Luxman L-509X built-in amplifier

We’re properly previous the day when the sound of top-tier tube amplifiers may be described as “syrupy” or “too warm” or producing “soft bass.” Equally true, solid-state designs have reached a stage of maturity at which “sweetness,” “fluidity,” and “flow” are equally relevant descriptors, thus smashing the cliché of “cold transistor sound.”One high-end audio producer, resourceful in each tube and solid-state designs, has weathered selloffs, acquisitions, and fickle audiophile calls for to create lovely, enduring audio artwork underneath a reputation synonymous with Japanese high-end audio supremacy: Luxman.

Based in 1925 by Tetsuo Hayakawa as a part of an Osaka picture-frame enterprise, the Lux Company was the primary to import to Japan radio receivers from overseas. Taking part in these receivers within the retailer fascinated Hayakawa’s customers and listeners, and impressed him and his brother and eventual accomplice, Kinji Yoshikawa, to experiment with circuits of their very own design. Their analysis resulted in audio treasures that discovered favor far outdoors Japan, and that even challenged Marantz and McIntosh for tube-amp supremacy.

Luxman’s basic fashions embody the SQ-38 built-in amplifier (1963 “an old standby found in almost all the jazz music tearooms in Japan,” per the corporate historical past on Luxman’s web site), the MQ-36 OTL energy amplifier (1966), and the M-6000, a 300Wpc energy amplifier (1975). Enriched by monetary success, Luxman modified fingers in a collection of transactions that culminated, in 1987, within the final insult: its buy by car-stereo hawkers Alpine, who pressured the revered high-end model to compete on the road with the mid-fi hoi polloi.

The status of its model diluted, Luxman almost capsized, however within the 2000s was rescued by private-equity funding. In 2009, stability was absolutely regained when Luxman was acquired by the Worldwide Audio Group (IAG). In early 2017, Luxman opened a US workplace, Luxman America, underneath the management of president Jeff Sigmund. The introductions of eight new merchandise confirmed Luxman’s US ambitions. Eye-catchers embody the LX-380 tubed built-in amplifier ($7995), the CL-38uSE preamplifier ($5995), the D-380 CD participant ($5495), the MQ-88uSE energy amplifier ($5995), the P-750u headphone amplifier ($4995), and the topic of this evaluation, the L-509X solid-state built-in amplifier ($9495).

In comparison with electronics from different up to date producers, Luxman CD gamers, amplifiers, and DACs take a look all their very own—and it is a look the corporate has been working for a goodly very long time. Positioned aspect by aspect, it will be laborious to inform basic Luxmans of the 1960s and ’70s from their distinctively styled merchandise of immediately.


The silver-matte, 64.6-lb L-509X is a behemoth of magnificence. A part of its retro aptitude are its two massive VU meters—I discovered them extraordinarily delicate to power-output fluctuations—and one thing much more old fashioned: tone controls! Audio perfectionists who can swing this amp’s value will not be inclined to make use of them, by which case they’re defeatable with a push of the Line Straight button.

The L-509X’s casework is made out of metal and aluminum. The 6mm-thick aluminum high plate alone is attractive, and is machined with rows of sq. and rectangular openings—with a stunning honeycombed grille on the backside of every—for beneficiant venting.

The L-509X’s output part options Luxman’s Solely Distortion Adverse Suggestions (ODNF) system. They declare that ODNF applies suggestions solely to distortion merchandise—which may in any other case lead to less-than-“black” backgrounds and listener fatigue—detected on the speaker outputs.

“At Luxman we pursue as natural sound as possible,” wrote Masakazu Nagatsuma, head of Luxman R&D, through e-mail. “So we came up with ODNF which detects the difference of input and output. Difference is distortion. ODNF feeds back distortion only to the amplifier. Coming in with 29.3dB (Luxman amp has 29.3dB), going out with 29dB, thus only 0.3dB is fed back, almost untouched like Open Loop circuit, which is very fresh and lively, but contains high distortion and is often unstable. So both merits of Open Loop and Negative Feedback are possible.”


