LUXMAN L-509X

MJ14.05.2018

Integrated amplifiers

Though the new Luxman’s flagship in integrated amplifiers is not radically different from what we are used to see from the Japanese manufacturer, it is different enough to show new sonic horizons for the brand. Surfing on a success of Luxman’s separates the company has decided to use the same technology and deploy limits of integrated amplifiers. The L-509X is easily their best integrated to date.

100% reference

Function and form

96%
Ease of use
87%
Sound
100%
Appearance

No pictures that I had received prior to this review prepared me enough for a live encounter with the L-509X. Ergonomics of the front panel are derived from other Luxman amplifiers and represent a feast for lovers of smoothly turning knobs, silkiness of controls and graciously dancing VU meters. Yet the finish of the L-509X is one grade up from what we are used to – everything is an interplay of different shades of blasted aluminum white and blasted aluminum silver. Dark grey of Luxman’s side panels has been also replaced by generously looking aluminum pieces, the top panel ventilation grill now lends its designs from the C-900u/M-900u combo, the meters are now backlit by wash of silvery light, and each knob is faceted by gleaming hairline finish. A thick glass panel covering the central display was attached to the fascia in the M-900 and recessed in the M-700 – with the L-509X it is semi-recessed. All these small details add up to luxurious Cartier-like look of the amplifier.

Most of the internal architecture is derived from C-900u/M-900u top model. Luxman employs its signature negative feedback (ODNF version 4.0), 4 Parallel-Push-Pull bi-polar devices and 88-step volume control (LECUA 1000 attenuator), operates in Class AB and provides 2x120W per channel into 8 ohms – the power doubles to 2x220W into 4 ohms. The L-509X is very well equipped amplifier with 4 line inputs, 2 balanced inputs, recording in/output and separate in/output, binding posts for 2 pairs of speakers and a built-in MM/MC preamplifier and a phono preamplifier. The only thing missing is an onboard DAC which now finds its way into many integrateds, however Luxman conceived the L-509X as a serious audiophile amplifier which excludes connecting streamers.

There are two remarkable functions too. The loudness circuit senses the volume setting and adjusts the correction curve to human hearing physiology (Fletcher-Munson values) which gives extra listening comfort at soft volumes. And can you remember the line polarity sensor that used to be located at the rear panel of Luxman devices to tell the phase of the mains? It has been replaced by “touch & feel” sensor – lightly touch the top panel of the amp and if you feel slight tingling then you should reverse the electricity plug. It is a great idea.

Bass management

Weight
88
Slam
88
Articulation
88

The new Luxman L-509X was head to head compared to L-590AX Mark II which represented – until now – the top of the Luxman’s integrated range. Such a comparison provides also one important extra insight as L-590AX Mark II operates in Class A that has been prioritized by Luxman – until now.

The L-509X is a more powerful amplifier which projects into better grip on speakers - also  the amp produces notably less heat so it is less tricky in placement. Rolling timpani acquired better deifnition through the L-509X and were nicely delineated from the mass of the orchestra (Die Walküre, Zubin Mehta, Bavarian State Orchestra, single layer SACD). Similarly, a warm round bass guitar in Wicked Game (Chris Isaak) or a double bass in  Spanish Harlem (Rebecca Pidgeon) had both punchier transients, better articulation and more impact. The same recordings through the L-590AX Mark II were a bit more polite, the bass was slightly less precise, yet it had a bit more roundness to its tone and was (seemingly) going a bit deeper that has something to do with its slightly blurred edges. It should be clear by now that when I listened to Black Sabbath (Vol.4, Castle) I liked the L-509X presentation much more.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
90
Air
93
Transparency
93

The sound was as transparent as it was with the excellent separates C-900u/M-900u - the Luxman lets you hear ambience of the orchestra even before they start playing. The transparency boosts listening experience especially with winds and strings, horns in Walküre were incisively brassy and Isabelle Faust's violin poured out of the speakers with ease and spooky openness (Beethoven, Violin Sonata No.5, Harmonia Mundi). The same tracks through the L-590AX Mark II were marginally more colourful and a bit less immediate. It is not because that one amp is better than another, it is just the natural difference between the two designs, Class A vs AB. Even more these two philosophies are pronounced in tonality.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
90
Dynamics
89
Temporal resolution
90

Vocals were beautiful with the L-509X, they had perfect ambience and firm contours, actually they were very alive in the listening room. The L-590AX Mark II uses more colours in its tonal pallete, however the vocals are more decently blended with orchestration. As said, the L-509X walks in the direction of the Luxman's flaghsip, the C-900u/M-900u preamplifier and power amplifier combo and masterfully balances on the assets of both the Class A and AB. It also does not have any touch of cold air that I felt with the C-700u/M-700u that should be theoretically the nearest step up in the catalogue.

Spatial resolution

Holography
91
Soundstage width
91
Soundstage depth
91

The L-509X manages to keep the Luxman's signature: the ability to let instruments trail off, the aura of a sound fading out into silence. On top of it adds improved imaging that I appreciated when listened to operas that require precise tracking of interprets on a stage. With the L-509X I knew at any given moment where the vocalists were and what they were doing relative to the positions of microphones.

I had two pianos at home, both are professionally tuned and each has its distinct voice. depending on the material that is played I prefer the tranzient dynamics of one or rich tonality of another. The same feeling I had with the L-509X vs L-590AX Mark II. I would marginally prefer the latter for classical orchestration and definitely the former for the rest of my music collection. Personally I really applaud to Luxman - it is not resting on laurels and tries to shape the sound in a good direction. Already now it is in a premier league of amplifiers.

Price as reviewed:250 000,- 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-06u SACD Ultimate Edition
  • Amplifiers: Luxman L-590AX Mark II, Luxman C-900u/M-900u
  • Loudspeakers: Focal Diablo Utopia
  • Interconnects and speakercables: Van Damme SIlver Series, Black Rhodium Act 3 DCT++
  • Power conditioning: Gigawatt PC-3 SE EVO, Pangea AC-9MkII/AC-14SEmkII

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