LUXMAN L-550AX Mark II vs L-550AX

MJ04.08.2017

Integrated amplifiers

This review represents a one-to-one comparison of the new L-550AX Mark II integrated amplifier versus its predecessor, the L-550AX. Both amps were placed next to each other and hooked up to the same electronics in the same room. Additionally, the higher L-590AX Mark II model was available as a benchmark. Therefore I will focus only on differences in sound, not on technical parameters that are rather evolutionary than revolutionary.

Function and form

95%
Ease of use
80%
Sound
100%
Appearance

To find out how the Luxman's model have developed over the time please refer to our review of the Luxman L-590AX Mark II integrated amplifier.

The Mark II continues to use the backlit yellow  VU meters, retro buttons, the possibility to connect two pairs of speakers and use the preamp and power amp separately, as well as an excellent phono stage and a headphone amplifier already included. Thus the whole package is very price attractive.

The Mark II version's outside looks differ only by a subtle golden frame around the VU meters and the red Mark II logo. For technicalities please look into our picture gallery where we publish the comparison table between both the new and the older models.

Bass management

Weight
86
Slam
81
Articulation
81

The bass quality is the most important differentiator for the upgraded version. As far as the weight of the bass is concerned, both Luxmans are comparable. However, the midbass and the bass connection to midrange is much better with tyhe Mark II. The Mark II preserves the impression of softer tranzients that make sound like a hammer hitting apiano string or plucking of a guitar a bit 'slower' to develop, but the Mark II adds much more detailed bass textures and control. When I was listening to Claire Marlo, the original L-550AX had a tendency to mask the bass texture by resonating deep bass; with the Mark II it does not happe anymore and the bass is quick and precise. Inuitively such a behaviour is connected with a higher damping factor of the upgraded version.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
87
Air
87
Transparency
86

Atop of the bass control the L-550AX Mark II is more transparent. This is not due to significantly better midrange performance (though you can hear subtle differences here too when you turn down the tone controls for bass) but due to the simple fact that bass is any longer obscuring higher octaves. The reduction of this smear vacuum-cleans the midrange and the voices (Flying Pickets) are much more fun to listen to, with cleaner background and better in-room palpability.

Still it would be unfair to claim that the bass is the only change in how the new mark II is sounding. The brushed drum is much more resolved with the Mark II, both spatially and tonally. The wires of the brush that are not heard with the predecessor are clearly communicated with the Mark II.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
86
Dynamics
83
Temporal resolution
84

Like other Luxman amplifiers the Mark II remains to be harmonically rich with silky highs and sufficient spark. Anyway, if the Luxman is asked to choose between speed and brilliance, and elegant sophistication, it chooses the latter.

I also like the logic of the Luxman's amplifier range  - as a rule of thumb you pay more, you get better sound. As mentioned there are just evolutionary (but audible) differences between the L-550AX and L-550AX Mark II. When I switched to the L-590AX Mark II, it clearly showed its superiority and the sound was transformed to something completely different. NOW the brushes became brushier, the bass tight and dynamics explosive. Also the soundstage that is not bad at all with either of the L-550 became more natural.

Spatial resolution

Holography
89
Soundstage width
89
Soundstage depth
89

Luxman amps were always good in soundstaging and the Mark II is not an exception. Honestly speaking I do not hear any major differences between the new and the older model. Both are a bit reticent without any forwardness which helps create an illusion of depth - I liked it with jazz trios so much. Of course, the Mark II comes with a higher degree of spatial transparency, which is the natural outcome of the better bass control.

If you plan to acquire the Mark II then you have to consider the heat that the Class A amplifier generates. At idle it takesmore than 170W of power and having the three Luxmans on the rack during the day required proper room conditioning.

The question is: if you own the L-550AX, should you run to sell it and replace it by the Mark II version? Not necessarily, you can live happily with the L-550AX until a new generation (Mark III?) is out. But if you are looking for a new excellent integrated amplifier then the L-550AX Mark II (or the L-590AX Mark II) are among the best choices you can make.

Price as reviewed:149 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

HTP s.r.o., tel: +420 606 642 175

PP HiFi Otrokovice, tel. +420 603 581 305

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

Associated components

  • Sources: Luxman D-06 SACD
  • Amplifiers: Luxman L-590AX Mark II,  Luxman L-550AX
  • Loudspeakers: Atohm GT 2.0 HD
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Black Rhodium ACT 3 DCT++, Van Damme Silver series
  • Power conditioning: Supra MD-series, Pangea AC-9

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