Companies existing for a dozen years are regarded as stabilized, proven in fight and “burned-in”, meaning they know what they are doing. And what would we say looking at over eighty years of continuous activity? Eighty years of experience, research, over eighty years (eighty two to be exact) of fighting the competition... There is a lot to be proud of. In 2005 the Japanese company Luxman celebrated its eighty years of existence by bringing the powerful mono power amplifiers B-1000f to the market.
And now the most important moments from the history of Luxman:
The common opinion about bright and technical sound of Japanese devices surfaces from time to time. But as the test of many devices from various price levels and groups in our “Japanese” issue “Made in Japan” - “HIGH Fidelity OnLine” September 2006 (No 29) – to be found in the “Archive” section showed, this is complete rubbish. All companies reaching back to the art and spirit of Japan make devices that can be characterized in many ways, but never that they are “technically sounding”. If I would have to classify them in some way, I would say that the common thing is a kind of sweetness of the treble and slight warming of the midrange (but not all devices will fall under this description as our test of the power amplifier A-45 from Accuphase, and also my experience with listening to the amplifier M-800A from Luxmana showed, the best devices are completely neutral, but when generalizing it just looks that way). I tested some time ago the integrated amplifier E-213 from Accuphase, and it sounded in the described way, also, to some extent, so is the entry amplifier L-505f from Luxman. Frankly speaking the more refined a product from the Japanese islands is, the more subtle it is sounding. It is partially related to the mentioned slightly rounded upper midrange, but maybe the latter is just a side effect. Because in reality it is about building of uninterrupted, continuous harmonic structures, that make the real sound together with the basic tone. And probably the unshaken phase relations are an important component of such presentation. It is incredible how much warmer – in a subjective way – a device sounds, that has no problems with the mentioned two elements. It is also always related with the lack of tension and nervousness. And that how the integrated Luxman sounds. It is in general quite close to the E-213, but the accents were put on different things, and that can be the decisive for the go no-go decision, about one of them.
Now the full, extremely coherent, rich sound, achieved through the feeling, that the sound is concentrated on itself is the next step in the Zen meditation. On one hand we have silenced surroundings, without a storm of thoughts, on the other hand, unlimited fields of introspection open up for us. Similar feelings are associated when we look at Japanese interiors – those seem not very complicated, elements with uncomplicated forms, clean planes, small amounts of ornaments (I am talking about classic interiors), but everything has ideally chosen proportions, the materials are of highest class and a scent of luxury can be smelled in the air. Without a word of commentary. Luxman reveals such emotions by the listeners. That was for example the case with a disc seemingly distant to such kind of approach, but having a common spiritual background, recordings of Radiohead - Kid A (Parlphone/EMI, 77532, CCD). This electronic, superb disc, where there are no sharp edges but there is insight in the depth. And with this incredible drive and rhythm. Introspection in this case is not based upon external silence, but on reproducing the energetic transmission in an absolutely organized way. The L-505f slightly evens the dynamics in the macro scale, because although it does not lack power, it does not impose with brute power and tenacity, and is more a kind of fail-safe (meaning the power reserve). The bass is fleshy, strong and well controlled – much better than by the Thor MkII from Bladelius (that was the only weak point of the latter) and better than the Accu E-213.
