LUXMAN L-590AX Mark II

MJ22.10.2015

Integrated amplifiers

When I reviewed the Mark II's predecessor, the L-590AX, I was impressed. Then I auditioned the brand new Mark II and the original amp sounded veiled in comparison. The Luxman made a leap forward in sonic sophistication, resolution, dynamics and transparency - the same direction that made the new C-900u/M-900u separates jaw-dropping.

100% reference

Function and form

95%
Ease of use
85%
Sound
100%
Appearance

The external look have not changed a lot - the new Mark II has thin golden line around its VU meters, black feet instead of silver ones, and the polarity switches on its rear panel are now sliders. Luxman also innovated its ODNF circuit. The "Only Distortion Negative Feedback version 4.0 virtually feeds back only distortion components generated during amplification to extend the bandwidth of the amplifier to 20-100,000Hz and increase S/N ratio to to 107dB which is among the best for an integrated amplifier. The beauty of such a solution lies in feeding back only a ‘corrupted’ part of signal – should there is no distortion present in the signal the ODNS circuitry remains idle. There is also improved winding of the power supply and there is a new discreet buffer in the preamplfier section - thus the Mark II's damping grew up by 30%.

Principally, the L-590AX Mark II is a bipolar amp with push-pull topology in pure class A, achieving 2x30 sweet watts into 8 ohm load or 2x60W sweet watts into 4 ohm load. The rear panel of the the Mark II shows typical array of connections: four RCA line inputs, two XLR balanced inputs, MM/MC inputs, a recorder inputs and a PRE-OUT option. With the Mark II it is possible to use two pairs of speakers connected to switchable binding posts that accept any type of a speaker wire’s termination in case you manage to remove a tiny plug that seals them.

The new LECUA 1000WM attenuator (the LECUA stands for Luxman Electric Controlled Ultimate Attenuator and the WM stands for Weighting Matrix) is the Luxman's ´ultimate attenuator´ that aspires to be the first absolutely lossless attenuator ever. It converts the music signal from a voltage into a current, controls gain, and then reconverts the current into a voltage. A position of the volume knob is detected by sensors to be consequently evaluated by processor board that controls the current switches combinations, not unlike Accuphase’s AAVA volume control works. As the LECUA does not imply any impedance changes there is no deterioration of S/N ratio and frequency response remains totally uniform and there is virtually zero tracking difference between both channels. The entire process is carried out in analog domain including electrical suppression of RFI and EMI interferences.

Bass management

Weight
88
Slam
85
Articulation
84

Homesick James is one of the masters of southern delta blues. I auditioned many amplifiers that declared the truth and very often I got sick of the truth after a while. I auditioned amplifiers that were neutral but their neutrality was uninspiring and uninvolving. I also auditioned amplifiers that were so kind to sound to the extent that anything that passed through them was altered to euphonic infidelity. The L-590AX Mark II is truthful enough not to miss the tiniest detail, timbral accuracy, harmonic richness, powerful dynamics and transient speed. At the same time it is sophisticated enough to enchant you and invite you to share the deepest spirit of the music. With the Mark II you would rather move your dining table to your listening room than miss a single second of the performance. The L-590AX is not forgiving and let you know readily that the guy behind a mixing console had a bad day but it says so in very understated way.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
89
Air
90
Transparency
90

Tom Waits’ Goin´Out West (Bone Machine) track is underproduced in the typical ‘waitsian’ fashion and may seem to be made from rough ropes rather than fine fabric. If the resolution of an audio system is not sufficient a listener would end up with homogenous and muddled sound that is difficult to untangle. Fortunately, the Luxman L-590AX Mark II never allowed this – the dirty drums and cymbals of the track retained their dirtiness yet they became rich in colors and the accompanying guitar, that sounds lumpy through most amplifiers, attained juiciness and drive. The L-590AX also poured extra energy into hardrocking guitars in TNT (AC/DC, High Voltage). Still, you could track back the typical touch of elegance and smoothness with which the Mark II handled the highs of the track. As a result the album was very listenable (I’m talking about the remastered version that is surprisingly well done) and glowed with comfort and joy. Those who have ever experienced High Voltage on vinyl will especially rejoice – the Luxman somehow allows the analogue feel to shine through which is a very valuable feature considering the omnipresent loudness war and clipping.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
92
Dynamics
87
Temporal resolution
88

I cannot but praise the Japanese attitude towards tone controls. I have heard many times before that tone controls are something inappropriate for a high end amplifier. It seems, however, that when done right there is no harm to the delicate audio signal. I tried and repeatedly switched the Luxman’s LINE STRAIGHT button on and off with no meaningful result. Quite opposite: I learnt that with sensitive hand I could really adapt a recording to my taste by either finely highlighting or rolling off treble or bass. Even when you turn the tone control knob rudely you will not receive that shock in tonal balance that we are used to receive with commercial amplifiers. The L-590AX Mark II’s tone controls can be used to enhance listening experience and fine tune a particular recording to a listener’s taste. Thus I did not object to cast extra light to both frequency ends of notoriously known Ride Across The River (Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms) to better delineate the flute and rattles of the track and to increase the power of drums. By the way, it is not only the aural pleasure you would receive by turning the L-590AX’s tone control knobs – they are so precisely machined that it is a worthwhile experience itself.

Spatial resolution

Holography
91
Soundstage width
91
Soundstage depth
91

The L-590AX Mark II did the magic and completely erased the loudspeakers from my listening room so that with my eyes closed I was not able to identify their positions. Instead, I could identify the musicians within the three-dimensional soundstage and that was why (with the lights still dimmed) the listening turned out to be a be-there experience. As if the L-590AX Mark II could render also the cigarette smoke, heavy curtains and a worn out carpet, fingers dancing on strings and the ice, slowly melting in the last glass of whisky.

Price as reviewed:230 000,- 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: Luxman D-08u SACD a Luxman D-05 SACD, Audio Analogue Maestro Rev. 2.0 CD
  • Amplifiers: Accuphase E-560,  Accuphase E-450
  • Loudspeakers: Franco Serblin Accordo, Dynaudio Confidence C1
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Neyton Frankfurt, Crystal Connect Micro, Krautwire Fractal
  • Power conditioning: Vincent Power, Neyton Frankfurt, Telos Golden Reference, IsoTek Aquarius

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