Hi-Fi Review: Luxman 590 AXII Integrated Amplifier Review.
By Steve Huff
Welcome to another HiFi review. You can see my audio reviews HERE.
I will be honest. Luxman is a brand I have always admired from afar in HiFi. They have been making HiFi gear for over 50 years and over the last few years they have been making some of the most beautiful looking and sounding integrated amplifiers in the world (if we are to believe the rave reviews they get).
I have always admired their class A line of integrated amps, the 590 series to be specific. Luxman has the 550 series and the 590 series in their line of Class A Integrated Amplifiers with the 550 series coming in at around $5k and the 590 series around $9k. Both are beasts and beautiful ones at that but the 590 has always had my interest. Now in its latest and greatest version, the 590 AXII, this could be one of those “end game” pieces in HiFi.
It has it all..looks, build, sound and longevity. If you are reading this then I will assume you already know what this piece is about, and that you are really into 2 Channel Audio and Music. I have had a “system” for well over 30 years and it’s one of those things that I love, as for me, I listen to music every single day. I have a room dedicated to it where I can sit, dim the lights and zen out to my favorite artists and tunes with that ever so lovely “sweet spot” where the music just sounds like magic, and very “in the room”.
But getting back to this integrated amp, high end two channel analog audio and this integrated amp does NOT come cheap. Much like a fine camera system, HiFi can be a wallet buster.
I just could never afford or justify a Luxman purchase, nor did I ever have a local dealer to audition them. If I did have the cash, there were no dealers near me. Well, until recently!
I’ve always had a thing for big glowing meters in amps, especially when they glow with a soft yellow light in a dark room ; )
The no dealer thing? I always saw that as a good thing. Why you ask? Well, if I had a local Luxman dealer that means I would actually get to see one in the flesh, maybe even audition it in my home. That usually spells trouble for me and my wallet and over these last 30+ years in HiFi (which has been lifelong for me in reality) I have bought pieces that wowed me initially only to make me regret them later after extended listening. I have vowed that if I ever upgrade or change out from my long running fave, the Line Magnetic 219ia, which has been my tube integrated reference for years now…that it would have to be for something very special.
Being so Happy with that Line Magnetic 219ia I stayed out of the local HiFi shop for a while, which for me is Arizona Hi-Fi. One of the coolest HIFi shops ever to exist in this state, well actually, it is and always has been the coolest in my opinion. We have a handful of HiFi shops in Phoenix and the surrounding areas but for me and my tastes in HiFi shops, none are as laid back, enjoyable and fun as AZ HiFi.
The shop is small, but loaded with some of the nicest/coolest HiFi and tube audio you can find. Shindo, Line Magnetic, Leben and others line the shelves of this virtual CandyLand for us HiFi guys (and gals, the few that there are who enjoy this crazy hobby). I even meet and shoot local music with one of the employees of Az HiFi as he is an avid live music photographer, and shoots ALL OVER the city. Mr Bill Goodman.
I had a long break from buying HiFi…well, sort of…
After a long break from visiting the shop (I always spend too much money when I visit) I went in one day to pick up cables (or something). I do not remember exactly what it was but as I looked around I noticed they had a shiny new Luxman 590 AXII sitting on the shelf. Turns out they picked up the brand a while ago, shortly after my last visit. This 590AXII is an integrated amp I have had interest in for years, in its prior version, but this was the latest and greatest 590 AXII model. Now this is not something I would or could ever just order blind as this is a $8900 integrated Amplifier, or $900 more than a Leica M10-P Camera!
Just as with the camera world, HiFi is expensive and when you start to crawl around the high end areas you can go crazy, and yes, much higher than even this for just one piece of your system. (Think $20K pre amps, $30k amps, and yes, even $40k in cables can be found if you know where to look).
But seeing it in the flesh, right in front of me, I could not stop eyeballing this gorgeous Luxman. Years and years of curiosity about the very amp my eyeballs were glued to were tempting me to want to take it home and give it a listen, and I knew if I did it could potentially spell trouble for my bank account. Even so, how could I not give it a listen? Besides, I told myself “highly unlikely I will like it better than my 219”.
I have owned some high-end amps in my time, but this Luxman for me was always the holy grail in looks, build and from what the reviews always said, sound. All CLASS A, 30 WPC into 8 Ohms, and 60 into 4 ohms with reserves on top of that when the going gets tough (up to 90 WPC class A/B (from what someone measured) into 8 ohms, even more in to 4 ohms, like 120-140 WPC).
Power has never been a concern for these Class A Luxman Integrated amps. There is something special about Class A and even a low sounding 30-60 WPC class A has oomph but with a much sweeter sound than class A/B or D. Class A is the way to go for these ears, and my current amp, the Line Magnetic 219ia is also Class A, but 24 WPC and tubed. Yes I am a fan of Class A and when going solid state, for me, that is the way to go to avoid any solid state “hardness”. Yes, I ALWAYS hear that in some way with most solid state amps that are not class A.
