Luxman

Luxman enjoy a high reputation as a quality brand of high-end audio products out of Japan
discover new excitement through wonderful music and to continue to share that pleasure with everyone.

The history of the LUXMAN audio brand began in 1925, at the birth of radio broadcasting. LUXMAN has paid particular attention to the world of audio and has gained high reputation as a quality brand of high-end audio products both domestically and internationally.

People tend to open their mind to natural things and react negatively to the unnatural. Natural sound, without coloration, develops an intimacy between the music and the listener.

Naturally and purely reproduced music resonates with the listener’s imagination. LUXMAN reflects this effect in our product development. Music that features a performer's true passion and which a recording engineer has worked on precisely benefits from the fine nuances in sound which LUXMAN aims to reproduce, conveying the sprit of the artist and the enthusiasm of the performance. We strive to bring to the listener the experience of unlimited, pure music.

Composers, performers and recording engineers have poured their true feelings into our favourite pieces of music. LUXMAN would be satisfied if the listener could experience those same passions through our products. LUXMAN has celebrated its 90th anniversary and hopes to discover new excitement through wonderful music and to continue to share that pleasure with everyone.

LUXMAN started its business in 1925, the year when the radio broadcasting started in Japan. The company called Kinsuido, a picture frame company in Osaka, made a radio department, which later became LUX. Kinsuido was the first company to display and sell radio receiving equipments at the stores. A lot of people stopped to listen to the beauty of the sound. This was the very beginning of LUXMAN’s long history of tonal quality pursuit.

All Products

Reviews

All Products

CD / SACD / Blu-ray & Multi-Format Players

LX 01 CD D380
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Selection function between the vacuum tube output and semiconductor output

DACs

LX 06 DC DA150
NZ$ 2,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
COMPACT DAC revolution – a new definition of D/A converter
A highly visible 3-digit, 7 segment LED with a dimmer function to display the status is mounted on...
DACs
LX 07 DC DA250
NZ$ 4,495.01 ea (incl. GST)
Advanced versatility. A USB D/A Converter commanding the sound source and system
A highly visible 2-stage, 7-segment LED with a dimmer function is mounted on the stylish front...
DACs
LX 08 DC DA06
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Advanced PCM384kHz/32bit and DSD 5.64MHz processing
DACs

LX 10 HA P750
NZ$ 7,495.00 ea (incl. GST)

Phono Stages

LX 12 PH E250
NZ$ 3,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
Phono Stages
LX 13 PH E500
NZ$ 9,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Phono Stages

Preamplifiers & Line-stages

LX 15 PA CL38
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
LUXMAN's vacuum tube amplifier legacySince the launch of our SQ-5A vacuum tube integrated amplifier in 1961, we have continued making vacuum tube amps without a break. We have produced many models...
LX 16 PX C700
NZ$ 12,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
LX 17 PA C900
NZ$ 20,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
New LECUA 1000 attenuator, a fully balanced configuration and a discretely configured ODNF circuit, directly coupled to the amplifier

Integrated amplifiers

LX 20 IA LX380
NZ$ 11,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
Vacuum tube 6L6G output configuration
Integrated amplifiers
LX 21 IA 505
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Integrated amplifiers
LX 22 IA L507
NZ$ 10,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
New LECUA*1000 computerized attenuator
Integrated amplifiers
LX 23 IA L509
NZ$ 14,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
 
ODNF* Version 4.0 - innovative amplification feedback circuitAn integral part of the design of the...
EXTENDED REVIEW: My first exposure to Luxman was back in the late 1970’s in Canberra when I bought...
Integrated amplifiers
LX 24 IA L550
NZ$ 9,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The new LECUA1000 computerised attenuator
Integrated amplifiers
LX 25 IA L590
NZ$ 12,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Integrated amplifiers

Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

LX 29 AS M900
NZ$ 20,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
"High power ODNF amplifier with 4x2 output structure, which has achieved overwhelming power linearity of up to 1,200W (1Ω)
LX 30 AS MQ88
NZ$ 7,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
LX 32 AS MQ300
NZ$ 35,995.00 ea (incl. GST)

Reviews

Luxman has produced with the L509X an integrated that really does seem to achieve results similar to high quality separates. For once a manufacturer’s claim is not just marketing spin.
Hayabusa,

SUMMARY: the Luxman L509x is an extraordinary integrated amplifier delivering a very impressive sonic performance. What has set this apart from all the other amplifiers I have had in my systems over the years and there have been quite a few, is its uncanny ability to present such a detailed presentation of musical performances in such a natural, unforced and, when it is called for, dynamic way.  This is true for both digital and analogue sources. I have a reasonable digital front end but only through the Luxman have I really felt an emotional connection with so much music. Tracks I have heard dozens of times over the years now reveal aspects of the performance I had not previously been aware of. Just to make it clear, this is not because of some hard edged ultra detailed rendering. It is an inherently natural presentation that just happens to be detailed.

EXTENDED REVIEW: My first exposure to Luxman was back in the late 1970’s in Canberra when I bought an SQ38FD to power my second-hand Yamaha NS1000M’s. I loved the way it looked with all those toggle switches and multiple rotary dials. Also, I loved the way it sounded via my Linn Sondek/SME/Shure V15 combination but it was my first really non- budget system. All of this was pre the digital revolution. Since then I have gone through a large number of components and different systems, stupidly got rid of many of my LPs in the dream of “perfect sound forever” via CD but never looked at another Luxman product through all of that Company’s ups and downs. I did, however replenish my vinyl collection with some major purchases a few years ago, mainly 50’s and 60’s jazz but also quite a bit of contemporary music.

I was out of the Australian audio scene for nearly 8 years and had sold all of my Australian based system when I moved to work in Cambodia but still kept up with developments and even put together a simple system when living in Phnom Penh. Before returning to Australia last year I purchased a number of items for delivery to Australia and brought back most of what I bought when in Cambodia. On return I felt after a few months that the amp I had, though very good, was not letting the speakers give of their best. I looked for more powerful options and had a brief sojourn with the very powerful, very tuneful and exquisitely finished Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 but I was not patient enough to let it fully develop and I think I had some system synergy issues with my analogue set up so I decided to move it on and look for something else. The dreaded audio wanderlust with which I have been afflicted for most of my life had struck again. I had read several reviews of some of the latest Luxman gear along with very positive user comments and no negatives that I could determine. Even the Stereophile review was very complimentary and the phono-stage that, from the specifications, is the same as that used in the L590AXII was judged to be “excellent” making it an all the more appealing prospect for an all in one solution (sans USB digital that holds no interest for me).

In its latest iteration Luxman appears to me to be on a bit of a roll if all the reviews of so many of its components in commercial and non-commercial publications are to be believed. I had been looking at their EQ500 Phono stage and the M/C900U combination to drive my Audio Physic Cardeas+ speakers as well as the Continuum had done but as the M/C 900U was outside my immediate means I took a closer look at something I could afford now and appeared to have the juice to run my speakers effectively, the new L509X. This seems to be an amalgam of Luxman’s M700U power amp and C900U preamp components (some of them at least but not the full 20kg worth of the stand alone pre amp, obviously). Until I could afford the EQ500 and the C900U/M900U and possibly another TT/arm/MC combination to go with my current MM centric system I decided to give the L509X a go. While in most people’s view, including mine, this is still an expensive amp in comparative terms for upper level equipment I think it could be considered something of a bargain when you consider its performance.

I have had the L509X in my system for about 6 weeks now. When I brought it home, carefully released it from its exceptional triple box packaging and had it sitting on the floor it was difficult not to be impressed by both the standard of finish, that is as close to faultless as anything I have seen, and its physically imposing presence. It is fairly heavy at nearly 30kg but lighter than many stereo and mono power amps, including the M900U from Luxman. The aluminium top panel with its square and rectangular beveled cut outs with mesh grills is beautifully machined and shares its design with the M900U. It looks great and provides very good heat dissipation even though the L509X does not produce A-class amp heat levels.

