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Luxman LXV-OT10 Phono Equalizer Amplifier Review and Measurements

GXAlan

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Luxman LXV-OT10 Phono Equalizer Amplifier Review/Measurements
166092172.jpg
166092172_o3.jpg



Let's take an audio company with nearly 100 years of history. That's Luxman, which has been around since 1925.
Now take one of the oldest audiophile magazines in Japan. That's stereo, which was first published in 1963 -- just one year after the first issue of Stereophile.
Last, take ONTOMO MOOK. I'm not really sure what it is. It seems to be a hobbyist magazine focused on the culture of music ranging from entire issues dedicated to music in figure skating to magazines on building speakers and part of a media conglomerate...

Now, imagine that all three of them, just for fun, decide to create a hobbyist phono kit that you "assemble" yourself with a circuit designed by Luxman and distributed by the magazine, with priority given to subscribers of the magazine. That's what the LXV-OT10 is.

1695274663800.png


Launched at 18,000 yen in 2020 ($120 USD at 2023 exchange rates), the LXV-OT10 quickly sold out. It sells for about $250+ on eBay (including shipping). It's part of a series of desktop hobbyist kits including amplifiers, FM tuners, and 4 band graphic equalizers, etc.


1693678430511.png
1693678774217.png
1693678715567.png
1693678523133.png



Some of these products use multi-voltage DC adapters while others require 100V AC power.

Today we're looking specifically the phono eq/amp

Specifications
RATED OUTPUT (GAIN)
250mV (MM: 34dB / MC: 52dB)
INPUT SENSITIVITY MM: 5mV / MC: 0.62mV
INPUT IMPEDANCE MM: 47kΩ / MC: 100Ω
RIAA DEVIATION 20Hz – 20kHz ±0.5dB
THD 0.15% (1kHz, rated output)
S/N 75dB (input shorted, A-weighted)
JJ ECC82 tube (Slovakia)

What is unique is that it has two EQ knobs for manipulated the RIAA correction curve. The center position has a detent, but you can adjust the curves to replicate other curves to your liking. Stereo magazine provides this printable template.

LuxPhonoEQ_page-0001_2.jpg



Assembly:
All of the instructions are in Japanese. It took me about 45 minutes to build, of which 15 minutes was spent looking for a good Philips screwdriver. The chassis screws are self-tapping screws that cut into the sheet metal and a PH2 screwdriver despite it seeming like it would be too large, worked the best for me. Like building a PC, there is no soldering involved. It's just a matter of screwing things together and the op amps are already installed. What is very nice is the fit/finish of everything. The rubber feet are simple 3M rubber self-adhesive feet, but the depressions in the metal are so precisely matched to the laser cut feet that it was a joy to put them on. The silkscreen printing is nice and crisp and it really does have the gray color of a Luxman product. Even the PCB has the Luxman logo silkscreened (which is visible from the tube window). The logo for stereo magazine and Luxman are different from the logo used for everythig else, but the typography is great with thoughtful use of kerning, weight, and size.

166092172_o2.jpg


There are two op amps which are socketed, allowing for simple rolling. They ship with the TI 072 and JRC 4558.


Test Setup:
It's really hard to deal with ground loops when testing phono pre-amps. What worked for me is to ground my Marantz SA-10 to the E1DA Cosmos ADC with a E1DA Scaler at 0 dB as a buffer to address the low input impedance of the default Cosmos ADC. I used a Six Acoustics Inverted RIAA Circuit ver 1.5 with a rated RIAA accuracy: +/- 0.05dB (20Hz - 20KHz). The Luxman grounding lug was grounded to the PCB of this device. These measurements were taken with a NOS JAN 5814A Philips ECG tube.


1040be_4ca1d191218d464a96261877aa78404f~mv2.jpg



Self-Noise
Input shorted, the noise was in the single digit µV for MM and double digits µV for MC.

1695276495054.png
1695276632477.png



56.5 dB
SINAD
Moving Magnet (5 mV input)
1695276752878.png


54.6 dB
SINAD
Moving Coil (0.5 mV input)
1695276816775.png



The tube adds a lot of distortion although noise was well controlled as was the AC mains noise.

