Luxman SQ-N150 integrated amplifier

In 2007, Luxman Corporation released the SQ-N100 tubed integrated amplifier as part of the company's NeoClassico Series, which focused on smaller, space-saving designs. The 12Wpc (into 6 ohms) SQ-N100 proved very popular, both in Japan and internationally, possibly owing to its use of EL84 pentode power tubes, cherished among audiophiles and electric guitar players alike for their midrange-to-treble luster and visceral sense of drive. (For evidence of the EL84's shimmering-yet-gutsy sound, listen to the Beatles' 1963 debut album, Please Please Me, where guitarists John Lennon and George Harrison relied on EL84-fueled Vox AC30 amplifiers—four output tubes per cabinet—to create the quartet's then-trademark chiming-but-punchy guitar tones.)

Now, after a hiatus of a few years, Luxman has revived the NeoClassico Series—and with it, the spirit of the SQ-N100—with the SQ-N150 integrated amplifier ($2795), which one-ups the N100 with a moving-coil phono stage. (The SQ-N100, which sold for $2999 when last available, had a MM phono stage only.) The N150 also adds a channel balance control, a chunkier, metal-enclosed multifunction remote (included for the price), backlit output-level VU meters, and a newly introduced P-K split-phase inversion circuit for its class-AB output stage. Four Slovakian-made JJ Electronic EL84 pentode power tubes produce 10Wpc in push-pull mode, alongside two JJ Electronic 12AX7/ECC83 dual-triode input-driver tubes.

Design
I wrote this in my review of Luxman's L-509X integrated amplifier: "Compared to electronics from other contemporary manufacturers, Luxman CD players, amplifiers, and DACs have a look all their own . . . and placed side by side, it would be hard to tell classic Luxmans of the 1960s and '70s from their distinctively styled products of today." These statements also apply to the SQ-N150: It's a sleek machine, with a 5mm-thick aluminum-alloy enclosure, finished in a matte white/silver coating; the same finish is applied to the covers of its output transformers and power transformer. The chassis and rear panel are made of coated steel. A black, snug-fitting tube cage adds a dark flair to the SQ-N150's handsome facade.

The SQ-N150 is small, measuring 11.69" wide by 7.40" high by 9.88" deep; its weight is just over 27lb. As an audio reviewer in a small apartment, I consider this modest size—Luxman describes the amp as having an "A4" footprint—to be a welcome change from the heftier audio components offered by most hi-fi manufacturers.

The amp's user controls are spread across its top and front panels. On the former are a rotary Input Selector switch, followed by three small potentiometers for Bass, Treble, and Balance. On the SQ-N150's front panel are twin output-level VU meters, with a single Display control button. To the right of that are a Line Straight pushbutton switch—this bypasses the tone controls—plus a Phones jack, a Volume knob (with an embedded orange LED that flashes when the volume level is changed), an on-off button labeled Operation (with its own orange LED), and an IR receiver for the remote handset.

1119lux.bac

The SQ-N150's rear panel includes an IEC jack (two- conductor, no ground), two pairs of gold-plated speaker binding posts, three pairs of line-in jacks (RCA), one pair of phono input jacks (RCA), and a turntable ground post (which provided little clearance for anything besides a single ground connection: bad news if you also need to ground a step-up transformer). Four aluminum-enclosed rubber feet attach to the bottom plate. "Designed, engineered, assembled, tested, and packaged in Japan," wrote John Prawel, Luxman's VP of US sales, in response to emailed questions. "Direct inspection of the SQ-N150 reveals a roster of known Japanese, high quality parts. An Alps motorized volume control, along with 'audio grade' Nichicon UFW/FW capacitors. Additional Panasonic electrolytic and Murata film capacitors are employed along with specialty relays made by Japanese supplier, Takamisawa. JRC (New Japan Radio Co., Ltd.) integrated control ICs are featured where required. High quality 'point to point' soldered, solid core busbars are utilized in combination with com- ponent-populated FR-4 glass-epoxy circuit board(s) having optimized copper traces. Luxman's own OFC (oxygen free, non-plated cable) wire is employed. The VU meters are also custom made in Japan for Luxman."

"The headphone output is taken from the main amplifier output," Prawel noted. "Main speakers are muted when a headphone plug is inserted into the front panel headphone jack. Headphone output is specified at 300mV with 16 ohms impedance. Low impedance headphones are not recommended."

Setup
"The units are not auto biasing," emailed Jeff Sigmund, president of Luxman America, in response to my queries regarding tube biasing. "Tubes are installed, and bias checked for each unit at the factory. Each SQ-N150 is run through a soak test and warmed-up through a full power cycle so that the bias of the output tubes can be precisely set at the factory. Bias shouldn't need to be checked or changed unless/until output tubes are changed. The procedure is quite simple, but since it does require access to the main board (via removal of the bottom cover) we do not provide this information in the owner's manual. Rather, we like to interface with the customer to be sure they have proper instruction, guidance, and safety advice."

As for my other setup concerns: Generally, I find the sound of an MC cartridge is bettered by use of a step-up transformer (SUT), but Sigmund suggested I run my Hana ML MC cartridge ($1200) straight into the SQ-N150. "For your Hana ML cartridge," Sigmund noted, "you should eliminate your step-up transformer and use the SQ-N150's on-board MC input. The MC input has an input sensitivity of 0.33mV/100 ohms loading, which should be near-perfect for your cartridge. Hana actually recommends 100 ohms loading for that cartridge; it should be a very good match."