When hooking it up you are greeted by two sets of binding posts (use both at once only for 8 Ohms loads!) that are good if not exceptional quality and easy to use with either spades or bare wire but they won’t take banana plugs. Other than the binding posts there are 4 RCA line inputs but there is only one higher quality RCA input for Line 1 and the other 3 RCA line inputs and phono inputs are of lesser quality. There are 2 balanced inputs via XLR’s. There are RCA’s for recording in and out, pre out and main in plus the ground for phono and the IEC power socket. The fittings are not to the same standard as found in the C/M900U and not as good as those of the Jeff Rowland that it replaced in my shelf but they are reasonable. On the front panel the Luxman provides you with large rotary controls for input selection on the left and for volume control on the right. Beneath the larger rotary controls and the VU meters sporting white illumination you find push buttons for on/off, monitor, line straight and “separate”(enables you to use a separate pre-amp via RCA’s only) plus a headphone jack. The smaller rotary controls, which have a very nice tactile quality to them are for the mm/mc phono, rec out, speakers A/B/A+B, bass and treble tone controls and balance. Importantly, the button marked “line straight” disengages the tone and balance controls. I find the line straight with the VU meter lights off (only the lights, the meters themselves continue to operate) to offer the best sound but it is a subtle change for the better. The small rotary control functions are not available via the metal clad remote but everything else is with the addition of a loudness control for low volume listening and a mono function button. No one rates the headphone jack very highly if you read the reviews. I too found it only average and not in keeping with the quality on show everywhere else with the Luxman. If it is not high quality why include it?

Aesthetics are a very personal thing and for me it has a very busy if undeniably classic Luxman look to the front panel with those VU Meters beloved by so many and high quality smooth action large and small rotary switches. In my view it is not as tidy as say the equally old school upper level Japanese style of Accuphase but others will be sure to see this differently. To be frank, I am not really a fan of this modified retro style. It is fair to say for me I bought it in spite of its looks rather than because of them! Personally, I prefer the more streamlined treatment of the Luxman separates but then this is an integrated and you have to put all the function controls somewhere and many people do like the looks and are drawn to Luxman products because they are so distinctive. 

It really does look more powerful than it actually is being specified at 120 Watts/ 8 Ohms/ 220 Watts/4 Ohms (according to Stereophile, it actually measures 154Watts/8 Ohms and 250 Watts/4 Ohms) but I think it would be powerful enough to satisfy most systems used at sub 95db sound pressure levels.  I have no issues with the ability of the L509X to drive my speakers to high, unstrained listening levels. As high as I can stand anyway!

Sound

It has taken a long time to get to this point but the Luxman L509x is an extraordinary integrated amplifier delivering a very impressive sonic performance. What has set this apart from all the other amplifiers I have had in my systems over the years and there have been quite a few, is its uncanny ability to present such a detailed presentation of musical performances in such a natural, unforced and, when it is called for, dynamic way.  This is true for both digital and analogue sources. I have a reasonable digital front end but only through the Luxman have I really felt an emotional connection with so much music. Tracks I have heard dozens of times over the years now reveal aspects of the performance I had not previously been aware of. Just to make it clear, this is not because of some hard edged ultra detailed rendering. It is an inherently natural presentation that just happens to be detailed. Live recordings really transport me closer to the real event but this feeling of being in the room with the musicians can happen with well recorded studio albums too. With up-tempo pieces I cannot stop tapping my foot along with the music while slower, contemplative pieces really make me sit still and listen intently. Voices both male and female are wonderfully reproduced. There is nothing bloated, plodding, aggressive or over hyped about this amplifier. It just plays music in a way that makes you want to listen for as long as possible.

In more hi-fi terms, I found the Luxman even handed across the audio spectrum with very deep, well controlled, impactful and highly resolved bass, well balanced and rounded mids and effortless sweet highs with beautiful harmonic structure. It has excellent PRAT.  Nothing is either added or taken away, as far as I can tell anyway as I was not in the recording studio and given the constraints of my system, room and ancillaries none of which are perfect. Sound-staging is excellent with greater depth than what I have previously experienced with width and height at least the equal of any other amp in my systems. Importantly, placements of performers and their instruments within that sound-stage are clearly delineated and of the correct dimensions. No supersized singing heads or 3 metre guitars here. The tone was spot on for all instruments I listened to. It is just so natural and with good recordings it really is an all-enveloping experience. A big band sounds like a big band but without any glare. You get the raspy sound of brass, the beautiful full resonance of saxophones for instance and percussion can be very impactful and fast. You can easily focus on a particular instrument, following a bass line for instance if you wish or just revel in the holistic event. The best I have experienced in any system I have had.

The phono section is excellent at least for my MM cartridges and I have not tried it with a MC as I do not own one currently.  I listen to vinyl about 80% of the time so it is important to me that this part of my system is delivering the quality of sound I want and of which I know my system is capable. The in-built phono provides me with a truly surprising level of satisfaction. Is it at the same level or better than the Audia Flight phono which I have been using? No it is not but it is damn close. I stress this is for MM and for my Clearaudio Charisma and Virtuoso cartridges which have similar loading requirements and for them the L509X provides an excellent match. There is no adjustment available for loading, however, so only a separate phono amp with resistance and capacitance settings for MM’s will get the very best out of all MM cartridges. I cannot find a spec in the manual for the capacitance setting for MM with the L509X but I would guess it is about 100pf. For MC you are stuck with 100 Ohms impedance so that again is limiting, probably more so and I doubt the MC phono stage in Luxman 509x would be up to the level of the Audia or any other top grade phono stage for MC’s. What the performance via MM does do is make me wonder just how good it would be with Luxman’s EQ500 as it has a great range of adjustments for MM cartridges so that could well be on the cards for me in the not too distant future. I have heard it at another member’s listening room with a lovely MC and it is an impressive piece of equipment! Also, I have just sold my Audia Flight so the EQ500 is my next likely purchase.

What now of my desire for the C/M900u combination? I am sure it would be better still and I do prefer the design of these separates but I think the law of diminishing returns will make it an unlikely purchase now I have lived with the L509X.  achievement of component synergy can prove to be elusive, at least I have found it to be so but with the L509X I think I have finally found the synergy I have been seeking. It does so much right and gives me so much listening pleasure fed by my digital and analogue sources that I am very happy to have it as my long-term companion and the key element of my system. It is an outstanding product!

If you’re lucky enough to have this kind of budget and are looking for a neat package without sacrificing performance, this Luxman demands your attention.

SUMMARY: The L-509X is an amplifier that creeps up on, rather than wows, the listener when the music startsTonally, the Luxman is as neutral and balanced as they come – provided you leave the tone controls alone. It sounds a touch cleaner and crisper with the Line Straight button pressed – doing so bypasses the tone and balance controls, and gives a purer signal path.This is an impressively detailed and insightful performer, one that’s capable of class-leading clarityThe music’s wild dynamic swings are delivered with enthusiasm, the amplifier’s generous power output obvious in the punch and solidity of the presentationWe’re particularly impressed with the way this amplifier can deliver deep bass with such texture, agility and power.

EXTENED REVIEW: Within hi-fi circles, the conventional wisdom of an inverse relationship between amount of features and quality of performance prevails. It’s a point of view that came into prominence back in the 1970s and, in our experience, still holds true today. But for every rule there’s usually an exception - in this case it’s the Luxman L-509X.

This is a fully loaded analogue amplifier. Anyone who thinks such a unit should also include digital inputs should know such modules are rarely great, even when fitted to high-end products

Features

The L-509X packs a moving magnet/moving coil phono stage, headphone output, tone controls and switchable speaker outputs – all things in demand back when its decidedly retro appearance was the latest fashion.

