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Hayabusa

Luxman L509X Integrated Amp User Review

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My first exposure to Luxman was back in the late 1970’s in Canberra when I bought an SQ38FD to power my second-hand Yamaha NS1000M’s. I loved the way it looked with all those toggle switches and multiple rotary dials. Also, I loved the way it sounded via my Linn Sondek/SME/Shure V15 combination but it was my first really non- budget system. All of this was pre the digital revolution. Since then I have gone through a large number of components and different systems, stupidly got rid of many of my LPs in the dream of “perfect sound forever” via CD but never looked at another Luxman product through all of that Company’s ups and downs. I did, however replenish my vinyl collection with some major purchases a few years ago, mainly 50’s and 60’s jazz but also quite a bit of contemporary music.

 

I was out of the Australian audio scene for nearly 8 years and had sold all of my Australian based system when I moved to work in Cambodia but still kept up with developments and even put together a simple system when living in Phnom Penh. Before returning to Australia last year I purchased a number of items for delivery to Australia and brought back most of what I bought when in Cambodia. On return I felt after a few months that the amp I had, though very good, was not letting the speakers give of their best. I looked for more powerful options and had a brief sojourn with the very powerful, very tuneful and exquisitely finished Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 but I was not patient enough to let it fully develop and I think I had some system synergy issues with my analogue set up so I decided to move it on and look for something else. The dreaded audio wanderlust with which I have been afflicted for most of my life had struck again. I had read several reviews of some of the latest Luxman gear along with very positive user comments and no negatives that I could determine. Even the Stereophile review was very complimentary and the phono-stage that, from the specifications, is the same as that used in the L590AXII was judged to be “excellent” making it an all the more appealing prospect for an all in one solution (sans USB digital that holds no interest for me).

 

In its latest iteration Luxman appears to me to be on a bit of a roll if all the reviews of so many of its components in commercial and non-commercial publications are to be believed. I had been looking at their EQ500 Phono stage and the M/C900U combination to drive my Audio Physic Cardeas+ speakers as well as the Continuum had done but as the M/C 900U was outside my immediate means I took a closer look at something I could afford now and appeared to have the juice to run my speakers effectively, the new L509X. This seems to be an amalgam of Luxman’s M700U power amp and C900U preamp components (some of them at least but not the full 20kg worth of the stand alone pre amp, obviously). Until I could afford the EQ500 and the C900U/M900U and possibly another TT/arm/MC combination to go with my current MM centric system I decided to give the L509X a go. While in most people’s view, including mine, this is still an expensive amp in comparative terms for upper level equipment I think it could be considered something of a bargain when you consider its performance.

 

I have had the L509X in my system for about 6 weeks now. When I brought it home, carefully released it from its exceptional triple box packaging and had it sitting on the floor it was difficult not to be impressed by both the standard of finish, that is as close to faultless as anything I have seen, and its physically imposing presence. It is fairly heavy at nearly 30kg but lighter than many stereo and mono power amps, including the M900U from Luxman. The aluminium top panel with its square and rectangular beveled cut outs with mesh grills is beautifully machined and shares its design with the M900U. It looks great and provides very good heat dissipation even though the L509X does not produce A-class amp heat levels.

 

When hooking it up you are greeted by two sets of binding posts (use both at once only for 8 Ohms loads!) that are good if not exceptional quality and easy to use with either spades or bare wire but they won’t take banana plugs. Other than the binding posts there are 4 RCA line inputs but there is only one higher quality RCA input for Line 1 and the other 3 RCA line inputs and phono inputs are of lesser quality. There are 2 balanced inputs via XLR’s. There are RCA’s for recording in and out, pre out and main in plus the ground for phono and the IEC power socket. The fittings are not to the same standard as found in the C/M900U and not as good as those of the Jeff Rowland that it replaced in my shelf but they are reasonable. On the front panel the Luxman provides you with large rotary controls for input selection on the left and for volume control on the right. Beneath the larger rotary controls and the VU meters sporting white illumination you find push buttons for on/off, monitor, line straight and “separate”(enables you to use a separate pre-amp via RCA’s only) plus a headphone jack. The smaller rotary controls, which have a very nice tactile quality to them are for the mm/mc phono, rec out, speakers A/B/A+B, bass and treble tone controls and balance. Importantly, the button marked “line straight” disengages the tone and balance controls. I find the line straight with the VU meter lights off (only the lights, the meters themselves continue to operate) to offer the best sound but it is a subtle change for the better. The small rotary control functions are not available via the metal clad remote but everything else is with the addition of a loudness control for low volume listening and a mono function button. No one rates the headphone jack very highly if you read the reviews. I too found it only average and not in keeping with the quality on show everywhere else with the Luxman. If it is not high quality why include it?