1119lux.meters

I used my Kuzma Stabi R turntable ($9595) with 11" Kuzma 4Point tonearm ($6500) and Thorens TD 124 turntable with Jelco TS-350S tonearm ($799) and Denon DL-103 cartridge ($299) to evaluate the Luxman amplifier, along with my Tascam CD-200iL CD player/BorderPatrol DAC SE combination. DeVore Fidelity O/93 ($8400/pair, 90dB) and Klipsch Forte III loudspeakers ($3998/pair, 99dB) with Auditorium 23 speaker cables were also part of the review system.

To achieve good bass response with the Luxman, my DeVore O/93s required closer-to–back-wall placement than when I used them with the 40Wpc Cary SLI-80HS integrated amplifier. I ended up with the O/93s' back panels 31" from the front wall and the speakers' front panels 74" from my listening seat. The Klipsch Forte IIIs required similar adjustments to gain satisfactory bass frequency response.

Listening
Before Sigmund suggested I operate the Hana ML cartridge straight into the SQ-N150's MC input, I used a Bob's Devices step-up transformer ($1375) into the SQ-N150's MM input; with most recordings this yielded superb tonal richness, upper frequency definition, midrange warmth, and lower-end weight. I was surprised to find that the SQ-N150's MC input gave me 50% to 60% of what I was hearing with the Bob's Devices SUT; without the step-up transformer there was less bass weight and definition. On the other hand, without the transformer, speed and clarity improved.

My favorite bass-range torture test track is side A of Kraftwerk's Tour De France Soundtracks (2-LP, Astralwerks ASW 91708-1, 2003). Through serene synthesizer blips and bleeps, the album travels a marathon journey of rolling melodies and chirpy drum machine rhythms. Side A culminates in a shuddering 8th-note synthesizer pattern, a stream of nearly subsonic bass notes that some amplifiers might have trouble reproducing clearly. I was surprised when the SQ-N150 replicated this sequence with good warmth and weight in a large soundstage, if not achieving the definition or detail I've heard from my reference equipment. The SQ-N150 replicated the note pattern's pulsing, strobe-like character without sacrificing its flow. Stereo images were well-proportioned in a soundstage that was wider than it was deep.

COMPANY INFO
Luxman Corporation
US distributor: Luxman America Inc.
27 Kent Street, Unit 122
Ballston Spa, NY 12020
(518) 261-6464
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Anton's picture

Here's a pic of it near a human to give you some sense of scale.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/tdMcgPoUXb8/hqdefault.jpg

It's petite, will fit almost anywhere!

tonykaz's picture

You're right, it's quite small, tiny even.

I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't taken that closer look.

These Stereophile pictures seem overly & deceptively large. hmm

I'll bet that this cute little Integrated is aimed at someone with a tiny home and tiny loudspeakers. ( tiny Japanese people )

The darn thing is cute as a bugs ear but American Schiit is probably equally smallish with an even smaller price tag.

I've always admired Luxman and even Tanberg but never enough to actually commit to ownership because I've never figured out what problem Luxman is a solution for.

However...

I bet that I could fall in love with this thing if I had it sitting next to my relaxing Lazy-boy. I'd be tube rolling and writing all about it. what fun.

Tony in somewhere bbbbbrrrrrr land.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It is more like 'Liddle' Luxman :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be KM could also review the Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III tube integrated amp 100 WPC, $2,995 ........ Rogue Audio components usually have low headphone output impedance, which is ideal for low impedance headphones ......... Of course they are also ideal for high impedance headphones :-) ...........

MhtLion's picture

They will be two good tube options around $3,000 mark.

jeffhenning's picture

Extremely low power, very high distortion and, while not super pricey, not a bargain either. I could see this having appeal if it cost $700.

If the reviewer consider's this "one of the most transparent components I've had in my system", I'm then very curious about what he has listened to before.

Are you running your music through Marshall guitar amps?

A couple hundred dollars more gets you a Benchmark AHB-2.

At least this mini-watt, distortion generator didn't cost $20K.

JRT's picture

A somewhat more expensive alternative might be to use a clean signal gain chain for the primary system backbone, and insert a Manley Mastering Version Massive Passive to provide some special sauce of tube warmth and optionally some EQ, like a more highly capable tone control. Key point would be to include the special sauce only when needed, and to dis-include the special sauce on well recorded well mastered material.

https://www.manley.com/pro/msmp#mmmsmp-mastering-header

Bogolu Haranath's picture

An average audiophile would get a nervous breakdown, if they try using that Manley Massive Passive unit with all those knobs and controls ........ They may start pulling their hair out and say "I'm mad as hell and, I can't take this anymore" :-) ...........

JRT's picture

Not sure if he still uses those, but I recall an interview of Bob Ludwig (multiple Grammy winner mastering engineer, Gateway Mastering Studio in Portland Maine) highlighted the Massive Passives in his studio and mentioned that he sometimes made use of those on recordings suffering "digititis". That should not be taken as a generalized negative comment about digital, as he also mentioned that he mostly works in the box (in the DAW), in the digital domain. His use of the Massive Passive was to solve specific problems, and his use did not necessarily include using the EQ functionality, sometimes just the sound of inserting the unit into the signal chain with neutral settings.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you pass the audio signal anywhere near those tubes, that will add 'flower-like beauty' to the sound quality ........ Just ask HR :-) .........