RIAA Accuracy in MM vs. MC

1695276926460.png
1695277013046.png



I'm not sure what to make of the phase, but at least for the frequency response, assuming that the Six Acoustics Reverse RIAA is truly 0.05 dB accurate, the MM mode was +/- 0.25 dB give or take. That's great! I did slightly boost the treble to get the closest RIAA match. In moving coil mode, I may not have the proper "loading" but it was +/- 1 dB. I really don't know if that's a function of the capacitance, etc. Tuning the EQ could improve this.


REW sweeps show that one of the reasons why vinyl LPs sound good is that electrically, these results would be impressive if they were graded as a speaker.
1695277132384.png
1695277146265.png


Overload
The tubes have so much distortion that it's hard to know what is acceptable. If you go with a Western Electric 91E which is supposed to have a pleasant tube sound, they rate at 10% THD+N which is 20 dB SINAD. With that perspective, MM overload is still a low 60 mV or so. On the MC side, however, the performance is a bit better thanks to the low gain and you're approaching 11 mV.

1695277534770.png
1695277686507.png


Subjective
While it's nice to nitpick about the phono pre-amp, once you actually start playing vinyl LPs the cartridge is going to add a lot more distortion and the surface noise jumps up. In general, I was happy with the MM mode and the simple EQ allows you to address any cartridge variability. In moving coil mode, when paired with my super-low output MC (Monster Cables Sigma 2000 MC; 0.2 mV) the baseline noise was too loud once I raised the volume to an acceptable level. This was with a 80's era Linn LP12 with a Vahalla power supply. The Luxman manual actually warns against using MC cartridges rated for 0.2 mV output due to noise. On the other hand, the built-in MC phono in my Marantz PM-10 was better. I didn't find the pops/clicks to be unusually bad or different.

My first impressions, subject to sighted bias:
"There's something about the sound that makes you feel like the record player is tracking better. You have a really rich sound stage, very low noise, minimal static/pops. There's a smoothness that feels like subdued treble at first, but if you turn up the dial for the high frequency boost, you just get more treble but you don't lose this sense of smoothness."

The unit was mildly warm to the touch when used with the enclosure. With the top off, using a FLIR thermal camera showed that the large resistors also heat up quite a bit!

1695279078116.png
1695279098264.png
1695279103509.png


Switching the jumpers from MM to MC was a bit of a pain since you have to remove the cover and the capacitors get in the way. I would have preferred a toggle switch on the back.

Conclusions
Vinyl isn't intended for the most detailed, accurate or transparent sound. It's for the fun and for the experience. Why wouldn't you want to listen with your eyes?

Along these lines, I think what is more interesting is the idea of a luxury audio brand collaborating with magazine to create a functional hobbyist-level product. Luxman has an all-tube $6700 phono eq/amp (EQ-500) which is RIAA only and $2400 solid-state phono eq/amp (E-250) which is also RIAA only. This is the only hybrid phono eq/amp Luxman name and the only phono eq/amp from Luxman with non-RIAA curves! Luxman didn't hold back features. You actually get stuff in this kit that isn't found on the full product line. Luxman designed to a price point and focused on looks as much as they did performance. You don't simply get a sloppy brand sticker stuck on an OEM product and we actually got something that is new. Costs are cut by just having one loading option for MM and MC, but the variable EQ is a meaningful addition.

Why don't we have something like this in the US? Can you imagine a Stereophile x McIntosh hobbyist line of kit products? Nelson Pass has DIY options, but they don't look like Pass Labs products, and the kits are designed for electronics hobbyists interested in soldering as opposed to audiophiles looking for IKEA level assembly.

Products like this will help the next generation of audiophile hobbyists develop interest in the gear.

As a marketing exercise that is responsible and thoughtful for its future customers, Luxman deserves a golfing panther.
 
Last edited:

SIY

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The tube is purely superfluous, it's just there as literally a distortion generator. And the distortion will look very different with different tubes since it's running at a stupidly low B+. The "op-amp" rolling option is ludicrous.

This is a terrible implementation aimed at ignoramuses. If the tube is just bypassed completely (it adds nothing but degradation to distortion, noise, and output impedance), the performance will improve significantly.
 

dualazmak

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"Mook"="ムック" is a word made in Japan!;)

"Mook" is derived from "Magazine" + "Book" = "Mook".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mook_(publishing)

In Japan, "Mooks" are usually categorized as a kind of book, and usually each of them has ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and therefore they are sold at bookstores and at book-category of any web shopping sites including Amazon.