There’s no shortage of connectivity. Alongside the phono stage, this Luxman also has four single-ended RCA line-level ins and two balanced XLR options. We can’t think of a typical stereo set-up in which this integrated might get caught short.

The company has kept this amplifier as flexible as possible - so, although it’s an integrated amp, it’s possible to split the pre- and power sections (at the press of a button) and use them separately.

You can connect two sets of speakers and switch between them, or use them together.

Build

Take a look inside and it’s hard not to be impressed by the standard of construction.

Everything looks neat and carefully planned. We’re pleased with the quality of the components used, right down to the material from which the circuit board is made. It’s clear Luxman hasn’t skimped.

The internal view is dominated by the power supply arrangement. There’s a chunky mains transformer (600VA) and dedicated banks of smoothing capacitors (40,000 micro Farads) for each power amp channel.

The power amp circuitry is a Class A/B design capable of 120W per channel and, even more impressively, able to double output as impedance halves. On paper at least, this is an amplifier that will have no trouble driving difficult speakers to high volume levels.

The preamp side of things hasn’t been ignored either, with Luxman developing its own 88-step volume control system and using the basic circuit from its top-end preamp.

The message is clear: this may be an integrated amplifier, but it really is more like a separate pre- and power amplifier in a single box rather than a compromised electrical design.

General build quality is excellent. The L-509X feels immensely solid and weighs in at almost 30kg. Fit and finish is terrific, and good enough for amplifiers costing considerably more.

We love the feel of the controls - they’re nicely damped and pleasingly precise in use.

Even the remote handset is nice to hold and use, even if its button layout is a little odd. Handsets tend to be a blind-spot for most high-end manufacturers, but overall there is much to like here.

This Luxman may be an expensive amplifier but we feel, physically at least, it’s well worth the money - and then some.

Sound

That view doesn’t change once we start listening. The L-509X is an amplifier that creeps up on, rather than wows, the listener when the music starts.

It has an understated presentation it takes a while to appreciate. Those looking for sonic fireworks will find them here only if they’re in the recording. This amplifier doesn’t spice things up for entertainment’s sake.

Tonally, the Luxman is as neutral and balanced as they come – provided you leave the tone controls alone. It sounds a touch cleaner and crisper with the Line Straight button pressed – doing so bypasses the tone and balance controls, and gives a purer signal path.

We also switch off the backlighting on the power meters. We do this not just to avoid distraction but for the slight increase in transparency it offers. These are tiny gains in the whole scheme of things, but in the context of an amplifier with such talent we think they’re justifiable.

Equally, such an amplifier deserves a top-class source and speakers.

We use our usual NAIM streamer for the line level inputs, together with Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood record player (including the Stradivari V2 moving coil cartridge) to test the phono stage. As for speakers, our reference ATC SCM 50s are pressed into service, along with KEF’s Reference 1 standmounters.

We throw the L-509X in at the deep end with Orff’s Carmina Burana and it swims confidently. This is an impressively detailed and insightful performer, one that’s capable of class-leading clarity.

It recovers subtleties, even in a production as dense as this, and keeps them audible as the piece becomes demanding. The low-level reverb defines the acoustic space the concert was recorded in, and spatial clues help us identify the exact positions of the orchestra and choir upon the sound stage.

The music’s wild dynamic swings are delivered with enthusiasm, the amplifier’s generous power output obvious in the punch and solidity of the presentation.

There’s no shortage of drama in the sound ,yet we become aware of the L-509X’s impressive composure and the sense of control it imparts. There’s an ease of delivery here that shrugs at high volume levels and the readings on the power meters.

We become a little concerned all that control and composure might take the edge off more upbeat music, so play a number of tunes from the likes of alt-JMacklemore & LewisBruce Springsteen and Chic.

We’re pleased to report it's not the case. Feed the Luxman a hard-charging track with a complex rhythm and the L-509X renders the music with a hand-on approach that keeps all the energy and rhythmic organisation intact.

We’re particularly impressed with the way this amplifier can deliver deep bass with such texture, agility and power.

The story remains positive when we try the phono stage. The amplifier loses none of its even-handed nature with this input, delivering a good dose of insight and entertainment.

There’s just a mild drop in transparency compared to the line stages, and a slight loss of the low-level finesse. Still, the phono module has more than enough gain to work with most cartridges, and stays commendably quiet when it comes to background hiss and hum.

We’re less taken with the headphone output. The tonal character of this output is consistent with that we hear through speakers, but using a range of headphones from Grado’s RS-1s and PS500s, as well as the Beyerdynamics’s T1s, we feel the sound is less lively and expressive than we’d like.

If you’re an occasional headphones user, the circuit in the Luxman is fine. However, if you’ve got high-end headphones and want to hear them at their best, a good dedicated outboard amp will do the job better.

Verdict
Overall, though, we’re deeply impressed by the L-509X.

On the surface it might present like an expensive retro throwback, but it’s so much more than that. It has a blend of build, features and performance that’s hard to better at anywhere near this price.

If you’re lucky enough to have this kind of budget and are looking for a neat package without sacrificing performance, this Luxman demands your attention.

the Luxman DA-06 is a damn fine-sounding D/A converter with virtually all music: insightful, explicit, substantial, colorful, and as consistently analog-like a digital product as I have heard.
Art Dudley

SUMMARY: The DA-06 did a fine, engaging job with a DSD-encoded DSF file of "Lonesome Tears," from Beck's Sea Change (Geffen B0004372-01, footnote 2). Bass was firm and deep, and the voices, while fraught with the excess sibilance of very close miking, were no less tolerable than from the LP. The song had all the drama and import and impact that it should.

In the summer of 1999, Sony held a press event in New York City to mark the introduction of the Super Audio Compact Disc, then the sole domestic embodiment of the Direct Stream Digital (DSD) technology, jointly developed by Sony and Philips. The new format was hailed, in prepared remarks, by an impressive list of audio and music dignitaries: Nobuyuki Idei, then president of Sony Corporation; Steven Epstein, senior executive producer for Sony Classical; Yo-Yo Ma, appearing in a video created for the event; and Wynton Marsalis, appearing in person. All of the speeches—every single one of them—flattered SACD by likening its sound to that of the analog LP.

That was a long time ago. I'm sure that, by now, we can all forgive Sony for using the LP as a yardstick against which to measure an improved version of a format that, in 1983, they had said was already perfect. (Really. It's okay. Time to let go.) Besides, from the moment I heard the SACD at that press event, I was indeed impressed by its analog-like sense of musical flow and momentum. So impressed that I purchased, within months of the format's introduction, one of Sony's SACD players—which, at the time, were not exactly cheap (footnote 1).

A lot has happened since then. Just as significantly, a lot hasn't happened since then—namely the acceptance, by more than an insignificant sliver of the market, of SACD hardware and software. Yet DSD is getting another shot at consumer acceptance: Witness the recent promotion of DSD music files on the one hand, and of USB-input DSD processors on the other. My friends, DSD streaming has arrived—and so, too, has the DA-06 digital-to-analog converter ($4990), from Japan's 89-year-old Luxman Corporation.

Description
But there's more to this product than just one compelling if slow-to-mature format. While the Luxman DA-06 is one of about three dozen converters on the market that can process and stream 2.8224MHz and 5.6448MHz DSD files, it also supports, via its USB input, PCM with word lengths of up to 32 bits and sampling frequencies of up to 384kHz. (Its S/PDIF, AES/EBU, and optical inputs support up to 24 bits and 192kHz.) Additionally, PCM playback through the Luxman DA-06 can be optimized with a choice of three user-selectable digital filters, derived from different 32-bit interpolation functions. (Users can just as easily select between two different high-frequency-rolloff characteristics during DSD playback, but those filters exist only in the analog domain.)

