Luxman long had more cachet than many rival Japanese audio brands. It sits in a relatively underpopulated strata it shares with Accuphase, positioned above the mainstream of Yamaha, Pioneer, etc., but more widely known than esoterica made by the likes of Kondo or Robert Koda. Luxman has achieved this by dint of perseverance and consistently high build and sound quality. The company was founded in 1925, but didn’t start building finished audio components until 1959 when it introduced the MA-7 valve amplifier. Before that, Luxman made components and kits for the radio age.
Luxman’s evolution has been marked by changes in ownership that have not always been favourable: the brand was sold in 1984 to car-audio giant Alpine, which attempted to broaden Luxman’s mass-market appeal with what might best be described as ‘mixed’ results. But six years ago, Luxman was acquired by International Audio Group, the Chinese owner of QUAD, Audiolab, Mission, et al. However, unlike other brands in the IAG group, Luxman products are designed and made in Japan, which is one reason why fit and finish is among the very best in the business; you will be hard pressed to find a European or American brand that can build to the same quality at the same price. Luxman has a wide range of products presently comprising 47 models, including SACD players, valve amplifiers, DACs, turntables, and more. It is a bigger range, in fact, than most high-end brands in our industry.
The C-700u is the penultimate preamp in a range of five, while the M-700u sits a bit further down the pecking order in a line-up of six power amps. Both are luxuriously executed components with the sort of controls that makes audiophiles go slightly weak at the knees. The C-700u naturally has the advantage in this regard, thanks to the two knobs and various switches it sports, not to mention a dimmable display that indicates status with what at first appear to be random orange dots. Look more closely (or turn up the backlighting), and you can see these dots actually relate to legends inscribed on the glass.
The C-700u is a line stage: a preamplifier without appendages such as a phono stage, headphone amp, or onboard DAC. This is a purist analogue component, albeit not one that’s stripped to the bone; there are, for instance, that anathema of flat earth thinking... tone controls. You have the option to adjust bass and treble, which – if we are truly honest – is something that can be very useful with many recordings. It’s easy to bypass these with the ‘line straight’ setting if you want to maintain your hairshirt image. Settings also exist for phase selection on the balanced inputs and ‘loudness’: another unfashionable feature that obviously still has its fans in some parts of the globe.
Inputs are plentiful and come capped with plastic covers. There are five RCA pairs and two XLRs, plus two of each flavour on the output side. AV processors can be accommodated with the ‘external preamp’ input and there are monitor and record terminals for the tape fraternity. Control is aided by a handset with a comprehensive array of small buttons; thankfully there aren’t too many buttons, and the volume is easily located.