Some of the Mook books are sold at bookstores (or at web book sites) together with the glued same face-size paper box containing DIY-kits and/or accessories/amenities related to the title of the Mook book.

Some of the Mook book have hidden coupon code card in them (the price covers the coupon), and people can get the specific DIY-kit/accessories/amenities by sending the coupon itself or coupon code to the company sponsoring/publishing the Mook book.

Almost always, such kits/accessories/amenities with Mook book are very low-cost low-quality almost toy-level. Many of Japanese people, however, just like these toys as enthusiastic collectors' items, and a few of them are very expensive (premium price tag) in used/collectors market, very funny for me though.

Next,,,
"ONTOMO" stands for "ON" and "TOMO"; the Japanese Kanji character "音" has meaning of "sound" which can be pronounced "oto" and also "on"; then "音楽ongaku" is ”音"(on meas sound)+"楽"(gaku means pleasure/comfort) = "ongaku" means music!!

The company "音楽之友社"(ongaku no tomo sha) stands for "音楽ongaku"(music)+"之no"(thereof)+"友tomo"(friend/together-with)+"社sha"(company limited).

We Japanese people always like longer words into a short one to be a common nickname. In this case the company "音楽之友社"(ongaku no tomo sha) usually called in short "ontomo" = "ONTOMO".

"Su-ta-ba" for "Starbucks Coffee", "Mi-su-do" for "Mr. Donuts", "De-pa-chika" for "Department store's underground (地下chika) food shops/market”, and so on...

Now you got final answer; "ONTOMO MOOKs" are "Mook" books published by the company "音楽之友社"(ongaku no tomo sha).:D

That company recently, especially during (and after) the pandemic, published many Mook books in order to keep/attract consumers' (especially young people's) attention on the company (and also on music and audio industry) together with the sponsoring partners like in case of this thread LUXMAN. (Even though LUXMAN is one of the long established very much excellent audio dedicated companies similar to ACCUPHASE.)
 
Last edited:

dualazmak

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Products like this will help the next generation of audiophile hobbyists develop interest in the gear.

Yes, in general, I partly agree and do hope so.

I frequently worry about, however, some of the Mook's DIY-kits/accessories/amenities are too poor and too-much low quality in causing possible misleading for younger generation...
 
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GXAlan

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The tube is purely superfluous, it's just there as literally a distortion generator. And the distortion will look very different with different tubes since it's running at a stupidly low B+. The "op-amp" rolling option is ludicrous.

This is a terrible implementation aimed at ignoramuses. If the tube is just bypassed completely (it adds nothing but degradation to distortion, noise, and output impedance), the performance will improve significantly.

Knowing the performance of the SQ-N150 which was distortion dominant over 1W, maybe it is designed like a special effect?

They advertise 0.15% THD at the rated output (-56.47 dB) which is pretty much exactly what I measured for THD+N.

Is it trivial to bypass the tube by jumpering the socket?

The manual has a clean copy of the schematics, this photo taken casually with my phone — but I can scan it in.
1695304348677.jpeg
 
Last edited:
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GXAlan

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Yes, in general, I partly agree and do hope so.

I frequently worry about, however, some of the Mook's DIY-kits/accessories/amenities are too poor and too-much low quality in causing possible misleading for younger generation...

Agreed. Their integrated "kit" amps don't seem to be worth the price. Still, I think the idea of component audio as opposed to all-in-one is the target.

What is most impressive is the build quality of this kit. Quality control and part sorting and documentation are all superb.

 

pkane

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Luxman LXV-OT10 Phono Equalizer Amplifier Review/Measurements
166092172.jpg
166092172_o3.jpg



Let's take an audio company with nearly 100 years of history. That's Luxman, which has been around since 1925.
Now take one of the oldest audiophile magazines in Japan. That's stereo, which was first published in 1963 -- just one year after the first issue of Stereophile.
Last, take ONTOMO MOOK. I'm not really sure what it is. It seems to be a hobbyist magazine focused on the culture of music ranging from entire issues dedicated to music in figure skating to magazines on building speakers and part of a media conglomerate...

