Separate names with a comma.
This is my question as well.
In Asr's P-200 review that I just found he seemed to think the P-200 was better for easy to drive or low impedance phones, and recommended not to get a P-200 for K701 or Sennheisers. Most of my good dynamic phones are hard to drive orthodynamics or Sennheisers, so I suspect that the P-200 would be inadequate for my purposes.
Asr and I don't really like very many of the same headphones, and so it makes sense that the amps he likes that work well with his favorite phones may not be right for me. But some are, such as his BHSE with O2. In my case thought the P-1u drove everything that I like well, but I'm one of those people who thought the AD2000 were on the same level as the HD600 before I sold them. My AD2000 were mids-centric and a little bass-shy vs my HD600, only excelling in detail and resolution but not musical presentation and balance. So, I suspect that I might not have liked the AD2000 on the P-1u either, but maybe for different reasons.
I tried searching for his posts regarding the p200, but I am clearly not great at searching.
Thanks for quickly interpreting asr's opinions of the p-200 vs the p-1u.
And for the record - In contrast to the version sold by audiocubes, does the p-1u provided by Todd come with a standard 120 volt ac input?
Does ASR or any of the reviewers have any thoughts on the Headamp GS-X compared to the P1U? Thank you.
Seamaster, I know it may be a bit too early for your full fledged review. But could you briefly describe your initial thoughts of the p-1u vs your WA22. I am inches away from pulling the trigger on a WA22, but your impressions may have some impact on that.
So far WA22 is more life-like, lush. P-1u is more "hi-fi" sounding. I need more time to make other impressions. Each person have their own tast tonally. Please note my WA22 is modded, which can handle more dynamic, and have more density in tone than stock.
First, a preface to this response to Larry/HPA and everyone else reading: everything I wrote in the mini-review was meant directly and literally, and specifically stated. No parts were implicitly left out. Any "extrapolation" of anything more than stated in the mini-review will just lead to inaccurate extrapolations.
Now to move on, I did not think the AD2000/SPL soundstage was just right, and I intentionally try to not make statements like that either because "just right" (whatever that would mean) is subjective & vague. I was speaking only to the effect on soundstage that the SPL had and that this effect didn't really matter on the AD2000 - primarily because I don't care about soundstage when listening with the AD2K. "Liking" the soundstage of the K701 and HD800 with the P-1u is also something I didn't say, I was speaking to the effect of the amp on those headphones which I thought worked better with it as opposed to the SPL. My approach to the listening process for this mini-review went like this: I picked just one headphone for a day (or two days in some cases) and used it to compare the amps. Almost each day I swapped for another headphone, using only one per session for that day. I also did not listen to the amps as a gauge to evaluate performance levels between my headphones, as I don't care about that kind of thing and I didn't think anyone else would care either.
On the subject of XLR vs RCA input, I will not say whether I liked one over the other, as I formed no opinion and I was trying to go about that test from an objective point of view. I did not compare the soundstage of the XLR input on the Luxman to the SPL (via XLR or adapted RCA). All direct comparisons between the two amps were done via RCA input only; I attached XLR-RCA adapters to the SPL to use my RCA interconnects on it. I forgot to note this in the mini-review and will update it accordingly.
I'd take the P-200 over the P-1u primarily because of sound quality, but the price is also a factor, just not as much. If the two amps were the same price I'd go with the P-200 as it's physically smaller and does not have balanced XLR input (as I don't see the point of that on the P-1u when it doesn't have headphone balanced output), and I did like its sound quality, but obviously I can't speak for any sonic differences between the P-200 and P-1u (I have no idea if they actually sound alike or not). But just because I liked the amp's sound quality in general doesn't mean I liked everything about it sonically, and it doesn't mean either that I particularly liked any of my headphones on it, as those are different things. I'd hesitate to recommend a particular headphone for the P-200 even among the ones I own as I have a very specific sonic preference and I demand certain things from each of my headphones that other people might not share, and as stated in the P-200 review I did not get a whole lot of time with it either.
I specifically stated headphone brands in the P-200 mini-review and purposely did not categorically sweep all low-impedance brands or headphones into my recommendation, as I haven't heard them all. As low impedance doesn't also necessarily mean efficient (case in point, AKG K701) there are obviously exceptions. Also the reason for saying that the P-200 might be better for the low-impedance headphone brands mentioned is primarily for the electrical characteristics, not necessarily for anything related to sound (I neglected to mention this part when writing that review).
