Luxman L-550AX Amplifier

Nobody could accuse Luxman of subsequent fashion. At least not vogue from this decade - or century even.

For in these days of pared down, fairly minimalist - amplifiers that are appearing its latest L-550AX integrated appearances nothing less than something directly from the 1970s.

In other words it is big, glossy, festooned with buttons and boasts two huge, illuminated power meters on the front.

And it also boasts more features than your typical Sunday newspaper supplement. Tone controls? Assess.

Two pairs of loudspeaker output signals? Check. Check. Loudness button? Test. Stereo/mono button? Test?

Balanced operation? Assess. Headphone circuit? Check. Record closed circuit? Test. Line Straight button. Test.

I really could go on... but you get the picture. In fact the only apparent omission is a digital input. Suffice to say, this really is not a stripped down amplifier.

Included with that, it also has the traditional bomb-proof build quality of the fantastic Japanese amplifiers of yesteryear.

So looks-wise you will probably either love it or despise it. Personally I am in the former camp. The silver fascia may not be idle but all those buttons and the power meters give it a purposeful, muscular look - similar to that of a McIntosh amplifier.

This into your hi fi stand and no-one will miss it.

For the reason that it functions in Class An up to 20 Watts per channel, portion of the explanation for the size is the Luxman desires adequate ventilation. Nonetheless, after that it moves into Class B to provide over 60 Watts peak power in exactly the same load (view Measured Performance).

For some reason the instruction manual of Luxman makes no mention of this - only quoting Class An output amounts. Having said that most amplifiers just push out a few of Watts at national listening degrees. You had most likely need to use the Luxman with some really insensitive loudspeakers the size of the Buckingham Palace ballroom in a room to really transfer it into Class B.


Despite all of the bells plus whistles, at the core of it this is a nononsense amplifier. By which I mean it thoroughly gets on with the job in a completely engaging way.

Certainly one of its main characteristics is separation and the clarity it brings to even the mixes that are most congested. Listening to Led Zeppelin's 'When The Levee Breaks' through the Luxman, it retained the devastating dynamics - but in a manner that was well layered and smooth. The low-end was strong, but not excessively dominant, while the harmonica sat in a unique space and Robert Plant's vocals were plaintiff, different and beautifully pure.

That purity of tone shone through on solo instruments. Yo Yo Ma's 'Bach Cello Suites' had a rich resonance and clarity via the Luxman - but more significantly it also spotlit the spine-tingling moments of bow striking string.

Additionally, it brought a high quantity of detail out. Blur and the tinkling glasses of voices at the beginning of The Clash's 'Jimmy Jazz' are not simply background but an integral part of the track through the Luxman.

That said, there was a quality that is somewhat dry to the bass and attempting some heavy dub in the shape of King Tubby shows the L-550AX is not quite in its comfort zone here.

But that is an extremely minor criticism as overall it's a good performer. Even the phono stage is not any mere cosmetic addon. It also has a switchable subsonic filter and supports both MM and MC cartridges. In use it shared the same even handedness and tonal clarity of the remaining portion of the amplifier. Truly, it was unexpectedly quiet, with a very low noise floor.

Playing Johnny Cash's seminal 'The Man Comes Around' phonograph record, weight and the body of his voice that is ageing was palpable. It was lifelike, and there was realistic depth to the soundstage. This amplifier errs somewhat on the side of fullness compared to detail that is clinical that is total, but that is no bad thing. I've heard standalone phono stages costing more than half the cost of the entire Luxman L-550AX that don't as bad.

All this - both digital and vinyl -was listening to the Luxman without the tone controls changed in, in Line Straight manner. Place them although I did find it comes in the expense of a small diminution of depth and vibrancy in I got a tailoring of the sound - nothing overly bare but only somehow not as clean and clear as with them switched out.

On the other hand, with some fairly brash and harsh-edged 1980s synth pop in the form of Gary Numan, trimming the treble while giving a slight boost to the bass did smooth out the sound and allowed me to turn the volume higher before the music became too grating.

Precisely the same is true for the loudness button which adds an additional bounce to the mid-range while artificially inflating the treble. It's not disagreeable but I wouldn't be a buff general. But at the close of the day it is fine to possess the choice - and it might work well for most users, especially for late night listening at lower volumes.

Which is part of the great thing about the Luxman. The alternatives are there if you'd like to work with them but its basic sound is just so musically appropriate and gratifying that you may never feel the need.

It does not shove the music but appears to take a step back and simply shine a light on the essential elements of whatever is being played through it.

Which means that in case you chance to enjoy acoustic jazz this will definitely play it with swing and detail, if that's everything you favor, handling just about any genre in between with aplomb yet it will also rock out with certainty.

And one I 'd heartily recommend.


Old fashioned looks but slam up-to-date sound.

It might not satisfy the ones that crave super-low bass but in case you like accuracy give it a go.

Luxman L-550AX Amplifier photo