After staring at this beast for 10 minutes my curiosity about this integrated got the best of me and I asked for an in home try out. The owner said “Take it home” and he loaded it in my car for me. Woohoo! Truth be told I was excited to hear it but also was hoping it would fall flat (as I am not a fan of spending large chunks of money). I knew my Line Magnetic 219 was my fave tube integrated amp of all time and wondered how this Luxman could ever beat it. The dealer knew that if I took it home, then I would probably want it. He knows me well now, lol. So away I went with the 590 AXII in the car to pit it against my beloved 219.
The First Listen
Arrived home, lugged in the 65LB amp, made the connections and let it warm up for 20 minutes. As I sat down to listen I was immediately noticing a difference in sound. It was undeniable. Was it better? I wasn’t really sure yet. I do know what I heard and how it was different from the 219ia, so I will describe those differences below:
- It has MUCH more bass impact. It was like the lower bass was activated several notches up, In a good way. Yes indeed, the 219ia is much lighter in the lower bass impact dept than this all Class A Luxman 590AXII.
- More detail, and better layering. I was hearing little details I did not hear with the 219ia and a special kind of layering was going on where layers of the music were presenting themselves in an organic, delicate and natural way.
- A slightly more forward midrange, as in voices came out into the room dead center a tad more than the 219ia. As for midrange, the 219ia is magic here but the Luxman is no slouch, in fact some may say the Luxman is better as it still has that throaty full mid but it is a tad cleaner and clearer than the 219ia with no veil over the sound, at all. It does not have the big tube mids but they are still quite nice.
- It gave my speakers what seemed to be a shot of adrenaline and drove them with a tad more authority. It even is now driving inefficient Sonus Faber Guarneri Traditions very nicely indeed.
- It was more delicate and did very well at low volumes, just as the 219 did (though it does sound a little thinner at low volumes over the 219ia which was pretty fat sounding even when using 1/4 of a watt) but remember, I am using highly sensitive speakers here. Even so, low volume listening is fantastic. No complaints. At all.
Now, keep in mind these were my very 1st impressions, and they changed after a few days. But compared to the 219ia, it was a very different beast. Did it sound like Solid State vs tubes? Sort of, but this Luxman does not sound like most Solid State integrated amps.
It’s richer, yet delicate. It’s juicier, yet never bloated. It’s very transparent but never harsh or analytical. It is a slow burner meaning the more you listen the more you realize how special this piece is. I will talk more below about my thoughts after a full month with this amp.
I once owned the McIntosh MA7000 and was not a huge fan of it… and then the MA8000 (I know I know..WHY?). The MA8000 was a $10,000 integrated but hey, it had it all, even a DAC built in. I will tell you now that this Luxman surpasses the big McIntosh for me and my tastes. In sound, in design, in build and well, in everything. That McIntosh had something like 300 WPC. So here I am comparing the sound of a Class A 30WPC to a Class A/B 300 WPC amp that costs more money. FACT: The Big McIntosh had cheap feeling plastic dials as well which really surprised me. I remember thinking “how that could be”? at the price it was being sold for. In comparison the Luxman dials feel like $10k where the McIntosh felt like $500. But that’s part of the build, what about the sound?
Large-capacity power supply circuit helps make this amp sing..
In comparison to the Big Mac, The Luxman has more detail, a much wider soundstage, is more delicate to those details and has incredible imaging. It also sounds just as powerful, which confuses me. It’s not, not even close by the numbers, but in the real world, these 30 watts from the Luxman seem to be pretty powerful watts (with plenty reserve), that are magically pumping out more power than they should be. The McIntosh in comparison gave a more direct, flatter fuller sound but some may prefer that type of big bad ass American muscle.
What I mean is there is no deep audiophile magic with the McIntosh, or not much of it, especially the MA7000. The MA8000 did have something special about it but this Luxman is better in all areas, and for $1100 less cash outlay. The McIntosh also has a built-in DAC which is good but not anything special (will compete with $350 dacs). The McIntosh phono stage is decent but the one in the Luxman had me trade back my $2500 dedicated phono preamp as it was just that good. When I look at these two side by side, the value goes to the Luxman due to the sound, and overall quality of the piece as well as that Phono stage inside the Luxman. It has wonderful value if you are to keep it for many many years.
The Phono Stage
The phono pre in the Luxman 590 AXII offers a setting for MM or MC. No, you can’t do any special loading or change gain settings but running my Clearaudio Performance DC Wood with Tracer Arm and a Hanna HO MC this Luxman makes it all SING so nicely. I was running a class A Sugden Masterclass Phono Stage that set me back $2500. After plugging into the Luxman I noticed maybe a 5% decrease in bass but at the same time, I liked it more as it was a little more spacious and ethereal. Less fat but flowed nicely. Wow, I was shocked at the grace and beauty of this sound which matched the amp when playing my digital source as well.
This is when I really understood how special this piece was, and this has only happened once before to me, and that was with the Line Magnetic 219ia that I was now considering trading in towards this Luxman. But I had more listening to do as I knew if I traded in my 219 I may regret it. I had to dig in….
Class A Heat?
