Luxman D-06u SACD player

When I first heard a Super Audio Compact Disc in 1999, I felt certain that the new format was destined for commercial dominance. After a decade, when I first played PCM music files through a USB DAC, I felt certain that the SACD was deader than Julius Caesar’s dog.Now, it’s apparent that I’m not qualified to predict how anything will perform in the marketplace. In my defense, I’m not the only industry bigwig who’s made those mistakes; on the other hand, one happily notes that technology and commerce, those inseparable sweethearts, carried on anyway, heedless of our thudding wrongness. The results are hundreds of new SACD releases, scads of new downloadable Direct Stream Digital music files—DSD being the technology on which the SACD is based—and at least one new machine that can play them both: Luxman’s D-06u SACD/CD player and USB DAC.

Description
Yokohama-based Luxman Corporation occupies a distinctive place among electronics manufacturers: their contemporary products combine big-company competence and polish with some decidedly artisanal qualities, not the least being the credibility that comes from having designed and made tube amplifiers—and wound their own output transformers—for over 90 years.

In fact, though there aren’t any tubes or signal transformers in this middle-of-the-line SACD/CD player, the D-06u ($9990) boasts something no less distinctive: the Luxman Disc Transport Mechanism, or LxDTM, designed and built in-house. Made with less plastic and more metal than any other motorized-drawer transport of my experience, the LxDTM is said by Luxman to offer superior resistance to unwanted vibrations, not to mention greater-than-average speed stability (presumably only at those times when this is desirable, the SACD and CD being variable-speed formats). For audiophiles who’ve been burned by high-end companies that don’t support their megabuck players in the face of discontinued OEM transports, a proprietary transport would, in and of itself, seem to have tremendous appeal.

Of perhaps even greater appeal is what distinguishes this player from its predecessor, the D-06. The digital-to-analog converter of the D06u—the u stands for ultimate—has a USB input, making the D06u a true all-in-one source for audiophiles whose digital libraries comprise music files alongside all those CDs and SACDs. Data-conversion duties in the D-06u, as in most of the players in Luxman’s current line, are handled by a dual-mono pair of Burr-Brown (now Texas Instruments) PCM1792A DACs. Those chips are supplemented with TI’s TAS3152 32-bit processor, which upsamples PCM to 384kHz. The D-06u is specified as supporting, via its USB input, PCM signals of up to 32-bit/384kHz, and DSD signals up to 5.64MHz (double DSD). (The S/PDIF inputs, those underachievers of yesteryear, are limited to 24/192.)

Measuring 17.3″ wide by 16.1″ deep (not counting rear-panel connectors) and 5.2″ high, the Luxman D-06u is similar in size and shape to my well-worn Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player, if not quite as heavy (34.6 lbs for the Lux vs 56 for the Sony). The D-06u is built into a steel-and-aluminum case in which sturdy, well-finished partitions offer mechanical and electrical isolation between various subassemblies, including boards for digital processing, digital input and output, analog output, and control logic, as well as multiple power supplies. Semi-impenetrable to the consumer—is its attractive top plate cemented in place?—the Luxman appears remarkably well made, with unwanted resonances eliminated by means of clever construction rather than by resorting to the application of damping materials and other Band-Aids. Its appealingly robust and nonpointy feet are made of cast iron, a material that these days seems to be enjoying a renaissance—or at least another Iron Age.

Installation and setup
The always-companionable Philip O’Hanlon—whose company, On a Higher Note, is Luxman’s US distributor—visited my home the day after the D-06u itself arrived, ostensibly to help me install it. It was a lovely gesture, and, as with review samples past, he brought with him lots of good music I’d never heard. That said, and although I was grateful that it was O’Hanlon and not I who lifted the heavyish Lux out of its carton, his efforts weren’t crucial to the proceedings.

 

Luxman D-06u SACD playerInstalling the D-06u was a simple matter of setting it down atop my Box Furniture rack, connecting its stock AC cord (I seldom do aftermarket AC cords, footnote 1) to an AC outlet (I seldom do power conditioners), connecting its single-ended line-out jacks (RCA) to a pair of line-in jacks on my preamp (I never do balanced), and having at it. All that remained was to use my Apple iMac’s sound-output utility to select as a streaming destination the USB receiver of the Luxman’s DAC—about two minutes’ work, during which my iMac recognized the Luxman D-06u as “Luxman D-06u.”

As with so many contemporary DACs and players of digital discs and files, the Luxman D-06u’s front panel offers only a selection from its full phalanx of user controls: the usual buttons for Play, Pause, Stop, etc., along with buttons for toggling among various inputs and outputs, between the CD and DSD layers of SACDs so stratified, and between non-inverted and inverted absolute signal polarity. The rest of the controls are on the remote-control handset, whose aluminum housing has a pleasant heft. There are found such luxuries as a four-setting Dimmer for the display and—my favorite—a Zoom button that could just as honestly be labeled Large Type Edition for the Visually Impaired (footnote 2). The handset also has two buttons labeled Filter: one for toggling among three digital filters that affect the playback of CDs and PCM files, the other for toggling between two analog low-pass filters that affect the playback of SACDs and DSD files.

Of the PCM filters, the default, P-1, is described in the user’s manual as a “normal FIR [Finite Impulse Response] filter,” while P-2 is a “low latency IIR [Infinite Impulse Response] filter,” and P-3 is a “high attenuation FIR filter.” P-1 was, by far, my favorite, while I came to regard P-2 as polite and gray and P-3 as polite and dull. That said, I was pleased to have a choice, and I advise the D-06u owner to try them all. More important, I advise said owner to first listen closely, and ensure that the playback polarity is correct for the file or disc being played. As I discovered, when the polarity is not correct—in which case, note attacks can sound slightly or even considerably blunted, depending on the recording—the audible differences between filters are obscured.

Luxman D-06u SACD playerThe Luxman’s analog filters are the default, D-1, and D-2, which offers simply an earlier, steeper rolloff of ultrasonic frequencies. D-2 proved useful with at least one SACD: the 2003, single-layer release of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia CH 90324), some selections on which (eg, “Queen Jane Approximately”) have a steely brightness that’s endemic to the original analog recording and that the D-2 filter calmed.