一種很奇妙的感覺—它重播的聲音有很強的音樂性,只要錄音有水準,它一開聲,你便不會再刻意去留神現在聽的是SACD還是CD(聽SACD的時候顯示屏只會在曲目號碼前加上一個S字,非常低調),不過只要你稍為專注一下,便會發覺我們發燒友非常注重的各項音響細節不但全無遺漏,而且更是以一個難以挑剔的超卓境界重現,效果著實令人讚嘆!例如播放近期大熱的UHQCD示範合輯內潘小芬演唱的〈愛情像一隻自由的小鳥〉,這是一首改編自歌劇「卡門」一首詠嘆調(Habanera〉的中文版本,旋律當然是耳熟能詳,但潘小芬卻演繹出一種全新的味道,她的嗓子清晰通透,音域廣潤,唱腔生動調皮,唱功深厚。746+把潘小芬演繹的卡門重播得栩栩如生,聲音有如出谷黃鶯般動聽,她把卡門那種任性、敢愛敢恨、嬌嘖和風情萬種的媚態發揮得淋漓盡致,而中國國家交響樂團的伴奏亦見功架,亮麗的小提琴獨奏與清脆的手搖鼓,以至絃樂組的豐滿演奏都把潘小芬襯托得活靈活現,令你聽得心花怒放。

疑幻疑真
聽絲路的DMM SACD版本「四季」,瑞士Divox這個唱片品牌的出品一向是發燒友的信心保證。意大利「馬卡音樂家合奏團」以古樂器奏出我們聽得滾瓜爛熟的小提琴協奏曲,聲音美艷得不可方物,746+的超級分析力把每一把提琴的獨特音色都清晰分辨開來,我毋須把音量開得太大,便能夠把小提琴、中提琴、大提琴、低音大提琴和古鍵琴時而獨奏,時而合奏的和諧優美樂章重播得非常動聽,聲音的密度極高,微動態充裕,整個樂團的形態,樂手的動靜與及團員之間的協調性都清晰得有如目睹,我們一眾兄弟都嘆為聽止!

聽「2015原音精選」,張學友深情演繹〈怎麼捨得你〉歌神的清澈動人嗓音令人聽得感動,蘇德華的結他伴奏更是玩得精彩,雖然你會清楚聽見勾彈絃線的細節,絃線的金屬質感與及結他音箱的泛音和共嗚,但746+那濃郁的音樂感都會把你帶進美妙旋律和精妙的歌曲意境之中,實在厲害!

結語
和 746+ 相處的日子實在是陽光燦爛的時光,我和一眾寫手兄弟都聽得非常愜意,Lee388兄和梁錦暉兄都嚷著要執筆寫聽後感,就讓他們繼續向各位看官道出 746+的過人之處。折實零售價 $555,000 絕對是一個昂貴的價錢,但只要你用心聆聽,加上理智分析,它還是物有所值。

轉載自 “音響技術” 409 期

Please follow and like us:

Soulution 511 – 音響論壇

寬厚沉穩、溫潤順耳的後級
我聽過許多瑞士音響器材,幾乎每個品牌都有自己的聲音特色,沒有二個品牌是聽起來一樣的。 Soulution走的不是華麗風,而是樸實內斂的個性,這種個性有一個好處,那就是搭配喇叭的範圍很廣,而且即使在硬調空間中,也不會讓人人得高頻有侵略性。

什麼是好器材?這個問題很簡單,但答案可能有千百種。對我而言,答案真的很簡單,那就是拆下之後會一直念念不忘的,那肯定就是好器材。Soulution511就是一件這樣的優質後級。

Soulution 是瑞士廠家,我曾經去採訪過,公司名 Spemot (Special Motors) corporation 規模不小,專門生產特殊馬達、電器產品,以及特殊客制化產品等等。音響部門是其中獨立的一個部門,稱為 Soulution,這是二位老闆 Cyrill Hammer 與 Roland Manz 另外創立的。因為他們二人都很喜歡音樂跟音響。與其他瑞士音響廠牌相比,他家產品的外觀設計相對保守,而且並沒有驚世駭俗的設計,但是看趄來很順眼,端端正正,沒有稜角,圓邊設計透露著友善與溫潤的氣質。

高級交換式電源
Soulution目前產品分為 3、5、7系列,3系列是入門級,7系列是旗艦級,5系列居中。7系列沒有粽合擴大機,5系列與3系列都有。7系列與5系列都有DAC,但只有7系列才有SACD/CD唱盤,5系列與3系列竟然都沒有SACD唱盤,也沒有CD唱盤。7系列與5系列都有前級、立體後級、單聲道後級,3系列只有前級與立體後級,還有綜合擴大機,沒有訊源。7系列與5系列都有7種產品,3系列隻有3種。從這樣的產品分佈中,可以窺知重心還是放在5系列7系列。今天的主角是5系列的511立體後級。

您知道 Soulution 最讓我佩服的地方在哪裡? 有二處,一處就是他們大膽採用交換式電源,另外一處就是立採體後級、單聲道後級的阻尼因數高達10,000。為何採用交換式電源會讓我佩服呢?君不見大部分Hi end擴大機都強調採用傳統線性電源,大部分音響迷也認為傳統線性電源才是高級擴大機的王道。可是,Soulution 卻大膽在後級採用交換式電源,這不是反其道而行嗎?我在採訪原廠時,他們就秀出「巨大」的交換式電源給我看。什麼? 交換式電源不是不必採用大環形爨壓器嗎? 怎麼能說「巨大」呢? 沒錯,真的很巨大,而且很重,根本不是大部分人心目中的交換式電源。Soulution 採用的這種交換式電源比傳統線性電源還好嗎? Soulution 的老闆 Cyrill Hammer 斬釘截鐵告訴我,比他們以前用的線性電源更好,所以他們才會全面更換採用。

阻尼因數超逼10,000
另一項我佩服的地方是阻尼因數高達10,000以上。他家擴大機中,除了3系列的綜合擴大機與立體後級阻尼因數標示5,000以上之外,其餘5系列與7系列的所有擴大機都標示10,000以上。阻尼因數10,000以上是什麼概念?一般真空管機的阻尼因數大概都在100以下,一般晶體擴大機的阻尼因數大約幾百,能夠上1,000 的已經不多見但 Soulution的擴大機阻尼因數競然高過10,000。

阻尼因數是什麼?就是喇叭負載阻抗與擴大機輸出阻抗的比值,例如喇叭的負載阻抗是8歐姆,如果要達到阻尼因數10,000,不計線材、端子的阻抗值,擴大機的輸出阻抗就隻有0.0008,這是多麼低的輸出阻抗啊!一部擴大機的輸出阻抗那麼低,在理論上意謂著有必要時可以輸出很大的電流。不過,想要輸出很大的電流,不是光靠
輸出阻抗很低就能成事,還必須有很強壯的電源供應才行·否則那麼高的阻尼因數隻是宣傳數字而已。Soulution擴大機的超高阻尼因數是宣傳數字嗎?當然不是!這也是為何 Soulution 要換用又大又重的交換式電源的原因。

高阻尼因數的好處
說了半天,到底阻尼因數高有什麼好處?除了代表可以輸出大電流之外,也代表對喇叭的低頻擁有更好的控制力。一旦對低頻擁有更好的控制力,低頻段的解析力、暫態反應表現都會提升,失真也會降低。或許您會說,我用了那麼久的真空管後級,也不覺得阻尼因數低有什麼壞處啊! 只要遇上嚴苛的低頻考驗時,當場做 AB 比較立刻便知。阻尼因數高的擴大機不僅對低頻的控制力與解析力有優異的表現,對音場內各種樂器的層次,定位也大有幫助,樂器、人聲的輪廓更有3D感,層次拉得更開,樂器之間的相互干擾好像降低了,使得音場中所有樂器的聲音都變得更清楚,這是我的經驗。