Yes indeed, The Luxman starts to heat up after 15 minutes and starts to sweat out some of that magic that us Audio nerds love. Even so it is putting out way less heat than I thought it would, which is awesome. I live in Phoenix AZ and my 219 would heat up my room after two hours to where I could no longer listen. This Luxman? No problem.
I’ve spoken of it before but there is just something about Class A amps. Pass Labs, Sugden, Luxman…Yes, they are inefficient and run hot but this 590 AXII puts out about 1/4 the heat of the 219ia. Yes, 1/4. It’s not that hot really.
I have tried many integrated amps as I am one who enjoys them for their simplicity and all in one design. None have been able to unseat the 219ia for a few reasons. The 219ia for me, was and is a very beautiful piece of audio equipment. Nothing quite like it in the world, and the price is amazing for what you get. My review of that piece is HERE if you missed it.
The sound leans warm, very rich and it has a very powerful 24 class A watts that has powered any speaker I tried with it in my small room. I love that sound, and the glow of tubes. But it does have drawbacks.
That all tube 219ia, well, it gets crazy hot. As in, hotter than any amp I have ever witnessed in life. It raises my music room temp by several degrees and after 2 hours I have to turn it off due to the heat. It’s also heavy and near impossible to move by myself (100lbs). It also has very expensive tubes and when one blows, it will cost you dearly.
With all that said, it is still my all time fave integrated tube amp. I sort of love that amp, and have a bond with it. Even so, this Luxman was offering a different flavor. The Luxman was more transparent, offered a wider soundstage with my Cornwall III (see my review of these HERE) and Guarneri Tradition and had more depth to the sound. It was not as “fat” or warm but was never clinical or cold either. It had more grunt and drive and well, has the build quality and beauty second to none. This Luxman is a true Heirloom piece that could last me the rest of my life if I let it ; )
At $8900 it is insanely expensive for an integrated 2 channel amp without any DAC, or bells and whistles. But that is part of why it is so good. It’s pure, it’s analog and those class A watts are sublime. Much like a Leica camera. Less is MORE, even in HiFi. I prefer it without a bunch of stuff crammed inside, which will lower the quality of the sound.
Before you even think about it, no, nothing you can find from Best Buy will ever even get to even 20% of this beast in build, sound or quality. For me it has beaten $10k McIntosh integrated amps and other tube amps from Cary, Ayon and others. If I can be 100% honest, it is a better amp than that magical 219ia I love so much. It’s more practical as well. It offers a more balanced sound without ever being harsh or flat or sterile. In fact it leans to the richer side of the audio spectrum with amazing layering, imaging and soundstage. A very sweet sound but never bloated or veiled.
It’s full yet detailed and offers a delicate sound where the instruments are voices hang and float in space, even with these speakers that many say do not image. They do, and do it well with the Luxman. With the Sonus Faber Guarneri Tradition, even better. Magic is in the air with this combo.
In my 20+ years of HiFi, one of the most fun speakers (and least expensive) I have ever owned though not for HiFi snobs…see my review HERE.
SO I DID IT!
So yes, I ended up trading in my beloved 219ia AND the Sugden phono stage towards the Luxman 590AXII after a 2 week home demo. Now with over a month of use I have NO REGRETS. Phew!
The 590 AXII from Day one to Day 30
The first 30 days with a fresh out of box 590AXII does bring changes to the sound. I will try my best to describe what those were. Burn in IS REAL when you have a revealing system with higher end cables, etc. Easy to hear differences at this level…so here we go….
Week One: Out of the box the sound is fantastic if not a tad warm and full. I love the way it sounded out of the box though it was a little full. After a few days it leaned out and sounded thin to me. I was starting to worry about it as THIN is not a sound I like. But I let it run as Luxman recommends 450 hours to fully get this amp to open up.
Week Two: Weird things were happening. One day it would sound amazing and the next it would be thin and lacking in bass. I thought I was going insane but knowing how these things go, I was patient. This was a strange week with the amp but I played it daily for 8-10 hours. Even if I was not in the room, I let it run.
Week Three: Noticing a lack of bass more than ever, has me worried! Even with my big Cornwall III speakers! Soundstage shrunk and I found myself needing to engage the loudness feature to get a fuller sound. This was NOT GOOD as I never use loudness, but only “direct” mode for the most pure signal! Eek! I forge ahead and hope week four brings some changes. If not, I will be very sad that I made this mistake.
Week Four: Hmmm. Changes are happening here. It’s crazy but week four had the amp opening up dramatically. Bass came back and I remember sitting and listening one night using Roon and Tidal Streaming. I said “This is as good as it can get with these speakers” and it was magical. A rich full sound, perfect bass which was tight and present, a mid bass that was fleshed out yet never even close to boomy and a sweet high end that was in no way flat or hard. It was like day one but much better with more transparency. With only 200-220 hours on the amp, it still may have some improvements in it but week four stopped my worry as at this point it was exceeding my 219ia with a different but more enjoyable listen.
