REVIEW: LUXMAN EQ-500 PHONO AMPLIFIER
Phono stages aren’t the most glamorous item in a hi-fi chain. But if you want to hear your cherished record player at its best, a good one is essential. We’ve heard few better than Luxman’s EQ-500, regardless of price.
Usually phono stages are nondescript little boxes. Not this one. Luxman has built the EQ-500 into a full-sized case (at 44cm it’s a touch wider than the standard) and packed it full of toggle switches, dials and signal-level meters. It’s hard to think of a more feature-packed alternative – and, what’s more, the majority of those features are very useful.
Wide choice of settings
There are switches to govern whether the unit sends out the signal balanced or single-ended, and to determine its phase. Further toggles govern impedance (for moving-magnet cartridges only), high- and low-pass filtering, type (moving-magnet, high- and low-output moving-coil), stereo/mono and inputs. There’s also a two-stage adjustment for each of the three cartridge-type settings to allow the user to fine-tune the gain between the phono stage and preamp circuitry.
Take a look inside the EQ-500 and you’ll find extensive internal shielding to keep noise levels and distortion low.
Build quality is as good as we’d expect from Luxman’s higher-end products. The casework feels solid and is finished to a high standard, while the switches all work with precision.
A phono stage costing five grand positively demands a top-class record player as well as suitably talented amplification and speakers. We use our reference Clearaudio Innovation Wood package, which includes a Clearaudio Stradivari V2 moving-coil cartridge, a Goldring 1042 cartridge for MM duties, Gamut D3i/D200i amplification and ATC SCM 50 speakers.
Initially, the Luxman sounds sludgy and a little timid, but allow that valve-driven circuitry to stabilise properly and the presentation gains transparency, life and openness. The first thing that strikes us is just how quiet it is. Background hiss is at a very low level, which is testament to the Luxman’s carefully considered electrical internals and extensive shielding.
Once firing on all cylinders, this is a wonderful-sounding unit. Being valve-driven, you’d expect the Luxman to sound smooth and refined, and it is – but it takes only a few minutes of Nirvana’s 'Nevermind' to realise that there’s plenty of punch and power too.
Smells Like Teen Spirit tears along with all its passion and aggression intact. We’re impressed by the EQ-500’s surefooted rhythmic drive and its ability to turn things up to 11 when required. Kurt Cobain’s powerful vocals come through with clarity and conviction, but this phono stage always stays composed.
Moving on to Orff’s Carmina Burana allows the Luxman to show off its fine stereo imaging and expansive soundstage populated with nicely layered, finely textured instruments and voices. The presentation is stable too, so sounds stay locked to their position, no matter how complex the music gets.
How it works
Among the many controls on the EQ-500 is one marked ‘Articulator’. Switch it on for around 30 seconds and it demagnetises the cartridge, the signal muting while the control is activated. In our set-up we didn’t notice much change in the sound, but it’s worth a try.
Powerful yet subtle
The EQ-500 doesn’t shirk its duties, delivering crescendos with poise while digging up instrumental textures and vocal nuances with ease. This phono stage uncovers class-leading levels of detail, but always presents it in an unforced and natural manner.
If you have a system that’s worthy of such a premium phono stage, you should certainly consider the Luxman seriously. It is beautifully made and a pleasure to use. We want one. Badly.
If you’re after a top-class phono stage and have a suitably talented system, this Luxman is highly recommended.
The Luxman EQ-500 Phono Amplifier is available from specialist dealers now for $8,999 RRP.
- Circuiting system: SRPP, final stage cathode follower Non-feedback CR type equalizer
- Vacuum tube used: ECC83 x 4 pieces, ECC82 x 2 pieces, and EZ81 x 1 piece
- Input sensitivity MM: 4mV(1kHz, When the gain is set to 36d8), MC: high 0.44mV, MC: low 0.1BmV
- Input impedance MM: 30k0 to 100k0 (variable), MC: high 400, MC: low 2.50
- Rated output/output impedance: 250mV/ 850Ω
- Gain: (1kHz, When the gain is set to 36d8) MM: 36dB, MC: high 55dB, MC: low 63dB
- Maximum allowable input: (1kHz) MM: 300mV, MC: high 34mV, MC: low 13mV
- RIAA deviation: MM/MC high/ MC low: 20Hz to 20kHz (±0.3dB)
- Channel separation: (10kHz) 65dB
- Input: Unbalanced line x 3
- Output: Unbalanced line x 2, Balanced line x 1
- Power supply: 230V-(50Hz) / 115V-(60Hz)
- Power consumption: 47W
- Dimensions: 440(W) x 92(H) x 397(D)mm
- Net weight 12.5kg
For more information visit Luxman.
Further reading: Turntables & Phono Amplifiers Forum
Reproduced under license from our U.K content partner. Some specifications or pricing may be changed to represent currency or regional variations.