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Flagship Headphone / Amplifier Round Up

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The Luxman P700u amplifier has been available for some time and I was fortunate to hear it last year during an extended loan period from the company themselves.

This is a glorious looking amplifier from an engineering viewpoint. It weighs nearly 13kg and can deliver a lot of power to drive planar headphones with relative ease. Output power is rated; Unbalanced: 4W+4W/8Ω, 2W+2W/16Ω, 1W+1W/32Ω, 53mW+53mW/600Ω, Balanced: 8W+8W/16Ω, 4W+4W/32Ω, 213mW+213mW/600Ω.

In balanced mode, with a 32Ω load, this amplifier can deliver 4W+4W which almost matches the Hi-Fi Man HE1000 35 ohm (±3Ω) rating almost perfectly.

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The front panel of the Luxman P700u amplifier is fully loaded. A selector switch resides next to the power switch – highlighting a line in, next to two sets of balanced inputs.

Next are two 1/4 inch connectors, alongside a set of 2x 3 pin XLR headers. The output mode can be switched between both, and there is a sensitivity knob to change between low, mid and high levels. A balance knob rests beside the Volume knob.

For the HE 1000 headphones, I found the mid or high sensitivity setting was best, and the volume was plenty loud at the 12pm position on the dial at either setting. Any higher and I would be concerned about damage to my hearing and I do like to listen at what I would consider fairly loud settings. That said one of my friends was using this amplifier with the volume dial at 2pm, which seemed deafening to me.

The High sensitivity rating was useful for retrieving a little more detail from complex classical and orchestra music. Occasionally however, and depending on the recording, it could be a little ‘hot’ with close miked female vocals. The fact it is easy to switch back and forward means you have a little further adjustment available on hand.

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Along the back of the amplifier are two sets of balanced input connectors, with a line in, and line out. A power connector completes the configuration.

When the amplifier is first powered on, it makes a reassuring and quite loud clicking sound. If you change any input setting the same reassuring circuit switching noise is heard.

Luxman P700u internals

Internally, I was quite surprised how messy this amplifier looks. Many of my amplifiers are simple point to point wired without all the PCB’s. The Luxman amplifier is pure ‘Class A’ and the unit casing will get warm under extended use. It acts as a giant heatsink, and it works well.

Of special note is the volume attenuator on the P700u. Luxman give this the ‘LECUA 1000-WM (Luxman Electric Controlled Ultimate Attenuator with Weight Matrix Technology) branding. Quite a mouthful, but state of the art according to Luxman. They claim it contains only a few resistors in the circuit per channel at any single volume setting.

In real world terms, the LECUA gives very fine control over the volume without any channel imbalance, a frequent problem I have experienced with many lower cost amplifier designs. Sweeping is clean, smooth and resistance is perfect. Full marks for build quality and attention to detail.

Luxman only offer this amplifier in silver however, no black option is available.

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The HiFi Man HE1000 are a natural pairing for this amplifier. I have owned every HiFi Man headphone since the company launched, and I rate them very highly. Their previous flagship, the HE6, while very difficult to drive remained as one of my main ‘go to headphones’ for almost a year.

When I first fired up some of my favourite tracks I was taken aback by the detail on offer and all without any hint of grain, or sibilance. Like the Cavalli Liquid Gold with Abyss 1266, I feel the Luxman P700u was designed with the Hi-Fi Man HE1000 headphone in mind. The HiFi Man HE1000 35 ohm (±3Ω) rating is a perfect match for the 4W+4W balanced drive of the Luxman P700u.

Balanced mode is definitely better than single ended. I feel single ended loses a little bit of ultimate drive and resolution when pushed hard. The HE1000 are much easier to drive properly than the older HE6 flagship headphones from HiFiMan, thanks in part to the high 90dB sensitivity rating of the HE1000.

Unlike the Abyss 1266 which is very uncomfortable within a few hours of heavy use, the HiFi Man HE1000 is immensely comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I would even go as far to say that the HE1000 is the most comfortable headphone on the market today. The Sennheiser HD800s might be an equal, along with the Stax 009, but I think the HE1000 just edges them both out, long term.

We can focus on the sound quality, but I do feel comfort is another important attribute when considering a new headphone.

In regards to the overall sound signature, the HE1000 are highly detailed yet not too coloured – second only to the Stax009. HIFiMan claim it took them 7 years of research to create the HE1000 – the company incorporate the first nanometer thickness diaphragm (see video above) and an advanced asymmetical magnetic circuit with patented window shade system (to protect the driver in the open back enclosure). If you want to overload on technical information, head to THIS page.

In my opinion the HE1000 are arguably the most versatile headphone on test today and can handle heavy sub-bass tracks with maximum impact, (without losing tight control) from the likes of Klasmos to delicate fast sweeping violin solos and airy acoustic guitar. The frequency range of the HE1000 is 8Hz-65KHz, which is very impressive, even by flagship standards.

The standard cable with the HE1000 is actually very good, although there is room for improvement. I opted for the cost effective but well built Moon Audio Silver Dragon Premium Balanced 3 pin XLR Cable with Furutech Carbon Fiber/Rhodium CF-601 connectors. You really want to be using this amplifier with 2x 3 Pin XLR balanced headphone cables to get the most out of it.

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