Now, imagine that all three of them, just for fun, decide to create a hobbyist phono kit that you "assemble" yourself with a circuit designed by Luxman and distributed by the magazine, with priority given to subscribers of the magazine. That's what the LXV-OT10 is.

View attachment 313526

Launched at 18,000 yen in 2020 ($120 USD at 2023 exchange rates), the LXV-OT10 quickly sold out. It sells for about $250+ on eBay (including shipping). It's part of a series of desktop hobbyist kits including amplifiers, FM tuners, and 4 band graphic equalizers, etc.


1693678430511.png
1693678774217.png
1693678715567.png
1693678523133.png



Some of these products use multi-voltage DC adapters while others require 100V AC power.

Today we're looking specifically the phono eq/amp

Specifications
RATED OUTPUT (GAIN)
250mV (MM: 34dB / MC: 52dB)
INPUT SENSITIVITY MM: 5mV / MC: 0.62mV
INPUT IMPEDANCE MM: 47kΩ / MC: 100Ω
RIAA DEVIATION 20Hz – 20kHz ±0.5dB
THD 0.15% (1kHz, rated output)
S/N 75dB (input shorted, A-weighted)
JJ ECC82 tube (Slovakia)

What is unique is that it has two EQ knobs for manipulated the RIAA correction curve. The center position has a detent, but you can adjust the curves to replicate other curves to your liking. Stereo magazine provides this printable template.

LuxPhonoEQ_page-0001_2.jpg



Assembly:
All of the instructions are in Japanese. It took me about 45 minutes to build, of which 15 minutes was spent looking for a good Philips screwdriver. The chassis screws are self-tapping screws that cut into the sheet metal and a PH2 screwdriver despite it seeming like it would be too large, worked the best for me. Like building a PC, there is no soldering involved. It's just a matter of screwing things together and the op amps are already installed. What is very nice is the fit/finish of everything. The rubber feet are simple 3M rubber self-adhesive feet, but the depressions in the metal are so precisely matched to the laser cut feet that it was a joy to put them on. The silkscreen printing is nice and crisp and it really does have the gray color of a Luxman product. Even the PCB has the Luxman logo silkscreened (which is visible from the tube window). The logo for stereo magazine and Luxman are different from the logo used for everythig else, but the typography is great with thoughtful use of kerning, weight, and size.

166092172_o2.jpg


There are two op amps which are socketed, allowing for simple rolling. They ship with the TI 072 and JRC 4558.


Test Setup:
It's really hard to deal with ground loops when testing phono pre-amps. What worked for me is to ground my Marantz SA-10 to the E1DA Cosmos ADC with a E1DA Scaler at 0 dB as a buffer to address the low input impedance of the default Cosmos ADC. I used a Six Acoustics Inverted RIAA Circuit ver 1.5 with a rated RIAA accuracy: +/- 0.05dB (20Hz - 20KHz). The Luxman grounding lug was grounded to the PCB of this device. These measurements were taken with a NOS JAN 5814A Philips ECG tube.


1040be_4ca1d191218d464a96261877aa78404f~mv2.jpg



Self-Noise
Input shorted, the noise was in the single digit µV for MM and double digits µV for MC.

View attachment 313531 View attachment 313532


56.5 dB
SINAD
Moving Magnet (5 mV input)
View attachment 313534

54.6 dB
SINAD
Moving Coil (0.5 mV input)
View attachment 313535


The tube adds a lot of distortion although noise was well controlled as was the AC mains noise.

RIAA Accuracy in MM vs. MC

View attachment 313536View attachment 313537


I'm not sure what to make of the phase, but at least for the frequency response, assuming that the Six Acoustics Reverse RIAA is truly 0.05 dB accurate, the MM mode was +/- 0.25 dB give or take. That's great! I did slightly boost the treble to get the closest RIAA match. In moving coil mode, I may not have the proper "loading" but it was +/- 1 dB. I really don't know if that's a function of the capacitance, etc. Tuning the EQ could improve this.


REW sweeps show that one of the reasons why vinyl LPs sound good is that electrically, these results would be impressive if they were graded as a speaker.
View attachment 313538View attachment 313539

Overload
The tubes have so much distortion that it's hard to know what is acceptable. If you go with a Western Electric 91E which is supposed to have a pleasant tube sound, they rate at 10% THD+N which is 20 dB SINAD. With that perspective, MM overload is still a low 60 mV or so. On the MC side, however, the performance is a bit better thanks to the low gain and you're approaching 11 mV.

