This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the August 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Luxman D-05 in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or Luxman. - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog – deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arms - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12-inch; carts - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Zu Audio DL-103; phono pre - SAC Gamma Sym; digital - audiolab 8000CD, HIFIAkademie cdPlayer
Amplification: Pre - Octave HP300; power - Electrocompaniet AW180; integrated - Denon PMA-2010AE, Lua 4040 C
Loudspeakers: Ascendo System F, Thiel SCS4
Various cables, racks and sundry accessories
Review component retail: €3.950
Luxman’s history is long and varied. As far back as 1925 this brand built radios which puts the Japanese in business for 85 years. On varied, some of it actually transpired during my own rather briefer hifi career. As an aspiring audiophile during the 80s, Luxman was synonymous with unattainable exclusivity. What one saved up for instead was Japanese too but rather more affordable. Over the years following, Luxman became cheaper and cheaper as though the company decided to follow the money of mass-market sales. As a result, brand image diluted. Eventually the brand itself disappeared altogether. For close to a decade, Luxman was only available in its country of origin. During the European comeback in 2005, cosmetics and pricing were once again tied to their halcyon days, the apparent misery of the 90s soon to be forgotten.
This review isn’t a walk down memory lane however or about their famous integrated amplifiers. Today’s tester is the latest CD/SACD deck from Yokohama dubbed D-05. Luxman’s catalogue now offers five silver disc spinners. On price the newest model fits right in the middle while cosmetics become a near stand-in for the two dearer D-06 and D-08 stable mates. Technically too the newcomer is supposed to be closer to them than the smaller models. The transport for example is the same as what’s in the €13.000 D-08 tank.

This sled was developed in-house and—being emblazoned with LxDTM for Luxman Original Disc Transport Mechanism—seems an object of considerable company pride. The construction is heavy on structural rigidity and a so-called SSB Stabilized Support Block hints at the fact that the mechanism is fully enclosed inside a resonance-optimized sub chassis. Certain areas even benefit from additional foam dampers. The only difference to the flagship player is that the top transport version sports an 8mill alu/steel casing while the D-05/D-06 ‘only’ get 1.2mm sheet metal. On sled matters, all else is identical. On the specifics of "all else" however, Luxman remains strangely mute.

Three aspects about the transport got my attention. 1/ The drawer’s design and silkily slow operation seem clearly focused at a luxo audience to delight high-enders while eluding others. 2/ Spin noise was essentially absent as this device turns ultra quietly. 3/ As is often the case for SACD decks, TOC capture took about 15 seconds and even skipping goes faster elsewhere.

On fit ‘n’ finish inside and out, Luxman’s D-05 was immaculate. Weight approached 15kg to fall into the high-mass class. Even so, externals don’t reek of material excess. The insides impress with the sealed transport and lego-like layout. Right behind the sled casing sits the power transformer with dedicated secondaries for the drive, digital and analogue sections. The control logic gets its own smaller transformer (not visible), the ‘bigger box’ contains the power supply and audio circuitry, the smaller box in front the display and command functions. On features, the D-05 ticks off the essential but not much else. This means all the basic controls but no digital filter settings or DSD-to-PCM conversion as can be found elsewhere (but whose relevance could certainly be questioned). Variable outputs too are absent but the RCA sockets are paralleled by XLRs.

For digital, there are two inputs—24/96 coax and Toslink—and one Toslink output. Computer audio mavens wanting USB are left out. That’s what Luxman considers the essentials. The D-05 thus is a classic high-end legacy machine that can double as D/A converter (running BB’s PCM 1792A) but does not embrace full all-in-one preamp functionality or computer inputs.

Audio hacks love components whose clear-cut profile includes one or two specific strengths and often a few weaknesses. Such personalities are easily called to make the job smooth. Whether one agrees with said personalities or not isn’t the point. Reviewing is about describing facts, not personal preferences. An upper-crust all’rounder like Luxman’s D-05 however makes a reviewer’s life rather tougher. There’s nothing spectacular or superficially obvious. It’s about subtleties but that reads mostly ambiguous. I had the distinct impression that the designers aimed for a coherent natural presentation to optimise the greatest number of variables rather than net max figures in specialty disciplines whilst neglecting others. In short, balance. That said, a few weeks of listening in familiar surroundings did identify certain tendencies but it’s important to remember that these were tendencies, not dominant traits.