JRT's picture
Bogolu_Haranath wrote:

"An average audiophile would get a nervous breakdown, if they try using that Manley Massive Passive unit with all those knobs and controls..."

The knob twiddlers need to be aware of the Colavita visual dominance effect underlying the need to make small adjustments, and to pause the knob twiddling to listen with their paws off of the knobs, perhaps with eyes closed while listening. The visual and tactile senses will distract the brain from the audition, with the visual processing dominating the perception.

http://www.google.com/search?q=Colavita+visual+dominance+effect

supamark's picture

but like nearly all pro gear it mostly operates at +4dBu (balanced are only +4), looks like you can switch the unbalanced to -10dBu but probably it's an internal switch. +4 is "professional" input/output level and -10 is consumer.... if your gear can't handle the extra level you're in for a world of distortion out of the unit and way too low levels coming in. in other words, it's not exactly an optimal consumer solution.

also, most consumers wouldn't know how to properly use this or other analog mastering gear (or most pro gear tbh).

JRT's picture

One must be careful using +4_dBu balanced I/O gear in a system that includes consumer grade equipment.

And that is what I was suggesting, without due warnings.

Thank you for waving the caution flag.

MhtLion's picture

Beautifully crafted amplifier at an attractive price for the craftmanship went in. I hope Luxman will release its bigger brother with 20 more watts. That will be super attractive at $4795.

JRT's picture

These can be configured as booster amplifiers, are powerful and adequately clean. The nonlinearities of the upstream tube amplifier would dominate the resulting sound character.

https://www.stereophile.com/solidpoweramps/907mf/index.html

Read JA1's comments in the measurement section.

I would suggest that the MF-550K is better suited for use in avoiding clipping with well recorded music with high crest factor. It is not the right choice for highly compressed music into low sensitivity loudspeakers with high continuous output, rather does not have enough heat sink for that, and does not need a bigger heatsink if implemented in suitable application.

Iamam1's picture
foxhall's picture

What a cool looking amp. Enjoyed your review, as always.

I also dig XRCDs. They can sound so good.

Ortofan's picture

... 2800 bucks will currently buy a Marantz PM7005 integrated amp - plus a Technics SL-1500C turntable, a Denon DCD-600NE CD player and a pair of JBL Stage A190 speakers.

https://www.musicdirect.com/integrated-amp/marantz-pm7005-integrated-amp

https://www.crutchfield.com/p_133SL1500B/Technics-SL-1500C-Black.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byTAqpXCPB8

https://www.jbl.com/loudspeakers/STAGE+A190.html

jmsent's picture

...down memory lane, to the early days of stereo integrated amplifiers. This amplifier is certainly not my cup of tea in 2019, but my earliest days in audio (I'm old) were spent with push pull EL84 amplifiers exclusively. I'm talking about the late '50s into the early '60s. This was the go to amp setup for most people wanting a nice "medium power" (40 watts was considered high power back then) amplifier. The EL84, designed by Mullard I believe, was everywhere. And 12 watts was the power rating for many of these amplifiers. So many examples....Scott, Fisher, Eico, Heath, Dynaco (a bit more power), Stromberg Carlson, etc. And all the better console hi fi's of the day were using EL84's as outputs. My Telefunken Opus 7 and SABA 400 German radios use PP EL84's as well. It was the workhouse output tube for the masses. And a very good tube it was (is). Still readily available, even in the rugged Russian made 6P14-EV versions that replace the 7189 (an EL84 with higher dissipation ratings). And you can make a very sweet sounding amp from this tube. Anyone who has ever listened to a Dyna Stereo 35 will know this to be true. It's probably the best sounding of all the Dynaco tube amps.

JRT's picture

If someone wants to build a couple of higher power lower distortion monoblock amplifiers with 6P14P-EV output tubes, I would suggest consideration of Menno van der Veen's Specialist VDV-2100-CFB-SSCR-PPS output transformer (€216/each, tax exclusive, two needed for stereo), in combination with a matched octet of 6P14P-EV output tubes ($180 per matched octet, two octets needed for stereo).

This transformer can handle the current, and has 2k Ohm primary impedance (parallel push pull pairs in the octet would see 8k per pair). It includes a separate 40% ultralinear winding rather than simple taps on a shared winding, so the screen grids can be operated at a subregulated voltage relative to the B+ anode plate voltage, perhaps 400V on the anode plates and 300V on the screen grids. That reduced voltage on the screen grids significantly reduces nonlinearity and increases tube life. The transformer also includes 10% cathode tapes for use in series with the cathodes of the output tubes which further reduces nonlinearity and increases damping factor, making the amplifier more immune to varied load impedance. Frequency range passband on this transformer between the -3_dB rolloff corners is 0.4_Hz to 234_kHz, the wide bandwith serving to reduce differential phase distortion through the transformer allowing better use of feedback. The transformer is rated for 100W of music power and crests can well exceed that.

The transformer is potted in an attractive krinkle finished can, so it should be easy to integrate in a nicely finished design, and there should be no mechanical noises from the core or windings.

In case those might be familiar to some, note that Menno van der Veen's current "Speialist" line of output transformers is closely related to the family of "Specialist" transformers that he designed for Plitron a quarter century ago, intended to be wide bandwidth, low distortion, and highly flexible in application. His preferred output tube is the 6550 in pushpull. The ultralinear with the added cathode tapes he refers to as "ultratriode", though the output tubes are not strapped to triode-like operation in the application.

