Are you old enough to remember when Japanese audio components ruled the mass market? That was in the early 1970s, when stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers had a place of honor in every music lover's home. The Luxman P-750u headphone amplifier recalls that era, but epitomizes the very best of 21st century Japanese high-end audio. Run your fingers over the P-750u's thick faceplate and beautifully machined knobs and you'll know what I'm talking about. Better yet, the P-750u's sound will enrich your music collection.
Luxman was founded in 1925, and is one of Japan's leading high-end audio brands. The P-750u headphone amp, like all of the current Luxman products -- tube and solid-state amps, digital converters, SACD players and turntables -- are still designed and manufactured only in Japan.
The P-750u, which sells for $4,995, is a solid-state design with three headphone output jack sets: a 6.3mm, a four-pin balanced XLR, and separate left and right channel three-pin balanced XLR outputs. But only one headphone output is active at a time. The 6.3mm is the "normal" jack, and works with almost all home headphones, the XLR jacks are provided for use with high-end headphones with XLR cables. This P-750u's Class A power amp delivers up to 4 watts per channel for 32-ohm headphones.
The amp's rear panel connectivity runs to two sets of XLR balanced inputs, and one set of RCA inputs. There's also one set of stereo RCA outputs that could be used to connect to another amplifier with a volume control.
This all-analog headphone amp doesn't come with a remote control, but few headphone amps do. I'm happy to report the P-750u never once forced me to consult the owner's manual, it just works!
How does it sound?
To put the P-750u to the test, I relied on thousands of dollars' worth of the world's very best headphones -- the , Abyss Diana Phi, , , and -- and luxuriated in "headspace" nirvana. Bjork's Medúlla album's sparse vocal and electronics arrangements emerged from deep black space. The hymn-like quality to the music was to die for.
Each headphone's sound was intensified: the Susvara was more opulent; the Diana Phi and LCD MX4 were both breathtakingly transparent and dynamically alive; the AB 1266's soundstage expanded far outside the confines of the headphone's earcups in an almost hallucinogenic way; and the MDR Z1R, the least expensive headphone of the group, was no slacker. Its sound was the most neutral -- it's the best monitor headphone of the bunch.
Mandolinist Chris Thile and pianist Brad Mehldau's self-titled album of inspired jazz-folk performances can sound too cold and sterile over some speakers and headphones, but with the P-750u the sound went deeper. I felt the connection between the two musicians, the way they were listening to each other, and that brought the music to life over the LCD MX4 headphones.
To put the P-750u's sound in perspective I brought out my reference headphone amp, theand listened again to the headphones. In every case the P-750u was the decisive winner. The sound was more freewheeling and energetic, dynamics punched harder, and treble detail was finer. I heard deeper into the recordings, so each instrument and vocal sounded more distinct. The HPA-1 sound was flatter in perspective, and while the music still sounded excellent I missed some of the P-750u's joie de vivre.
The Luxman P-750u is an expensive component, but for deep-pocketed connoisseurs who have already amassed sizable headphone collections this amplifier will be a worthwhile investment. It will make every headphones sound better than ever, and the ability to switch between three pairs of headphones for easy comparisons can be a lot of fun. I asked Luxman if a more affordable amp is in the works, but alas the P-750u is it: It has no plans for other amps. It's good to be rich.
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