Audiomax 唱片公司不是大公司,但卻仍然有珠玉。Imre Szechenyi 是1825年生於維也納的外交官,俾斯麥時代,他任德國大使。雖然不是職業作曲家,但業餘作品 Six Romances 卻很好聽。這是女高音與男中音所唱的歌曲,喜歡音樂的人不要錯過。

回頭來說511,511的外觀延續他家擴大機的傳統設計,從正面看高度相當高,面板上下都做成弧形,面板上有一個小顯示窗,三個小按鈕,以及一個旋鈕,看來素雅。散熱片雖然分置左右二邊外露,但因為面板的寬度遮過左右二邊的散熱片,所以看起來不具侵略性。為了讓被面板遮住的散熱片有良好的散熱能力,頂蓋上方有開通氣槽,讓熱空氣能夠往上對流,提升散熱能力。

511 的面板顯得樸素內斂,線條看起來很舒服。雖然是立體聲後級,但面板上有個小顯示窗與旋鈕,旋鈕並非調整音量,而是操作控單用。

來到背板,可以看到四個大喇叭線端子,很好使力。所有的訊號端子都是 XLR 平衡端子,分有 In 與 Out,所謂 In 當然就是接駁從前級來的訊號,Out 呢?您想做Bi-Amping 雙擴大機療法時,音樂訊號可以從 Out 送出到另外一部後級。除此之外還有Link in/Out 端子,那是與前級連動開啟電源用的背板上還可以看到二個小扳手地線迴路開關,如果沒哼聲就不管它,有哼聲就扳到另外一邊,應該可以解決哼聲問題。

背板 – 511雖然是立體聲後級,不過可以切換單聲道機使用,或兩擴大機使用,分別推高中音與低音。

可切換單聲道使用
511是立體後級,不過也可以切換成單聲道後級使用,切換處在面板的Program選單中。如果當成單聲道使用,隻能使用左聲道輸入端,此時右聲道輸入端不會啟動。假若當雙擴大機療法使用,同樣也是隻有左聲道會動。當您把511,定位在立體後級時,喇叭線接法按正常接法。當單聲道機使用時,隻接左右喇叭端子的正極,此時左聲道的正極是+,右聲道的正極是-。如果是雙擴大機療法,左聲道喇叭端子可以定位成推中高音,右聲道喇叭端子可以定位成推低音,也就是說一部立體511推一支喇叭,此時喇叭也必須有Bi-wire設計,這樣才能使用雙擴大機。

回頭來說面板的操作。511有一個旋鈕,那並不是音量旋鈕,而是操控Program設定的旋鈕。面板上那三個小按鈕由上而下分別是Mute、Prog與?Power,靜音與電源大家都知道,Program 就是選單設定。操作方式很簡單,按下Prog鈕之後,就要利用那個旋鈕來變換選單,內中有 Start Mode、Amp Mode、Bright、Remote ID 與load Def 等選單,其中重要的就是定義 Amp Mode,內含 Stereo、Mono與 Dual (雙
擴大機),一般使用要選Stereo。

511 有自動保護機制,如果輸出端輸出超過 60安培電流,就會自動關機。此外如果電源供應發生問題,也會自動關機。老實說我很難想像 511的輸出端能夠輸出 60安培的電流,不過看說明書這麼寫’應該是真的。

線路承襲自旗艦
511的內部線路承襲自711與701(單聲道機),不過511重量大約30公斤,711同樣是立體機,重量卻達65公斤。既然線路設計一樣,重量怎麼會差那麼多?當然是電源供應與濾波電容的差別。711的濾波電容量是1,000,000uF,而511卻剛好隻有一半500,000uF。

500,000uF 電容量是什麼概念? 搭配上四組 600VA交換式電源,瞬間可以輸出高達2400瓦的功率,還有60安培電流(限制在45安培以內),輸出達到每聲道 140瓦 (8歐姆負載)。老實說,如果隻有 140瓦輸出,根本不必用到那麼大的電源,顯然 511的電源餘裕是很大的。而且,為了獲得最穩定的電源供應,511內部分為十組電源供應,每組之間以光學連接器連接徹底擋住雜訊的相互干擾。這樣還不夠,在功率輸出殺之外,511還擁有六組高速低雜音的穩壓線路,讓供電更為穩定。最後511的輸入端與輸出端都還有高品質濾波器,更進一步阻絕雜訊。當然,為了挺得住高達60安培的電流,511的電源與輸岀端都採用銅片作為連接,而非一般細細的電線。而在放大線路方面,Soulution 一向自豪於自家的無負回授迴路作法。我們都知道放大線路用負回授的好處是可以增加頻寬、降低失真數字,等於就是加了味精之後清水也會變雞湯。然而負回授明顓的會拖慢暫態反應,也會增加相位失真,所以頂級擴大機都會宣稱不使用負回授。不過一般宣稱不使用負回授是指整體負回授而言,局部負回授還是難免。無負回授迴路的好處是降低喇叭傳來反電動勢的影響,同時也提升暫態反應,還有相位也更精確。Soulution宣稱使用無負回授迴路,而頻寬竟然還能雜持 0Hz-800kHz (-3dB),這是他家厲害之處。

推力特別好
聆聽511的場地在我家開放式大空間,此間代理商送了520前殺作為搭配。數位訊我用 CH Precision D1SACD 唱盤·喇叭則意外的發現原來511 跟 Dynamikks! Monitor 10.15竟然是那麼搭。為何我說那麼搭呢? 第一、它把低頻控制得很好,而且推力夠,這是我第二次感覺? Monitor 10.15的低頻表現超出我一般聆聽的水準。第一次呢? 我用Sower SAT-150來推時,同樣也讓我對這對喇叭的低頻表現刮目相看。我的意思是,原本我買這對喇叭時,並不期望這種骨董經典設計的喇叭會有很低沉的低頻,通常這類喇叭的低音單體尺寸雖然很嚇人,有15寸之大,但這種低音單體並非強在軟Q的低頻或很低沉的低頻,而是速度反應很快的短促低頻,所以用這種喇叭聽爵土樂特別對味,聽流行音樂時,低頻就覺得少了軟Q的迷人味道。當然,我知道這種軟Q的低頻是錄音時泡製出來的,但聽流行音樂不就是需要這種低頻嗎?