At the heart of all this flexibility is the Burr-Brown PCM 1792A 32-bit converter chip, which also appears in Luxman's D-06 SACD/CD player. According to Luxman, digital inputs of 44.1, 88.2, and 176.4kHz are upsampled by this converter to 352.8kHz, while inputs of 48kHz and its mathematically related frequencies are upsampled to 384kHz. Digital signals arriving through the USB input are said to be streamed asynchronously.

Useful controls abound, and I was pleased to see that Luxman has put them all on the DA-06's nicely styled front panel—and dispensed altogether with a remote-control handset, which I persist in regarding as the devil's plaything. A knurled, six-position rotary switch at the far right of the front panel selects among the various digital inputs—two optical, two coaxial, one AES/EBU, one USB—and a pushbutton toggle to its left can be used to disable the DA-06's digital output, in an effort to enhance analog-output quality. Still farther to the left is a notably clear, seven-segment LED display for sampling rates and word lengths (the latter functioning only with S/PDIF inputs); an adjacent pushbutton offers four levels of display brightness—or, for you empty-glass types, darkness.

At the far left of the front panel, a simple, two-position pushbutton is the sole means of turning the DA-06 on and off—another blessing to the user who sees little point in paying for the complexity of on/off/standby switching, and who prefers knowing, without ambiguity, when "Off" means off. Beyond that, the Luxman's four remaining pushbuttons were those I found most useful: controls for inverting absolute signal phase, selecting the digital PCM filter, and selecting the analog DSD filter, plus an Enter switch, which enables the user's choice in all three functions.

The DA-06's rear panel is straightforward. Single-ended analog output signals appear on a pair of RCA jacks, balanced signals on a pair of XLR sockets (pin 2 is hot). Two RCA jacks, two TosLink jacks, a USB Type B socket, and an XLR socket accept digital inputs of various types, and digital output is available from an RCA or a TosLink jack.

The DA-06's case consists of a hefty, well-finished steel bottom plate to which various thinner steel plates—for both structure and shielding—and the alloy front panel are bolted. A thin steel sleeve, finished in textured paint, covers the works: nicely executed, if a slight notch below what I would expect in a $5000 product. Interior build quality is superb, with most of the circuitry divided among three main boards, for analog output (the largest board), digital processing, and the power supply. Parts quality is good insofar as I can tell, with Luxman's own bespoke capacitors in many positions, and an especially beautiful, copper-wrapped mains transformer at the power supply's electrical heart.

Installation and setup
Being not too big, too heavy, or possessed of controls too inscrutable, the Luxman DA-06 was cake to install. My Apple iMac recognized it the moment they called to one another across a 2m-long WireWorld Revision USB cable—the processor appeared in the computer's System Preferences/Sound window as "Luxman DA-06"—and has never failed to do so in the days since, with no need for rebooting computer or processor.

As for playback software: I normally rely on Stephen Booth's very cost-effective Decibel (v.1.2.11) for all music files, and on Apple iTunes for streaming FM broadcasts, but at the time of writing neither program supported DSD. I deferred to the DSD enthusiasts among my colleagues and friends, who all pointed me toward Audirvana Plus , v.1.5.12 of which has now imprinted itself on the magnetic dust of my hard drive (which is not quite the same as saying "I own it," but please humor me and play along). I suffered, early in the review, some concern that either Audirvana Plus or the Luxman DAC did not support MP3 files, as I was unable to stream music from my favorite Internet radio station; as it turned out, my first attempt at doing so came during one of WCKR's experimental-music hours—I had chanced on a period of extended silence written into a score. Subsequent broadcasts sounded fine.

Except where indicated otherwise, all of the following observations apply to the Luxman DA-06 with its two adjustable filters in their normal settings: P-1 for PCM [see the "Measurements" sidebar—Ed.], D-1 for DSD.

Listening
Reality prevails. And while I'm sure there exist hardcore enthusiasts who acquire every DSD file that's commercially available, and who make those files the predominant if not exclusive medium for all of their listening sessions, the digital-music "collections" of most audio enthusiasts are overwhelmingly dominated by PCM recordings: In the field, those are what most Luxman DA-06 converters will spend most of their time converting.

Consequently, although I laid in a good selection of DSD files chosen specifically for this review, I spent most of my reviewing time using the Luxman DA-06 for everyday listening: mostly 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM files, with a smattering of 24/96 and 24/192 PCM files. Used in that manner, the Luxman suggested an idealized and vastly more flexible version of the affordable and consistently listenable Halide DAC HD, which has become my USB reference during the past year. The Luxman went well beyond the Halide by sounding generously explicit, providing musical and sonic details in abundance and presenting them in a soundfield notable for its openness and general lack of murk. Still, the DA-06 had good substance, with a tonal character that was slightly—almost imperceptibly—warm and round, even with that default filter.

For example, with Elton John's "First Episode at Hienton," from his eponymous second album (24/96 download, Mercury/HDtracks)—a guilty pleasure, I know, but please humor me and play along—the Luxman DA-06 allowed the piano to sound commendably rich and timbrally saturated. John's voice was appropriately fleshed out, and I was pleased that vocal sibilants were slightly tamer than I usually hear from this high-resolution download. I noted an almost identical set of characteristics in "Willow, Weep for Me," from a CD rip of Frank Sinatra's Only the Lonely (Capitol/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 792)—although in this recording the Luxman had even more color to uncover, and a vocal sound more complex in its balance of color, texture, and dynamic nuance. In any event, the Luxman once again did a better-than-average job of taking the edge off of sibilants—although here I did consistently prefer the sound with its P-3 filter.

Purely acoustic music sounded just right through the Luxman—eg, Tony Rice's arrangement of the folk melody "Shady Grove," from his and Peter Rowan's Quartet (ripped from CD, Rounder 11661-0579-2). The lead acoustic guitar came across with all due color and texture, along with Rice's typically supple, limber note attacks. Even more impressive through the Luxman was double-bassist Bryn Davies's remarkable solo, which seemed to push the limits of color and texture ever further, and to add to them a spectacular sense of scale and sheer heft. The very long (but not necessarily lunar) note floated by cellist Pieter Wispelwey toward the end of the sixth of Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, with Daniel Sepec and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (ripped from CD layer of SACD/CD, Channel Classics CCS SA 16501), was an orgy of texture; even more so was Wispelwey's sound in Bruch's Kol Nidrei, from the same disc, providing the audio-playback ideal of an instrument so well reproduced that it becomes all but visible and tangible between the loudspeakers. And it's impossible to declare which sounded more stunningly real and present: the solo with which alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley follows Bill Evans's own piano solo in "Goodbye," from Adderley's Know What I Mean? (AIFF ripped from CD, JVC XRCD VICJ-60243), or Percy Heath's bowed double bass at this track's beginning and end. During the Luxman DA-06's time in my system, these selections and several others cemented its reputation as a tone beast, which is rare indeed.

The Luxman's spatial performance was more than adequate to satisfy my limited need for same, and I suspect that stereo enthusiasts will find much to like here, with good if somewhat puffy image specificity and really good scale. The latter quality very much enhanced the effectiveness of the award-winning recording, by Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic, of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls (CD, Nonesuch 79816-2), in which orchestra, two choruses, percussionists, solo trumpet, and prerecorded voices occupy, in turn, various spaces on the stage and build to an emotional climax. Nice to note the existence of digital playback that can make me cry.

And with DSD?
It is music's job to exist and to be enjoyed and understood; it is not music's job to show off anyone's hi-fi system. But if it were, then I would say that the DSD recording, by Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, of Mahler's Symphony 2 (SACD/CD, Channel Classics CCS SA 23506) put the Luxman DA-06 in an especially good light. Working together, that recording and this bit of hardware allowed the big DeVore Fidality Orangutan speakers to step further out of the way, spatially, than usual, while not robbing the music of its substance. The Luxman also captured the power of the bass drum in the third movement, and distinguished the instrument's timbral character from that of the timpani. And its retrieval of musical detail—for example, the glissando in the violins starting at 4:20 in the first movement—was exemplary.