 

Aesthetics are a very personal thing and for me it has a very busy if undeniably classic Luxman look to the front panel with those VU Meters beloved by so many and high quality smooth action large and small rotary switches. In my view it is not as tidy as say the equally old school upper level Japanese style of Accuphase but others will be sure to see this differently. To be frank, I am not really a fan of this modified retro style. It is fair to say for me I bought it in spite of its looks rather than because of them! Personally, I prefer the more streamlined treatment of the Luxman separates but then this is an integrated and you have to put all the function controls somewhere and many people do like the looks and are drawn to Luxman products because they are so distinctive. 

 

It really does look more powerful than it actually is being specified at 120 Watts/ 8 Ohms/ 220 Watts/4 Ohms (according to Stereophile, it actually measures 154Watts/8 Ohms and 250 Watts/4 Ohms) but I think it would be powerful enough to satisfy most systems used at sub 95db sound pressure levels.  I have no issues with the ability of the L509X to drive my speakers to high, unstrained listening levels. As high as I can stand anyway!

 

Sound

 

It has taken a long time to get to this point but I think the Luxman L509x is an extraordinary integrated amplifier delivering a very impressive sonic performance. What has set this apart from all the other amplifiers I have had in my systems over the years and there have been quite a few, is its uncanny ability to present such a detailed presentation of musical performances in such a natural, unforced and, when it is called for, dynamic way.  This is true for both digital and analogue sources. I have a reasonable digital front end but only through the Luxman have I really felt an emotional connection with so much music. Tracks I have heard dozens of times over the years now reveal aspects of the performance I had not previously been aware of. Just to make it clear, this is not because of some hard edged ultra detailed rendering. It is an inherently natural presentation that just happens to be detailed. Live recordings really transport me closer to the real event but this feeling of being in the room with the musicians can happen with well recorded studio albums too. With up-tempo pieces I cannot stop tapping my foot along with the music while slower, contemplative pieces really make me sit still and listen intently. Voices both male and female are wonderfully reproduced. There is nothing bloated, plodding, aggressive or over hyped about this amplifier. It just plays music in a way that makes you want to listen for as long as possible.

 

In more hi-fi terms, I found the Luxman even handed across the audio spectrum with very deep, well controlled, impactful and highly resolved bass, well balanced and rounded mids and effortless sweet highs with beautiful harmonic structure. It has excellent PRAT.  Nothing is either added or taken away, as far as I can tell anyway as I was not in the recording studio and given the constraints of my system, room and ancillaries none of which are perfect. Sound-staging is excellent with greater depth than what I have previously experienced with width and height at least the equal of any other amp in my systems. Importantly, placements of performers and their instruments within that sound-stage are clearly delineated and of the correct dimensions. No supersized singing heads or 3 metre guitars here. The tone was spot on for all instruments I listened to. It is just so natural and with good recordings it really is an all-enveloping experience. A big band sounds like a big band but without any glare. You get the raspy sound of brass, the beautiful full resonance of saxophones for instance and percussion can be very impactful and fast. You can easily focus on a particular instrument, following a bass line for instance if you wish or just revel in the holistic event. The best I have experienced in any system I have had.

 

The phono section is excellent at least for my MM cartridges and I have not tried it with a MC as I do not own one currently.  I listen to vinyl about 80% of the time so it is important to me that this part of my system is delivering the quality of sound I want and of which I know my system is capable. The in-built phono provides me with a truly surprising level of satisfaction. Is it at the same level or better than the Audia Flight phono which I have been using? No it is not but it is damn close. I stress this is for MM and for my Clearaudio Charisma and Virtuoso cartridges which have similar loading requirements and for them the L509X provides an excellent match. There is no adjustment available for loading, however, so only a separate phono amp with resistance and capacitance settings for MM’s will get the very best out of all MM cartridges. I cannot find a spec in the manual for the capacitance setting for MM with the L509X but I would guess it is about 100pf. For MC you are stuck with 100 Ohms impedance so that again is limiting, probably more so and I doubt the MC phono stage in Luxman 509x would be up to the level of the Audia or any other top grade phono stage for MC’s. What the performance via MM does do is make me wonder just how good it would be with Luxman’s EQ500 as it has a great range of adjustments for MM cartridges so that could well be on the cards for me in the not too distant future. I have heard it at another member’s listening room with a lovely MC and it is an impressive piece of equipment! Also, I have just sold my Audia Flight so the EQ500 is my next likely purchase.