After a long run, I say goodbye to the 219ia …
So here I am, listening right now to Pink Martini and I am happy as I could be. I no longer miss my 219ia as I do not miss the heat it put out nor the worry of tubes blowing or needing replacement (845’s are expensive, for the good ones). While I get a different sound and presentation from the Luxman, I actually enjoy it a little more. I will say right now that technically, this is indeed the nicest Integrated amp I have ever had in this room. Others were wonderful (Yamaha S3000, Raven Tube, McIntosh MA8000, Line Magnetic 219ia, AR 75vsi) but none hit every chord with me like this Luxman 590 AXII has. Some came very close but none just had it all – The Beauty, The Build, The Sweetness, The Convenience of Solid State with a more Tube like Sound and even the ability to drive almost any speaker in my room with only 30/60 watts per channel.
With my Cornwall III speakers this amp is heavenly but I also brought in other speakers to test it out. If it could not drive lower sensitivity speakers then it would not have been for me.
Falcon Acoustic LS3/5A, Dynaudio Special 40’s, KEF LS50’s and some B&W’s stand mounted speakers that cost around $2500. This amp powered them all with authority and ease, and these speakers I just listed (Dynaudio, Falcon, KEF and B&W) are 85-87 DB efficient! The Luxman did not even break a sweat powering any of them. Of those three bookshelf speakers the Dynaudio Special 40’s were indeed the most special. They had gorgeous mids and a wider soundstage and are a bargain at their asking price.
This amp also drives the Sonus Faber Guarneri Traditions in a beautiful, sweet, organic yet powerful way. I thought I needed more power at first but nope, this amp gets it done but remember my room is 12X13 so it’s small. Not a lot of power needed even for speakers that are a harder drive.
The Build of this amp is as good as it gets. Made in Japan (this is a good thing) with bulletproof build.
THE FINAL WORD
This Luxman 590 AXII is without question, as a whole, the finest integrated amp I have ever reviewed, and I have reviewed some amazing amps (I only review products I LOVE. If I d not like them, I do not review them). Yes, as of 2019 this one takes the prize as it the most well balanced of them all, most beautiful of them all, and built better than all of the rest as I know this will last me the rest of my life, if I let it. Easier said than done for an audiophile.
As for sound, it’s delicate yet powerful, rich, big, and sweet yet detailed. Never really heard anything quite like it. It took a few weeks to burn in but now it is as open as the sky above.
This leads me to say this. If you buy this amp, make sure your speaker cables and source are up to what this amp is capable of. I often see some buy big expensive amps only to skimp on cables, source, etc. This amp deserves the best you can give it.
I stream using ROON and Spotify Connect through my DirectStream DAC Bridge and use the internal phono stage of the Luxman for my turntable which is the best internal phono stage I have come across in an integrated (though of course a $5k external will beat it).
The PS Audio Directstream Junior DAC.
Back to the Luxman
If you are looking for an integrated amp, and have a healthy budget (I managed it with trade ins) then I can state without hesitation that this Luxman 590 AXII is a winner. It unseated my long time favorite tube piece, the 219ia and that was no easy task.
I bought mine from Arizona HiFi, my fave local shop. If you are looking for anything HiFi, you can see their contact and location info HERE.
Some will ask me why I did not go for the newer Luxman 509x which is class A/B and puts out more wattage. Well, if you read this review then you would know why. I’m a class A guy as I like the sound of class A designs more than class A/B or D. It has a magic, a special ambiance and sound that speaks to my heart. It’s a close to tubes as you can get with solid state. ; )
The 509x is also getting raves so if you have a large space, and hard to drive speakers that would be the one to go with in the Luxman line. Either way it will have the same build, looks, and vibe of the 590 AXII (with a much cooler looking top plate). Huge glowing meters, solid dials that just scream quality and build and sound to match its price point. This is a piece that will last forever and sometime in the year 2045 many will be looking out for one as a vintage piece from 2018, just as we do today for classic designs of the 1970’s.
Yes, the 590 AXII is that good.
Is this the best integrated amp of all time? Probably not as this kind of thing is a personal choice. What I like you may not, and vice versa. Some say the ultimate integrated is the Pass Labs INT-250 or the Gryphon Diablo 300, both more expensive and even heavier and larger (though I would love to test them). With HiFi, the more we pay the more we get but sometimes those improvements are very small for a lot more cash. I am happy right here and again, if I let it, this amp could be my last integrated amp ever. ; )
UPDATE JAN 11th 2019: So this amp has been running in my system, being used daily ever since it arrived. I just wanted to say again what I have said above, that this is an amazing piece. In fact, I love it more today than when I wrote this review. The life it breathes into the music is seductive and beautiful as it somehow can combine ethereal with detail, and is never ever harsh nor ever dull. I’ve not had a better integrated amp in my system, well, ever. The Luxman 590 AXII may one day have a new model to succeed it but doesn’t mean it will be better, just different.
To improve on this would mean spending much much more, and losing the physical beauty of this amp which gives us a slight retro vibe but with some of the best build I have seen in an integrated (beats the McIntosh MA8000 I used to own in this regard easily).