On the negative side, string tone was slightly smoothed over and bereft of texture (though not as plasticky as the sound I hear from some expensive digital gear), and overall, this recording was among those that, no matter how far to the right I turned the volume knob, I couldn't seem to get loud enough: It did not satisfy. Bear in mind that, as a newcomer to the world of streaming DSD, I don't know if the fault was in the recording, the DAC, or in DSD itself.

The DA-06 did a fine, engaging job with a DSD-encoded DSF file of "Lonesome Tears," from Beck's Sea Change (Geffen B0004372-01, footnote 2). Bass was firm and deep, and the voices, while fraught with the excess sibilance of very close miking, were no less tolerable than from the LP. The song had all the drama and import and impact that it should. The LP was a little less bright—probably just a function of the phono cartridge used for the needle drop—and had a slight advantage in terms of texture. That said, there was no shortage of texture in the sound of Ben Webster's saxophone, in a DSF file of "When Your Lover Is Gone," from Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson (Verve MG VS 6114)—likewise the lovely, rich sound of Ray Brown's double bass. The Luxman also did a supremely analog-like job with "St. Thomas," from Sonny Rollins's Saxophone Colossus (Prestige 7079). The tone of his tenor was indeed colossal, and Max Roach's calypso percussion had surprisingly good impact and touch: an 8 on a scale of 1–10, with 10 being the mono Prestige LP played on my Garrard-EMT-EMT record player.

The Luxman DA-06 is a damn fine-sounding D/A converter with virtually all music: insightful, explicit, substantial, colorful, and as consistently analog-like a digital product as I have heard. That it is also attractive, easy to use, and made by a corporation that will turn 90 next year tips the balance toward an enthusiastic recommendation.

The DA-06’s wide assortment of digital inputs make it compatible with just about any digital source device,.....for me, for now, the DA-06 represents a peak on the value scale.
Vade Forrester

CONCLUSION: There are now many DSD-capable DACs available, and more appear monthly -- trying to assess the Luxman DA-06’s value is like shooting at a moving target. Still, it seems to me that the DA-06 sets the standard for sound quality at its price. Its build quality earns an A+, its cosmetics a solid A. The DA-06’s vivid, colorful sound enhanced whatever recordings I played through it, from DSD64 to “Red Book” -- just for old times’ sake, I spun a couple of CDs through the Luxman, and they, too, sounded great. The DA-06’s wide assortment of digital inputs make it compatible with just about any digital source device, and with all commercially available digital file formats in use as of the end of 2013. I understand that Luxman plans to release DAC models at prices lower and higher than the DA-06’s $4990, but for me, for now, the DA-06 represents a peak on the value scale.

REVIEW: The hottest audio item of 2013 may have been the digital-to-analog converter that will play Direct Stream Digital (DSD) files in their native format, without first converting them to PCM. Why is this a big deal? According to some experts and reviewers, DSD files played without conversion sound better than any form of PCM file. But, as with any hot-button issue in audio, not everyone agrees.

In keeping with my basic audio philosophy of If it sounds good, it’s good, I’ve listened to music files of the same recordings in both DSD and high-resolution PCM, and to my ears, DSD sounds more relaxed and analog-like. It doesn’t mean that high-resolution PCM files sound bad, but that DSD adds another choice to the list of available hi-rez formats. So, for me, DSD is a worthy goal.

But I recommend that you take my -- or any reviewer’s -- word with a grain of salt, and find an audio buddy who can play for you files recorded with both DSD and hi-rez PCM. To make that easier, the Norwegian record label 2L http://www.2l.no) offers sample files in a variety of formats that you can download free. Of course, you’ll need a player and DAC that can play DSD and PCM files. The Luxman DA-06 is just such a DAC.

Luxman is no new kid on the block -- this high-end Japanese company has been a star in the audio firmament since 1925. The DA-06 measures 17.3”W by 3.6”H by15.7”D and weighs 24.3 pounds, and its silver case looks quite elegant. Be careful: the DA-06’s jewel-like styling and 5/8”-thick faceplate might make the rest of your gear look a bit dowdy.

The DA-06’s front panel looks like those of several other recent Luxman models, with a display about a third of the way in from the right. At the far right is a large knob that lets you select the input. A wide assortment of digital inputs is available: two coaxial S/PDIF, two TosLink S/PDIF, and one AES/EBU, all of which support 24-bit/192kHz PCM signals. In addition, there’s a USB input that supports PCM files up to 32/384, as well as 1-bit/2.8224MHz and 1-bit/5.6448MHz DSD signals (aka DSD64 and DSD128, respectively). If you have any Digital eXtreme Definition (DXD) recordings, you can play them through the USB input. But you can’t play DSD through the S/PDIF input, which I miss, as my Auraliti server will play such files. The DA-06 supports Windows XP or later and Macintosh OS X10.7 or later. Nothing is said about Linux, but my Linux-based Auraliti server had no trouble playing every sort of file -- PCM (even DXD), DSD64, and DSD128 -- via USB.

To the left of the input-selector switch is a small button labeled Digital Out, which toggles the digital output off and on. It doesn’t work for DSD inputs, or inputs with sampling rates of 352.8 or 384kHz. Turning the digital output off is supposed to make the DA-06 sound better in normal use. To the lower left of the Digital Out button is an even smaller button, labeled Display, which changes the display’s brightness through four levels, one of which is off. To the left of that is the display itself. It shows the sampling rate of the incoming signal, whether or not it’s DSD, which filter has been selected, information about the musical selection being played, and, briefly, any changes in the DA-06’s settings. It also has an Unlock indicator, which tells you when the DA-06 is not synchronized with the selected input device. The red LEDs are large and bright enough to be legible from my listening seat, about 10’ from the equipment rack.

To the left of the display is the Enter button, which operates in conjunction with the next three buttons: Filter DSD, which changes the analog rolloff on the DSD output (Filter d-1 is a slow filter, while Filter d-2 is much more abrupt); Filter PCM, which toggles through three interpolation settings of the FIR filter (Normal, Low Latency, and High Attenuation); and Phase Invert, which inverts the phase of the analog output. After you’ve set any of these three, you must then press Enter for that setting to take effect. At the far left of the front panel is the large on/off button, and next to that is the operations indicator: a blue LED that blinks for about ten seconds when the DA-06 is first turned on and is still in mute mode, then glows steadily when the DAC is fully operational.

On the rear panel, from left to right, are: the analog output jacks (two unbalanced RCA, two balanced XLR), the digital input jacks (two coax, two optical, one USB, one AES/EBU), the digital output jacks (coax, optical), and the two-pronged IEC inlet for the detachable power cord. Luxman’s cord lacks a ground pin, but a grounded audiophile power cord should work fine. When the DA-06 is shipped, each input jack is covered with a plastic cap, to keep out dirt. I’ve never seen such a classy feature on any other component, regardless of price. There are also two S/PDIF outputs, which let you use the DA-06 as a USB-to-S/PDIF converter or daisy-chain it to another DAC or digital device.

The DA-06 has dual Burr-Brown PCM1792A chips and a low-phase-noise crystal oscillator for reduced jitter. Like almost all modern DACs, the DA-06’s USB input is asynchronous. The DA-06’s specified output is 2.5V through its balanced or unbalanced outputs, and its output impedance is 300 ohms unbalanced, 600 ohms balanced. The signal/noise ratio is a claimed 124dB, the dynamic range 120dB -- both excellent. There is no volume control; you must use the DA-06 with an external preamplifier or integrated amplifier. And since there’s no volume control, there’s no remote control; I suppose that’s logical, though it would have been nice to have been able to try the different filter settings from my listening chair.

