Naim/PMC to Luxman Neo Classico II/Omega

Naim does what Naim does and it’s strength and popularity are there for very good reasons but there are other brands out there.

I had an EL84 amp about 10 years ago and it produced some beautiful fluid bass but like all amps Valve amps require careful speaker matching which you very sensibly have covered.

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An update. I reinstated the Naim boxes (282/HCDR/250DR) to the system. Will probably let the system settle down in 2 to 3 days before I start with the critical evaluation.

At this current moment, my earlier impressions on the Luxman and Naim have been pretty spot on. I’m not sure how long I could hang on to the Naim before I switch to the Luxman. :sweat: The Marten Duke 2 speakers definitely sound better with the Luxman.

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First time installing the Furutech NCF booster to the Hicap DR. The system is much listenable with this tweak.

I’d like to hear a little bit more about this, if you can spare a few minutes.

Ask away!

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Sorry, the reply was meant for @ryder Your posts, especially the first one, already include all I’d like to know. Many thanks anyway.

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Results will be very much dependent on the speakers that are matched to the amp. Having said that, it is not difficult to differentiate the inherent characteristics of the amps as they have a distinct house sound of their own.

To keep it short, the Luxman has a subtle, nuanced and delicate delivery the Naim can’t match. The Naim sounds bolder, more forward with a slightly more powerful and dynamic presentation but it doesn’t have the poise and refinement of the Luxman. In other words the Naim sounds brash in comparison. Due to the delicate touch of the Luxman, the release of notes is more beautiful. There’s also a slight tube-like glow in the treble with the Luxman, perhaps contributed by the Class A topology.

The Luxman also appears to sound airier and more detailed than the Naim. I’m not sure if the Naim is less detailed or the more prominent midbass/upper bass lift has masked the fine detail. I believe the upper bass of the Naim which sticks out more than the Luxman is one of the factors that contribute to higher listening fatigue. With certain familiar tracks, the bass which seems to be excessive sounds unnatural.

The above impressions are all based on Marten Duke 2 speakers. The Naim is clearly outclassed by the Luxman in this system with repeated comparisons. I compared the Luxman to the Naim earlier last year. With this latest comparison, the mains were upgraded and higher quality power cords used on the Hicap DR and other components (250DR is still on standard Naim cord).

If I did not own or experience the Luxman, I could have lived with the Naim. However, after experiencing the sound of the Luxman I couldn’t go back to the Naim anymore. It’s actually quite depressing to notice the downgrade in sound quality after the switch. Initially I wanted to leave the system up to 3 days before I do a proper evaluation but I now can’t wait to get the Luxman back to the system just after 2 days. I can’t imagine a miracle happening in the next couple of days.

I am aware this post may irk many Naim owners particularly 282/HCDR/250DR users but these are my honest thoughts and experience. The only consolation is the Naim sounds better than Luxman with Harbeth SHL5+ speakers, and this is one of the main reasons I’m hanging on to the Naim(and Harbeth). The only dilemma that I have now is I am deriving more listening pleasure from the Luxman/Marten than Naim/Harbeth.


What I find fascinating is the different sonic presentations between the two brands and yet they share some fairly idiosyncratic design philosophies:

  • Preference for large custom made linear PSUs. Luxman have gone for EI as opposed to toroidal but the innate superiority of toroidal is a bit of an audiophile myth.
  • Preference for star earthing for signal ground.
  • Regulated power amp stages.

Luxman even favour the same class of Ti/Burr Brown chips in their sources and are officially aligned with Focal much the same way as Naim are. In fact, Luxman are the Japanese distributor for Focal - shame I don’t like Focal :smiley:

Of course there are some massive differences too. Luxman don’t go in for external power supplies and they don’t have a specific firm belief in any one amplifier topology. They make just about every topology there is except class D and G, just to cater for whatever strikes your fancy.

@ryder I find it interesting that the L-590AXII has a warm tube-like treble. Mainly because the SQ-N150 tube amp doesn’t have any tube-like warmth at all. If you couldn’t see it, you’d never guess it was a tube amp. Though apparently this is by design. Tube warmth comes from coloration of the tubes when pushed near their design thresholds. Luxman hardly push the EL84 tubes at all. Which gives them a fairly neutral solid state sound and, importantly, gives you 10 years out of the same set of tubes so they can be replaced at the same time the unit is recapped. OTOH, it also means you get just 10w.

