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Luxman DA-06

Posted: Fri May 03, 2019 12:24 pm
by Joe
I’ve had a Chord Hugo TT for over 3 years now. It’s a great DAC, but since buying my Luxman amp I’ve had one eye on the highly regarded DA-06, attracted by the promise of a smoother, more “analogue" presentation. The 230V model rarely comes up for sale but one popped up on “The Wam” recently. I managed to resist for a while but alas, “YOLO”, as the youth say.

As you would expect, it’s a reassuringly heavy and beautifully finished unit. There’s no remote control, but that’s not really necessary for this sort of DAC. The unit pauses for a second and “clicks” when switching sample rate. This struck me as a bit old-school but would only really be an annoyance with a playlist of tracks with different resolutions. Fortunately my streamer has a handy setting whereby you can delay playback for a chosen number of seconds when the sample rate changes, and setting it to a conservative 2 seconds meant I never missed the start of a track.

My streamer only has one output, so rather than switching back and forth, I decided to live with the Luxman for a couple of weeks to begin with.

There are some that claim all “well measuring” DACs sound the same. These people are either hard of hearing, or haven’t compared two high-end DACs in a suitably resolving system. Apologies if that sounds snobbish, but it’s the truth, and was easily proven here. No blindfold needed.

The first thing that struck me about the Luxman was that its 2.5V XLR output was loud and meaty with plenty of bass. I was concerned that it might be lacking in this department. Not so. At first it appeared to have “more" bass than the Chord, but I concluded later, after volume matched A/B listening, that Hugo’s bass is tighter whereas the Luxman has a bit of bloom to it.

The Luxman’s presentation is best described as rich and full-bodied. Treble sounds ever-so slightly rolled off. This makes the Chord sound that bit more open and ultimately, a touch more detailed. Everything is there with the Luxman, you just have to look (or rather, listen) for it a bit more intently. I found the Luxman to be particularly well suited to strings and female vocals. It has a fuller midrange. The power supply in this thing must be first rate too as the noise floor is noticeably low. Reverb and echo are very convincing.

The Luxman has a choice of three filters for PCM. These are similar to the reconstruction filter options found in other DACs such as the Auralic Vega and not to be confused with the filters in the latest Chord DACs that that roll off the audible high frequencies. It was hard to discern a difference between the three in A/B testing, particularly without a remote, but I settled on the third filter as I felt the timing might have been a tad faster. There are two filters for DSD playback, something the DA-06 excels at apparently, but the only album I own in DSD format is Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and for some reason I don’t feel like listening to that lately!

After a couple of weeks, and with an extra pair of hands, I did some A/B testing using a variety of tracks. I put both on the rack and volume matched the DACs using the volume control on the Hugo. It was then a simple case of swapping the USB cable over. In a way I was hoping to find the Hugo too lean after daily listening with the Luxman in the system. Hoping to put the Hugo up for sale and finish my search for the perfect DAC. But no, it’s never that simple is it. All the differences I had been hearing had been confirmed, but the Chord was showing its strengths too; better timing, addictive dynamics, more verve. By contrast, the Luxman is a bit more laid back but often more forgiving and more natural with it.

Frustratingly, some tracks I preferred with the Luxman, others with the Chord. Some were a dead heat. The Chord’s victories were by a bigger margin though, and that made the decision. Well recorded rock and electronica just had more excitement. The Hugo TT has a more state of the art sound to it.

So the Luxman went back it its box and up for sale. I’ve been listening to Rival Sons new album "Feral Roots" a fair bit since its release so it has had outings on both DACs. Hearing it again through the Chord was a “that’s more like it!” moment. The energy was back. Having said that, there have also been moments where I’ve been listening to something and thinking “I bet this sounds better on the Lux”, Courtney Barnett’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel", for example.

If I had unlimited space and funds, and a streamer with multiple outputs, I’d probably keep both.

Re: Luxman DA-06

Posted: Fri May 03, 2019 2:42 pm
by angelface

I had the same feeling comparing MF Mk 2 Baby Pre and Bel Canto Pre3VB but decided I prefered the MF on more tracks and more on the music I listen to more often.