Setup and use

The 17.3”-wide DA-06 slid easily onto a shelf of my equipment rack. I used the stock ungrounded power cord, which didn’t look like the throwaways provided with lots of components. For a source, I used my HP laptop running Windows 7 and JRiver Media Center 19, connected to the DA-06 using a Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB cable. Clarity Cables Organic balanced interconnects connected the DA-06’s output to the Audio Research LS27 line stage. I installed the Windows driver on my laptop computer and reset JRiver's settings to use that driver. Adjusting these settings was very straightforward, presenting no problems or challenges.

The DA-06 switches sampling rates automatically, and also from PCM to DSD and back. There must be a relay inside that changes the display to show you what rate is playing; I heard a soft clunk each time the display changed. That’s a bit unusual -- most DACs change their display silently -- but it had zero effect on the sound quality.

In experimenting with the filter settings, I kinda liked the slow filters, but each of my audio buddies who heard them had his own preference. I left the settings in the default position for the review.

Everything worked smoothly, with no glitches. You’d be surprised how often that doesn’t happen.

Sound

Although the Luxman DA-06’s most advanced feature is its ability to play DSD files, it’s just as important to assess how well it played PCM files, including those ripped from CD. After all, what makes up most of your collection? So I played a wide-ranging assortment of music through the DA-06.

A one-word description of the DA-06’s sound is vivid. The harmonic structure of its sound was unusually rich and full -- sometimes, it seemed to just glow. That’s almost reviewer hyperbole, but the harmonic density really was quite high. It didn’t sacrifice detail or transparency, but the sound was just pretty, in the sense that live music is pretty. How often do you hear digital sound described like that? Was that a euphonic effect? To me, the DA-06 sounded more like music than many of the DACs that have passed through my system; but if you prefer a more matter-of-fact sound, the DA-06 may not be your cup of tea.

The bass was deep and detailed, but not as powerful as I’ve heard from a few other DACs. The bass drum in my fave cut Folia: Rodrigo Martínez, from Jordi Savall’s La Folia 1490-1701 (16-bit/44.1kHz AIFF, Alia Vox), went quite low; still, I’ve heard even deeper reproduction of it, and it slightly lacked power and slam. On the other hand, Savall’s viola da gamba sounded quite rich, with string sound to die for. Transients were very well defined; it was easier to discern the impact of the wood blocks being struck than through most DACs, but the effect was not at all over-emphasized. The baroque guitar and the harp, which echo each other’s phrases, were easily distinguished; sometimes, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Piano sound was just exquisite, with realistic dynamics and notes completely defined, from initial transient to full bloom to decay -- as real as anything I’ve heard short of a real piano. With Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Minor, performed by Thomas Günther (DSD64 DSF, Cybele), the piano had a full sound, rich in detail, in a medium-reverberant space that allowed the notes to fully develop. Günther effortlessly summoned up his instrument’s power, even as the DA-06 realistically portrayed the delicate details of his playing.

Solo guitar was also superbly reproduced. “Shenandoah,” from Alex de Grassi’s Special Event 19 (DSD64 DFF, Blue Coast), sounded unusually rich, and the DA-06 made the drone effect on de Grassi’s guitar shimmer colorfully in the background. This is one of the most detailed recordings of guitar I’ve heard, and the DA-06 fully portrayed the instrument’s entire harmonic spectrum.

The DA-06 also excelled with solo voices. “Spanish Harlem,” from Rebecca Pidgeon’s The Raven (24/176.4 FLAC, Chesky/HDtracks), was utterly pristine and pure. The DA-06 managed to create an illusion of someone standing in front of me and singing, capturing every nuance of Pidgeon’s vocal production. Spooky!

The Tallis Scholars’ recording of Allegri’s Miserere (24/96 FLAC, Gimell) sounded unusually pure and free of distortion. The DA-06 depicted this recording’s depth of soundstage as well as I’ve ever heard it -- the sound of the small group of solo singers some distance behind the main chorus was eerily realistic. With most recordings made in churches or concert halls, as opposed to recording studios, the aural cues that indicate the size of the recording venue were evident without being exaggerated -- just as in a concert.

Comparison

My Audio Research DAC8 costs more than the Luxman DA-06, and was one of the first DACs to play 24/192 files through an asynchronous USB input. Like the Luxman, the ARC is strictly solid-state; unlike the DA-06, the DAC8 is fairly light, weighing only 11.5 pounds and it plays only PCM files, so I had to limit my comparisons to those. The DAC8 is a perfectly fine-looking component, but it could never be described as audio jewelry. It has a wide assortment of digital inputs, balanced and unbalanced outputs, and front-panel lights that indicate the input selected and the sampling rate of the file being played. And there’s a remote, so you can switch among inputs. But, again, there’s no volume control -- as with the DA-06, the DAC8 must be used with an external amp or line stage. I guess it’s just a coincidence that both Luxman and ARC offer complete ranges of line stages . . .

The DAC8 slightly emphasized the higher end of the audioband, whereas the DA-06 marginally favored the midrange and upper bass. This created the impression that the Luxman’s sound was very slightly richer.

Rebecca Pidgeon sounded just as clean and pure through the DAC8 as through the DA-06. The double bass may have sounded a bit more powerful through the ARC, but it was very close. Otherwise, this recording was pretty much a toss-up.

Allegri’s Miserere sounded a bit different through these DACs. Again, the DA-06 very slightly emphasized the midrange and upper bass, and sounded just a bit cleaner than the DAC8, with slightly less noise -- though until this comparison, I’d never thought of the ARC as being “noisy.” Both DACs did a splendid job of capturing this recording’s soundstage, but the DA-06 sounded just a tad more spacious.

Both DACs sounded excellent. For some, the ARC’s deep bass performance could make the difference, one way or the other. But the DAC8 doesn’t do DSD, and it looks a bit plain compared to the DA-06.

Bottom line

There are now many DSD-capable DACs available, and more appear monthly -- trying to assess the Luxman DA-06’s value is like shooting at a moving target. Still, it seems to me that the DA-06 sets the standard for sound quality at its price. Its build quality earns an A+, its cosmetics a solid A. The DA-06’s vivid, colorful sound enhanced whatever recordings I played through it, from DSD64 to “Red Book” -- just for old times’ sake, I spun a couple of CDs through the Luxman, and they, too, sounded great. The DA-06’s wide assortment of digital inputs make it compatible with just about any digital source device, and with all commercially available digital file formats in use as of the end of 2013. I understand that Luxman plans to release DAC models at prices lower and higher than the DA-06’s, but 

. . . Vade Forrester

The Luxman DA-06 DAC reproduces music with a rich tonal balance and silky smooth midrange, yet a satiating amount of transparency. The DA-06 is unique among DACs I've heard in recent memory because of those qualities.
The Computer Audiophile

SUMMARY: The Luxman DA-06 DAC reproduces music with a rich tonal balance and silky smooth midrange, yet a satiating amount of transparency. The DA-06 is unique among DACs I've heard in recent memory because of those qualities. This is a DAC for listening to and being enveloped by one's favorite music. This favorite music has staying power whereas audio formats come and go with consumer demand. PCM and DSD remain viable for one reason, there's music people want to hear in both formats. Worrying about a "winning" format or "best" format is unnecessary with the Luxman DA-06. This DAC reproduces both PCM and DSD with its lush signature Luxman sound. The DA-06 enables the listener to get lost in the music rather than the format. The Luxman DA-06 DAC has seductive sonic qualities as addictive as a good book or a fine chocolate. it's a bit more expensive than most books but the DA-06 can bring endless enjoyment long after the last page is turned. Unequivocally recommended and CASH Listed.

