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Luxman SQ-N150 Review (Tube Amplifier)

Rate this amplifier:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 218 76.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 47 16.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 8 2.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 12 4.2%

  • Total voters
    285

Ken Tajalli

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EL_PW

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This is my unit and I just wanted to make a couple of comments.

I accept the testing as accurate and commend Amir for his tireless efforts on our behalf. And I'd much rather know the truth so am not disheartened by the results. I use high efficiency speakers (Omega Super 3i) with the unit and its sounds pretty good - not amazing but pretty good. And Amir is very correct that a smidge too much volume and its distortion city baby. But why is that? For people considering this unit something to keep in mind is that it was designed for the Japanese market where people live in apartments made out of paper, literally. You can hear your neighbors moving around next door and all their conversations that are above a whisper. So a pretty tube amp that sounds best at micro volume with high efficiency speakers makes sense in that context. Sadly, this has a corollary in the US as now our Landed Gentry are forcing us into expensive, small and smaller apartments and condos where those same considerations from Japan apply. Folks in Europe may or may not be able to relate. Old buildings with thick walls are best for audio nirvana IMHO.

I also have class A/B (Rotel RB-1070, Hafler DH-220) and Class D (Topping PA3s, Hypex UcD 400 amp kit)) amps that sound GREAT but had always wanted something that was "Pure Class A" which is the Luxman. Now I realize just how much hype I've been exposed to in the hi-fi/audiophile industry and have the knowledge to make much smarter choices going forward.

Cheers!
 

DMill

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This is my unit and I just wanted to make a couple of comments.

I accept the testing as accurate and commend Amir for his tireless efforts on our behalf. And I'd much rather know the truth so am not disheartened by the results. I use high efficiency speakers (Omega Super 3i) with the unit and its sounds pretty good - not amazing but pretty good. And Amir is very correct that a smidge too much volume and its distortion city baby. But why is that? For people considering this unit something to keep in mind is that it was designed for the Japanese market where people live in apartments made out of paper, literally. You can hear your neighbors moving around next door and all their conversations that are above a whisper. So a pretty tube amp that sounds best at micro volume with high efficiency speakers makes sense in that context. Sadly, this has a corollary in the US as now our Landed Gentry are forcing us into expensive, small and smaller apartments and condos where those same considerations from Japan apply. Folks in Europe may or may not be able to relate. Old buildings with thick walls are best for audio nirvana IMHO.

I also have class A/B (Rotel RB-1070, Hafler DH-220) and Class D (Topping PA3s, Hypex UcD 400 amp kit)) amps that sound GREAT but had always wanted something that was "Pure Class A" which is the Luxman. Now I realize just how much hype I've been exposed to in the hi-fi/audiophile industry and have the knowledge to make much smarter choices going forward.

Cheers!
I wouldn’t be too bothered by measured results. It’s a lovely tube amp, and by design, has its flaws. I also am fortunate to have a nice 2nd system similar to this and enjoy it for what it is. Kinda like the Rush song Red Barchetta about a guy who takes his combustion vehicle out for a ride when technology has surpassed it. I bet playing most music at normal levels it can do just fine. If you want SOTA no. But it’s probably a fun ride.
 

MaxBuck

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Mac, H-K Citation, these were some terrific amps.
They were terrific amps for their time that now are completely taken to the woodshed by a $200 Topping.

As for the Luxman and similar tube amps: is it possible that they're just the tickety-boo for people who listen to crap source material and just want it smoothed out and muffled in a pleasing manner? I'm talking to you, vinyl aficionados, among others.
 
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EL_PW

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They were terrific amps for their time that now are completely taken to the woodshed by a $200 Topping.

As for the Luxman and similar tube amps: is it possible that they're just the tickety-boo for people who listen to crap source material and just want it smoothed out and muffled in a pleasing manner? I'm talking to you, vinyl aficionados, among others.
It's funny you say that. I have a pro-ject turntable that I hooked up to the tube amp and then purchased about 10 records to listen to of jazz, classical and rock. After listening to all of them a number of times I realized that I'd much rather have the CD versions of all those recordings and stopped buying vinyl altogether. And I grew up with vinyl so if anyone should love it it's me. But the Luxman and digital sources can sound very nice together. But as you mentioned, they don't beat my Topping PA3s.
 

Ken Tajalli

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Isn't it amazing how some people's goal-posts seem to shift according to their agenda!
I mean, sometimes a SINAD figure of 120dB is vastly superior to a measly 90dB SINAD, at other times a distortion figure of -90dB is "Pretty inaudible"! And when it comes to speakers and transducers, once we pass a distortion level of -40dB, all is rosy!
Make up your minds, will you! I am talking to you Test-gear Aficionados!
A good LP playing system, with or without Tube amplification CAN (not all) sound so good, you get goose pimples! But it would be expensive, maintenance intensive, jittery etc. Not to mention archaic technology.
But to a HIFI hobbyist, all is part of the fun.
In contrast, one can get a decent digital playback system, for a lot less money, which would be modern, maintenance free etc.
But that does not make the LP system Crap! Just expensive and fiddly.
I am of the firm belief that this sample of Luxman amp is actually faulty! The test results are not indicative of this design, something is broken on this particular unit, it needs a repair/service. Something is wrong with the differential stage balance.
The other day, I stumbled on "Walk on By " cover by The Stranglers, on my phone. It started playing on the phone tiny speaker! Now this is a punchy, angry song. But I listened to it to the very end at 6.5 minutes long. The music was so good, the equipment just faded away . . . .


 
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captainbeefheart

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The 2nd harmonic should not dominate in properly designed Push-Pull construction.

This is true because in decent designs the power stage produces the most distortion. BUT, I do know at least one builder that has a decent client base that in his push pull designs he purposely designs them with higher second harmonic vs third.

This can be done by bad balance in the power stage as mentioned here but he has good balance in the output tubes and output transformer, during a conversation he did allude to making the voltage gain stages non-linear while also using a poorly balanced long tailed pair phase inverter. Some argue the phase inverter is part of the power section so in that regard yes it's the power stage that isn't balanced.

This amp uses a split load phase inverter which typically has very good balance with equal plate/cathode loads, but in theory you could offset the loads and have poor balance.

I'll agree with the logic that this specific unit needed to have it's fixed bias balance checked before testing and maybe we would have seen better test results. The amp has current sense resistors in the power tube cathodes and looks like balance controls for bias so it should be an easy task to check balance and retest once adjusted for better current balance between power tubes.
 
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Robaroni

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May 13, 2021
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I'm not going to pan this amp. Sure it cost a lot but it's Luxman and they build quality into their amps, I'm sure this one will last. While I'm not a fan of tube outputs I do like tube/hybrid preamps but not SS in front of the tube, the other way around.
People like second harmonic distortion, I can't blame them. Running this amp into low to medium efficiency speakers is a mistake, it's just not designed for that. It's a ten watt small room or desktop amp for Pete's sake. Of course with medium efficiency speakers ten feet away you're going to turn the volume up - what did you think was going to happen??
My criteria is the DBT. Find what you like then listen to it for hours, if it doesn't fatigue your ears then you have a winner. Specs are great but specs aren't musicality, who's to say what an individual likes and we all like different sound. I can see why people love this amp, even if I don't, I can respect that.
 
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