The L-509X employs a push-pull output circuit with an output of 120Wpc into eight ohms or 220Wpc into Four ohms. Additionally featured on this and different Luxman amplifiers are “peel coat” printed-circuit boards: After the copper sign paths have been traced—with light curves and an intensive avoidance of drastic bends—Luxman peels off the board’s PVC coating, then gold-plates the traces to eradicate any dielectric impact. Of the amplifier’s 64.6 lb, 14 lb are accounted for by its 600VA, EI-core-type energy transformer, made by Nippon Chemi-Con, “with customizable 10,000µF x8 capacitor blocks.” Toshin and Nippon Chemi-Con capacitors, Schottky and ROHM diodes, cast-iron footers to “damp out unwanted resonant frequencies” (per Sigmund), and wiring of unplated, oxygen-free copper are different standout parts of the L-509X.

Trying on the L-509X straight on, my gaze was immediately drawn to these black-framed VU meters, beneath which is a row of seven small LEDs: from left to proper, Monitor, Subsonic, Mono, Standby, Loudness, Line Straight, and Separate. When Line Straight has been deactivated by urgent the button so labeled within the faceplate’s lower-right nook, these capabilities may be accessed through the L-509X’s aluminum remote-control handset. The meters are flanked by two massive knobs: Enter Selector on the left (Line-1 by way of -4, Balanced Line 1 and a couple of, Phono), and, on the fitting, the Luxman Electronically Managed Final Attenuator (LECUA) knob. Throughout the underside of the faceplate, from left to proper, are the small Operation (on/off) and Monitor buttons; six switches for Cartridge (MM/MC), Rec Out (Off/On), Audio system (Off/A/B/A+B), Bass, Treble, and Stability (!); small buttons for Line Straight and Separate; and a headphone jack. That is one tricked-out big.


The L-509X’s rear panel is equally populated, with inputs and outputs each acquainted and international. From left to proper alongside the highest are the bottom screw, a single pair of phono jacks (RCA), and the Line-1 by way of Line-Four inputs (RCA). The Line-1 pair are large “high quality copper alloy terminals, which combine the conductivity of copper with the hardness of brass,” wrote Sigmund. Why the heavy-duty hardware for less than Line-1? “Copper alloy terminal takes a big space,” replied Kunihiko Koki, Luxman’s Engineer & Supervisor of R&D. “If we have more terminals of copper alloy, the number of inputs will have to be less.”

Farther to the left are Rec Out and Monitor jacks (RCA), adopted by Pre Out and Primary In jacks (RCA), do you have to care to make use of the L-509X solely as a preamp or stereo energy amp. Then come two pairs of balanced inputs on XLR jacks, Bal Line-1 and Bal Line-2. Every jack got here with a snug-fitting plastic cap to guard the sign contacts from contaminants—proof of the thoughtfulness and care utilized all through Luxman’s sign chain. Under the enter/output connections are 4 pairs of very sturdy Emuden speaker binding posts and the inlet for the AC energy wire (included).

Except you are the towering sort or, like me, a devoted gear junkie, I extremely suggest you get assist to raise the L-509X and slide it into your rack. I huffed and I puffed, I cursed and howled, till, lastly, the L-509X had taken up residence on a shelf of my Salamander rack. I inserted the RCA connectors of my Kuzma Stabi S turntable’s phono cable instantly into the L-509X’s phono jacks, set to moving-coil, and ran Triode Wire Labs Spirit interconnects from my PS Audio NuWave DAC into the Luxman’s single-ended Line-1 jacks. DeVore Constancy’s Orangutan O/93 audio system joined the social gathering through Auditorium 23 speaker cables.

I put the Luxman by way of its first paces with King Crimson’s landmark 1973 epic, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Japanese LP, Atlantic P-8330A). The title observe/opening salvo on this veritable rock symphony all the time leaves me depleted, having survived its whisper-to-scream dynamics. Jamie Muir’s critter-like percussive sounds, Robert Fripp’s animalistic fuzz-guitar squeals, and the magisterial drumming of Invoice Bruford stay timeless prog-rock guideposts, withstanding the years and lesser musicians which have adopted of their wake. The Luxman performed this observe for all its price, cleanly resolving the numerous shades of dynamics, from the opening tintinnabulations and pulsing massed violin by way of the thunder-crunching climax and numerous solo sections, all with a superb sense of contact and a spotlight to superb element.


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