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 EQUIPMENT REVIEW
Luxman L-550A-Ii
integrated amplifier
By Ed Selley
ave for a brief period at the end of the last century,
Luxman has been producing a distinctive range
of high end audio equipment since 1925. Re-
launched in 2005, the current range includes
both vacuum tube and sold state amplifiers and
a range of CD, SACD and universal disc players. The L-550A-
Il here is the entry level Class A integrated amp with another
integrated and a range of pre-power amps above it, The L-550A-
| is a descendent of the original L-55 Class A amp of 1981
and shares much of the same design philosophy whilst at the
same time benefitting from nearly thirty years of technological
advancement.
Arriving well packed in a truly enormous triple-thickness box,
the L-550A-1l is nothing if not imposing. The overall dimensions
are more in keeping with an AV receiver and it is likely that the
top shelf of an equipment rack will be required to accommodate
it. Fit and finish is extremely good - the casework is non resonant
and the major controls operate with a precision and solidity that
is reassuring considering the number of them on the front panel.
Unusually in this day and age, the L-550A-11 has front panel
controls, for bass, treble, balance, recording input selection,
speaker selection and a stereo/mono function, In addition there
are push button switches for additional functions- including of
course a button to switch most of these functions out of the
circuit. The large input selector control and volume knob flank
a pair of backlit VU meters that help to give the L-550A-11 an
unashamedly retro appearance. Special mention must be given
to the remote which is a rather lovely affair comprising a one
piece wraparound aluminium top section with well spaced and
clearly marked buttons that control volume, input selection,
stand by and muting. | can also hopefully save a would be
owner a few minutes of head scratching by
pointing out there is a master power switch
on the underside of the unit. | am sure this
is mentioned in the manual but as the entire
document is in Japanese, it is not entirely
obvious for us gaijin.
The rear panel has four line inputs,
a switchable moving magnet/moving coll
phono stage and two tape loops. Two of the
line inputs can be selected to run via balanced
inputs, a function that is increasingly useful
as this connection becomes increasingly
common on source equipment at the price.
An interesting feature of the balanced inputs
is that both wiring types of XLR connector
are accepted as the earth can be switched
by pushing a small button next to the input.
This is welcome as the L-550A-I will work
happily with any balanced unit irrespective
of its origin. A linked set of connections
allow the L550A-ll to operate as either a
pre or power amplifier. Out of the box, all
the connections are covered with blanking
plugs which if nothing else help to keep the
connections dust and dirt free.
Internally, the L-550A-11 is as well
constructed as its exterior suggests with
a well laid out circuit and good quality
components throughout. The lower plate
of the chassis and the four feet on which it
sits are heavily damped and suggest that
considerable effort has been taken to make the amp as inert as possible
from the ground up. Stated output is 20 watts into 8 ohms rising to 30 watts
into 4 ohms at commendably low distortion figures. The output is split over
two sets of speaker terminals that can be switched in and out independently.
The L-550A-11 makes use of a proprietary Luxman circuit described as Only
Distortion Negative Feedback (ODNF) which works to identify distortion and
noise and apply only sparing levels of feedback to suppress them. Also
present is a line phase sensor, a device that can ascertain if the mains outlet
is incorrectly wired. | am pleased to say that the sensor indicated that all was
fine with my mains, which is perhaps just as well as | would not have had the
faintest idea on how to correct the situation if it wasn't.
Sonically the Luxman is a talented and in some ways surprising amplifier.
First and most obvious is that the 20 watt output seems to go an awfully long
way. Partnered with my B&W's which although not insensitive do respond
well to a healthy power input, it generated more than adequate levels for my
listening environment. Elaborate preparations | had made to do much of the
critical listening through a pair of Living Voice OBX's proved fairly irrelevant
although one extended session was carried out with them revealing that
results with larger, more sensitive speakers were no less impressive. At no
stage did the L-550A-11 suggest that it was anywhere near running out of
steam. The output from unbalanced inputs, balanced inputs and the phono
stage were all surprisingly close and all could achieve levels that were more
than adequate. Like other Class A designs, the L550A-1I takes a little while
to reach its working temperature and optimal performance but this is only a
matter of minutes and although warm, the top plate is safe to touch at all times.
The overall presentation is reasonably neutral with slight warmth to the upper
registers giving lushness to vocals | found extremely appealing. It is extremely
At no stage did the L-550-A-11
suggest that it was anywhere
near running out of steam.
