今次試聽以 SME Model 20/3 唱盤和 SME V 唱臂配上 My Sonic Lab 的 Ultra Eminent BC 唱頭和 T+A PDP 3000 HV CD/ SACD 播放機作為音源，再以 Kubala-Sosna Expression 喇叭線將 Luxman L-509X合併擴音機連接到 Tidal Piano 揚聲器來進行試聽。由於這台 L-509X 是全新的關係，所以接駁完成後再將它堡煉約三十小時後才正式進行試聽。先聽 「Diamonds & Rust in the Bullring LP」，這張專輯是 Joan Baez 於 1988 年在西班牙 Bilbao 鬥牛場舉辦一場演唱會。此專輯的錄音達到很高的水平，今次只是使用 L-509X 的內置唱放，但竟可讓我感到十分驚喜，表現絕不比分體唱放遜色，除了底噪極低之外聲音也十分細緻迷人， Joan Baez 嘹亮的嗓音加上感性的表達方式，徹底展現出她獨特的氣質和成熟的韻味，將歌曲中的濃濃情感詮釋得淋漓盡致，還能如實地展現出結他那份樸素無華的感覺，音場寬廣且深，整體互相配合之下絕對讓人盡興。
試聽 lsolajazz專輯，這張於2017年在意大利熱拿亞舉行的演奏會現場錄音，由Venus旗下多位爵士樂手及歌手演出，整張專輯的現場氣氛相當濃烈」讓人有置身現場的感覺。碟I頭兩首純音樂已讓人感到興奮，特別是敲擊手 Ernesttico 在Theme From Mash 一曲中展現出高超精湛的技藝，L-509X 擁有強大的動態和極佳迅變能力，完全能將快、狠、準的音效重現出來。碟 2 的Quando Quando Quando 由 Denise King 引導現場觀眾一同高歌，全場的情緒非常高漲，可說是彼此打成一片。整張專輯能讓人感到滿載歡樂與熱鬧的氣氛，如此豐厚的現場感覺確實盡顯 L-509X 的功力。
This superb analogue amp is much more than an expensive retro throwback.
Tested at £8,500
Within hi-fi circles, the conventional wisdom of an inverse relationship between amount of features and quality of performance prevails.
It’s a point of view that came into prominence back in the 1970s and, in our experience, still holds true today. But for every rule there’s usually an exception – in this case it’s the Luxman L-509X.
This is a fully loaded analogue amplifier. Anyone who thinks such a unit should also include digital inputs should know such modules are rarely great, even when fitted to high-end products – they are generally outperformed by outboard digital-to-analogue converters such as Chord’s sub-£400 Mojo. At this price, such a level of performance is just not good enough.
The inclusion of digital modules also tends to make the analogue side of things sound worse, which in our view is a compromise too far.
The L-509X packs a moving magnet/moving coil phono stage, headphone output, tone controls and switchable speaker outputs – all things in demand back when its decidedly retro appearance was the latest fashion.
There’s no shortage of connectivity. Alongside the phono stage, this Luxman also has four single-ended RCA line-level ins and two balanced XLR options. We can’t think of a typical stereo set-up in which this integrated might get caught short.
The company has kept this amplifier as flexible as possible – so, although it’s an integrated amp, it’s possible to split the pre- and power sections (at the press of a button) and use them separately.
You can connect two sets of speakers and switch between them, or use them together.
Take a look inside and it’s hard not to be impressed by the standard of construction.
Everything looks neat and carefully planned. We’re pleased with the quality of the components used, right down to the material from which the circuit board is made. It’s clear Luxman hasn’t skimped.
The internal view is dominated by the power supply arrangement. There’s a chunky mains transformer (600VA) and dedicated banks of smoothing capacitors (40,000 micro Farads) for each power amp channel.
The power amp circuitry is a Class A/B design capable of 120W per channel and, even more impressively, able to double output as impedance halves. On paper at least, this is an amplifier that will have no trouble driving difficult speakers to high volume levels.
