Luxman D-105u CD player Page 2

As I continued listening to the Astrée disc, I began to hear a slight imbalance in the treatment of the different registers of the lute. The upper bass seemed subdued in comparison to the upper-mid and treble ranges. The continuity of the musical line was sometimes hard to follow. The upper range of the instrument predominated, leaving the bass line struggling for attention. I had to dig to recover the musical Gestalt. The sound had an overall "dark" character to it, pleasing and seductive, but leaving me less emotionally involved than what the Tercet Mk.III had accustomed me to.

The harpsichord on track 7 was captured in exquisite detail and lifelike timbre, but the instrument failed to "sing" as happily as I had heard earlier. Again, I sensed a balance problem between the upper and lower registers. The treble sparkled, but not as clearly as I would have liked. The string overtones seemed to have a shorter "life" than they did on the Tercet Mk.III, leaving me to complete the image of the soloist seated at her instrument in my listening room. It's the recovery of such subtle details that lends a "presence" to a performance, lifting the veil (or veils) separating the listener from the music's source (footnote 1).

The Chet Baker disc, useful in providing a standard for closely miked male vocal and trumpet reproduction, did not disappoint me when played on the D-105u. Chet's voice sounded as poignant as ever, and his trumpet was not robbed of its proper timbre. At one point in track 2, however, I noticed what appeared to be a hollowness in his voice which had eluded me on the California Audio Labs player. I immediately put the disc into the Tercet to confirm what I was hearing, but was left stymied—no hollowness. This may have been a unique aberration precipitated by the conditions in the room at the time, or it may have been indicative of something more vital. Perhaps the secret will unfold in the measurement section of this review.

Nonetheless, I found little else to be concerned about listening to this disc. Enya's 1988 album Watermark (Geffen 9 24233-2) also provided me with moments in which I got lost in the music. With the exception of times when I felt sibilants were a bit too pronounced (track 11), I found little else to criticize. The spectacular soundstaging on this disc was captured as well as I have heard. A result of the recessed perspective was a slight lack of focus on instrumental soloists (the pipes on track 11, for instance), but this is neither right nor wrong, in my opinion. I find, when I attend live performances, that the further back in the hall I sit the less I am aware of specific sound sources, especially from instruments whose sound is not precisely focused in the first place.

The DeGrigny organ piece on the Astrée sampler sounded magnificent on the Luxman. The low pedals were not timid at all. They seemed to set my room in motion, and I could sense the movement of air through them as they pulsed. The ambience within the Belfort basilica was captured as well as I have ever heard, perhaps even surpassing what I heard on the Tercet Mk.III. The decay of the final chord went on for several seconds after its release and diminished, naturally, into the envelope of air within the church. If I'm pressed to pick nits, it has to do with what I perceived to be a very slight veiling of the movement of inner voices within the middle register of the organ. This vital midrange voice was not as easily heard as I would have liked. Yet the overall sound of the organ reproduced on the Luxman was so seductive it caused me to put away my critic's cap for the moment and give in to the music.

The Luxman excelled at capturing the ambience on a recording and, when the recording allowed, the creation of palpable images. Similarly, it exhibited an uncanny ability to extract the subtlest low-level detail from a performance. Be it the movement of lips while enunciating a word, the brushing of a sleeve against the fingerboard in a guitar or lute recital, or the touch of the fingertips upon the keys of a piano or harpsichord, this CD player revealed these nuances free of the bane of surface noise or the other artifacts taken for granted, and usually tolerated, in analog reproduction (footnote 2).

Musical dynamics were handled with ease. From Bach to rock, both the Tercet Mk.III and the D-105u allowed the music to speak, without being held back. One track from one of my favorite CDs might crystallize my listening impressions of these products. "My Funny Valentine," from the Fairytales CD (Odin CD-03), is an example of the perfect marriage between art and technology. When Radka Toneff enunciates the word "mouth" 1:49 into the song, the D-105u seemed to color the rendering of the "tth" side of the word. The coloration is inhibiting, though, for it seems to me to separate, for a microsecond, the voice from the body of the singer, rendering her presence less one of flesh and blood and more like a recorded entity. This is the difference I'm trying to convey to you.

The gap between the "sound" of analog and the "sound" of digital is swiftly narrowing, as this product amply demonstrates. If you have $1200 or so to spend on a CD player, I don't see how you could go wrong in purchasing the Luxman (footnote 3), which includes digital output provisions in the price. I feel confident in giving this CD player a strong Class B recommendation. It succeeds in suspending the arguments against digital reproduction in general and CDs in particular, allowing the listener to enjoy the music—which is, after all, the end goal of all this. Isn't it?

Footnote 1: I must voice a concern I have regarding the real-world evaluation of these components. I fear the typical comparison will be made using ancillary electronics incapable of resolving the differences I hear. The Ensemble B-50 control amp has one of the most transparent, if not the most transparent and revealing midranges I have ever heard—no detail escapes it. It is capable not only of conveying the warp and woof of music in palpable terms, it also transmits that often elusive emotional element which gives music its communicative power. I urge the reader to audition these components on the best electronics and speakers available to him or her so as not to be deprived of the subtleties of which I speak. Listen also with an open heart and soul. Ignore the sales hype and end your romance with specifications. Trust your ears and heart! The component that strikes that sympathetic chord within and moves you emotionally is the one to take home.

Footnote 2: As I listen to more and more of the latest generation of CD players, I find myself becoming less and less tolerant of these things. I shudder to think of the day when I'll no longer accept them and give myself over entirely to CDs. I'm sure I'll make record collectors happy if I ever decide to dispose of my collection!

Footnote 3: Assuming its poor DAC alignment is a one-off sample fault.—John Atkinson

Luxman America Inc.
27 Kent St., Unit 122
Ballston Spa, NY 12020
(518) 261-6464

MatthewT's picture

Thanks very much!

Ortofan's picture

... less expensive choice would have been the Sony CDP-X55ES.