By Lam Seng Fatt
It has been quite a long time since I last heard a Luxman amp simply because there was no company that brought the marque into the Malaysian market.
CMY Audio & Visual started bringing in Luxman last December and the first shipment was very quickly snapped up. I was rather surprised by the number of Luxman fans in Malaysia.
So I had to wait for the second shipment to reach Malaysian shores before I could get a Luxman for review. That was how the Luxman L-505uXII integrated amp landed in my house on loan.
After listening to it for the past two weeks, I have to declare that the Luxman L-505uXII is one of the best integrated amps I have ever heard.
Would I recommend that you buy it straight away? No. Why is it that after stating that it is one of the best integrated amps in the market I am hesitant to tell you to whip out your credit card to make the purchase? That is simply because the Luxman L-505uXII, which is a 100-watter, has two ‘bigger brothers’ in the form of the L-507uXII (110 watts) and L-509X (120 watts). I would suggest you ought to audition the ‘bigger brothers’ before deciding which model to buy because when you buy a Luxman, it is for keeps.
After spending quite some time listening to the Luxman, what impressed me the most is the bass performance. It had such a grip on the bass that the electric bass riff on Best For Last from the Adele 19 CD was tight, taut, deep and textured. It was superb.
The sound stage was also impressive — it was very wide and quite deep. The Luxman was one of the few components that could match my reference Lamm LL2 Deluxe preamp in creating a large and spacious sound stage.
It was also very revealing and transparent. In between the second and third tracks of the Cowboy Junkies: At The End Of Paths Taken CD, there is a recording of a beach outing with the sound of waves crashing and people talking and having fun, but it was mixed at rather low volume on the CD and often it sounds somewhat like a background hiss. However, the Luxman rendered that part with such clarity that I was pleasantly surprised.
Overall, the sonic signature of the Luxman is a mildly lush midrange with extended and transparent treble and a deep thumping well-controlled bass.
The Luxman L-505uXII offers more than what the average user would need. It has a headphone jack, phono input (MM/MC) and ‘Pre Out’ and ‘Main In’ features.
I used Sennheiser HD600 and Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones. With the Sennheiser HD600, the sound was a bit too lush and the Audio Technica proved to be the better match with its inherent neutral sound being made richer by the Luxman.
I played three LPs to test the phono input — Christian McBride Big Band: The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue), Willie Nelson Wynton Marsalis: Two Men With The Blues (Blue Note Records) and Streisand: Partners (Columbia).
Since I am using a Benz Glider MC cartridge with my tweaked Rega Planar 3 turntable with RB250 tonearm, I tested the Luxman’s MC phono input. I still have a Rega Exact MM cartridge somewhere in the drawer, but I did not swap cartridges.
The phono input sounded average and would be sufficient if you do not own a phono preamp. If you have a phono preamp, then it would be advisable to use it for better sound quality. Compared with my reference Aime phono preamp, the Aime had a larger sound stage with better separation and more details.
I used a pair of Mogami 2803 terminated with KLEI Absolute RCA plugs interconnects to link the Luxman’s Pre Out to the resident Bryston 4B SST power amp.
It was obvious that the preamp section of the Luxman L-505uXII rendered a very wide and spacious sound stage. In comparison with the power amp section of the Luxman integrated, the Bryston sounded a bit more neutral and leaner and the bass was surely not as full. The Bryston was not as lush sounding as the Luxman.
The same pair of Mogami interconnects linked the Lamm LL2 Deluxe tubed preamp to the power amp section of the Luxman.
This proved to be a not very good match. The bass was not as tight and taut as when the Luxman was used as an integrated amp. Also, the warmth of the tubes plus the mildly lush character of the Luxman made things too smooth and sweet. It was a case of too much of a good thing.
Looks like the Luxman L-505uXII works best as an integrated amp on its own. So if you own a Luxman integrated amp, don’t bother experimenting and trying it out with other components of different brands.
From the Luxman website: The L-505uXII is the eagerly awaited Mark II version of the popular L-505uX that has been at the forefront of pre-amplifier design since its launch in 2011. Incorporating an abundance of proprietary technologies, such as Luxman’s Version 4.0 ODNF (Only Distortion Negative Feedback), as well as LECUA (Luxman Electronically Controlled Ultimate Attenuator), this product is a truly multifunctional integrated amplifier. As Luxman’s latest high-end model, the L-505uXII continues the evolution of the L-505 series, which has attracted many fans of audio quality and earned a great reputation.
The Luxman L-505uXII retails at RM19,995 net and is available at CMY Audio & Visual outlets.