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It’s actually a very slight hint of tube-like treble, not overly warm. I find the L-590AXII to be very balanced and quite neutral. Although it’s a Class A amp, it doesn’t show excessive warmth and has good detail, punch and dynamics of a good Class AB. What I like about the L-590AXII is it manages a good balance between refinement and power. It sounds delicate and refined but is capable of reproducing the power, punch and dynamics when the music calls for it. The Luxman shows good clarity whereas the Naim sounds a little vague and hazy, just a smidgen but the difference does show.

I’ve owned many integrated amps in the past. Although not quite reference level, they do not show the same level of clarity and refinement that the Luxman shows. They just sound rough in comparison. The Luxman is really quite special. It’s not a Vitus or Gryphon etc. but there’s really some quality to it .

It’s good to note that the SQ-N150 tube amp doesn’t show any tube-like warmth. I have owned some tube amps in the past and although there are some desirable traits of tubes, I don’t particularly prefer a sound that’s too ''tube-like", imparting warmth to the sound which is actually colouration. In my mind, a tube-amp that sounds closer to solid-state than tubes is more desirable. Looks like the SQ-N150 is a winner in both sound and small form factor.


did you provide a signal earthing to you 282 preamp ryder?

Until you do this, you aren’t hearing the full potential of your Naim

As I know the QBD 76 does not provide signal earth connect, only the Dave has this?

I’m not sure about this but I did use the standard Naim power cord which has the earthing to all Naim components previously so I presume they are earthed? Currently using US terminated cord only on the Hicap DR. Standard Naim power cord is still used on 250DR. Sound quality with improved mains and power cords is better than previous setup where the brightness or harshness in the treble was more prominent.

The 282/HCDR/250DR is still a great sounding system. I just think it’s not a great match to the Marten speakers. The Naim still sounds better than Luxman with the Harbeth.

I don’t think I’ll try the Naim with the Harbeth after this as previous comparisons have revealed the Naim to be a better sounding amp than the Luxman (on the Harbeth). I sorely miss the sound of the “optimised” Marten at the moment.

signal earthing is a different earthing. I cannot go more into this, please contact Naim or Chord on how to do this.

In most cases where line level RCA connections are used, signal earth is common at the return (-). So it shouldn’t be an issue unless neither end provide this, which is pretty rare on line level. You’re more likely to have no common signal ground on a phono input necessitating a separate ground lead.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can relate to the delicacy vs. brashness. Did the NCF anything in this regard?

The Furutech NCF booster? Yes it surely has an impact in the system. I tried it with both Luxman and Naim, and in both cases it removed some unwanted noise, glare and harshness. The sound is smoother, cleaner and more controlled.

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They, or something like them, are almost mandatory if you use certain heavy mains leads. I have a Furutech Empire and the thing is so heavy that without support, it cannot stay in a wall socket (or over time just breaks the socket).

For the Luxman, I find the supplied Luxman leads to be pretty good. I’m not sure if they supply them with UK models or not. The supplied cables are already somewhere more than a PowerLine Lite and somewhat lesser than a PowerLine in terms of quality.

Yes, they are very useful to secure heavy and stiff power cords. The Acrolink cords that I am currently using are very stiff and difficult to bend. I actually need to customise the placement of equipment to accommodate these cords. Any change in position or placement of equipment, the cords will need to be bent to shape to suit, and it’s not easy as they are very stiff.

I had difficulty installing the power cord to my Chord DAC due to the lightweight case. After installation, the heavy cord is actually pulling the DAC and causing it to almost flip and fall to the floor below. In this situation, this device is almost mandatory. I currently use a dense foam as a temporary fix for the Chord DAC as I only have one of these NCF boosters which is currently used on the amp.

This is why from the actual mains block to the units, PowerLines (or the native Luxman leads) are nice. They are very workable and the plugs are mainly air - they are very light. The amp comes with a JPA-15000 and the DAC a JPA-10000i. Neither are cheap nasty leads.

I’ve just purchased a 6 mth old SQ-N150 to primarily use as a headphone amp. What a great piece of kit. Bought unheard but to say i’m pleased is down playing it. Using it with Focal Utopias. Oh and the MC stage is rather good.