可是,當我用511推它時,Monitor 10.15 的低頻不僅還能保持快速的暫態反應,聽爵士樂時還是夠味,聽流行音樂 (電子合成器的低頻) 時,這對喇叭竟然也能表現出軟Q、低沉的低頻,而且往下催逼得很低沉,這就讓我喜出外了。

用巴霍巴利王測試
第二個讓我覺得511跟 Dynamikks! 很搭的是,中高頻段與高頻段收斂了一些,而這「一些」剛好就讓這對喇叭的直接粗礪感消失,而且整個高頻段的音質顯得比以前美。這種音質的美很難以文字來形容,總之就是感覺一切的純度增加了。或許我這樣說才比較正確:這種靈敏度高的喇叭很容易暴露岀擴大機的缺點,包括音質等。所以,一旦換上音質更好的擴大機,喇叭馬上很清楚的表現出更好的音質。就這樣,511跟 Dynamikks! Monitor10.15 搭上了。

我是聽哪張軟體察覺岀511對低頻的推力與控制力優異呢?「巴霍巴利王」電影原聲帶上集第一首。此處有很棒的鼓聲·音響迷聽了保證愛死不過,用不同的擴大機去推,會聽到不同的鼓聲表現。除了鼓聲表現之外,合唱聲音的強勁更是大考驗,此處很容易讓音場混成一團,失去該有的清晰層次感。511推趕 Dynamikks! 喇叭時,不僅鼓聲強勁、龐大、凝聚,而且鼓形清楚、有彈性。更棒的是511把音場中的層次挫制得很好,不會亂,即使音壓大,耳朵還是不會感受到離亂的壓力。我相信這樣的表現跟511那超過10,000 阻尼因數絕對有關。

音質好
我又是聽哪張軟體感受到511的音質把整套音響系統拉上更高處呢? 其實我聽過的每張軟體都可以明顯的感受到音質整個提升了,不過最簡單聽出的是鋼琴與女高音,男中音的演出,那是Audiomax 唱片所出版的 Imre Szechenyi Six Romances。這張SACD我很喜歡,無論是錄音或唱功都很棒,不過作曲家可能認識的人不多,所以我一直沒有公開介紹。隻有女高音、男高音與鋼琴 (還有現在少見的木管樂器 Csakan),只要您放鬆全身肌肉,輕鬆的享受音樂,就會馬上感受到整體音質都提升了。嗓音的音質提升很難聽出來嗎?人聲是我們最熟悉的聲音,我們自己也會唱歌,任何人一聽就知道嗓音的音質有沒有提升,不必多費文字來形容。

另外一張一聽就知道音質提升的軟體是蘇顯達所演奏的「古典台灣風情」。這張CD隻有小提琴與鋼琴蘇顯達錄音時用的小提琴是奇美基金會出借的1773年Guarneri del Gesu exLafont 我必須坦白說,原本我在聽這張CD時,就已經感受到這把琴的美妙琴音。現在用了511,我才知道原來這把琴的音質音色整體還能往上提升。或許您要問,以後用另外一部擴大機來聽時,這把小提琴的音質音色會不會勝過511? 有可能啊!應該還會有擴大機的音質表現會勝過511的。不論如何,511唱起這張軟體時,小提琴與鋼琴的音質音色整體都提升了,聽這樣的音質表現已經可以讓我更長壽些。

“511 唱起各種音樂時,「寬厚沉穩、溫潤順耳」這八個字分分秒秒在我的腦海中出現。”

 

寬厚沉穩
除了對低頻展現更佳的控制力、低頻更低沉、層次感更好、音質提升之小,511還有一項優點,那就是寬厚沉穩。所謂「寬厚沉穩」」就是音場聽起來更寬,聲音的厚度更好,低頻沉得更低,整個音樂紮實穩固。寬厚沉穩也可以想像成大器、飽滿、紮實。而隨著寬厚沉穩而來的就是溫潤順耳音樂一點都不噪耳,一點都沒有侵略性,但仍然保持高度的溫柔透明感與清澈。老實說,有些擴大機的音質雖然很好,但不一定能夠擁有寬厚沉穩、溫潤順耳的特質,而511唱起各種音樂時,這八個字分分秒秒在我的腦海中出現。

以下,我再舉幾張軟體的表現來加深大家的印象。當我聽 Anne Bisson
那張「Conversations」時,入耳的聲音飽滿又紮實,無論是鋼琴、Bass或大提琴,聲音的密度都很高,重量感也夠,而且樂器形體是大而凝聚的,整個音場也是大的,不是縮成一團的第一時間就會讓人感覺511是很大器的後級。再來說到大提琴與Bass的質感這二樣低音樂器的擦弦質感與弦振感都很真實,尤其是尾音,那清楚的細微振動尾音更添增樂器的真實性。至於?Anne Bisson的嗓音,那更是中氣十足,飽滿有勁。

再來聽 The Ray Brown Trio 那張「Soular Energy」時,Bass、鋼琴、套
鼓也都紮實而沉穩,密度高,重量感夠。鋼琴的鏗鏘觸鍵聽趕來就是有打擊的感覺,Bass扣彈的硬調接觸質感與彈性也都能夠讓人感受到511所發出的力量。

超強解析力
聽 Gilshaham 與 Orpheus (小提琴八位,中提琴三位,大提琴二位,低音提琴一位,大鍵琴一位) 合演的那張韋瓦第「四季」時,一聽就讓人感受到 511 在音質表現方面的優勢,不僅小提琴聲音光澤高聲音甜,連與之應答的大提琴琴音也那麼美,這種音質的美是不必去費神判斷的,一聽就能感動人。聽第十三首到十五首的克萊斯勒「Concerto for Violin」」時,511 那超強的解析力更是讓人印象深刻。雖然名曰協奏曲,但樂團編制很小,所以弦樂器可說是絲絲縷縷、纖毫畢現大提琴的彈性、擦弦質感顯得特別清楚,每位演奏者施加在提琴上的力量孌化同樣也很清晰的感受到。更棒的是,入耳的弦樂並非細細瘦瘦的鋼絲線條,而是飽滿圓潤的琴音。

再舉一張 SWR 唱片所出版的 CD 那是 Svjatoslav Richter 演奏聖桑第五號鋼琴協奏曲、蓋希文F大調鋼琴協奏曲。這張CD不是所謂的發燒片,而是現場音樂會錄音。511唱起這張 CD 時顯得格外好聽。我仔細分析,並不是音響效果有什麼突出之處,而是整體音樂的感染力整個提升了。為何音樂感染力(或說音樂感動人的力量) 會整體提升?原因不少,包括前面所說過的,不過還有一項更重要的表現那就是細微聲音的再生能力與強弱對比,這才是音樂家在演奏時的真功夫所在。說得更簡單些,就是音樂的活生感更好了。您知道嗎?如果缺了音樂活生感,音樂聽起來會是貧血的,失去吸引力的。而我用511聽這張現場錄音時,就好像聽一場精採的演奏會,整場都不會有睡意。

寬厚沉穩丶溫潤順耳
Soulution 是一家內斂的瑞上音響製造廠,他家的擴大機無論外表或聲音表現,都不是以華麗取勝,但卻極為注重細節與整體的精確性。而511雖然每聲道隻有140瓦,但卻能夠充分掌握大動態與細微的音樂,在龐大的動態對比與細微的強弱變化之下,發出寬厚沉穩、溫潤順耳的聲音。難怪我拆下它之後,總是覺得悵然若失。假若您是音樂迷,就該買511這樣的擴大機。

轉載自 “音響論壇” 351 期

Please follow and like us:

Spendor S3/5R2黑檀木特別限量版

要數音響界書架式楊聲器的經典中之經典!英國 LS3/5a 絕對是 當之無愧。這款其貌不揚的小書架揚聲器原本由兩名 BBC 錄音工程師設計而成,他們將錄音室的收音標準到重播時的標準統一並納人到揚聲器設引之內,而其他揚聲器生產商無論以任何物料製作產品都必須要符合 BBC 工程師所制定的標準才算合格,從然得到 BBC 認証生產 LS3/5a。當然,要達至 BBC 的嚴格要求,最簡單的方法就是選擇原始設計時的單元、箱體物料、 阻尼物·接線等等。不過亦正因為原單元供應商 KEF 停產了該單元, 各廠商唯一的出路就是要另實單花來完成製作,各施各法在LS3/5a 的規格上變奏出符合標準而又截然不同的新型書架式揚聲器。