Gide 31 Issue 66
EQUIPMENT REVIEW |
TECHNICAL
SPECIFICATIONS
Inputs! Phono (MM/MC), 4x single-
ended line inputs, 2x tape monitor
inputs, 1x XLR input
Cuipuis: 2x tape outputs, XLR output,
2x speaker terminal sets
Continuous Output: 20W + 20W/80
Class A
40W + 40W/40
lotal Harmaenic Distortion: 0,006% or less
(8Q at 1KHz)
0.03% or less (80 from 20Hz-20KHz)
Input Sensitivity impedance
Phono (MM): 2.5mV/47kQ
Phono (MC): 0.3mV/1000
Line: 180mV/42k0
Balanced line: 180mV/79kQ
Mann: 450mV/51k0
Output Voltage
Recorder 180mV and Pre-out: 1V
Signal-to-Noise Ratio
Phono (MM): Above 91dB
Phone (MC): Above 75dB
Line: Above 106dB
Frequency Response
Phono: 20Hz-20kHz (+0.5dB)
Line: 20Hz-100kHz (+0dB, -3dB)
lone Controls: Bass £10dB at 100Hz and
Treble £10dB at 10kHz
Loudness Control: +7d8 (+1dB) at
100Hz, +5dB (£1dB) at 10kHz
Controls
Power meter, headphones jack
Recording selector
Speaker selector (A and B). stereo /
mono selector
Tone controls, balance and direct line
Sub sonic filter, loudness and line phase
sensor
Remote control
Electric Power Consumption: 190W (on,
but without a signal), 1.3W [idle)
Dimensions (WxHxD): 44.5%17.8x43.4cm
Weight: 21.95kg
» accurate with piano, strings and other instrumental tripwires sounding tangibly
real and possessed of a genuine presence. This tonality and detail is achieved
without falling into stridency and harshness which is a welcome achievement.
A convincing soundstage is generated be it a single piano or full orchestral
work and the L-550A-1l has no difficulty in being totally believable irrespective
of the music being played.
This accuracy extends to the timing and sense of rhythm that the Luxman
brings to the music. Where rhythm should be present — Kraftwerk's peerless
Minimum Maximum for example, it is present in spades with the Luxman
imparting real force and flow to proceedings. When this propulsive force is
less desirable- the delicacy of Cinematic Orchestra's Ma Fleur being one, this
urgency is reined in leaving the recording to move as it should. This even
handedness is welcome for those of us with music collections that span the
gentle to the lunatic as all recordings are presented as they should be. Indeed
after some weeks with the Luxman unobtrusively playing everything “just so”
| am left aware that my permanent amplifier is not so even handed in this
regard. All of the recordings are further assisted by the Luxman's agile and
tuneful bottom end. More powerful Class AB amplifiers can go slightly deeper
but what there is reproduced with convincing force and at the same time the
details that are easily submerged in the quest for power are all present and
correct.
Special mention must go to the on board phono stage. Switched to the
moving coil section this formed a very happy partnership with my Dynavector
DV20x and meant that a goodly proportion of my listening was done with vinyl.
The stage should be considered a viable alternative to some serious separate
contenders up to the £500 point. The excellent detail retrieval coupled with
low noise and the same beautiful even handedness are extensions of the
amplifier as a whole and even flattered very poor pressings such as Placebo's
Meds which normally defies attempts to derive much enjoyment from it.
Furthermore, the convenience of having the stage internally and consequent
freeing up of a mains socket and interconnect was a welcome bonus as well.
By the same token, the headphone amplifier is more than up to the job of
occasional listening on cans.
REVIEW / Luxman L-550A-II integrated amplifier
| had envisaged summansing the
attributes of the L-550A-11 with provisos
about the available power and the limitations
that this would impose. In truth unless you
are possessed of a very big room and very
insensitive speakers, these provisos do not
really apply. In fact, the L-550A-11 provides
a far more complete solution than | had
anticipated. The performance of the amplifier
is easily competitive with similar designs
but when the solid build quality, excellent
connectivity and superb phono stage are
taken into account it must be considered
exceptional value even at its relatively lofty
price point. The Luxman L550A-ll manages
to offer a beguiling audio performance
matched with the convenience of an excellent
feature set. Behind the retro appearance
is a thoroughly modern and extremely well
thought out amplifier that should work well in
a many systems. "Г
Ls 32
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