View attachment 313540View attachment 313542

Subjective
While it's nice to nitpick about the phono pre-amp, once you actually start playing vinyl LPs the cartridge is going to add a lot more distortion and the surface noise jumps up. In general, I was happy with the MM mode and the simple EQ allows you to address any cartridge variability. In moving coil mode, when paired with my super-low output MC (Monster Cables Sigma 2000 MC; 0.2 mV) the baseline noise was too loud once I raised the volume to an acceptable level. This was with a 80's era Linn LP12 with a Vahalla power supply. The Luxman manual actually warns against using MC cartridges rated for 0.2 mV output due to noise. On the other hand, the built-in MC phono in my Marantz PM-10 was better. I didn't find the pops/clicks to be unusually bad or different.

My first impressions, subject to sighted bias:
"There's something about the sound that makes you feel like the record player is tracking better. You have a really rich sound stage, very low noise, minimal static/pops. There's a smoothness that feels like subdued treble at first, but if you turn up the dial for the high frequency boost, you just get more treble but you don't lose this sense of smoothness."

The unit was mildly warm to the touch when used with the enclosure. With the top off, using a FLIR thermal camera showed that the large resistors also heat up quite a bit!

View attachment 313543View attachment 313544View attachment 313545

Switching the jumpers from MM to MC was a bit of a pain since you have to remove the cover and the capacitors get in the way. I would have preferred a toggle switch on the back.

Conclusions
Vinyl isn't intended for the most detailed, accurate or transparent sound. It's for the fun and for the experience. Why wouldn't you want to listen with your eyes?

Along these lines, I think what is more interesting is the idea of a luxury audio brand collaborating with magazine to create a functional hobbyist-level product. Luxman has an all-tube $6700 phono eq/amp (EQ-500) which is RIAA only and $2400 solid-state phono eq/amp (E-250) which is also RIAA only. This is the only hybrid phono eq/amp Luxman name and the only phono eq/amp from Luxman with non-RIAA curves! Luxman didn't hold back features. You actually get stuff in this kit that isn't found on the full product line. Luxman designed to a price point and focused on looks as much as they did performance. You don't simply get a sloppy brand sticker stuck on an OEM product and we actually got something that is new. Costs are cut by just having one loading option for MM and MC, but the variable EQ is a meaningful addition.

Why don't we have something like this in the US? Can you imagine a Stereophile x McIntosh hobbyist line of kit products? Nelson Pass has DIY options, but they don't look like Pass Labs products, and the kits are designed for electronics hobbyists interested in soldering as opposed to audiophiles looking for IKEA level assembly.

Products like this will help the next generation of audiophile hobbyists develop interest in the gear.

As a marketing exercise that is responsible and thoughtful for its future customers, Luxman deserves a golfing panther.

BTW, you can undo the RIAA curve in Multitone. Just set the correction in settings, this will be automatically applied to all data and results after capture.
 

Avp1

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Knowing the performance of the SQ-N150 which was distortion dominant over 1W, maybe it is designed like a special effect?

They advertise 0.15% THD at the rated output (-56.47 dB) which is pretty much exactly what I measured for THD+N.

Is it trivial to bypass the tube by jumpering the socket?

The manual has a clean copy of the schematics, this photo taken casually with my phone — but I can scan it in.
View attachment 313614

Are you sure it is correct schematic? TL072 is not appropriate for MC input - it is too noisy. Also I do not see any switching for correction curve. Circuit with two variable resistors reminds me classic tone control how it was made in mass market old tube gear. The tube at the output does really nothing to sound. In cathode follower tube has lowest influence on sound possible.
 
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GXAlan

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Are you sure it is correct schematic? TL072 is not appropriate for MC input - it is too noisy. Also I do not see any switching for correction curve. Circuit with two variable resistors reminds me classic tone control how it was made in mass market old tube gear. The tube at the output does really nothing to sound. In cathode follower tube has lowest influence on sound possible.

Yes, I think it is plain tone control but Stereo Magazine provided the settings that they thought most closely replicated the other curves.
1695483889728.png

I didn’t look to see if the PCB matches the schematic but in keeping with the hobbyist nature of this product, the user manual has the schematic (last page).