JRT's picture

With that same transformer.

JRT's picture

https://mennovanderveen.nl/cms/index.php/nl/producten/specialist/vdv-2100-cfb-sscr-pps-detail

tonykaz's picture

You are so right,

I owned a Stereo 35, loved it's sonic performance, disliked it's chassis appearance and Sold It !

I've regretted selling that lovely little Amp for 35 years.

I'd buy one today if i found one, somewhere. I'm not looking though.

Tony in Venice

partain's picture

If a straight wire with gain is a worthy goal , giving directions on where to go to hear the "sound" of a particular tube/amp is a non sequitur.

JRT's picture

Load invariant clean gain is worthwhile, and although it is what some may desire (myself included), some others seem to desire something else, and they are not wrong in their personal subjective opinions and desires.

Setting aside unknowing victims, thoughtful buyers of this amplifier are not looking for load invariant clean gain with power output adequate for use with a majority of loudspeakers currently available in the marketplace as would be provided by something like a Benchmark Media AHB2.

Rather, knowing buyers well understand that this amplifier will provide low output power anemic on all but a thin segment of highly sensitive loudspeakers and/or at very near listening distance and/or at unrealistically low listening levels. ISO226 equal loudness contours illustrate the nonlinearity of human hearing perception, and illustrate the effects of listening at unrealistic level. The amplifier also delivers a mix of audible nonlinear distortion products, noise, and linear distortion, along with the visual effects of some glowing tubes and dancing meter needles that may distract attention from the audible aspects (Colavita visual dominance effect), seemingly desired by no small segment of audiophiles.

No audiophile is wrong in their desires and subjective opinions, regardless how much that may differ from another's desires and subjective opinions.

invaderzim's picture

"is a non sequitur."

Because if I don't like it then it is stupid for anyone else to like it.

Iamam1's picture

short video of the Luxman SQ-N150 integrated amplifier and the companion D-N150 DAC-CD player

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RhRwp_ja_s

jeffhenning's picture

Just to stir up another hornets nest:

While a total recreation of a musical performance is not available (at present), there are several rules that are evident:

  • The less distortion, noise(s) and non-linearities generated the better your system will sound
  • In most cases, the most distortion of every type is generated by the loudspeakers... such is the case with all transducers (microphones included)
  • Active, multi-amped systems will outperform the same design when it's passive... generally 3dB or greater gain in sensitivity as well as less distortion from the amps without the reactive elements in a passive X-over and the amps needing to cover a smaller frequency range
  • The day of the audio tube amplifier is done. They are obsolete. Given what Guthry Goven and Devin Townsend are saying about the Axe FX-III guitar processor, the days of the guitar amp are pretty much over as well. I saw Adrian Belew (Zappa, Bowie, King Crimson) a few years ago and he no longer used guitar amps. An Axe-FX and Bose line sources that could break down and fit in a Camaro with his guitars was all he had.
  • All listening experiences can be improved with DSP...even if it's just to improve the temporal characteristics of the speakers (step response and group delay) regardless of design
  • Loudspeakers are better now than they have ever been with the low end offering some seriously good sound for the price

You're welcome.

JHL's picture

...art informed by science. Hifi as a "science" is too often just a set of assumptions about both.

To wit, on to your list, in order:

-Without a very real ranking of all distortions, claims about any few of them is unscientific handwaving and appealing to rhetoric. No such list exists.

-Re: distortion, beyond a certain point any very good loudspeaker can and will reveal different distortions all over the system feeding it. This refutes the common assumption among amateurs that meaningful clarity and authenticity are the product of speakers. They decidedly are not. Scale may be but real organic sound is not.

-Active, multi-amped systems certainly cannot be said to "outperform" the same design when it's passive without filling in #1 above. Further, as has been pointed out to you before, there absolutely is no 100%, 3dB level difference between active and passive whatsoever, nor can you show where this heat is going.

-Again referring #1 and #2 above, real listeners know that the day of the audio tube amplifier is hardly done. Not only are they not obsolete, they are now better than ever because they are faster, have lower intrinsic distortion, and can be implemented with the sorts of circuit features that listeners prefer. (There is no analogy to prosound that relates to reference sound quality.)

-Also an assertion not borne out in practice or by the science, unless you limit it to rough specifications, which I suspect amounts to your hifi ability. If, however, DSP improves the temporal characteristics of the speakers (step response and group delay) "regardless of design", then you have a more valid claim although you still have to filter all results by the list above and actually by all designs. Here again an unsupportable claim.

-The arguable pinnacle of driver development was and is the top-tier light prosound driver from half a century ago. In fact, the finest drivers made today are enhanced versions of those formative designs, and aspects of that prior work has filtered into many new drivers. Assumptions about miniature speakers that happen to make flat lines are risible.

Anton's picture

Tool, schmool.

We do this because it is playing with toys that make noise.

I'm fine with calling it performance art, fetish gear, whatever!

I have yet to actually witness "serious" listening.

RH's picture

jeffhenning

Your list makes sense given a particular person's tastes and goals. That is the desire for as low coloration and as high fidelity (to the signal) as possible.

But, that isn't everyone's goal and doesn't please everyone. So, thankfully, many products still exist to fulfill criteria other than your own. :-)

The problem with people telling other folks "what's better" is that eventually, someone may hear what you are talking about, and find they do not share your enthusiasm.

