A wonderful amplifier - seemingly limitless power, realistic portrayal of voices and instruments (both timbrally and spatially), unbelievable dynamic "slam", beautiful tone - which can be tuned to your tastes with no negative effects on the sound. It has the ability to do this at any volume level - from super low night time listening levels (still hypnotically realistic with it's black silent backdrop), to brutally loud.
This is the middle level Luxman type AB (I assume) integrated. It uses most of the technology in their top model, but is slightly less purist in that it has some microprocessor elements and a remote controlled volume. It has 2 fully balanced inputs - very useful, 5 RCA inputs (including 2 tape loops), and separation of the pre and power sections - so you can use it as a pre with another power, or a power amp with a source that has it's own gain control. It can operate 2 sets of speakers or a single bi-wired pair. It has balance and tone controls (bass /treble) and a striaght line tone defeat - I hear no difference when this is pressed compared to when the tone controls are at their middle position. It has a headphone stage and a phono stage with mm/mc - apparently great but I have not got a turntable so can't judge it.
Right from the start the sound this amp made was magical. A big big difference to my previous Audio Analogue and Audiolab amps. Much more realism, more detail, a hugely physical sound in a 3D presentation, you hear it all - even the quality of the air in the recording space.
It is a cliche one reads often, but in this case you really do just listen to the performances. Since getting this amp I have found myself listening to and enjoying a much wider range of music than ever before - from free jazz, rock, funk, pop, to big orchestral works, opera, chamber music etc.... You hear real people playing musical instruments in front of you. Of course some recordings are revealed as poorer - especially 80s/90s studio recorded pop and rock, it seems so many were engineered with a teenagers hifi in mind. I listen to a great deal of old live recordings which can be poor quality, but the Luxman brings out the best in them - and a great performance in poor sound is always better than a poor performance in good sound.
I have average sensitivity speakers (87db Spendor Sp1s) and am unable to turn the volume pot up beyond 1/3rd of it's range without the sound getting to pain levels - particularly on drums and brass. Which, thanks to the speed and timing of the amp, are amazing at any volume level.
This may not be a "trendy" amp - it has lots of features which 99% of audiophile manufacturers no longer provide. But I want them. I use the tone controls occasionally, to improve an overbright cd transfer for example. The purists argue that these facilities degrade the sound. This of course is rubbish, it is all a matter of costings - you can build anything at a price. The straight line argument has been propogated by manufacturers to simplify their designs and reduce their engineering costs. Luxman are expensive - the build quality is fantastic, the designers have over-engineered it to provide the facilities with no loss to sound quality. You pay a high price for it, but it is built to last and should hold a great deal of it's second hand value (for those who are insane enough to want to sell it).
Let me just say that this was a big investment for me, I am not a millionaire, I just think that great sound is important in my life - more so than a nice car say. I don't want to be buying another amp in the next ten years. This is the amp I am going to build my system around, I cannot conceive of needing to change it (or affording anything genuinely better). I listen to music at home now in the way I do at live gigs and concerts - enthralled, gripped, thrilled and relaxed (as appropriate).
So, anyone in the market for an exciting, clean, true sounding amp, which can play any type of music the way it was recorded, which gives you a bit of control over the sound, can drive a wide range of speakers, creates a real and engrossing listening experience in your living room at whatever volume level you like, and makes all sources sound as good as they can, should drive to the other end of the country to hear this.
After my short encounter with the 550 mkII and the 505u I tried an accuphase e408. I always really wanted an accuphase, but the luxmans won the contest. I liked the sound of the 550mkII over the 505u, but the 550mkII really likes to consume some power, because it is a class a amp, and I use my amp at least 12 hours per day.........so that would leave me with a fat electricity bill. So what could I do.......the 509u was way over budget, but then I heard that the 507u would be released. This is their mid priced class AB amp. Because this model was not available outside japan yet, I took a chance and I bought directly from japan........without listening to it first..........but wow wow wow.
This machine really has everything you want as an audiophile. Power, super bass control, super soundstage and transparency. What also struck me, was the relaxed way that this amplifier displays musicality and power at the same time. Even metallica rocks, but sounds relaxed, so that even this music does not make you tired. I think this easy listening is partially caused by the way this amp has a grip on the speaker and that this enables it to display every instrument in a separate kind of way. I mean the instruments never get mixed or messy.
And then there is the superb bass control. I use older mission 753 freedom, and this speakers are very neutral but they normally do not have a lot of bass. But this amp turns these speakers into super transparent and lively speakers with a rally deep superb bass fundament. I also use my system for watching movies, and before I always used a separate active subwoofer. Well I can tell you......I immediately sold this sub.
This amp certainly needs some burning in, but after a few months you will have an amplifier for live.......at leas t I do.