緊貼時代 推陳出新
在眾多 LS3/5a 揚聲器製造商之中。英國 Spendor 可說是其中一所極養活躍的廠家,由早期獲得 BBC 認可直至一九九七年 KEF 停止供應相關單元為止。為了延續 這款經典揚聲器,Spendor 決定自行製作單元部分,並按照 LS3/5a 的同一設計概念,沿用兩路雙單元的小型書架箱體標準,結合 Spendor 單元製作成新代書架式 揚聲器:S3/5。

事實上,新世代音頻標準不段提升,要迎合嶄新的數碼音源重播,揚聲器單元的設計定必需要作出調整,以符合不斷提升的音響重播標準,為 LS3/5a 注入新元素也是情理之內的,而當年的 S3/5 甫推出市場便大受歡迎, 證明 Spendor 的方針完全正確,用戶對這類優質小型書架式揚聲器的需求極度殷切!然後,廠方 不久又再推出 S3/5SE 版本以饗用家;直到 2002 年,Spendor 首次為這款小霄架喇叭加以改良,並按照 BBC 監聽喇叭的命名方法將 S3/5 新版定名為 S3/5a。 而到了S3/5推出十周年即 2007 年,廠方再一次將 S3/5a 改良並將型號定為 S3/5R。到了 2010 年,Spendor 將版本再一次升級,脫變成第四代型號 S3/5R2。

20 年技術完美提煉
2017年,正是 S3/5 面世 20 周年,Spendor 再一次延續傳奇,以 S3/5R2 作為基礎推出 Special Edition 特別版,新版本選用了頂級黑檀木面製作,亦基於罕有,此一版本亦只能以特別限量形式推出;專為 Spendor 的支持者而投產,將產品二十年的完美進化技術獻給鍾情於 S3/5R2 的用戶及收藏家。

Spendor S3/5R2 黑檀木特別版是款兩路兩單元書架式揚聲器,其保持了過往所有S3/5 的一貫音樂味及討好的音色,並且在高,低頻延伸、動態、功率包容性、通透度、音樂連貫性等各方面都有著顯注改良,插放音樂的平衡度上更顯自然流暢。

S3/5R2 黑壇木特別版的箱體沿用最經典的設計,選用最新的 Spendor 15cm 中/低音驅動單元及經典寬邊半球型高音單元,中/低音以鑄造合金支架解決內部散熱問題,配合長沖程單元振膜達至最理想的中低頻表現。電腦設計精良箱體以 Spendor 獨門厚薄不一設計,每個不同厚度都是為了得到最優良的共嗚效應,同時並能杜絕箱 體物料的共振現象,讓聲音更動聽、要逼真,

轉載自 “影音生活” 76 期

Please follow and like us:

將經典進行到底 – 試聽 Spendor S3/5R2 SE 黑檀木特別限量版書架音箱

由香港駿韻音響代理的英國思奔達品牌創建於1960年代,至今已有50多年歷史。品牌的英文名稱 Spendor 源於兩位創始人Spencer Hughes 和 Dorothy Hughes(Spencer的妻子)姓名的組合。Spencer 先生曾擔任英國 BBC 公司的音響工程師,憑借此間經驗,他制作出平生第一款音箱 BC1,這款被譽為 “改變了游戲規則(game-changing)” 的音箱,具有聲音通透、自然中正、音樂性佳的優異性能,旋即被全球各大廣播電台和錄音師選為監聽音箱,由此開創了思奔達品牌的光榮歷史,也奠定了思奔達作為“英國聲”代表的先驅地位。

本文評測的思奔達S3/5R2 SE是該品牌經典傳奇的延續

一、數十載傳承有序

本次試聽的思奔達(Spendor)S3/5R2 SE 黑檀木特別限量版書架音箱,其歷史可謂源遠流長。看到“3/5”這個數字,稍有經驗的朋友都知道它代表的是 BBC 一代監聽名箱 LS3/5A,其中的 “3/5” 表示該類型音箱的箱內容積是 3/5 公升,“A” 表示為改良型號。正是Spencer及其合作伙伴確定了 BBC 監聽音箱的聲音風格,而思奔達順理成章地成為了這一市場先行者,並且直到現在一直是正統 BBC 監聽音箱的守護人。

思奔達 S3/5R2 SE 的老前輩是1997年該品牌發布的S3/5音箱,當時由於 KEF 停止供應 LS 3/5A 音箱的相關喇叭單元,思奔達改用自家研發的的發聲單元,遵循 LS 3/5A 監聽音箱的理念和標准,推出了 S3/5:
●再之后又更新設計,推出了思奔達 S3/5 SE。
●2002年,思奔達再次進行改款,將這一傳奇音箱直接命名為BBC監聽音箱的慣用名稱“S3/5A”。
●2007年,思奔達採用當時最新聲學技術將S3/5A改造升級為S3/5R,其中“R”代表Rivision,意思就是“修訂,修改”。
●2011年,思奔達發布了S3/5R2音箱,“R2”當然表示的就是基於上個版本的第二次升級,從單元到分頻器設計全部採用新設計。
●2017年,迎來這個傳奇揚聲器家族的第20個年頭,思奔達特別推出這款特別限量版S3/5R2 SE音箱。

Spendor 第一代的S3/5音箱
Spendor S3/5R2(它是本次試聽的S3/5R2 SE音箱的上一代)

一款音箱能夠綿延20年經久不衰,而且傳承有序,足見思奔達作為 “BBC 監聽音箱守護人” 的不忘初心。而其背后則是眾多知名錄音室、專業人士和廣大發燒友對這款經典音箱的一路不舍和追捧。

綿延20年的思奔達經典音箱最新款:S3/5R2 SE黑檀木特別限量版

在思奔達50多年的發展中,推出了諸如 BC1、LS 3/5A、SP100 等眾多經典音箱。經過不斷改型和更新換代后,如今思奔達採用三個系列對其產品進行歸納,分別是:A系列(包括A1、A2、A4 三個型號)、D系列(包括D1、D7和D9三個型號)以及Classic(經典)系列。其中當屬Classic(經典)系列最能代表思奔達的品牌基因和聲音個性,而這個系列也是它產品型號最豐富的,一共六個型號。HIFI說此次試聽的S3/5R2 SE音箱是這個系列中個頭最小的一款。如下圖所示:

二、思奔達 S3/5R2 SE音箱新在哪兒?