I've listened to some very low coloration speakers, and liked some of them. But I've also liked some speakers with a bit of coloration much better. (Won't go in to the reasons for now, as I'm discussing taste). I've auditioned, for instance, the active/DSP Kii Three speakers which are a combination of much of what you just advocated. They were fine. I was mostly unmoved. I much preferred some other passive speakers that I'm sure you would want to kick to the curb.

Likewise, as for tube amps being "obsolete," people have been saying that for almost 50 years. And yet they flourish. Why? They fill other people's desires, if not yours. Despite having had a variety of SS amps in and out of my system (e.g. Bryston) I always end up going back to my Conrad Johnson tube amps. My system just sounds "better" in terms of the sonic characteristics I value, with those tube amps. My pal got tired of tube amp hassles and now uses solid state amplification. Well, I guess the tube amps were obsoleted. Except, while he is happy, I find his system less enjoyable than it was with his tube amps.

So, sure, you've carved out some wisdom for a certain segment of audiophiles, but thankfully there remain many other choices for those who have different criteria and goals.

JHL's picture

The premise that, in effect, bandwidth and power equals fidelity is hugely flawed. That simple metric may inform many technophiles who make loud demands and judge everybody else, but as Stereophile has for decades shown, fidelity is a complicated thing. The notion that a subwoofer and a $1k AVR constitutes superior performance because the high end is inherently all snake oil, or because high end users are deluded and deaf is not only wrong, it's offensive. Sadly, it appears in these threads - appending a free online magazine - too often. It amounts to heckling.

Again, I don't accept the false premise that "low coloration" exists wherever there are cursory, superficial indicators - like a line on a screen - and that this is inherently accompanied by real organic, authentic musicality. It absolutely is not; I've never once heard a technophile system make the natural musical sounds of genuine high end audio. The finest sound I've heard in 40 years was by far from the most extreme and unlikely of systems, a system that couldn't be more diametrically opposite the average technophile rig. The sound was a spellbinding as the technology was entirely, utterly opposite conventional midstream audio.

There is no argument favoring the label of "colored" for components because we assume they please a certain cohort of uninformed listeners. That assumption defaults to the technophile view that those cursory, superficial, mid-fi indicators are most meaningful when in fact they are actually counter-productive. There's much more to this.

It's offensive for a technophile to subject the field to his fallacies. We shouldn't capitulate.

jeffhenning's picture

I so enjoy it when people of limited knowledge, but large vocabularies, go to great lengths to make rather vacuous assertions.

JHL's picture

We've all noticed that you get endless amusement heckling those of us with vastly more experience as well as the acuity and perception to relate it to others.

But I admit getting some wry validation when you instantly resort to your usual fallacy, rolling over on your back like that.

Anton's picture

Colored, uncolored...I think of this hobby more like wine appreciation: we do it for fun and like what we like.

Objectivists can shut up, pure subjectivists need to remember they speak only for themselves.

jeffhenning's picture

...which means that they aren't at all. They are still produced, but still existing doesn't mean they are even a growth industry. Vinyl records sold in the US numbered about 19MM last year. That's less than 1% of the albums sold digitally by disc and download. I think Beyonce sold that many records for her last album.

No one in the recording industry uses tube amps for mixing or mastering. They are too noisy, distorted and non-linear. And, oh, yeah, they're unreliable and subject to change over just a few months of daily use.

When you make your living engineering music, you want the best tools possible so you can produce the best product for your client. Tube amps will not allow you to do that.

It doesn't matter what the music style is.

When you require absolute transparency, tubes will not give that to you. Period. That is a fact.

Loudspeaker choices are a bit more problematic since you have the room acoustics and size to consider. It's less clear cut.

In my home theater/mastering room, I'm using servo subs and KEF LS50's and the already fantastic sounding, finished basement is improved using Dirac Live. I'm redoing my home studio and the mains are going to be line source speakers rather than point sources like the KEF's. In the old house where I rent, ripping up the walls is not an option. Neither is adding a sh*t ton of acoustic foam. Eliminating floor and ceiling reflections by using line source speakers will work well in this scenario. It's still a very lively room, but the speakers will work with the room rather than against it. Going from the studio to the theater will only offer greater transparency into what I'm producing. It will also let me hear how the end product sounds in two radically different environments.

I understand liking the sound of something. That, though, does not mean that it's the truth. I mangle up stuff all of the time in the studio. Ironically, there are times that your ear can be fooled into thinking that something sounds cleaner and more present in a mix by adding band-limited distortion to an instrument. That's fine.

For my monitoring systems, though, I require truth under all circumstances. Only, then, can I decide upon the proper outcome.

While a straight wire with gain is impossible, we are now really close to it. Add DSP to the mix and the room & speakers become much less of an issue. When I create music, I want to know that my end product has the chance to be heard exactly as I did in the studio. That is now possible.

Microphones and loudspeakers (transducers) all come with trade-offs and inherent flaws. All of the electronics between them should have none.

That is High Fidelity.

So, in summation:

Vinyl = VHS video tape

Distortion = your Dyson at full suction

Hi-Res Digital = the best recording you have ever seen or heard (so long as it's done right)

Flame me all you want. I have no bandwidth left for this discussion. Got better things to do.