REVIEW: Sooner or later audiophiles come to the realizations that every component flavors the sound and that there isn't a single best flavor. Accepting these two facts eases us into the world of endless enjoyment provided by this wonderful hobby. Researching, selecting, and auditioning new components can be pleasurable when our sonic tastebuds are the only things that matter. When visiting a chocolatier we may ask for recommendations or for the most exotic or popular truffles. Tasting each type of truffle is a blissful experience that frequently leads us to prefer a specific flavor. Regardless of each ingredient's purity, source, or popularity the final decision is based on taste. Selecting audio components is no different from selecting fine chocolates. The colorful sights and sounds of my McIntosh MC275 may be equally as enjoyable as my impeccably engineered Spectral DMA-260 solid state amplifier. When I'm listening to music rather than equipment my audio system is comprised of components that best bring out an emotional response to my favorite albums. Over the last few weeks nothing in my listening room has been as essential to my musical enjoyment as the Luxman DA-06 digital to analog converter. The Luxman DA-06 DAC is as rich and smooth as a Diane Krön truffle yet as pure as water from France's Auvergne region. Like a good book the DA-06 had me hooked on its lush qualities from track one. 

 

Luxman DA-06 Digital To Analog Converter

 

The Luxman DA-06 has a very special quality that I haven't heard in my listening room to date. It has a silky smooth bloom to its sound but at the same time is transparent enough to enable the listener to hear into the music like many top tier DACs. This quality is so seductive that the DA-06 hasn't been out of my system since the day it arrived. Usually I connect new components and play a little something through them to make sure the FedEx guy didn't fumble the box causing internal damage. Following these typical tests I move on to other components that have been in line for review for several weeks or even months, eventually getting back to the just-tested component. Not so with the Luxman DA-06. I listened to one track, then another, then an entire album without drifting off into email or the CA forums. This DAC had me hooked. Within a few days I moved it to the front of the review queue.

 

Over the years I've listened to many needle drops (vinyl albums converted to digital files). Until now none of them have really impressed me enough to listen twice or encouraged me enough to do my own analog to digital conversions. Along with the DA-06 Philp O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note, the Luxman U.S. Distributor, included a USB stick with several needle drops. Listening to these files through the DA-06 was an entirely new experience. I've never heard A to D vinyl transfers sound this good in any system. There's no better example than listening to Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side 12" converted to DSD at 1 bit / 5.6 MHz and played through the Luxman. From the opening base notes to the backing vocalists to Lou's unremarkable voice this was an immersive experience. The DA-06 produced mid range to high frequencies with an elegant smoothness that transported me out of every day life and into a musical illusion. Equally as impressive was the tight control of the lower frequencies especially the unmistakable baseline. Two other needle drops that that I played over and over through the Luxman DA-06 were Shelby Lynne's Just A Little Lovin' title track and Mumford & Sons' Sign No More title track. As The Computer Audiophile I'm used to hearing these tracks at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz ripped straight from silver CDs. These files were transferred from vinyl to 24 bit / 192 kHz. The analog qualities that emanate from these A to D transfers through the DA-06 at high resolution are lush and lure one into listen for hours on end. The surface noise of the albums was audible but but it gave me a smooth musical connection to each track.

 

After listening to needle drops for several days through the Luxman DA-06 ($6,000) I played many of the same tracks through my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2 ($5,000) / Alpha USB ($1,900) combination. These two DACs are very different sonically as both put a totally different flavor on the music. The Alpha DAC and USB put much less of a flavor on music than most DACs I've heard. Listening to the needle drops through the Alpha combo was a completely different experience that didn't reproduce analog immersive qualities that the DA-06 reproduced. Bass through the Alpha combo was more delineated as separate notes. In addition the surface noise of the vinyl transfers was more apparent through the Alpha DAC / USB combo. Both the Luxman and Berkeley Audio Design components are great performers with different and differing levels of flavor imparted on the music. The Alpha is neither silky smooth nor forgiving whereas the Luxman is capable of easing the listener into an illusory experience with almost any music. 

 

The sound of native DSD tracks played through the Luxman DA-06 is truly magical. Much of my time spent listening to DSD was also spent wondering if this DAC was created specifically for DSD playback. Nat King Cole's The Very Thought Of You at 1 bit / 2.8224 MHz (DSD64) had a full and rich sound. Nat's voice was so alluring through this DAC, in native DSD using an ASIO driver, that I dare anyone to listen and deny the merits of DSD. Also in native DSD64 was Bob Dylan's Girl From The North Country. I'm not a big Bob Dylan fan but this track sounded so good I wanted to seek out Dylan's entire catalog in DSD to find more gems of the same ilk. The DA-06 tamed this sometimes harsh track with its silky smooth character yet still allowed the organic plucks of the strings to shine through as if Dylan was recording the track in the next room. This special quality of smooth and immersive yet bare and untouched when it counts is something I haven't heard to this extent from anything other than the Luxman DA-06. A final example of the terrific DSD capabilities of this DAC can be heard playing Hugh Masekela's Stimela (Coal Train) track. I'd long heard of this track but for some reason ignored as another audiophile recording with great sound but terrible music. Fortunately I was wrong about the music. I listened to Stimela at 1 bit / 5.6448 MHz (DSD128) and figuratively fell into Washington, D.C.'s Blues Alley club in which the track was recorded. The sense of air surrounding every note on this track is something to behold. Listening to the coal train story as it's told throughout the song with a plethora of instruments and sounds in the background is a wonderful experience through the DA-06. I don't have the PCM version of this track for comparison but I can't imagine it's better than this DSD128 version. 

 

The vast majority of computer audiophiles' music collections are PCM, as opposed to DSD, and CD quality at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. Thus, the Luxman DA-06 must perform equally as well with standard resolution as it does with high resolution or else it's niche DAC in a niche market catering to a small niche within a niche. Fortunately the DA-06 retains its great sonic qualities reproducing 44.1 kHz content. I even sent some low resolution lossy MP3 tracks through the DA-06 and I enjoyed the music as much as I ever have. Eddie Vedder's track All The Way (Live) about the Chicago Cubs and faithful Cubs fans was never released in a format other than MP3. Eddie singing, "Someday we'll go all the way" gave me chills even after listening to the track several times. The DA-06 couldn't rescue this track from its sonic ills but I can't complain about hearing this track as well as I've ever heard it and feeling a rush of emotion as a lifelong Cubs fan. The new Iron & Wine album Ghost On Ghost contains my favorite track I&W has ever released. Track 4 Low Light Buddy Of Mine has a very authentic and organic sound prominently featuring bass guitar and drums from the outset. Through the Luxman DA-06 the track sounds great and very personal compared to other DACs that leave the listener completely out of the music as a long lost spectator in the upper most deck of a giant stadium. The Luxman character has a way of pulling one into the presentation rather than pushing the sound forward into the listener's face. Comparing Nat King Cole's The Very Thought Of You at 16/44.1 to the DSD version through the same DAC was an interesting exercise but my conclusion may be a red herring capable of misleading readers about PCM versus DSD rather than the system as a whole, my opinion of what I heard, and the flavor of sound I prefer. That said I much prefer the DSD version of this track through this DAC and the rest of my system. Two PCM 44.1 tracks that were seemingly made for this DAC or vice versa are Randi Tytingvaag's Red Or Dead, and Norah Jones' & Tim Ries' version of Wild Horses. The DA-06's silky smoothness and nearly tube-like bloom are a perfect match for Randi's sometimes piercing voice. The vocals on Red Or Dead are crystal clear through the DA-06, as they should be, but there's a nice amount of Luxman magic that transports this track to a very enjoyable realm. A match made in heaven is one way to describe Norah Jones' voice and the Luxman DA-06. I can almost guarantee readers that this combination will be heard at all the upcoming audio shows. The DA-06 in general enables a listener to enjoy music for hours on end without fatigue, but the combination of Norah Jones and the DA-06 could enable listening for days without feeling overindulged. 