在中國總代理駿韻音響發布的新廣告上,這款音箱的全稱是“思奔達 S3/5R2 SE 黑檀木特別限量版”,先不說別的,可以看出“黑檀木”是這款音箱的特色和賣點之一,嚴格說來它用到的是具有相當厚度的黑檀木片,而不是常見的木皮或者木紙,觸覺可以感到音箱木質表面的凸凹紋理,質感、檔次和視覺美學遠勝於普通版的同類音箱,給你先聲奪人的第一眼好感。實際上,思奔達在2003年就推出過 S3/5 SE黑檀木特別版,當時一共生產了200對很快售罄,此后不少新舊顧客不斷要求廠方再次推出這類特別型號產品,但基於限量原則以及原材料的短缺一直沒能滿足。相信這次S3/5R2 SE限量版仍然會是緊俏品,出手慢的用戶要等到下次至少還需10年。

相比普通版,這款限量版音箱的外觀顯得更加雅致和貴氣

除了特別選擇的黑檀木片,S3/5R2 SE 的箱體設計和制作依然延續了思奔達的工匠精神,它的箱體經過電腦的精確模擬設計,箱壁並不是完全等厚,而是恰當的厚薄不一,其目的是為了得到更接近真實樂器的共鳴效應。

思奔達 S3/5R2 SE是一款典型思奔達風格的兩分頻兩單元書架箱,與 LS3/5A 一樣是密封式箱體,這種箱體類型無需考慮離牆遠近等擺位顧慮,使得擺放非常靈活和方便,更加適合在臥室、書房、小型客廳等較小空間裡使用。

與前代版本 S3/5R2 音箱相比,這款特別限量版音箱在喇叭單元和分頻器設計上均有變化。中低音單元方面,前代產品 S3/5R2 採用的是直徑140mm 的 EP39,而S3/5R2 SE 採用了思奔達獨有的150mm 的 EP77 長沖程錐盆,口徑更大,配合寬懸邊、錐盆中央的相位錐以及高效率散熱的鑄造合金盆架。

相比前代產品,S3/5R2 SE中低音單元口徑更大性能更優

S3/5R2 SE 的高音單元仍然採用了思奔達經典的液磁冷卻球頂振膜,口徑為 22毫米,寬懸邊設計。根據高音單元和中低音單元理想的工作狀況,思奔達對這款限量版音箱的分頻器進行了重新設計,將分頻點定在4.2kHz(前代產品S3/5R2為5kHz),使得 S3/5R2 SE 效率更高,靈敏度提升到 86dB(前代產品 S3/5R2 為84dB),低頻范圍也由前代產品的 75Hz下潛到了 70Hz。

從上面介紹可以看出,從箱體到喇叭單元和分頻器,思奔達針對S3/5R2 SE都進行了優化設計,可以說是“換湯又換藥”,絕對不是那種打著限量特別版的名義兜售老產品的做法,其背后宗旨依然是遵循聲學科技的進展、以及當代用戶的口味變化,通過精益求精的設計讓經典產品成為新的經典。

三、試聽感受

本次試聽在廣州新地影音進行,店門位於廣州市越秀區大沙頭路海印廣場A035,它除了代理思奔達品牌,還是力仕(Luxman)、寶華韋健(B & W)、加利(Cary Audio)、朗泉(Creek Audio)、君子(REGA)等多個國際知名品牌的正規代理商。

試聽室的面積約有20平方米,搭配的是Creek(朗泉)Evolution 100 CD 播放機和Evolution 100A 合並式功放。對於S3/5R2 SE這樣的小型書架箱,買家多數會用於書房、臥室等小型聆聽空間,這樣的搭配無論是價位還是方便程度還都是相宜而簡潔的。

思奔達 S3/5R2 SE音箱的聲音表現給筆者的第一個印象是良好的通透感。無論是播放人聲、流行歌曲還是小編制樂曲等,音樂透明晴朗,節奏清晰,動態反應敏銳輕靈,彷佛在月明風清的晚上,空氣中毫無雜染。重播 Jerome Harris 爵士樂專輯《Rendezvous》中的 “The Mooche” 一曲時,其中的 solo 樂段精致優雅,音樂氣息纖細微小而不失韻味,樂句尾音的消失也刻畫得柔滑細膩。S3/5R2 SE 的聲底依然是思奔達好聽、耐聽、音樂性極佳的韻味,聲音通透但不蒼白,清朗而富有溫潤,人聲和樂器聲質感真實。不像一些現代派監聽音箱由於過分追求聲音通透而喪失了音樂韻味。

思奔達 S3/5R2 SE音箱給人的第二個感覺是聲音鮮活細致,試聽 Dorian 的專輯《Tribute to Sarasata》可以感到小提琴聲在真實之外更有一份細膩鮮活的特質,音樂線條優美流暢,思奔達改進后的喇叭單元顯得更為靈敏,可以把小提琴擦弦最細微的聲音都表現了出來。拉到小提琴較低把位時琴弦的共鳴更加真實過癮,這得益於 S3/5R2 SE 更大的中低音單元和寬懸邊設計。音樂中鋼琴的琴音相當豐富,規模感宏大,而且三頻的銜接順滑,聲音風格具有高度完美的一致性。當然,對於這樣一對緊湊尺寸的書架箱,你不可能過於苛求它的低頻量感,但是在聆聽人聲、弦樂、小編制樂曲時,你絲毫不會感到低頻的缺失,倒是讓人驚訝於它低頻的優雅質感和鮮活沖擊力,整體音樂的極小極大動態范圍表現得很完整,沒有被壓縮的感覺,這恐怕要歸功於思奔達針對喇叭單元的分頻器重新設計以及厚薄得當的箱體結構。

總體來說,S3/5R2 SE 音箱給人的感覺在保留了監聽名箱 LS3/5A 的靈魂之外,更加完善了針對現代用家的聆聽需求,比如更高的解析力,大動態音樂的適應能力以及更多的高品質低頻量感。可以說,它既具有古典音箱溫潤而甜美的聲音特質,又具有現代音箱的分析力與動態,高音純正甜美,中低音飽滿豐盈,音樂美感十足。此外,它小巧而不佔地方,密封式箱體的箱體類型讓您的較小聆聽空間內的擺位異常靈活。如果您考慮在小面積客廳、書房或者臥室購置一套HiFi系統,S3/5R2 SE音箱稱得上物超所值的理想選擇。別忘了,它可是最經典英國名箱的限量供應,而且正如思奔達的設計追求:我們的音箱是可以讓您用一輩子的!

轉載自:HIFI說 2018年1月肇綱評測

Please follow and like us:

Spendor D9 Loudspeaker – HiFi+

 

Spendor may be one of the oldest (and most respected) names in the UK audio industry, but since its acquisition by Philip Swift (once of Audiolab) its products have been anything but old-fashioned. Admittedly, the Classic Series products look the ‘pipe and slippers’ part -all nostalgic finishes and appearance – but even here, beneath the skin these venerable designs have benefitted from carefully considered upgrades and technological improvements – developments that have filtered down directly from the unmistakably modern A- and D-Line products, whose slim cabinets are themselves anything but The-too’ versions of modern thinking, You don’t have to look too far before you find the evidence that Spender may build on the solid foundations that made speakers like the BC1 world famous, but it is only too ready to invest in modern technology and investigate practical solutions to modern concerns, The A6R, a slim, floorstanding two-way that looks remarkably conventional is anything but, at least in musical terms. Instead it manages to offer all the advantages of two-way operation in a compact enclosure that (in stark contrast to the competition) doesn’t sing along with the music. Then there’s the D1, a compact standmount of such remarkable musical coherence that it’s capable of challenging all those high-end miniatures that cost many, many times its modest price. And that’s the thing: it’s not just what these speakers do (which is impressive enough), but how they do it for the price that is the burning question, The arrival of the D9, a new flagship for the line, neatly encapsulates current thinking at Spendor, offering the opportunity to dig a little deeper into what makes these products not just perform, but exceed expectations.

Outwardly at least, there’s little to separate the D9 from the other tall. slim floorstanders lining the walls of your local dealer’s showroom. Narrow, deep cabinet – check: Plinth base – check: Vertical array of multiple drivers – check. But examine the detail and the differences soon start to emerge. Even a cursory glance suggests that there’s something different about the tweeter, while the plinth base barely extends beyond the cabinet footprint itself. Meanwhile a look round the back shows a complex port arrangement that’s a world away from the simple drainage pipes of yore. Look at the numbers and you’ll see that Spender suggest an in-room bandwidth that goes as low as 27Hz – not in itself unusual, but difficult to do well from a cabinet this size. Most speakers claiming that sort of extension achieve it at the expense of lumpy, uneven, and often one-note bass. Yet listen to the D9 and the first thing that strikes you is its clear and linear bass output. The bottom end of this speaker goes lower than you expect (suggesting that 27Hz figure is a lot less fanciful than some manufacturers’ numbers), but it’s also articulate, tuneful, and agile, with no overhang and no thickness to clutter and smudge the midrange.