JHL's picture

When you habitually arrive to flame any component that doesn't meet your vague assumptions and assertions; when you habitually and randomly miss-characterize things you don't use and haven't heard; when you never refer to the sound of a thing but you always refer to the claims about a thing; when you strongly allude that anyone not on your wavelength is incapable of your level of undefined expertise; when you give offense by design; and when the rest of us who actually have used and heard this stuff simply know you to be wrong; how do you think the conversation is going to go, assuming it can be called a conversation?

Arguments that wildly miss the mark to be punctuated by an emphatic *period* tend not to compel anyone to a new frame of reference. Meanwhile systems and components that do elicit real listener awe simply don't appear among what I understand to be the technophile's mysteriously unpublished set of stern, approved criteria.

The technophile isn't exactly on point with either the random assertions or the real-world results. His always heading for the door because he's out of time conflicts with his always banging on about how everybody else has it wrong, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph. And his lack of respect for the other guy's findings and intelligence telegraphs loud and clear.

How's that all supposed to end?

Meanwhile the infernal subjectivist simply goes and experiences stuff, stuff meant to be experienced. You'll have to agree it's a novel concept...

Bogolu Haranath's picture

What 'line source speakers', you are considering to buy? ........ Just curious :-) .........

jeffhenning's picture

Each side will have:

• 6 BG Neo-8S mid/highs
• 24 Dayton Audio RS100-8 4" mid-woofers (12 on each side of the Neo-8S's)
• 2 Rythmik L12 servo subs

Most likely, the crossover will be a Xilica XD-4080 unless MiniDSP updates their plate amps to run FIR filters at 96kHz (currently, they only support 48kHz...ugh).

I also will be getting a MiniDSP Dirac processor, but which one is dependent upon the final system amps.

If the only option is the Xilica, I'll be getting IOM Classic monoblock amps (https://internetofmusic.nl/product/iom-classic/) because nCore is pretty great, it's efficient and I love those huge meters!

The quality of the amp is directly proportional to the size of the meters!

Most likely, looking at a Universal Audio X6 as the audio interface. That will be for bringing performances in and powered plugins.

Needless to say, it will be a very physically imposing system at around 7' tall, but not ridiculously expensive. If everything works out right, it will be done by this time next year.

And, with a total system power of at least 4kW and 64 drivers, you do not want to get careless with the volume control.

This is definitely going to be an audio system that can cause damage if used improperly.

For me though, the two biggest things are eliminating floor/ceiling reflections and using a multiplicity of drivers to have them working with the least distortion possible.

Eventually, the LS50's will be replaced by a design even better than this one, but that's a few years away.

Cheers!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

For those who are not familiar ......... Infinity IRS is one good example of line source speakers ....... There is a video posted online of JA1 listening to Infinity IRS at PS Audio listening room ........ Lot of indoor and outdoor professional PA systems are arranged in a vertical curved line arrays these days :-) .........

JHL's picture

Linesources are fundamentally different than point sources in a number of important ways. They can't radiate into the third dimension, which is height, so they attenuate over distance at only half the rate of nature. This misaligns them with point source bass systems at all but a single theoretical distance.

They also have time domain issues because that 2D radiation renders them incapable of correct step impulses. Fortunately they have passable transient characteristics, probably making the overall output a net gain. Still, they can suffer from self-noise, especially small midrange panels.

Lines make a lot of sense in large venues. The top of the line, being straight, maintains level well into back of hall, while the curved lower portion converts to natural 3D radiation and doesn't overwhelm the first rows. Whether they make good sense for home reproduction depends on how you juggle their problems.

jeffhenning's picture

Yes, line sources need to be implemented correctly (duh!).

They can, though, work well in an untreated room to great effect when done well.

As to your thoughts on "J" arrays, they are worse than line arrays. Check out what Dr. Don Keele has to say about them.

CBT arrays are way better. If my room allowed it, I'd do that.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Parts Express sells CBT line array speakers at a reasonable price :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

S&V magazine has reviewed Dayton Audio (Parts Express) CBT line array speakers with measurements :-) .......

JHL's picture

As this and your other recent post show, your hidebound preconceptions rule the day. This much is both obvious and by now, pretty much admitted. You make a show of assertions and then another of how proud you are to leave them dangling.

Define the correctly implemented line array. No name-dropping, no empty claims; just what constitutes a proper speaker given the limits of the type. Then on to amplifiers. Then on to sources. Then musicality. "Accuracy". Distortion. And so on.

And somewhere in there it may dawn on you that we're back to the first line in my first post in this thread, which simply observed that not only isn't there such a list, there isn't about to be one any time soon. Not only that, but of all our purported audio sciences, any fairly serious reader already knows that they actually conflict.

In other words we know *some* things but we assert many things. We know not at all how all this really ties together - well, casually we don't know, but there are certainly enlightened minds on the design side who have the perceptual acuity to hear and compare to real music but even if they're talking the technophile absolutist isn't paying them any apparent attention, which is part of the conflict of the so-called science - but some of us are very ready to, as you like to say, call others *on the carpet*.

For what they don't know, or if they do, mysteriously can't say.

jeffhenning's picture

...You have no expertise in anything involving audio. Neither speaker or amp design or anything else.

Dr. Don Keele is a genius and a great guy. Have you ever emailed him? I don't bother him unless I have a serious question. Look him up. His CV is awe inspiring as is his CBT speaker design.