 

What now of my desire for the C/M900u combination? I am sure it would be better still and I do prefer the design of these separates but I think the law of diminishing returns will make it an unlikely purchase now I have lived with the L509X.  Luxman has produced with the L509X an integrated that really does seem to achieve results similar to high quality separates. For once a manufacturer’s claim is not just marketing spin. The achievement of component synergy can prove to be elusive, at least I have found it to be so but with the L509X I think I have finally found the synergy I have been seeking. It does so much right and gives me so much listening pleasure fed by my digital and analogue sources that I am very happy to have it as my long-term companion and the key element of my system. It is an outstanding product!

 

I would like to hear from any other owners and there will now be a few out there who want to share their views. For those who want to read a bit more about this excellent integrated please refer to the link below. This Audiodrom article is particularly interesting as the reviewer directly compares the L509X and L590AXII and he also has the C/M900U combination on hand to compare.

 

 

www.audiodrom.net/cs/integrovane.../detail/.../573-luxman-l-509x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Agree, very insightful and considered user review. 

 

This amp has intrigued me since I first heard about it and your review has only bolstered that thought.

 

Enjoy and thanks !

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Ian,

 

Congratulations on getting such a great amplifier.  Thanks for the introduction and the review.

 

Just a small correction, though - you can use banana plugs.  You just need to remove the small black inserts.  Have a look at what I wrote in a discussion

with another SNAer about his new Luxman.

 

 

(How come everyone else gets a new Luxman, and I don't?)

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Good review. With respect to it not taking banana plugs, have you taken out the little black lugs from within the speaker binding posts. Look at them head on and you’ll see them. They need to be prised out. 

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To Antipodean Brad and muzzagruz thanks for the tip re the banana connection. Actually I have spades at the amp end of my speaker cables with bananas at the speaker end. In the manual they specify only bare wire or spades much like they do with the Jeff Rowland and other amps using Cardas binding posts so I guess given what you say bananas could be used with Cardas posts also.

 

 

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Further to my earlier response I see this was not correct and not what you were saying re the binding posts. Apologies for not reading your post more carefully before I responded.  Now I understand. I did not look actually at the binding post as I connected my spades leaning over from the front of the amp. Response re Cardas totally wrong! Strange Luxman does not point this out in the manual as if clearly says only connect from below or above. Oh well that makes binding posts even more flexible that I had thought. Thanks again for the clarification

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It’s the same with Accuphase amplifiers. I don’t think many realise that they can accept bananas plugs too. 

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 Those Cardeas look sensational, would love to hear them as they've always intrigued me. 

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@Hayabusa  Just wondering why you chose the class A/B amp over the pure class A? I would have thought that the class A amp would be the better choice.

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12 minutes ago, Sonicy said:

@Hayabusa  Just wondering why you chose the class A/B amp over the pure class A? I would have thought that the class A amp would be the better choice.

Not necessarily, it depends on your musical preferences.  The Luxman A/B amps are far faster and more dynamic than the class A ones.

 

Nice write up Hayabusa, I'd love to hear a 509X.

 

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Hi Sonicy, I did in fact listen to a couple of class A amps  prior to going with the 509X though not for instance the 590AX11 and I have previously owned an Accuphase A50V. My decision was based based on a number of things really. Firstly, when I changed from the A50V to an AB design from Accustic Arts many years ago I had an immediate increase in dynamics without sacrificing anything that I could detect other than possibly slightly better tone with the Accuphase.  Also, if you read the Audiodrom review the reviewer compares the A Class 590AX11 with the 509X and he preferred the 509x on all music excepting classical and I do not listen to classical - only jazz and contemporary music. Given the extra power of the 509X it seemed to me to be the best choice with the lowest potential margin for error with my 4 Ohm speakers' power requirements. If I had smaller 8 Ohm speakers a class A may have been the way to go. In the end I don't feel the least bit short changed 

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@Hayabusa  Hello Ian. Firstly let me congratulate you on your excellent review of the Luxman 509X. I must say it strikes me as odd that an amp (whether class A or A/B) should 'do' one form of music better than another. How is it that a given amp performs better when reproducing classical music...or jazz...or rock....or any other genre? Is class A better at classical and why should that be so? Just wondering.

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