To understand why that is, it’s necessary to dig a little deeper and take a look at the D9’s constituent elements – and what’s been done with them. The 180mm Kevlar-coned bass drivers were developed specifically for the 09, their physical and electrical characteristics tuned specifically to match the requirements of the bass enclosure. So what we have here is a bass system, in which the various parts are designed in tandem to create a coherent whole. That’s not unique, but it’s the rest of the box that makes the D9 stand out from the crowd, both in terms of what’s in it and how it sounds. The box itself is constructed from specially selected HDF, and the walls are thinner than those on much of the competition. Instead, resonance in the structure is dealt with by strategically sited low-mass resonators, small, constrained layer slabs placed at vibrational nodes to absorb energy and dissipate it as heat. The result is a cabinet structure that’s both better behaved and stores significantly less energy than conventional constructions. Add to that the lack of internal wadding and the use of Spender’s Linear Flow port technology, and you have an incredibly quiet cabinet that prevents stored energy belatedly finding its way back into the enclosed air-mass to muddy the output and limits spurious output from the port itself polluting the room.

With all that attention paid to low-frequency linearity (and it’s a lot easier to describe than it is to achieve) you might well think that Spender would want to provide the most stable footing possible – and you’d be right. So what’s with the diminutive plinth that barely extends beyond the cabinet edges? Look underneath and you’ll find that each corner of the solid plinth is supported on a substantial steel disc, 45mm in diameter. On the outer edge of each disc is the threaded hole for the M8 spike. It’s an arrangement that combines a narrower plinth with the wider footprint associated with much more obtrusive structures, a happy match of aesthetic, domestic, and mechanical requirements. The discs deliver a strong, stable, precision coupling of spike to cabinet, making for easy attitude adjustment and good energy transfer. Best of all, the mechanical stability allows the use of nice, long spikes, which allow easy adjustment in the crucial vertical dimension. The end result is both more discrete and more effective than many far more obvious (for which read ‘ugly’ or “intrusive’) arrangements.

At the other end of the range, we find Spendor’s innovative LPZ tweeter. This soft dome, coupled-cavity driver is familiar from both the D1 and D7, but it should still be noted just how effective and musically accomplished this apparently simple design really is. The perforated face plate acts to equalize phase and pressure across the face of the driver, producing time- and phase-coherent output, while the equivalent cavities in front of and behind the diaphragm means that the moving parts constitute a linear, balanced-mode generator: simple but effective.

Of course, all that effort expended on the cabinet, bottom end, and high-frequencies is wasted if the midrange isn’t up to it. But then, mid-band has always been a Spender speciality and the 180mm midrange driver with its in-house EP77 polymer cone won’t disappoint. The inherent self-damping and even mechanical behaviour of the driver allows it to be used with shallow crossover slopes that lead in turn to an easy impedance characteristic — meaning that you are going to get the best out of your amp, too. Like everything else, the crossover components are carefully selected, as is the internal wiring and the single-wired terminals. And in many ways, that’s the basis of the Spendor story: there’s a clarity of vision, fastened on the rigid, low-storage cabinet and in-house drivers, but the other side of the coin is the attention to detail that’s been lavished on everything from the port to the spikes, the product’s domestic impact to its packaging. It’s a long and rocky road between an initial design and a viable end product. Look at the D9 – or any other Spendor product – and what becomes obvious is that somewhere in the factory, there’s a large sign that reads “No Short Cuts”. It’s a philosophy that becomes even more apparent once you listen to this speaker.

“The D9’s deep, linear bass is remarkably well behaved a factor that can easily lull you into a false sense of security.”

 

The D9’s deep, linear bass is remarkably well behaved – a factor that can easily lull you into a false sense of security. Put it down almost anywhere and it will sound pretty good – but it won’t sound as good as it can after some time spent on optimising position and attitude. Once you’ve found the right spot, make sure that you level the speaker and then experiment with its height from the floor, using the spikes to lift or lower it. If you start with the spikes set tall and position it with them set that way, lowering the cabinet closer to the floor will bring added weight and dimensionality without any compromise of pace, pitch, or clarity. Once you’ve done that, it’s worth checking rake angle and lateral tilt, as both can have a significant impact on the music’s sense of presence and purpose.

Although their easy load characteristics mean that the D9s don’t demand supremely capable amplification, their performance certainly deserves it. Run with amps as varied as the latest TEAD Linear Bs, the VTL S400-11, or the Levinson 585, the speakers responded with enthusiasm to the character and quality of the signal they received. The astonishing clarity and innate sense of musical organisation that makes the Linear Bs so special was well to the fore, as was the S400’s presence, body, and dynamic authority. But of these options perhaps the 585 is the D9s natural partner, both in terms of cost and capability. In fact, just like the similarly priced Vienna Acoustics Liszt, these are speakers crying out to be hung on the end of today’s super integrated amps, whether that amp is the 585, the Neodio Origine A2, the Gryphon Diablo 120, or even a Lavardin IS Reference. The 09 might not match the sheer scale and bandwidth of the Liszt (even though they are virtually identical on paper) but it is a far more friendly load – which is where the little Lavardin promises to be such an interesting match.

With so many stellar new entries in the 210K speaker stakes, the 09 is going to have to carve its own niche. It does so by doing what Spendors do. Play something quick and clean, like Eleanor McEvoy’s Yoke [Moscodisc], with its crisp dynamics and surprisingly deep bass and the D9s don’t disappoint. The bottom end is deft and sure-footed, with plenty of instrumental character, rhythm, and definition, pushing things along at just the rignt pace; tight enough to be interesting without sounding hectoring or driven. Melodies and phrasing are articulate and the vocals – oh, the vocals: intimate. affecting, direct, and communicative, those vocals make this a captivating and addictive listen, one of those speakers where you set out to play a track and end up playing the whole side. Work up to larger scale works and the 09 might lack the expansive palpable acoustic space thrown by the Liszt or Wilson Sabrina, as well as the unburstably enthusiastic dynamics of the Sopra 2, but it more than makes up for those deficiencies through its sense of integration and musical integrity. Everything just slots in around that natural, expressive mid-band, underpinning voices and solo instruments with an unforced sense of musical shape and context. Did I mention the tweeter? No – that’s because you just don’t notice it, at least not as a separate entity. It’s simply a beautifully integrated extension of that open and intimate midrange. From this it might be easy to assume that the 09 is a beautifully balanced but fatally polite offering: nothing could be further from the truth. You want rude the D9 can be positively bawdy when required. It just doesn’t make an unwelcome habit of it.

