Nothing But Music: Luxman and Vivid

There was a jovial, festive vibe in Philip O’Hanlon’s On A Higher Note room, featuring Luxman amplification and source components, Vivid loudspeakers, and music courtesy show attendee, Raymond.

As I walked into the room, O’Hanlon explained that Raymond had been knocking everyone’s socks off with his vinyl selections.

“As much as I like the music I brought, I’m also kinda sick of it,” O’Hanlon chuckled. “What’s next, Raymond?”

Raymond dug through his bag of vinyl and handed O’Hanlon a record. The charming host took that record and placed it on Luxman’s PD-171 belt-drive turntable ($6200, including tonearm and dustcover), the first turntable to come from the Japanese company in 28 years. O’Hanlon explained that Luxman’s been developing the PD-171 for over four years, and, while it maintains the line’s retro appearance—it sports a wooden sub-chassis and includes a stroboscope window and LED lamp—it’s also full of modern technology, such as a 32-bit processor for the digital speed controller.

The rest of the system was made of Luxman’s SQ-38u tube integrated amp ($6000, with phono stage; review to come from Art Dudley); D-38u CD player, with both tube and solid-state output stages ($4000); Transparent Audio’s Ultra interconnects and power cords; and the rather beautiful Vivid B-1 loudspeakers ($14,990/pair, review by John Atkinson to appear in our October issue!). When O’Hanlon wasn’t spinning records, he was spinning tape on a SonoruS (“more than a modification”) ATR10 reel-to-reel deck.

As O’Hanlon placed the record on the platter and brushed it clean, he told the audience a little story about his room. As is typical for these events, many of the rooms at the Crowne Plaza Hotel posed challenges for the exhibitors. They dealt with these challenges in many ways—most used ASC room treatments, blankets, and clever loudspeaker positioning—and, while the results were often acceptable, few exhibitors were actually satisfied.

“We had this one note,” O’Hanlon said, gesturing broadly, “and it came into the room, and it kinda waved its arms like this, and then it wandered around the room for a bit and, oh my god, we thought it would never leave…”

Fortunately for O’Hanlon (and the attendees), Music Lovers contributed some ASC Tube Traps and O’Hanlon was further able to dampen reflections by hanging blankets over mirrors and headboards. “Before that,” he confessed, “I was so depressed.”

It was an old Gene Ammons LP and O’Hanlon cued it up on the Luxman turntable. The music blossomed into the room with stunning presence and lifelike scale. This was luxurious sound with a beautiful sense of space, natural attacks, and long, lovely decays. The system sounded romantic when the music called for it, direct when the music called for it, and was always harmonically rich, full-figured, and detailed. Not only did the loudspeakers disappear, but the entire system disappeared, the room and all its challenges disappeared, leaving nothing but music.

(For all you copy editors out there: No, the room didn't really disappear. I'm just being metaphorical.)

volvic's picture

Always loved the rosewood finish and I still have my L-450, matching tape deck, tuner, and  equalizer in that faux rosewood finish,  glad they still continue to do so today.  Great products although that retro look on the new turntable is probably not going to be to everybody's taste. But so glad they are back.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Despite what Philp O'Hanlon said, unfortunately, the sound in this room was dreadful, IMHO. Maybe it was those pesky reflections, but I was singularly unimpressed.