Luxman 509X vs Mc452 + preamp

I am currently debating where to go with my system.  I have Martin Logan 11As, McIntosh MC452, Meridian 218 DAC/streamer, and a Marantz 8805.  Been using the 8805 as my HT and 2ch pre, but for obvious reasons I am disappointed with the overall sound.  Need to keep everything as one system for the time being for budget and space considerations.

Been considering either picking up up a 2ch preamp, possibly Audio Research or McIntosh, or just simplifying my life and moving to the Luxman 509X integrated.  Budget is a bit tight, was hoping to keep it around $3K, if keeping the MC452 and getting a pre.  If going the Integrated route I have more wiggle room since I can sell or trade in the MC452.

I tend to like things on the warmer, non-analytic, side but with detail.  I listen to almost all kinds of music, but where I like to see some improvement is in classical music with instrument separation, clarity, and crispness.  McIntosh tends to have a darker sound and I am thinking that pairing it with electrostats may not be doing the combination justice especially in the high frequencies.

Any thoughts/recommendations?



Why are you choosing the 509X which has very little Class A over the 590AXII? I know numerous people who jumped on the 509X Hype train only to switch to the 590AXII later.

 I would never go back to Mcintosh after hearing Luxman/Dagostino/ARC etc  Its not in the same league and I had the 452/C52 combo...its a great combo FOR Mcintosh but there's a reason it sells for much less than the other brands. You get what you pay for. I firmly believe most people who own MAC equipment havent tried other brands. Its like the Harley Davidson thing...I can ONLY own a Harley. Ignorance is Bliss

While I disagree that 30W is enough, the Luxman is a lot closer to Dagostino than Mc.
Mc you really really have to listen to the specific models. I've heard awful, bright, hard setups, and gods, their speakers suck.
That 30 W is enough to drive 86DB Speakers with ease as I have heard in 2 other systems. What speakers are you using that cant be driven by the 590??
Thanks guys!

@riaa, my reasoning for the 509X vs. 590AXII is the MLs tend to be on the warmer side and the Class A amp may add to that.  I am looking for more crispness especially for classical, but not analytical and fatiguing.

@erik Definitely seems like McIntosh is all about synergy.  Almost everyone is giving the same point of view as you and riaa that Luxman, Dagastino, etc. will probably give what I am looking for over the McIntosh.

In terms of speakers, although the MLs are decent with sensitivity (91DB), they dip below 1ohm in the high frequencies.  I don't doubt either Luxman integrated would handle it, I feel the 509x would do better at louder volumes.  ESL love power as well, gives more 3D effect from my experience. 

eziggy, I had a pair of ML Summit Xs and drove them with a Pass XA30.8 (about 100 watts into 8 ohms). They sounded fine until I decided to try a more powerful amp and the extra power really brought the MLs to life. Much better in every way over the Pass.

MLs and that .7 impedance at 20khz really do require a stout amp to sound their best.  There is a D'Agostino Classic Stereo for sale cheap that would give your MLs the power they need.
Thanks tomcy8, which amp did you replace the Pass with?

I definitely agree power is important. Though there are some low wattage rated amps that have some amazing power supplies and headroom which work well with impedance swings.
I replaced the Pass with a D'Agostino Classic Stereo.  It was a big improvement.
I thought it was well established that the Luxman was rated at 30W class A but went up to 90W in class AB.
I haven't seen ANY official spec that calls it class A up to 30 W. We know Luxman rated the amp's total output to 30W, but reviewers have found it puts out significantly more. 

Luxman is cagey in it's description as well, referring to bringing the "Class A sound" but I have yet to see it officially listed as a Class A amplifier. 

What is interesting is the idle and max power: 260 and 380. That's pretty close to what I'd expect for a full class A amp.

My own theory is that the 30 to 90 W difference may have more to do with the tortuous standards related to power ratings.  Last I recall a manufacturer must pre-heat the amp for an hour at 1/3rd power, and THEN test it. This may have required far too large a heat sink/chasis, but this is me second guessing the manufacturer with little to go on.


This is definitely all about system synergy.  I was able to demo both the 509X and the 590AXII with the ML 11As.  The 590AXII is a great integrated, but I felt was a tad too warm for the ML, not the upgrade I am looking for from my current McIntosh.  Also, I felt it a bit under powered for the MLs, slightly strained at higher volumes.

The 509X paired better, one of the best sounding amps for the MLs I have heard. All around performed well across almost all types of music. One up from the 509X is the m900u, wow it is sweet and detailed.  It will be the next upgrade, budget allowing.
@eziggy I had the same reaction to listening to the 509x and then the m900u. A shame from my wallet that I heard the m900u since I would have been more than content with the 509x.
A shame from my wallet that I heard the m900u since I would have been more than content with the 509x.

So you can imagine my pain, having gotten a new 507ux at below dealer cost, trying to think of the m900!



Of course, the issue isn't just going from a 507/509 to the m900u, but the added cost of the preamp as well.

It's a big deal price wise.

Lucky for me, I don't have the space!

Dealer did warn me against hearing the m900u given my budget.  :)

We decided against adding the c900u in the mix since it would make it a completely unfair comparison and just used the same high end DAC as the pre for comparison.

It's amazing what you can get with the Luxman integrateds for the money.  The m900u/c900u will be largely better but at a 3-4x cost.  The m900u standalone had such sweetness/warmth but not at the expense of detail.  Hard combination to get in my opinion.  I can only imagine what adding the c900u into the mix will do.

I know for sure once I have the budget and space that it will be #1 on the list next to the Constellations, since everyone raves about their synergy with MLs.
A few preamps that I am looking into instead of the c900u (to lower cost) are:

1) SimAudio Moon 390 network player (cost and features are attractive)
2) Mola Mola Makua supposed to sound great with the m900u
3) Anthem STR preamp which has DSP and supposed to have a decent DAC
4) SimAudio 740 preamp was reviewed with the m900u on SoundStage and that unit can be had for around $4.5K used.
Great list, would be great to see which you end up with.

Have you considered/heard the PS Audio DirectStream?  It came up in discussions as a potential with the m900u.  Also the PS Audio BHK Signature Preamp is supposed to be fantastic for the price.
I recently looked at the tech of the PS Audio DS with Bridge (have heard this many times). I have had other DAC's with volume controls and was never happy as with a dedicated analog preamp. The PS Audio CEO has gone on and stated that the DS sounds better with a preamp, their one specifically. One big turn off for me is that PS Audio is moving to build their own proprietary music server software. I like ROON and prefer to buy software from software companies. PS Audio is a hardware company,

I have not heard the BHK preamp.
Ah, didn't realize they were creating their own music server software.  Being in tech, I wholeheartedly agree on the complexities of developing and launching software.  Look how long Roon has been working to fix all the kinks, though in PS Audio's defense they would only need to support their own hardware.

I have heard amazing things about the BHK preamp.  If you have the chance to demo it, it might be worth while.
@eziggy I am a software guy myself and when I heard that PS Audio was doing their own music server software and will not support ROON on Bridge III (I think), I lost interest in the DS.
@yyzsantabara Noticed talk of the lack of Roon support, which is a serious buzz kill (if true).  I get Roon has limitations, but creating new software is a definitely a huge endeavor and will limit the reach the product.