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This point bears repetition. Cosmetically, the SQ-38u won't match anything you currently own. If that's important, you could resent having to buy the matching Lux CD player. Some might thus feel that Japan shot themselves in the foot going this retro. I'm of course referring to the wood cladding. It locks you into a dark-stained Oak and way-back-time-machine vibe. The small yellow power LED ring and matching volume confirmator meanwhile are the only lit items upfront. They look rather classier than garishly illuminated tube chimneys and blue LEDs hidden beneath tube sockets. If the latter be loud and the former quiet, the same goes for operational noise. There isn't any. Quietude rules as it should if proper tube audio engineers were at work. And Luxman clearly understands tubes.

While on operational, the headphone socket is always live. To kill the speakers, set their selector to off (or 'B' if you've only got 'A' speakers connected). To kill the headphones, pull them out. A fully tilted balance control completely mutes the opposite channel, i.e. the full range of possible attenuation doesn't merely span a few dBs as is fashionable today (if you even get a balance control). Balance directionality is completely intuitive. The farther you turn it right for example, the more the soundstage travels right until it finally collapses into right-channel mono. For central mono, flip the proper mono switch instead. Temporary two-channel mute not via the speaker selector is available two others ways, by frontal mute button and its remote equivalent. Cleverly, one doesn't override the other. You can engage mute on the panel—the volume indicator flashes either way—then unmute by remote in the seat or vice versa.

The tone controls are entirely different from the grotesque sizzlers and boomers of cheap receivers. With only a Japanese owner's manual—so much for a fully prepared visiting French distributor—I can't convey specifics on knee and slope. But listening instantly proved that these gentle controls are far more useful and less damaging to overall tonal balance than the sort which eventually got them all banned for life from the high end. Once you work with proper tone controls—Quad too has good ones—you will invariably question why they were shunned. The obvious answer is, good ones are neither easy to design nor cheap to execute. Particularly during late-night sessions, the famous Uncle Murphy curves (Fletcher Munson) rear their ugly little pin heads. In effect, your ear/brain starts cutting bass and treble. Here you can raise sagging tops and stiffen flaccid lows. If that goes against deep-grained audiophile conditioning, by all means go on suffering. Leave such illicit controls to the more progressive who'll applaud their presence for the right occasions and won't call them redundant just because they aren't always necessary. And, they're fully functional for the headphone socket as well!

Belonging to the dominant species consumerus digitalis myself—I'm unrepentant but in certain quarters, it signals less than complete job competence—my review can't touch upon the non-adjustable but built-in and as such non-optional phono stage. Its presence could cause resentment with those who are forced to pay for it but don't want it. Unless they pull out the phono-specific valves, the amp will also generate more heat than strictly necessary and age four tubes for no good reason. But by very much belonging to the endangered species of homo cannus serioso, I shall most certainly tell you about the SQ-38u's fully valve-powered 1/4" headphone jack.

It's been former contributor Jeff Day to wax poetic about numerous Leben Hifi components and subsequently acquire many of their models to replace Tom Evans gear and more. I thus can't personally weigh in on how Luxman's headphone socket might compare to Leben's. Among headfiers, Taku Hyodo has garnered very high marks. In fact, the editor of Polish whom we regularly syndicate maintains a Leben CS300 integrated purely for his favored AKG 701s. That's seriously committed.

Philip O'Hanlon confirmed that Luxman's headphone output taps into the speaker output through some sort of voltage divider to knock down potency. In fact, I could switch from listening to my 91dB ASI Tango R loudspeakers to my high-efficiency Audio-Technica ATH-W1000s headphones without any changes to the 8:30 room-volume setting of the master control. At about 10 o'clock under no signal, I could detect the first very faint onset of power supply noise over the 'phones. It took well past 2:00 to become objectionable. In short, at actual listening levels, this valve amp—grotesquely over-powered for the occasion—proved perfectly quiet over 100dB+ headphones. Again. Another feather in the cap of Luxman's engineering team.