Again, my measurements match theirs at 0.15% THD at rated output of .25V.

The manual does say that you shouldn’t use it with MC cartridges at 0.2mV output due to noise. I agree.

I agree about the TI 072. I imagine it was either strict cost cutting or that they want people to op amp roll and hear a difference.
 

SIY

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The tube at the output does really nothing to sound.
It degrades the sound and is the principal distortion source. 12AU7 does not work well with ridiculously low plate voltage. Bring it up to 150-200v and then indeed it will have low distortion, albeit a degraded source impedance.
 
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GXAlan

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15 V is a zero missing?

The Luxman branded DC power supply is 15V, 1A but you are right. If the op-amps were running at 15V, we'd expect a much higher input overload
 

Balle Clorin

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+15 to -14 V . Still an incompetent design , done to just to put a tube in the circuit.
Luxman should go back to car stereo( Alpine)
 

Avp1

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+15 to -14 V . Still an incompetent design , done to just to put a tube in the circuit.
Luxman should go back to car stereo( Alpine)

I do not believe this is native Luxman design. They likely re-branded some cheap Chinese stuff.
 
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GXAlan

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I do not believe this is native Luxman design. They likely re-branded some cheap Chinese stuff.

The instruction manual actually has an interview with the designers. They treat this as the 5th phono product from Luxman and their approach to this challenge. These are the three people behind the idea.

1696039808043.png


Mr. Ishikawa, Product Department
Mr. Kubo, Developmebt Department
Mr. Doi, Advisor

Can see the manual here:
 

Avp1

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The instruction manual actually has an interview with the designers. They treat this as the 5th phono product from Luxman and their approach to this challenge. These are the three people behind the idea.

View attachment 315595

Mr. Ishikawa, Product Department
Mr. Kubo, Developmebt Department
Mr. Doi, Advisor

Can see the manual here:

Than this is even worse! Mr. Pass at least creates something unique in his FirstWatt designs, the circuit posted above is what you usually see in no-name Chinese products. If someone wants classic tube phono stage - Tavish Design products are the best choice.
 
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GXAlan

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Than this is even worse! Mr. Pass at least creates something unique in his FirstWatt designs, the circuit posted above is what you usually see in no-name Chinese products.

The only other Luxman product measured here actually did poorly.


In my mind, this has low noise, sky high distortion. Build quality is exceptional for a kit. Documentation is nice. Input overload is poor.

Just as Marantz measures way worse than Denon, it’s certainly possible that Luxman caters to the those who prefer distortion and Accuphase caters to those who prefer the most transparency.

What is interesting is this:


1) It has very similar gain to the LXV-OT10 for the rec out.
2) MM overload was 25 dB (89 mV by my math)
3) MC overload was 30 dB (16 mV by my math)
4) RIAA seems *better* on the LXV-OT10 phono than the pricey L-509X!

If there wasn’t a tube in the stage, I wonder what the overload actually would be for the LXV-OT10.

@SIY, how exactly would I jumper the pins on the 12au7 socket to bypass it?
 

Jim Hagerman

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assuming that the Six Acoustics Reverse RIAA is truly 0.05 dB accurate

Actually it's not quite that good. I should know, I designed the circuit back in 1995 (http://www.hagtech.com/pdf/riaa.pdf). York copied it exactly, calling it their own. Many years ago I did a sweep analysis of accuracy changing capacitors by +/-5% (I was using 2% capacitors and 1% resistors for the production version).

accuracy.gif


The circuit looks like this:

iriaa.png
 
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GXAlan

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Than this is even worse! Mr. Pass at least creates something unique in his FirstWatt designs, the circuit posted above is what you usually see in no-name Chinese products. If someone wants classic tube phono stage - Tavish Design products are the best choice.

What is interesting is the distortion that MUSES01 op-amp introduces, which is a Japanese product designed to be "musical"

Actually it's not quite that good. I should know, I designed the circuit back in 1995 (http://www.hagtech.com/pdf/riaa.pdf). York copied it exactly, calling it their own. Many years ago I did a sweep analysis of accuracy changing capacitors by +/-5% (I was using 2% capacitors and 1% resistors for the production version).
Darn -- I wish I would have known and then I could have bought your original version instead of the copy. :(
 
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