Dr. Sigfried Linkwitz was also a great guy. He was also gracious enough to answer my questions as was Dr. Don. He did think that if I needed more bass than a B&O BeoLab 5 could produce that I was a kook. Yes, I am. He was a fantastic guy as well as a genius. While not wanting to buy them, his dipole designs are crazy good. None of them, though, would work in my rooms.

If you knew anything about the subject, you'd know who Bruno Putzeys is and the ground breaking work he's doing (or done) with Hypex, Kii and Purifi.

That's all class D and DSP.

Maybe Dutch & Dutch? No?

Again, feel free to flame me.

Anonymous writers, online, mean nothing to me. I look for no validation.

My name is Jeff Henning, I live outside of Philly, my parents were born in Philly and, if you know anything about Philly, we don't put up with crap from anybody even when our sports teams are less than stellar.

You are a clown.

Your poncey BS means nothing since all you are doing is going around the globe several times to say that I'm ill-informed or just a plain idiot. That strikes me as hilarious from a guy that doesn't seem to actually know anything.

Would you like to elaborate on how you know that I'm a know-nothing? Also, please do it by making straight-forward assertions and not writing like George Will on a LSD bender.

Perhaps you can elaborate on your latest speaker design and how the way the drivers are arrayed beneficially work with the room acoustics? Possibly share a few CAD renderings?

Personally, I've designed a (somewhat) simple, dipole subwoofer.

What's in your kit bag, Johnny?

jeffhenning's picture

Artie Nudell was a genius. The IRS was brilliant.

Anton's picture

"I have no bandwidth left for this discussion. Got better things to do."

LOL!

You give us too much evidence to the contrary.

JHL's picture

...is that in a musical sense, this amplifier would be ideally suited for Jeff's hypothetical master speaker, the Bench-Race model 549, the speaker that doesn't exist and the speaker he's never heard. While it can absorb a thousand watts, the BR-549's 80Hz+ response, high sensitivity, and relatively non-reactive load would suit the Luxman nicely.

I've actually heard such a thing, decades ago, but Jeff says I'm a clown so that doesn't count. A terrible, terrible shame that we'll just never know.

invaderzim's picture

Better is a relative term.

One can easily say it will sound cleaner but better is 100% a matter of preference and no numbers or science in the world can force one person's preference on another. I don't know why people keep trying.

jeffhenning's picture

In video, the less variation from linearity, the least noise and the greatest conformity to the original signal is accepted as being "true".

In audio, having a ridiculous amount of distortion and non-linearities is considered "color". Imagine if your TV had an interesting "color" to it. Possibly a lot of noise and tree leaves were blue.

Again, as a guy who understands loudspeaker design and rolls his own, I realize that not every box will work in every situation.

When it comes to electronics, though, if you don't want straight wire with gain, you are deluded at best or, at worst, exceptionally ignorant.

Everything between the signal and your speakers needs to have no signature. If you don't agree, I'm fine. Enjoy your distorted sound.

My rig laughs at yours.

Learn to be OK with that. Let it go that your stereo is sub-par. If noise and distortion are your thing, own it, but, please, do not act like everyone else needs to sign on to your party wagon.

Also, my BMW S1000RR sport bike is faster than your car. Get over that, too.

As the Cowboy James Storm likes to say, "Sorry about your damn luck!"

Ortofan's picture

... many of its speakers.
As an example, the distortion of the 804D3 is rated at <0.3% over the frequency range of 120Hz – 20kHz, when measured at an output level of 90dB and at a distance of 1m.
At 1kHz, this amp reaches the 0.3% distortion point at an output of either 8W into 8Ω or 4W into 4Ω.

Topher's picture

Made in Japan

US retail price - $2795

$2795 = £2160.04

UK retail price - £2,999

£2,999 = $3884.27

If someone could explain this to me I would be grateful.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

What a topsy-turvy world we live in. 30-50 years ago we used to drool over exotic Luxman gear, knowing the performance was top notch, they were built to last a lifetime but prices were prohibitive. Today Luxman prices are a fraction of other similar hi-end gear and seem a bargain in comparison, what better time to buy!

jeffhenning's picture

Just for everyone's edification, unless you are one of my favorite speaker or amp designers, I really don't care what you think of me or my opinions.

When I read a decent, well thought review, I do not post at all. This "It sounds good to me" BS has got to go.

When I read some drivel about a 8 watt distortion generator being one of the cleanest amps a reviewer ever heard, sorry, somebody has to call this guy to the carpet.

That is the definition of junk audio journalism. Is this the same guy that loved that Border Patrol DAC with the 20+ year old DAC chips that cost $2 and goes for around $2K?

Luxman's solid state stuff is lust worthy and costly. World class has yet to be seen. They don't seem to be breaking any new ground or doing any R&D. That would mean that they are just cruising.

There are absolutes in the world and the world of audio.

This amp is a "fail".

If you don't like my conclusion, again, I don't care. As the Shat said, "Get a life!"

JHL's picture

The Lux is a lovely product with a lovely pedigree. It recaptures the best of the breed, rare as it's become. It's allure is obvious and quite apparently, its sound is superb. Actually knowing what it is and how it works, I'd expect no less. I also know how to use it. To, as I believe the vernacular goes, use it *correctly*.

The review captures this. It's a 550 Spyder. It's obviously not a Raptor F-150.

Your telling Mr. Micallef he's deaf is therefore bullshit, but no more bullshit than having done so, your then adopting the pose of victimized objective reporter.

jeffhenning's picture

Do I seem to care about what you or anyone else who posts here thinks?