The P-200 review is here: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/501781/mini-reviews-luxman-p-1u-and-p-200
Back when I owned the GS-X (which was about 3 years ago) I thought it was one of the most "transparent" amps I'd heard until then. ("Transparent" as in allowing the sound of the source to pass through the amp without it inflecting too much of a sonic signature of its own, and also having the ability to allow different sounds to be heard resulting from changes in source and cabling.) I can't say the same for the P-1u, as it seemed to definitely inflect something sonically on the sound signature of my CDP. There are the other aspects not related to sound quality that should factor in too (aesthetics, functionality, etc).
Some things regarding soundstage were not clear to me, which is why I had questions in that area. I used terms like, "it seemed like you thought..." or "you seemed to like...", so I wasn't saying that's what you actually said in literal terms. I was showing that's how I would interpret what you wrote if I couldn't get a clarification. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth.
And yes, it was not clear to me if your "smaller than SPL soundstage" comments were when using RCA or balanced input with the P-1u. I used the balanced input for comparisons with my ZDT, and the RCA input when comparing to my Stax/WES rig because the WES is balanced only.
At this point, I am beyond trying to figure out what you like. It would be fun at the upcoming Colorado meet to listen to the same rigs and share our opinions with each other about what we liked and didn't like about one, while the experience is fresh in our minds.
Perhaps if I added another post it would help explain:
I don't normally listen critically, especially within the past several months that I've been amassing lots of music new and old. Usually when I've sat down to listen, it's been to enjoy the music first and foremost. This is also one reason I largely stopped writing reviews, as it took away from my enjoyment of the actual music (there were other reasons too though).
Whenever I approach listening for a review though (this review included), I mentally shift gears and don't listen to the music to enjoy it but to analyze it. In this mode of listening (which I also do at meets and audio shows) I don't necessarily form opinions of what I'm hearing or determine whether or not I'm liking what I hear. I take a much more "detached" perspective and separate myself from the music and I critically analyze what I'm hearing. I try to come at the gear from the perspective of other people who might not share my preferences (sonic and otherwise) as I adjust my opinion and try to judge different aspects along relative scales instead of independently absolute so that other people can infer where they might stand based on my experience.
During reviews, I don't listen to equipment to like or dislike it - I listen to learn about it and stack it against previous frames of reference, some of which have become personal measuring guides. This is also another reason I almost always have some type of comparison equipment on hand - if I'm reviewing an amp, I'll compare it to another amp. If I'm reviewing a headphone, I'll compare it to other headphones. Likewise for sources and cables. With no comparison point, the review would be meaningless. As an example, the Sony Qualia 010 is my personal frame of reference for the cleanest, clearest treble that I've ever heard from a headphone. Its treble is my measuring guide for all other headphones and provides a comparison point.
Thanks Steve. I understand where you are coming from. Especially about the part where doing reviews takes away from time to enjoy the music. Enjoying it is most important.
I am still looking forward to reading some reviews from the loaner program recipients. The P1u has been sent to everyone who requested it. Please help me to be able to continue these loaner programs by doing your part and writing the review.
My Luxman P-1u Review
I had been curious about the Luxman headphone amplifiers since Jude's review of the P-1 here on Head-fi. Then along came Todd's very generous loaner program for the P-1u and I enlisted immediately. I was the last name on the list and after suffering through a long wait, the amp finally arrived in its original double box packing about two months. Would it be worth the wait?
The first thing I noticed was how heavy the unit is. This is no flimsy lightweight. It's also very big. I figured from the pictures that it would be the width of most standard audio equipment, but it is also very deep. The amp feels very hefty and sturdy. The build quality is magnificent and just oozes quality. The pictures don't really do it justice. The fit and finish are simply top notch. All of the knobs and switches feel crisp and reliable. The volume pot feels simultaneously weighty and silky in movement. The front face is a luxuriously thick metal faceplate. Going left to right, there is a power button, a loop out toggle, two 1/4" headphone jacks, an input selector, and finally the volume pot. The loop out toggle turns the loot output RCA jacks on or off. The input selector allows for the choice of single ended and balanced input. Around back are two sets of inputs (one XLR pair, one RCA pair), loop output (RCA pair), and a standard IEC power cord receptacle. Each input jack apparently comes with its own cap cover, although the XLR caps were missing when I received the unit.
