The $1200 D-105u, the top of Luxman’s CD-player line, is novel in its twin-triode vacuum-tube amplification in the analog output stage. This configuration is said to provide high linearity with low distortion and that hard-to-quantify musicality found in tubed products. In addition, the D-105u incorporates an anti-vibration laser pick-up mechanism and a high-mass magnetic disc clamper, the latter feature said to mass-load the disc center to minimize spindle-motor microvibration, thus improving tracking accuracy for lowest error rate.
Removing the cover from the unit reveals a neat, spacious interior, with components not squished together on either the main or power-supply boards. The two 18-bit DAC chips are Burr-Brown 1701Ps while the digital filter is from NPC. The horizontally mounted vacuum tubes (6CG7s) are inaccessible, meaning a return to the factory or a factory-authorized service center for replacement.
The D-105u’s outward appearance matches that of the Luxman LV-105u integrated amp (which also employs the “Brid” circuit design). It is nicely finished in basic black with minuscule white lettering identifying the various program and control functions. Happily, all functions are duplicated on the remote control; folks with aging eyes like mine should have no trouble making the thing work. Just to the left of the large vacuum fluorescent display is a vertical window behind which you can see the two vacuum tubes stacked one above the other. Shortly after turning on the unit, they come to life with that familiar glow I love. (Luxman has wisely provided a preheating button just to the left of the window which, when engaged, serves two functions: first, to cut the warm-up period to ten seconds, and, more importantly, to eliminate thermal shock resulting from the initial application of power to the filaments. Leaving this switch on will increase tube life.)
The vacuum fluorescent display (which can be adjusted for four (!) levels of brightness, including an “off” position) is especially informative. In addition to the usual track, index, time, and programming functions, it indicates whether or not pre-emphasis was used in the recording. I had to check this out. I loaded up Disc 1 of the Pierre Verany Digital Test (Pierre Verany PV.788031/788032). Sure enough, track 37, recorded with pre-emphasis, caused the “Emphasis” signal to light. It went out on Track 38, which duplicates the musical selection on track 37 but is recorded without pre-emphasis. The fact that I could tell no difference between the two tracks indicates a properly operating de-emphasis circuit.
Also shown on the display is the amount of level reduction, in dB below full output, of the variable analog outputs which can be controlled from the front panel as well as from the remote control (this also adjusts headphone volume). The variable analog outs, incidentally, are controlled by precision, servo motordriven potentiometers instead of the usual FET-switched resistor networks of voltage-controlled amplifiers (VCAs). This approach is reported to achieve the goal of variable outputs without compromising the sound.
Recordists will appreciate the ease with which glitch-free recordings can be made of CDs. Using the Edit function on the 105u, the internal computer selects whole tracks and divides them up, based on their times, to fit the recording time on the A and B sides for any given cassette length.
Other operational and/or convenience features of the Luxman (all except, inexplicably, fast forward/backward scan, being remote-control operable) include: Random, which lets the CD player select tracks for play in a completely random manner (if the Repeat button and Random buttons are pushed, the disc is played repeatedly with a different random selection of tracks each time); A-Scan, which allows the first 10 seconds of each track on the disc to be previewed automatically; Skip, which allows you to go directly from one track to another, either backward or forward; Scan, which enables you to audibly scan, either forward or backward, the music content within a track (the scanning speed can be more than doubled (!) by pressing the Pause button first, but the music is inaudible); Direct Access, which provides immediate play of any track from 1 to 99; Program, which allows you to program up to 32 tracks in any order; T-display, which, with each successive push of the button, selects one of 4 disc timing displays: single elapsed, single remaining, total elapsed, and total remaining. All but the most obsessed among us should be happy with the comprehensive and informative display on the D-105u.
Overall construction quality seems above average for a CD player which will most likely be sold in a nonspecialist hi-fi salon. Fit and finish are impeccable, the styling to my liking, but I do wish the rear-panel RCA jacks were Tiffanys instead of the flimsy things they are. With tight-fitting plugs, the ground sleeve can pull right off the jack. Luxman, in step with other mass-market consumer electronics companies, has provided serial remote in/out jacks on the rear of the 105u, so unified remote-control operation is possible via connection with other Luxman components. The loading drawer, which accommodates both 5″ and 3″ CDs, is not the quietest I’ve heard (a higher-pitched “clang” than the California Audio Labs Tercet Mk.III that I also review in this issue), but appears to be solidly built and is positive in operation. The Luxman D-105u is sold with a five-year parts and labor warrantyunusual and commendable in the hi-fi industry.
Based on what I heard on Digital Test, it appears the Luxman’s error correction was not equal to the Tercet Mk.III’s, though still well within the CD standard. The D-105u failed on track 34, demonstrating its inability to track a single dropout 2mm in length (ten times the standard, by the way). In the test of successive dropout tracking, the Luxman failed on track 48 (2 × 1.5mm).
The first impression I got when I played music on the Luxman was as if I had moved back several rows in the auditorium or concert hall. This slightly distant perspective lent an even greater air of intimacy to the Dowland Fantasy on the Astrée sampler (E 7699). Once I adjusted to this difference, I relaxed and let the music take over. The recovery of ambient information in the recording venue was outstanding, equaling the Tercet Mk.III. The sense of spaciousness and air was palpable. Focus on Paul O’Dette’s Renaissance lute, however, was not as tight as I heard on the Tercet. The notes seemed to arise from a point somewhere above the strings instead of from the strings themselves, lending a slightly confused sound to the instrument by the time the music reached my ears. The recovery of subtle performance details was impressiveabout the best I’ve heard, certainly equaling the CAL player. Rendering of timbral characteristics was also excellent, lending a high degree of believability and tangibility to the sound of the instrument.
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