Luxman DU-50 universal player Page 3

The Islandsmoen Requiem was similarly impressive overall. The double-bass pizzicati were very nice, as was the harp. An engaging presentation.

To give one last example, I played the SACD-only version of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue with ATC's excellent SCM 11 loudspeakers driven by the Luxman combo, the string bass was robust, the trumpet clear and smooth, there was no tape hiss, the edgy yelps from Coltrane's tenor sax had bite, and the music in general sounded very lively, with great forward propulsion.

Going directly from the Peachtree Nova to Luxman's thrice-as-expensive L-505u integrated amplifier and four-times-as-costly DU-50 disc player, it became immediately apparent that the ATC SCM 11 readily benefited from better partners. With Monheit's cover of "Honeysuckle Rose," the treble was more integrated with the midrange than it had been through the Nova, the soundstage was larger and more solid, and there was more fine detail in the beginnings and endings of notes. The sound became at once more authoritative and more relaxed. With "Embraceable You" there was a better sense of the space the classical guitar was recorded in. Subtle dynamic shadings in Monheit's voice, as in her performance of the wonderful song "Bill," were rendered more realistically with the Luxman duo.

Finally, as a bit of a stress test, I took the L505u and DU-50 to my friend Bob Saglio's place, to try them out with a pair of Wilson Audio Sophia IIs that were hanging around, waiting for someone to fall in love with them. What a great and, in the grand scheme of things, reasonably priced setup. The L505u had no problem at all driving the Sophia IIs with big pipe-organ, orchestral, or solo-piano tracks. I don't think I ever had the L505u's volume knob past the 11:00 o'clock position for sustained listening at any time, even with the Sophias. There seems to be a lot more power on tap than I would ever use. I used both balanced and single-ended connections between the two components and heard not much of a difference, if any.

Summing Up
I think the L505u integrated amplifier is a screaming bargain. The situation with the more expensive DU-50 is perhaps not as clear-cut. I think it's fairly priced. The real questions are these: How much of the functionality you're paying for will you end up using? How future-proof is it? If all you're going to do with a DU-50 is play "Red Book" CDs, I think the $1500 or so of its $4990 list price that I'd roughly allocate to its ability to play DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, and SACD discs would be wasted—as nice as the Fluency DAC is.

However, when I played a great SACD such as Gretchaninov's Passion Week, using the DU-50's balanced outputs into the L505u's balanced inputs, it really sounded more like a million bucks than nearly $5000. But the lurking serpent wants to ask whether the tattered remnants of the classical-music recording business will move in the direction of putting hi-rez music on Blu-ray discs.

I hope not. We've confused poor music-loving consumers enough. As I've said before, the optimal hi-rez music-delivery format that should have been but was blocked by the major labels is 24-bit/96kHz stereo PCM on plain old DVD-Video discs. Stereo audio DVD-Vs at 24/96 would have played just fine on the millions of vanilla DVD-V players already in peoples' homes. Instead, what we have today is a "return of the repressed" fully worthy of Sigmund Freud's leather couch: 24/96 stereo PCM as downloads (or, in a few cases, delivered on physical media) becoming the de facto hi-rez standard, with even SACD stalwarts such as Hyperion and Harmonia Mundi selling hi-rez PCM versions of their SACD releases through HDtracks.com.

The small amount of 24/96 material on DVD-V or DVD-A I had handy sounded magnificent through the Luxman DU-50. I played the same recordings for Bob Saglio, first on "Red Book" CD and then on 24/96 DVD. His comment: "To quote Bud Fried, it's like taking the cotton out of your ears." So let's not mess it up this time.

COMPANY INFO
Luxman Corporation, Japan
US distributor: On a Higher Note, LLC
PO Box 698
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693
(949) 488-3004
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