REVIEW: LUXMAN L-505UXII INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
Luxman's L505uXII is the Mark II version of the L-505uX Integrated Amplifier first released in 2011. Having owned a Luxman turntable in my youth, I was keen to see where the company was at in 2018. We take a closer look at this latest offering.
$7,995 RRP (NZD)
One of the grand old names of the HiFi 'audioverse', Luxman, has been around since 1925 when its then parent company Kinsuido decided it needed to diversify from picture framing and into the rapidly emerging radio industry.
Over the years Luxman has established an excellent name for itself with its range of high-quality tube amplification and turntables, some of which have become legendary. The PD-555 turntable is one such example, which utilised Luxman’s proprietary VDS (vacuum disc stabilisation), essentially ‘sucking’ the vinyl onto the platter with an air pump.
Now owned by International Audio Group (IAG), this time-honoured brand has been reintroduced to these shores courtesy of importer, Wildash Audio Systems.
Having owned a Luxman turntable in my youth, I was keen to see where the company was at in 2018. A quick trip to Wildash Audio’s headquarters in Mt. Wellington saw me driving away with the Luxman's new L-505uXII integrated amplifier.
The uXII is the Mark II version of the L-505uX which was released in 2011.
A conventional class AB design, the L-505uXII is built like a good looking tank, from its chunky volume and selector knobs through to the prominent (and lust-worthy) VU meters.
The look is a touch ‘old school’, but this is no criticism – the 505 is a full-featured amplifier with classic looks.
The volume selector features Luxman’s LECUA (Luxman Electronically Controlled Ultimate Attenuator), allowing 88 steps of smooth and fine volume adjustment.
A discrete buffer circuit ‘borrowed’ from the range-topping C-900u preamplifier is employed to enhance current delivery at the output, which Luxman explains:
The pre-amp output stage is able to drive the signal with enhanced current supply capacity. The clarity of the audio signal is protected, while at the same time, the driving force-fed through to the power amplifier stage is significantly increased. The power and reproduction capability of the L-505uXII achieves overwhelming scale sensitivity and a sharpness on start-up that cannot be achieved by conventional pre-amplifiers.
The power supply of the L-505uXII consists of a highly regulated EI core type power transformer, with four large capacity 10,000μF blocking capacitors which it says creates a highly stable power supply. This ensures an immediate, constant and stable current supply. Dynamic ‘swings’ in music require plenty of current especially at higher volumes, and Luxman has left no stone unturned concerning the power supply here.
Bass, treble and balance are all adjustable from the front fascia, while a handy 'Line Straight' button enables the tone circuitry to be bypassed.
Pre-out/Main-in circuitry allows the L-505uXII to be used in either preamplifier or power amplifier mode if desired, and a quality headphone amplifier is built in for us Head-Fi fanatics.
Lucky loudspeaker collectors (myself included) will be able to connect two pairs of loudspeakers at the same time, which although seemingly superfluous, could prove quite useful when comparing speakers without having to power down/unplug/re-plug.
There are four single-ended RCA line inputs and a set of balanced inputs, and vinyl devotees have cause to rejoice as Luxman has equipped the L-505uXII with a splendid MM/MC phono stage. My listening tests would go on to prove that this was no false claim indeed.
There's no DAC or onboard D/A conversion offered, but this may please buyers in this part of the market. The digital arena is a moving target as new file formats pop up, and many enthusiasts already have their preferred choice of DAC.
Rated at 100wpc the 505 should just about drive anything, and with this in mind, I decided to use my trusty Castle Harlech S2’s for this review.
Sources included my Antipodes Audio DS1 server/Audiolab M-Dac+, Bel Canto CD-2 CD player and my heavily modified Lenco L75 turntable. Providing vinyl replay support was my recently mothballed (and rare) Pro-Ject Studie (RPM12).
The output sound quality easily matched the elegant looks of the L-505uXII. Tracks from Thundercat’s funky Drank album grooved along, and as this downbeat recording is full of ambience and atmosphere, the Luxman just allowed the music to flow.
There are no huge dynamics on display here, but warm, mellifluous bass underpins what is a surprisingly good listen. There is plenty of detail on offer, but it never came across as strident or in your face. This was an enjoyable listen.
Then it was on to Tom Jones' excellent, bluesy Praise and Blame on Tidal. This is a collection of mainly one-take recordings with an apparent dearth of Pro-Tools, and the L-505uXII-led system delivered the goods beautifully.
Tom’s mega-voice was exquisitely reproduced, and not in a blustery, overblown way. Here was a singer delivering with passion and emotion, and just about as far as he can get from the Las Vegas showman we all know and love (well, some of us anyway).
Guitar, bass and drum were all delivered with realism and excellent dynamics, while the wrap-around sound staging provided an immersive listening experience.
Moving to my twisted little world of Dub saw Trance Hill and Bud Spencer with In Dub, an album of the long-deceased author William S Burroughs spoken word readings incorporated into an album of electronic Dub.
Sounding superb, ‘103rd Street Boys’ has fabulous, deep bass and psychedelic panning effects and this was quite magical via the cultured Luxman, while ‘Burroughs Called The Law’ (a self-criticism of Burroughs himself snitching on his drug-using friends) drew this listener in and kept me nailed to the couch.
Moving on to vinyl, using the inbuilt phone preamplifier proved an enjoyable experience with both the Pro-Ject and Lenco – Teutonic electronic music pioneers Yello providing plenty of synthesiser thrills and spills with their 2016 album Toy, and here the Luxman delivered with real gusto.
Their electronic Cha Cha was ramped up on ‘Limbo’, the dour, downbeat vocals stirred deeply in a pot of electronic whiz-bang. Add killer bass, surprisingly sweet female backup vocals and (gasp) real electric rhythm guitar, the Luxman was strutting its phono replay credentials here.
It was time to go a little bit Bluegrass with Alison Krauss & Union Station’s Paper Airplane. It’s a superb recording with some strong tunes and a healthy antidote to the synthetic sounds of Yello.
The title track sees Alison in fine voice via the L-505uXII; her pitch-perfect vocals had gorgeous timbre and presence, while acoustic guitars had great leading edge realism and body. I’m no huge country fan but this album is a bit of a cracker, and an absolute joy to listen to with the accomplished Luxman.
Luxman’s L-505uXII is not an inexpensive amplifier, but it is the first rung on the Luxman amp ladder – and it didn’t sound anything like an entry point amp.
Made entirely in Japan, the elegant L-505uXII has superb Swiss-watch build quality and sound quality to match. It's always hard saying goodbye to loaner products like this.
Luxman has only recently been made available again in New Zealand. We see big things on the horizon once more for this iconic brand, and it's available now via select specialist retailers.
For more information, please visit Luxman.
Addicted to music from a very early age, Gary built his first pair of loudspeakers at the tender age of 12. Since then he has contributed to a plethora of publications/websites and has even been heard on Newstalk 1ZB as the stations ‘gadget man’. Technically proficient in both analogue and digital, he feels the road ahead is just as exciting as the road already traveled - and he can't wait to tell you about it.
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