It has been an exciting journey finding a match for my Focal's Sopra's No2 speakers. With a current sucking minimum impedance of 3.1 ohms at 96hz and potentially bright sounding beryllium tweeters, this means you need an amp with ample power reserves but relaxed. When matched perfectly, their sound is outstanding.
Initially, I was driving these speakers with my AVamp, the Anthem MRX710. The MRX710 was more than capable of managing my original Jamo Concert 8's and the Focal Kanta 2's. For the Sopra's, the bass was muddy and detail less clear, I needed something that would power these speakers effectively, so I sought help from Adam at Nintronics with his wealth of knowledge and an open mind to "You know, that might work". The first suggestion, as I had been swooning over McIntosh was the MA352, full review here "LUXMAN 509X - CUSTOMER REVIEW" This I had for several weeks, and I was impressed, but, its looks and quirks started to wear thin after a while. "Hey, Adam, what else you got?" He smiled, "Are you ready for the Luxman?"
The Luxman L-509X was the third amp I had home auditioned, comparing this to the McIntosh MA352, it was more laid back, and the soundstage opened up, drastically! Treble was detailed, and the bass was tight. We had gone from 200wpc into 8 ohms amp with the MA352 to a 120wpc amp with the Luxman; the Luxman seemed a more powerful amp! I have a theory on this; the Luxman has more significant power reserves. A 600VA mains transformer and dedicated banks of smoothing capacitors (40,000 micro Farads) for each channel could be the trick up its sleeves. I cannot find any specifications on what the McIntosh MA352 power reserves, I would be interested to know what others find, please post in the comments your thoughts.
There are no digital inputs to this amp; therefore, no built-in DAC; instead, it has an integrated MM/MC phono stage. Which seems like it's going backwards, but by adding the phono stage, they are making a statement; Analogue Pure. The amplifier has a retro look with two Analog level meters illuminated and holding the centre stage. The front dials are solid, machined, and precise, like a swiss watch. The amp is reassuringly heavy with a solid machined aluminium top plate for assurance. The finish and how it presents itself is retro in a very reassuring analogue way.
Powering on; there is a click, a pause of a couple of seconds and then a couple more clicks, finally, the display ignites. Hearing all those relays wait in line for their turn to bring everything into place is like switching on a supercar; it goes through its check before handing you the controls. Selecting the source is a similar experience, machined dials with an affirming tock on the selection, and within switchgear click as you choose your settings.
As mentioned earlier, the thing that caught my attention first was how laid back this amp sounded. It is relaxed but still keeps everything well managed and detailed. The bass had control but was still powerful enough to kick when demanded, if not more. I then selected "Line Straight" to bypass bass/treble tone controls and L/R balance adjustments. There was a difference; instruments had a better presence; you could pinpoint each drum, the macro details and timing of each musician became more apparent. The soundstage had moved a little further back, giving each musician space to breath. You were not straining to listen; it just fell into place. It is something hard to describe, but the Luxman was another artist in the performance; the conductor!
The Loudness button has its place and is useful for when listening to low volumes, it boosts the bass a little to compensate for our hearing, so you do not lose any perception of the sound. I read that Luxman is using the Fletcher Munson Curve to control this, which is a little more refined than just boosting the bass. Maybe someone can confirm this.
A lot of thought has gone into the design; their ODNF amplification feedback circuit, the LECUA1000 Computerised attenuator (volume control) and Beeline construction circuit boards. All of these technical achievements add to our experience, for me, I wanted to review the experience, and I hope I have achieved this for you.
On my journey, I have come to realise how much HiFi is personal taste, as you listen, it opens up as you start to hear more and more. You revisit old friends and realise how much you were missing out on their performances, and start going through back catalogues seeking out more. A good HiFi is an experience, and your enjoyment of Music becomes more as you discover more artists and musicians.
In the present climate of us isolating, this is an excellent way of feeding that urge as we share with the musicians intent; we have access to so many artists with online streaming such as Bandcamp, Tidal and Qobuz. We need to support these guys; they are struggling as concerts are a distant memory. Seek out more Music using the streaming services, if you find something you enjoy, then buy it either digitally or like me, on CD or Vinyl. This is the software we need for our hobby, and Music touches everyone's life – the individuals behind the music help fill our lives with lasting memories.