Pros: Crystal-clear and powerful sound
This review is based in part on a post from June of 2009, written soon after I received my Luxman P-200 Headphone Amplifier from TTVJ. It's been now almost two years, and the P-200 continues to amaze me, steadily feeding a parade of headphones that have passed through my arsenal. Currently, it's shinning with two Ultrasone models, the open-back Edition 10 and the closed-back Edition 8 Limited Edition.
Although I promised myself when I first got the P-200 that I would not listen to it until a proper burn in period, the truth is that like a lot of folks on this site, I just couldn't resist a peek, fully aware that I might be initially disappointed. But to my surprise and relief, it sounded incredible right out of the box and since then, I’ve become literally addicted to it.
Before getting into how it sounds, I should mention though that the pictures from Luxman's website don't do the P-200 justice, for it is truly a beauty to look at. And it has nothing of that well known do-it-yourself look, quite the opposite, with a beautiful matte finish and a substantial weight in relation to its size. It should be noted also that the AC inlet on the back of the unit is two pronged, but Luxman's distributor in the US, On a Higher Note, said that there's no problem with using aftermarket two or three prong power cables, as long as you're "... mindful that if the source is plugged into a different outlet from the amp, you develop a ground hum." Personally, I never had any problems with hum, and actually, my P-200 is dead-quiet.
In my current setup, it is being fed directly from the RCAs of a Sony SCD-XA5400ES SACD player via Kimber Kable Silver Streak interconnects. The headphones back then were an Audio-Technica ATH-ESW10JPN and a Denon AH-D7000, both of which have been now substituted for the two Ultrasones mentioned above.
The music diet consisted mostly of assorted Channel Classics, Telarc, Pentatone, and Exton Super-Audio CDs, all DSD recorded. Actually, I'm a bit amazed by the lack of awareness on this site about the SACD format, which IMHO trumps even the most expensive Transport/DAC combo playing Red-Book CDs. Anyway, disc after disc, the impact of the soundstage and the dynamic range were miles above what my old and reliable Creek OBH-21SE could offer. Mind you though, that at least in the US, the Luxman was then thrice as expensive as the Creek, although in my personal scale, it offers twenty times more resolving and involving power.
Listening to Telarc's SACD of Paavo Jarvi conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on a program of Britten and Elgar, is a revelatory experience. I can hear minute details now that simply weren't there before. The plucking of the double-basses strings on Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is simply stunning as are the percussion solos in the same piece. And for those bass freaks out there, fear not for while the P-200 does go quite deep, it does so with absolute precision. You will not find sloppy bass reproduction here.
Channel Classics' beautiful edition of Bach's B Minor Mass is another SACD that benefited greatly from the P-200's imaging, revealing entirely new layers to the recording. The placement as well as the space around the performers became much more precise and vivid. The depth and width of the soundstage expanded way beyond my head, to the point that it felt almost like a surround simulation.
For the sake of diversity, I tried Mobile Fidelity's re-mastering of Yes' Fragile, released as a Gold RBCD. Mind you that it felt a bit dated sonically the last time I played it, in spite of MoFi's incredible transfer, which actually improved on the original. But through the P-200, I was finally able to listen beyond Jon Anderson's silly lyrics and instead just enjoy his amazing vocal range, as well as Steve Howe's guitar work, and the rest of the gang’s ensemble playing.
If there’s a conclusion to be made here it is simply that the Luxman P-200 will not interfere with your music. It will neither paint it with an artificial tube glow, nor will it chill it with a solid-state glare. It will not mask it, make it better or worse. But with great recordings, it has an amazing ability to reveal more of what’s there. And for me, that’s just what the doctor ordered.