I really appreciated the minimalist design. The look is very clean and utilitarian, in the positive sense. It doesn't bother with every bell and whistle under the sun. A laundry list of fancy features don't litter the spec sheet. It's all about doing one thing and doing it right and that philosophy is reflected in its look. If you prefer a look of understated elegance, then you'll probably like the P-1u's design.
I hooked up the P-1u to my Bel Canto DAC 2.5 using single-ended Audience interconnects. The headphones used were primarily the Sennheiser HD800 although the Beyerdymanic T1 and the Ultrasone Edition 9 were swapped in from time to time. My first impression was that of a very clean and crisp sound that didn't really call attention to itself. Sometimes when I listen to a new headphone amplifier, I will notice a specific aspect of the sound, be it an incisive treble or wooly bass or something else. The P-1u sounded very balanced and natural. No aspect of the sound dominated any other. This is not too imply the sound was sterile. In fact, I would say there was a touch of warmth to the sound that manifested itself in a decided lack of listener fatigue.
With many headphone amps the opening track of Jamie Cullum's Twentysomething, These Are The Days, can sound overly bright and sibilant. Through the Luxman, the sound was engaging but never sibilant. The vocals also had body and depth. On Un Amore Per Sempre from Josh Groban's eponymous album, there is a big bass note towards the end of the track that breaks up with most headphone amps. Unfortunately, I had to count the P-1u among those. However, the rest of the track sounded big and engaging. On Dream from Priscilla Ahn's A Good Day, Ahn's vocals sounded crisp and palpable.
In conclusion, I suppose the greatest compliment I can bestow on this headphone amplifier is its lack of a dominating characteristics. The highs didn't blow me away with speed and detail I've never heard. The mids didn't sound super lush or romantic. The bass was neither anemic nor bloated. Everything just sounded right. When I switched back to the headphone amp in my DAC 2.5, the sound was comparatively too dark and a bit flat. The P-1u sounded more alive, engaging, and with just the right amount of air. It was well worth the wait. Is it worth its current retail price of $3,000 USD? That's a tougher question to answer. There is (rightfully) impressive competition in that price range. And most amps in that range offer balanced headphone output (the P-1u only accepts balanced input). If you can readily afford the asking price, I would have a hard time believing one would be disappointed by the P-1u. It is built and packaged like an expensive component. For those of us for which that kind of price is a stretch, I would highly recommend a personal audition.
Thanks again to Todd for his generosity in running loaner programs such as this one. You are an invaluable asset to this community.
And now the only thing most people REALLY care about - the pictures!
With Todd's encouragement, I'm bringing this thread back to life. Why? Because the Luxman P-1u is the only piece of headphone gear that has motivated me to do something like this.
At the moment, I have two (yes, two, I like them so much) Marantz SA8004 SACD/CD players, a Woo Audio WA6SE headphone amp with the upgraded Sophia whatever-it-is-that-looks-really-impressive-in-photographs tube, and Sennheiser HD650 and HD600 and Beyerdynamic DT770Pro80 headphones. I use the 650s the most. The 770s are mainly for movies or for when I need to block the sound of the dishwasher or the washer and dryer or the kid on the ATV next door. I have Cardas 300B Microtwin interconnects. Music? All kinds except country & western and gospel.
I'm 55 years old and have had so much audio gear over the years that it makes me sick. I can count the really outstanding stuff on the fingers of one hand. A pair of Quads, a pair of ProAc Response (2.5, I think it was) speakers, The Senn HD580/Jubilee/600/650 family. These things all strike me as classics. Things for the ages, things that are probably beyond debate when it comes to their inherent goodness or "rightness". The Luxman P-1u fits my definition of a classic - much to my surprise.
I'll toss into the classic category my last headphone system, and the one that the Luxman P-1u has replaced, the Stax Omega2Mk.II and the 007TII amp. I really do think that the folks who suggest that the various Omegas only truly come to life with (very, very expensive) aftermarket amps are correct. After awhile, the Stax, with the standard Stax amps, become, eh, a tad boring. As others have pointed out, the dynamics can be found wanting. But, even though I could probably afford it (at least if I could make do with used cars), there's no way that I could be comfortable sitting next to a $5500 +/- amp sourced from a company of one who, no matter how dedicated and how much a genius, is prone, as we all are, to driving into trees or going insane or skipping the country or dying in a terrorist incident. Then, if it broke, I'd have a $5,000 piece of nice sculpture. Or so I feared. At $3,000 in the U.S., the Luxman pushes my comfort level when it comes to a headphone amp. But it justifies that discomfort.