Already said that the answer was, "No, I don't care."

Or did you not understand that?

As to the reviewer, this should, hopefully, be his last review.

[Edited to remove a personal attack.]

Jim Austin's picture
Quote:

As to the reviewer, this should, hopefully, be his last review.

I can assure you that this is not Ken's last review.

As to the broader point of this thread, I'll say this--and I say it as a former physicist with a PhD who has published original research in peer-reviewed journals: When it comes to judging the effectiveness of an audio component in conveying music's emotion, science doesn't have hegemony. Other perspectives are valid. Your continued attempts to deny the legitimacy of other perspectives is trollish and antisocial.

And for what it's worth, I don't for a moment believe, despite what you claim, that you don't care what other posters think. I think you care deeply.

Your input here is valued and welcomed. Your usual approach to providing that input is neither.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

jeffhenning's picture

Here's what I care about:

•That your publication does not sink into the swamp where it endorses sub-par equipment ("It sounds good to me")

• That Stereophile calls a brick a brick (you know what I mean)

• As one of the few publications that still takes the time and care to actually measure equipment, I hope it stays that way

* As to my nature being trollish, I'm responding to people (one in particular) who are trolling me. Did I say anything of an obnoxious or contrary nature other than stating that people were wrong? If I'm told that I'm incorrect, I like to state my case using facts and research.

• Please, do, point out where I went after someone who did not come after me first

• Honestly, though, Jim, you are right. I should not have wasted my bandwidth on these people who think a micro-watt amp that produces a ton of noise and distortion to understand logic and science.

I won't be posting again anytime soon. Was one of these people you under a pseudonym? Something seems fishy here.

Anyway, got better things to do. Sorry that being critical of your magazine's journalism and the people that buy it whole-heartedly is a bad thing in your eyes.

The next time one of your reviewers gives the thumbs up to a sub-standard unit, I'll sit back and laugh while your credibility wanes.

All the best,
jeff

Anton's picture

The person who seems to need to get a life is named Jeff Henning.

You are presenting a wild mix of narcissism and virtue signaling.

"Get a life."

:-D

There is more Jeff Alberston to you than anything else.

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=jeff+albertson

funambulistic's picture

I had to think for a moment... "Oh, I've wasted my life." Spot on Anton!

JHL's picture

Far too often the know-it-all objectivist technophile expresses no interest in music and every interest in pointless, rank competition. He's distinguished by the familiar morass of illogical assertions, assumptions, liberties, insults, and that general ignorant, hand waving, bench-racing racket you see in this thread.

Whether that input is valued and welcomed is up to the magazine. However, also up to the magazine is the cause of the fine reproduction of music, and that cause shouldn't tolerate the assaults on it from this familiar, predictable, misfit malcontention.

The next technophile "objectivist" system I hear that sounds like music will be the first, as will be the next objectivist crusader I meet who respects his peers any more than he clearly doesn't respect music itself. That much is quite clear.

If only to keep the civility, the humanity, the art, and the soul in audio in the brunt of this, as you say, antisocialability, I really hope Stereophile endures.

jeffhenning's picture

Do you even know what a cymbal sounds like when it is struck a few feet from your head?

Have you ever had people high five you at the ending of a performance?

Just wondering.

Robin Landseadel's picture

If somebody wants to re-create a Scott 299B with proper input/output buffering to connect to 21st century audio [mine couldn't play CDs without overloading, no output buffering] for around the same money, bet they'd sell. I wouldn't object.

Anton's picture

I have an HH Scott LK-72 that a member of my audio club resurrected and it is lovely and cheap!!!

Robin Landseadel's picture

. . . but not that far. The Luxman has half the power, The little Scotties really have that "euphonic" distortion thing going on, having an unusual ability to push surface noise behind the music. Seems to address those qualities that make the Luxman attractive, also has that retro look and feel that appears to be driving so much of the Hi-End these days.

Ortofan's picture

and the 0.45V line input sensitivity of the Scott, you should have an attenuator between the CD player output and the input of the Scott if you expect to be able to use most of the range of the volume control before the amp's output clips.
Also, the Scott's 20W maximum output would suggest that you should have relatively efficient speakers if you want to avoid peak clipping with wide dynamic range program material.

jmsent's picture

...beyond hitting the power limit of the output stage, is caused by the fact that the input signals from the high level jacks (aux, tuner, etc) go through a buffer/tone control stage, before they are fed to the volume control. Many manufacturers from that period designed their amps this way. The high output of e.g. a CD player can overload that input circuit causing distortion at even low volume levels. The solution is to attenuate the CD player output level to no more than a volt or so. In more modern amps without tone controls, the volume control comes first and then the active circuitry follows it. Often, the signal goes from the volume control straight into the power amp stage. In this case, there's no chance for overload of input circuits, only output clipping Older amplifier line stages worked at higher input impedances, and therefore the voltage amps were more noisy. Placing the volume control after the line stage allowed them to turn down the noise of that stage while adjusting the volume, but you were saddled with the possibility of overload. Better quality amps used a 4 gang volume control that was used both before and after the line stage, eliminating the overload issue and reducing the line noise with the volume.

Robin Landseadel's picture

The problems go deeper than that, I'm sure there's impedance issues as well. The tape out drooped in the bass and treble. Both ins and outs probably required different [or at least some] buffering.

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