 

Conclusion

 

The perfect component will remain elusive to those seeking perfection where it can't be found. Every component regardless of price or prowess of the designer has a sonic signature. The Luxman DA-06 DAC reproduces music with a rich tonal balance and silky smooth midrange, yet a satiating amount of transparency. The DA-06 is unique among DACs I've heard in recent memory because of those qualities. This is a DAC for listening to and being enveloped by one's favorite music. This favorite music has staying power whereas audio formats come and go with consumer demand. PCM and DSD remain viable for one reason, there's music people want to hear in both formats. Worrying about a "winning" format or "best" format is unnecessary with the Luxman DA-06. This DAC reproduces both PCM and DSD with its lush signature Luxman sound. The DA-06 enables the listener to get lost in the music rather than the format. The Luxman DA-06 DAC has seductive sonic qualities as addictive as a good book or a fine chocolate. it's a bit more expensive than most books but the DA-06 can bring endless enjoyment long after the last page is turned. Unequivocally recommended and CASH Listed.

the Luxman DA-06 is one luxury that pays off in musical enjoyment as rich as the contents of your music collection.
Michael Lavorgna

SUMMARY: The music made by the Luxman DA-06 is rich, resolute, refined, and oh so smooth. Regardless of my music's pedigree, I found myself enjoying entire album's worth upon album's worth, getting sucked into their sounds and moods to the point of being completely lost in tunes. I cannot think of a higher compliment to pay a piece of hi-fi gear. Capable of handling up to 32/384kHz PCM and double rate DSD, the Luxman DA-06 is one luxury that pays off in musical enjoyment as rich as the contents of your music collection.

REVIEW: Luxman is an old and storied Japanese hi-fi brand having been founded in 1925. I'll admit to lusting after a number of Luxman products over the years, mainly their tube-based amplifiers, but regardless of the component, Luxman knows how to impart beautiful build quality. There's obvious and tactilely apparent care taken with each objects industrial design. And while I appreciate that aspect of the Luxman line, without matching sonic performance you may as well buy a music box. Luckily for us, the DA-06 delivers on all counts. 

Luxman built their first DAC, the DA-07, back in 1987 and the DA-06 is their current top-of-line converter. Featuring Burr-Brown's PCM1792A DAC, the DA-06 can handle up to 32/384 DXD as well as 64x and 128x DSD via USB. For the Mac platform, DoP delivers DSD and for Windows a Luxman-provided ASIO driver provides direct DSD playback support. The other digital inputs max out at 24/192. Since the DA-06 is just a DAC, there's not a heck of lot to talk about in terms of features. There are three user-selectable filters for PCM playback (Normal, Low Latency, and High Frequency Attenuation) and two more for DSD (Normal and High Frequency Attenuation). The front panel hosts controls for selecting these filters, a red LED display that shows the incoming sample rate/quantization (it lights up DSD when playing back DSD files), and a control knob for input selection. Around back are all of the inputs and outputs and IEC inlet for the included power cord.

There's also a Phase selector button as well as a selector for "Digital Out" that offers two choices—Off and Through. "Through" allows you to use the DA-06 as a USB to S/PDIF converter for all data up 24/192kHz. For the duration of this review, I used the DA-06's USB input fed from my MacBook Pro with an AudioQuest Diamond USB cable and a pair of Kimber Kable Select KS 1126 Balanced ICs led to my Pass INT-30A integrated amp which drove my DeVore Fidelity The Nines. 

The Sound of Smooth

If you read any review of the Luxman DA-06 and the reviewer doesn't use the words liquid or smooth (or some other variant), you'll know something is wrong. The DA-06 is one smooth sounding customer. The sound field presented feels deep, wide, and nearly wet its so wonderfully present. Sound images are solid, bass is as big as life yet completely controlled and tuneful, and no matter how complex things get, the DA-06 sorts everything out without breaking even a hint of a sweat. There's never a sense of anything being overly etched or overly detailed, just pure smooth music. And when your gear is relaxed, your music is relaxed, and so are you. Which is the way it should be in this listening to music on a hi-fi business.

DSD recordings like Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra performing Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D Major from Channel Classics was deeply moving through the DA-06. The presentation was spatially vast, with distinct instrumental voices laid out in all of their individual glory leaving the rest up to our imagination. I was literally transported, moved, and awed by the performance, leaving all thoughts of hi-fi behind. There's an uncanny naturalness to the DA-06's way with space as if you can get up and walk around in Mahler's sound world for those fleeting moments of music-time. Lovely.

If you've ever had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Philip O'Hanlon's rooms at a hi-fi show, Philip is On A Higher Note the Luxman US distributor among other brands and my contact for this review, you'll have noticed he consistently gets great sound. You also may have noticed that his music selections are always well considered, wonderful sounding, and not your typical audiophile fare. The experience of listening, more so the enjoyment and sheer pleasure of the listening experience, appears to rank among Philip's highest priorities. With that in mind, Philip also sent along a USB flash drive with some music, mainly in DSD format. A needle drop in double rate DSD of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" from a 12" 45rpm pressing, Jimi Hendrix's "Born Under a Bad Sign" from the posthumously released Blues LP, and Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country", and more all sounded simply spectacular through the Luxman DAC. Everything, instruments, voices, and the way they exist in space, sound just right making it very easy to forget about reproduction moving you right into the production.

I went through all kinds of music from regular old CD-quality up to DXD, and single and double rate DSD and I could easily live with it all. I also threw every instrument in my sonic arsenal at the DA-06 and it took them all in and gave back what sounds to me like natural voices. Solo piano was forceful yet sweet, electronica boomed, busted, and blipped with exacting precision, voices were wonderfully present in full body as opposed to some presentations that tilt things toward the throat or chest, horns sounded like horns and within that particular family you could easily discern the sonic differences between alto sax, trumpet, and pocket trumpet. Even the potentially clamorous harpsichord was given full voice while harmonica, a potentially disastrous instrument in digital reproduction, sounded nice and wet and woody. 

The artist Henri Matisee once said, "In my paintings, I wish to create a spiritual remedy, similar to a comfortable armchair which provides rest from physical expectation for the spiritually working." And I would say you can think of the Luxman DA-06 along similarly comforting lines.

I also have the MSB Analog DAC (starts at $6,995) here for a follow-up to Steve Plaskin's excellent and thorough review and this made for an interesting comparison as they sound very similar. Only after careful extended listening was I able to pick out some sonic anomalies between them which consisted mainly of the Analog DAC being ever so slightly more lit up in a good way coupled with an even larger physical presentation. The sound picture painted by the Analog DAC was ever so slightly bigger in every dimension and there was also a sense of hearing into the recording, of even greater resolution. The Luxman traded off these traits for a very sensuous sound, a warm, enveloping, and soft presentation that was just pure pleasure. If you were to ask me which to get, I'd say the one you prefer.

I also took the Auralic Vega for a comparative spin and here we have a very different presentation. The Vega is more involved in transient information, low level micro-detail, which gives the overall presentation a more detailed quality. In comparison, the DA-06 sounds laid back allowing some physical separation between the presentation and you whereas the Vega seems to reach out and touch you. I can see how some listeners may find the Vega's overall sound to be nearly too detailed and for those looking for an analog-like ease, the Luxman DA-06 delivers in spades. 

Deluxe

The music made by the Luxman DA-06 is rich, resolute, refined, and oh so smooth. Regardless of my music's pedigree, I found myself enjoying entire album's worth upon album's worth, getting sucked into their sounds and moods to the point of being completely lost in tunes. I cannot think of a higher compliment to pay a piece of hi-fi gear. Capable of handling up to 32/384kHz PCM and double rate DSD, the Luxman DA-06 is one luxury that pays off in musical enjoyment as rich as the contents of your music collection.