Put those attributes together and what you have on the one hand is a classic British speaker, pace, rhythm, and timing all present and correct. On the other – you have a classic British speaker, tonally neutral, linear, and musically coherent. In a very real sense the 09 combines the two great traditions of UK speaker design, without diminishing either. It delivers the superbly open and communicative mid-band of a model like the D1, but succeeds in grafting on a bottom end that is as impressive as it is effective. Does that mean you can have your cake and eat it? Yes it does – and you can enjoy it with a surprisingly wide range of partnering amps too. In fact, the D9 is so system and room friendly that in many cases it might well be the best speaker you’ve ever heard, especially at the price – simply because it works more readily than the competition, With elegant lines to match its thoughtful engineering, and a range of attractive finishes, both modern and traditional, to match its room friendly bass voicing, the D9 really hits the sweet spot of attainable price, achievable performance, and acceptable domestic impact. Indeed, it’s so unmistakably English and so precisely suited to the English market that it probably needs a passport to travel. But when it arrives, I suspect it’s going to shake up more than a few of the locals. Tall, slim, and innately understated, this English gentleman might not shout, but the message is still delivered with purpose, clarity and where necessary, definite intent, A superbly balanced and beautifully judged design, this is the best Spendor yet – and that’s no mean feat.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Three-way rear-reflex loaded loudspeaker
Driver Complement: 2x 180mm Kevlar coned LF, 1x 180mm EP77 polymer MF, 1x 22mm Spendor LPZ HF
Bandwidth: 27Hz-25kHz ±3dB in-room
Sensitivity: 90dB
Load: 8 Ohms
Weight: 35kg ea.
Dimensions (WxHxD): 222 x 1125 x 409mm
Finishes: Natural wood veneers, satin white, Spendor dark high gloss or slate grey high gloss
Price: £8.500 per pair
Manufacturer: Spendor Audio Systems Ltd.

From HiFi+ Issue 151 Sep 2017 by Roy Gregory

Please follow and like us:

Luxman L-509X

 

The style may be ‘retro’, but this powerful integrated amp from a Far East legend is no exercise in nostalgia: it lacks fashionable digital inputs, but has serious sonic appeal Review: Andrew Everard Lab: Paul Miller

OK, so it may help explain the whole ‘vinyl revival’ thing, from portable record players with greater tracking weight than a Caterpillar bulldozer to supermarket own-brand LPs, but looking to the past will only get you so far.  Forget all that longer summers, colder winters and ‘jumpers for goalposts’ stuff: even nostalgia’s not what it used to be. Products must stand on their own merits in today’s competitive market.

RESOLUTELY ANALOGUE
You see, there’s not exactly a shortage of big-money integrated amplifiers out there, and launching the £8500 L-509X into that arena sees Luxman facing rivalry not only from other manufacturers, but also from within. After all, the company has a handful of integrateds on its books, all of which look somewhat similar at first glance, distinguished only by the colour of their meter illumination and price. The designation echoes the original L-509fSE, which first saw the light of day back in 2002 as an attempt to combine the virtues of preamp and power amps in a single chassis, while slightly confusingly there’s already the similarly-numbered L-590AXII [HFN Apr ’16].

Now we have the L-509X, and while the basis is the same, this is a somewhat different animal, with a claimed output of 120W/8ohm, rising to 240W/4ohm – not that the L-590AXII proved exactly starved of power when PM lab-tested that one, delivering 95W/8ohm and 165W/4ohm. I have to confess to being something of an adherent to the maxim that a bit of extra grunt never goes amiss when it comes to the ease with which music is delivered, and so it proves with this new Luxman.

A bit of extra grunt may also be what you emit when called upon to unbox and set up the L-509X for it weighs a not insubstantial 29.3kg. At least the effort gives you a reassuring sense of where all your money’s gone, an impression that’s reinforced when you have the amplifier in place, connected up and switched on.

The star turn, as on all current Luxman amps, is the presence of the two illuminated meters, placed exactly front and centre, but the symmetrical layout of the substantial fascia is also highly pleasing, as is the attention clearly paid to the feel and weighting of the controls. There may not be the knowingly retro flip-switches of the wood-sleeved ‘Classic Series’ Luxman products, but even before you start using it in anger the L-509X has a sense of substance and total quality – luxe indeed. The design here is very much classic‘ preamp and power amps in one box’, with the two sections able to be split if required. And at heart this is a very simple amplifier, with none of that built-in DAC nonsense, let alone a sniff of a Wi-Fi antenna or Ethernet port – it’s resolutely analogue, with no more than four line-ins on RCA sockets plus two sets of balanced inputs, plus a switchable MM/MC phono stage.

‘The Mael brothers’ sound is an exercise in studied chaos’

HARD AS BRASS
Record out and monitor sockets are provided, along with pre-out/power amp in – you could use the last of these to integrate the L-509X with an AV receiver or processor – and there are two sets of switched speaker outputs and a fascia headphone socket. The controls, though there seem to be a lot of them on the front panel (somewhat at odds with the ‘input selector, volume control and that’s it’ trend), are similarly simple. The input selector is one of the two beautifully precise knobs either side of those meters, while the identical-sized adjustments arranged below allow MM/MC cartridge selection, record out, speaker switching and tone/balance controls, bypassable using the ‘Line Straight’ button. Oh, and there’s a remote handset provided [see p39], also able to ‘drive’ a Luxman disc player – and turn off the L-509X’s meter illumination too.

The volume control bears the legend ‘LECUA’, which looks like one of those meaningless Japanese terms, right up there with Acura, Regia and Canter (the last of these an unfathomable designation for a range of trucks). In fact, LECUA is the Luxman Electric Controlled Ultimate Attenuator, here in its latest LECUA 1000 version, which controls both volume and balance with a system directly connecting the substrate of the attenuator and amp circuits to reduce noise, and offering 88 steps of volume adjustment. Other claims for this design include greater resistance to the effects of vibration, enhanced accuracy across the volume range, and long-term durability.

This system is inherited from the company’s C-900u flagship preamp [HFN Sep ’15], as is the buffering circuit in the preamp section, designed for optimal drive of the power amp stages. The output stage itself uses a push-pull configuration equivalent to that in the company’s M-700u power amp, and outputs through copper alloy terminals said to have the conductivity of copper plus the hardness of brass. The switched connection to the output stages is via high capacity/low resistance parallel relays and thick copper wiring to maintain the claimed high damping factor. The whole plot is sustained via no fewer than six independently rectified/regulated PSUs fed from separate transformer windings – even the protection circuitry has its own supply. The substantial 600VA transformer, Luxman says, is a ‘high inertia’ design ‘that does not shake even under load fluctuations’. Well, that’s all good, then. The vibration-resistance goes beyond that hefty, thick panel work in evidence in the ventilation grilles in the top panel, for rather than use fancy damping feet in exotic materials, the L-509X simply sits on massive cast-iron supports. Sometimes a little brute force is the best way!

No digital or network connections here: just MM/MC phono, four line-ins on RCAs and two sets of XLRs, plus a good old-fashioned tape loop and pre-out/power amp inputs, with internal connection broken by front-panel ‘separate’ button

SWEET AND EASY
Not that there’s anything brutal about the way this amplifier plays music. Give it a while to settle down from cold – as PM noted during his lab testing [p39], when set to play at a given output level the meters kick up a bit after a while of running, at which point the L-509X can be assumed to be cooking pretty well, and good to go. And the immediate impression is that, while there’s no mistaking this for an amplifier with anything less than ‘more than sufficient’ power under the hood, it sounds sweet, refined and entirely at ease, whatever the music you choose to play through it, and whichever source component you opt to use.

It’s not quite a ‘take no prisoners’ ultra-revealing amp of the brash and bright school, though the amount of information it delivers is frequently breathtaking, and it never leaves the listener with the sense that something’s missing. So however big and rich the bass may be it’s also entirely controlled, tight and rhythmic as well as having wonderful character. From the growl of orchestral double-basses in a spot of Wagner from the excellent overview of the composer’s work by Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra [Channel Classics CCS SA 32713; DSD64], all the way through to the snap and punch of Kyle Eastwood’s instruments on his recent In Transit set [Jazz Village JV570146; 44.1kHz/24-bit download], this is an amplifier fully able to convey instrumental textures and techniques.