When I first listened to the P-1u, it was in the context of wanting to improve upon, or at least change from, the Stax system. I had the Woo WA6SE and the Woo WA5-LE, and had ordered the Luxman from Todd on a whim. I fully expected the well-built and impressive Woos to sound better, and I fully expected to stiff poor Todd and send the P-1u back within the 30 day trial period.
But no. From the beginning, the Luxman was special. As Todd himself points out, this amp is compelling. You keep reaching for it. My wife and I both found ourselves wanting to listen to the Luxman rather than the Woos. btw, the Woos sound great; they are tremendous amps in their own right, and we may keep the WA6SE for a second system we like it so much. But, in the end, it's a second system, not the prime system.
The P-1u makes me not miss the Omegas and it puts out of mind the thought of pursuing electrostatic nirvana. The Luxman solves the problem that I tried to solve by moving beyond the stock Stax system: the HD650s are more dynamic than the Stax.
The Luxman sound? The best that I can come up with is "sophisticated". Sophisticated, refined, luscious, compelling, intriguing, rich. Delicate when the music is delicate. It sounds effortlessly powerful, like a car with a large, unstressed engine idling, even when playing full-bore. It sounds as if it has ample reserves. It's the Jeeves of headphone amplifiers, standing by your side, gently clearing his throat.
None of this is ever boring, for two reasons: 1) the P-1u bangs out the bass when the bass is really there on the recordings; and 2) the most startling thing of all about this amp: detail.
When I first heard the Luxman I knew its sound signature was for me and I knew that I couldn't keep my hands off it. But I had a sneaking suspicion that, given its sophisticated and refined sound, that perhaps large quantities of recorded detail were being sloughed off, lost forever. But no. I can't emphasize this enough: the Luxman P-1u presents more detail than I have ever heard from any headphones before.
I'm sure we could debate how important this kind of thing is or isn't to musical enjoyment, but I have never heard so many background guffaws, mumblings, angry remarks or jokes (Miles Davis), half-suppressed coughs (poor Paul Desmond on a cut from TIME OUT). But I've also never heard the delicacy of Roy Orbison's vibrato the way I do through the P-1u: in his later years, just before his passing, the vibrato was there all the time; it is poignant and tragic and telling on the MYSTERY GIRL album, at least on the OOP MFSL version). I have never heard the acoustics of recording venues the way I have through the Luxman: echoes, crowd noise. Listening to Herbie Mann's LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD is an archeological expedition of the highest order: "Play it!" as someone shouts from the crowd. Or SINATRA AT THE SANDS. Wow.
Finally, perhaps what is most important to me personally, as you can tell by my Senns: it does all this without the least hint of listener fatigue. It makes even poorly-recorded and compressed material listenable, while allowing audiophile recordings to shine. Nasty things that I could enjoy only with the Stax before I can now enjoy with dynamic headphones, even the DT770s when need be. THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, early Beatles recordings, certain Mercury Living Presence recordings (sorry, but some are mighty shrill) - no problem. You can hear that they suck but you can still enjoy them.
Is the P-1u perfect? Yes. But that doesn't mean it's for everybody.
Some people would prefer that detail be thrust forward more vigorously and less subtly. The P-1u is not dark, but some folks would prefer a brighter presentation. Some would prefer the electrostatic sound, which is, in its own way, very different and compelling. I even know some listeners who like a rawer sound, which works well with many kinds of music. But these are all a reach, to be honest. The P-1u does everything well.
So why isn't this Luxman a hot item on Head-Fi? I'm sure it isn't.
I think its gorgeous but plain looks are part of the problem. It is from the minimal school of design. Think Judd. Think Pawson. Think Tadao Ando. In some circles, this minimalism is considered the highest of the high end. The Luxman P-1u is an ingot, heavy and with thick plates, and it's large - it's a full-sized component! - but it may be considered "too plain" by a lot of folks. I think most people would prefer the looks of the various Woo Audio products. A part of me does. They're dramatic.
I also think that this Luxman P-1u invites no discourse. Like Jeeves, it's silent. (Deeply silent: this thing has the deepest, darkest black background that any electronic component can have and still be ON.) There will be no fuss. There is no interaction beyond the volume control. No tube swapping. No Sophias. No swearing. No "what's next?" No heat, even; it not only doesn't get warm with extended listening, the top of it is actually cool to the touch.
The P-1u, it seems, is an end-of-game component, at least for those with only one headphone system. I suspect that many of those who have purchased them have quietly left the forums and are listening to music. They damn well should be.