The weaknesses of the amplifier lie in its resolution. Like with the E-213 the midrange is warm and is not as open as with the Leben CS-300. For experienced listeners this should not be a surprise, but for people just entering the path of audiophile self-bettering, this can be a real shock, as Luxman is a solid-state device, so in common opinion brighter and more thorough, and Leben is a tube device, that in the lower price range sounds exactly like the Luxman, meaning slightly warm. In both cases we are now at a very high level, somewhere in the bottom of hi-end, and here the rule is that there are no rules. If we pair the L-505f with a matching player we can even-out some of the slight lay-back of this frequency range. And probably thinking about this amplifier, and maybe a few higher models (we will have a look at them later, I am working to get for a test in Audio a model working in class A) the multiformat player form this manufacturer was designed. Its sound is in many aspects astonishingly good, and with SACD and DVD-Audio in terms of resolution even resembling the master tapes. The tonal balance was shifted to the upper midrange (such playing makes the sound of the Luxman amplifier), it is however important, that cheap brightening is not done, and that is the reason high resolution and removal on narrow-band coloring is required. And with the mentioned player the saxophone of Colemana Hawkins from the disc The Hawk Flies High (Riverside/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2030, SACD/CD) sounded strong, with a hard attack, meaning in the way this instrument sounds in reality. It is not even about the resolution and detailedness of the recording, as this is rather average, but about the splendid reproduction of what is recorded on the disc, showing of the recorded instruments just as it was recorded. Because I know this disc from listening sessions with most expensive SACD, I can say with clear conscious, that only the EMM Labs and the split Accuphase from the 800 series sounded a little better, and it was not in terms of resolution, but saturation of the timbre. Anyway the L-505f with the dedicated player can really something. When for example in “Chant” the trumpet with dampener enters, we know that it is this instrument, we can listen-in to its timbre, achieved by the given and no other musician. And here also the slightly softened dynamics can be heard, and the rhythm was given rather in legato, fluent, without the little spurts, that the Leben showed better.
As Luxman equips its amplifiers with a gramophone preamplifier as a standard, I tried also this option. As in parallel I tested the new gramophone Pro-Ject Xperience Comfort (half automatic) with the Denona DL-103 cartridge, the listening sessions were mainly with this setup. For comparison I used the preamplifiers from Pro-Ject Phono Box Mk II and the Primare R20. And I got a nice, in some extent warm sound, with emphasis on the midrange and laid-back treble. The dynamics was in most cases evened, and even the PJ handled it better. Anyway, the sound was always pleasant and not annoying. These are not the audiophile's best, but I we want to listen to the turntable from time to time, and to older discs, then it will be sufficient. Also the headphone output sounded with a quite quiet and one dimensional sound. In case of sporadic listening it will be OK, but when we plan to use it often, then it would be better to have something better.
As I mentioned before the amplifier is built in a similar way to the Accuphase amplifiers (especially the E-213), at least when it comes to the outsides. The front is made from a thick plate of aluminum in champagne color, with large, yellow-orange lit VU output level meters (scaled in dB). To the sides we have large knobs – source selector, working in a very nice, fluent way, and a volume regulator scaled in dB, from - ∞ to 0 dB. Under the meters we have knobs to select the recording source (meaning the source, the signal of which will reach the Rec outputs, regardless of what source we are listening to), to select the speakers (we have two pairs of outputs, we can select one pair, the second one, both or switch them off to listen to headphones), work mode (left channel, right channel, stereo and mono – the last one is handy for mono LPs), tone controls and balance. The tone controls and balance can be switched off by the nearby switch. There is also a subsonic filter switch (for LPs) and loudness. On the other side we have a headphone socket. With one word – rich.
The enclosure is extremely dampened – the sides are fully glued with thick rubber, and the top cover with squares put in key places. Although optically the top and the sides look to be separate elements, they are bound together. Talking about the insides, this could be expected, but I must confess that the finish is beautiful. It is divided in separate sections by means of thick shields, that also strengthen the construction. On the back we have the preamplifier section. It seems that the input selector is made with ICs. It turns also out, that the XLR input is desymmetrized. From the preamplifier the signal flows with quite long cables to the black Alps potentiometer that controls volume (the same manufacturer is also responsible for the source selector, that activates the ICs at the inputs). From there the signal goes to the power amps. The latter are screwed to solid, massive heat sinks placed on both sides of the power supply. Those are two pairs of bipolars working in push-pull setting. Unfortunately, their symbols cannot be read. The power amps are fully solid state, and for ground connections thick copper leads were used. In the middle we have a large, very nice EI transformer, placed on springy suspension. We have many secondary windings, also for the power amps for both channels. Also four large capacitors are here, bearing the Luxman logo (4700 μF each). The passive elements are very nice – metalized precise resistors, and rare, expensive Elna “Red” Cerafine capacitors. The steering part of the power amplifiers has a very regulated power supply.
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