What’s more, while the brass duo leading several of the Eastwood tracks can sound overly aggressive via some amps, the L-509X conveys them in fluid, attractive fashion without blunting either their breathiness or the metallic edge to the sound. In other words, it does excitement to spellbinding effect – just without the irritation. Even with a really dense mix, such as some of those on Squeeze’s The Knowledge [Love Records LVRCD004], this amplifier manages the impressive task of delivering the big, majestic wash of sound while still allowing the usual masterful lyrics and the individual instruments due clarity.

NO EXCUSES NEEDED
The L-509X rewards both ‘lean back’ and ‘lean forward’ listening, not least because it always seems entirely in control of the speakers, with no sense of speed-impeding smear or overhang. Notes start sharply and decay realistically, giving a sound that’s both immediate and delivered with real presence. It’s a sound that even the wilful mayhem of the latest Sparks set, Hippopotamus [BMG 538279612], can’t catch out. Yes, the sound the Mael brothers deliver is an exercise in studied chaos, but even those falsetto’ish vocals are clearly audible in a track like ‘So Tell Me Mrs Lincoln Aside From That How Was The Play?’, which is every bit as bonkers as the title suggests. It may not be quite what the Luxman engineers had in mind when they designed the L-509X but the fact it works so well shows that their amplifier has wide-ranging capabilities beyond the breathy jazz of so many hi-fi demonstrations.

That said, when you do treat it to a demonstration-quality recording, such as Classical Opera’s lovely set of Mozart’s Il Sogno diScipione [Signum Classics SIGCD499, 96kHz/24-bit], the LX-509X’s warmth and vitality come together to create a truly exciting presentation, the soundstage broad, deep and detailed, the presence and ambience almost uncanny, and the dynamics so wide open that one could easily forget all the machinery involved between performance and the listening experience. This amplifier is no mere exercise in rose-tinted nostalgia, and needs none of those ‘ah, but in those days…’ excuses to be made. It’s simply special.

HI-FI NEWS VERTICT
Big, rich, sweet and totally controlled: sounds like something of a soft listen, doesn’t it? Yet the truth is that the L-509X is all of the above in a good way, and none of those in a bad: it simply conveys the music in a manner that always seems exactly as it should. Don’t look at the styling and expect all those clichés of amplifiers of yore – this is a bang up to date design, in both engineering and sound.

LAB REPORT

Dynamic power output versus distortion into 8ohm (black trace), 4ohm (red), 2ohm (blue) and 1ohm (green) speaker loads. Max. current is 16.7A

Power meters are always fun to watch and, here, are ‘calibrated’ in dB relative to full output. In practice the red ‘0dB’ point is pretty close to Luxman’s rated 120W/8ohm but, perhaps more importantly, a 10W/8ohm output is indicated at –15dB when the amplifier is cold and –10dB when it is warm… So treat the meters as decoration rather than a precise measure of level! Precision is the watchword in our lab reports, of course, and here it was soon clear that while the L-509X might look almost identical to the L-590AXII [HFN Apr ’16] its technical performance suggests a merger of the brand’s C-700u/M-700u pre/power [HFN Sep ’15]. Indeed, where the former racked-up a full 2x145W and 2x250W into 8/4ohm, increasing to 165W, 315W and 551W into 8, 4 and 2ohm loads under dynamic conditions, the new L-509X delivers a very similar 2x155W/8ohm and 2x255W/4ohm with a dynamic 183W, 342W and 507W into 8, 4 and 2ohm. With both the M-700u and L-509X, protection limits output to ~300W/1ohm or 16.7A [see Graph 1, below].

Distortion versus extended frequency at 10W/8ohm, 5Hz-40kHz (left, black; right, red)

In similar fashion, the integrated L-509X has –1dB response limits of 3Hz-42kHz (–4.6dB/100kHz) while its 0.02ohm output impedance, rising to 0.05ohm/20kHz and 0.43ohm/100kHz still encourages a slightly earlier roll-off into tougher loads. Distortion is also very low at <0.002% from 20Hz-1kHz before rising gently to 0.03%/20kHz (all at 10W/8ohm). Where the L-509X scores, however, is in maintaining this distortion trend with increasing output, so THD is 0.0025% at 1kHz/1W, 0.0026% at 100W and 0.0034% at the rated 120W. Meanwhile, bearing in mind its high +43.4dB overall gain (balanced input), the A-wtd S/N ratio is a solid 86dB (re. 0dBW) while separation is >80dB midband. PM

 

From HiFi News

Please follow and like us:

Luxman C-900u/M-900u

 

 

Luxman’s C-900u preamp and M-900u power amp (£9995 each) are part of the wave of retro-flavoured hardware that has captivated the big Japanese houses, many of whose ‘period-look’ units eschew digitalia.

“The weight, the power, the flow, all conspired to make our feet tap”

 

As Luxman offers separate DACs and phono stages, they’re not fitted here, eg, the C-900u offers only line inputs and full-function remote control, with tone and balance controls set via large rotaries, but it has no tape monitor facility.  The supplied remote allows zooming of the informative fascia display.  At the rear of the preamp can be found a choice of balanced or single-ended inputs and outputs, earthing posts should you wish to add an external phono stage for a vinyl source, and a couple of Ethernet remote comms ports.

With its resolutely analogue fascia meters, the matching M-900u power amplifier offers both single-ended and balanced (XLR) inputs, remote power on/off, massive multi-way binding posts – some of the best we’ve seen – and switching for mono bridging and polarity inversion.

INSTANT SWEETNESS
Our first encounter was with ‘Rock The Boat’ by The Hues Corporation [Camden (CD)], with the amps hooked up to Wilson Alexias. While the track isn’t overripe down below, it is a dance track with a cool, loping bass, gorgeous harmonies, whucka-whucka guitar, and punchy brass and strings soaring above it all. The Luxman package sounded almost as tube-y as the company’s MQ-300 stereo amp [HFN Nov ’15], but with 25 times the wattage and a far more clearly delineated bass.

Detroit Emeralds’ ‘Feel The Need’ [Atlantic] is more of the same, but with richer, more Motown-y vocals and stronger drum activity. Moving to vinyl, the strings grew even sweeter, but saccharine never intruded because the ’900s possess such balance, with true equanimity from top to bottom.

After a double-dose of disco, we were drawn to mixed percussion, and Santana’s ‘Oye Como Va’ from Abraxas [Mobile Fidelity] did the trick, with the track’s congas, woodblocks, guiro scraper and other paraphernalia. Here the weight, the power, the flow, all conspired to make our feet tap – critical listening be damned! And that’s pretty much as high a compliment as one can pay.

Then in place of the Wilson Alexia speakers we hooked up Spendor LS3/5As, and loaded up ‘Rock The Boat’ once more. The little gems ‘disappeared’ and we were reminded of why we’d worshipped them for so long… the soundstage bordered on the epic.

What clinched it for us, though, was neither the punch nor the percussive majesty of the above tracks, but the subtlety of At Last from Lou Rawls in tandem with Dianne Reeves [Blue Note].

VERDICT
These units worked faultlessly, the remote was a joy to handle, the sound blissfully natural, while the units are made with the sort of finish that’s as cool as Swiss air.

 

From HiFi News

Please follow and like us: