Luxman SQ N150 Valve Integrated Amplifier
Gold Note Valore 425 Plus Turntable with Gold Note Vesari Gold Cartridge, Advance Acoustics X-1000 valve CD player, Heco Direkt Loudspeakers, Titan Audio Styx interconnect and speaker cables, Titan Audio Chimera and Eros mains cables and Eros distribution block.
Luxman is a very long standing valve amplifier manufacturers having been making them for over 90 years and even when, in the 1960’s, most manufacturers started producing transistor designs Luxman stayed true to their roots and continued to produce valve products. The diminutive little SQ N150 is the latest and least expensive valve amplifier they offer. Luxman as a brand began in 1925 in Kanagawa, Japan and since then has gained an enviable reputation as a high end manufacturer producing products of superb built and sound quality. Natural sound without colouration is Luxman’s motto, thereby creating an intimacy between the listener and the music.
The SQ N150 being reviewed here is their entry level valve amplifier and many may baulk at its price of £2999 as it is quite small and only produces 10 watts per channel, yet that is a foolish notion. You cannot compare the Luxman amplifiers with other models of similar specifications, they are a different animal entirely both from a build quality and sound quality. From the first time you unbox this amplifier you realise it is very special. The design and build is simply spectacular, the circuit featuring Luxman’s unique P-K split phase inversion circuitry and comes complete with high quality JJ electronics valves ( not the normal cheap chinese valves).
There are a number of interesting features on the SQ N150 amplifier, one is tone controls which many people frown on but others like the fact that with poorer recordings you can help make them more listenable. The tone controls can also be bypassed to get the best sound quality. The second is the inclusion of a very high quality mm/mc phono stage which again will please those with turntables and means less boxes. You also get three extra line stage inputs as well as a decent quality headphone socket so it is very well featured. The output of 10watts per channel may put many people off however I tried this little amp with a variety of speakers and it didn’t struggle to drive any of them while obviously it won’t play at ridiculously loud levels it was perfectly acceptable to listen to music. Obviously speaker choice with a small amp is important and you will want to use a sensitive speaker but the Heck Direct speakers I mainly used were superb as would be speakers like the Klipsch Heritage range or indeed the Klipsch RP range but there are plenty of others.
Once warmed up the charms of this little amplifier were obvious, it is so musical and infectious that you just keep putting on albums and CD’s and totally lose track of time. Three hours later and I was hunting through my music collection for more tracks to play. Its not just the normal sweet valve sound but there was lighting fast dynamics, the clarity of instruments and voices was simply breathtaking. As I mentioned earlier this is not an amplifier for everyone, many will want more power, it won’t drive every speakers but my goodness what it does with the right speaker is simply magical.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed playing certain tracks more than I did with the Luxman. It does just do everything correctly, it does what Luxman claim and creates a bridge between the listener and the music, there is a connection which most HI Fi products wish they could emulate. Luxman do a larger integrated amplifier for those looking for more power but you will also need deeper pockets. They also do a number of pre and power amplifiers and I have to admit I would dearly love to be able to review them as I can only imagine how good they must be on the basis of what this integraled amplifier does. To be fair there are also cheaper options in a valve amplifier, the Puresound A30R amplifier and the Icon Audio Stereo 25 amplifiers both spring to mind which are more powerful and less expensive however neither have the build quality or the sound of the Luxman.
My overall impression of the Luxman is that it is a very unique product with exceptional build and sound quality. Like other valve amplifiers it is not for everyone but if you value musicality, pride of ownership and that connection between the listener and the music then this is the amplifier to buy. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed listening to music as much as I have with this little amplifier and it will break my heart to give it back. It is one of those products which you simply want to own and it captives you from the moment you first take it out of the box. Its price point may seem high when you look at the specifications however I can tell you that in my opinion this little amplifier is an absolute bargain given what you are getting for your money.