The preamp side of things hasn’t been ignored either, with Luxman developing its own 88-step volume control system and using the basic circuit from its top-end preamp.
The message is clear: this may be an integrated amplifier, but it really is more like a separate pre- and power amplifier in a single box rather than a compromised electrical design.
General build quality is excellent. The L-509X feels immensely solid and weighs in at almost 30kg. Fit and finish is terrific, and good enough for amplifiers costing considerably more.
We love the feel of the controls – they’re nicely damped and pleasingly precise in use.
Even the remote handset is nice to hold and use, even if its button layout is a little odd. Handsets tend to be a blind-spot for most high-end manufacturers, but overall there is much to like here.
This Luxman may be an expensive amplifier but we feel, physically at least, it’s well worth the money – and then some.
That view doesn’t change once we start listening. The L-509X is an amplifier that creeps up on, rather than wows, the listener when the music starts.
It has an understated presentation it takes a while to appreciate. Those looking for sonic fireworks will find them here only if they’re in the recording. This amplifier doesn’t spice things up for entertainment’s sake.
Tonally, the Luxman is as neutral and balanced as they come – provided you leave the tone controls alone. It sounds a touch cleaner and crisper with the Line Straight button pressed – doing so bypasses the tone and balance controls, and gives a purer signal path.
We also switch off the backlighting on the power meters. We do this not just to avoid distraction but for the slight increase in transparency it offers. These are tiny gains in the whole scheme of things, but in the context of an amplifier with such talent we think they’re justifiable.
Equally, such an amplifier deserves a top-class source and speakers.
We use our usual Naim NDS/555 PS streamer for the line level inputs, together with Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood record player (including the Stradivari V2 moving coil cartridge) to test the phono stage. As for speakers, our reference ATC SCM 50s are pressed into service, along with KEF’s Reference 1 standmounters.
We throw the L-509X in at the deep end with Orff’s Carmina Burana and it swims confidently. This is an impressively detailed and insightful performer, one that’s capable of class-leading clarity.
It recovers subtleties, even in a production as dense as this, and keeps them audible as the piece becomes demanding. The low-level reverb defines the acoustic space the concert was recorded in, and spatial clues help us identify the exact positions of the orchestra and choir upon the sound stage.
The music’s wild dynamic swings are delivered with enthusiasm, the amplifier’s generous power output obvious in the punch and solidity of the presentation.
There’s no shortage of drama in the sound ,yet we become aware of the L-509X’s impressive composure and the sense of control it imparts. There’s an ease of delivery here that shrugs at high volume levels and the readings on the power meters.
We’re pleased to report it’s not the case. Feed the Luxman a hard-charging track with a complex rhythm and the L-509X renders the music with a hand-on approach that keeps all the energy and rhythmic organisation intact.
We’re particularly impressed with the way this amplifier can deliver deep bass with such texture, agility and power.
The story remains positive when we try the phono stage. The amplifier loses none of its even-handed nature with this input, delivering a good dose of insight and entertainment.
There’s just a mild drop in transparency compared to the line stages, and a slight loss of the low-level finesse. Still, the phono module has more than enough gain to work with most cartridges, and stays commendably quiet when it comes to background hiss and hum.
We’re less taken with the headphone output. The tonal character of this output is consistent with that we hear through speakers, but using a range of headphones from Grado’s RS-1s and PS500s, as well as the Beyerdynamics’s T1s, we feel the sound is less lively and expressive than we’d like.
If you’re an occasional headphones user, the circuit in the Luxman is fine. However, if you’ve got high-end headphones and want to hear them at their best, a good dedicated outboard amp will do the job better.
Overall, though, we’re deeply impressed by the L-509X.
On the surface it might present like an expensive retro throwback, but it’s so much more than that. It has a blend of build, features and performance that’s hard to better at anywhere near this price.
If you’re lucky enough to have this kind of budget and are looking for a neat package without sacrificing performance, this Luxman demands your attention.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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].
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
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].
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.