In any case, this amp now powers Sonus Faber Guarneri Tradition speakers quite nicely in my room. It’s like magic every time I turn it on but the heart of this system is not the speakers but rather the Luxman. I’m listening to more music than ever now, and I attribute this to how musical my system is. This is due to the Luxman, then the DAC, then the Speakers, then the Cables.
I had a few over listening to this system in December and even this month, January 2019. They were amazed at the black backgrounds, the smoothness and vocal performance, the soundstage depth and width and imaging as well as how it can suck you into the music with emotion. One person compared the sound from my Directstream DAC as being “reel to reel” tape like in its silence. Music floats in my room, rather than sounding like it is projected from speakers and it leans to the richer side of the spectrum but it is not really warm, not at all. More ethereal than analytical. More human than strident. More tangible than distant. More warm than bright but more neutral than not.
UPDATE 2022: I did sell the 590 AXII to move up the line to a much more pricey integrated (that I ended up not liking as much as The Luxman after all). As of Oct 2022 I now own the last Luxman Class A Amp they will make, the 595 ASE. This is like the 590 AXII on steroids. Class A but with 120 improvements and a retro design (sans meters) that is stunning. I feel like I came back home as this 595ASE is the finest integrated I have heard to date, even surpassing the Pass Labs INT-250 (though it’s close between them).
Steve, I appreciate your reviews and I think we have similar tastes in what we’re looking for in high fidelity. I’m also a fan on Line Magnetic and had the LM508 and now the 518. I’ve always wanted the 219 or the new updated dual chassis version, but after having the 508 I’ve always been concerned about the size and heat of the 219 which has always given me pause when thinking of acquiring one. I affectionately called my 508 the “Son of Godzilla” while the 219 is the king himself. While the 518 isn’t the same beast it is beguiling with the right speakers and much more manageable, which is why it still lives in my collection in a very high regard.
The reason I am posting this in your review of the Luxman L590axII is because I recently went to dealer to hear some Sonus Faber speakers. They had them hooked up to the L509lxII and it was impressive. While I loved the speakers they didn’t do enough to sway me from my existing pair of Cube Nenuphar Mini’s, which are their own unique animal. I do think a pair of Sonus Faber’s are in my future, but not yet… However, I left intrigued about the integrated and started learning more, which quickly led me to your reviews. When I heard you say you eventually preferred it to the LM219 that sealed it for me and I decided I would try and acquire the L590axII only to find out they are discontinued and hard to find. When I found a dealer with a used 120v L550axII I decided it would be enough for my Cube’s, also being class A, and decided to go for it. However, during the purchase a L590axII became available so I changed to the item I was originally seeking. I’m going to be out of town for a bit so anxiously expecting delivery early March.
My main question is if you ever used the L590axII as just a preamp or just an amp? I have some amps that I really love, as well as a crystal clear Holo Audio Serence preamp. I’m going to explore all kinds of combos with the Luxman. I love tube amps and currently have the LM518 845 SET amp as well as the Primaluna Evo300 amp that I usually use EL34 or KT88 in. I’m looking forward to trying using the Luxman’s pre to drive those amps as well as using the Holo Serene to drive the Luxman amp. Not sure what to expect, but hoping for all good things!
Thanks again for your reviews. BTW, I highly highly recommend trying some of Cube Audio’s speakers, especially the Nenuphar, Nenuphar Mini, or new Jazzon models. They also just released the a new brand called Qualio IQ and they may be a true wonder for $5k. Based on what you value in sound I think you will be impressed.
Be well, looking forward to more reviews.
Hi Steve, Recently discovered you and your wealth of Hi-Fi info. I’m your age and currently making my way up through the audio gear odyssey. So far going the poor man route…2 years ago Bought a pioneer SX-1010 cheap, had it restored. Sounds nice, but I know there’s WAY better. Have a pair of mint Klipsch KLF-10s oak cabs, Crites upgrade tweeter /crossovers. I love them and at 98dbs @ 1 watt they are sensitive enough. Pioneer PL-518 TT beautifully re-veneered with real walnut, all wires and cables changed with high quality ones. It’s “nice” for an old design. So…
I’ve been saving some money. I am completely lusting after the Luxman L-590AXII, HOWEVER I cant stop the fight in my head over the $3,000 difference between the 550axII and the 590axII. What do you YOU imagine the difference in sound would be between the two pushing a pair of KLF-10s? If any difference. Pro’s cons? Thank you…I know I’m late to this party but thanks.
I have not heard the 550 AXII but one thing I have learned is that when a company has two offerings that seem similar, yet the cost is different, there are cut backs somewhere. Usually the higher cost item will bring more refinement, smoothness, soundstage, imaging, etc. They will be different and I expect the 550 is the softer sounding of the two. The 590 is one of the best integrated amps I have heard.
Wich do you think it’s a better match to the JBL 100 75: L-509X or the L-590AXII?
Is the Rega Planar 10 with alpheta 3 a good match?
I hear the PrimaLuna Hybrid and a like it with the EAT Forte turntable. But I like very much the Luxman, but I can’t hear it with the JBL 100 75.
