LUXMAN L-550A II

MJ21.10.2009

Integrated amplifiers

One of my preconceptions - that the Class A Luxman will have warm and slightly coloured sound - was buried after twenty minutes of listening. The L-550A II presented itself with aristocratic charm with the goal to appear in the list of the best integrated amplifiers available.

Function and form

98%
Ease of use
74%
Sound
100%
Appearance

The L-550A II can deliver 20W into 8 ohms in Class A. The specifications are quite modest as the amp is capable to deliver almost 60 watts per channel in reality. The Luxman is built around bipolar devices (two pairs per channel), its preamplifier stage is directly derived from the acclaimed C-1000f. The volume is controlled by a modified Alps potentiometer. The L-550 AII provides a possibility to lift/surpress lows and highs with tone controls that are centered at 100Hz and 10kHz. They work less decent than with the Accuphase E-550 so I advise to use them only to make the sound more attractive at low listening levels.

The Class A is synonymous with high power demands - most of the power is lost by heat, however. For example, the minimum voltage required for 100 watts into 8 ohms is around 80V per channel and this represents the loss of more than 200 watts. Take both channels and it is around 500W of the power converted into heat that must be dissipated. The heat problem is one of the Class A limitations so no wonder the output power of the commercially available amplifiers is usually up to 2x60W.

Most the functions of the L-550A II are available from the front panel. Yellow lit meters lend an individuality to the Luxman.

Bass management

Weight
84
Slam
80
Articulation
81

The L-550A II was ccomparedd directly with the competitor, the similarly specified Accuphase E-550.

The Luxman's sound was a bit lighter and airier and my first impression was that it delivers more detail. Johnny Cash' s Personal Jesus, a Depeche Mode cover from American recordings series, did not have such a solid fundament like with the Accuphase, it brought more of strings forward. The slight midrange presence helped also the voice become more articulated and legible. Different outcome happened with Chesky's double bass test recording. The instrument was more organic with the Accuphase and more audiophile (read: strings and ambience) with the Luxman.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
84
Air
86
Transparency
83

Symphonic scores (The Mummy soundtrack) were as if faster and punchier through the Luxman. Where the Accuphase built tension the Luxman built expectation. Where the Accuphase delivered tonally rich flute sound the Luxman delivers the flute in a more ethereal and less colourful way. Michael Schenker's rock numbers were punchier and rockier through the  Luxman, though. It is fair to say that in case one starts to play with the tone controls both devices start resembilng each other.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
84
Dynamics
81
Temporal resolution
81

Through the Dynaudio Confidence C2 and the Luxman, female vocals were liquid, detailed and three dimensional and, yes, they were so seducting. If I should measure the emotional level the meters would hit their right stops. Also Johnny Cash's voice, with its textured timbre, was amazingly articulated and the Luxman/Dynaudio combo did not miss anything even when I played loud.

Anyway, one must not play too loud as 2x20W of the Luxman are not sufficient to drive the somewhat less sensitive Dynaudios. Not that the sound becomes distorted but the listener will lose the Class A cuteness and the amplifier switches into Class AB that is audibly less relaxed.

Spatial resolution

Holography
89
Soundstage width
89
Soundstage depth
89

The more I auditioned the Luxman L-550A II the more I was becoming sure that the slightest presence touch in its midrange was a designer's intent. Thus the listener may savour the lips smacking in Jacintha's Something CooI or the RF interference noise that is clearly audible on Chesky's test disc. In music terms it also brings more stress on the ambience of recording venues which is somethimng where the L-550A II outperformes the Accuphase E-550.

Price as reviewed:110 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Navrátil Audio, Havířov, tel. +420 737 821 360

PP HiFi Otrokovice, tel. +420 603 581 305

Nisel SK, Bratislava, tel. +421 905 203 078

Associated components

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-57
  • Amplifiers: Accuphase E-550
  • Loudspeakers: JmLab Focal Alto Utopia, Dynaudio Confidence C2, Usher Be-718
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Audioquest Panther, Audioquest Cheetah, Nordost Flatline Super MkII v biwiringu, Audioquest Pikes Peak, Audioquest Volcano
  • Power conditioning: Vincent Power, JenTech DB06, Quantum Resonant Technology QRT Qx4 EMF stabilizer, Cardas Cross Powercord

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