LUXMAN C-900u / M-900u

MJ16.10.2014

Preamplifiers

After I carefully positioned a pair of loudspeakers I removed my usual pink noise CD and replaced it with music. The room was flooded with Beethoven’s Seventh and my jaw dropped – not only is the new Luxman’s combo a two-generation leap but it also comes with performance that hardly has a competition at its asking price.

100% reference

Function and form

98%
Ease of use
87%
Sound
100%
Appearance

The proprietary Luxman’s volume regulator, the LECUA system, can be found here in 4-parallel devices – left and right channels and bi-amping mode. The all new LECUA 1000 increases the number of steps so with the C-900u it is possible to regulate volume in 88 increments between 0 and -87dB.

The C-900u provides usual and sufficient connectivity on its rear panel: 3 RCA inputs, 3 balanced XLR inputs, 2 RCA and 2 XLR outputs, one RCA input for a control amplifier that helps to make the Luxmans a part of AV system, and remote link connection. The main power switch is placed next to the IEC inlet - the front power button only brings the amp to STAND BY.

The front panel of the preamplifier is quite busy: big volume and input selector knobs, tone controls, line direct and balance switches, an output mode selector and even a button for external control amp. Unlike many I do not mind the tone controls – if they do not affect the performance when in signal path they can help to improve tonal balance of an imperfect source, tape recorder for instance. Personally I prefer the uncluttered front view of the C-1000f to the crowded C-900u look – delegating some controls to the remote controller would help.

Bass management

Weight
90
Slam
89
Articulation
91

Apart from the soundstaging capabilities and much improved transparency, there is something even more important that makes the Luxman combo so outstanding: bass quality is probably the area where the Luxmans made the biggest leap. The bass of the M-900u is deep enough for any recording and it has enough weight not to cause proportional misbalance in frequency spectrum. It digs deep to the basement yet the sound does not stay confined underground and swiftly gets back to daylight if music calls for it. On top of it the bass of the Luxman combo is miraculously delineated.

Master and Margarita (Malgorzata Zalewska, Crater´s Edge) is a brutal test for any piece of high end gear. A harp that is played live is accompanied by synthesized lines that start at subsonic extremes and extend up to supersonics. Ladies and gentlemen (though I already lost by faith that audio reviews are read by ladies), I have never heard better rendering of the bass in Master and Margarita than through the Luxmans. The only system that had bettered it in definition was all-digital based Lyngdorf Millennium, yet it lacked the Luxman’s weight. The C-900u and M-900u not only managed to transfer the subterranean lows but they managed to keep them resolved across the octaves. No smearing, no mud, just impactful and strong bass lines, one by one. I loved it!

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
92
Air
91
Transparency
91

Notwithstanding all that was said the Luxman combo will most likely not appeal to anyone whose music collection favours rock’n roll. The electric guitar in Sheer Heart Attack (Queen, News of The World) is precise and full through the M-900u and the C-900u, yet it lacks ultimate bite and electrifying presence I heard through the Van Medevoort, for example. I suspect it is a kind of tax for class A as the tonal purity and textural resolution brings (almost) always along the slightest touch of transient roundness. If you like your music hard and aggressive, look elsewhere. If you are looking for refinement and grace, Luxman is the right address and I am afraid that there is no other amplifier at the Luxman’s asking price level that combines all the positive treats so skilfully.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
90
Dynamics
90
Temporal resolution
92

I have recently spent few days with astonishing triplet of Van Medevoort amplifiers - PAQs/CAQ/DAQ. On the same track, Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker (Nutcracker), the Luxman exhibited more even mids without any audible perturbation that were tonally and texturally closer to the real event. The Van Medevoort counterstruck with a grade higher dynamic contrast to make differences between pianissimo and forte much more dramatic and orchestral scale more believable. I assume that three times bigger power output of the Van Medevoort (2x300W in class A) makes the dynamics bloom. Is it a concern for the Luxman?

Perhaps the IsoTek’s Super Titan that was used for the M-900u bottlenecked energy for the power amp? I experimented with shuffling the power cord between the IsoTek and the wall and decided to keep the amplifier plugged in the Super Titan. Without it the sound lacked everything, gone was the imaging magic, definition, dynamics and highs became harsher. It is fair to say that the Van Medevoort PAQs is by 5000€ (30%) more expensive. When I compare to a direct competitor, the Accuphase A-65, the sound of the M-900u is more alive, more detailed and more defined at low octaves, yet it manages to keep the aura that is common for refined performances of both. The children choir in Waltz of Snowflakes came to life in the listening room through the Luxman combo and transformed the room into a real ballroom. Waltz is a royal dance and it needs to be reproduced like that so I appreciated a lot that the Luxmans, behind their high resolution, never sounded mechanic and uninvolving, although technically perfect, like many of high end esoterica amplifiers on the market.

Spatial resolution

Holography
94
Soundstage width
94
Soundstage depth
94

The M-900u and C-900u provide wide and deep look into the soundstage of the London´s Barbican. The Luxmans excel in instrumental separation yet they manage to convey the wholeness of the symphonic orchestra. They can dissect if you want them to dissect – Allegretto begins with muted cellos and the Luxmans bring the smell of resin on strings to the listening room. You can feel how variable is the pressure of bows on strings, you see the incidental moves of the cellists, and if you wish you can just pick up one cello and follow it through the rest of the piece with its full front to back perspective.

Imaging of the Luxmans is pinpoint sharp. Not only within the depth and width of the soundstage but also in vertical space – tympani, for example, sit recessed in the soundstage at a level slightly above the orchestra. One of the best tests for imaging can be found at Chesky´s Jazz sampler. Four musicians with percussive instruments (shaker, maraca, hand drum and wood blocks) are marching through a reverberant chapel, approaching a microphone, making three rounds around it and disappearing through the gate in the back of the chapel.
Through the Luxmans the portrayal of the event was impressively precise and solid. As mentioned earlier, the sound did not disintegrated into small sonic events – the detail for the sake of the detail – as well as the LSO never lost its communication power as an orchestra. This is what the Luxmans continue pursuing with all grace and magic – they lure you into the music.

Price as reviewed:400 000,- 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-05, Luxman DAC DA-06
  • Amplifiers: Luxman C-900u, Luxman M-900u
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Neyton Nuernberg XLR, Audioquest Mont Blanc
  • Loudspeakers: Usher Dancer CP-8571
  • Power conditioning: IsoTek Super Titan, kabely IsoTek and Neyton

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After I carefully positioned a pair of loudspeakers I removed my usual pink noise CD and replaced it with music. The room was flooded with Beethoven’s Seventh and my jaw dropped – not only is the new Luxman’s combo a two-generation ...

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

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