Do you think this Luxman 590 AXII will be a good companion for QLN Prestige Three? I have these speakers and I am looking for an amplifier up to $ 10,000.
I do. The Luxman is one of the best Integrated Amps I have ever heard. In my top 3 for sure.
If you like the sound of class A tubes or solid state, would recommend listening to Vitus Audio SIA-025. Amazing sound.
Im happy as can be with this Luxman. Doesn’t get much better for me, in my system, in my room. It can get different, but not better
OK – now I get it.
RE: why you backtracked on the Devialet Phantom Gold – from being the best speaker you’d heard to more conventional amps and speakers.
I also read the reviews on What HiFi and Amazon – which generally rip the Phantom Gold speakers as “not being ready for prime time.” Poor soundstage and separation, and totally unreliable and problem prone.
But, I wish you would provide updated reviews when you finally come around to the viewpoint of other reviewers.
Now then – we must all wonder what is the “next shoe to drop” on the Luxman, Linear Magnetic, ARC, etc., etc….???
Just read the review here as it talks about the 219ia in detail, which was my fave TUBE amp of all time. I try new things, new speakers, new amps, new source until I am 100% happy with each piece. I am more than happy with my PS Audio directstream DAC and have no urge to try ANYTHING else. Ive heard nothing that comes close, even for double the cost.I enjoy this Luxman, and have no desire to change it or even try anything else. Besides the 219ia being my fave tube integrated, this is without question my fave SS integrated. I have also mentioned I am no fan of other integrated I have tried and owned (McIntosh, Ayon, etc). When an amp is not very good, I do not review it. Why waste my time? The fact is that I have never owned, tested or used a solid state integrated as good as this Luxman, for my tastes, my room, my gear and the speakers I now use. That would change possibly if I went to different speakers as any change will change the sound. As for the Phantom Golds, when set up properly in my 12X13 room, on stands as a pair they were amazing. They had a nice deep soundstage, sweet highs, and plenty of deep tight bass. Amazing for the money besides the awful update and setup issues that I talked about. Most high end hear is great, but if synergy is not in play it can be awful. Most do not take the time to set up in a proper room (my latest speakers took me three days to properly place in the room), or even test cables or different sources. I could live with MANY amps – Line Magnetic 219ia (Though as I stated many times, the heat and tube cost is a bit much) and have for 2 1/2 years. The ARC 75VIS I owned was amazing, beautiful. No phono stage, and pretty basic but sounded beautiful. I foolishly sold it to go all McIntosh and the was a huge regret. Now with the Luxman, I get slightly better sound than the ARC, more grunt, better bass, sweeter highs with a killer phono stage and no worries of tubes blowing. They are all good, if they weren’t I would not say so. Just because I buy a new amp 3 years later doesn’t mean the old one is bad. Just means I am trying something new, and it works for the way my system is NOW. There really is no where to go from the Luxman, though I have been toying with adding a M800A amp to it ; ) Which puts out 120 WPC pure class A. Not sure what you are all puffed up about. Chill, enjoy life my friend. I know I do!
This is a great review on hifi integrated amplifier, thanks for your very useful post I am glad to bookmark it right now, you did a very nice job, I guess you should have a look also on http://audiohifi.review/category/hifi-integrated-amplifier-review in order to complete with more user experiences, hope this can help you harold
Steve, try out the all new Belles Virtuoso Integrated amp $$$6500! and see if it becomes your new reference amp!!
Well, I would have to be able to get a hold of one ; ) I see no where how that is possible! Thanks for the tip though!
Your review convinced me to pick up the previous 590ax (mk1 version) to run my heresy IIIs. I had previously been using monitors for music listening for quite a while, and so my heresys were temporarily being amped by by a 5ch class d amp (nht power 5 with the b&o ice power boards)
I wish I could have auditioned the Luxman but I have a hunch it will beat the Power 5 by miles. In any case I’m pretty excited to watch the vu meters and click the knobs and dials 😛
Two big thumbs up. I’ve been enjoying the mki immensely. It gives my old floorstanding NHTs a new sweet bounce in their step. And the heresys really sing!!
These are a very stout 30 watts for sure. I can’t help but chuckle a bit at how I’ve clinged to my other 200wpc power amp. Luxman must be very conservative with their rating.
Awesome, glad to hear. I love this amp ; )
So Steve how are you enjoying the Luxman? Still loving it? Not missing the LM at all?
Hey Ron, no not missing the LM219. If I do, it is for the looks as those glowing 845s were stunning. The Luxman gives a slightly different presentation and right now I am really enjoying it with these Dynaudio Special 40’s that are now broken in and sounding HUGE! The 219 is slightly warmer sounding but the Luxman seems to have unlimited power and offers up better imaging, which was already excellent in the 219. More 3D with the Luxman. LOVE this piece and makes me smile every day.
I had a L550 in the 80s and it was fantastic, unfortunately I sold it for cheap to a friend many years ago
The only things I kept from the 80s are a pair of Kappa 9 ( real Santos.. ) and a Threshold Fet 10 ( wont never sell these )
Now I start to buy gear from that period again, I’m getting sentimental i guess
I find that now the High End Audio stuff is totally overpriced yet excellent quality gear ( but with less flair than in the 70s and early 80s )
Writting from France, so sorry for my English.
I have a BIIG question.
Can we change the voltage?
Long time ago it was possible.
Is there a switch inside the amp to commute voltage on 230V?
Because i would buy one, but it is EXPANSIVE in Europe.
Or i found that i can buy one in JAPAN for 4000€(4800€ with shipping and ALL) instead 8500€.
Problem is that it works with 100V.
So perhaps can you tell me if there is a way to switch voltage?
Thaanks for all
Can you tell me if there is
Like other people your (our) age, I totally get the interest in the old-school Klipsch speakers. I remember, as a teenager, swearing I would one day own a pair of Klipschhorns. Never had a room big enough for them.
Great review, TY for sharing. That Luxman looks REALLY nice. The transformer is a beast.
Also good to see you don’t believe in “Audiophile Snakeoil”. People who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for thinks like slices 2×4’s so their speakers don’t touch the ground, make me laugh. Yes, that’s a real product.
Luxman amps and Cornwall speakers — is this the 1980’s? We used to pair the novel LV-105 with Cornwalls (and Heresy’s) back in the day. I can still remember the gut punch Sting’s “Straight To My Heart” was with that combo the first time I heard it.
Would love to hear your set up. Be well.
Thanks and yea, part of my room LOOKS Like the 1980’s with these behemoth speakers in here but it sounds so so good. Also needed up buying the set of Dynaudio Special 40 which gives a totally different sound and vibe. Both are great but the Corns warm my heart. ; )
Special 40’s replace the LS50’s?
I have not heard Cornwalls since they did the serious awesome horn revision — what a world — they even sell LaScala’s the don’t need to be finished by the end user. Some good memories with that brand. When I sold Klipsch, we used to have a demo where we would drive the corner horns with a little transistor radio. GREAT demo, especially when piggybacked with a little set of KEF 101’s throwing a big boat anchor Nakamichi stasis amp into a thermal overload. The contrasting demonstrations really made mid-fi customers pay attention about amp/speaker matching.
Last American speakers I had were Magnaplanars (which I miss). These days Europe gets all my money. It’s a KEF / Q Acoustics / Focal world for my ears until further notice.
Back to the main topic, I reserved an R / RF50 / EF+Control Ring adaptor for last two week of the year. Will work it in to two weddings and a family ski & walkabout trip. So looking forward to shooting that 50. One of the Mark IV’s in our fleet is getting cleaned up for sale and in January I’ll likely convert that to an R (mostly for personal shooting, but it will be a fine back-up event camera).
Idea for a tavern: The Hi-Fi Lounge. I was listening to that giant McIntosh system they have in the lobby of the Chateau Marmot thinking it would be so cool to have a bar with a different classic system in each room. Paragon in one room, 901’s in another, LaScalas in a third. Someone please steal this idea and run with it.
The Special 40’s are a steal at their price and seeing you can get them for less than retail makes them, IMO, the buy of the year. For me they are very special indeed. It took a couple of weeks but have the singing so nicely right now, filling my room with a huge beautiful layered rich sound using my Luxman. They have more soul over the LS50, less bite and more body. Also, while doing all of that they offer the same if not more detail.
I agree with your comments 100% about the 40’s vs the LS50. Steve I have the Yamaha S3000 (Silver), with the Dynaudio Special 40’s (GREY) along with a new Technics SL-1200G w/ AT Art9 cart & a Manley Chinook SE preamp and OMG I am in VINYL HEAVEN.
Also have a QUESTION for you have tried the Sony Z1R headphones too me they sound like the 40’s but way better imaging and clean bass I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Sony’s Headphones. I am running mine with the Yamaha S3000 is really a special combo..
Lux is my first choice, it is beautiful craft.
Great review, Steve! I have for a long time been wondering why people buy the expensive and cheaply build McIntosh while the Luxman amplifiers outperform the american brand both in terms of style, sound and solidity. For almost five years I have enjoyed listening to my favorite music through Lux 590 and Sonus Faber Olympica III loudspeaker, a great combination.
Do you have any recollection of the Yamaha a-s3000 vs others and the Luxman? I’m looking at the Lux as a possible purchase, Thanks
Hey Ron, yes I do actually. I had that piece in my room twice over two years. In comparison, the Luxman is built to an even higher standard in regards to knobs, dials, feel, and even the meter lighting which is so so bright on the Yamaha that it projects into the room. As for sound, for me, the Luxman is sweeter, nicer richer midrange, and offers a better separation of instruments. Paints a larger picture. The Yamaha is nice, the Luxman is a bit better. The Yamaha leans a teeny bit on the dry side of the sound spectrum in comparison to the Luxman which goes in the opposite direction. Been listening today with the Luxman and Dynaudio Special 40’s again and it is indeed special. Powers them without breaking a sweat and can play them way louder than I could listen. Anyway, I love this amp!
Thanks for the audio review. Even though I got off the upgrade merry-go-round 20 years ago, I still subscribe to The Absolute Sound and my interest continues. My system (twin 130 watt tube monoblocks etc.) still sounds very good so now I only replace what fails – like new Magnapan speakers a couple of years ago. However, I can fully identify with the excitement of getting a new audio component and hope you enjoy your Luxman amp.
Hi Steve, I have the original 590AX. It sounds like you might have auditioned it before. If so, any idea how it compares with II?
Thanks Steve! Being an Accuphase fan myself I love reading these reviews. Enjoy your hiFi!
I can see you have a PS audio Direcstream. Fantastic and clever machine!
Congratulations. Seems like a great and well build statement. Hifi components like this will last a long time i think.
It is very nice to read about those dream-machines, even more because in our Area are not too many hifi shops where you can find those gems.
I wonder if it didn’t sound too good before burn-in if you would have bought this Amplifier anyways? Because it is the first impression that counts.
If this sound-signature that you describe is your preferred one, have you ever heard about the Burmester classic line, for example the 032 Integrated Amplifier? That would be an interesting comparison, maybe add an Accuphase to this also. But this is going to be a tad expensive, and i don’t know is you local dealer offers such a broad range of Amplifiers.
I really do like the odd audio review on this site. The way you review things is part of it. There’s also a bit of curiosity, too. I do like learning about amplifiers and what not.
I have an idea for a CD player accessory so if that ever happens I’ll let you know. Basically, I think I know how to get clean digital audio to sound a bit more like analogue, without any processing, and without a tape-out. If it works you might find it amusing. 🙂
As far as cost goes, I have no intention of spending that much on audio components. However, quality matters, and we should not put up with sub-standard – or overhyped and overpriced – equipment. You can get a FF35 digital camera now for under $1,000, and you can take amazingly good photos with it, even with an adapter and a bunch of $10 lenses. I think the same is true for audio.
There’s also the pleasure of selecting your own components, I think. Sure, I can use someone else’s gear, and it might be the best you can get. But I didn’t choose it – someone else did. I don’t know what I’ll end up with, but here is my wish list (note how modest it is compared to your stuff!):
– Tannoy Mercury M2 speakers, or something like those
– A vintage 1980s CD player, perhaps Akai or Sony (I want one so badly!)
– A sexy, medium power tube (or ‘valve’) amp, with exposed tubes that doesn’t cost the Earth
– A simple, no-fuss turntable (e.g. Rega or Project)
The idea is that the components sit next to each other, not in a stack. I just don’t really like the idea of a vertical stack for audio components. Although some of them look pretty bland when the rest of the component is exposed.
I won’t be spending anything significant on cables – I think you have to be delusional if you spend serious money on them. But they won’t be shitty cables, though, as they really do exist, sadly.
Finally, as a small luxury, I would love some custom pressings of some of my favourite jazz records, preferably made from transparent vinyl. The idea is to somehow get the platter to be illuminated from underneath, and the light would shine through the record. That would be pretty sweet! I do have a few transparent LPs and they are quit something to behold.
Hi Steve, if you can get hold of the Japanese Acoustic Harmony cables give them a try, they are toned for Luxman, especially for their Class A solid state amps. After reading your reviw I booked an appointment with the local dealer to audition this. May trade in for it too.
Thanks for the tip!
Hi Steven, I ended up buying the demo unit from the dealer (it ran out of stock in Hong Kong), it is gorgeous!
Awesome! Enjoy it!
Great review, Steve!
And thank you for reminding me to play the lottery this week. 😉
Pioneer Amp, Technics Turntable Bose 901’s – cir. 1978 bought’em new still EPIC!
I recently bought a mint condition, used Yamaha AS-2100 for a significant savings. I’m super happy with it, especially for what I paid. I know you previously reviewed the AS-3000 and had great things to say about it.
I guess my question is this, do you ever look at buying used HiFi gear? For me, I look at HiFi the same way I do at photography equipment, there is a tonne of mint stuff out there that is often barely used and a heck of a lot cheaper then new. My Leica SL was bought used as was the M240 and M8 I owned before it.
Hey Clint, yep I have bought used gear on a few occasions. With this I was able to trade in my old amp, get what I paid for it and trade in the phono pre amp. This means I was able to get into this for little outlay. Even used this amp has a hefty price tag. But I have bought used speakers, vintage amps, tube amps, pre amps, cables, etc. Thank you!
Hi Clint funny thing is I owned the 2100 myself and loved it but really wanted that 3000 so bad and checking online Hifi sites and I was able to purchase a 3000 and be the second owner for less than half of the price of the Yamaha 3000.
I enjoyed your review Steve.
Hi End Japanese hi fi has been a obsession of mine for years now.
I have been enjoying an Accuphase E470 and Harbeth C7ES3. Similar rig to your Luxman. I think I am done upgrading for good.
In my limited experience with Klipsch speakers, any amp will push them loud enough to make your ears bleed. But, to make them sound good, and let you hear the details of the performance, you need an amp with a powerful power supply. I have been amazed a couple of times by what a really good amp can get Klipsch speakers to do.